The difference between connectionand conversation

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism. It is so challenging and provoking. However, probably the most challenging chapter is called ‘Don’t click “like”‘ and is an exploration of the difference between ‘low grade’ connections, in the world of social media, and rich ‘high grade’ conversations that take place face-to-face. Here are just a few quotes:

 

“Turkle draws a distinction between connection, her word for the low-bandwidth interactions that define our online social lives, and conversation, the much richer, high-bandwidth communication that defines real-world encounters between humans. Turkle agrees with our premise that conversation is crucial:

“Face-to-face conversation is the most human–and humanizing–thing we do. Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy. It’s where we expereince the joy of being heard, of being understood.””

 

“Face-to-face conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. We attend to tone and nuance.”

 

 

Giving to a local church

This article was first published on the Kingsgate Website

In this article, I want to address how we approach giving here at Kingsgate as there is often a   lot of confusion.   So let me suggest a simple pattern that will help us focus on giving in a healthy way.

SO HOW CAN WE HAVE A HEALTHY, BIBLICAL VIEW OF GIVING TO A LOCAL CHURCH?

I generally don’t talk about giving in terms of tithing (that is the giving of 10% of your gross income). Now let me be clear, tithing is a biblical idea, and Jesus even honoured the Pharisees for their commitment to tithing their ‘mint, dill and cumin’. Essentially, the reason Jesus drew our attention to those three things was to illustrate the Pharisees’ detailed commitment to tithing, even down to the rows of mint growing in their vegetable patches!  However, although on the one hand Jesus honours this commitment, he also says “woe to you”, in modern day language “buddy, you’re in a mess!  Why?  Because you have neglected some weightier heart matters”. In short, Jesus was showing us that you can tithe down to the last penny and yet completely miss the point, if there are wrong or missing heart motivations.

In light of this I want to try and foster four healthy heart motivations because when they collide, they will lead you and me to a grace-motivated level of giving. So here they are:

[1] OBEDIENCE

Again and again, the Bible speaks about the importance and priority for us to give out of our material wealth (especially to the local church). Sometimes it talks of money (coins), other times it uses images of tunics and food. However, the key issue is that as followers of Jesus we’ve been called to give from the treasure in our lives. In light of this, giving becomes an obedience issue. Who will be king? Will it be King Jesus or King me? Will it be king Jesus or King money? Martin Luther, the great reformer, said that every person needs three conversions: the heart, the mind and the purse. He was simply stating that what sits behind how we spend our money needs to come under the Lordship of Jesus. Friends, giving really is an obedience and discipleship issue!

[2] JOY

In 2 Cor 9:7 the Apostle Paul says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart [note the heart issue again], not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This is wonderful and safeguards us from cold and dead religious duty! Give because your heart is saturated with joy. However, here is the challenge;  much of that joy will be derived from being caught up in the purposes of God.

Let me briefly try and answer the question that may well be raised in your mind right now.   But what if I’m not joyful about giving? I would suggest that you shouldn’t  see this as a good thing! This for me reveals some serious heart issues that need addressing. I would suggest going back to those fundamental principles we’ve just looked at from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6. A heart that lives for eternity is grace-saturated and should affect your thinking and motivation and will place King Jesus upon the throne of your heart. That type of heart will give joyfully!

[3] SACRIFICE

King David, in the Old Testament, said “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24b). Giving should hurt! I believe it should impinge on the things that you could do in life. On a personal note, as a family we’ve made lots of decisions where our giving towards what God is doing among  us as a church, has meant massive personal cost to us as a family. This is where we loop back to the 10% issue. For some people, 10% really is not a sacrifice at all! For others it clearly is. The key question is, does this giving hurt? Is it sacrificial? Do I feel the pain of it or not?

[4] MISSION

Give to the mission that God has put us on together! We don’t have a denominational pot of money to draw on for the things we want to do. No, everything we do as a church is funded through the sacrificial giving of the people who are part of this church. So please give to the mission! Buying a laptop or replacing the carpet tiles in one of our rooms here at the King’s Centre is never going to inspire or motivate me to give (because that’s just ‘stuff’). But the mission of God among us is to see transformation in this borough and the surrounding towns and villages. Now that’s something worth giving towards! To see the narrative about Great Yarmouth disrupted by a community of hope and transformation – now I want in on that! To see people saved and added every month into this church community – I don’t want to miss out on that! To see lives and marriages and families and whole communities being changed by the power of the gospel – I want to give to that! To see us playing our part in seeing Norfolk re-evangelised through the planting of churches – I want to give to that! To see Kingsgate playing our part in the global village that we live in and seeing people coming and training with us and people going and serving in different nations –  I want to be part of that! … So, give to mission!

