Give Joy

Living A Life Of Generosity Blesses Others And Honors God.

Tim Lundy
Dec 12, 2021    49m
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The story of the three wise men bringing gifts to Jesus reminds us that living a life of generosity not only blesses those around us but also honors and brings glory to God. This message encourages us to develop a heart of generosity, and gives us action steps to turn that generosity into action. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

Transcription
messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Give Joy
Tim Lundy: [00:00:41] Well, Venture, it's hard to believe Christmas is less than two weeks away, and this is a big weekend for us here at the church, we had the Winter Wonderland and it's been exciting to see all that's happened on the campus here. But I don't know about you, when you get in this home stretch, you start thinking about, OK, all the things that we need to get done and probably more than anything kind of the Christmas shopping, the gifts, and you want to get the right gift. In fact, I'd ask you, we start, what's the worst gift you've ever received? And maybe to flip it around, a little more embarrassing, what's the worst gift you've ever given?

Tim Lundy: [00:01:22] You know, I've got a group of friends, some guys, and we'll do trips, sometimes we'll go on a fishing trip, or we travel. And one time on one of these trips, I don't know who threw it out there, but we started sharing who had given their wives the worst gift, kind of competing with each other. And it was humorous, to say the least. One guy talked about early in the marriage when he loved to fish, so he had bought his wife a lot of tackle, fishing gear, all of her own fishing gear to be able to go fish with him, and he was surprised for a whole year, she didn't use it. And so the next year, he doubled down on it and bought her fishing videos, he thought education was the problem here when it really was the gift itself. Another friend this, this was a winner, to say the least, he bought a sander, a foot sander, so you could sand off the skin on the bottom of your foot, he gave it to his wife for their anniversary. And we asked him, surely this wasn't the only present you gave her? And he said, well, you know, she saw it on a commercial and she seemed real interested in it. One guy gave his wife an industrial mop bucket one year for Christmas, he was thinking about his poor wife and how hard it was to move the mop and move the mop bucket, so he bought her one of those ones you see, like a commercial mop bucket with the wheels on it, and he was excited because it had the handle that would ring it out. In fact, I asked him, I said, so was that year the year you started all the mopping? And he said, yeah, as a matter of fact, I took it over that year. I mean, down the line, all the different ones.

Tim Lundy: [00:03:00] Probably for me, one of the worst gifts, it wasn't so much the gift itself, it's how I chose to purchase it. And I think it may have been our first Christmas, I knew a store that Lea loved and clothes that she loved in it, and so I went, and I was going to really do it right. And I'm looking at the price tag, and it was an expensive store, and I look on the back wall and there's this discount rack. And I'm thinking, well, let me go look at it. And I'm looking, the prices are so much cheaper, I mean, I can probably get her five times what I can get in the front of the store if I just shop back here. So I'm pulling different items and I'm excited about it, and I still remember as she unwrapped it all and she was excited, she was like, oh, I love that store. But then as she was looking through, I could tell it wasn't quite connecting. And then, you know, she said, I don't think this will fit, and I'm not sure about that. And then she asked me, she said, hey, why don't you just give me the receipt and I'll take it back, maybe exchange for some things that do fit or some other thing. And I realized in that moment, she's going to find out where I got it in the store. I mean, I was getting all these bonus points for shopping there, and she's going to find out her husband, you know, I'm not the drug lord El Chapo, but I am el cheapo. And so I said, you know, sweetie, let me do that for, I'll take it back, I'll just get you a store credit, and I thought I'd add some money to it so she wouldn't see how much I'd actually spent. And she goes, no, that doesn't make sense at all, I'll take it. And then finally, it just dawned on her and she kind of laughed, she said, did you get all of this in the back of the store? And I was like, well, how did you know? And she said, well, these things really aren't in fashion anymore, and it just kind of, I could tell. And I was like, I'm busted in this moment. Now, fortunately, she was gracious enough about it. But as guys, sometimes it takes us a while to learn the whole gift-giving, it takes some years of marriage, we do get better, hopefully, over time. I think she would say I've gotten better; I try not to be El cheapo as much.

