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Christmas Generosity

Christmas Generosity

Christmas is upon us! Some already have their trees up. A few may even have most of their shopping completed. Kids are counting the days until they can open gifts. It’s the one time of year where all are involved in some sort of giving and receiving. All of this is activity started because of the birthday of Jesus. Christmas is the result of God the Father’s generosity when He so loved the world that He gave His only Son.

Generosity is an impulse that invokes deep and vital healing in the human family. When we share our gifts with each other, whether they be gifts of love, time, attention, skills, or money there is a powerful release of positive change in both the giver and receiver.

Scripture is full of references that speak to a generous lifestyle:

  • Go the second mile
  • Give your coat also
  • Make me a cake first
  • The widow’s mite
  • The churches in Macedonia that gave more than they could afford

Generosity is always about the heart. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, (Mark 6:21). We invest ourselves into the things and people who move our heart. So why is it so hard to have a generous heart at times? Some of our challenges might sound something like this:

  • “If I give, I won’t have!”
  • “They don’t deserve it.”
  • “Someone else will take care of it.”
  • “Not my calling!”

Generosity has more to do with the size of a person’s heart than the size of their bank account! Take for example what a young man, Jim Elliott, wrote in his senior yearbook: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim later was martyred as a missionary in Ecuador, ministering to the Huaorani people. Ultimately, the gospel came to these people as a result of his sacrifice.

Psalm 112:9 NLT

“They give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will never be forgotten. They will have influence and honor.”

Proverbs 11:25 NIV

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Hebrews 13:16 NLT

“Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to God.”

Generosity always has a recipient. The early pioneers were on the other side of the Native Americans generosity. The Huaorani people were recipients of the sacrifice Elliott made. Who could be waiting on our generosity? Maybe, this year our thanksgiving for all God has done for us should be expressed by giving freely without expectation of anything in return. Maybe, we could go the second mile to aid someone in need. Maybe, we could live by the concept that “open hearts will open hearts”! Maybe, we could be The Good Samaritan! Just a thought.

Bobby Bogard

LINC Director of Operations

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Suicidal Thoughts

My despair and fear would all be over if I ended my life. A voice raced through my mind and said, “This will all be over if you kill yourself.” For a brief moment I considered the thought. This was a suicidal thought that came from the devil at a very low time in my ministry. Jesus was right, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10) My adversary was looking to take me out.

How did I end up here?

  • Prolonged discouragement led me to that horrible place of despair.
  • I was discouraged because of unmet expectations in the ministry, broken relationships in my leadership team, and a sense of personal failure.
  • I felt I should have done so much better as a spiritual leader in my church. After all, I had read all the books, attended the conferences, and had successfully grown the church for years.

 

I learned a valuable lesson. Past successes do not guarantee present or future victories.

Suicidal thoughts afflicted men of faith in the Scripture. Moses, Jonah, and Elijah were three men of God who experienced great despair. In Numbers 11:15, Moses prayed to the Lord. He said, “If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!” Jonah prayed, Jonah 4:3 “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Elijah prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19:4).

How did I pull myself out of this dark hole? It wasn’t easy, because the battle continued to rage for months.

  1. The first thing I did was cast down the imagination. I recognized it as a demonic thought. It came from outside of me. It shot through my mind like an arrow. I rebuked the thought and it fled from me.
  2. Next I put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. I would offer the sacrifice of praise during my devotional time with God. I would worship in church with tears in my eyes. My wonderful wife would play praise music all night long to lift the cloud of darkness. Night time was the worst time.
  3. Thirdly, I read the Psalms. I would read 10 Psalms every day. They came alive to me. They spoke to me, comforted me, and armed me for battle. God spread a table before me in the presence of mine enemies (Psa. 23:5).
  4. Finally, I memorized Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer and recited the prayers throughout the day. God used these Scriptures to become my intercession. God used these prayers to focus my attention on higher things.

It took time. It took prayer. It took perseverance. The Lord brought me through the dark valley. I know He can do the same for you. I can say this with all confidence.

 

The sun will shine again. God will make everything beautiful in its time. The end of the Lord will be good.

