The Perspective Shift That Changes Everything

The apostle, Paul, never ceases to amaze me. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-11 details the trials and suffering Paul endured as he preached God’s messages in Asia. He and his friends were “overwhelmed” and “crushed” and thought they “were going to die.” Those are real emotions and experiences, not just some quaint story in a book. Paul’s focus, however, was the comfort God gave during those trials. He viewed his suffering as something to be expected in life, and he viewed God’s comfort as the beautiful gift….the supernatural strength…..to help him endure. Shifting perspective from despair to joy is nothing short of amazing.

Ok, friends. Let’s get real. Do we view life and difficulties in the same way as Paul? Do we count it as a joy to suffer in order to experience God’s comfort? Do we then count it as a joy to pass the same kind of comfort to others who are struggling? Our struggles, though very real, pale in comparison to Paul. Most of us aren’t in jail or being physically harmed for our beliefs. Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize our trials.

  • Conflicts in our relationships can bring emotional turmoil.
  • Financial stress can bring fear and anxiety.
  • Depression can bring isolation and unhappiness.
  • Parenting can bring exhaustion and frustration.
  • Medical issues can bring fear and irritation.

When we face a trial, our focus is often the trial, itself. We tend to pay attention to our pain and become discouraged. Paul was the same way, I’m sure. He wouldn’t have been human to respond any other way. But, Paul overcame his human emotions and put his eyes on God in the midst of frustration, fear, and unhappiness. He looked for the ways God was ministering to him, and he chose to be the man God wanted him to be, to soak up God’s comfort, and to pass that strength and motivation to others.

How can we do the same thing? How can we rise above the trials we face and look for God’s comfort?

  • We can praise God for the love and friendship of our spouse rather than complaining about their shortcomings.
  • We can pause to thank God for the paychecks that cover our bills and provide for entertainment for our families rather than complaining that we don’t have enough.
  • We can meditate on the goodness of God – His unending love, His forgiveness, His strength, His righteousness – rather than the perils of our problems.
  • We can look for the ways He refreshes us daily – through a bible verse, in an unexpected financial gain, in the words of a friend, in a burst of energy that allows us to get more done that we thought we could, in a quiet whisper that He loves you – instead of being blind to His activity.

So here’s my challenge for today: Don’t allow trials to be your focus or bring you down. Focus, instead, on the ways God is carrying you through the trials!

Some of you might have a hard time seeing God at work in your lives, however. If you don’t feel like He is carrying  through your trials, that could suggest you are separated from God. Feeling far from God, not hearing His voice….these are indications that you might have a relationship issue with your Father. The truth is sin causes separation in every form. Can I encourage you to pause right now and talk to God? Confess any sin and draw close to Him again.

Our trials will be difficult, but God’s comfort is enough to see us through. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you!

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Sunday Summaries: Holiday Head Start for Generosity

holiday head start no date squareYesterday, our church continued our teaching series Holiday Head Start with a challenge to become more generous. It was more specific than that, though. My husband wasn’t asking us to be randomly generous whenever the notion strikes us. Rather he challenged us to be intentional and personal in our giving.

As Shawn taught, he asked one question that gave me pause. Pause to consider my own actions in the area of giving. Here it is:

Are you raising your standard of giving while you’re raising your standard of living?

My family gives away what I consider a large percentage of our income in the form of tithes, offerings, and meeting needs. But I’ve never – never – considered raising my standard of giving when I raise my standard of living. Sure, we increase our tithe and offerings as our income increases, but my mindset has never been to find ways to creatively give more.

I find ways to creatively MAKE more, that’s for sure. I sometimes dream about a roomier house or a blinged-out backyard which of course costs money. I have no problem dreaming up ways to spend money, but I can honestly say I’ve never dreamed of ways to give money away.

Why not? Why not determine a finish line for my consumerism (as Shawn suggested in his message)? When is enough, enough? How could I spend less on myself and give more away?

