Monday, November 23, 2015

A Little Lamb

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I live in a city.  It’s not a huge metropolis, but it’s large enough to have a variety of defined neighborhoods, each with its own character and culture.  One thing that is pretty much a constant, however, is the quite normal scene of teens walking their lambs down the street to exercise them in preparation for the county fair.

If you think about it for a moment, you will realize that those lambs are growing up in someone’s back yard and are affecting far more than the teen who is raising them. Those of you who have been around a farm know that farm animals don’t take holidays off. They don’t get vacations.  That means their owners don’t get those breaks either, unless they make arrangements for someone else to do the work while they are gone.

I reflected on this and can imagine how many family conversations must turn to those lambs. “Did you bring home the food?”  “Did you check the water?”  “Did you clean up the mess?”  By the time that young person gets the lamb to the fair, the whole family will have been impacted by the animal.

I bring this up because one of the most beautiful and terrible descriptions of Jesus Christ is “Lamb of God.”  Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet was foretelling the death of Jesus when he said, "He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7 New Living Translation) Jesus fulfilled those words when He refused to defend Himself to the religious leaders who wanted Him dead.

John the Baptist (John, Chapter 1) reflected this same graphic word picture when, while baptizing in the Jordan River. “Behold, the Lamb of God…” he said, when he saw Jesus among the crowd who had come to hear his message.  This was at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry and most people had no idea what John was talking about. Long after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Simon Peter wrote,
18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver.
19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began...
(1 Peter 1:18-20 New Living Translation)
The Jewish people of Jesus’ day couldn’t hear the term “Lamb of God” without thinking of the generations before them who regularly sacrificed lambs to reflect on God’s mercy and power to save them from oppressors.  The idea that Jesus wasn’t just A lamb, but THE Lamb would have caused some deep soul-searching.

If Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” what difference does it make?  If you read carefully, you will see that the arrival of Jesus on the scene was disruptive to all kinds of people. Rich, poor, rulers, servants, wise and fools were all impacted by one single Lamb.  We have chosen this lens to look at the timeless story of the first Christmas.  Not only was the arrival of the Lamb a game-changer for many of those in Jesus’ day, He is still changing everything for all sorts of people today.  Our Christmas series, “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” begins this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.  We are excited to share it with you!  Can’t join us this weekend?  Catch the podcast!

As you spend a part of this week (hopefully) catching your breath, rejoicing with family and celebrating Thanksgiving, Cathy and I want you to know how thankful we are for each of you. Our lives are incredibly rich because of the gift of family and friends who share the journey with us!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Broken Promises, Intact Fear

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It all started with an innocuous request: “I forgot my gym suit; can I borrow yours?”  I’m certain that the idea of 7th and 8th grade boys regularly lending their gym clothes to each other will horrify some of my germaphobic friends.  To be honest, I look back on the practice with a bit of consternation.  Still, we were kids and kids do things like forget or lose or lend out their gym wear (to those who forgot or lost theirs).  Most of the time, it works out and the lender gets them back after their friend’s physical education class, or at least in time for the lender’s next class.

Most of the time.

Mine never came back.  The friend who borrowed it was considered to be one of the toughest kids in school…at least that was his reputation.  Looking back, I remember how intimidated — how fearful — I was around him.  What I can’t remember is if I lent him my gym suit once or if he brought it back a few times. I just remember that I was ready to go to P.E. one day and didn’t have a suit…so I had to run around until I found a friend who would lend me one.

This whole thing went on for a while, for it wasn’t just the tough kid — the one with my suit — that I feared.  I feared the physical education teacher who was known for his strict policies and who harbored no excuses for failure to show up in his class without being “dressed out” for activity.  That coach was fair, but he was also tough and his zero tolerance policy was enough to keep all of us boys intimidated by him.

