How to Have a Couple Conversation About Giving- extended version

couple in conversation

 

You and your spouse are pulling out of the church parking lot.  The message that day was on giving.  During the message, you exchanged glances, as if you both knew God was speaking to you.  In your heart you know your financial relationship with God isn’t where it needs to be.  During the last song, you held hands, sharing a moment of physical and spiritual connection.

This is the moment of truth.  The kids are on their phones.  Where you are eating lunch has been decided.  Will the two of you have a conversation about what you both just experienced?

Maybe it’s a harder conversation.  Maybe your heart was stirred by the message, but you looked at your spouse and saw arms crossed, mouth frowning, eyebrows furrowing.  How do you talk about what God is saying to you?

It could be the other way around.  During the message, you found your heart bracing against the sermon.  You looked at your spouse to see if they feel as negatively as you do, but to your surprise, you saw them leaning forward, nodding.  Fear raced through your mind: “She/he can’t be taking this seriously.”

How do you have that crucial conversation about giving?  More than any other spiritual discipline, convictions about giving get dropped quickly in the face of bringing it up with your partner.

Why?

  1. Fear of starting a conflict.  It is easy for a conversation about giving to turn into a fight about spending and financial management.
  2. Fear of resurrecting an old conflict.  Old conflicts that may have nothing to do with money get attached to the giving conversation.  What begins as a conversation about generosity surfaces old wounds about being controlled or invalidated.
  3. Feeling vulnerable about inadequacies.  If one partner feels inadequate about money matters, he or she may be reluctant to expose their vulnerability.
  4. Feeling vulnerable about unhealthy habits.  One partner in the relationship may feel shame about unhealthy habits that take discretionary income and limit the ability to give.  They want to avoid facing that issue at all costs.

So how do you have this crucial conversation about giving?

Someone has to go first.  This is a good chance for husbands to lead and say, “I feel like we need to talk about the message today.” About 80% of the time, however, women take the lead in bringing up an issue the couple needs to face.  If you sense you both felt moved by God, either partner can say, “I sense you felt God speaking to you during the message.  I did too.  Can we talk about that?”

If you felt moved during the message and sensed resistance from your spouse, the issue still needs to be raised.  You might say, “I sense we reacted differently to the message today.  I would like to hear what you experienced and then share with you what I experienced.”

If you felt resistant and noticed your spouse was moved, it will strengthen your relationship if you bring up the issue first:  “I felt really closed to the message today and I’m not sure why.  But I noticed you seemed to be really engaged.  Can you share with me what you experienced?  Then I’d like to talk about what I was feeling.”  If you know why you felt resistant, take the risk of being vulnerable and share the reason.  “I was really resistant to the message today.  Whenever I hear a pastor talk about giving, it reminds me of all the money my parents sent to TV evangelists and how that money was misused.  I sense you had a different reaction.  Would you mind sharing it with me?”

No matter your starting point, be courageous and go first!  Get the conversation started!

Make a commitment to explore the message from God, but not reach a conclusion.  “I think we need to talk about this, but not leap to a decision today.”  This one statement will lower the anxiety of the other partner.  It will probably lower your own anxiety!  When God speaks to you in any worship service, he wants you to reflect on what he is saying.  Ask:  “Is the message we think we are hearing consistent with God’s Bible?”  Jesus said, “Count the cost.”  What’s the cost of the message you heard?  What do your feelings represent?

Commit to talk these things through without judging each other.  Use “I” statements, not “we” statements.  A good “I” statement: “I feel convicted we should give more, but I worry about our credit card debt.”  A bad “we” statement: “We should give more, but we can’t because we have too much credit card debt.  At all costs, avoid “you” statements: “If you made more money, we could give more.”  That conversation will go rapidly downhill.

A good exploration conversation will mean you take turns listening to each other.  Make sure you clearly understand each other (“I think I hear you saying you are worried if we increase our giving, we won’t be able to take a vacation this year.”).  The focus of this part of the conversation will be on how you feel, not coming up with a plan of action.

A special word to men: Once we hear there is a problem, we want to come up with a solution!  Do not prematurely move to problem solving!

Tentatively explore possible next steps If you both sense the same next step, this is easy.  You might agree that you need to begin to give $100 a week.  God sent you the same message.

