Give Over Get – A Shift

Generations Church is a community of everyday people committed to expanding God’s family together because of Jesus for generations to come.

We have five values that help us accomplish our vision.

  • Spirit over Self
  • Give over Get
  • Story over Sin
  • Progress over Perfection
  • Send over Stay

Our values are structured as a choice.  Too often we have been conditioned to choose the latter of the options (in our values) because we follow faulty maps. We need a shift in our thinking, more than that, we need a shift in our living.

We are going to take a closer look at our value Give over Get – Looking to make a difference in the lives of others and our community through generous living rather than always wanting to receive more.

Before I tell you what this series is, let me tell you what it’s not about. This series isn’t about getting more out of you. In some ways, this series will help provide a common language to give a reason for why this church community differs from other communities in the world.

We pick up the story of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover. He has been explaining and demonstrating that his way is upside-down. It’s a re-orientation of all our common social values. In this section of Luke, following Jesus is like a journey where you learn as you go. If you are following Jesus, you common assumptions and actions will be challenged. Jesus is being openly opposed.

Our desires must reflect our destination. Jesus’s destination is Jerusalem. 

  1. What Is Life (12:13-14)

The person is looking for an authority to help this man get what’s his rather than deal with the loss of life(Jesus’ disciples went out ahead of him announcing “good news to the poor that the Kingdom of God is here—Jesus is going to usher in this new way that renews God’s commitment to Israel that his blessing will go through them to all nations while also portraying Jesus as the wise and good King)

Jesus had just taught on our great value to God and on the importance of standing for Him. In the midst of this teaching, a man interrupted Jesus to ask that He take his side in a financial dispute.

According to the law of the day, the elder brother received two-thirds of the inheritance and the younger brother received one-third (Barclay). This man did not ask Jesus to listen to both sides and make a righteous judgment; he asked Jesus to take sides with him against his brother (“Tell my brother to divide the inheritance”). Obviously, Jesus’ previous words about the need for full commitment and God’s care for us didn’t penetrate this man’s heart. He felt he needed to fight for what was his. “If each of them learned the real meaning of life, and sought as its chief endeavor to be ‘rich toward God,’ the question of possessions would settle itself. The one would be eager to share, while the other would be careless about receiving.”  We often mask our covetousness by claiming we are on a righteous crusade.

  1. Life Is Not Defined by a Lot of Stuff (12:15-21)

Greed means wanting what doesn’t belong to you. “He then told them, ‘Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.'” Storage businesses appear to be one of the fastest-growing businesses in the country because we covet and hoard, then we buy more space so we can continue coveting and hoarding.

As we move ahead to verse 19, the parable illustrates that some people think a good life is relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry. The man was a fool – not because he was rich, but because he lived without any awareness of and preparation for eternity. The people who define life by what they possessed and enjoyed will be called fools. This can manifest itself in the search for the perfect vacation or perfect dream house. We have been conditioned to pursue the upgrade.

The man’s problem was not in that he had some treasure on earth; but that he was not rich toward God. This isn’t an attack on having possessions. It’s an affront on being rich towards ourselves and being rich toward God. When we live for the upgrade the upgrade will consume us.

  1. Life Is More Than Food and Clothes (12:22-24)

In this next section, Jesus turns to the disciples — they are in relationship to Him. He challenges them not to worry. This statement on worry is referring to the consumption of stuff; it is not dealing with anxiety. Research clearly shows that worry deteriorates our immune systems; people under constant worry show lower T cell counts, essential for immune response. Prolonged worry has been shown to affect the brain, making a person less able to respond to future stress. And stress also is related to sudden heart failure. When we worry in relation to our stuff, it communicates a connection to our identity. An identity based on material items can be taken away because these material items can be taken away.

Jesus is reminding His disciples. Your life is more than those things. Life is not defined by the things we have; life is worth more than all our things.

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend.  He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash.  What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

by Linda Ellis

  1. Life Is Wasted by Worry (12:25-28)

We are tempted to think that worrying is the same thing as thinking or planning or even protecting ourselves. Yet take careful note: the birds don’t worry, but they do work. Birds don’t just sit with open mouths, expecting God to fill them. God provides. The worry many people have over the material things of life is rooted in a low understanding of their value before God. They don’t comprehend how much He loves and cares for them. God cares for the flowers, but that means that every day for the flowers is not sun and sweetness. If every day was sunny, and there were never clouds and rain, the flowers would die quickly.

One of the ways God provides is through people. We have seen God provide through people right here in Generations Church. In order to see God provide, we must be willing to express our needs. We also must be willing to GIVE OVER GET to help those in need.