I also feared my parents. Those who have heard me talk about them, know that my mom and dad were loving, godly parents.  They taught us how to live, both by words and by actions. There was never a doubt that they loved us, but I was a 7th grade boy who was trying to transition from not-quite-an-adult-but-no-longer-a-kid.  Most of you know that this is one of the most awkward transitions of life.  It is made that much harder because most of us disconnect from our families during this season.  James Dobson once described it as being like the space capsules that lost their radio communication with Mission Control as they re-entered earth’s atmosphere.  The ground team held their collective breaths for contact to be re-established. That’s pretty much describes parent-child relationships during adolescence.

I feared my parents, because they wouldn’t have wanted me to lend out my gym suit. Those suits had to be paid for and we weren’t a family with loads of extra money to throw around.  In addition, they would have wanted me to go to the coach (who intimidated me) and/or to the boy (who intimidated me) to get the suit back.  I did neither.  I kept borrowing another suit and hiding my problem from my parents.

As an adult, I would have wanted my own child to open up to me about the problem.  I would have been happy to help find a solution.  I have absolutely no doubt that my own parents would have done the same thing and saved me days and days of fear that I couldn’t borrow a gym suit and would have to face that intimidating teacher.

In the end, my parents did find out.  They weren’t happy when we contacted the family of the boy who borrowed my suit and were told that they didn’t know what was going on, plus they had no idea of the whereabouts of my missing gym clothes. We did a short-term investigation of “The Mystery of the Missing Trunks,” but finally had to spring for a whole new suit…which I refused to lend out to anyone.  It would have been so much less pain for me if I had gone to my parents in the first place.  The mistakes were already made, but I could have been spared the pain and the shame of the cover-up.

Over a half century has passed since that long, grueling season of fear and intimidation, but I can still remember how it felt inside.  I have learned in the years since that life can throw you some wild pitches, but you don’t have to live in constant fear of them.  Even if you have to face consequences for your own failures, there is One who knows the whole stinky story already. That One has loved you completely since before you emerged from your mother’s womb.  It is His perfect love that offers to send your fears far away from you and to mend the broken places in your life.

Do you need to come out of the darkness of your hidden life and bring your crimes into the light of day?  It is in the light that you will discover perfect love and your fears will be driven away. “Perfect Love” is the fourth gift we have been given by the One who designed us for joy.  Can’t wait to share it with you this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. It’s a perfect weekend to invite a friend who needs encouragement!  If you can’t make it, catch the podcast!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Feast Or Fast?

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Of late, Cathy and I have been spending one evening a week with our friends, Drew and Lesa. This young couple is making plans for their wedding next month.  They came to me in the summer, asking if I might do their pre-marital counseling.  At the time, they told me they knew the stories about the number of couples who came to me for help preparing to join their lives together and who, instead, called the wedding off after a few weeks with me.  (True story!)  Drew and Lesa obviously knew the risks!

Once we agreed that I would help them, they made me aware that they also knew how Cathy and I had together done pre-marital counseling for our friends, Logan and Kenra.  That was a few years ago.  Drew and Lesa told me that they had hoped we might do the same with them. To clarify, I have done lots of pre-marital counseling over the years, but rarely have we done anything quite like what we did with Logan and Kenra (who will soon celebrate their third anniversary).  Our weekly sessions with them often lasted 3 hours, included dinner, lots of laughter, some tears and (when possible) a table game to decompress.  Now Drew and Lesa were asking us to counsel them with the same format.

We said “Yes” as we considered similarities between the two couples.  Both couples have a strong background in missions and both are searching their hearts about how their future includes serving God wherever He calls.  The stakes are high with couples like this and conversations need to be about far more than communications and conflict-management.  Cathy and I began to meet weekly with Drew and Lesa.

Part of the process of counseling in this way includes Cathy and me recalling our early years of marriage.  What were the choke points?  What did we struggle with?  How did we work through the often-fun-but-sometimes-painful process of molding two unique people into one?  The discipline of remembering and gleaning lessons from those days long past often stimulates memories long forgotten.