What happens when you see different steps?  The general principle of 1 Peter 3:7 applies: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”  In this case, focus on the principle of this verse, not the specific teaching regarding gender roles.  For example, if a wife says, “I believe we need to step up to giving 10% of our income,” and the husband says, “I’m afraid we can’t afford that,” a good response from the wife would be, “I respect your fears.  I will not push.  What would be a next step that would stretch us, but not break us apart?”

What if you can’t come to a middle ground?  Like Paul, I would offer you my judgment, not a “word from the Lord.”  If a couple can’t come to agreement on giving or find middle ground, giving is not the issue.  Giving represents something deeper that needs to be addressed.  The deeper issue at the very least inhibits closeness between partners and at worst indicates a relational time bomb that is waiting to go off.  I think God would want you to commit to dealing with the real issue in the marriage before you begin to resolve questions about giving.  Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Seek peace in the relationship first and the giving conversation will be much easier.

Once you agree on a possible next step, it’s a good moment to bring this conversation to a close.  Before the conversation ends, commit to step four and set a time when you will resume the conversation.

Hold the next step loose and commit to pray.  As you close the first conversation, agree to hold the possible next step loosely.  You think you have common ground and a common vision for what God wants you to do.  Commit to one another to pray about this for a specific period of time.  If your pattern as a couple is to pray out loud together, do so.  If it is not your pattern, forcing an “out loud” prayer on this issue will be artificial and will create suspicion and mistrust.

I would not make this time of holding the next step loosely and praying too long.  Other life issues will be to crowd out the message of God, like thorns choke out seeds  struggling up to the sun.  I would suggest a period of no longer than three days.

As you pray, ask God to give you and your spouse peace about your next step in giving.  There is no formula for receiving the peace of God.  Sometimes a feeling of well-being enters your souls.  Sometimes there is a sign of confirmation, such as a financial blessing or an unexpected encouraging word from friends.  Sometimes there is a conviction that the next step is correct, but you still feel uneasy.  This is normal!  God told Joshua three times before he led the people of Israel to the Promised Land, “Don’t be afraid!”  A healthy measure of fear is a sign that you are truly stepping forward in faith.

What if you pray and still feel no peace?  Simply report back to your spouse your experience and commit to continue to pray.

Close the LoopWhen it’s time to resume the conversation, make sure you have un-interrupted time (when the kids are asleep and pressing chores are done).    Start this conversation by summarizing where you left off the last conversation.  Remember to receive the feelings and impressions of your partner without judgment.

Now ask the proposed next step still feels reasonable to each of you.  If so, then it’s time to put it in motion.  It sounds hokey, but put it in writing!  Writing helps it be real and helps you remember.  Designate which one of you will be responsible for making sure the gift(s) will be given.  Do not assume it is the one who always pays the bills!  It might be important for both of you to share in the act of giving.  Discuss the best way for you to share the gift: check, online, automatic bank draft, text to give, etc.  I strongly suggest you not give cash.  Contributions to churches are tax deductible.  Giving by a traceable method allows the church to provide you with a statement of contributions that you can use when you prepare your tax return.

Once the gift is given, be sure to celebrate! You have taken a next step toward Jesus.  He whispered to your soul and you followed.  Be sure to share your feelings after giving.  Do you feel excited? Sad? Fearful?  All of the above?  Each emotion is a cue to how to pray.

Notice the unexpected blessings God sends to you to honor your giving.  Name these blessings to each other.  If one partner feels a blessing is a direct result of giving and the other partner doesn’t, honor how each partner feels.  Each of you will be able to see God’s hand at work in different ways.

What if you don’t see eye to eye?  What if you are not on the same page?  If this is the case (and giving does not represent an underlying unaddressed issue), then continue to pray and talk non-judgmentally until you find a common direction from God.  God has the ability to make his direction plain to you in his time.  Do not let a church deadline or pressure from a church leader (even a pastor!) hurry God’s work.  It may be that God is preparing your heart for something bigger than you can imagine or conceive!

The temptation is to grow weary in the discussion.  Heed Paul’s testimony to the Philippians: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  The work of the conversations you share will draw you closer to each other and to God.  If you get discouraged, go back and share the feelings you experienced in the worship service.

If you have trouble having this conversation, I encourage you as a couple to talk with a trusted Christian mentor or a pastor.  You might need a third party to help you hear what each other is truly saying.

Non-judgmental, vulnerable conversations about giving can bring a new sense of closeness in a relationship.  God may be inviting you to experience a whole new level of intimacy with each other and with him!

