Thursday, January 19, 2017

Be a Truly Generous Person, and You Will Be a Truly Positive Person

Mike Hosey, An Elder
Generous people tend to be positive people. In fact, I can’t think of a single generous person in my circles who is also a negative person.  This seems to be true regardless of whatever their primary mode of generosity is.  Some people are generous with their time. They’re positive people. Some people are generous with their creativity.  They’re positive people.  Some people are generous with their money. They’re positive people.  But before you go protesting to me about my truth claim here, I will acknowledge that there must be people who are negative in their outlook and yet still engage in apparently generous behaviors. Perhaps. I just can’t think of any.

But the truth is that generous behavior is inherently positive behavior. Truly positive behaviors don’t come from negative mindsets, or negative spiritual states.

Consider how 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. It doesn’t say that he loves a giver who begrudgingly yields his things of value.  This is because the person who gives grudgingly does so out of pressure, or duress, or guilt.  Think about how you would enjoy your spouse’s intimacy if it was given to you out of pressure, rather than out of a true desire for closeness. Or think about how enjoyable an event might be if your friend went with you to that event because someone shamed him or her into going.

Interestingly, I have found that some of the most positive people are those who have given their monies cheerfully.  These people are a triple portion of generosity.  The reason is that in most cases they have already given of their time to get the money they are giving away. They have also already given of their creativity or talents in order to receive the money they are giving away.  When they give of their money they are also giving time and talent they’ve already spent.  How can such a person be cheerful?  Believe it or not, the reason has more to do with faith than it does anything else. Faith is strongly linked to positive spiritual states and mindsets.  A person who believes that God is in control and that everything will turn out o.k. no matter how bad it looks at any given moment is going to be demonstrably more positive than the person who believes that everything is going to go to hell in a handbasket and that all is lost. People who are cheerful givers believe that they are stewards managing a master’s resources, and that God is their never ending supply who takes care of all their needs, and will replenish what has been given away. So if you want to stay positive, exercise your faith, decide in your heart what it is that God wants you to give, then give it, knowing through faith that he will do more than just take care of you (2 Corinthians 9:6-11).

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Importance of Giving and Receiving Encouragement

Mike Hosey, An Elder
Very often, negativity is bred from discouragement.  Discouragement is that state in which there has been a dispiritedness, or a loss of enthusiasm or confidence. Life is full of barriers, setbacks, storms, problems, mistakes, sins, failures, difficult people, crimes, pitfalls and other difficulties that make discouragement inevitable. If you have positive, desirable goals or expectations of any kind, you will be disappointed and subsequently discouraged at some point along your journey in this world. When you’ve had enough discouragement and disappointment, negativity will be knocking at your door.

When that happens, you don’t need to open the door.  Instead, you need a shot of the opposite of discouragement. You need encouragement. Encouragement is rooted in giving someone enthusiasm, confidence, or hope.  It is helping a person to move forward in the midst of, or in spite of, all of those barriers, pitfalls, and disappointments.  But there’s something even more important in these two words than concepts like enthusiasm or confidence.  Notice that the root of both terms is the word “courage.” When you are discouraged, your courage has been removed. When you are encouraged, your courage has been restored.  Courage is having strength in the face of pain, grief, difficulty or fear.  And this may be why the bible puts so much emphasis on encouragement.  One of those places of emphasis is Hebrews 3:13, where the bible tells us to exhort or encourage one another daily so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and thus rendered ineffective in our Christian endurance. The command is that we should encourage one another.  Not that we are to simply receive encouragement from others, but that we are also to engage in the process of encouraging others. Doing this creates a double shot of the encouragement medicine for God's people!  It’s obvious that receiving encouragement from others helps us to realize our potential for victory as we walk out our faith.  But encouraging others will have the same effect on our own lives.  When we take the time to intentionally see the Godly positives in another person’s life, and to point out those positives, it is very difficult for us to maintain a negative outlook in our own life. You cannot effectively maintain discouragement in your own mind while at the same time pointing out hopeful things for your brother or sister in Christ that will also be true for you.

So how do you encourage your brothers or sisters? You point out to them how God has used them and is using them. You remind them of their victories, and of God’s plan for their life. You intentionally look for the things in their life that are uplifting and tell them about it.  And finally, you do uplifting things for them. So be of good courage (Psalm 27:14 KJV) and don’t open the door to negativity. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Staying Positive by Avoiding the Enemy of Goodness in your Life

Mike Hosey, An Elder
There is a very old saying that was popularized by the very famous 18th century philosopher, Voltaire, who was not a follower of Christ by any orthodox measure, and who frequently attacked the core doctrines of the church of his day. Although he did not pen the words, he did magnify their usage. In our day, the quote is rendered this way: “The good is the enemy of the great.” In today’s world many people take that quote to mean that because we settle for the good, we often miss the opportunities to become great. Perhaps there is truth in that. But the quote’s original construction has far more truth, and is far more tragically realized than the common understanding of its modern mutation. Its original construction was rendered by Voltaire this way: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Shakespeare captured the idea in English fully, when in King Lear, he wrote, “striving to better, oft we mar what's well." There are far too many people, who stretching themselves and every resource they have, to achieve the better car, or the better woman, or the better man, or the better house, or the great life, lose the joys of the truly great blessings they already have. It is often through this lie that people, families, churches, communities, or nations are destroyed. Satan will use this lie mercilessly. When the Bible speaks of lust, it speaks of a strong desire or longing. Lust does not solely refer to a fleshly sexual appetite. It can refer to any evil desire or appetite that exceeds Godly purpose. Consider that the people who lust for blood, or money, are not actually sexually aroused by those things. To give into lust is to bring upon oneself situations in which staying positive becomes profoundly difficult (James 1:14-15). And this is precisely why Satan uses such a lie that draws upon your lust. He does not want you to have a positive mindset, and he intends to keep you ineffective for Christ. It is terribly difficult to be effective at anything when one is negative.

