Let Hope Rise with Pastor Tony

Reflections on #GivingTuesday

The spirit of dissatisfaction can be pretty overwhelming, especially during the holiday season when so many of us are driven by the desire to own and consume more than we need. This contrasts with the dissatisfaction God works into our hearts that drives us to allow the Spirit greater agency in transforming us in Jesus Christ. The former spirit of dissatisfaction is about consuming in an unnatural and harmful way while the latter is all about reclaiming the nature of giving and what it really means to be a human being created in the image of God.

The world says it is foolish to give and wise to accumulate as much wealth as possible. Giving puts us seemingly in a position of weakness but it is actually the case that depending on wealth for our well-being in this world is far weaker than trusting God. Since God is a giver and we are images of God in the world, we are called to be givers. God gave us the very air we breathe and every resource we have. We might earn our money through hard work but only because God has gifted us with the talents and skills to obtain it. When we think about giving in light of what we are taught in scripture, it makes sense that Jesus taught more about money than any other topic, even heaven and hell. Because giving unlocks our ability to truly trust God.

Giving makes us more like God, drawing us closer to God and acting as the antidote to materialism. True living comes from giving, because this action blesses us and strengthens our faith. Giving allows us to express appreciation for past blessings, to examine our motivation in the present, and to enlarge our expectations of the future. God gave us everything through Jesus Christ, and our giving should be a holy act of trust in God's continued provision.

One of the devotionals I read teaches: “True kindness doesn't look for rewards. It is done from the heart, and there is no payment great enough to cover it. It is only when we learn from it and turn around and give it to someone else that kindness is repaid. Giving of ourselves to others is a precious gift, and when we give it, it just keeps on going.” Gratitude leads to generosity which leads to more gratitude, and these states of being are just as contagious, if not moreso, than negativity and strife. Gratitude and generosity can transform lives.

My challenge for you on this #GivingTuesday is to consider the ways in which God is inviting you to invest your time, talent, and resources in others and to act on it. Here is a prayer I invite you to pray with me: “Lord, if I give things, I give very little, but if I give myself, my time, my talent, and my resources, I have given everything. Please guide me from an attitude of dissatisfaction with what I have to gratitude in who you’ve created me to be. Help me be your image in this world, blessing others in your grace. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!”

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God's Unfolding Dream

There was a time when some of my friends from high school and college asked why I wanted to go into pastoral ministry. That's a fair question. It isn't a want, exactly. Rather, it is a calling that fills me with life. It is what I humbly believe I was created to do. In some ways, it was inevitable the minute I experienced the truth of the gospel message years ago in the midst of a loving community.

Ministry, for me, is all about those moments when one person tells me that what I've said has shattered a stronghold of fear in their life and another reveals that my story of reconciliation led him to reconcile with his wife. It is about encouraging people to ask the hard questions and opening up their eyes to new insights they had never considered.

These are the moments that I live for because what I want, more than anything, is for other people to experience the new life that has energized me. To put it simply, my purpose is to equip, inspire, encourage, and challenge others to be everything God has created them to be.

It took me many years to understand this about myself and these words can hardly do justice to what I'm attempting to express. What is most important, however, is that I am exactly where I need to be in this season of my life, and that being in pastoral ministry is a big step in the process of becoming the person God always intended me to be.

We are all called into ministry. It may not be pastoral ministry, but God has given you talents and gifts to grow into. Coupled with your life circumstances, your experiences, there is nobody else quite like you. This means you have a unique contribution to make that nobody else can make for you.

How has God inspired you, in your own unique way, and what are you going to do to faithfully live it out?

That is the question we all need to consider. As we do, we come to understand that our lives are unfolding mysteries, a dream in the mind of our God becoming reality as we faithfully respond to everything we have received.

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