THE COLLISION

Here’s the thing, each one of these heart motivations will tug and pull against each other. They will feel like they can’t possibly all be held together. However, when you find the glorious, grace-filled overlap where obedience, joy, sacrifice and mission collide, that’s a healthy biblically motivated place to give from!

How might I regularly give toward the mission here at Kingsgate?

Money, Grace and Giving (p2)

This article was first published on my church website

 

In the last article we started to explore the provocative words of Jesus found in Matthew 6:19-33. We saw how:

  • We will never have a healthy relationship with money until we have a healthy perspective on eternity.
  • We will never have a healthy relationship with money if we think it doesn’t get any deeper than the latest iPhone or pair of designer jeans.

Let’s keep digging into these words of Jesus because there is much more we can learn about money, grace and giving…

SMASH THE IDOL OF MONEY

In verse 24 Jesus says “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Jesus’ next approach is to take us to the core of the issue and show that although money in itself is not evil, the love of money is just as much an idol as some primitive stone carving where children are sacrificed. You see, an idol is anything that “becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity” (Tim Keller). To reinforce the point, Jesus uses two of the key ‘markers’ of how people identify themselves with an idol. Firstly, they love the idol and secondly, they serve it. Jesus takes both and says you cannot love and serve money whilst at the same time saying you want to love and serve me. No this is an ink and water issue. They don’t mix, they are incompatible! Jesus is gunning for total and absolute love and devotion from his people! Now that might sound narrow and parochial but remember, Jesus is the fountain of life, Jesus is the good shepherd, Jesus is the lamb that was slain for us, Jesus is the light of the world, Jesus is the true spiritual food that cannot be found anywhere else, Jesus is the reason that worship exists!   We will only find true fulfilment when we have settled the issue of moving off the throne of our own hearts and toppling any idols we’ve erected and truly allow Jesus to be King.

“You cannot serve both God and Money” I suspect that there are some reading this article who need to hear those words from Jesus again … and again… and maybe again! Jesus would patiently but clearly confront you and say, “you cannot serve both God and money … what will you do?

MONEY IS A RELATIONAL ISSUE

The final big idea which I would like us to look at is that constant worry about material things is probably a clear indication that you don’t have a healthy relationship, not just with money but also with God (ouch!)

Notice what Jesus says in verses 25 to the end of the chapter. It starts like this:

“Therefore [or in light of what I’ve just said] I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

Persistent worry and fretting about material things is a clear sign that you have an unhealthy relationship, not just with money but also with God. Why do I say that? Persistent worry, and what I mean by that is the gnawing worry that goes on and on and on, is a sign that we’ve never really addressed one or more of the three principles Jesus spoke about in those earlier verses. For example, living for eternity is going to mean living in a very different way to those who  store up and stockpile resources here on earth. The motivation for believers is to use as much of this wealth God has given us to make as much of an impact for eternity. Secondly, a heart that does not understand that we are children of grace will always be viewing God as a cold and distant figure who may or may not look after us, but we can’t be sure. But those of us who have truly drunk from the river of grace, know that we are children of a loving and lavish father! He will take care of us. He will provide for us. He will watch out for us. It may not always be in the way we want or anticipate, but he is always loving and faithful. Finally, if we’ve not resolved the ‘Who will be God’ question, the functional god of money is a tyrant and shouts at us to get more, and ‘what if it disappears and how can God really look after you like I do?’ and on and on it goes. Persistent worry and fretting is normally a good indication that at least one of the previous issues is not fully resolved in our hearts.

So, here are some questions to help you evaulate where you are in relation to Money, Grace and Giving:

  • Are you living and spending your life and money for and in light of eternity?
  • Has your eye or heart been saturated by the grace of God so you can see God’s provision for you as coming from a loving and heavenly father?
  • Have you dealt with the idol of money and greed in your life once and for all?

Money, Grace and Giving (p2)

This Article was first published on my Church Website.

Yesterday, I showed how Jesus spoke a lot about three interrelated words: Money, Grace and Giving. Of his parables 42% are directly related to money and possessions and I’m convinced Jesus spoke so much about these subjects because he wanted us to see the powerful relationship between the heart’s affections and the purse strings.

Eternity needs to be our focus

Let’s now dive back into Matthew 6: 19-33 and see how we will never have a healthy relationship with money until we have a healthy perspective on eternity.

In verses 19 and 20 Jesus is totally clear about this! He says:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

What does this mean? One of the greatest dangers for us is to live with an 80-90 year life plan. Unless we are able to see the vastness of eternity and more importantly, its greater significance, with the utter joy of living with Christ for all of eternity, not just for me but for as many people as possible, we will always make bad decisions about money, possessions and giving! He’s saying, if you and I are going to have a healthy relationship with money we must make sure that we make decisions and live with an eternal perspective.

