Joy in the Lord

Carley, Carrie-Anne, Central Church Family, Faith, Giving, Ministry, Valerie, Whitney No Comments »

You don’t necessarily have to turn on the evening news. In fact, do people even turn on the evening news anymore? All you have to do is not have your head buried in the sand to know that there is a great deal of anxiety and worry in our society. The state of things right now can very easily drag you down and steal your joy. How is it that the Bible commands children of God and disciples of Christ Jesus to always rejoice?

Well, where are your eyes? What are you looking at? What or who are you listening to?

As followers of Jesus, we are very well aware of all the things God is doing in us and through us. We can always rejoice in the knowledge and experience of God working among us. And that’s always constant. That never changes. God is always at work. We see the evidence of his great work, we sense the working out of his redemption and reconciliation plans, we feel his hand at work in us and through us, saving and changing lives all around us. The Lord is always at work among us and that is always reason to rejoice.

I see it in the Central teenagers who stop by my office on the way to Chick-Fil-A for a free promotional sandwich. Ellie and Justin are pouring into those kids the same grace that God has shown them and the kids are eating it up. I see it in the 30 men from Canadian Church of Christ with whom I had the great honor of hanging out with in Angel Fire this weekend. God is on the move with these men — moving in them and through them — and they are on fire for God’s mission in this world. I hear it when Valerie, our middle daughter, calls me from Arlington to tell me she’s changing her major from childhood education to youth ministry. God’s Spirit is changing Valerie forcefully and beautifully into a dedicated servant of the Gospel. I sense it when Carley, our youngest daughter, shows up in all the pictures from the Sao Paulo mission trip — painting, laughing, serving children, worshiping, leading. She’s finding her gifts and settling into her place in the Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see it when my brothers and sisters at Central join forces to do good deeds for people in downtown Amarillo. We’re making gift bags for the staff and clients at CareNet and Gratitude House. We’re cleaning the carpets and painting the doors at PARC. We’re painting the storage shed and spreading new wood chips on the playground at Elwood Park. We’re giving away 200 books and reading the children at Bivins Elementary. We’re treating the ladies at Martha’s Home to a dinner out at a nice restaurant.

 

Our God is working in and through everything that’s going on around us. That knowledge and that experience gives us a stable and deep-rooted joy — an inner joy — that enables us to not only cope with disappointments, but to see things as they really are. In any and all circumstances God is always at work among his people. And that is always reason to rejoice.

Peace,

Allan

$1.5 Million in Cash and Checks

Central Church Family, Giving No Comments »

If you give your money out of a sense of duty, there’s a tendency for your giving to be cold. You’ll seek to give the bare minimum — where does it say I HAVE to give ten percent? And there’s no spiritual transformation.

If you give your money so you can gain control, so you can be in charge and make the decision, that’s a self-seeking kind of giving. That kind of giving is more like a manipulative power play and it’ll only result in temporary joy at best.

And if you give your money in order to be seen by others, to impress people, to increase your status in whatever group you’re in, it’ll backfire on you. You won’t know who your real friends are and your identity will be tangled up in your possessions.

All three of these inferior motives for giving can cause us to view our money as something to be used to benefit ourselves. It stifles our imagination. It stunts our transformation. And it doesn’t bring any kind of lasting joy.

Everything changes, though, when we give with the understanding that we are partnering with God in his holy mission to redeem the world. When you fully grasp that God takes the money you give to directly change lives, to directly impact our city and the whole world for Christ’s eternal Kingdom, then the whole thing changes. Then there is great joy in giving as much as you can and looking for ways to sacrifice in order to give even more. Giving your resources to join God’s mission sparks a limitless imagination, it brings unsurpassed joy, and it results in increased spiritual transformation. It aligns your identity and your soul, not with your possessions, but with our Lord and his vision for his Church.

That kind of giving is the kind of giving we enjoy at Central. This church in downtown Amarillo really knows how to give. This is a mission-minded, servant-hearted church that works tirelessly and gives abundantly for the sake of others.

To launch our two-year Ignite Initiative this morning, our church family contributed $1,527,497.56 in cash and checks. More than $1.5-million during one Sunday morning assembly! It’s humbling. It’s mind-blowing. It’s a testimony to the power of our God to provide the resources in giant buckets when his people commit to joining him in his salvation pursuit of others.

