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Think back to the last time you did something nice for someone? Do you remember the urge to tell a friend, anyone, what you had done? Did you feel like the generosity loop would not be closed until you had been recognized? Did you know that the Bible speaks directly to this issue? Here is what it says:

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

This phrase shows up three times in Matthew chapter six. Three times Christ tells us to take a very good thing and keep it a secret. Why would He do this? Well, before we talk about the “why”, I think it’s important that you know what three things He addressed. Here they are:

 

1. Giving

“So When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets to be honored by others. Truly they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2

Don’t discount this verse as though it’s only speaking to third-world missions efforts. Think about the time when you mowed your neighbors lawn, watched your friends kids while they went out of town, etc. We like to talk about the good things we’ve done or given.

2. Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you , they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5

The most overused phrase in the Christian language is “I’ll be praying for you.” Before I get stoned in the streets, this is a good thing to say but only if it’s true. When it is not a true statement, it’s often used to make ones self look spiritual in the midst of someone else’s trouble or pain.

3. Fasting

“When you fast , do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:16

How many times have you heard “I’m sooooo hungry!” during a fast? We are so geared toward bringing attention to ourselves that we will manipulate conversations to highlight our sacrifice.

 

There is another phrase that shows up three times in Matthew chapter six:

“…they have received their reward in full.”

When you bring attention to yourself in these moments, it takes the place of heavenly treasures. Is it worth it? Aside from the heavenly treasures, why would Christ tell us to keep these great things a secret? Consider these three statements:

  • When we do not take credit for generosity, God can be the only one identified as supplying our every need.
  • When we do not demand attention with our wordy prayers, God can be the only one credited with answering our simplest cry.
  • When we do not distract with the complaints of fasting, God can be the only one praised for moving mountains with a mustard seed of faith.

When you keep your giving, prayer and fasting a secret, the believer stays humble and God is glorified.

Please don’t be tempted to take credit the work that God wants to do through you. Otherwise, you will receive your reward pre-maturely and make less of God in the process.

Read Matthew chapter six for yourself. What else do you see in this chapter that is important for the believer to understand? Comment on this post and share.

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If the church were like Starbucks…

Conversations Would Be Natural

What else are you to do while you’re waiting to pick up your grande Italian roast with steamed cream and two raw sugars? I find myself interacting with the people around me. Most of them I’ve never met but for some reason it’s easier to strike up a conversation when you have one small thing in common such as down time while waiting for coffee. Imagine a church where your age, ethnicity, life stage or sins from the previous day didn’t get in the way of real, authentic interaction and friendliness. That church would be one that you couldn’t keep people from.

Hang Outs Would Be Regular

Walk into any Starbucks, nation-wide, and here is what you’ll see: Mom’s meeting up for some much needed time away from the kids, business partners talking through strategy, college kids doing homework, people reading books, musicians working on songs and just about everyone else doing everything else in between. Coffee shops have become the default meeting place in our culture. Can you imagine how cool it would be if our communities viewed the church as being the obvious choice when it comes to meeting and interacting with their friends?

The Product Would Be Consistent

Starbucks must have hundreds of different mixtures of coffee, milk, syrup and sweeteners but without fail, you can count on the Pumpkin Spice Latte in Atlanta tasting the same as the identical drink in Seattle. Now, churches have different flavors and that is to be expected…But can you imagine that if the when the culture looked at the church, they saw one unified and consistent message? At it’s core, the Evangelical church should be known for the saving grace of Jesus Christ as opposed to the other things that we have become synonymous with. The things that we are FOR communicate a much stronger message than those things that we are against. We should make decisions based on what is right and pursue righteousness at all times but it is not our job to bloody up the culture with stones of thought and interpretation in an attempt to see life change. Satan is the author of confusion and right now our culture is extremely confused in regards to what the church is all about.

The Consumer Would Be Loyal

Over the last decade or more, Starbucks has become a way of life. You’ll find me there at least 4 days a week, sipping on my coffee and writing a blog post or reading. The environment is comfortable, the conversation and meetings are good and the coffee is consistently tasty. Because of this, I am a loyal fan. Now, stretch your mind with me for a minute and imagine a community that was so in love with environment, so incredibly passionate about the Gospel and so utterly devoted to the relationships, that they made ministry and their commitment to the church a way of life!

The previous statements are in no way minimizing nor referring to the power of the Gospel. The bible never said “I will serve hipsters coffee and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The church is unique, set apart and the stage is set for revival but it will require us to be thoughtful in how we approach the world around us.

In a few constructive and encouraging words, how do you think we can do a better job of making the church a place that our community loves to be a part of?

 

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We made the move from Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Yorba Linda, California a little over 4.5 years ago. It was a giant leap for us both personally and professionally but we absolutely love it! As I was sitting here at a coffee shop, reflecting on all that God has blessed my little family with, I thought I would share the top 10 reasons why I love this place:

*In no particular order

  1. My Church

    Crosspointe is such an incredible place. The people are so passionate, compassionate and thoughtful. They give me the honor of leading them in worship most weekends and there are very few other places I’d rather be in the world than singing with my family.

  2. The Weather

    This sounds obvious but the weather never quits!!! It can get pretty hot at times but for a majority of the year we sit somewhere between 70 and 90 degrees. There’s very little rain, never any snow and the heaviest jacket that most people own has a matching pair of tear-away jogging pants!