How to have a couple conversation about giving – short version

couple talking about money

You and your spouse are pulling out of the church parking lot.  The message that day was on giving.  During the message, you exchanged glances, as if you both knew God was speaking to you.  In your heart you know your financial relationship with God isn’t where it needs to be.  During the last song, you held hands, sharing a moment of physical and spiritual connection.

This is the moment of truth.  The kids are on their phones.  Where you are eating lunch has been decided.  Will the two of you have a conversation about what you both just experienced?

How do you have that crucial conversation about giving?  More than any other spiritual discipline, convictions about giving get dropped quickly in the face of bringing it up with your partner.

So how do you have this crucial conversation about giving?

Someone has to go first.  This is a good chance for husbands to lead and say, “I feel like we need to talk about the message today.” About 80% of the time, however, women take the lead in bringing up an issue the couple needs to face.  If you sense you both felt moved by God, either partner can say, “I sense you felt God speaking to you during the message.  I did too.  Can we talk about that?”

Be courageous and go first!  Get the conversation started!

Make a commitment to explore the message from God, but not reach a conclusion.  “I think we need to talk about this, but not leap to a decision today.”  This one statement will lower the anxiety of the other partner.  It will probably lower your own anxiety!  When God speaks to you in any worship service, he wants you to reflect on what he is saying.  Ask:  “Is the message we think we are hearing consistent with God’s Bible?”  Jesus said, “Count the cost.”  What’s the cost of the message you heard?  What do your feelings represent?

Tentatively explore possible next steps If you both sense the same next step, this is easy.  You might agree that you need to begin to give $100 a week.  God sent you the same message.

What happens when you see different steps?  The general principle of 1 Peter 3:7 applies: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”  In this case, focus on the principle of this verse, not the specific teaching regarding gender roles.  For example, if a wife says, “I believe we need to step up to giving 10% of our income,” and the husband says, “I’m afraid we can’t afford that,” a good response from the wife would be, “I respect your fears.  I will not push.  What would be a next step that would stretch us, but not break us apart?”

Once you agree on a possible next step, it’s a good moment to bring this conversation to a close.  Before the conversation ends, commit to step four and set a time when you will resume the conversation.

Hold the next step loose and commit to pray.  As you close the first conversation, agree to hold the possible next step loosely.  You think you have common ground and a common vision for what God wants you to do.  Commit to one another to pray about this for a specific period of time.  If your pattern as a couple is to pray out loud together, do so.  If it is not your pattern, forcing an “out loud” prayer on this issue will be artificial and will create suspicion and mistrust.

I would not make this time of holding the next step loosely and praying too long.  Other life issues will be to crowd out the message of God, like thorns choke out seeds  struggling up to the sun.  I would suggest a period of no longer than three days.

Close the LoopWhen it’s time to resume the conversation, make sure you have un-interrupted time (when the kids are asleep and pressing chores are done).    Start this conversation by summarizing where you left off the last conversation.  Remember to receive the feelings and impressions of your partner without judgment.

Now ask the proposed next step still feels reasonable to each of you.  If so, then it’s time to put it in motion.  It sounds hokey, but put it in writing!  Writing helps it be real and helps you remember.  Designate which one of you will be responsible for making sure the gift(s) will be given.  Do not assume it is the one who always pays the bills!  It might be important for both of you to share in the act of giving.  Discuss the best way for you to share the gift: check, online, automatic bank draft, text to give, etc.  I strongly suggest you not give cash.  Contributions to churches are tax deductible.  Giving by a traceable method allows the church to provide you with a statement of contributions that you can use when you prepare your tax return.

Once the gift is given, be sure to celebrate!

Non-judgmental, vulnerable conversations about giving can bring a new sense of closeness in a relationship.  God may be inviting you to experience a whole new level of intimacy with each other and with him!

Givers, Takers, and Matchers…

giving

Do you want to be a giver or a taker?

Part of our souls leap to say “I want to be a giver.” But another part of our souls, says, “Wait a minute. What if I give too much? What if I get taken advantage of?” So we hesitate. According to Adam Grant in, Give and Take, every human gathering has givers, takers, and matchers.

The attitude of a giver: “What can I do for you?” The attitude of a taker: “What can you do for me?” The attitude of a matcher: “I will do for you what you do for me.”

