In one of John Wesley’s sermons on Works, he emphasizes accepting and demonstrating the love of God as being first and foremost in the lives of Christians. Clearly, in the Sermon on the Mount, the love of neighbor flows immediately from the love that God instills in each of us.
Further, anything that we do that is not rooted in the love of God easily turns into prideful efforts or actions. To Wesley, serving “Others” is the central point of reference for Christian behavior. Our “love of God” should be the motivating factor energizing us to respond to the needs of our neighbors, while being focused on others truly comes from the love of Christ shed abroad in the hearts of God’s followers.
Part of the evidence of our faith as good stewards is demonstrated by genuine care that shines in the lives of those whose hearts have been forever transformed by Christ. As God continues to shape our lives as good stewards, we should become more generous in showing love and concern to those who are less fortunate.
C – ompassionate
A – cts
R – eaching
E – veryone
As God’s faithful stewards, may we forever sow seeds of generosity!
Published on Friday, November 8, 2019 @ 9:52 AM EDT
A few weeks ago when we were going through my grandfather’s dresser to move my grandmother into an assisted living facility, we came across a box of letters that he wrote to his parents and siblings while serving on Iwo Jima during World War II. He was away from home for almost 3 three years so there were tons of war letters, but his time on Iwo Jima was his most dangerous and contained the best stories. He recounted watching the landing crafts take the beach, both of the flag raisings on Mt. Suribachi, when the B-29’s landed and took off, and countless photos and other stories.
One of the most heartfelt messages came after he was on the island but while there was still fighting. He must have had a close call or something because his tone was different than most of the other letters. He mailed home his paycheck so that his family could have a little extra money and told them he hoped it help. But he also said, “make sure you give some to the church. I’m sure they are struggling right now too.” I was blown away that even in one of the worst seasons of his life he was expressing concern and care for others and for his church!
That was an inspiration for me as I reflect on my own stewardship, how I express care for others, and how I care for the church.
I know many of you have told me that you appreciate my “Pop” stories so I hope that this one is an inspiration for you as well.
Published on Thursday, October 31, 2019 @ 3:59 PM EDT
I was at the store the other day and I came across something that brought back a flood of good memories. There were packets of seeds on a side aisle ... green bean, carrot, cucumber, and pumpkin seeds. I could list more but I do not want to bore you to death.
I began to think about those seeds. I would help my grandad plant his garden every year. The hoeing and digging were not much fun but I enjoyed scattering seeds. My granddad always encouraged me to be generous with the seeds. He would tell me not to hold back, spread the seeds generously.
One day, I was walking down one row in the garden and I was not being too generous with the seeds.
Grandad stopped me in the middle of the row. He said that if you plant only a few seeds you’re only going to get a few plants. If you plant generously, you will receive a generous amount. However, sometimes we plant the wrong seeds. I won’t go into a lot of detail but granddad was not real happy when I planted pumpkins in the green bean rows.
I see many people in our world today planting seeds of mistrust, division and harm. If you remember, Paul wrote to the Galatians in chapter 6: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. You reap whatever you sow.” Paul goes on to write in verses 9 and 10: “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, If we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially with those of the family of faith.”
If we sow love we will get love.
If we sow anger we will get anger.
If we sow grace we will get grace.
If we sow hatred we will get hatred.
If we sow seeds of generosity, will we not receive generous helpings of purpose and joy?
Where will you sow seeds of love, joy, grace and peace today and throughout the week?
Our stewardship theme this year is “Sowing Seeds of Generosity”. Prayerfully and willingly consider where will you be generous with your time, your talents, your gifts, your service and your witness?
Happy planting! –– Mark
Published on Thursday, October 24, 2019 @ 3:38 PM EDT
I want to open a conversation about the “R” word ... retirement. And I want to speak to Gen X’ers and Millennials, as well as boomers and current retirees. We see in scripture that God’s plan is for us to live life abundantly. What does such flourishing look like in life’s later years?
The American dream and our culture tells us that we can retire to a life of leisure. But Ron Blue, founder of Kingdom Advisors, says, “You’re not finished with God’s work until he takes you home, therefore let’s talk about ‘rehirement’ instead of retirement.” My friend Dr. Charlie Self, who led us last year during our Festival of Faith, likes to use the word “reassignment” instead of retirement.
Retirement viewed as a long term vacation may not fit the biblical narrative as God’s intent for His people, nor might unending occupational labor be our destiny. Rather the challenge is to live life with a balance of work, rest and service. It is important that we understand that work is all moral and meaningful activity, other than rest and leisure. A term that more closely honors the season in life that many seniors find themselves might be ‘elder’. This term reflects the accumulation of knowledge, experience and wisdom, with the ability to contribute as a mentor.
God’s calling for us is not something from which we retire. Christ’s command for us is to be in the world and not of the world. He calls us to be counter cultural when needed. Regardless of what season you are in now, pray that you use all the days God gives you, for His greater glory.
Published on Thursday, October 17, 2019 @ 3:54 PM EDT
My daughter has been reading through the book of Revelation and calling me often to ask me what certain chapters, symbols and such means in the book. Of course, I have the whole thing figured out. Well maybe not the whole thing; but most of it. Actually, she has made me reread Revelation and think about a few things.
One of the main things is Revelation 5. It is a future picture of all God’s people worshipping together, a gathering of every language, ethnicity, culture, and nationality. The barriers that divide us will be gone, but it seems that the skin colors and speech that distinguish us will still be evident. That’s kind of strange. The diversity that causes us so much trouble now will be a notable part of our combined worship that brings so much glory to God.
Diversity worshipping together bringing glory to God? HMMM! What if that glorious future reality were to happen right here, right now? Can you imagine violent neighborhoods being a place of shalom? Can you imagine slums and “projects” lush and beautiful? Can you imagine war-torn areas as places of peace and human flourishing? No refugees, no bigotry, no question of “whose lives matter,” no republicans or democrats, no progressives or traditionalists.
As I read Revelation 5, it seems to me that we have not experienced all that God has for us as a redeemed and reconciled community of believers. Theologian Leroy Barber says, “Revelation 5 only eludes us because we aren’t willing to go the distance with people who are different form us.” God’s full blessing cannot be fully achieved until we put Christ’s kingdom first, ahead of our prejudices, our comfort, and our culture.
Is our country in the midst of a lot of divisiveness? Our current way of living and relating is only going to lead to destruction. What is our hope? Our hope is in acknowledging that we are all God’s creation and we are not called to just love our own family, our own little tribe or fraternity. We are called to love those that are vastly different from us and build relationships with them that won’t just last a lifetime; but will find us gathered around the throne of God singing His praises for eternity. Go the distance with someone vastly different from you.
Geaux Tigers Barry
Published on Thursday, October 10, 2019 @ 3:35 PM EDT