I really don’t know what else to write or say.

That’s a lot of money.

I praise God for the ways he is at work in us and through us to bless others with his love and mercy, his forgiveness and grace. I’m so blessed to be the preacher at Central. And I can’t wait to see how our Lord’s going to use this offering to change lives and impact our city for his Kingdom.

Thank you to all my brothers and sisters at Central for your commitments and offerings made with faith in God and with confidence in our vision for more Christian ministry in Amarillo and around the world.

Peace,

Allan

The Launch

Central Church Family, Giving No Comments »

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Tomorrow morning Central launches Ignite, a two-year initiative designed to enhance and expand our local ministry efforts within the city of Amarillo. Last week we all turned in our two-year financial pledges to fund the vision. Tomorrow we give our money. And I’m going to compare our gifts with a pinball.

Whatever you give, whatever I give, it’s kind of like a pinball machine.

You know, you’re playing pinball and that little silver ball is moving right down the middle and headed for the bottom and it looks like it’s lost. The ball is gone. Game over. But then you hit that little flipper. The flipper! And the ball pops up and now it’s bouncing and pinging all over the place. It touches off a set of strobe lights over there. It bangs into a bunch of noise makers over here. It gets a bonus ball and some extra points up there. It’s just going and going and beeping and buzzing and there’s excitement and energy and possibility and…!

Almost out of nowhere! How cool!PinballBall

Because of Ignite, some of our folks at Central are putting really large sums of money into the plate tomorrow. Because of Ignite, some of our people are putting five dollars into the plate tomorrow when they haven’t given any money to the church in years. Or never.

Your money’s not gone. You’re throwing it into God’s pinball machine and it’s about to come into contact with that flipper. Now you just watch what God’s going to do with it!

Everything you do for God makes a difference. It bounces and pings all over eternity.

Even one cup of cold water given in the name of Jesus makes a lot of noise in heaven.

Peace,

Allan

Strong Christians

Church, Discipleship, Giving, Grace, Romans No Comments »

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“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” ~Romans 15:1-3

As children of God and followers of his Christ, the Church takes its example from Jesus. The Son of God is the one who calls us to live with each other the way we do. We realize that Christ Jesus never once did a single thing to please himself. Instead, he gave up everything, he sacrificed everything, to benefit others. And by choosing to serve others instead of please himself, Jesus sets the pattern that we must accept as our own: Putting others first, considering the needs of others more important than our own, never about me, always about you.

And Paul puts it on the strong. It’s up to the strong Christians, not the weak, to make sure this happens in God’s Church. It’s on the strong to bear with the failings of the weak sister or brother. That’s hard. It’s on the strong to make the concessions to our weaker brothers and sisters and that’s not easy. It’s easier to be the weaker Christian, drawing the lines and insisting that everybody cater to me. It’s the strong, Paul says, who are able to grasp the truth that our love and mercy and grace to others is like Christ.

“But I can’t stop doing this certain thing; not for him.”
“I can’t give up practicing this particular thing; not for her.”
“I can’t sacrifice this behavior or this privilege or this freedom; not for them.”

You call yourself a follower of Christ? Jesus gave up everything! Jesus sacrificed it all for you and me, for all our brothers and sisters, for the strong and the weak! That’s what makes a strong Christian strong: a faith that comes to the realization that a lot of the things you care so much about are really not that important to God. You love your weaker brother so much, you care about your weaker sister so much, you’re willing to keep those things between you and the Lord and sacrificially carry the burdens of the weak. And the stronger your faith, the easier it becomes. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. You can do this.

Bottom line, here’s what separates the strong Christians from the weak Christians: Strong Christians with strong faith know that the more you sacrifice and the more you give up for others, the more like Christ you are. The more you insist on your own way, the more you assert yourself for your own interests, the less like Christ you are. Pretty simple.

So, what if all of us, to a person, decided that we would put ourselves at the back of the line? What if we all vowed to bend over backwards to make everybody else happy and sacrifice our own feelings and opinions in order to build up others? What if we all did that?