Takers can start out as givers who get burned. They gave and someone took too much from them. If the wound is big enough, the giver will switch teams, vowing never to be taken advantage of again. Or takers can be people who simply decide to let greed rule their lives. They believe “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Most of us, I think, would like to be givers. What stops us? Fear. We’re afraid we will be taken advantage of, or we will not have enough to take care of ourselves, or what we give will make no difference. As a result, we slide down to be a matcher. We watch to see what others do and we decide we will match this. If we see Bob put $40 in the offering plate, we will too. If Mary volunteers, I will too. If Tom stays late at work, I will too.

Matchers occupy the middle ground. I’ve seen many couples who have a “matching” marriage. Family is a series of verbal contracts: “I will if you will.” The problem with matchers is someone else has to go first. If two matchers get disappointed with each other, the marriage freezes.

A true giver gives from an internal source. His or her joy is found in helping someone else win. A true giver doesn’t give to be recognized. For a true giver, life is not a competition. The joy is not in the size of a financial gift or the number of hours they serve; the joy comes from seeing tomorrow being different than today

So who are you?

God wanted his people Israel to be givers, but they were takers. They wanted God to bless them, protect them, and serve them. If they had time, they would try to do a little something for him. Funny, they denied they were takers, even while they robbed God of respect, resources, and reign. If you are quick to deny you are a taker, chances are good you are one.

When Peter asked Jesus if he was to forgive his brother seven times, he was thinking like a matcher. Matchers keep score. In God’s kindness, he recognizes many of us start here. That’s why Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you.” Being a matcher is better than being a taker, but Jesus also made it clear that we could do better. “If you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.”

God’s goal for you is to be a giver, but not to be a giver who gives out. It only makes sense to give if you believe in an infinite God who has infinite resources to give you. I believe God showed us he is an infinitely giving God when he sent Jesus, the infinitely pure one, to forgive us with infinite grace. When you truly live in His grace, giving is joy.

Imagine a family of givers! Wouldn’t you love to have a family like that? Imagine a church filled with givers! What could be done? Imagine a city filled with givers! Wouldn’t you love to live there?

It starts with you. Will you trust that God will pour into you, so you can pour into others?

I Want to Matter to Someone…

do i matter

I hate being treated as a number.  You know those places that have the little machine that says “take a number?”  I avoid those places as much as possible.

I don’t think anyone wants to grow up and be a number.  Did anyone ever dream: “I’m the 43rd employee of this company?”  Or “I can’t wait to be the 18th girl he sleeps with.”  Or “I’m the 45th patient the doctor has seen today.”

That’s why we try to leave our mark. We carve initials in trees, put locks on bridges, and write our names in concrete.  That’s why we get mad when someone we love doesn’t call.  That’s why we are hurt when someone doesn’t notice we are struggling.  We want to matter to someone.

It’s easy for human beings to get overwhelmed with tasks, schedules and life.  And human beings have a limited capacity to meet another person’s needs for significance.  We’ve all been friends with that needy person who never can get enough affirmation or attention (Free advice:  If the last sentence describes your current boyfriend/girlfriend – run away.  Now.).

Realizing every human being has limitations means it only makes sense to seek your significance from an infinite being, someone who never runs out, who never gets tired.  Someone who has unfailing compassion and never ending grace.  Someone like God our Father.

God shows you how much you matter when through Jesus, the Son, he gave his life for you and defeated death for you.

To find your significance in God means you let him render the verdict on your life.  He determines if you are a good parent, spouse, or friend.  If you follow Jesus, then all the validation you ever seek will come.

You do matter to God; make sure he matters to you.

What I wish Mama Could See and Hear…

Kong and Sissie

It’s been almost five years since my mother died.  She really left us years before, as Alzheimer’s robbed her of her mind.  Sometimes her eyes would lock on you and you could almost feel the part of her brain that was clear of memory robbing plaque trying to communicate.

People ask me from time to time if people in heaven know what’s happening on earth.  The honest answer is “I don’t know.”  God didn’t make that clear.  I do know when people die and go to heaven, they are not converted into angels.  That’s folk theology that isn’t taught in the Bible.  Sometimes I pray and ask God to tell my mother some things I wish she could see and hear.

I wish Mama could see her grandchildren now.  They are all grown and very good looking (some too good looking for their own good).  When Sarah and my niece Katie graduate next year, all of her grandchildren will have graduated from college.  She would be thrilled.  A college education to her represented a real achievement.  She’d be even more amazed that three of the eleven have Master’s degrees.