  1. Life Is for Seeking God and His Kingdom (12:29-31)

The purpose of life is to seek God and his kingdom, not things and our needs. The mystery of life is that when we seek God and his kingdom he provides our needs. We receive a kingdom in exchange for worry. Jesus contrasted the life of those who do not know God and are separated from Him with those who do know God and receive His loving care. Those who know God should seek after other things. This is why we use the value GIVE OVER GET. Throughout your day you will face choices, will I be like everyone else, or will I make the choice that communicates something different?

  1. Life Follows Treasure (12:32-34)

The kingdom is not like an Easter Egg Hunt. When we realize this, then the world’s possession and our needs lose their grip on us. Jesus didn’t just tell them to stop worrying; He told them to replace worry with a concern for the kingdom of God. A habit or passion can only be given up for a greater habit or passion.

What is Jesus really saying? The command to give away what we have is a test of discipleship, and it is also a tool to train us as disciples. It points to giving as an antidote or cure to covetousness. “Readiness to respond to the call of renunciation is a sign of genuine conversion, a sign of undivided loyalty to Jesus, a sign of unwavering faith in Him.”

We can use this life’s possessions to bless the needy because we know the Father gives us a kingdom and a treasure that cannot be taken away, stolen, or decay.

We all have areas of our lives where we feel the pressure of this truth. Give over get isn’t simply an amen to affirm your generosity when you have the means. It’s a choice to make when it challenges your circumstances.

Our desires must reflect our destination. People will come into contact with this and ask “well aren’t you concerned about ___.” We must be able to give an answer that says, “I GIVE OVER GET because of Jesus.”

In the coming weeks, we will get very practical as we apply this to every area of our life. Your connection with God and connection with others will enable you to choose to GIVE OVER GET when you would rather opt-out. In a repeat of a similar challenge from last week, develop a deeper connection this week.

How to Stay in the Conversation (Step 1)

If you do a quick Google search on the definition of the word “saturate” chances are the first definition that pops up is:

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In order to understand why “saturate” is such a critical word, you have to understand the context in which it is coming from. I posted a recent blog on the idea of resilient communication. As a follower of Christ, I desire both my character and priorities to be like His. Therefore, I must be able to stay in tough conversations even when it is not convenient nor pleasant to do so. However, we will not be able to do this on our own.

Left to our own devices, we will default into pointing fingers and heaping blame. In the midst of chaos and pain, there is only one who will see us through. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

The first action step in resilient communication is consistently presenting the same message verbally and non-verbally over and over again. The only way in which Christians can stay in tough conversations and then act accordingly is when we remember that God is a refuge and strength. Remembering how God is our refuge and strength enables us to weather the storm of criticism, pain, suffering, and yet remain unmoved in mission and motive. As the refuge, God ultimately takes the brunt of the attack for us (Ps 57:1).

I asked a few others to help articulate the idea of saturating communication.

“Saturation in Jesus’s model is seen as much in rhythm as it is in my message. Regularly drawing away from the crowd for prayer; regularly explaining his message to the disciples; regularly spending time with both sinners and then religious; regularly proclaiming and sending others out to proclaim the kingdom; regularly refining his followers understanding of who he is and why he was sent to earth. Saturation is much more than a message and encompasses all of life presenting the same God-centered message. Jesus did not just say “seek first the kingdom of God” he himself sought first the kingdom of God. Saturation came through the message and the embodiment of the message.” – Andrew

Saturation is consistently presenting the same posture both in word and in deed until there is no room for any other discernable motive of my actions by the other people than that of genuine love. In communicating with others, a Christian’s posture should be so soaked in humility and grace that it overflows into the lives of others no matter the conversation. Basically, the person whom I am first listening to, and second speaking with, should see and hear a systematic kingdom worldview being expressed–because I am shaped by Christ I value you.

Please do not misunderstand valuing someone for agreement with someone. Valuing them is setting aside your response to what they may be saying in pursuit of giving what they are expressing your full attention and staying curious about it.

We have all been on the wrong end of mixed messages. It is not fun. Mixed messages usually cause conflict, harm, and prolong the underlying issues. Mixed messages do long-term damage because one side usually gets fed-up with the inconsistencies of the other. Frankly, mixed messages deteriorate the trust between people.

Christians are people shaped by the Gospel–the implications of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ.

When we are prideful enough to prescribe a solution to a problem when the person whom we are prescribing the solution to does not feel valued and loved, we are sending a mixed message. In fact, in our arrogance we are undermining the Gospel. Pride is the antithesis of humility. A display of pride does not saturate the conversation and instead absorbs all the equity between participants.

