Give More this Christmas

Give More (Kids holding peace signs))

Give More

For the month of December, we are doing a series here in the News & Notes on three of the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy. We have looked at these four tenets in the past, but because of the cultural pressure around us, it is worth us considering them again. If you are unfamiliar with Advent Conspiracy, head to their site and read the blog post called “Advent Conspiracy 101.”  And even if you are thoroughly familiar with all four tenets of Advent Conspiracy, I strongly encourage you to read today’s email so you can be reminded of how to make the most of this Christmas season.

In Christ,

Erin

 


Give More
from the Advent Conspiracy team

We’ve talked about rebelling against consumerism by spending less but now we’re encouraging you to give more…Is that a contradiction? Nope! Giving more isn’t about giving more toys, more gadgets, more clothes, more gift cards, more stuff.

God is calling us to give more intentionally and relationally. That means giving more of our time, our energy, our memories, our talents, our presence. It’s both. Spend less money and give more of yourself to the ones you love.

smiling kidsWe believe the best gifts celebrate a relationship. Think back on the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received. Chances are that there is a story and a relationship that was connected to that gift. Now try and remember all of the gifts you were given last year…For most of us that’s hard to do.

It sounds obvious, yet we seem to have drifted away from this liberating, straightforward truth: The Father gave His one and only Son. God’s answer for the world’s problems has never been material things. God did not give us more stuff – even good stuff like work, food, or health. He gave us Himself. The most priceless and personal gift of all!

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

Relational giving means that we think about the other person – who they are and what they care about. We focus more on giving our undivided presence and less on a pile of presents under the tree. This takes time and effort on our part. These kinds of gifts often require planning, but you’ll hardly be able to wait until Christmas to give such a gift!

When we give relationally during the Advent season, this is what we remember: it’s an opportunity to worship as we remind each other of the gift that was given for our sake. If we can resist the trap of giving easy gifts, and reject the assumption that giving expensive gifts is the best way to express love, something else might begin to happen. Our kids, family, neighbors, and coworkers will watch us celebrate Christmas differently, and through our actions they will hear the good news of the Gospel.

Some ideas to help you Give More:

  • Check out our list of relational gift ideas.
  • If you’re overwhelmed, start small. Choose one person on your list to give a relational gift to.
  • On Christmas morning, turn off your cell phone. Take a couple hours to be fully present with your family and focus on the people God has put in your life.
  • Invest in experiences you can share. Sign up for dance lessons, go camping, plan a vacation, take cooking classes.
  • Pass down memories. Make a recipe book or photo album to give to your family.
  • Get a blank journal and write notes and prayers to your kids.
  • Give a copy of your favorite book to a friend and then meet up for coffee and discuss it. Then switch and read their favorite book.
  • Give someone a gift that relieves a burden: babysitting money, help out with yard work, make a meal.
  • Give the gift of hospitality. Invite a new family over for dinner and games.
  • Do an activity with your kids – puzzles, jewelry making, baking, hiking, fishing, sports. Be present.

Originally published at https://adventconspiracy.org/give-more/

Do Unto Others What God Did For You

by Erin Bird

I’m pretty sure you have heard the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” But if you think about it, that could be potentially selfish. “Hey, I’d really like someone to give me a present, so I’ll give some else a present so that they get the idea!”

In the Gospel Prayer found in J.D. Greear’s 2011 book Gospel, the sentiment isn’t “do unto others what you want them to do for you.” Rather it is “do unto others what God has done for you.” Here is how J.D. puts it (with slight “massaging” by me):

The Gospel Prayer

“Heavenly Father, in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less. Help me realize Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others. And Heavenly Father, as I pray, help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

We’ve already looked at the first two sentences in this short series on The Gospel Prayer (here is sentence #1 and here is sentence #2). So let’s take a few moments together to consider that third thought: “As you have been to me, so I will be to others.”

Gospel-Motivated Relationships

Because we are looking at the Gospel Prayer, we need to take a quick second to remind ourselves of what is the gospel. At Riverwood, our definition of the gospel is…

“The ongoing story of God redeeming broken and imperfect people and restoring them into the perfect and complete image of Jesus.”

The tools God uses to accomplish this spiritual redemption and restoration of people are the cross and empty tomb of Christ. As we look at the cross, we see God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, justice, kindness, and so much more. Yet as we look at the empty tomb, we see God’s power, presence, sovereignty, faithfulness, and more.