One such memory is how differently our parents showed love and support to their children. Cathy grew up in a home in which the big days — especially birthdays and Christmases — were celebrated with abundant gifts. My parents, meanwhile, didn’t give that much at those times.  My parents made up for that, though, but having a keen sense of genuine financial needs we had in our early years.  We were surprised with unexpected and much needed gifts on a variety of occasions.  Because of the way our families viewed the big days, we had to make decisions about the way we would raise our own kids.  Big celebrations or small?  (If you are in the early years of marriage and haven’t talked about this, it’s time!)

It’s not just families, but larger groups — groups like businesses or non-profits or churches — that much decide: how often do we celebrate?  What should that celebration include?  When God’s people Israel were in the wilderness, across the Red Sea from Egypt, God told Moses that they were to have a feast three times a year.  That means that they were to slow down long enough to have a big party, remembering what God was doing among them.  Similarly, there were days set aside for fasting.  Those fasts sometimes included solemn assemblies, meant to bring the people face to face with their own weaknesses.  This would — hopefully — cause them to seek God’s favor and recommit their lives to Him.

I must admit that, having grown up in a family that didn’t make a huge deal of what many consider big days, I don’t party enough!  I know that some of you are laughing right now — I could almost hear you as I typed those words!  I find it easy to keep moving ahead to the next order of business and I forget the need to stop and celebrate God’s goodness.  FORTUNATELY, I have a few “party animals” around me and they help me remember just how important it is to stop and celebrate...

…so that’s what we will do this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.  In fact, we’re going to take a risk and do something we haven’t done for years.  We’re bringing the whole church family together for one, big, outdoor “Celebrate Together” service.  It will take place at 9:00 this Sunday morning, November 15.  Those who normally attend Saturday at 5:00 or Sunday at 11:00…PLEASE find a way to change your schedule this week.  The breakfast burritos alone will be worth it!  But the REAL CELEBRATION will be about what God has been doing, changing lives and helping us reach into the broken places of our community.

The Service will be outside in our courtyard.  The morning will be cool — dress appropriately and wear sunscreen.  Believe me, this is one party you don’t want to miss!

Monday, November 2, 2015

My Extreme Makover

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What does it take to turn your heart to putty?  At what point do you take stock of your existence and realize that it’s time for an extreme makeover?

1 The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,
2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.”
3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.
4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
Jeremiah 18:1-4 (New Living Translation)

For me, that critical realization of how messed-up the jar of my life had become happened when I was still in my twenties.  At the time, I was working full-time at a Christian college and part-time on the staff of a little church.  People who knew me would have told you that, as far as God’s jars go, I was pretty well together.  Our young family was happy, our marriage was pretty good and we were very devoted to the things that Christians do.  Cathy and I had determined that we wouldn’t just teach our kids the Bible, we would live out its truths in our everyday lives. Outwardly, my heart looked kind and stable and caring.

Inwardly?  Well, that’s another story.

I could see the cracks in my hardened heart, but I cleverly hid them from others.  I could trace the patterns of bad thinking and bad behaviors that seemed insurmountable.  Over and over again, I confessed the same ugly sins being played out in my thought life.  Over and over, I bemoaned the predictability of returning to those sins. Jesus once spoke of returning to sins as being like a dog returning to its vomit.  That was me.  I hated the vile taste of those sins in my heart, but I kept going back...

...until one night.

Looking back, it was the night that changed everything.  On that particular night, I was fed up. My heart was beginning to turn to putty.  I was ready for an extreme makeover.  I cried out from the bottom of my soul, “God, I can’t seem to experience victory.  It’s that same victory which I tell others is available.  I talk about it as if it’s true in my life, but it’s not.  I am asking You to do whatever You have to do in order for me to change my heart."

“…whatever You have to do…”  Yes, those are the words that open the door for all hell to break loose.  Why?  Because everything that holds on to the sins of our past must be broken.  The clay of life must be crushed into a lump so that the potter can remold it.  It’s like heaven’s recycling business, intended to claim that which is of value and send the rest into the fire or the trash heap.

And it hurts!