How do you respond to that question? Are you raising your standard of giving while you’re raising your standard of living?

*Want to watch the message for yourself? Click here and search Holiday Head Start Part 2.

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The Generosity Challenge

If you’ve been tracking along at SharpenHer, you know that generosity has been a hot topic as of late. My church has not only been studying the concept through Scripture, we’ve also been challenging one another to live it out. As I look around the people I know, I’ve seen generosity everywhere….to me, personally.

  • One friend brought me a gift basket of fresh veggies and marinated steaks as a thank you for helping her with carpool this past year.
  • Another friend surprised me with Raspberry Limeade Twist Tea….just because.
  • My daughter gave up time with friends to help me around the house. Her choice. 
  • Friends invited us over for a boat ride and dinner on the lake. So relaxing.
  • My husband grilled dinner for me…in the misting rain….which is really generous since he’s a vegan and doesn’t eat meat. 

But the generosity hasn’t been one-sided. I’ve been a busy bee this week helping friends in need. I’ve made a gift basket for a sick friend and cooked dinner for another. One afternoon, I was in Little Caesar’s Pizza grabbing a fast meal for my kids, but I was hesitating on making my order. I couldn’t decide between buying a 2nd pizza or getting an order of Crazy Bread. (I know, I know. 1st world problems, right?) Well, the manager was in a generous spirit, and gave me a pizza for free. I returned home singing the praises of the cashier at Little Caesar’s. I didn’t even need the extra pizza, but I was so happy to see generosity in action. That’s when my phone buzzed. A text from a friend in need led me to offer to watch her kids the next day. Guess who ate the pizza I didn’t need? You got it! That free pizza was a hit with the kiddos!

That’s when I remembered something my husband said, “God will be generous to you when He knows He can be generous through you.” In other words, God will bless us when He knows we will, in turn, bless others. Check this out:

2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

Has God blessed you with something? Something big? Something small? Are you using it to be a blessing? Here’s a challenge for this week: look for ways God has done something kind for you and find a way to pass the kindness on. 

Generosity. Kindness. Love. These are hallmarks of the Christian life. I’m praying that these virtues mark YOUR life this week!

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It’s Not a Suggestion

This past weekend, my hubby challenged our church to become more generous people. More generous to God and His mission. More generous to the people around us. Sometimes being generous is easier than others. For instance, being generous at Christmas is easy because everyone is in the giving spirit. We buy gifts for friends and family and even for the neighbors we rarely see. The spirit of Christmas is contagious, it seems, and in December we really enjoy blessing others.

But, right now it’s July, and it’s a bit harder to get excited about giving to others. I’m more concerned with giving a vacation to myself. I’m not necessarily thinking of how I can bless others. I’m thinking more about the fastest route to the pool. So, the message about generosity reminded me that it isn’t a seasonal virtue. This morning, I did a little Bible research on the topic and discovered what God says and promises regarding my willingness to tithe to the church and bless others. Check out a few of the verses I read:

Giving to others:

Isaiah 32:8 “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”

Proverbs 22:9 “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”

Deuteronomy 15:8 “Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need.”

Deuteronomy 15:10: “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.”

Giving to God:

Exodus 35:5 “Take a sacred offering for the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 14:22 “You must set aside a tithe of your crops – one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.”

Luke 6:28 “Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into you lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Matthew 6:1-4 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Malachi 3:10 “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!

Leviticus 27:30 “One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.”

God’s generosity to us:

Titus 3:6 “He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.”

2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

1 Timothy 1:14 “Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”

It’s quite apparent that generosity is a foundational element of the Christian faith. Bringing the tithe to church is a command. Meeting the needs of others is a command. Being rich in good deeds is a command. These things are expected of those of us who bear the name of Christ.

If you are a Christian, let me ask this: how are you doing in the area of generosity? Are you obeying God’s commands? If you are struggling a bit in this area, begin taking steps today to change! Don’t procrastinate! Let’s honor God with the resources He has graciously allowed us to have.

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