Tim Lundy: [00:05:13] But I think about the whole experience of Christmas, and I think about the Christmas story, and you think about giving in the story. You know, this whole thing we've been looking at around joy, I am thrilled to say that when you look at the first Christmas, the group that got the giving of gifts right was a group of guys, I mean, a group that figured it out. And if you know the story, you probably know what I'm talking about, if you go back to the original story, there was a group of guys called the sages or the wise men, or often we call them the three wise men, we don't know how many there were. It's a fascinating part of the story for me, and I love it personally because I love that there was this group that lived far from Israel, they lived to the East, that they were pagans, they studied the stars. We don't know their full belief system, but God used their belief system, he placed a star in the sky to announce that the king had been born in Israel. And so this group of wise men begin traveling, it's a long journey. They go to Jerusalem, in Jerusalem, they announce, where's the king? And King Herod, who thought he was the rightful king, is not thrilled to see them. And through his scribes, they're able to determine, well, this king that was prophesied was supposed to be born in Bethlehem.

Tim Lundy: [00:06:44] And as the story goes, the wise men keep following the star. In fact, if we read in Matthew, read with me, "When they saw the star..." They go into Bethlehem, and God has this star rest right over the home where Jesus and his family is. This probably isn't the same night that Jesus is born, this is probably a little bit later. And as they go, look what he says, "They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." Here's our theme of this whole month, we're talking about how do we have the kind of joy that we see in scripture? How do we have the kind of joy that we see in this story?

Tim Lundy: [00:07:22] And so when they finally discover after this long journey, there's Jesus, they get excited, they're joyful, "Going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him." And again, this is a dramatic scene because you've got to remember these wise men, these sages, they're dignified guys, they're wealthy people. I mean, they've traveled afar. And yet when they see Jesus, what's their first response? They worship him, they literally fall down before him. "And then opening..." I love this word, "... their treasures." They came prepared, they want to celebrate a king and they want to do it the right way. And look what they offered, "They offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." And in this, I mean, gold, we obviously know how valuable gold is. Frankincense and myrrh, these were resins from a tree, sometimes they were stored as an oil, sometimes they were stored as a resin. they were very valuable in this time period. In fact, if you go back to the first century Roman Empire, frankincense and myrrh were forms of trade that often could be as high as gold. And so when they came, it probably was an easier way of traveling with something that was very valuable, they pour out their treasures. And then it's interesting to me how Matthew just turns it at this moment, "And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod." So being told, hey, don't go tell Herod where they are, "They departed to their own country by another way."

Tim Lundy: [00:08:59] I mean, these guys are like the Keyser Söze of this story. They are just like, (rush of air) like that, they're gone. They show up, they worship, they lavish with their gifts, and then they're gone. And it's always fascinating to me, the narratives of these stories, how God weaved it all together, how everybody plays their part. And as I think about these guys who start so far from God, but God loves them enough to reveal what he's doing in the world, they're obedient enough to be able to go and worship, but not just worship to give, to give generously, to give lavishly, to this baby that's been born. And the impact of their gift, even though they're gone in the story, I mean, as you think about it, think about the rest of the story with Mary and Joseph. If you know the story, Herod, that king in Jerusalem, he goes a little crazy. He's so determined to wipe out any threat to his throne, he starts killing children, little boys, anybody in the region.

Tim Lundy: [00:10:06] So, Mary and Joseph, they just run for their lives, literally, they go down into Egypt, they can't go home, they can't go anywhere. And when you think about a young, poor couple on the run in a foreign country with no resources, except, that God had prepared a group who came, and they gave generously with gold and frankincense and myrrh. For the next period of time, the next few years, man, it was a resource for this family to be able to live on. The impact of that gift, that is they went back to their home country, I bet they had no idea the impact of that gift, but how integral they were to the story because of their obedience to God.