I wish Mama could hear me say to her, “The older I get, the smarter I realize you were.”  Like every adolescent in the world, I was convinced I knew more than her.  Now I know she had a wisdom that let me try and fail; that spoke her mind when she thought I was making a mistake; and that supported me even when she wasn’t sure about the path I was taking.  I also know that she must had many conversations with my step-father I never knew about, pleading my cause: “Lawrence, don’t make him go fishing again.  That’s just not him.”

I wish Mama could hear me say, “I forgive you.”  When I hear people talk about their perfect mothers, my skepticism kicks in.  I don’t know any perfect mothers.  My Mom had a wounded soul from a father who fell short and from losing a husband far too soon.  She could lose her temper and be very judgmental.  But in many ways, I think she did the best could.  She was like the injured runner who persevered, and finished the race.  As I’ve gotten older and faced my own shortcomings as a parent, I want to apologize for being so judgmental toward her and tell her “I forgive you because I know you were doing the best you could.”

I wish Mama could hear me say “Thank you.”  I never said it enough.  Maybe you don’t realize how much you have to be thankful for until your mother isn’t there.  I want to thank her for reading stories to me, for pushing me to be all I could be, for taking me seriously when I said at four years old, “I want to be a preacher.”  I want to thank her for her imperfect love, the best she could offer.  I want to thank her for being courageous after my father died.  I want to thank her for letting me go explore, which was really the beginning of my passion for next steps.

I wish I could give Mama a Mother’s day gift one more time – like the coffee mug I made for her in 3rd grade that looked like a piece of mud with a handle.  She kept it all her life, ugly as it was, because I made it.

But for me, the window of time has closed.  I can only pray that God lets my mother know these things – and lets her know I still miss her.  I don’t know if God passes on messages, but I’d like to think he does.

And if God passes on messages, I hope he passes on one more.  There’s one more message I’d like Mama to hear:

I love you.  Happy Mother’s Day Mama.

Every Journey has a Starting Point

 

Every journey has a starting point:

  • Every relationship began with a conversation.
  • Every job had a first day.
  • Every change in behavior had first uncomfortable moments trying something new.
  • Every building started with an idea.
  • Every degree was preceded by a first day of class.
  • Every trip to Disney started by pulling out of the driveway.
  • Every divorce started with a question.
  • Every meal began with a recipe – some of them even written down.
  • Every career started with curiosity.
  • Every sermon starts with the realization that Sunday is coming, ready or not.

Look in the Bible.  People there have starting points too:

  • Noah had to cut the first board to build the ark.
  • Abraham made to take the first step to go to the land God showed him – telling Sarah they were moving.
  • Moses had to throw down his rod to find out God’s power.
  • Joshua had to march around Jericho seven days to find out God would fight the battle.
  • Ruth had to sneak up to the threshing floor and lay down beside Boaz to find out if he was interested in marriage.
  • David had to take the first step out from the Israeli lines of battle to meet Goliath.
  • Solomon made his first decision before he was known as the wisest man who ever lived.
  • Peter, James, John, and Andrew had to take their first step away from their boats to follow Jesus.
  • Paul had to confess he believed in the Jesus he thought he was a fraud before he could become a great missionary, theologian, and evangelist.

Too many people, I think, only focus on the finish line. They are overwhelmed before they begin, and feel defeated.  They never start the journey of transformation.

Jesus didn’t ask you to take a next leap.  He invites you to follow Him and that starts with a next step toward Him.

So what’s your starting point?  What’s your next step?

  • Decide for Jesus.  Decide to follow him.
  • Talk to someone about your decision for Jesus.
  • Be baptized.
  • Spend time getting to know Jesus.
  • Learn to do life in community with believers.
  • Learn to love people.
  • Learn to love enemies
  • Make friends who will be there at 3 AM for you.
  • Heal your hurts.
  • Call a counselor.
  • Tell someone the truth about your world.
  • Grow character habits.
  • Pray for a minute.
  • Read one story in the Bible every day.
  • Give something.
  • Tell someone your story.
  • Do an act of kindness.
  • Serve in a systematic way.

You have a Starting Point.  You have a Journey.  You have a next step.sp-background

Let’s get started.

What Would it Take to Change Your Mind?



change

If you are a life-long Clemson fan who bleeds orange, what would it take for you to become a die-hard, crow at every touchdown, South Carolina Gamecock fan?

