contentment Posts

Gospel Hope

When you stop to think about it, you’re life is all about hope. Every decision, every good or bad moment is about hope and expectation and then, whether that expectation is met or not. Think about it: “I hope this person likes me.” “I hope this relationship works out.” “I hope to pass this test, graduate.” “I hope this job becomes mine.” “I hope I stay healthy and grow old. “I will do this or that…” And then something or someone steps in. And when it doesn’t happen we’re disappointed, upset, angry, even despairing. In fact, you could go so far as to say, all frustration and disappointment in life is a result of, or birthed out of, unmet expectation.

Beware: Christmas ramps this up in spades. All of this season’s ads are pummeling you with false hope. We’ll see hundreds, even thousands, of ads this month promising you something- offering hope. What we see is an embellished vision of life created by a media- drenched culture that changes our expectations. It captures our imagination and convinces us that life should be like this. In fact, there’s a term for it: it’s what sociologist Krishan Kumar (at UVa) calls “hyper-reality”. He says this: “Our world has become so saturated with images and symbols that a new ‘electronic reality’ has been created, whose effect is to obliterate any sense of an objective reality lying behind the images and symbols.” In other words, the images and the symbols that represent the things that stand behind them
are actually overblown, exaggerated and embellished. We create in our minds a world that is not based on reality. As a result our hopes are heightened even more and our expectations are exaggerated and we’re always left wanting, even despairing.

We place or hope in something or someone and we expect that thing or person to deliver. The Scottish writer, Allan K. Chalmers, wrote, “The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” We all place our hope in something or someone. But it is the Object of our Hope that makes ALL the difference. So, rightly understood:

Christmas is all about hope created, hope lost, hope restored, and hope realized. Indeed, this is the story of redemptive history. And HERE is the great human problem: We are prone to place our hope in things that cannot deliver. But here’s ironic twist:

The doorway to hope is hopelessness. The only way you find true hope is to give up on all those others things you place your hope in. And for hope to be hope must fix what’s broken. If not why hope in it? And we must realize that the answer is not found in us or anything this world can offer. There’s no horizontal hope.

Hopelessness is the doorway to hope. When you finally give up on the idea that you will find hope in the horizontal, you’re at the doorway of REAL hope, that gives life. When you give up on horizontal hope then you’re ready to look up and find the only hope that matters. Have you given up on all those other things? Do you still think you’ll find your personal savior in something or someone else? Give up on that perfect relationship. Give up on that perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect marriage, the perfect house. Give up; those things are fruitless. But HOPE has come.

Biblical hope is a bold and certain expectation that God will do what He says He will do. Biblical hope is synonymous to trust. It is not synonymous with wish or desire. Those who hope in the Lord, are those who trust in Him- and trust is equivalent to obedience. Hope is not a magic wand or a good feeling- ultimately hope is the result of obedience. Hope is a firm reliance on the preferred or future Story of God.

Hope is not a situation, it’s not a circumstance, it’s not a thing. When you finally realize this (usually by painfully discovering that those things and people will never satisfy), you open the door and guess who is standing there? Jesus.

Hope is a Person and His name is Jesus.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

 

 

 

 

ENOUGH

This fall at PCBC we walked through a series of messages asking the question, “How much is enough?” “When is enough, enough?” “How much is enough to give?” “How much is enough to keep?”

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Liberating Truths That Lead to a Life of Generosity

1. God owns everything.
“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2
“‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:8 God owns any and all kinds of currency and wealth.
“You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20 God owns all of us.

2. We are stewards. We are managers of all that is His.

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” I Corinthians 4: 1-2

3. What we sow determines what we reap. (vs. 6) Whatever you put in the ground is what’s coming up later. This natural law is spiritual law as well.

4. God wants us to be generous and cheerful givers. (vs. 7) The amount of the blessing of your harvest is determined by how much you sow. The question is not, “How much should I sow?” The question is, “How much do I want to be blessed?”

5. We are blessed to be a blessing. (vs. 8-11) We’re “enriched in every way SO THAT you can be generous on every occasion.” The moment we hang on to the blessings of God, His blessing stops.

6. God prospers us, not to raise our standard of living, but to raise our standard of giving. (vs. 10-11) The way we excel in giving is when we determine to cap our lifestyle.

7. How we spend our money reveals our hearts and exposes our priorities. (vs. 11)

8. God multiplies our giving into transformed lives. (vs.12-14) Only God can do that.

9. Our giving is an act of worship. (vs. 15) Oswald Chambers defined worship as “Giving back to God the very best He has given me.”

The Generosity Challenge: “Test me in this” Malachi 3:10
• Start giving
• Become a percentage giver
• Give the tithe
• Give beyond the tithe

God issues the challenge to us all. He dares us to believe in Him, to trust that He will be faithful. At the start of this Christmas season, determine to be a giver. This will be the greatest Christmas you’ve ever known if you will simply practice the simple truth of Jesus: It is more blessed to give than to receive.

The Myth of More

We often think, “the more I have the better off I’ll be.  The more I have the happier I’ll be.”  Someone said, “I know money can’t buy happiness but I would sure love to figure that out through my own personal experience.”  Well, you don’t need to.  In fact, the entire book of Ecclesiastes is a primer on wisdom learned from mistakes made by a man who had it all.  Solomon wrote the book (and God put it in the Bible) so that we could all learn from his experience.  He was the wealthiest man in the world.  In Ecclesiastes 5:10-17 he reveals the myth of having more. In his little book, The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn breaks it down like this:

The more you have…

The more you want (vs. 10), the less you’re satisfied (vs. 10), the more people will come after it (vs. 11), the more you realize it does you no good (vs. 11), the more you have to worry about (vs. 12), the more you can hurt yourself by holding on to it (vs. 13), the more you have to lose (vs. 14), and the more you leave behind (vs. 15).

J. D. Rockefeller was, at one time the wealthiest man on earth.  When he died a reporter asked the executor of the Rockefeller’s estate, “How much did he leave behind?”  The executor answered, “All of it.”

Giving is the only antidote to materialism.

When you embrace the fact that God owns all that you have, then you’re free to give out of adoration and celebration- not out of obligation or calculation.  People who’ve been set free from their stuff give joyfully- it’s the hilarious giver that Paul talks about. Instead, people have all kinds of strange ideas about giving, about giving 10%, about the offering…

God prospers me, not to raise my standard of living but my standard of giving.

The truth is, most of us are working- not to fund our needs but to fund a lifestyle that we’ve chosen lifestyle.  At the core of the missional life is one who is a GIVER- and YES, it starts with our money because money is number one deterrent to living a life of generosity.

Five Things You Can Do With Your Money (the world’s way):

1. Spend it  2. Repay debt  3. Pay taxes  4. Save it  5. Give it

The Financial Flip-flop (God’s way):

1. Give it  2. Save it  3. Pay taxes  4. Repay debt  5. Spend it

Here’s what I’ve learned: Underneath this entire conversation about holding loosely to your stuff is this: a proper understanding of GRACE.  If you have come to realize that you are a sinner saved by grace then you will practice radical generosity- not just in certain areas of your life, but in every aspect of your life.   When you realize the cost of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and how He has bought you to be His own- how He has given His life for you to set you free from sin, guilt, and hell- then you begin to live in that freedom.  You’re not bound to the things of this world.  Then, and only then, will you lighten up.