Tim Lundy: [00:10:59] Guys, as we've been talking about great joy and we're learning from this story, we want to take away the parts. Last week we looked at the angels, and we learned the great joy of just sharing the good news, of speaking joy. And this week, I really want us to hone in, because especially in this Christmas season, but not just in this story, but all throughout scripture, this command to be people that are generous. That we literally have the opportunity to give joy, to bring joy into a family, to bring joy into a life, to bring joy into our own life.

Tim Lundy: [00:11:35] Now, as we think about giving, and I'll just tell you, giving in scripture, it's integral to scripture, it's integral to being a follower of Christ, it's over and over again. It's how Jesus describes that life that he wants us to experience and to do that, we're called to give. And, you know, if you're a part of the Venture family, you hear us talk about it and we'll continue to call you to it, we'll call you to give here. We hope that you are excited about what God's doing in our church and that you give, and that that's a fundamental part of your discipline, of your worship. You see that combination, that we, like those wise men, man, when we come to worship her, when you're worshipping with us, and some of you, you're only able to worship online, but you give online.

Tim Lundy: [00:12:21] And so that basic giving that we do, and I don't want to make this whole message, we can talk about it another time, what does scripture call you to do? I do think as you look through it, a lot of people talk about that 10 percent you're called to give, I think that's that point that whoever you are, you start feeling it, it's supposed to feel that sacrificial giving. And I'll say, we need your giving, you know, as we look at it, and we look at this end of the year with it, you know, this year all through COVID, our church has been so generous, you gave, you've sustained. But we're feeling the effects of, you know, as we come back, there's not as many people attending as there were pre-COVID, and some are still waiting, a lot have moved away, our overall giving down probably about eight percent as we come into the year end. And again, we're not alarmed, we're not scared about that, but I've always told you as a church family, any time we reach these points, we just communicate in a straightforward way. And so if you're part of the Venture church family, I would ask, pray about giving to your church as you come through this December. This is the time of year where we're giving to a lot of people, and it should be a fundamental part, it's how God set up the church, all the way from the tabernacle, to the temple, to church, he's always set it up that it's supported by His people.

Tim Lundy: [00:13:44] Now you have to ask, why did He do it that way? Because remember I told you, several weeks ago, God doesn't need your money, he owns everything. I mean, sometimes I think, God, it would have been great if you set it up that every church had their own kind of private gold mine, you just place it on site. And yet if we did that, you know what would happen? As leaders, we wouldn't grow in our faith, we would depend on that, and as the people of God, I think we would miss out on this process that he's calling us to.

Tim Lundy: [00:14:15] And so as we think about this message, because I really want to talk to you about generosity because I think it's so key to joy, I don't want you to just think about just giving to our church. If you're not a part of Venture, you may never give here, or maybe in your heart, you're giving something else to the kingdom. I just want you to think about generosity, and what we're called to in that. Because hear me, I think generosity is one of the keys to actually experiencing joy. And I think when we pull back, when we fail to give, as God's called us to, wherever he's calling you, whether it's Venture, to another church, to a ministry, anything, when we fail to live that out, we don't get to experience what we're seeing in these passages.

Tim Lundy: [00:15:00] And as I told you last week, there's a lot of people today, I think struggling with joy, and part of it may be wrapped up in this issue. And so why should we live a life of generosity? I just walk you through five things that scripture just teaches about generosity, and I just want you to think about generosity, not a specific place you're giving, but your heart of generosity.

Tim Lundy: [00:15:24] The first thing that you see is, generosity is just a better way to live. And this is from Jesus, Jesus said it's just a better way to live. Look in Acts 20, "In all things, Paul says, I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It's just a better way of doing life when you give, you always get more out of it giving than receiving. It's better to be the one that's giving than the one who's getting, this is plain as day as to what Jesus is saying.

Tim Lundy: [00:16:02] Over in Luke, he says it this way, "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Now, there's a strong promise here, Jesus is not just saying, oh, give money so you can get money back. He's talking about this blessing of life, that as you're a generous person, it's like your head's being anointed, and so when they would anoint, it would roll down over the head and then all the way down to the lap when it was this overwhelming blessing. And so in the same way, he says, man, when you're a generous person, that there are these blessings that just roll down over your life, it literally impacts you.

