Dec 3 2023 Generosity

This morning I’m going to do two mini-sermons – there will be a bridge in between the two – and if you blink, you’ll miss it!

This is about learning, unlearning, and relearning and the strengths of our church through the year.

Matt Lynch – Flood and Fury – addresses how to view violence in the Bible. I have not personally read it – but

“The Bible consistently surprises and challenges our simplistic expectations” – Matt Lynch

Proverbs 26: 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you yourself also be like him.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own estimation.

How do you deal with this?

Ironically, the New Living translates this more literally:

4 Don't answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.

5 Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.

When it comes to the, how shall I say – more challenging things in the Bible – things that have apparent contradiction – how do we address it?

Some of the translations interpret things according to their understanding – and we don’t know why they do that.

Proverbs are situational. The same is true of Old Testament Law.

They would not have a concept of how we do Law – it says this, therefore we do that!

It causes us to discern – we have to say – Yeah, depending on the situation – you would respond differently. At times – “Not going there with you” – and at other times, you would need to ‘go there with them’

When we have questions and concerns – what do I think here? We need to –

Our tendency – and when we go to the scripture with our expectations – our tendency is to look for a verse or verses that answer our question. Sometimes those are there! But the reality is – often that is not the case.

The Bible does not address everything in the 21st century. It never says anything about AI and ChatGPT – so it causes discernment.

What we tend to do when our questions are not answered – we look for verse that confirm what we believe!

We might have struggles with anger, anger that relates to things that are wrong.

But people tend to look at the passage where Jesus turns over the tables – and use it to justify their anger.

Sometimes – there is righteous anger – but that is used all the time in cases where it is not.

Or athletes that claim Phil. 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – to say – I can win this game! But that is not what this verse is saying.

What do we do when we have 5 verses we agree with and then some verses that challenge that.

I would say the Bible does not contradict itself – so what do we do?

We try to make those verses we don’t agree with to fit our verses we agree with.

I think there is a better way – coming from a better understanding of what the Bible is and what it is trying to do in our lives.

There is important stuff that challenge our expectations – and God wants us to learn to rest in that tension and not try to resolve it – because it is in the tension where God has something to say to us.

“Jesus was a metaphorical theologian – His primary method of creating meaning were through metaphor and simile rather than logical arguments”

The Bible is a story. Focus – start with and prioritize the forest over the trees.

When we go to the Bible – we need to focus on the big story of God that is communicated in the Bible – a story that moves from Creation to New Creation. That is its entire purpose – and of course, it all points to Jesus and the climax is His death on the cross.

To understand what the Bible says about the issues we face – we have to have this perspective.

The Bible is a metanarrative that reveals the character and nature of God – then how that relates to His relationship with us.

Exodus 34:6 "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,

This is where Moses asks God to reveal His glory – and God says all His goodness will pass before him…

These are the characteristics of God – how He describes Himself. This is quoted 13 times in the Old Testament – and it is referenced many times throughout the Old Testament – but then there is the next part:

yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."

What in the world does THAT mean and how does that relate to what He just said?! I will not explain that – if you want to know the answer – Go to the Bible project – Word studies on the character of God – they have 6 videos that explain it.

BUT – what we see from this verse – the Big Story – His love and mercy vastly outweigh His judgment. There is judgment.

How many generations is His love? 1000 – and iniquity visited? To the 3rd and 4th.

He IS love. Visiting iniquity is something He does.

When we come across challenging verses – they need to be interpreted through God’s love, grace, and mercy.

Jesus does the same thing:

Matthew 22: 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37 He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ‘All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Jesus says – what is the Big Story for us as disciples? Love God. Love People.

Anything else that challenges you – how does that fit in? We need to read it through – how does this relate to me loving God with all my heart and loving people? If it doesn’t lead to that, our thinking is not correct.

Now – the indiscriminate switch to part 2:

How does this practically work out? I’d like to talk about one of your strengths as a church – Generosity. You are a generous people. That is so obvious and clear. Some of you are extraordinary examples of this.

Jesus said:

Matthew 6: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

A righteous person is a generous person. And a generous person is a righteous person.

When we think of a righteous person – what is the first thing that comes to mind?

For Jesus – it was generosity.

We think of morality – or lack of immorality – and those are important – but when God talks about righteousness – He is talking about loving God and loving others – and Yes, morality comes in there – but it is down the list.

Many of you have demonstrated your integrity through the years through your generosity. Let that word thinking enter our brains – is that person a person of integrity? Are they generous?

Psalm 112: 4 Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious (generous) and compassionate and righteous. 5 It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; He will maintain his cause in judgment. 6 For he will never be shaken; The righteous will be remembered forever…

9 He has given freely to the poor, His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted in honor.

The Psalmist talks about the person who is upright – Generous and compassionate. Those are the descriptions of the righteous person.

3-4 ways I want to applaud your generosity

First - Generosity with all of your resources. – We think of money – but also, time, skills – using the things you do well for the benefit of others – generous with things and service – and with your presence and relationship. We have so many good examples of this in our church.

Next – Generous with thoughts and spirit

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

This includes our thoughts and spirit toward others. When we think of others – are thoughts are true, honorable, true, lovely, admirable.

A generous person sees others in Christ – image bearers of God. We need to learn in being generous of spirit, how to see Jesus in others. His character.

This does not mean we ignore sin – sometimes we need to correct and admonish – but it must always be done in seeing them in Jesus – gentleness, grace, and kindness.

We must balance reproof and correction with love covering a multitude of sins. Often, it depends on our personality – for those who don’t want to ruffle feathers – love covers a multitude of sins.

A generous orthodoxy (A book by Brian McClaren – but that’s not what I’m talking about) – Generous with others who believe differently!

Romans 14: Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. (Put that on billboards! – Blast it across America) 2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables…

4 Who are you to pass judgment on another's servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind.

Have convictions! Live them out with confidence! But believe that the other is doing the same! God is good to both of them! You might think the problem is with God!

Augustine – in the essentials – Unity!

The essentials have been around for a couple thousand years – he would have been referring to the Creeds – and those Creeds are short!

In the non-essentials – that is everything else – diversity

And in all things – Charity – love – generosity

I had lunch with John recently – he said - When I walk into a church – “We believe in the Creeds – and everything else we can talk about”

4th – Generous hospitality

Hebrews 6: 10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

You have been generous in welcoming and receiving strangers. You do this individually – but as a church, I believe we have done this well – you have created a safe and comfortable atmosphere. We have made program in this. We are not perfect.

I also think you are really good at extending friendship and including people in your relationships.

Second – with hospitality – in our gatherings – it is a natural focus in our small groups and after church and meals.

It has developed through our difficulties.

Then we have practical hospitality – meals – and random people making cake on Sunday morning… (there is cake back there today) – and all the varieties of tea back there – where do you get that?

And the hospitality you show to one another. So many gather outside of Sunday morning – taking meals to one another when someone needs one.

So much takes place in secret. People just DO stuff – and that is a sign of a generous spirit.

I think, too – many of you have become close friends – you can’t be close friends with everyone – but down the road, no matter what happens, those friendships won’t end.

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