I forgot my “…whatever you have to do…” prayer for a while.  Then, bit by bit, my life started coming apart.  I had always be a pretty optimistic guy up until then.  As I began to unravel, one of my friends asked, “What happened to Sam?  He’s not very happy anymore.”  Bit by bit, the outward facade of my life was becoming just as broken as I was inwardly.  Bit by bit, I saw myself slipping away and I didn’t take it calmly.  The pressure of the problems in my life began to be unbearable.  I tried various maneuvers to relieve those pressures, but nothing worked.

Finally, on a Monday morning, I was so down and depressed that I didn’t know how I could go on.  I wasn’t suicidal; in fact, death itself was a terror.  In my despair, I closed myself in our bedroom and got on my knees.  “Jesus!” I cried out.  “I can’t do this anymore!  I can’t handle the pressure!  I don’t know what to do!"

What happened next is hard to explain, but the darkness in my heart suddenly turned to light. Out of that light came a voice, a voice so real that it could have been audible (though it wasn’t). “I know you can’t do it anymore,” He said.  “Now, are you willing to let go and let me live My life in you?”  I was immediately repenting of my sins because of the love that He was pouring into my heart.  In just a moment, I went from the darkness of despair to the light of fellowship with the One who loved me and gave Himself for me.  We began to walk together and talk together.  Did I stumble sometimes and lose the sense of His presence?  Yes!  I had to endure seasons of learning when our close fellowship was lost.  In fact, I went through months that I doubted the entire experience!  Through it all, the unfathomable intimacy with the Holy Spirit and the seasons of drought, I was learning what it means to live the new life God had designed me for.

The apostle Paul wrote...
6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation)

When someone decides to follow Jesus, he or she gets “this great treasure,” which is the Holy Spirit living inside.  Our problem is that we have been taught to clean up the outside of our lives so that we look congenial and caring to others.  At the same time, we don’t realize just how great the treasure is.  The result is that we live these outward lives that look good — what Paul called “a form of godliness” — and inner lives that seek relational fulfillment in the things this world makes readily available to us.

You and I were “Designed for Joy.”  We won’t find it until our hearts become putty in the hands of the Potter and we ask Him for an extreme makeover.  We will talk more about that this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.  It’s Part 3 of “Designed for Joy” and you don’t want to miss it!  Can’t be there?  Catch the podcast!

Monday, October 26, 2015

How much did they leave you?


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What is it with Warren Buffett?  One of the world’s wealthiest men has decided to give most of his money to charity, rather than to his kids?  What is he doing?  Isn’t than “un-American?”  According to recent reports, we are at the front end of the greatest wealth transfer in history.  In the next three or four decades, an estimated $30 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”) will change hands.  Isn’t this the time when the recipients of those dollars should be planning lavish parties?

Apparently not, according to Buffett.  He is quoted as saying, "My family won't receive huge amounts of my net worth. That doesn't mean they'll get nothing. My children have already received some money from me and Susie and will receive more. I still believe in the philosophy ... that a very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing.”  Buffett is so strong on the idea of giving wealth away to meet the needs of the planet that he already gave tidy sums to his children so that they could give the money on to charity.  One of his daughters took the cash from her dad and used it to attract other donors, making an even larger dent in some of the needs that pique her interest.

This all begs the question, “Just what is Mr. Buffett leaving his children, if it isn’t that much of his money?”  Could it be that he understands something many of us easily forget…that the most important inheritance we leave behind is not money, but a piece of ourselves?  The Buffett children and grandchildren certainly know something about Mr. Buffett’s wealth, but they have been learning something deeper from dad/grandpa.  They have watched him make all sorts of choices about the way he lives his life.  He and his wife have stayed in the house they bought decades ago, even though they could afford castles and mansions on every continent.  They have chosen to stay in Omaha, Nebraska, rather than live in a city known for celebrities and parties and power-brokers.  When they are gone, it’s probable that they will be missed for their wisdom and their love, rather than for their money.

