A Mary Christmas

Posted in Attitude, Character, Faith, Giving, Used of God by PCraig on December 8, 2016

It’s Christmas time in the city, and the country, and everywhere else I suppose. I love Christmas! The music, decorations, lights and all of it are beautiful. But, let’s admit it, sometimes it can be stressful, burdensome, and a mess. It’s for these reasons and more we need to be reminded that it’s really all about Jesus! This is especially important if you’re having a tough time this season because of a loss of loved one, job, or illness. The good news is that you can experience a Merry Christmas anyway.

By looking at Mary, the mother of Jesus, we can find a way to have joy this season and potentially attract God’s favor as she did. Here are three characteristics she possessed:

She had a childlike faith. From Luke 1:38 we see that she lived in a simple faith that surrendered to God’s plan.

She had a giving attitude. We know she first of all gave her body to be used of God. So many in our culture think, “It’s MY body, so I’ll decide.” But, Mary said, “My body is your body God, so use it however you see fit.” No wonder God chose her!

She also shared the light with others. Before Jesus had ever done any public miracles, He and Mary were attending a wedding (Jn.2). When they ran out of wine and faced humiliation, Mary offered Jesus to help. Her words to the servants were priceless, “Do whatever He tells you.” You gotta love that! It’s one of the most powerful messages we need to hear.

To attract God’s favor in our lives we too can believe God with childlike faith, live life with an open hand, and share the hope of Jesus with others. Here’s hoping you have a very “Mary” Christmas.

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You Weren’t Born This Way

We can be born black, white, rich, poor, southern and northern, but one thing we all have to learn is how to be generous.  One of the first words from a child’s mouth is “mine.”  Parents are often heard encouraging their kids, “Now, share that with your sister.”  Just getting older doesn’t mean we have this trait perfected.  Generosity is something that must be learned and practiced for it to be engrained in our lives.

Our culture plans for random acts of kindness and giving, but true generosity is more than random.  Truly generous people order their lives around generosity.  It’s interesting that Jesus said, “Happy” or “Happier” will be the result of generous living (Acts 20:35).

It’s truly not a matter of income either, because you’ve met wealthy people who aren’t generous and poorer folks who are.  The key is: it’s more about being than doing.  Doing implies an action, as in a one-time event, while being carries the idea of consistent behavior.  It’s who you are.  Being is about the heart.

So, if you want to be happier, live more free from worry over money, and then set your money free with generosity.  If you do, you’ll find you don’t care when pastor’s talk about money, when someone is asking for money outside the grocery, or a sympathetic ad comes on about a charity.  A generous person already has a plan for generosity and so they can say “no” to certain things, because they’ve already said “yes” to things that grip their heart.  We’ll talk more about that this weekend.

If you get a generosity plan, you will be happier, give more, save more and consume less.  I hope you’ll join me on this generosity journey and make the world a better place.

 

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The Season of Giving

Posted in Christian Lifestyle, Generosity, Giving, Seasons, Stewardship by PCraig on December 18, 2014

This is the season of giving.  I heard that 30% of all charitable giving occurs in the month of December.  That’s staggering!

It’s also concerning.  Is it really generosity if we only are motivated to give one time out of the year?  What about the rest of the year?

As a follower of Jesus, I am compelled to be generous throughout the year because my Savior is shows generosity every day.

I’m all about being generous at Christmas, because that is a big part of what it is about.  But, as a follower of Jesus, I must model a generous lifestyle throughout the year.  So, let’s be generous this Christmas, and then keep it going on through 2015.  Imagine with me what good could be done if that extra 30% of generosity maintained.

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Motivated By Gratitude

Posted in Attitude, Giving, Happiness, Marriage, Serving, Thankfulness by PCraig on March 6, 2014

Gratitude is a great source of motivation.  Recently, when Shaunti Feldhahn was with us, she talked about how this works with marriages.  She said that her research revealed that highly happy couples keep score.  No, not of the things their partner didn’t do.  Instead, they keep track of the good things their partner did in an effort to show gratitude and appreciation later.

