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Disciples Give More Than They Take

Posted by Pastor J.D. on February 20, 2017
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Just a few weeks ago, President Barack Obama ended his term, handing off the highest office in our land to (now) President Trump. Now, don’t worry: This isn’t a post about Trump, Obama, or politics. But that transition has me thinking about moments in which we have the opportunity to define ourselves, to determine the values we will live by and the legacy we will leave.

When you get elected president—even though your life is much longer than those four or eight years—what people remember about you is shaped by what you do during that time. Almost everything done before or after becomes a footnote to an incredibly intense defining moment as president.

You probably haven’t been elected president of anything lately, but there are still key moments in your life when you have to decide what is going to define the rest of your life and what values and principles are going to shape how you live.

Near the end of his life, the Apostle Paul gives a farewell speech that summarizes the values he’s lived by. He’s saying goodbye to the church leaders in Ephesus, where he’s spent the previous three years. As far as he knows, he’s never going to see any of those guys again. He is headed to Jerusalem and then to Rome, where he assumes he’s going to be martyred. (History tells us that he’s right.)

A man’s final words are probably the most significant; it’s what he most wants others to remember. If you were making a farewell speech, what would you include? A list of your accomplishments? Words of wisdom for how to be successful?

Paul’s last words are about generosity. Continue Reading…

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Four Fruits of Generous Giving

Posted by Pastor J.D. on February 2, 2017
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You remember the story where Jesus takes a little boy’s lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish—his “Levite Lunchable” or “Hebrew Hot Pockets”—and turns it into enough food for more than 5,000 people.

But did you ever wonder what Jesus would have done if he didn’t have five loaves and two fish? What if he’d only had one fish and two loaves of bread? It wouldn’t have made a difference; it would have been the same outcome. He could have done the same miraculous work with a bread crumb and a fish fin. The amount we give matters far less than the spirit with which we give.

That’s the principle at work when we talk about generosity in the church. In the same way Jesus took what the boy had and increased it, God multiplies our giving when we offer it in surrender and faith. It has nothing to do with how much money we bring, but that we are willing to place it all in the hands of Jesus.

When Paul starts his conversation about generosity in 2 Corinthians 9, he doesn’t start with a need that God has but with a grace God wants to give. Continue Reading…

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In Long Beach, California, you can visit the Queen Mary, a ship that’s been turned into a museum. It was originally launched as the ultimate luxury cruise liner of its time. But during World War II, it was commandeered to carry troops back and forth in battle. You can go onto the ship now and see examples of both setups: When it was a luxury liner, it accommodated 3,000 people with every possible convenience; in wartime, however, it was refitted to house 15,000 people. Rooms that once slept one couple could now hold eight soldiers.

Wartime and peacetime demand different things. The same is true for us.

In his farewell message to the church leaders in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul shares with them the values he’s lived by, values that give us crucial insight into how the Holy Spirit wants all believers to think about their lives.

Paul starts by saying that in his life, he made sure his generation knew the truth: “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable …. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20a, 26-27 ESV).

Paul saw himself primarily as the bearer of a message. As a messenger, he was not responsible for whether people liked the message—only that they heard it. For Paul, this was very serious business: “I am innocent of the blood of all.”

That seems like an odd statement. But Paul uses strong language because he sees the gospel as the life or death message that it is. Continue Reading…