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Generosity

Psalm 23 and the Lord's Prayer as recorded by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount speak to the reality of living in the kingdom of heaven. David reminds us in the first verse of Psalm 23 that there is nothing that we lack. In Matthew 6 Jesus instructs us to ask God for our daily bread, and then explains a few verses later why we can ask in expectation.

The reality is we live in a world bathed in God, and His resources are limitless. While we ourselves do not possess unlimited resources, and we need to steward well, living with a generous mindset is simply a reflection of the reality of living in the care of God.

Generosity also includes disciplines that lean fully into life: serving others, joy and celebration.

Cultivating with: Generosity

There are very few hard and fast rules with any of this. Each person is different so each relationship will look different. No two people's relationships with God and those He loves will look exactly the same. But there are a few suggestions that have worked for others. Here are some resources for the "how-to" of the practice. These, together with some of the articles and such linked below, will help to get you started:

Books:

Everybody Always: by Bob Goff. This is a simple but great little book full of inspiration as to how to live with a mindset full of generosity in serving others with love.

The Life You've Always Wanted: by John Ortberg. Chapter 4 "A 'Dee Dah Day': The Practice of Celebration". This is some how-to on enjoying life. Joy and celebration are so important to understanding the generosity of God, which in turn frees us up to be generous as well. I would recommend reading the whole book to fully grasp the context of the chapter.

Engagement of the Heart: (Generosity) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards makes the case that our emotions are a primary motivating factor in anything in our with-God life. I think that there is a lot of truth in this. He rightly makes the case that "In noth­ing is the state of our heart so cru­cial as in reli­gion, and in noth­ing is luke­warm­ness so odious." This is a great read. I would like to add one word of caution taught to me by a Christian counselor once, though: some people aren't as emotional, or do not show it as well, as most people. So, like most rules, there are some exceptions.

The Renewable Energy of Fruitful Work: (Generosity) Link to Renovare.org article by Kai Nilsen. There is a statement in this article that makes me think of the proverb (not a Bible proverb) "Fortune favors the brave." It is a response when Kai praised someone serving disabled adults with him that she was doing an inspired job, she was beaming. She answered, "I was so frightened... I didn't know if I had what it takes to serve in this ministry. But now I've found what I am here for!" She overcame her fear and found something bigger than herself that she is full of life for. I think I hear echoes of a movie I can't quite remember saying that all of us will die, but not all of us truly live. Are you facing a similar fearful decision? Listen for the voice of God. It is calm, peaceful, and wise. It does not sound like worry or fear. Fear is a poor decision maker.

Open Your Eyes: (Generosity) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. The book of James adds that we are to consider it joy when we encounter trials. His point was for the development of character that it produces, but it is also true that those who go through particular trials may have deepened awareness and compassion for others who go through something similar.

 

I have trouble walking - a misshapen right hip causes me to walk a little weird. Over time, that together with my obesity, has caused my left knee to go bad, and may have been a contributing factor to my right foot problems. I can't walk much of a distance without experiencing pain, especially from back muscles that are working really hard to keep me balanced enough to walk or stand - plus I need a cane to get around. One day, I was driving my mom home from cancer treatment, and saw a woman walking down the long driveway of the hospital. She was limping and laboring to walk. I "felt" the pain I would feel if I would have to walk that long driveway. I pulled over and asked if she needed a ride. She explained that something had come up and her ride was unable to take her to her next doctor appointment 20 minutes away. I told her that my mom and I were not pressed for time that day and we would be happy to drive her and she climbed in the back seat. She spoke with a bit of an accent, like my dad's parents and some of my aunts and uncles did, as we got to hear a little of her story on the way. If I did not "feel" that pain as I saw her walk, I don't know if I would have noticed her. I thanked God for my pain, and that I could be in a position to help that woman that day. If I did not deal with what I deal with, I don't know that I would have really noticed. That day my trouble walking was a blessing, because I got to bring blessing to someone else through it. It has deepened my well of compassion.

