Living Generously

The story of the Rich Young Man (or the Rich Young Ruler) in Matthew 19:16-22 is always a difficult passage. People ask me if Jesus really meant for the young man to sell everything before following him. Honestly, I ask the same question. The answer I give is that we are to follow Jesus so closely that following Jesus is more important than holding onto our possessions. That might look like selling everything we have to give to the poor. It might mean reprioritizing our time so that we can be involved in the work of God’s kingdom here on earth. It might look like getting rid of something that has become a little “g” god in our life.

I believe that is the real story of the young man in Matthew 16. When Jesus tells him that he must “follow the commandments” in order to have eternal life, the young man says he had followed them since his youth. What is revealing is that the commandments that Matthew records Jesus providing are the commandments about our horizontal relationship with others.

When Jesus invites the young man to “sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me,” it becomes abundantly clear that the young man has not, and is not, keeping the commandments. He has made his wealth and possessions his god. His life revolves around them. When given the invitation to leave these idols behind and follow the Living God, he cannot do it. His treasure was on earth and not in heaven.

Generosity helps us to prioritize our lives around Jesus. Being generous with our wealth, our time, our talents, and our gifts, we give to help those who are in need. Through generosity, we live as stewards of God’s resources (not ours) that have been given to us to do God’s work (not ours). When we give, we declare that we trust that God will provide as we give of ourselves. Generosity increases our trust in God as God continues to provide and allows us to follow Jesus more closely.

When we give of ourselves, we have less to lose- and everything to gain as Jesus promises us treasure in heaven as we invest in God’s Kingdom work on earth.

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What is Your Orientation?

A friend told me about the time he went to perform a wedding ceremony in the Poconos. He had driven up from Delaware to do the ceremony. The bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome- all the things you’d expect from the wedding. Since most weddings take place on Saturday, like this one, he had to leave partway through the reception in order to get back home in Delaware so he was rested to lead worship the next morning in his church. So he pressed the home button on his GPS and started driving.

After an hour or so of driving, my friend told me that he did not recognize any of the landmarks around him. Especially at a time where he should be coming near Philadelphia and familiar roads. After some more investigating, he pulled over and looked at his GPS. He discovered that the Home button on his GPS no longer was oriented to his home address, but an address in the Western part of Pennsylvania. He had spent the last hour or so driving in the wrong direction. Even though his GPS was providing the right directions (to the wrong address) he would never arrive back home following the GPS. The GPS was oriented in the wrong direction.

Paul writes in Romans 8:5 that “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

There are two kinds of people- those whose lifestyles are oriented towards gratifying our flesh (See Galatians 5:19-21) and those whose lives are oriented towards the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 4:8). When our minds are oriented towards the flesh we live in opposition to God. We make decisions that create a gulf between us and God. No matter how much we desire our lives to look different, we will not experience the total transformation until we reorient our lives to be in step with the Holy Spirit. This means we need a renewed and transformed mind which leads to a transformed way of thinking. This transformed way of thinking leads us to a transformed way of living.

How do we reorient our lives on the Spirit? Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do no conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test and approve what god’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

A mind reoriented on the Spirit refuses to conform to the pattern and expectations of the world. This reoriented mind knows and has made peace with the fact that a mind on the Spirit is going to look act differently than a mind oriented towards the flesh. The reoriented mind also knows, in part because Paul tells us, that we must renewed each day. If we are to stay oriented on the Spirit, we must create space throughout our day to look and listen for God’s activity and voice in our lives.

In what direction is your life oriented to? If your desire is to orient your life to the things of God- what are you putting in your mind? Are they things of the flesh? Or things of the Spirit?

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Hurry Up and Wait

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What Mr. Chapin Taught Me About Complaining- And Why It Matters

I grew up in a small farming community in North West Pennsylvania. Our school was small  which gave you the opportunity to build relationships with a wide range of students and teachers. One teacher that all of us had at some point was Mr. Chapin. Mr. Chapin was our Junior High (we weren’t even a Middle School) English Teacher. He was a bit of a crazy character. He was shocked when there were students who didn’t know the song, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” and when some of our classmates confessed to never seeing “A Christmas Story,” a TV and VCR was in class the next week and we watched it.

I remember one class (probably many classes) where a classmate was complaining (I don’t think it was me) and after the rant was finished, Mr. Chapin looked right at the student and said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” The student stammered and couldn’t come up with a response. The student was just, well, complaining. Mr. Chapin then told us, “Don’t complain unless you are going to do something about it.”

That stuck with me, more than the grammar lessons; more than diagramming a sentence (still can’t do that). I think it stuck with me because I am prone to complaining. It stuck because I often complain without anything constructive to add to the discussion.

There are a lot of reasons to complain. But if we are not ready to get involved to make the situation better, then we don’t really have a reason to complain. It’s not enough to sit around complaining without having something or doing something constructive to add.

  • Don’t like the current political landscape and culture? Work to improve it and make it better.
  • Don’t like your church? Stop complaining and ask the pastor/leader how you can help make the church the best church it can possibly be.

Mr. Chapin taught me, and I need to remember, that it is not enough to complain. That each of us have tools and gifts to improve the situation for ourselves and for those around us. The question is do we care enough to get involved? Or do we just enjoy the sound of our own voice?