So, Jesus’ first guidance here for handling money is to ask yourself the question: how much am I living for eternity? Does the beauty of Christ, living with him and drawing as many people into his family, factor in your decision-making process about how you spend, invest and give away your money?

Heart Issues Really Matter

The second big idea that Jesus reveals in this verse is that we will never have a healthy relationship with money if we think it doesn’t go any deeper than the latest iPhone or pair of designer jeans.

In verses 22 and 23 Jesus says “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”

Suddenly Jesus jumps from pointing people to look at eternity to looking into their own hearts. Here he uses the idea of the eye to represent the heart. The heart is the place or seat of affection and he is saying, that no amount of budgeting courses or books on how to invest your money well, or even the reverse psychology of the new ‘minimalist movement’ that is influencing the under-30’s, will actually make any difference unless heart issues are addressed. Let me say that again, this is not about whether to buy an iPhone or not or if you should buy a pair of designer jeans or not. No! Jesus is saying the issue is of a much greater magnitude, it’s an issue of the heart and it’s affections!

This is where self-help books and religion diverge from the message of grace. Self-help books may give you some new tools to think about money and wealth (which can be really helpful). religion might tell you how much money to use for yourself and how much to give away to the poor or helping run the religious community you are part of.  However, Jesus wants to go much deeper than that. He wants to address heart issues. You see grace, that is God’s lavish and undeserved work of transformation, gets down into the heart and brings about such radical change because it starts to come from the heart and change the outward decisions that self-help books and religion are powerless to do in an enduring and radical way.  Unless the heart is changed nothing really changes. Unless the grace of God is allowed to work upon you, nothing meaningful will change.

As a result, the subject of money, possessions and giving is such a brilliant area to allow God’s grace to get to work on, because it is one of the hardest areas for us to let go of!

In the next article, we’ll continue exploring Jesus’ provocative and challenging words on Money. Grace and Giving. 

Money, Grace and Giving

The following is an article I first posted on my church website

In the next few articles, I’m going to be speaking about three interrelated words: MoneyGrace and Giving. Now as soon as you read the words Money and Giving (and conveniently forget the middle word Grace), there are likely to be few reactions going off in people’s hearts:

  • Oh no, not another set of articles about money
  • Oh, I’m so glad Adam is writing about this subject, because so-and-so really needs to read this.
  • Oh, this isn’t an issue for me because I’m not wealthy

I want to suggest however that regardless of your initial response, all of us need to regularly return to these three interrelated words: Money, Grace and Giving. Why? Because Jesus spent so much time talking about them!

WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT MONEY?

The first thing to say is a lot! 16 of the 38 parables that Jesus told were directly related to money and possessions. 1 in every 10 verses in the New Testament relates to the subject of money, possessions and giving! If we were to take Jesus’ parable percentage and then apply it to our Sunday mornings, then 21 Sundays a year should have some specific focus on money and possessions (that’s quite a lot!)! Jesus spoke again and again about money because he wanted to show us the powerful relationship between the heart’s affections and the walletHe was very un-English in that he didn’t seem to mind addressing the issue of money and the hidden issues of greed and idolatry. At the same time Jesus also spoke in very practical ways about handling money.  In Luke 16 he makes an observation that often people who are not followers of him are sometimes wiser in how they invest their money than believers are (and he is showing this as a good thing). He also speaks about the importance of paying taxes and investing for the future. So please don’t caricature Jesus as “anti-money”. That is certainly not how Jesus was.

SO WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT MONEY, GRACE AND GIVING?

To help up navigate through this I would like us to look at just one passage where Jesus addresses the issues:

Matthew 6:19-33 

Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[c]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

In the next article, we’ll look in a little more detail at these verses and dig out four important guiding principles.  So to whet your appetite, here’s my first big idea:

We will never have a healthy relationship with money until we have a healthy perspective on eternity.

Adventurous faith is rooted in our knowledge (or theology) of God

Today I was preaching at Kingsgate from 1 Samuel 14. In this amazing story we read these words:

Jonathan says “Let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” (1 Sam 14:6)

Jonathan illustrates for us that true biblical adventous faith is profoundly rooted in our knowledge (or theology) of God.

Jonathan is expressing a belief in the absolute sovereignty of God – “nothing can hinder the Lord…”

The Bible clearly teaches us that God has the right, power and wisdom to do whatever he pleases. Nothing can frustrate his plans. We see this in Psalm 115:3

“Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.”

And here in Job 42:2

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

A.W. Pink once described the sovereignty of God in this way:

“A ‘god’ whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to deity [or being God].”

Jonathan was able to confidently face being outnumbered, out positioned, out gunned, because of a deep rooted belief in a God who was truly … God