Tim Lundy: [00:16:47] You know, it is fascinating, science says the same thing now. Do you realize when you give, it changes your brain? I was reading one study on giving, and it was interesting, they were expecting in this study, you have this reward center in your brain, the ventral striatum, and that center that's what that reward is, it's those feelings of love, it's good, and your growth in that. And when they would have participants in this one study, when they would give, they were studying their brains with MRI. And as they studied it, in the act of giving or thinking about giving, that reward center would light up. It's that good feeling you feel, that’s part of it, that your brain's literally is telling you, I like this. Now, the researchers expected that, here was a surprising part of the study. They actually found, though, in giving, there was decreased activity in the amygdala. And the amygdala, that's that high emotion center, that's your fight or flight, it's part of the limbic system in your brain. That's the part of the brain when you have increased activity in the amygdala, there's usually high anxiety, that's where we're most anxious. And so the researchers were fascinated, they're going, in giving it not only stimulates that reward center part of the brain, but it actually decreases, it calms the amygdala, this powerful effect. The other part that was fascinating, too, is it has a sustained effect. Unlike getting, and we see this, that reward center, when you get something like if you won the lottery, or somebody gives you money, you start getting this new way of life, you would think that reward center is going to stay lit up. That's what people think of, man, if I could just win a million dollars, man, I'll feel good forever. The problem is, our brain gets used to it, and so what lights us up the first time from getting doesn't light us up as much, the second time, the third time, and over a new period of time, your standards change, that even though it may be just this lavish amount, we got used to it.

Tim Lundy: [00:19:02] Here is the fascinating part, that doesn't happen with giving. They actually found in study after study, that as you gave, the first day, you gave the second day, the third day, especially when it was directed giving to somebody you knew, something you cared about, an organization you were passionate about, any place where there was a connection, they said it was this amazing thing that giving actually has a sustained effect, that it continues to do this in the brain. It's absolutely fascinating, isn't it? I mean, it's almost as if the person who created our brain, tells us exactly how to live in a way that's best for us. And I'm talking about Jesus when he says it's better to give than receive. Folks, we know this, we know this on one level, but this principle is always powerful, especially when you see it played out when those make that choice to give instead of receive.

Tim Lundy: [00:20:06] In fact, I saw a video recently, it was filmed a few years ago in Atlanta. It was kids that are part of the Boys and Girls Club there, and the boys and girls club is a great organization. In fact, Steve Weimer, in our church family, he leads the Boys and Girls Club of the Bay Area. And so, you know, I love how they partner with kids, especially kids, in needy areas. And this one group came in and they had some of the kids from these tougher homes, some of these underserved kids, and they put them to a test on this issue. I want you to watch it with me, it's pretty powerful.

Video: [00:20:57] (Video Plays)

Tim Lundy: [00:23:21] Man, that video gets me every time, when I see the kids make that choice. And it just powerfully shows what we're talking about, it's better to give, it's just a better way of doing life. In fact, notice the second point with that, generosity protects you from joy stealers, from the joy that you have in your life actually being stolen.

Tim Lundy: [00:24:21] And Paul writes specifically to those who are rich, and he's talking about us, whether you consider yourself rich or not, people that have a lot. He's saying in that, they are some of the ones that you can have your joy stolen so quickly because of that. Look what he says in First Timothy, he says, "As for the rich in this present age..." God's given you things in this life, "...charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy." Now, notice I see three things here that can steal your joy. He says, if you've been blessed, you have riches, it's easy for you to be haughty. Guys, pride will steal your joy, proud people are not joyful, just mark it down. And when we get proud in our life, especially if you've been blessed in your life, it's so easy at that moment to kind of delineate and think we're something that we're not, it's easy to look down on others, almost in compassion, but to do it in a haughty way. Almost considered that you know, I got to where I am in life because of the choices I made or what I did. But Paul says, don't do that, it will literally rob your joy, and so he warns us about it.