In other words, the happy couples said things like, “Hey, I’ve been noticing how you’ve been knocking yourself out for the family lately and doing more than normal because of sick kids in the house, so I want you to take this Saturday and go get a massage, go shopping with friends and I’ll watch the kids.”  She said the couples felt a feeling of indebtedness to each other when one was doing a lot.  (Try it out on your spouse and let me know how it goes over)

If gratitude toward our spouses causes us to serve one another all the more, then what should we do when we look at what God has done for us?  Through Christ we have been forgiven, restored, renewed, released, accepted, and have eternal reservations with Him in heaven.  What more could you ask for?

I mean Jesus died on the cross because of your sin and mine and forever paid our debt so we can be free.  What does that feeling of indebtedness do to you?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough hours in a day to serve Him, nor can I give too much money in support of kingdom work to repay Him.

Truly grateful people keep score and look for ways to pay it back.  It can help a marriage and it is the only reasonable response to a Savior who gave all for us.  Does the way you serve and give show gratitude?

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The Divine Portion

Posted in Generosity, Giving, honor, Stewardship, Victorious Living by PCraig on October 3, 2013

When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, God clearly commanded them to enjoy all of the incredible creation He had provided – except for one tree!  The fruit of that tree represented the divine portion.

Later, the Israelites were headed into the land that God had promised them and once again God commanded them to let one city be His, out of ten they were going to conquer.  Once again we see the divine portion.

In Malachi 3, the prophet brings a word from the Lord to the people that they are to stop offering their leftovers to God and bring the whole tithe to God’s house first.  God said otherwise they are robbing Him of the divine portion.

Jesus said to “seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all these things will be added to us.  What things?  The context is food, clothing and housing.  Implying that if we will put God first in His divine portion, God will care for all these needs.

God doesn’t want or need anything from us, but He uses the divine portion to test what is in our hearts, not so He can see what’s there, but so we can.  He already knows what is in our hearts, but sometimes we are deceived about our true devotion.  The divine portion is a way to test what’s truly in our hearts.

Because God is so generous, He always offers incredible positives that will come to our lives if we’ll honor the divine portion: housing, food, clothing, security from our enemies, stability, and victory just to name a few.

Don’t be like Adam and Eve and eat the divine portion.  Don’t rob God and wonder why you’re not blessed.  Instead bring the divine portion to God and I believe you’ll experience the blessed life in ways you can’t imagine.  I know it’s worked for me over many years and many others as well.

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The Hottest Topic

Posted in Finances, Generosity, Giving, Stewardship by PCraig on November 10, 2011

They used to say not to talk about politics or religion unless you wanted to stir people up, but I’ve found the hottest topic is probably money.  Over the years of preaching, nothing gets people more uncomfortable than talking about God’s ownership over their money.  And probably the greatest source of controversy is in regard to the tithe.  Why is the tithe so controversial?

Let’s look at some facts about tithing.

  • First of all the word “tithe” is used 41 times in Scripture and means “ten” percent.
  • The meaning behind it was to put God first by giving back to Him out of what you’ve been given (this started with Cain and Abel at the very dawn of creation)
  • It symbolizes God is first when we give Him “off the top” and not our leftovers.  God’s not interested in being served leftovers.
  • “First” things throughout the Bible belong to God: first portion of income, day of the week, animal that was born, crops that were harvested…  My best should be offered to Him as an offering.
  • It is a universal principle like Sabbath rest.  Tithing is not just a “law” principle.  It preceded the law and was validated in the New Testament.  Abel gave of his firstborn and Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek 400 years before the law.  A universal principle is not negated by Christ’s coming and the new covenant.
  • It was practiced throughout church history showing it was a part of New Testament church practice.  Tithes were mentioned in church councils at Tours in 567 and at Mâcon in 585. They were formally recognized under Pope Adrian I in 787.
  • It is a thermometer of your spiritual vitality.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters…you can’t serve God and MONEY…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be…”  Jesus could have named a lot of other things as the opposite of God, but he chose the word money.
  • It is a starting place for New Testament giving.  We have examples throughout the book of Acts of those who sold homes and other possessions and gave all the proceeds to the church.  Since we have the Holy Spirit within, the completed Word of God and the finished work of Christ, should we do less than in the Old Testament?  Jesus often raised the expectations from what the law required (example of lust/adultery in Matthew 5:27-28)

