Philippian Joy

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One of my partners in ministry

As I sat down to study over the last few weeks one thought has raced through my mind: during this time of transition, what type of man do I want to be.  It’s not a question of what I want to do or accomplish, but who I am becoming.  After a few weeks of studying, listening, and absorbing, I have found that I want to be a giving man, a praying man, and a joyful man.  The first two are fairly easily remedied.  I should pray more and give more, but how does one become joyful?  Quoting John Ortberg: “I am joy impaired!”  So I asked the question: What gave Paul joy?

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is packed with joy, but the circumstances of the letter was not.  Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel.  To pass the time, he picks up a pen and writes to a body of believers that understands what persecution looks and feels like.  In spite of his current condition, joy flows from his pen.  It was these very people who saw Paul and Silas beaten and thrown in prison on their first visit to Philippi.   They were also the people who heard that at midnight their songs and prayers filled the prison (Acts 16.25).  What gives a man joy that allows him to sing while in chains?  Philippians 1 gives us a glimpse.

It’s the joy of partnering with others.  Joy can be found in the people sharing the fox hole.  “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…” (Phil 1.3-4)  The Philippian Church was a vital partner in the ministry of Paul.  So much so that he would take a rabbit trail in a letter to another church, the Church at Corinth, to brag on the Macedonian churches.  

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in the service to the saints.” (2 Cor. 8.1-4)  

The ones who are doing ministry alongside him, gives him the joy to sing.  This week I was brought joy by:

  • Watching a soccer coach pour into her athletes, so much so that they call her their ‘soccer mom’.  The love of Jesus is being shown through her life.
  • Riding with a horse trainer talking about the opportunities he has been given this summer for clinics and competitions where he will have contact with more lost people than most people do in a lifetime.
  • Eating Mexican food with a good buddy talking about his future fatherhood
  • Talking to the youth ministry students at Ozark
  • Bringing my buddy, Penny-Dog to school and watching her love the kids…she is my partner in ministry.

The joy of partnership can fade circumstances and situations into the background.  The joy that is found in partnering to advance the gospel cuts through the dark, rises above the fog, and brings clarity and freedom.  Paul tells Timothy, in 2 Timothy 1.4, “I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy”.  Partnerships are what made Paul sing.

It’s the joy of grace.  Paul continues his letter: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” (1.7)  The greek word for joy, chara, is very similar to the greek word for grace, charis.  Over half the times the word ‘grace’ is used in the New Testament, it is by Paul in his letters.  It is a concept Paul cant communicate enough of.  These words also form the root of one of the words translated in Scripture as ‘forgive’, charizomai.  The point is that joy is not to be separated from grace and forgiveness.  Paul sings because of the grace he has been shown by God.  The gift of grace, extended to the chief of sinners, is a reason to sing.  Paul tells Timothy:

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of who I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as a an example for those would believe on him and receive eternal life.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever…Amen.” (1 Timothy 1.14-17)  

He ends that passage with doxology, a song.  Song flows out of the grace that he himself has been shown.  When is the last time your heart was moved to song because of a gift?  Scripture, song, and prayer have been composed in some dark places: Job’s trials, David’s retreat, Jeremiah’s tears, Jesus’ night of agony.  But song and prayer overflows in times of refuge and peace as well…”Shout for joy to the Lord all the Earth” (Ps. 100); “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Ps. 150).  Now Paul finds himself in the midst of both.  He is in chains but his heart is in joy.   He is drowning in persecution, but his heart is overflowing with joy.  The joy of being shown grace.

It’s the joy of being rooted in God.  Just like Nehemiah and David before him, Paul knew the source.  “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8.10)  and “…David found strength in the Lord his God.” (1 Sam. 30.6)  “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1.9-11)  Joy only comes through a relationship founded in Jesus Christ.  One of the byproducts of the Spirit, the fruits as Paul puts it in Galatians 5, is joy.  Paul’s joy is a direct result of his daily connection with God.  His joy comes through his relationship with Jesus Christ.  And he prays that the Philippian joy comes in the same way, from the same source, through the same work of Jesus.  

