Category Archives: Pastors

A Generous Life

What does a generous life look like? This has been a question I’ve been spending some time with lately. “A Generous Life” is the theme for the 2023 Stewardship emphasis at FBC Columbus (Sept. 25 & Oct. 2) but it’s also a terrific goal for us as Christ followers.

Are you living a generous life? Consider that question. Don’t be too quick to dismiss or move past it. Think about it. But I have to warn you, it can be convicting!

I believe a generous life is within reach of each of us when we find its roots in who we are becoming in Jesus. In John 14:9 Jesus shares a conversation with his disciple Phillip. Philip has said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” To which Jesus responds, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” It’s easy to skip past this insight, but let’s not do that. When we see Jesus, when we know him, experience him, discover more about him; we are in fact looking at the very nature of God. Jesus is God. God is Jesus. That’s what he wanted Philip, and what he wants us to know.

So, what do we see in Jesus? We see one who is generous. He is generous with his time, with his attention, with his capacity to heal, to forgive, to give people a second chance. Jesus is generous with his love. Why? Because God is generous. God is at God’s very nature a giver. “For God so loved the world that He gave . . . (John 3:16)”

Living a generous life is not about being rich in the ways the world measures richness. It is about how we share our resources, but those resources include so much more than our financial wealth. We, like Jesus, are called as his followers to be generous with our time, our attention, the gifts God has given us, our love, our extending forgiveness.

What is a generous life? It’s a question answered in multiple ways. You know it when you see it. And you also recognize it’s absence in the lives of others you see. For example, when someone is too guarded with his or her time, talent, or treasure generosity is most likely not to be found. If we are more concerned about our “boundaries” or “being taken advantage of” or not doing more than “contractually required” – generosity is not part of our obvious makeup. It just isn’t.

I write this rather bluntly because it’s something I’ve had to learn. I strive to live in more generous ways as I continue to mature in Jesus. For me, one who is inclined to guard or measure energy as an introvert, or time as a busy person, or investment as a thrifty person; this has meant allowing Jesus to rule my day, my calendar, my checkbook – my life.

If you are living a generous life in today’s western, consumer culture of “me, my, and mine” (the unholy trinity) – or just trying to; good for you! You are swimming upstream against a fast cultural current. But you are also swimming the strokes of Jesus, the ways of God, and the faith of a Christ follower.

We need more generosity in our world today. We just do. We need it in the Church and outside the Church. We need it in the workplace, the neighborhood, in our schools and helping institutions. Jesus invites us to grow into this characteristic of his – to make it our own, to live generously. Will we? That’s the rest of the story that remains before us to be written. Let’s write it well.

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The Ways We Say “Thanks”

Expressing thanks can and does take many forms in the diversity of the human population. There is a part of our inner being that causes us to want to express gratitude toward those who have done something for us, meant something to us, impacted our life, or helped us along life’s way. Yet, the ways we give expression to this need for thanks giving are as unique as our personalities and DNA.

Let’s consider some of the ways the sharing of thanks takes form:
Gift giving is a common means employed. The gift is symbolic of whatever gratitude needs to be acknowledged. People can spend vast amounts of time pondering just what the right gift should be. There’s a bit of risk here, because the spirit in which gifts are given and received are not always aligned. Gifts given with all sincerity can be overlooked or under appreciated, making the gesture fall short. As a rule, I think all gifts (even those that perplex the recipient) should be received with graciousness.
Cards can be a frequent expression of gratitude. In cleaning out some files recently I discovered a whole group of cards and notes I’d received. Reading back through them was a trip down memory lane. I not only relived the event, but did so in connection with those with whom it was shared – those who sent the cards.
Hand Written Notes might companion a card, giving it an even more personalized stature. Or such notes might be in place of a card. This medium is rare in today’s world where texts and instant messages have taken over. A hand written note conveys an investment of time and self that warms the heart. The notes that are homemade have carried special meaning for me – whether sent from a grandson or a friend.
Verbal expressions are another means of thanks. These can be informal, as in “I want to tell you what that meant to me”, or formal – in the context of a speech or public acknowledgement. When shared interpersonally, face to face, such efforts span the chasm between people in a way I assume makes God smile.
Acts of Kindness or Service make the list. Have you ever been taken out to eat as an expression of thanks? Had someone step in to take care of a chore or task that is usually yours? This type of thanks giving is a primary language for some.
Bonuses or Monetary gestures are often employed in the business world. The intent is to show someone that their worth is valued, and their service acknowledged. These are practical, bottom line kinds of gestures which can be greatly appreciated and helpful. One hopes they are companioned by some of the softer expressions referenced above.
Receptions, Parties, and Gatherings are also often used for such thankful sharing. We are social beings and find reasons for coming together around food and fellowship, to commemorate friendship and relationships that have built into our lives.