But here’s the kicker: These attributes of God seen through the Gospel aren’t to just stop at changing our lives. Over and over in the Scripture, God instructs us to take the attributes He has shown us through the cross and empty grave, and display them towards others, changing their lives in the process.

For instance,

  • just as God has given us forgiveness, we are to forgive others. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • just as God has shown us love, we are to love one another. (1 John 4:7-12)
  • just as God put your needs first, put the needs of others before your own. (Philippians 2:4-7)
  • just as God showed us great mercy, we need to be merciful toward others. (Luke 6:36)
  • just as God generously gave Jesus for us, we need to be generous toward others as well. (2 Corinthians 9:13-15)

But why pray this?

So it’s clear the Bible instructs us to do toward others what God has done toward us through Christ, but why do we need to pray it? Aren’t these just actions we need to do?

Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others

Perhaps you are holier than I am, but I am a selfish person. If left to my own ways, I will often try to carve time to give to myself. But the gospel does not teach that God changed me so I could be absorbed in “me” more. The gospel says God is transforming me to be more like Jesus.

So I need to pray not to tell God something He doesn’t already know, but to invite God to remind me of what the Gospel leads me to do. Praying “Just as You have been to me, help me be to others,” invites God to continue to transform you into the likeness of His Son, to love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

So I invite you to join me in asking God to help us do unto others what He has done for us through Christ.

Repair the Damage with Something Positive

by Erin Bird

Let’s finish up our four-week series on “How to Reconcile Relationships.” We’ve been using Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s B.L.U.R. principle, which means so far we have talked about:

B – Believe in their Good Will
L – Lower Your Heart Rate
U – Understand to be Understood

That leaves us with the R – Repair the Damage with Something Positive.

It’s the Little Things that Count

If you’ve ever been in a disagreement with someone, it is very possible that you said or did something that hurt them. Despite what the children’s taunt says, words can hurt. Counselors make a living because of the past words hurled and actions unleashed upon their clients.

That’s why, to complete the reconciliation process, you need to do something positive for or to the other person. This isn’t about emotional bribery, but rather another step to let the other person know you care for them and the relationship is valuable to you.

I remember in our first year of marriage, LeAnn and I were having a “disagreement.” I have no recollection what the conflict was over, but I do remember it being our first big fight ever. My personality does not enjoy conflict, so my natural inclination in those stressful moments is to run, avoid, or minimize. And as much as I hate to admit it, on my worst days, I might say something cruel, trying to shut the other person down and make the conflict stop (sort of like a knock-out punch). So when my very intelligent wife was making her case, I remember wanting to run out the door or hurl hurtful words that would make it all stop. But not only did something in me hold me in place and keep me quiet, I felt like I needed to just go hug LeAnn.

And it worked. She melted into my arms. I reassured her I loved her and she said the same back. After that simple embrace, we were able to continue the conversation at a much lower volume with reduced heart rates.

I don’t tell the story to make me sound like the hero. (I genuinely believe it was God’s Spirit helping me, making Him the hero.) I tell the story because I’ve personally seen how you can repair the damage with something positive. A gentle touch, reassuring words, a simple gift, a sincere apology, or even a bit of appropriate humor can help the other person realize you still care for them and the relationship is going to survive this tumultuous moment or season.

Because He First Loved Us

After all, this is what Jesus did for our relationship with Him. He repaired our damaged relationship with God by doing something positive for us – dying on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He showed His love for us by paying our cosmic penalty, doing what we could not do, so that our relationship with our Creator could be reconciled.

That’s why the Apostle John told his readers to “love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7) God showed His love for us first, not waiting for us to deserve it or earn it or showed we loved Him. Rather, he made the first step. And so because God loves us so extravagantly, we are to love those around us (1 John 4:19), following in His footsteps. Which means if God didn’t wait for us when He made the action to repair our damaged relationship with Him, then we should do the same in our strained relationships and take the first step to repair the damage with something positive.

Humorous Cautions

Above, I mentioned one way to “repair the damage” is to use humor. But let me make a few cautionsif you try to repair the damage with a joke:

#1. Never make your attempt to relieve the tension at the expense of the other person. In the heat of the moment, no one likes to be teased. If you are going to “tease” anyone, make fun of yourself.