Joy is found despite what we are covered in, surrounded by, or in the midst of.  Paul had more things go wrong than most, still he was known by his joy.  What makes a man sing in prison, amid shipwrecks and beatings, abandonment and persecution, in a word: joy.

Forged Faith

imageFarriers have to be some of the toughest guys I know.  I have always admired their work and often been tempted (when frustrated at my day job) to pick up a hammer, file, and knife, and try my hand at shoeing.  I wouldn’t last a day.  But the ability to pick up a foot, trim it down, and fit a shoe is on my bucket list.  I am fascinated by the way a  shoer can shape and fit steel with pressure applied between a hammer and an anvil.  The shoe is forged and hardened, shaped and leveled for the purpose of protecting and supporting something unimaginably larger than itself.  One pound supporting 1300, forged and pounded to fit, support, and strengthen.

In the last few posts I have been trying to figure out what made the Macedonian Church worth bragging about.  The churches that we know about in the region of Macedon were places of substantial persecution, and know one knew persecution like Paul.  His list in 2 Corinthians 11 is pretty impressive.  Its important at this point to note Paul’s first time in chains in prison came in Philippi (Acts 16.23).  He had come because of an invitation to help the churches in Macedon delivered by a man in a vision (Acts 16.6-10).

Upon arriving in the leading city of the district (Acts 16.12), Paul found immediate success in ministry.  Lydia, a prominant business woman from Thyatira, came to faith soon after their arrival (Acts 16.13-15).  Then Paul messed with someone’s businesz.  After healing a slave girl of a spirit, taking away her masters way of making money, a riot ensued.  The leaders of the colony had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown in prison (Acts 16.23).  After their miraculous escape there they moved on to Thessalonica where they were saved from a mob set on hurting them by escaping under the cover of darkness (Acts 17.1-9).  They were followed to Berea by some of those rabble rousers from Thessalonica but the Bereans were still of good character.

So Paul’s introduction to Macedonia was a lot like his introductions elsewhere.  Paul seemed to find trouble most places he went. But Paul brags on the Macedonian church:

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 cor 8.2)

The church in Macedonia didn’t have it very easy.  They faced sever persecution from the outside and laziness (both theologically and practically) on the inside.  Suffering just as those believers in Judea, the members of the church of Macedonia faced persecution at the hands of their own countrymen (1 Thes. 2.14).  It was difficult to be a Christian in Macedonia and the danger didn’t stop on sunday morning,  The danger of laziness theologically faced them from inside the church.  Paul reminds them to stand firm and hold onto the teachings that Paul, Silas and Timothy had given them (2 Thes. 12.15).  It wasn’t just their teachings but their lives that showed truth that was being challenged (1 Thes. 2.8).  The Church was forgetting this example in their teachings and in their lives.  Laziness had crept into the church.

So what was Paul’s advice to a persecuted church?  What was he praising them for so far?  In a word: Endure.  He reminds them that, just because he was persecuted in his first trip there, it couldn’t be considered a failure (1 Thes. 2.1-2).  In the same way, the church must endure.  When beatings and floggings, and even death arises, endure.  When the church becomes lazy, undirected, and faces false teaching, endure.  When the people of the church aren’t acting like the body of Christ, pulling their own weight, endure.  Stand firm Church in all things and serve God.  The church of Macedonia was being pounded, shaped, hardend by the persecution in the region.  In the same way a farrier molds and beats a shoe into a shape to be used and to support, the Macedonian Church was serving their purpose through the process of being forged in their faith.  That is what Paul was bragging about.

Paul’s Recipe for “Good Enough”

