From Our Seats to the Streets

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Surveys tells us that Americans are more stressed than ever been before.  It could be that the expectations we place on ourselves and others can be crippling. We don’t always make “the cut” in our relationships, careers, health, or happiness. 

The mantra of the last presidential election struck a national chord: “to make America great again.” Politics aside, rising from rags to riches, is a motif that reaches further back than Rocky’s iconic shout out.


 

Beauty from ashes is God’s idea. It’s just that our cultural understanding about it is backwards.

Pastor Wayne shared on Sunday the perspective of two brothers named James and John who wanted to secure their place in the coming Kingdom through a seat of power. What they didn’t know was what we can easily forget as well. The Kingdom of God is counter-intuitive. What we think is great is actually the opposite in God’s eyes. Following our own plan is making us sick.

Jesus’ prescription for our anxiety about our place in life and the future is probably not what most of us would naturally think to do: be a servant.  But there are a few unbeatable benefits that come with the attitude.


Being a servant Sets you above the competition.

No matter what you do, there will always be someone who is better than you. But because serving others has more to do with an attitude toward what you give others than what you get for yourself, competition is pretty low.  Start cleaning up the mess yourself. See the person behind the wheel of the car that cut you off. Let her “win” the argument. Practice being happy for the guy who got what you wanted.

 Being a servant Gives you a life of purpose.

There’s a reason The Purpose Driven life by Rick Warren is one of the most popular Christian books of all time.  People want to know their lives have meaning. When we think about making an impact on the world, most of us think about important positions. Jesus, however, taught that just giving a child a cup of cold water merited a reward in His kingdom. God’s economy is different.  It’s not begin “great” that makes you great. It’s being a servant. No matter where you are or what you do, there will always be an opportunity to serve the needs of someone else. 

Being a servant helps you see the wealth you already have.

Our brain’s natural default is to focus on what we think we lack. You probably never thought about food so much as when you went on a restrictive diet. It’s called the scarcity mindset. Research shows that it can actually lower our I.Q.  But there is a practice of focus that can counteract this way of thinking—focus on what you have by serving. Serving others means giving from your resources—whether it’s time, money, expertise, empathy, etc. When you serve—you give and when you give you know what you have.

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How generous should you be? Assessing your wealth and how to use it.

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Pastor Wayne has been talking about our core values as a church for the past several weeks. Values determine the experience of an organization to its customers, of people to their friends, and of the Church (Christians) to the world.

Generosity is another core value that determines how others experience who we are. We want people to experience Calvary as a generous church.

It’s been said if that if you want to know what someone values, look at their credit card statement. Would this be true for you? My guess is, probably not—and not because you are not generous. Your financial statements are not a comprehensive assessment of your resources.

Your wealth is a customized package for you to live a life of abundance toward God and others.

Define Your Wealth

When I lived in Tanzania as a young married woman without children, my neighbors and friends expressed continual concern for my future. “You have no children! How will you survive when you are old?”

My friends were East African farmers who measured wealth in a far more comprehensive way than we do. Their children ARE their 401K plan. Their extended family is their emergency savings. The rainy season is their equity for their crops

If we think about our wealth as more than just what’s in our bank accounts, we’ll come up with a few more resources too:

Your wealth package

  • Time
  • Expertise
  • Empathy
  • Talents
  • Abilities
  • Availability
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Opportunities

Everyone has, along with money, some measure of the above as well as a list of others. They comprise what we can think of as a “wealth package. ”  Your wealth package is customized to you so that you can live a life of abundance toward God and others.

This perspective toward wealth suggest potentially limitless possibilities that are often only realized by practicing generosity. Researchers show that the happiest people are people who give, and so many of our resources are not meant to spend solely on ourselves.

You are here for a greater reason than just you. Generosity confirms that we are the people of God, and our generosity has God’s backing. Below are a few ways to develop generosity as you practice it.

Four things generous people do...

4 things generous people do

1. Fire your inner judge. When faced with the needs of others, we tend to judge circumstances and behavior. If we perceive that someone's poor choices placed them in need, we default on generosity. “It wouldn’t be good for them,” we tell ourselves. “Enabling doesn’t solve their problems.” Such reasoning sounds logical, but it’s problematic in one crucial way. Jesus doesn’t seem to agree. He gave one reason to be generous-- when someone is in need (Matthew 5:42).

2. Resist fixed thinking. When things are good, we want to guard against change. When they are bad, discouragement tends to make us think change will never happen. Both circumstances can create a default in our generosity toward God and others. Remember instead that your wealth ebbs in some areas and flows in others. It changes, but your source of wealth never does and He knows what you need. Learn to recognize the multifaceted package of your own wealth and use it for others.

3. Crush feelings of envy. Sometimes it’s easier to weep with those who weep rather than rejoice with those who rejoice.  A “scarcity mindset,”  falsely believes that there is only so much of a resource to go around. We begin to resent people who get what we perceive we lack. Whether it’s money, a promotion, recognition, or a relationship, envy crushes us and others. Crush envy instead with generosity. The Apostle Paul lauded the Macedonian church  because they gave out of their poverty. You may at one time or another be poor in one area, but remember that wealth is a package. Use your other resources to invest in the abundance of others. Actively celebrate and promote the good things that happen to others--even when they have what you don’t. 

4. Practice gratitude. Scientific research has revealed numerous findings regarding the positive effects of gratitude. The very act of searching for something to be grateful for builds neurons in the frontal cortex of your brain, reduces stress, increases the immune system, strengthens cognitive function, and helps you get to sleep faster to name just a few. It also helps us live with an abundant mindset by moving your thoughts to the elements of your wealth package.  You see, whatever your brain thinks you can't have, that's what you'll focus on. (Do not think of an elephant in a pink polka dot tutu!!! How did that work for you?) Practicing gratitude leaves no room for thinking about your poverty because the abundance of the entire wealth package uniquely equips you to live abundantly toward God and others. (2 Peter 1:3). 

To hear Pastor Wayne's sermon on Core Values: Generous, go here!

 

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