Tim Lundy: [00:25:53] He puts with it as well, "Nor to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches." I would say that the second thing that will steal your joy is this anxiety, especially money anxiety. Notice he's writing those who are rich, he's not writing to people that go, man, if I just had more money, that's why they're anxious. He's writing to a group that already has resources, but they live every day in uncertainty because they've set their hope on it. And so they live every day based on how much money they have, they live based on how much money's coming in, they live every day based on the market. They live every day, I mean, it's just that they look at that more than they look at God. And Paul is warning us, and I'll just warn you, I'm just telling you, that kind of anxiety when you've set your hope there, it literally will steal your joy. You can't even enjoy the good things in life, because you always feel the insecurity of that.

Tim Lundy: [00:26:52] The third part, when he says, "When you set your hope on that, instead, set it on God..." And I love how he puts this, "...who richly provides us with everything to enjoy." He says, do you remember that it's God who gives you everything, literally everything, and he gives it to us to enjoy. He doesn't give it to us that we're supposed to walk around and act miserable in it, remember, the whole theme of this is joy. And there's a certain joy in recognizing, this comes from God, and so what Paul's telling us is, man, do you have a heart of gratitude? Because you know what? Ingratitude will steal your joy. When we hit a point where we start thinking about the things that God gave us, he owes us, and then if any of those things ever get threatened or removed, we start resenting God because we've developed an ungrateful heart.

Tim Lundy: [00:27:48] I'm sure if you're a parent, you see this. You know, one of the things, if you have teenagers and you work through it, it is teaching them gratitude for the basic things they get every day and having a heart of gratitude in that. And yet, it's hard for me to be hard on them when sometimes I look at my own heart before God, and what I think God owes me. And Paul says, you want to reverse that, you want to think every day, man, who has given to me, how is God blessed me? And what you'll find in it, and I've seen this to be true in scripture, you'll see this group always travel together, joy, generosity, and gratitude. You'll see them in scriptures together, you see them in life together. And I've seen this true in people, some of the most joyful people I know, are some of the most grateful people I know, and they are some of the most generous people I know. And you don't have to have a lot of resources to be a person like that, some of the people who experienced this the most, are some of the ones that would never fall into the category that anybody thought they were rich, but they're joyful, and they're grateful, and they're generous.

Tim Lundy: [00:28:58] I love this story, it's actually a Christmas story, it's called Blue Christmas. Anne Keegan wrote about, just different Christmas stories around some of the police officers in the Chicago Police Department. And there was one guy that she writes about, George White, George was a homeless guy. And literally, George had one outfit that he lived in, he had shoes that he kept together with rubber bands. And George would spend most mornings at the precinct, there was a heater in the back, and he would sit in a chair and he would nap there. And as they found out that George often would go over to a grill, to G&W Grill, and the guy that ran it there, Billy the Greek, would give George breakfast every morning. So two of the officers, Kotowski and Mitch, really took a liking to George, and so one Christmas, they adopted him. They had their families celebrating Christmas together, they brought George to their home, they had the Christmas meal together, and then they gave George presents and they watched as George so carefully unwrapped every present, he was so appreciative of it. And when they got George in the car to take him back home, and he spoke up from the back seat and he said, are these presents really mine, they're mine to keep? And they said, yeah, George, we've given them to you. They watched as he began to rewrap every one of the presents, he says, you guys have got to take me to the GW grill. They pulled into the grill, and they walked in and there was Billy the Greek, he was always behind the counter. And George looked at him, listen to what he said. He said, "Billy, you've always been good to me, and now I can be good to you too. Merry Christmas." And on the spot, he gave Billy every one of his presents, he gave them all away. Why? Because he was grateful, he was grateful to those who loved him, and he wanted to share in that, and that gratitude led to generosity. So that is part of what Paul is teaching us, no matter how rich or poor you are, but especially if God is blessed you, to recognize with gratitude, it all comes from him. He literally gives us everything in our lives, shouldn't this stir our hearts? Don't we want to protect ourselves from seeing our joy stolen like this?