I have never been around a group of people who can subsist for so long on so little as Cowboys. They can make do in any situation with the fewest tools and the least amount of supplies. There is a certain amount of resiliency and resourcefulness that drives the cowboy mentality.  I was helping in the roping chute at the Christian Youth Rodeo in North Topeka recently, when the barrier setup broke. The rubber stopper on the barrier was pulled through the eyelet and drug down the arena with the calf. Upon retrieval, it was noticed that the stopper wasn’t going to work. One of our judges, with the help of some of the dads, began to remedy the situation. The first thing needed was balin’ wire. It has been said that no toolbox is complete without “balin’ wire, WD-40, and Duct tape.” If it moves and shouldn’t use the duct tape or balin’ wire. If it doesn’t move and should, use the WD-40. The foundation of every cowboy fix-er-upper’s process usually involves one of these three items. With wire in hand, our judge, pulled out the exact size wrench for the job. (I can’t even do that changing my oil with 2 wrenches in the toolbox.) He carries around a half-inch wrench in his back pocket because “that fits everything I own”. Simple words.   A minute in a half later, the barrier was fixed and the rodeo resumed with a wire tied barrier. I was there this week, barrier still on and working. At our next rodeo there, in mid-July, that balin’ wire supported barrier will still be working. It will probably stay through the PRCA rodeo and on into next year because most cowboys understand the idea of “good-enough.” It works, it’s sufficient, and it does the job…its “good-enough.”

When I would run fence with my grandpa, I used to always tell him that when I grew up and had a ranch, my fence was going to be good-looking. Grandpa’s was rusted out, held up by old hedge posts with non-matching T posts (gasp). It was often fixed with pliers and wire (there it is again) and seldom was there not one loose wire. But it was good enough too keep cows in and good enough for Grandpa. He also drove an old-old-ford truck well past the time when he could afford a new one because his truck was good enough. But the three speed on the column, 25-year-old truck, with a ton of miles on it, still wasn’t to be trusted in my hands. He was the one who first introduced me to the phrase “good enough”.

I struggle with “good enough”. The understanding that what I have was enough to get me through yesterday, will be enough for tomorrow, and will get me through today. In scripture the word is “contentment”: a word that I struggle with. The feeling of joy and satisfaction based upon the promises and activity of God within my life and those around me, is something that escapes me often. I could list off 50 blessings in the life of a friend, but overlook the ones in mine. I can see great things in the lives of my friends, observe their facebook pictures and status’, and feel emptiness in my gut, knowing that I don’t have the things they do. Contentment is something that God desires for us.

When it comes to life and circumstances, Paul understood “good enough”. As I worked through 2 Corinthians and noticed that Paul took a detour [2 Cor.8.1-8] and bragged about the Macedonian Church (the Church at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea), I wanted to find out what made that Church so special that Paul would brag about it. I’m convinced that contentment is one of the qualities. I sat down to figure out contentment and thought it would be easier to communicate what it wasn’t. It isn’t worry, jealousy, envy or greed. I is a far cry from gluttony and anxiousness. But if its not all this…then what is it?

Contentment is “good enough”. The problem is that “enough” is a moving target. “Enough” is a very fluid term. With the economy the way it is, the job market, the instability of this world, enough is a scary thought. Paul, in the last part of Philippians, gives his recipe for “good enough”.

 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength. [Phil. 4.12-13]

It was the strength Christ, given to Paul through his relationship with Him, that gave Paul strength through all of the trials of 2 Cor. 11.16-33.   Earlier in Philippians 4, Paul commanded the church at Philippi to not “be anxious about anything” [Phil 4.6]. If I was Paul, there are a lot of things that would worry me, but his relationship with the Lord, through prayer and petition, rid his thinking of anxious thoughts. He gave the church some things to think about later on in the chapter [verses 8-9], but what his prayer life did give him was peace. The peace of God, which surpasses understanding, protected his heart and mind. [Phil 4.7] In the ancient world, the heart and the mind were synonymous. The heart was the place where thoughts, will, and emotions were set in place.

Contentment then, according to Paul, is a thought process that reveals itself through our lives. To be content we must first and foremost engage in an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father and allow him to give us peace. A peace which silences the shouts of this world, gives tranquility to tumultuous wills and desires, and provides focus to the identity that God has bestowed in contradistinction to the identity we look for in others. The peace of God overrides these things as it goes beyond our own thinking. Our thinking often tells us we need more and better. The peace of God tells us we have all we need in him and that is “good enough”.