In essence, humility is laying down your rights for another’s (Phil. 2:3-4).

Regardless of the context, Jesus consistently presented a message about the kingdom  (the way) of God. The way of God which Jesus presented was both consistent with the Law and the Prophets as well as His own actions. Jesus did not just talk about the kingdom; Jesus lived the kingdom. He did so with expressed humility as Paul articulates in Philippians 2.

Jesus’s life was a life of giving–giving away what the Father had given him (John 15:15; 17:4, 8, 14). Jesus gave himself to those about him so that they might come to know through his life a similar commitment to the mission for which he had come into the world. In everything, it was made abundantly clear that the word which had been written in the Scriptures and the word spoken by Christ were not contradictory, but rather complementary to each other; Jesus’s actions clarified the motive behind the mission. Here’s the thing, consistency is key because people will not always get the message you try to communicate.

My friend Spencer rightly articulates that “Saturation is when the message finally sinks in.” Spencer continued, “When I think of this in Jesus’s life, the first thing which comes to mind is how Jesus repeatedly told his disciples he must die and after three days rise; and, their repeated failure to understand why.”

However, it was only in experiencing the implications of the Gospel when Jesus’s message and model finally sunk in. In experiencing the consistency of Jesus, people responded with self-judgment because they realized how inconsistent they were. Jesus did not ask anyone to do or be anything which first he had not demonstrated in his own life. The first-century audience could not stay in the conversation because their lives were not willing to lay down their conceptions in exchange for the kingdom posture embodied in Jesus.

The message we want to saturate our world with is one of God’s grace and love for us, our gratitude and humility toward him, and our hope in the middle of chaos and pain.

Let that message saturate your worldview so that your model of that message begins to saturate the world.

 

 

Staying In The Conversation

Over the past several weeks, various questions posed to me have been sifting through my head. There is one, in particular, I would like to address: How do you stand firm in a Kingdom worldview while remaining humble and teachable in posture?

In light of the recent national anthem protests, I think the idea of staying in a tough conversation and actually having dialogue is more important than ever. The solution is never as simple nor as clear as we think it should be.

Unknown-3I am white. I am not a veteran. My worldview is shaped by my cultural experience. Therefore, I lack the perspective of both an entire population of people who have not had many of the advantages I have received and a group who have fought for life, liberty, and freedom. When issues like the protesting during the national anthem come along, I lack the ability ON MY OWN to see the complexity of how those unlike me are experiencing our country. I can easily dismiss the pain of people I refuse to listen to on the both sides of any issue. Our country is polarized once again.

The best answer, or better response, to the present tension I have come up with (so far) is called resilient communication. I spent some time recently in Mark 4 reading the parable of the sower and connected passages. One of the most difficult challenges about the passage is the seeming mixed message Jesus sends. Greg Lanier puts it this way:

In other words, Jesus speaks in parables so that some will “hear” his teaching and “see” the coming kingdom but not truly “hear and see” (and consequently, not respond with repentance and faith). One immediately uncovers the tension here: Is Jesus saying his preaching is designed for failure to produce results? Is he intentionally being obscurantist to turn people away?

As Lanier later describes, Jesus is standing in a long line of prophetic tradition. Mark cites Isaiah’s call in 6:9-10. Prophets use parables of all sorts to veil and unveil the truth, to bring hearers to the point of recognizing their own self-judgment, and to produce a response to God.

Jesus tactfully shares the word, so that listeners want to stay in the conversation even if they may never hear the words shared. Some stay in the conversation, which is why crowds follow Jesus. It is also why the Pharisees freak out. The Pharisees and scribes have rightfully perceived Jesus’s words and, in light of their own-self judgment, respond negatively. The sinners and tax collectors have also perceived and consistently gather to get to know this potential Messiah. Staying in the conversation involves both the communicator and the listener.

I would argue in today’s world we need to rediscover the art of resiliency in communicating, but primarily in the aspect of listening. When we resiliently communicate we can own our personal worldview, while also remaining humble and teachable in the conversation. First, what is resilience?

Resilience: The revelation of our innate human ability to cope, survive, and then grow.

Resilient listening: Staying in the conversation when I do not like it. Staying in the conversation when I disagree with the “facts” I hear and even the worldview communicated. Resilient listening is keeping curious even when I do not want to be. It is not merely waiting to talk, but listening to understand.

In the holistic idea of resilient communication, there are several action items. I hope to tease out each action item over the next several weeks as I attempt to listen to others. For the meantime, I will provide the list with brief definitions.