 

God can use you through the trials you experience, too. Your struggles uniquely equip you to comfort others with similar struggles. Were you in the military and saw combat? Help other veterans. Have you ever lost a child? Others have as well and need comfort. Have you lost a member of your family to suicide? Others need what you can uniquely offer. Ask God what you have to offer and where you can offer His love and comfort to others who need it.

Give Thanks: (Generosity) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Did you know that learning to live with an attitude of thanksgiving can help you to love God and others better? I notice it in my own life. Like any human, sometimes I do better and sometimes I do worse living in an attitude of thanksgiving - and it usually doesn't really have to do with my circumstances. I can be in the midst of difficult circumstances and be living with an eye to the goodness of God seeing the good of what He is doing in my life and around me, or my circumstances can be wonderful and I can be living with an eye on what I think is missing in my life. (Philippians 4:8 & Romans 8:6) Keeping your mind on Things Above - looking for the good that God is doing - affects not just yourself, but also those around you. Being thankful and considering the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and good helps to keep us in good cheer and focused not just on ourselves. We can then be present with others, offering hope. And I know I am a lot more pleasant to be around when I am thankful and cheerful than when I am focused on what I "lack".

Facing Reality: The Grace of Acceptance: (Generosity) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt from Glandion Carney. I wasn't sure that I wanted to include this piece. It is not a fun read (it is sad), and I am not so sure that I do this well. Now, if you are faced with something like the author is, certainly pray for healing or ask for it to be removed from you or whatever is applicable. But if God's answer is something to the effect of "My grace is sufficient for you", then live. Embrace what can be done. Believe that Jesus is there in it with you. Jesus came to give you not just life, but life abundantly. Believe it and embrace it.

The Point of Education with Dr Gary Hartenburg: (Generosity) This Spotify link is to episode 261 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. I love how Dr Hartenburg points out how Aristotle believed that we ought to live life in such a way that we have leisure time. He defines leisure time as things that we do for no point other than that they are good to do in and of themselves. He gives examples of contemplating God or listening to and appreciating a great work of music.

Part 3: Generosity: (Generosity) This Spotify link is to episode 261 of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

I include this episode because I identified with the apology that Tyler Staton offers at the beginning of this sermon. He said he rarely talks about money, even though it is often spoken about by Jesus. Our God Bathed Life is a life bathed by God, which includes our material possessions, how we use them, as well as our finances. Does God own that part of your life? I hope He does with mine, but I am very possessive about going out every day for a latte. Maybe that's okay, but I haven't really asked God about it. What else do I do that with? Are you like me? If so, maybe we both need to ask God about this, and then welcome His guidance and, if applicable, His correction.

Tyler's sermon is about tithing, donations, generosity, doing good with what we have been entrusted with by God. I want to do good with what I have been entrusted.

Irrelevance with Mimi Dixon: (Generosity) This link is to episode 3 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. How do you define success? Visibility? Power? Influence? Finances? What about obedience? What about a ministry where all of the above are small but you've followed the lead of the Holy Spirit? What if you've followed the Spirit's lead and the results are small? Is that success? This podcast episode wonders about the value of irrelevance and is something for consideration as it relates to how we would define success.

Conversation with Matt Tebbe and Ben Sternke: (Generosity) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. When I first heard this episode I was driving but thought, "Wow! I want to read that book!" So I just got it for my Kindle.

One of the two authors that wrote the book is describing another pastor who has a forty-year-old wife who has terminal cancer. When he was considering how to love her well, he realized that he had a choice: he could either order his internal world in such a way as to protect himself or he could become vulnerable to the suffering and pain that will come in being fully present to his wife. He chose pain and love and presence over protection. Love opens itself to suffering if that is needed to love well. That's how Jesus ended up on a cross. James Bryan Smith adds that love is to desire and act for the good of someone else, to want and will and choose the good of another.

Additionally, one of the authors makes the important point about inviting God into our mess: those parts of us that are as of yet unredeemed. They may be sins, or situations that happened as a result of our failures, bad relationships, etc. We often feel like we need to clean those things up so God can work, but God wants to be a part of all of it. He wants to be invited into the mess. We don't have the power to clean it up. He does. And He wants freedom for us.

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