The Poison of Jealousy

ImageFor 7 years now I have shown up to rodeos in a red dodge Dakota. With 190,000 miles, it could use a little work. All the major parts of the truck still work, yet with each trip I find more “subtleties” that go along with ownership of said Dakota. For example, the transmission works fine, as long as you don’t want to go backward. Somewhere in the 130,000 miles I have put on it, reverse bid the truck to go one without it. The most recent unique quality that has arisen is the electric windows. Either the window lock is stuck on, or the power panel is out on the passenger side. Don’t get me started on the tailgate, the passenger seat, the gauges, or the radio. Each character flaw and issue makes me want a new truck more and more. Not even new, just working and reliable. I watch my friends drive their new dually’s, their newer diesels, and feel a twinge of jealousy. I watch with envy as they can roll down both windows and back up. But my jealousy doesn’t stop there…

When I began fighting bulls, I told myself that I wanted it to be a ministry. I wanted to fight jr. rodeos and high school rodeos and do ministry alongside rodeo. But if this was truly the case, why then am I getting to do the very thing I set out to do yet feel jealous of guys getting URA, NFPB, or PRCA shows. I just got done doing a Christian rodeo school, will spend the summer at Rodeo Bible camps, and lead a small group of guys through Wild at Heart after rodeos during the summer. I am doing exactly what I asked God to let me do when I first started yet somehow it just isn’t enough now.

I struggle with jealousy. The “I want what you got” mentality can overtake us sometimes. As I said in an earlier post, I have recently tried to understand what Biblical contentment looks like. I am certain, jealousy is not part of it.

I hate what jealousy does to me. It is a cancer, a poison that rots me (Prov. 14.30). It kills from within (Job 5.2), strangling contentment and ultimately life. It pushes me closer to every other evil desire (James 3.16). It is a gateway sin. Jealousy gives bloom to theft, lust, arrogance and pride, idolatry, and others. Looking at others, wanting what they have, diminishes and undermines God’s role in our lives.  Jealousy never says enough, leaving me to desire things I don’t need and can’t afford, ultimately making idols out of things.

I hate what jealousy does to those around me. Nothing ruins friendships, families, and teams faster than jealousy. It tore apart sisters in Genesis 30, when Rachel was jealous of Leah. It tore apart Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 37. It tore apart the Church at Corinth when Paul wrote to them: “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?”

But most importantly, I hate jealousy says about me. In the previous verse, found in 1 Corinthians 3, Paul points out the root of the jealousy that divided the church at Corinth. The root of their jealousy is the same as mine: worldliness and immaturity; the worldliness that says that I must possess as much as I can and more than anyone else; the immaturity that says God’s gifts to others are somehow better than those He has given me. Jealousy reveals how far from Jesus way I often stray and how far from a transformed mind I possess.

Jealousy was at the root of the very first sin. You may not remember that first conversation between Eve and the Serpent. Satan says to Eve: “God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3.5) Translation: “God’s got it good, don’t you want it good too?” Eve wanted to be like God. Was she jealous of His position, power, knowledge, and authority? Yes. Jealousy was at the root of that sin, like it is so many of mine.

Combating jealousy is simple in theory and hard in application. Jealousy stems from an inadequate view of God. When we change our thinking about God, we change our actions. Theologians would say it this way: orthodoxy changes orthopraxy.   Right thinking leads to right living. When we believe that God is powerful to act in our lives, interested enough to do so, and good enough to provide good things, suddenly the possessions, gifts, abilities, and talents of others, are not desirable to us, for we have our own stuff to be thankful for. When we are able to see the blessings and gifts in our lives, we are able to celebrate without envy and jealousy those in the lives of others. This puts us on the verge of contentment.

My truck runs, I love the rodeo family and associations that I am apart of.   I love the people I have been blessed to get to know through my career and have got to see towns, cities, and states that I certainly would never visit without rodeo. God has blessed me greatly and every thought of jealousy that I posses is a slap to His gracious face.