Tim Lundy: [00:31:39] Look how he tells us to do it, though, he says, so if you've been blessed like that, do good. Literally, do good, go help someone. Be rich in good works, don't just be rich in your bank account, be rich in the good work you're doing and the people you're helping. To be generous, and I love this line, to be ready to share, to live in a way that you're in a heart of generosity, you're looking for ways to share, you're always ready to share. It's not something that you're always telling yourself, oh, I wish I could do that, or maybe some other time. No, you've just got this mindset that you go, man, I've been so blessed by God, I want to do things that actually impact people, and I want to give in a way that I'm ready to share. And then he says, do you know what happens? They store up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so they may take hold of that which is really life. You're actually investing in eternity; you're actually investing in the things that matter most. This is such a good passage for us because I think so often, we're not ready to share, so often our joy is stolen. So Paul warns us and says don't live that way, don't allow that to happen.

Tim Lundy: [00:33:01] Here's the third thing with that, generosity attaches our heart to what matters most in life, generosity has this way of attaching. And again, these are the words of Jesus again, he says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." And Jesus is just teaching us in that, there is this principle that whatever you give to, whatever you donate to, whatever you give money to, whatever your treasure, when you give it, you know what happens to your heart goes with it, it just happens every time. And I promise you this, just test it yourself, if you start sponsoring a child, do you know what happens? It's not just that check you write or the money you send, man, you start caring about that kid. You start giving to an organization, the Healing Grove in our city, or City Team or Real Options, these groups that we partner with, when you start giving to them, you know what, you start tracking with it, you start caring about it, you start thinking about the homeless in a different way, you start thinking about the unborn in a different way, you start thinking about the underserved in our community a different way, it'll just change your heart. When you give to your church, you know, some of the people that love our church the most are the ones they give to it, so their hearts are enmeshed here, I see it play out over and over and over, I know it has in my life. When I start giving, I start caring more.

Tim Lundy: [00:34:27] And in that process, do you see what God's doing? Through giving, he's using this tool to change us. See, we live in a world and over the next few weeks, you're going to see it commercial after commercial after commercial that tells you to consume, to take in, to get. And Jesus looks that he says, no, give, give it away, so that you're not a person who's always consuming for me, you're a person who actually cares about others. And generosity is that bridge that will connect you to the things that matter most in life, to the people that matter most, the things that God cares about.

Tim Lundy: [00:35:14] As we do that, the fourth thing, generosity is a doorway to point people to God, it's a doorway. When we're generous people notice. This is why Jesus said, when he talks about, "Let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works." They see you doing these things. They see you caring in a way. And you know what? Good works always take time and money, I've never seen good works that didn't require both of those, they take an investment of someone. When you do that, "They give glory to your Father who is in heaven." They can't help but notice it.

Tim Lundy: [00:35:48] You know, I talked about it last week with the early church, the church in Jerusalem. You talk about a church that's against the odds, against the culture in a lot of ways, a church that so many people, they would look at it and they didn't believe in that church and what they believed in. But look how it says in it, this church, they worshipped together at the Temple each day, they met in homes for the Lord's supper, they shared their meals with great joy, this church was marked by joy and generosity. In fact, a previous verse said if anybody had a need, they would sell something so they could help each other, "All the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of the people." Do you notice what they're saying? That's not talking about the people of the church, that's talking about the people looking at the church, people in the outside culture that didn't believe like the church, that didn't practice like the church, that looked at them and frankly thought they were crazy with what they believed, but they had goodwill toward them. Do you know why? Because they were generous. because they gave their life away, because they were willing to share their resources. And look what happened as a result, "And the Lord added to their fellowship those who are being saved." It was this a revival that took place.

Tim Lundy: [00:37:02] Guys, I think this kind of living has got to mark the church today, especially as we see the culture changing in so many ways, they don't believe like we do, and they look at us and they think a lot of our belief systems are crazy. One of the most profound ways that we witness to the world, is how we live with joy and generosity, how we give our lives away.