This is quite personal to me.  My dad has been gone over 25 years.  Though he never made a lot, the last years of his life included some financial decisions designed to take care of our mom for as long as she lives.  Mom will be 90 next year.  Sometimes we wonder if the small amount she has left will be enough, but we don’t really worry about it.  You see, our parents gave us a MUCH GREATER INHERITANCE than the wealth of this world.  They taught us to take care of business, work hard, manage carefully and…most of all…to trust God.  Jesus said it best: "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33 New Living Translation)

This post, however, is a about something far more important than whether our greatest inheritance is our family’s money or our family themselves.  You see, one of the best gifts we will ever receive is that of becoming part of God’s family.  We get a whole new set of relationships. God the Father becomes our “Daddy” (literal translation of “Abba”), Jesus becomes our Friend (closer than a brother!) and the Holy Spirit takes us residence inside us.  We are no longer orphans and we have an inheritance beyond words!

That inheritance is one of the biggest reasons we are “Designed for Joy!” We pick up Part 2 of the series this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.  Our worship services last weekend were over the top with joyful expressions of praise…I hope you can be with us this week.  Can’t make it? Catch the podcast!

Monday, October 19, 2015

When Fear Swells

By the time he reached his fifties, Henry must have thought that he had seen it all. Having reached his teens during the War Between the States, he no doubt had experienced a lasting impression of the price of conflict. His hometown, Germantown, Pennsylvania, had been the birthplace of the anti-slavery movement in 1688; no wonder that nearly one-third of its citizens left their homes to fight in the Civil War.

Henry was still young then, but he obviously saw both the need to stand up for the rights of the oppressed and the price that must be paid to drive back tyranny.  Henry reached the age of thirteen as the war ended, and he was beginning to look forward to a life that would include ministry, a professorship and some time in government service.  He headed off to Princeton and graduated from there in 1873. Four years later, he received a graduate degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.  Henry took seriously his advantage of  higher education and his devotion to Christ led him to a career as a Presbyterian pastor.

Through his years of local parish work, Henry’s love for English Literature kept him busy, opening the door for him to return to Princeton in 1899 as a professor.  All during this time, he continued his pastoral work. And Henry wrote. Often he wrote poems and short stories, which drew some attention to him, but it was Henry the man who seemed to capture the friendship and loyalty of those who knew him. Helen Keller was Henry’s friend and she wrote, “(Henry)... is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some cause he is interested in.”  Of himself, Henry wrote, "I'm not an optimist. There’s too much evil in the world and in me. Nor am I a pessimist; there is too much good in the world and in God. So I am just a meliorist, believing that He wills to make the world better, and trying to do my bit to help and wishing that it were more."

As people changed their calendars from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, the world was facing cataclysmic change.  Radioactive power was just being discovered and explored.  The exponential possibilities of a force beyond imagination captivated scientists and brought fear to many. Even the discovery of Halley’s Comet was a harbinger of dread to some who thought it could bring about a chemical shift to earth’s atmosphere.  As scientific discoveries were bringing news of massive change to the planet, the political plates were shifting under Europe.  Old alliances were coming apart. Regional conflicts were boiling up with increasing force and the world was beginning to be filled with dread that the whole thing would erupt into a war beyond all wars. It did.  We call it World War I.

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The Berkshires in Winter
As the planet began to shake, even many of the Christians Henry knew were becoming laden with fear and doubt.  It was during this time that he was invited to come and preach at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. During those days, Henry’s daily view was of the Berkshires.  Those mountains inspired him as he considered the perilous times which were leaving many shrouded in gloom.  In addition, he had in mind a tune, written almost one hundred years earlier by Ludwig van Beethoven...

…and he began to write a poem. Filled with the hope of God, Henry Van Dyke faced the difficulties of his era with these words:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Henry Van Dyke was a personal friend of Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth President of the United States.  President Wilson appointed Henry to be the U.S. Ambassador to Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1913.  Months later, full-scale war erupted in Europe.  Americans all over the Continent rushed to Holland to escape the bloody onslaught and Henry Van Dyke, the man who saw both the evil and the good, became God’s instrument to organize a relief effort for them.