That Three Letter Word

Joy is a three-letter word. Around mid-July, on ranches, farms, and arenas, 4 letter words are far more common. Rarely has that three-letter word come to mind in haylofts, stacking alfalfa bales when the mercury in the thermometer is boiling. Or when your good heading horse decides one day that the roping box is the last place it wants to be. When your dog pretends to go deaf in the middle of chores or when the lead cow doubles back just as she enters the gate taking the herd with her. It doesn’t come up when the baler, which you affectionately refer to as “el diablo”, is broke down yet again or the trailer blows another tire. For certain, that three-letter word wasn’t found on my lips today as barbed wire was taking off strips of my flesh and then a chunk of my tire. It wasn’t found this weekend as my cell phone went missing due to my own stupidity and my i watched a box of fencing staples glisten in the sun as my dog knocked them off the bed of my truck.   These were minor things compared to other joy stealers.  When the diagnosis of cancer comes, or the layoff that was rumored becomes a reality; when the stack of bills keeps getting higher or your kid hits the rebellious phase; when loneliness takes over and despair becomes entrenched.  These things make joy nearly impossible.

All too often we confuse joy and happiness. Happiness is the good feeling you get because things are happening right because of circumstances where as joy is the good feeling you get despite of the circumstances. Happiness comes and goes, but joy is constant. I am ashamed to say that joy is not something that I exude a lot of, nor is it something that I see a lot of in Churches. Apparently, there are a lot of people like me who fill the pews every Sunday with their hearts devoid of joy. This was not the case with the Macedonian churches.

Paul brags about the churches of Macedonia in the middle of his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. Paul, in trying to pick out what makes the Macedonian Church so special, highlights among other things, their “overflowing joy.” Where does contagious joy come from? How does joy become someone else’s bragging point? It goes hand in hand with another one of Paul’s points in 2 Corinthians. Not only were the churches praised for their joy and their generosity, but the severe trial they were under. Paul is seeing firsthand the severe persecution in Macedonia because he is writing 2 Corinthians from there (Acts 20.2; 2 Cor. 1.16, 23). He sees the trials and the persecutions, the threats from outside the church and the fear from within (2 Cor. 7.5). He brags about their perseverance under these trials at other times. (2 Thes. 1.4) Their joy was being tested everyday.

Just imagine the situation: rumors running around Philippi and Thessalonica about who the authorities were questioning now; wondering whether someone was just late for worship or whether they found themselves in chains; a simple knock at the door during prayer or dinner sending chills throughout the room. It was real life in Macedonia. People were imprisoned, beaten, or even dying, in Macedonia. Paul was well acquainted with their suffering even to the point of sharing in it (Phil 1.29-30). Yet their joy despite the circumstances would forever make its impact on Paul and find its place in scripture.

How did they do it? In spite of the every watching eye of the Roman authorities, the suffering at the hands of those opposed, the suffering in poverty, the fear, and the trials, how did they maintain their joy? I believe it has to do with the word joy. In the original greek, the word for joy is chara. This word is a cognate of the word charis, meaning grace. The Macedonian church understood joy because they understood what grace was. They knew that death was the punishment for sin, yet they were still alive…that is grace. When there is starvation and death surrounding them, yet the are still being provided for by God…that is grace. What is the only appropriate response to life where there should be death…joy. That is what the church at Macedonia understood and what I fail to understand often.

I am joy impaired. I struggle to put off a joyful vibe. When its too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, too expensive, too lengthy, too poorly constructed, or too difficult, my mood suffers. When I am hungry, thirsty, tired, exhausted, stressed, over-committed, underfunded, weak, or just apathetic, my mood suffers. My attitude is a slave to my circumstances, the exact opposite of joy. Joy is free, unbound, and liberated from the confines of circumstances. Joy transcends situation and condition.   Joy sets the temperature in the room, it dictates the feel and refuses to acclimate itself to its environment. Joy is a direct reflection of my proximity to the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 1.6) and a response to the grace given to me by God through Christ. John Ortberg, in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, says: “Joy is at the center of God’s plan for humanity and the center of who He is as a community!” (61) I need to have more joy!

Joy is cultivated by reacquainting ourselves with the grace that God has given us; reconnecting with the Holy Spirit that animates us; and by learning to embrace and utilize the gifts that God has blessed us with. The life we have in Christ, the breath in our lungs, the community we share, and our relationship with Him are all things that give root to our joy. Eternal perspective is what kept the church at Thessalonica and Philippi joyful, make it a point today to embrace the view from a heavenly perspective and watch your joy increase. As for me, I have a lot of work to do that involves me using a lot more three letter words.