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The Ways We Say Goodbye

I have long been a student of human behavior. Even as a kid I can remember thinking about how people said goodbye in such different ways. Whenever Dad called the house from work and one of us kids answered, he was pretty cut and dry. He stated the purpose of his call, asked his questions and hung up. I hardly ever remember my dad formally saying goodbye. Even when I watched him at work, taking orders over the phone, he would conclude the call with something like, “Well, Ok then” and drop the receiver.

My mother made much more of a production of saying goodbye. She would insist on a hug and kiss on the cheek, and demand reciprocation. She lingered over the goodbyes she gave her children and grandchildren. You could not in good conscience depart her home without participating in the goodbye ritual.

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Life in 3D

For several years I received an in office visit from a traveling salesman inviting me to try some curriculum and services provided by the publishing house he represented. Although I never did make a purchase, he continued to stop by, and we often had interesting conversations. This man had been a local church pastor in a previous chapter of life and carried his understanding of that experience with him. He would say things like, “How are things going Pastor Dan? Are you busy with the 3 D’s?” “The 3 D’s?”, I would ask. “Yes, you know the 3 D’s of pastoral ministry: death, disease, and dysfunction. That’s what pastors always have to deal with.”

I try not to carry such a pessimistic view of the pastoral vocation, but I can appreciate where he was coming from, having had a fair amount of exposure to those 3 D’s over the years. And it’s telling that his reference has stayed with me through time.

This week the United States surpassed the one million mark for lives lost to Covid-19. As I have with each 100,000 milestone, I wanted to acknowledge this one. I choose to do so by assigning the coronavirus those 3 D’s my friend introduced me to. Death, disease and dysfunction have certainly been companions of the virus. One million (and counting) is now the number associated with deaths, in this country, due to Covid-19. World wide the number is much higher. The disease is still circulating. Thankfully not with as much potency locally as the devastating outcomes of before. This is thanks to mitigation efforts including new treatments and vaccinations, along with a higher communal immunity level, due to the prior widespread contagion of the virus. Many of us have had it. More continue to yet today. Dysfunction? Well, surely I don’t need to relitigate the multiple ways dysfunction has companioned the pandemic! Yes, that D is well represented.

My salesman friend has offered an apt description of the past couple of years, and those of us less impacted would do well to remember the many who continue to grieve as they attempt to put their lives back together. But, just as I didn’t want to yield to his description of pastoral ministry, I would rather add a few of more “D’s” to our vocabulary when it comes to our future with Covid than leave it with just those three. Determination is word that comes to mind, as in let’s be determined to move forward doing better by one another and public health in general. We can add discernment, as we learn to listen, watch and promote patient engagement with one another in a mid or post-Covid world. How about discovery as an option? We can discover new opportunities, new expressions of community and compassion in these emerging days. Development may lead us to better cooperation and building better responses. Decency is due all in our common humanity. Being diligent in our hygiene, health protocols and consideration of our neighbor can’t hurt. Maybe this can all contribute toward dynamic changes in how we treat the next crisis of life?

Finally, I look to the Divine One – whom I know as God and Creator, our Savior Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – with humility and intercession, asking God’s grace for our nation and world. What other “D’s” would you add to the conversation?

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An Easter Foot Race

Each of the Gospels has its own unique emphasis as it shares the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. In John chapter 20 we are told how Peter and John ran to the tomb after Mary reported it was empty. Verse four says, “The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Why was this detail of having arrived first, important to John? Did it give him bragging rights? “I beat Peter to the tomb!” I have often puzzled over this aside within the Easter story. On Easter there was a race and John outran Peter. It seems like the kind of detail one commits to memory around a life changing event. It’s the event that is important, but it’s importance is mirrored in the details that are remembered around it. For John, outrunning Peter was one of those details.

But they were not the first to run that morning. Backing up to verse two we see that Mary Magdalene was the first to run. She ran from the tomb to tell Peter and John what had been discovered: the tomb was empty. They ran to the tomb to verify her claim and see for themselves. Lot’s of running.

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