#2. Avoid sarcasm. Some people find sarcasm funny, but when a relationship is strained, it doesn’t come across as caring, rather just the opposite.

#3. Try not to laugh when the other person is talking. This will make them feel like you aren’t taking them seriously, which will only damage the relationship further. You want them to know you care and value the relationship, so don’t laugh at them (unless they beat you to the “punch” and repair the damage with their own humor!)

A True Apology

Lastly, a very effective way to “repair the damage” is with a sincere apology. But for an apology to be truly accepted, you CAN’T…

  • …shift the blame – “I’m so sorry, but if you hadn’t _________ then I wouldn’t have…”
  • …tarnish the other person – “I’m so sorry, but it’s not like you haven’t done worse…”
  • …turn yourself into a victim – “I’m sorry I said that, but what you yelled at me really hurt…”
  • …minimize their feelings – “I’m sorry I hurt you, but what I said wasn’t really that bad…”
  • …make God on your side – “I’m sorry you feel that way, but after I praying about this I needed to say it…”

Instead, a true apology owns your mistakes, doesn’t use their mistakes as an excuse, and truly seeks to repair the relationship because you want what is best for them.

A B.L.U.R.ry Wrap-Up

So when you find a relationship in your life strained, remember to:

  • Believe in their Good Will (that they don’t have an intention to ruin your life)
  • Lower Your Heart Rate (by taking a deep breath before responding in anger)
  • Understand to be Understood (by really listening to them)
  • Repair the Damage with Something Positive (by letting them know you value the relationship)

These four simple things (which might be difficult to do!) can help reconcile your hurting relationships, whether with your spouse, a child, your parent, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or whoever God has put in your life. As as you seek to love them like Jesus would love them, you just might see your relationships go deeper than ever before!

Understand to be Understood

by Erin Bird

Two weeks ago, we kicked off blog series on the topic of How to Reconcile Relationships. For these four weeks, we are using the B.L.U.R. acronym from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs to guide us. (If you’ve missed the previous weeks, you can catch up here on the blog.) This week we come to the U – Understand to be Understood.

Have you ever been to a debate? Whether in the political, judicial, philosophical, or some other realm, a good debater will tell you what their opens will say, and then why their opponent is wrong. In other words, they are communicating to their audience, “I understand what my opponent has to say, but I also understand why they are mistaken…” The audience is much more prone to listen and believe the debater that can state the opponent’s position as well as them and then explain their own position.

While I do not want you to see yourself in a debate with the person with whom you need reconciled, I do want to encourage you to take a page out of the proficient debater’s book. Seek to understand the other person. Get to know their position. Truly listen to what they are saying and ask questions to understand why they are saying it. When you show the other person you truly understand them, chances are, you’ll either change what you believe or be able to more clearly and patiently explain why you disagree. When you truly listen to the other person, they feel heard and understood, making them far more likely to then truly listen to you.

Don’t Be on Just One Side

Several times in my career as a pastor, I have counseled someone who is having difficulty in a relationship. Usually it is in a marriage or dating relationship, but I’ve also counseled people through friendship and parental struggles. Occasionally, I end up talking with one party first. When I was a young pastor, I would end up siding with this first person with whom I talked, ready to help them get the other person (who was clearly wrong) to agree. But when I talked with the second person, a different picture began to emerge. In other words, I began to understand the deeper and broader context of what was happening. This led me to be able to counsel the two individuals far more effectively had I only heard one side.

When you are having a disagreement with someone, you are on one side – yours! That’s why “Understand to be Understood” is so powerful, because it is helping you get on their side in a sense. I believe this is why the Apostle Paul told the church in Philippi to “count others as more significant than yourselves.” When you truly care about the other person, considering them as more important as you, you WANT to hear their side and truly understand them. And when they know how much you care, they are more likely to listen to what you have to share.

So after Believing in Their Good Will and Lowering Your Heart Rate, seek to Understand to be Understood, and watch your relationship not only be reconciled but go deeper and farther than you ever dreamt.

Don’t forget this Sunday!

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget – we are at Kohlmann Park this Sunday (July 14) for a baptism celebration followed by a potluck. We’ll worship alongside fellow Converge churches Grace Baptist and Denver Baptist, so be sure to bring some lawn chairs and a side dish or dessert to share. See you Sunday!

Like Riverwood on Facebook