  1. Saturation – consistently presenting the same message (not-mixed messages).
  2. Care – meeting immediate physical needs.
  3. Fact – information with no bias.
  4. Demonstrate empathy – sharing another’s feelings.
  5. Follow-through – persevere with action in the process.

Throughout resilient communication the idea of self-judgment is key. It is our own self-judgment which prohibits us from resiliently listening. Our idols keep us from conversing with other humans.  In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller says, “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’”

Idols are the things that rattle us when they are threatened. As our model for humanity, Jesus stayed in tough conversations. He sat with people. He listened. He shared about  God’s design for the world (which transcended any geopolitical entity). Those who could not handle the diversity and constant challenges to their thinking withdrew from the conversation. Eventually, these people killed Jesus.

As people measured themselves against the compassion and kindness of Jesus, they realized how utterly they fell short of the beautiful standard. Because Jesus embodies God’s rightful kingdom manifested, those in the first century are fascinated and frustrated. The many parables, teaching, and life of Jesus provided saturation, care, fact, empathy, and follow-through. Jesus saw each person as having value and worth.

As we engage in the national conversation, how does our posture align with Jesus’s model of resilient communication?

Today, we verbally assault each other without resiliently listening to each other. We heap self-judgment upon ourselves when we cannot handle the reality that we don’t know what we don’t know. We live in a world of “experts” whose Ph.D. is Google, YouTube, and social media posts. In order to move forward together, let us practice the art of resilient communication. Sit down with someone different than you. Stop shouting. Start listening. Stay in the conversation.

 

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” – James 1:19-20

Reframe (Part 2)

Instagram made a shift in the look of their app. Not only did they change the app look, but they also changed the color scheme surrounding pictures to give more focus to the picture itself. Essentially, they reframed all of a person’s pictures. Instead of a competing color scheme for a person’s attention, they muted the frame eliminating any competing color for a person’s eye. Now, reframing the picture makes the picture more vibrant. When we reframe our understanding of church and our Christian organizations around a kingdom mindset by seeking Christ, our churches and organizations become more vibrant.

As we begin to reframe our understanding of kingdom, our approach to ministry within the local church changes. Ministry no longer exists within the vacuum of programs within your church. A competing strategy is no longer developed with sections of the whole. When we learn to seek Christ and abide in Him, supernaturally, the effects of this relationship begin to change. We often do not know how to deal with ministry outside the confines of what we are taught and personally experienced.

Any organization feels the tension when shifting from operating as an isolated entity to one that collaborates and has to rely on others to share in the larger vision. Trust becomes essential. A common vision is non-negotiable. I am thoroughly convinced that as our culture shifts we must rely on Christian living with the mindset always putting God’s kingdom first. Trusting and applying this mindset are not alway shares with the same philosophy of how best to live in light of God’s rule and reign.

The Pharisees and disciples struggled with these very ideas when Jesus begin ministry. The disciples  moved down a pathway and joined Jesus. The Pharisees clung to what they knew and could tangibly control–their additional laws. The Pharisees had good intentions but fear ruled within them. Their fear gave birth to bitterness, contempt, and anger closing themselves off from what the Father was doing through Jesus.  

Within our changing culture, fear cannot and must not rule us. We have to begin serving others through a kingdom framework, instead of a withdrawn western church framework.Jesus shifted the centrality from the religious leader back to hearing and obeying God together. A kingdom framework challenges the modern day pastor to shift from the central role back to a servant and someone who equips others.  When we serve others well we can lead them. A kingdom framework shifts from a pastor central church back to a kingdom-centered church. Therefore, we can no longer “do church” or “do bible college” the way we have always done it. Operations must change and will change. Churches and Christian Universities are already moving to a kingdom framework. Contrast the two frameworks below:

Church Framework

  1. Gospel of Salvation: “I’ve been baptized or saved” “Heaven someday”
  2. Disciple: Church Member and “Doing” things for God
  3. Society: Indifference or disengagement
  4. Church: Building or Institution

Kingdom Framework

  1. Gospel of the Kingdom: “Here and Now” “Arrival of present reality”
  2. Disciple: “Being” a Son/Daughter of God, where we hear and obey
  3. Society: Domains – “Where you are” and “Reconciliation of all things”
  4. Church: Ecclesia – called out one and the family of God

Framing up a correct mindset will only come as we seek Christ together and take bold steps to bring the present reality of God’s goodness to others.

I believe that what God has in mind for the church was rooted in how Jesus established His church.We must consider how far the Western church has wandered from God’s original intention. Honestly, it is all in how you frame up the issue and approach day to day life in the kingdom. As we reframe, are we bold enough to make the shifts? Or, will we settle for what we know and can control?