Tim Lundy: [00:37:27] You know, a few years ago, I remember there was a New York Times op-ed piece, and it was a tribute to a doctor, it was written by Nicholas Kristof. And if you've read any of Kristof's stuff, he's not an evangelical, he wouldn't identify in those ways at all, but he wrote this piece called A Little Respect for Dr. Foster. And in it, he talks about I'm not an evangelical Christian, but I've truly been awed by those I've seen in so many remote places who are out there combating illiteracy, they're combating warlords, they're coming up against famine and disease, they're humbly struggling to do the Lord's work as they see it. And then he focuses on Dr. Stephen Foster, this 65-year-old white-haired missionary service surgeon who had lived in Angola for thirty-seven years, and a large period of that time, the Marxist regime had persecuted him. He says of him, he says, one of his son’s contracted polio, a daughter survived cerebral malaria, the family nearly starved when the area was besieged during the war, and Dr. Foster insisted on sharing the family rations with one hundred famished villagers. Kristof concludes, the next time you hear someone at a cocktail party mock evangelicals, think of Dr. Foster and those like him, those folks who don't just proclaim the gospel, but they also live it. And he's just talking about respect, he says they deserve better. This doctor, who has an organization, Hope For Angola, who used agriculture, and medicine, and the gospel. See, when we live these kinds of generous lives, people notice, they see it, it makes a difference.

Tim Lundy: [00:39:24] The final point I'd say on it is, generosity changes our outlook to become truly joyful people. Maybe you're struggling with joy, start with the generosity and see how it changes you. Proverbs puts it this way, it just describes, and it says, "One gives freely, yet grows all the richer." The person who's giving away, they're growing richer in life. "Another withholds what he should give, and he only suffers want." He never has enough. "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and the one who waters will himself be watered."

Tim Lundy: [00:39:59] I love how Paul talks about it because he talks about just our giving, and he's talking about in your weekly worship, a core part of your life, you need to give, but look how he sets it up. He says, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." I love how Paul describes it and how God sets it up, frankly, that he says no one's going to force you to do this, every person has to make their own decision, it's not under compulsion. And as you look at it, I mean, God could have set it up that, you know, as soon as you become a Christian, he does an auto-debit on debit on all your funds, that every week just immediately disappears with that. He could force this on us, but he doesn't want to do that. Why? Because he wants us to make that choice. He wants us to experience at a brain level, at a core level, what generosity does.

Tim Lundy: [00:41:00] He wants us to literally become this word, cheerful giver, the word there is hilaros, it's what we get in English hilarious, it's like a laughing giver. It's like when you're giving is that ho, ho, ho, as you give. And, you know, for many of us, maybe we give it's not ho, ho, ho, it's oh, oh, oh, we're feeling it. Paul says, no, God wants to do something in you that he's changing you, that as you give, you're feeling that joy. And as I say that, I recognize, man, this is a process, I love how it's described as a journey of generosity. And the first part of the journey is nobody forces you, but Jesus looks at it and he says it's a better way of living, it points people to God, it changes your heart, it protects you from having your joy stolen. It literally changes you, that as you give your feeling that joy, that cheerfulness, that I get to be a part of what God's doing.

Tim Lundy: [00:42:15] So let me ask you, just an evaluation, a few questions, and this is just for you personally. We're going to do like last week, some personal evaluation, and then some action points.

Tim Lundy: [00:42:27] First thing on evaluation, I would just say, where are you on your journey of generosity? And I'd ask you, just be honest with God and yourself, this isn't for anybody else. But as you look at your life, you go, you know, my journey of generosity, how I live in this way, how I give in this way. Have you even started on it? Are you pretty behind in the journey? Maybe you've taken a few steps, but you want to step out more. Here's the beauty of God's grace, just like that last verse, God doesn't force anyone. God's not going to compel you. God's not going to make you do something you don't want to do. So even now, you might be feeling defensive, God's not going to force that. But my question is, based on everything scripture tells us, based on what science tells us, based on the fact that Jesus literally says these words, it's a better way to live, why wouldn't you start that journey? Why don't you be honest with yourself, and be honest with God about it?