If you are a staunch Republican, who believes in small government, low taxes, de-regulation, and individual freedom, what would it take for you to become a big government, tax the wealthy, regulate business, and protect the environment liberal Democrat?

If you are passionate about the Second Amendment, own 183 guns, four gun safes, and load your own ammunition, what would it take for you to become an enforce the waiting period for purchase, ban assault weapons, buy back the handguns, anti-gun advocate?

If you grew up on a ranch, love the open range, think filet mignon is what we will eat in heaven, cowboy, what would it take for you to become a vegan, anti-ranching, card carrying PETA member?

If you grew up a staunchly Jewish, committed yourself to become a man of righteousness, were meticulous about keeping every rule and law given by God, sat at the feet of the famous rabbinic scholars of your day, were given an opportunity by the people you admire to make your name by persecuting people who you were convinced were heretics, what would it take for you to turn your back on everything you ever understood about God, your culture, your teachers, your career opportunities, your definition of what it meant to be a ‘good person,’ follower of Jesus, who you thought was a heretic?

This is the story of Paul.  One day on a road to Damascus (yes, the same one in the news today), he saw Jesus.  When he realized Jesus was alive, not dead, Paul’s world fell apart.  Everything changed.  He believed in the one he once was convinced was the enemy.

Paul must have known that his old friends would think he had gone crazy.  He must have known that some would be so angry, they would try to kill him.  He must have known that his old heroes would now speak his name with contempt.

None of that mattered.  All that mattered was Jesus.

Paul changed his mind.  Paul changed his life.  Paul changed his eternity.

I don’t think any sane person would make a change like that for a myth.  I don’t think anyone would change their mind like Paul did just so they could perpetuate some interesting teachings.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the only thing that would ever convince me to change my mind like Paul did would be a clear call from God.

Which is exactly what God gave Paul.  It is exactly what God offers you – a clear call to change your mind, and decide to follow Jesus.

Unmovable…

Unmovable can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Bad Unmovable:

  • You have a habit or an addiction that you can’t break.  No matter what you try, it hangs on.  Just when you think you’ve got it licked, it seizes control of your soul again.
  • You hold to old ways of thinking because that’s the way your parents and grandparents thought.
  • You cling to old prejudices and hates because they have been part of your soul so long they have sucked all perspective from your mind.
  • You hold onto anger, grudges, and hate because you want to make someone pay for how they hurt you.
  • You get into a routine, a groove that feels comfortable.  When the world changes or God asks you to move you say “no” because you don’t want to feel uncomfortable.
  • You decide you don’t need any help to improve your marriage, your parenting, your soul.  You say, “I can do it myself, thank you very much.”
  • You decide you can ignore God’s clear word to you to change, move, or take a next step.

Good Unmovable:

  • You know what you believe and why you believe it.  You’ve thought through not only the “what” but “where” your beliefs will take you.  So you can’t be moved by beliefs that lead you down a destructive path.
  • You do not quit loving people.  You keep seeing them the way God does.  You don’t enable them, but you do the most loving thing for them.  This includes setting boundaries with them.
  • You stick with your calling, your place of service, even when it is tough.  Paul talked about “being instant in season and out of season.”  You live your purpose when it is downhill and when it is uphill.
  • You don’t give into the frustration of the moment in relationships.  You are hang in there with your spouse and with your kids because your love for them is unmovable.
  • You stop playing comparison games with what other people have because you are secure in who Jesus made you to be and what he has given you.
  • Your sexuality is not driven from voices and forces outside your soul; rather it is guided from God’s voice inside your soul.

Questions:

  • What is “bad unmovable” that needs to move in your life?  Have you sought God’s help?  Are you willing to admit “bad unmovable” is a problem?  Are you willing to follow God’s instructions?  Are you willing to get help from God’s servants?
  • What is “good unmovable” that you need to celebrate?  Can you see the moments in your life when being rooted and grounded kept you from harm?  Are you living in the joy of a relationship that sailed through a storm and came out the other side?  When did God give you strength to be unmovable?
  • Who in your life is struggling with something that is “bad unmovable?”  How do you need to support them?  How do you need to pray for them?  What gift do they need from God?
  • Is God asking you to drive down your anchors deeper in “good unmovable” so you can be ready to face an even stronger storm that is coming?unmovable

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you…”  1 Corinthians 15:58a

Pick a Fruit…

 

fruit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  – Galatians 5:22-23

Read these verses and it is easy to get overwhelmed.  I once graded myself on each fruit using the A-F scale.  Let’s just say my self-grading showed I needed to go to the remedial fruit of the Spirit class.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is what shows up in our lives as God works.  What if instead focusing on every fruit and being overwhelmed, we focused on what we needed right now?