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Adoption Update: Every Dollar Counts

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We’ve got some exciting news to share!

You likely know that pursuing a private adopting, especially an international adoption, is an expensive undertaking. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. Adopting a second child from China is no cheaper than adopting the first. Unfortunately there is not a frequent adopter discount. But there is help!

We are excited to share that we have received a $6,000 matching grant from Life Song for Orphans!

This means that for every dollar donated by family, friends, and total strangers through Life Song for Orphans will be matched. Your $20 gift becomes $40. Your $100 gift becomes $200. Your $3,000 gift becomes, well, if you make a $3,000 gift you’re going to win naming rights for our child. (Ok, I just checked with the boss and she said that’s not true)

We need your help because to qualify for the matching grant- the money cannot come from our bank account- otherwise we’d funnel everything in that we could! Lifesong provides the grant as a way to activate family and friends to assist those who are adopting. So we need your help! It’s your help that can help us raise $12,000 in the next 112 days ($6,000 donated + $6,000 matched = $12,000).

So, you’re interested in giving? There are two ways to give:

  1. Give Online our mySTORY page from Life Song for Orphans This is the fastest way to give to help support our adoption fund. You can also share our page on Facebook and Social Media to invite your friends to hear our story!
  2. Give Offline by sending a check made payable to “Lifesong for Orphans.” Please place our Family ID Number in the memo line. Our number is: #6563. If you do not include the Family ID#, then we will not get credit for your donation.  Mail your donations to:  LIFEsong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. Your donation is to LIFEsong for Orphans, who have full discretion of use of your donation. They do intend to honor the donor’s suggested use.

We are honored that you would even consider supporting this endeavor financially. Our prayer is that you will be blessed as you join us on our journey!

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Adoption Update: Thinking About a Name

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Malachi thinking about what to name his little brother…or where the candy is hidden at.

Naming our kids has been an important process for Andrea and I. We have felt that the names we give our children is part blessing, and part a vision for their life. Case in point:

Abigail means “A Father’s Joy”: She lives up to this most days (she has her moments). Most of all, we pray that her life would bring her Heavenly Father joy.

Chloe means “Small Green Shoot” which doesn’t sound like much. It has the connotation of “New Life.” This name means everything when you know Chloe came after a miscarriage. She brings new life to everything we do!

Malachi means “Messenger of God.” We believe that his story and his life proclaims the God’s love and grace to anyone who takes the time to listen.

So what will we name our new son? For us, it’s going to be a Biblical name.  But we won’t share what we are naming our son- but here are some of the conversations around a name.

Abbie and Chloe want to name their new brother Luke. Luke is a good name.

Malachi wants to name his baby brother Goliath (from the Biblical story of David and Goliath). You may remember that Goliath was a giant and an adversary of Israel. Not sure if that is the route we want to go. However, if his brother has the genes of Yao Ming and is a 7 footer it might be warranted! But it would be comical to see a 5’5′ person named Goliath!

I joke with the kids about naming our son Mophibosheth- one of the son’s of King Saul who King David showed kindness and hospitality to. I haven’t looked up the meaning, but it is fun to say. Nicknames could abound: Mo, Bo, Sheth, or Phib!

We’re still looking for the “right” name. Who knows, it may all change when we meet our new son!

If you had to choose a name for a son, what would it be and why?

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It’s A Boy!

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Last night on my Facebook page I posted the above picture as a little teaser to the news we want to share as a family. It was fun watching everyone’s comments fly in to a picture with no real context. So we want to share our joy with you today and invite you to begin to pray for our family as we begin making preparations to expand!

Here is a little Q&A

Are You Expecting? Yes! But Andrea is not pregnant. We are adopting a second boy from the nation of China. We started this process late in the spring or early summer and just received our “Log-In Date” or LID. This means we have officially been entered into the database in China as prospective adoptive parents.

Do You Know Which Boy You Will Adopt? No. We don’t. We wish we had a photo to show you, but we are working with our adoption agency for them to find a potential match for us. It worked real well with Malachi- and if it were left up to us, after looking through pictures you want to bring every kid home.

Are you crazy? Four kids? Two Adoptions? Yes we do, at times, think we are crazy. It is precisely this line of questioning that we know that this is something we feel strongly about. We felt called to adopt Malachi- a calling that was over a decade in the making. After adopting Malachi, we felt that God wasn’t finished writing our adoption story.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper/easier/more sensible to have your own kid? (In all fairness, only one person has ever asked us this question- but it still gets asked) There are no guarantees in life. We are not guaranteed the ability to conceive another child. But we know there are countless children domestically and internationally who need a family. Our decision to adopt again is rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ. James 1:27 says that “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows…” When we read that verse, we have to ask ourselves “What is God asking me to do?” For us, it is to adopt. For you it might be to pray, to provide foster care, provide respite care, visit orphanages, or to financially sponsor someone who is adopting.

What’s Next? We wait, which is most of what the adoption process looks like. But the waiting is not a passive time. We will pray, prepare, and train for our new addition. We have money to save and to raise. We have plenty to do!

We have more to share in a post coming next week. We wanted to get the ball rolling with announcing the news and inviting you to be part of our team through prayer. Be on the lookout for other other post.

Thank you for your congratulations and prayers in advance. It’s going to be a fun journey!

 

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