It strikes me that our generation has too often made joy a shallow thing. It has become a frill that we hang on to when everything is going our way.  If we are the followers of Jesus, people transformed by God’s Spirit, we were designed for much more than that. “Designed For Joy” is our new series, beginning this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.  I hope you can join us as we discover just what God has done to provide us with joy in every circumstance. Can’t make it this weekend? Catch the podcast!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Treasure Chest

No matter who you are, where you live or how carefully you plan, life gets upended sometimes. If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that you have fantasies that every problem you face will be understood and repaired in the two hours or so that it takes to watch a good movie. The truth, though, is far more serious that your dreams.
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One of the wisest things we can do in life is to invest our time, energy and money in things that count and that can prepare us for the inevitable trouble ahead.  The problem is that our culture teaches a concept of investment that is mostly upside-down to what God says in the Bible.  A few examples:
  • The culture says that we should party now since we might not be able to party tomorrow.  God says that we should seek His kingdom above all else.
  • The culture says that it’s a sign of maturity to prepare for our own problems. God says that He cares for those who put Him first.
  • The culture says that getting everything we can for ourselves is the way to be successful in life. God says that real life is found in what we give, rather than what we get.  

Examples abound in which someone chooses God’s way of living versus the way “everyone” around us seems to live.  I was intrigued by the story which Pastor Randy Scroggins told about His daughter Lacey. Lacey, a student at Umpqua Community College, went through the horror of classmates and a teacher being gunned down around her.  One of her classmates, a boy whom she had known in high school, seemed to intentionally land on top of her when he was shot.  It was his blood on her that made the shooter consider her dead, and this spared her life. While Scroggins told the press about the heroism of the boy, he is quoted as going more in-depth with his church: "Moms and dads, you can take your kids to soccer games, you can take them to baseball games, you can keep 'em out of church, but I am telling you, there is nothing going to take the place of teaching your children how to pray.”  It was her prayer life, he said, that sustained her during her ordeal.  I can almost hear the skepticism in response to that statement, but let’s be real for a moment: Lacey’s life got upended and she knew how to face it.

I love to remember the season of my sister Cabby’s death in 1976, not because of the pain of the loss, but because of the provision to pay the cost.  My parents were without health insurance and my mom had already gone through major surgery that year.  Cabby developed a heart infection that Thanksgiving, which landed her in a coronary care unit in an Albuquerque hospital. A few days later, she died.  Suddenly, my parents were facing not only the loss of a daughter, but the huge costs associated with hospital and burial expenses. God’s promise, "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,' says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (Malachi 3:10 New Living Translation) stands just as true today as when He spoke it to the prophet long ago. My parents lifestyle put God to the test and money arrived in surprising ways.  Every cost was quickly covered.

Cathy and I often tell about the time when we needed a larger vehicle for our growing family. After much prayer, we purchased one, both of us confident that we were following God’s plan and not our own. Within a few days, our oven, our refrigerator and our washing machine went out. It all happened so fast that it became humorous. “You have a problem, Lord,” we prayed as we handed it all to Him.  Life gets upended sometimes.

We have seen the principle which Jesus described, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need," (Matthew 6:33 New Living Translation) lived out over and over again.  We have seen the opposite, too.  When Jesus is at the center of our lives, He is there to see us through the crises.  When we supplant Him, we will ultimately find ourselves bankrupt in the face of overwhelming need.  

This is a serious topic for many who read it, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to talk about God’s generosity.  He loves for His kids to get this one right and learn to live so generously that we are simply a reflection of His goodness to the world around us.  He also loves to pour out His blessings upon us, supplying everything we need. Living Generously is our topic this week as we continue “40 Days of Community” at Stone Ridge Church. God has given us a way to live that promises to meet every need every time. I encourage you to join us and find out more.  In fact, it would be a great weekend to invite a friend.

Can’t be there?  Catch the podcast!