Tim Forsthoff, Lead Pastor, Cornerstone Church, Highland, MI

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Father/Son Transition

In my teens, I experienced a year of depression. God used that to shape me for the ministry. I experienced God in a deep way as I dove into His word and met with my father, a Baptist Pastor, for prayer and support.

It was during this time that our hearts were being joined together. My father was kicked out of the Baptist Church because of his new beliefs about the Holy Spirit and his charismatic expressions. I was impressed by his grace and courage as he pioneered a new church. (Which is now Riverside Church) He often included me in ministry opportunities that helped pull me out of my depression.

After graduating from college and being newly married to my wife Bonnie, I felt a calling on my life for the ministry. After asking my dad for advice, he said….

  1. I could go to seminary or…
  2. Follow the New Testament model of discipleship where he would mentor me in the ministry.

We chose the later and I began meeting with my dad regularly.

  • He taught me the “how to’s” of ministry
  • He gave me different responsibilities in the church
  • Most importantly, we would pray together…for hours!

(Our hearts were bonded during that time)

  • He never promised me a position
  • He would always quote Proverbs 18:16 “A gift makes way for a man”.

He taught me the leadership principles of Jesus that says, Luke 16:10 “Faithful with little, faithful with much”….Luke 16:12 ”Faithful with another man’s things, faithful with your own”.

I decided to faithfully serve and honor my father’s vision for the church.

Over time, he handed the church over to me as he was launched into trans-local ministry.

The key to this working well was…

  1. Our mutual honor and respect for each other
  2. Clear communication with key groups of people in our church.

When he stepped aside, he allowed my wife and I to build the church with our own vision and unique gifts.

  • We didn’t always agree, but he supported us one hundred percent.
  • He is now 95 years old and sits in the front row on Sundays, as my biggest fan.
  • I still consult with him on a regular basis and always let him know that I am standing on his shoulders.

 

Paul Booko, Lead Pastor, Riverside Church, Three Rivers, MI

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How to Leave Well as a Church Planter

How to Leave Well as a Church Planter

Church Planting begins by leaving. The natural tendency people have is not to finish what they started. Imagine if you could see all the projects, dreams, and goals you started but never completed.

  • You started with sincere intentions and full expectations to accomplish each one.
  • Yes this is a tendency, but it does not have to be the standard.
  • We can learn to finish well.

Don’t let your good intentions go unfinished just because you’re ready to start a new venture called planting a church.

Church planting is probably one of the most exciting endeavors that I have ever taken on personally.

  • The idea of being a “new start-up” kindles the entrepreneur spirit that is in all of us.
  • Casting vision, branding, recruiting, marketing, and launching all have aspects of pioneering a new business.
  • The difference is this. We’re not here to build our brand. We’re here to build the kingdom.
  • So before getting swept up in the hysteria of going somewhere and starting something new, we need to take time finish well where we started.

The real work of church planting begins the day we approached the leadership of our sending church.

  • I made a decision in my heart that day.

If I was going to ask for the blessing of our leadership to go, I was going to honor their leadership as if I were going to stay.

  • I didn’t “check out” and focus only on the new.

It was difficult at times, but I was convinced that the more energy I invested in finishing well, the more momentum I would have when it was time to set out.

  • Transparency was key.

Keeping open channels with your leadership about where your heart is and where your focus is will keep you humble and engaged.

  • Where you are today is where you are building the kingdom. It doesn’t start on the day you launch your church.

There was also a phrase I truly believe came from the LORD during that season of leaving. The phrase was simple, “it’s all kingdom”. I don’t know how many times I repeated that phrase in my head. In fact, I live by it still today! Remember that, “it’s all kingdom”.

  • If you are building poorly where you are today, that is not going to change when you move somewhere new.

It will all end up in a pile with the rest of your good intentions.

  • Convince yourself to finish and leave well.
  • Keep working on building the kingdom where God has you.

When you leave, that work ethic will follow you. And, so will the blessing of your leadership.

 

Jarod Smith, Lead Pastor, New Tribe Church
Church Planter with Life Mission Church, Olathe, KS

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