Dec 26, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: Our Christmas Bribe and a Treasured Possession

"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."
Deuteronomy 7:6 (NIV)

Well, the gift giving extravaganza has ended. We love the holidays but Christmas is always a struggle. We struggle to point our kids away from the stuff and toward the God of Creation. Thanks for sharing great ideas in response to my questions on how you keep Christ in Christmas.

I wanted to share one of my favorite Christmas moments with you from this year:  

A few weeks ago we spent a day running around town shopping.  We went into 13 stores.  Yikes! If you have young children you know that one store can be a challenge, let alone a day of shopping.  We came up with what I would call a proactive parenting strategy.  You would call it a bribe.  We told the boys that for every store where they obeyed they would get a point.  At the end of the day we would convert points to dollars and they could use their dollars to buy a Christmas gift for each other.  The boys were excited about the bribe . . . er . . . plan.  They each earned 12 bucks.  

Later on we took them shopping for each other and they picked out that special toy that the other had been ogling.  

When Christmas rolled around and it was time to open these gifts, the boys sat right next to each other.  My middle son began to tear the wrapping paper away and finds inside of it a baby wipes box. He looks at us with a disgruntled look, “Baby wipes, oh man!”  We assure him that the gift is inside the box and that no one got him baby wipes for Christmas.  Relieved, he continues tearing open the package and finds a remote controlled critter called a Hex Bug.  Excitedly he tosses his new prized possession to the side and almost tackles his older brother.  “Thanks so much!  That was exactly what I wanted!  I love you brother.”  

Although we had our fair share of holiday drama about new toys, this moment stood out to me.  I was blessed to watch the relationship between the boys and their love for each other.  

What a special gift God gave to us.  We are his treasured possession and He gave it all to reconcile our relationship.  Thank God for His amazing gift.  Although this verse is directed toward the nation of Israel, He has redeemed you.  He has thrown aside everything to embrace you and I.

You are His treasured possession.   

A Challenge 

Think about your most treasured possessions.  Pick an object.  Would you throw it in the offering plate at church?  Would you give that possession up if it would bring you closer to God?  Would you throw it aside to embrace Him? 

It makes it a bit more real for me when I apply the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Would you sell your prized possession to provide for your neighbor?  

I don’t want to take any of this out of context.  I am not suggesting that these verses combined, and out of context, tell us to sell our favorite stuff and buy a gift card for a homeless guy.  

I do think it is a good exercise to place all that we have as an offering before God.  Some things we keep to serve Him.  Some things we give away.  In the end it is all His.  We are His.  We are His treasured possession.

Dec 21, 2012

The 'Fiscal Cliff' Solution: Hiding in a Bunker or Generous Giving?

Folks come into our office every day, nervous about the fiscal cliff. They ask where to put their money. Folks ask about investing in Gold. Some go a bit further and dream about buying guns and ammo and burying supplies in the back yard. Others ask about stockpiling a year’s supply of food and water. I have even had folks ask what type of bunker they should build. 

After a few of these meetings in a week I feel inclined to turn into myself and begin stockpiling these items that seem to give us security. My mind drifts back to the beginning of the movie Red Dawn.  

It is interesting where we turn for our security.

In the midst of the chaos in Washington I have enjoyed sharing conversations in our community discussing the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ and addressing some of these concerns about our economy and our nation’s future. It has been fun to use these opportunities to share the impact that these discussions on Capitol Hill may have on the charitable deduction. It has been a blessing to speak in front of four different groups in Colorado this month, encouraging charitable giving in lieu of these changes.  

I am convinced that we will not find solutions in a bunker full of food-stuffs, guns and gold. Turning to those things draws us away from relationships, into ourselves and into a mode of selfishness. We start saying, “You just have to take care of #1.” 

I believe the solution lies closer to this charitable deduction and more specifically, to the generosity associated with it. The attached video is a wonderful conversation on the importance of charitable giving and the legacy of generosity in our nation.  

No one ever said, “That selfish hermit with the arsenal in his bunker changed my life.” No, the folks who impact lives and make us better are the ones who give of themselves. They are the ones at breakfast with a teen teaching them the right way to live. The ones who make a difference are those who are in the community, raising money for gardens or art or education. They are reaching in their own pockets to build community and investing in things that last.

Something special is happening this year. Even with fears of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ there is a phenomenon occurring. Instead of hoarding and turning into themselves, folks are generously giving money away.  

According to this Wall Street Journal article, Fidelity Charitable has seen a 63% rise in contributions. Schwab Charitable has seen a 74% jump. We have seen the same trend among our clients. Even as our country faces these major issues, many are giving. They are giving more than they ever have. This isn’t a socialist movement. These folks aren’t being forced to give. They are not giving reluctantly or under compulsion, they are giving cheerfully.  

What is going on?  

These families are investing, not for their own good, but for the good of communities that they believe in. They are using their resources to impact lives and to bring a community together and to move our country forward.  

As Washington threatens the tax benefits associated with the charitable deduction, the folks at The Brookings Institution are dreaming about a ‘Super Deduction for Charitable Giving.’ They argue that this sort of temporary, extra deduction would create jobs by boosting the non-profit sector. They also suggest that the ‘Super Deduction’ would allow folks to lower their tax bill by investing in their communities.  

Whether we see a ‘super deduction’ or limitations on the current deduction, what do you see as worth investing in? What areas in your community do you care about? What folks do you believe in? As we think of folks that we care about we have two choices. We can invest in a larger bunker and more food-stuffs… Or we can invest in our friends and neighbors and rebuild our communities together.   

Dec 19, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: I am too busy with my stuff to be thankful!

"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today."
Deuteronomy 8:10-18 (NIV)

Moses warns the nation of Israel before they cross into the promised land, ‘make sure you don’t let your stuff get in the way.’

With Christmas coming, this was a timely passage for me. In six days my house will be full of people and full of new stuff. Often it can be hard to see past the mountains of toys and wrapping paper and the craziness of the holidays. I have three little boys that desperately need Christ. They have a God-shaped hole in their hearts that only he can fill. How can I keep the new stuff out of that space and put Christ in his rightful place?

Help me out people! I need some ideas to keep Christmas about Christ. Any thoughts?

What are your family’s favorite Christmas traditions as you keep Christ in Christmas?

February & the 28 Days of Generosity - HELP!!!

The director of the Montrose Community Foundation came to me with a great idea. She wants to engage our community in 28 days of generosity during the month of February. We dreamt together about what could happen if a community sowed richly for 28 days in a row.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)

We hope to print up business cards with 28 themes for the 28 days of February. We hope that this will give folks a guide to engage in generosity together through the month of February. We have a few ideas for topics;  

1.      Feed someone
2.      Invite someone into your day
3.      Listen to someone from another generation
4.      Share your story
5.      Make a difference with $5
6.      …?

We will expound on these topics on a blog and through email and share it with the community throughout the month. We’d like to share videos and ideas that support each daily topic. We want to share ideas that would allow everyone in a community, rich and poor alike, into this generosity.

We invited folks to come and have coffee and cinnamon rolls and to hear about the idea and with very little work we had standing room only. The local paper helped to draw a crowd with a short article. This is going to be big, but I need your help.

A challenge to you.

Share ideas in the comments on what the 28 days could look like?

Help me dream about how to reach a community in a grass-roots sort of way.

Consider engaging your family or your community in the same 28 days of generosity. (I’ll share all the details as we go along.)

Sow generously!
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