Generosity

86159001227Nothing displays generosity than springtime on a ranch. Branding time calls for help from neighbors and friends alike. For a lifestyle that prides itself on individualism and independence, the branding pen is a place where everyone leans on each other, trusts the team, and depends on every other person there to accomplish the task. The task is completed by the good will and generosity of the community. I have never been to a branding where money was exchanged. In most cases it is a handshake and thank you. Oftentimes the favor is returned, never out of compulsion, but out of generosity. A generous heart is at the very center of the cowboy lifestyle.

I see it in the arena; bareback riders helping a competitor setting their riggin; bull riders pulling their competitions rope; parents helping their daughters main challenger rosin a goat string, or helping another kid with their horse; pushing calves in the roping chute, pulling gates, or helping a horse back into the box with no return expected is generosity on display. Some of these jobs are so bad to do, its impossible to be fired from them.  Its generosity on display.  Generosity is the action of service, via time, money, or giftedness, that is given with no anticipation of return.

Over the last year or so my relationship with the Church, the Bride and Body of Christ, could be classified as tumultuous. I love it more than ever, but question what it is. I went to Scripture to try to rectify God’s word with the opinions of those I know and trust. Trying to answer the question of “what the church is?” and “what should it be?” has been a fun and frustrating study. I feel like I know less now than ever, but one thing I do know is this: generosity is at the forefront of a healthy community.

There was one community, a region that was known for their generosity. Paul appreciated them so much that he paused in the middle of a letter to another congregation, the Church at Corinth, to inform them about the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. When I first read 2 Corinthians 8, I was really confused by Paul’s rabbit trail, but then realized he does it everywhere else. The New Testament contains three letters to churches in Macedonia (Philippians, 1 & 2nd Thessalonians) and each letter contains similar praises for the congregations, perhaps the most common praise is for their generosity. Thessalonica and Philippi were some of the leading cities in the region of Macedonia and apparently leading cities in the early church. Every time they come up, Paul is bragging about their generosity.

At the end of the letter to the Roman Church, Paul mentions how pleased the church in Macedonia was in giving to the poor in Jerusalem. (Rom. 15.26) In the aforementioned Second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wants the Corinthian Church to know about the generosity showed him by the churches in Macedonia. (2 Cor. 8.1-9) The generosity flows out of a place of severe trial, extreme poverty, but overflowing joy. (2 Cor. 8.2) The generosity (gk – aplotes) that Paul talks about, elsewhere in Scripture, denotes not only giving, but the attitude with which it is offered. The word is translated “sincerity” and “sincere devotion” (2 Cor. 11.3). The Macedonian Church was not only generous in the giving and support of the Kingdom, but sincere in their generosity. Should Cowboys have ridden the Roman Range, the Macedonian churches would have been the first to show up at the branding, the last to leave the chutes, the first with trash bag in hand, and the last to ask for attention.

When it comes down to it, I need to be more like the Macedonian Church. Paul makes no qualms about how this region of Churches furthered the Kingdom of God. My mission on this earth is to bring God’s Kingdom to every life I encounter and every place I go. My generosity is part of that mandate and mission. These churches found ways to be generous, though the odds were stacked against them. Their attitude, in the midst of suffering at the hands of others and in their own homes, remained generous. We often, despite far less desperate circumstances, hold on to our possessions with white-knuckle grip, or give them over begrudgingly. Scripture from the pen of Paul, holds up these churches as an example for the Church of Corinth to emulate, and us to follow as well.

Make it a point this week to find an opportunity to be generous with your time, money, or gifts. Help someone who can’t help themselves. Do it not out of an attitude of suffering or expectation of return, but follow the example of the Churches of Macedonia and do it out of sincerity and the grace that you have been given by God. Whether its helping change a tire on some remote highway, pushing calves in the hot sun, opening a door for someone at Walmart, or bringing a coffee to a co-worker, acts of generosity bring the rule and reign of God to this earth. The Churches of Macedonia understood the role they played in the mission of God. And we get to be a small part of this grand plan that God has in redeeming the world by showing generosity to the lives we encounter every day. Paul thought that it is worth writing about!