  3. Disneyland

    I don’t know if it’s because I was deprived of the Disney experience as a kid (just joking mom!) but I absolutely love it! My kids love it, my wife loves it and one day I will devote an entire top 10 list to this magical place!

  4. The Food

    Southern California does every cuisine really well! There are great steak places, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Mongolian, Brazilian, Chinese, Mediterranean….and on and on! Oddly enough, the only two things I miss about the food in the south are Tex-Mex and Cracker Barrel.

  5. The People

    I love the authenticity of the people here. Whether good or bad, people are generally comfortable in their own skin. They are not afraid to be who they are regardless of how others might see them. This makes for some great relationships because honesty and vulnerability lead the way.

  6. The Beach

    Newport, Huntington, Laguna, Santa Monica, Corona Del Mar, Body boarding, surfing, whale watching, dolphins, sand, sun and total relaxation. You get the drift! (Ha….”drift”!)

  7. Los Angeles/ Hollywood

    Now, a lot of my SoCal friends might disagree with me on this one but I love the city. I even like the traffic! It’s weird I know but the city reminds me that I live in an area that is alive and active. Places like Hollywood, Burbank and other areas have such a rich and fascinating history when it comes to arts and entertainment and I love spending time there and soaking it up.

  8. The Visitors

    It’s the strangest thing in the world but I lived near Nashville, Tennessee for seven years and never had as many friends and family clamoring to come and stay with us as we do now. That may sound sarcastic, but I love that we live in a place that people want to visit and I love the added time that we get to spend with them.

  9. The Exercise

    Because the weather is so great, California is a very active place. People are constantly walking, running or riding a bike somewhere. It is also a very health-conscious culture. I would definitely say that my health has improved since living here. I am more active and more careful about what I put into my mouth than ever before!

  10. The Variety

    If I felt so inclined, I could start my day in the mountains (about 90 minutes east of where I sit) and go snowboarding. Then I could move over to Disneyland for lunch and ride a couple of rides. To wrap up my day, I could head to the beach for a walk on the pier or enjoy a sunset surf. SoCal seemingly has everything you could possibly want to do. That is, of course, until the BIG earthquake hits and “The Rock” (Dwayne Johnson) has to come save us all.

I’m a firm believer that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. The reality is that we live in an amazing world and there is beauty to be found no matter what corner of the world you live in. (With exception to Ohio…Ohio is the worst! #GoBlue) It’s all in how you see it!

What do you love about where you live? What makes it unique from the rest of the world?

I have two sons.

Ever since they’ve been old enough to walk, we’ve played this game where they climb up on something higher than the ground such as a bed, a chair or a piece of playground equipment and in complete disregard for the laws of physics, they jump! Thankfully, I’ve been there most of the time to catch them. Every time this happens, they laugh and run back to the launchpad to do it all over again. Again and again and again. Quite honestly, If I didn’t have other grown up things to do, my little guys would be content to jump, laugh and repeat ALL. DAY. LONG.

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Every now and then, I will be near them but not with them and hear the “hurt cry” coming from their direction. (The “hurt cry” is different from the “I don’t want to go to bed cry”) With my heart rate climbing, I race to the scene of the crime only to discover that one of my boys have jumped off of the top bunk, couch or countertop and hurt themselves. No one was there to catch them, but somehow they mustered up the courage to jump anyway. You would think that the bumped head, black eye or lego impaled foot would keep them from ever jumping again….but it doesn’t. They are relentless.

In Matthew chapter 1, God sticks his arms out and asks Joseph to take a huge leap. You see, Mary (his soon-to-be wife) had turned up pregnant and Maury Povich had declared that Joseph WAS NOT the father. (Maury Povich is not in the Bible) The law had required that she be punished or even killed and Joseph would be completely justified in turing her in, but because Joe is a good guy, he didn’t want to kill her. Instead, he had decided to end the relationship quietly. But then, Roma Downey from “Touched by an Angel” (also not in the Bible) shows up in a dream and tells Joseph that the Lord wants him to marry Mary anyhow. Go ahead Joseph…JUMP! Here is what the verse 24 says:

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. -Matthew 1:24 (NIV)

Against better judgement…against the law…against popular opinion, Joseph trusted the Lord and took a figurative dive off of the bed. 

I want to be like Joseph. I want to be like my sons. I want to fully obey God even when I don’t fully understand God. There may be times when I bump my head or scrape my knee but I don’t ever want my past experiences to prevent me from fully trusting in the future. You see, my sons have greater faith than their dad. They jump every time! They don’t ask the person catching them how much they can bench-press or whether or not they took their multivitamin, they just jump. Joseph didn’t ask for a glimpse of his future or for a spreadsheet explaining the effect his trust in God would have on his status in the community, he just jumped.

So the question is: Is God asking you to jump? Is is asking you to do something that seems illogical or impossible? Are you willing to trust that He will catch you? Because He will…EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!

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In Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 24 God instructed the Israelite farmers not to sweep over their fields a second time to collect grain that had been left after the initial harvest. He also instructed them not to harvest all the way to the edges of the field.

Why would God keep them from collecting and consuming everything they worked so hard to produce?

It’s so that the foreigners, the poor, the diseased and the social outcasts would have something to eat! In other words, there should be margin in our lives for the sole purpose of helping the least of these. I am convicted by my lack of margin and am even more convicted by our cultural ignorance when it comes to taking care of the foreigner, poor, diseased and social outcasts among us.

“Greed is the assumption that everything is made for our consumption.” -Andy Stanley