For example:

  • If I am dealing with an annoying person in my life, I need to ask God for the fruit of love (You know, that whole ‘love your enemies’ thing).  I can start by praying for God to bring good to that annoying person.
  • If I feel stuck in a rut, I need to ask God for the fruit of joy.  Maybe he will open my eyes to the joy he is bringing through his work in the world.
  • If I am struggling with a destructive habit or an addiction, I need to ask God for the fruit of peace.  All destructive habits and addictions start with a lack of peace in our souls.
  • If I am feeling overwhelmed, like there is too much life and not enough me, I need to ask God for the fruit of patience.  Patience comes from trust that my God has me and will help me get done everything he asks me to do.
  • If I am struggling with anxiety or depression, I need to ask God for the fruit of kindness.  Anxious and depressed people are not kind to themselves.  As you fill up with the kindness of God, he teaches you to be kind not just to others, but to yourself.
  • If I struggle with money (and who doesn’t), I need to ask God for the fruit of generosity.  I only win over money, my wants, and my desires, when I let go.  Generosity is an expression of faith –that God will supply all my needs through Christ Jesus.
  • If I am stuck in a dead-end job, I need to ask God for the fruit of faithfulness.  The way to advance is to be faithful in what I do, as if I am doing it for Jesus.
  • If I am struggling with my temper, I need to ask God for the fruit of gentleness.   To live a gentle life is not to be a weakling, but is to gain control of myself so my strength is used wisely, not harmfully.
  • If I feel like I am drifting through life, I need to ask God for the fruit of self-control.  Most people who drift through life aren’t lacking direction; they are lacking self-control to move in the direction they need to go.

Imagine you are standing with Jesus in the spiritual fruit section of his gift store.  Think about what’s going on in your life.  What fruit do you need to ask for?

 

 

Rules…

rules

Rules make promises they can’t keep.

A rule promises if you keep it, you won’t get in trouble.  But my brother Steve would break something, then blame me.  It wasn’t fair!  I kept the rules, but then I got punished.   You’ve experienced the same thing.  Something went wrong at work.  You got blamed even though it wasn’t your project.  Life isn’t fair.

A rule promises if you follow it, you will be successful.  The guy who breaks the rules in the company seems to be achieving amazing numbers.  He gets the promotion.  You get passed over because you did your work with integrity.

A rule promises it will apply to every situation. Do you remember learning the rule “’i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c.’”   What about the word “weird?”  Or “beige?”  Or “caffeine?”  Or “their?” Or “weight?”  Apparently, there are exceptions to rules.

A rule promises to make you somebody.   We were told to keep the rules and we would be good little boys and girls.  That worked until the teacher walked out of the room.  Our character transformation fell short as soon as the door closed.  Rules alone didn’t make us good.

A rule promises to keep you from running off the road.  We all know this doesn’t work.  Ever touched something even though the sign next to it said “wet paint?”  You  can know the rules and still decide to plow through boundaries.

Rules make promises they can’t keep.

Why, then, make rules?  People make rules because it helps them feel in control.  Rules make us feel like we can hold people accountable.  “Don’t you know the rules?” we ask.

We generally make rules we can keep.  Alcohol has never really been an issue of me.  It’s easy for me to make rules about it: “Not in my house.”  Anything sweet, however…  So naturally I fight and resist every rule about sweet things.

Rules can even set a trap.  Before we know it, rule piles onto rule and we feel like we can never keep them all.  We come to believe we are failures.  We either sink into depression or lash out in anger.

Should we just do away with the rules?  No. They are necessary.  They just can’t deliver what they seem to promise.

That’s why Jesus did not come to give us more rules.  He came to offer relationship.  Jesus knew that more rules would not be the answer.  Rules never provide the power needed to change our souls.

This is why Jesus gave us himself.  He said, “Follow me.”  The meaning gets pretty clear: stick close to Jesus and the rules will take care of themselves.

Relationship before rules.  Simple.  And also one of the greatest challenges of life.