If we all accepted each other like Christ accepted us, if we all bore the failings of the weak just like Jesus does, it still wouldn’t result in a perfect Church. It wouldn’t eliminate our differences of opinion. It won’t do away with our arguments and debates. But it would mean figuring out how to live together in the Gospel. And we’ll know for sure that the Jesus who unites us is greater by far than the differences that may divide us. And our grace-filled conversations and our mercy-laden interactions with each other will reflect and strengthen that conviction.

Peace,

Allan

Generous on Every Occasion

2 Corinthians, Giving, Possessions No Comments »

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” ~2 Corinthians 9:8-11

CupOverflowsBlueThe foundation of our Christian giving is knowing that God is the giver of all things. It’s a very radical thing to declare that God — not me, God! — is responsible for everything I have and everything I am. It’s huge. It’s an insight that is so simple, yet profoundly life-changing. Once you grasp the truth that everything you own, everything you have decisions over, comes from God, your whole outlook and lifestyle change.

It’s not that we care less about our possessions; it’s that we care much more about God’s purposes in giving us all these possessions in the first place which, ironically, is to give them away for the benefit of others.

Generous, over-the-top giving demonstrates our continuing confidence that God is always going to give us everything we need. Giving away our money is an act of dependence on God. To withhold our money or to give it grudgingly or with hesitation betrays an insecurity that denies the very thing Scripture’s talking about in 2 Corinthians 8-9.

We’ll justify conservative giving, though. Well throw big words at stingy giving to make it sound better. “Stewardship.” We’ve got to be “good stewards” with God’s money. Usually when people say “stewardship” — and I’m talking about individual Christians and church leadership groups — they’re talking about not spending the money or saving the money or holding the money. I don’t know how that became the Church’s idea of stewardship when the Bible’s idea of stewardship is to give everything away and trust in God.

The fact that Christians ask all the time how much they should give, how much they have to give, how much they’re supposed to give, tells me we don’t get it yet. An amount is not the Bible’s point. The point is that our giving flows from a grateful attitude toward God and a faithful dependence on God. The underlying assumption in Scripture, the principle that undergirds everything, is that all of God’s people give as much money as they can to help as many people as they can to give God as much glory as they can. The only rule is to give freely and generously as an expression of thanksgiving and trust.

Peace,

Allan

Having All That You Need

2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Giving, Possessions No Comments »

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” ~2 Corinthians 9:8

CupOfBlessingOverflowThe four words in the middle of that verse — “all that you need” — could make you think that God’s interested in giving you a bunch of material things. But he’s not. “Having all that you need” is about contentment. We all have every single thing we need. I dare say every single person reading this post has every single thing he or she needs to make it through today and tonight and into tomorrow. We all have everything we need. We just might not have everything we want. But what we want isn’t always what’s best for us, right? Paul’s talking about a contentment, a satisfaction with what God is choosing to give us. This is about you being good with what God is choosing to give you and what he’s deciding not to give you.

It’s also about knowing that the truly important things, the eternal things, the things that really matter, he gives us in abundance. We have more of the really important stuff than we know what to do with.

“the surpassing grace God has given you” (2 Corinthians 9:14) – surpassing grace, overflowing grace, enough grace to obliterate every single one of your sins and restore you to a righteous relationship with God;

“his incomparable great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19) – overflowing power, overwhelming power, more than enough divine Holy Spirit power inside you to annihilate sin and death and Satan and everything that might separate you from God;

“the incomparable riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:7) – buckets of grace, grace in spades, more than plenty of grace to be saved, it says, and to join God in doing works;

“this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19) – incomprehensible love, love that blows your mind, divine love up to here, unconditional love coming out your ears; a surplus of love, it says, to fill you to the measure of all the fullness of God himself; this God who is able to do, it says, immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within you!

All that grace. All that power. All that love. Lavished on us. More than we need. Why? Why does God give us so much?

So you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8)

So you can be generous on every occasion (2 Corinthians 9:11)

So you can supply the needs of God’s people (2 Corinthians 9:12)

So you can share with God’s people and everyone else (2 Corinthians 9:13)

You and I have all that we need, and then some. It’s a simple concept, an easy thing to understand. But once we truly grasp it and begin to live out its implications, it’s profoundly life-changing. So, try it. Double up on your tip today at the restaurant. Buy the cold drink for the guy behind you in line at the convenience store. Let somebody else go first. Give. Give. Give. Because our God has given you more than enough.

Peace,

Allan