Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Your Body Follows Your Mind (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

“I went to high school on the other side of town—to the Booker T. Washington High School. I had to get the bus in what was known as the Fourth Ward and ride over to the West Side. In those days, rigid patterns of segregation existed on the buses, so that Negroes had to sit in the backs of buses. Whites were seated in the front, and often if whites didn’t get on the buses, those seats were still reserved for whites only, so Negroes had to stand over empty seats. I would end up having to go to the back of that bus with my body, but every time I got on that bus I left my mind up on the front seat. And I said to myself, ‘One of these days, I’m going to put my body up there where my mind is.’” - from The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In an article entitled “Ironman champ: Train your brain, then your body,” Chrissie Wellington, a four-time World Ironman champion, noted: “If we let our head drop, our heart drops with it. Keep your head up, and your body is capable of amazing feats... All the physical strength in the world won't help you if your mind is not prepared.” In order for Chrissie to keep her head up, she does a number of key things.
  • She has a mantra and/or a special song to repeat, because what you repeat you believe. She has “Never Give Up” on her water bottle and on her race wristband; she carries a copy of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem ‘If’ everywhere she goes.
  • She keeps a bank of positive mental images, because what brings you joy or hope matters. For her it is family and friends, previous races, of beautiful scenery, or a big greasy burger. These help when she thinks,  "I am tired. I want to stop. Why did I enter this race? I must be mad!"
  • She run the race beforehand, because thinking about her game plan matters. She goes through each stage of the race one step at a time -- mentally imagining performing at her peak and overcoming potential problems.
  • She break the race up into smaller, more manageable segments, because believing she can succeed matters. She thinks only about getting to the next aid station, or lamppost or Porta Potty. Once she achieves it, she sets another goal.
  • She trains until it hurts, because she needs to know she can handle adversity. She pushes her physical limits in training sessions so she knows she can successfully endure pain and discomfort.
  • She gets people to support her, because she needs to believe that other people are for her. She advises: “Invite friends, family or pets to come and cheer you on. Have them make banners, wear team T-shirts and generally behave in a way that would get them arrested under normal circumstances.”
  • She remembers inspirational people, because she needs to remember that transformation awaits on the other side. She recalls people who have all fought against adversity to complete the Ironman. They prove that anything truly is possible.
  • She races for a cause that is bigger than yourself, because knowing her role in the bigger picture matters. She runs for charitable causes. It puts the race in perspective and inspires her.
Our bodies follow our minds. What we think matters.

Monday, May 20, 2013

GIving Until We Feel It: The Boundaries of Generosity (2 Corinthians 8 and 9)

(Part One: Giving Until You Feel It)
The important thing is to be willing to give as much as we can—that is what God accepts, and no one is asked to give what he has not got. Of course, I don’t mean that others should be relieved to an extent that leaves you in distress. It is a matter of share and share alike. At present your plenty should supply their need, and then at some future date their plenty may supply your need. In that way we share with each other, as the scripture says, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack’.

Let everyone give as his heart tells him, neither grudgingly nor under compulsion, for God loves people who give cheerfully. After all, God can give you everything that you need, so that you may always have sufficient both for yourselves and for giving away to other people. As the scripture says: “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever." 

He who gives the seed to the sower and turns that seed into bread to eat, will give you the seed of generosity to sow, and, for harvest, the satisfying bread of good deeds well done. The more you are enriched by God the more scope there will be for generous giving, and your gifts, administered through us, will mean that many will thank God. For your giving does not end in meeting the wants of your fellow-Christians. It also results in an overflowing tide of thanksgiving to God.

Moreover, your very giving proves the reality of your faith, and that means that people thank God that you practice the Gospel that you profess to believe in, as well as for the actual gifts you make to them and to others. And yet further, people will pray for you and feel drawn to you because you have obviously received a generous measure of the grace of God. Thank God, then, for his indescribable generosity to you!”  (2 Corinthians 8:12-15; 2 Corinthians 9: 10-14)

There are a number of things that are meant to be found in the midst of "giving until you feel it": A deeper relationship with Christ (8:14-15); a satisfying, sacrificial love for others (9:10); a maturing character in us (9:11); and a compelling witness in our city (9:13)

I wonder how many of us experience generosity in this way? If this happened all the time, wouldn’t we just always do it? Here’s the reality: Generosity is challenging because we don’t always experience these things. To experience the joy of generosity, we need a supporting cast of other virtues so that we truly flourish when we do this. There are “companion plants” that go with generosity. So, what do we need to plant with generosity so we can flourish in the midst of even the most sacrificial giving?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Giving Until We Feel It (2 Corinthians 8:1-9)

“Now, my brothers, we must tell you about the grace that God had given to the Macedonian churches. Somehow, in most difficult circumstances, their joy and the fact of being down to their last penny themselves produced a magnificent concern for other people. I can guarantee that they were willing to give to the limit of their means, yes and beyond their means, without the slightest urging from me or anyone else.
  In fact they simply begged us to accept their gift of supporting their brothers in Christ. Nor was their gift, as I must confess I had expected, a mere cash payment. Instead they made a complete dedication of themselves first to the Lord and then to us, as God’s appointed ministers.

 Now this had made us ask Titus, who has already done so much among you, to complete his task by arranging for you too to share in this grace of generosity. Already you excel in every good quality—you have faith, you can express that faith in words; you have knowledge, enthusiasm and your love for us. Could you not add this grace to your virtues? 

     I don’t want you to read this as an order. It is only my suggestion, prompted by what I have seen in others of eagerness to help, and here is a way to prove the reality of your love. Do you remember the generous grace of Jesus Christ, the Lord of us all? He was rich beyond our telling, yet he generously became poor for your sakes so that his poverty might make you rich." (2 Corinthians 8:1-9)

 The word charis ("grace" or gift) appears numerous times in the first nine verses of chapter 8. Paul used it in 1 Corinthians in the classic passage on spiritual gifts, and he uses it again here to discuss the concept of generosity.

Generosity is a blessing from God to others through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

There are at least three principles we learn in this portion of 2 Corinthians about what it looks like when people inspired by the Holy Spirit are generous.

1. The Macedonians gave as much as they were able  - and beyond.

In the Bible, power and resources are always meant to be used for the good of those who are weak and powerless.  Paul says that the Macedonian's lack of resources became a motivation for giving. They understood poverty. And because they understood, they had to do something. The sense is that they determined what they could comfortably contribute -  and then went beyond this figure.

·     Charles Spurgeon once received an invitation to preach at his rural church as a fundraiser to pay off some church debt. The man who contacted him told Spurgeon that he could use one of the man’s three homes (he had one in the country, the town, and by the sea). Spurgeon wrote back, "Sell one of the places and pay the debt yourself."

When we realize that others are in need, and we have the resources to alleviate that need, we should generously and joyfully do so.  It is a sign that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. 

God does not prosper us so we can indulge ourselves; He prospers us so we can extend the gift of generosity to others.

Of course, it will cost something. King David said, “I will not give God sacrifices that cost me nothing.” Generosity and Grace are costly, not cheap. After all, Jesus gave His life. The more we extend a costly generosity – the more we give our lives -  the more we will understand the cost of the grace God extended to us.

·    The story is told of a man who was giving money for a good cause, and he said to a friend, “I think I can give $10 and not feel it.”  His friend said, “Why not give $20 and feel it?” The more we feel it, the more we truly understand the beauty of generosity.