Tim Lundy: [00:43:34] And then maybe ask yourself, what's keeping you from being a generous person with your money, oh, here's an even harder one, and your time? A lot of people are generous with money, but man, we can be stingy with time. And yet what's keeping us from that? Maybe you need to look at your budget, or your calendar, or your consumption?

Tim Lundy: [00:43:59] And then as you do that, what tangible steps do you want to take this coming year? What's a tangible way that you can go, you know what, I want to start the journey? And when I say tangible, it's like real, not just sentiment, not just thinking about it, because you're not going to experience the joy unless you actually do the journey, unless you actually take the steps.

Tim Lundy: [00:44:21] And so let me give some action steps for all of us. Pretty simple, here's the first one, write out your generosity plan and commit it to God. This is a perfect time to do this, you've got all next year. Maybe next year you want to go, you know, I want to take the next steps in it. And so maybe it's a budget plan, maybe it's a goal, naybe it's an amount, something you go, yeah, I want to give that away. Maybe it's a group that your heart is drawn to, that you go, man, I want to serve with them, I want to give to them. But do this, write it out, and then commit it to God. Don't just think about it, don't just have the sentiment, actually write it out.

Tim Lundy: [00:44:56] The second thing I'd say is, take one of the gift boxes that we have as a church and use them as a generous invitation to your neighbor and friend. You say, what gift boxes? Well, I'm glad you asked. We have created some gift boxes, we've done this in the past, it's just a little box, The Joy of Christmas. And in that, here's what I'd encourage you to do, put some cookies, maybe some candy, maybe a gift card, I would also ask you, put in this card, put in our Christmas Eve invitation, and take it to a neighbor or a friend. It's just a simple, tangible way of being generous, but also sharing the good news.

Tim Lundy: [00:45:39] The third thing I'd ask everybody to do is, would you ask God to give you an opportunity to bless someone in an unexpected way this Christmas? As your thinking through, and we want to go on a journey of generosity, just one thing I like to do from time to time, and this is a great season, if you'd stop and go, God, is there somebody that I could just bless, that I could be that kind of ready-to-be generous person? And I would be ready to give that resource, I'd be ready to help them out, I'd be ready to give toward that. We do this as a church all the time, right now we've been collecting toys as part of the toy drive that we want to give away to underserved families in our community. If you come to our Christmas Eve services, the offering that we will do that night, it's going toward City Team. Because I love City Team, who works with the homeless, they're starting to renovate some apartments so that families, instead of being divided up when they're in shelters, moms could be with their kids. But it's going to take some money and resources, and so we just decided that our Christmas Eve services, man, the money will go toward that. And so maybe we could be praying about that and thinking about it. And maybe you'd ask, you'd go, Tim, didn't you just say we're a little bit behind as a church? Yeah, but that whole service, everything about it, we want to model what we're talking about, let's be generous in this. God will take care of us, he always has. And so maybe you could be looking around going, yeah, where could I give to that, who could I give to in an opportunity this year?

Tim Lundy: [00:47:10] Folks, this whole Christmas story is about gifts, it's about giving. And I told you the wise men gave a great gift, but the person who gave the greatest gift is actually God in the story. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his Son." (John.3.16) Folks, we were made to be generous because we were created in the image of our God, and he loved us so much, he gave his Son. And Jesus loved us so much, he gave his life. The greatest journey of generosity was from a manger to a cross, of a Savior who gave his life away every step of the way. And as we give, we get the opportunity to point people to him, but also to become more like him. I encourage you, if you want to experience joy this year, imitate Jesus, embrace the life that he calls us to.

Tim Lundy: [00:48:15] Will you pray with me? Father, I thank you, I thank you for Jesus, I thank you for his generosity. I thank you, Father, that you loved us enough to give your Son. I pray, I pray that we would be generous people, I pray you'd use this season as a catalyst for generosity. I pray that we would show this to the world, and show you to the world, through the way that we live this out. And we pray this in Christ's name. Amen.



Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032
408.997.4600