Paul taught that we ought to give until it feels good (“cheerful“), not until it hurts.  When a person realizes all that God has done for them, it no longer is about what the law demands, but what love desires to express.

My true desire is that you and I would become more and more joyous, outlandishly generous givers each day.

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Tithing & the Single Mom

Posted in Finances, Giving, Stewardship, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on November 8, 2011

Since I shared the message on Sunday about the biblical principle of tithing, I’ve had questions about people’s circumstances.  Here’s a couple things that I want to say today:

Single Moms are much like widows in the Bible who are left deserted by their husbands and are probably more in need of the church’s help than helping the church. Don’t even get me started about deadbeat dads!

Single Moms can still give what they can to the Lord, because when we are giving a percentage of our income, it makes it fair and the same for everyone.  Some people start at 2 or 3% and work their way up – maybe setting a goal of increasing the amount each year?

I’ll be sharing this coming weekend on how to get control of your finances so you can do more than tithe and enjoy it!  Also, I’ll be sharing principles for investing, building wealth, and prioritizing your dollars from the Scriptures.

Tithe is used 41 times in the Old and New Testament and should not be a forced thing, but a love thing.  True lovers are givers.  More to come later….

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Another New Year?

Posted in Finances, Giving, Victorious Living by PCraig on August 17, 2011

It’s back to school time and that means a return to routines, schedules, practices, games, homework…  As much as I don’t want summer to end, I must say that I do look at fall as almost another New Year.  For example, I’m currently praying and planning out my preaching calendar into 2012 right now.

When I was thinking about this, I was also thinking of finances.  Currently, I’m in a mentoring program with Casey Graham, a Christian financial consultant.  He, along with Joseph Sangl have offered some great tools to assist in this area.  I want to run a few thoughts by you that might help you thrive this fall instead of survive.

1. Do you have a written spending plan?

If you are not writing down where you are spending your money, you are probably over spending in some way.  I wanted to equip you with THIS TOOL from guru Joe Sangl.

Remember, every spending decision is a spiritual decision.

2. Are you paying down debt?

Everyone wants to pay off debt but few take the time to do it.  Here is a TOOL that will be FUN and help you pay off debt.  It is basically a coloring sheet for your family to watch the debt being paid off.  Get it HERE.

3. Are you being consistent in your giving?

Tithing (giving 10% of your income) will unlock crazy good things in your life.  When we give consistently, we show we trust God with our money.

Take the time right now to go to our online giving page from www.crossroadsavon.com and give right now.  Many people set up an online recurring donation so they don’t have to remember each Sunday!

I just wanted to give you these three tools and challenge you to THRIVE this fall.

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What it Takes to do Ministry

Posted in Faith, Generosity, Giving by PCraig on February 16, 2011

Leave a comment about what you think about the vBlog.

-Pastor Craig

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Sowing & Reaping

Posted in Generosity, Giving, One Year Bible by PCraig on September 7, 2010

There is no more important principle to learn in life, than that of sowing and reaping.  This is explained in detail in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. 

Let me break it down for you:

                If you sow little – you’ll reap little

                If you sow generously  – you’ll reap generously

                God loves cheerful givers

                God provides the seed you need

                You are blessed to be a blessing

I’m so glad I learned the joy of giving generously to God early in life.  My parents were great examples of living generous lives so I could find out the rewards of generosity.  If you have yet to learn this, or didn’t have a good example of it at home, then read this passage and try it out yourself.  You’ll discover what many people have, you can’t out-give God!

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