In order to stay positive, it is essential to realize Solomon’s truth in Ecclesiastes 6:9, where he tells us that what we see is far better than a wandering appetite. The truth is that your wandering fleshly appetite will never be sated. The devil knows this, and he counts on it. So be thankful, and like Paul, learn to be content (Philippians 4:11-13), and it will be much easier to stay positive, and thereby, stay effective as a follower of Christ.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Learning to Stay Positive in Basic Training

Mike Hosey, An Elder
I learned a great deal when I went to the U.S. Army’s Basic Training in the late 1980s.  My drill sergeants taught me a lot of useful things that I would need to know if I ever had to attend to combat. I learned about land navigation, how to throw grenades, how to maintain a rifle, and how to use it to kill the enemy. I learned about physical fitness, first aid in a combat zone, how to talk on a radio, and how to cover and conceal my position. Thankfully, I’ve never had to use some of those skills, nor do I ever want to.  Interestingly, the most important and most valuable thing I learned in basic training had very little to do with any specific combat technique, but has been instrumental in every domain of my life since then. I learned that if I stay mentally positive, I can get through a whole lot of difficulty, and that I can go further, and withstand far more than I initially think I can in any given hard situation. Since basic training that concept of staying positive has been reinforced by realizing the effects of negativity.  I’ve allowed myself to be negative a few times, and I’ve learned that being so will negate any abilities that I might have, and will shorten or diminish my potential to get through difficult circumstances.

My first understanding of this came in the very first week of basic training.  The course is 8 weeks long.  By the end of week one, a soldier begins to think a great deal about his family and wanting to go home. I had to force myself to stay positive.  More specifically, I had to force myself to realize that the trouble I was enduring was temporary.  And not only that, I reminded myself of the reality that making it through the temporary difficulties of basic training would open up a world of opportunity to me.  In short, the long lasting prize at the end of basic training would be greater than the temporary relief of quitting. Being controlled by a worthy goal was far more valuable than being controlled by any present temptation. This is not much different from the teachings of Paul.  Consider his letter to the churches in Rome where he advises them that their present difficulties cannot compare to the glory that will be revealed later (Romans 8:18), or when he writes to the church at Corinth that our “light and momentary” difficulties are preparing us for an eternal glory that is “beyond comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

If we focus on the difficulties wrought by our flesh and sinful natures, we will be in a world of turmoil.  But if we attain a positive mindset by focusing on the Spirit of God, we will have life and peace (Romans 8:6, Romans 12:1-2).

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Christmas Peace for Everyone?

Mike Hosey, An Elder

Sometimes we misunderstand the bible because we read it piecemeal rather than as a unified whole.  For example, did the angels declare that there would be peace for all men when they announced to the shepherds that Jesus the savior was born (Luke 2:14)? Many people would say yes, but this is a significantly flawed understanding. Although it may be difficult to hear, it must be said that the answer is a resounding no.  The King James Version records this declaration to the shepherds as, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14 KJV).”  However, most modern translations, which use older text sources, will render that verse as a variation of, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14 NIV).”  Well obviously, God’s favor does not rest on all men . . . which is why the verse says “peace to those . . .”   

Of course this makes perfect sense if you interpret Luke 2:14 in light of other passages such as Matthew 10:34, or Luke 12:51-53. In those passages, Jesus clearly says that he didn’t come to bring peace to all of the human condition!

There’s a simple reason for this.  God cannot bring peace to a world that is full of sin, darkness, genetic dysfunction in which evil is passed from one generation to the next, or to a world that is essentially at war with him. The only hope for such a world is to remake it completely.  And this was God’s purpose.  Not to give us universal peace in a broken world, but to give people peace with him (Romans 5:1) so that we could be remade and restored to true purpose and relationship. When that happens, you will have peace.  This peace will exist even in the midst of the difficulty and chaos of our broken world (Philippians 4:7). 

This is the great joy of Christmas.  When a person realizes brokenness, and understands that God has set out to fix that brokenness, then peace will come in ways that are over flowing and so unstoppable that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.  God’s favor will then rest on those who are blessed with the acceptance of that truth.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Don't Miss the Opportunity to Enjoy Christmas!

Mike Hosey, An Elder
The most finite resource in the universe is time.  You have only 24 hours in a day, and you have only so many hours to live on earth. In an attempt to explain the value of time, it is often said that time is money.  But this is a very poor comparison. Time is far more valuable than money. You can always make more money.  If you lose your entire material fortune today, it is theoretically possible for you to regain that entire material fortune next week, or even tomorrow. But after a second, a minute, an hour or a day has passed, it is gone.  You cannot get another. Unlike money, where every dollar is essentially the same, every day is unique.  Each day has something different in it, and every day has potential for different experiences.

The Greeks had a more intuitive understanding of this than we do.  They used two different words to describe what English labels with only one word – “time.”  In Greek, the word for time is both Chronos, and Kairos.  Chronos is the word used to describe time in the sense that we use it most today. Usually, we speak of time as a quantity, and we divide it into calendars, and schedules, and agenda’s.  For instance, we may ask, “How much time (chronos) before I get off work?”  Kairos, on the other hand, was a word that filled time with opportunity, and had nothing to do with quantity. For instance, we might ask, “Did you have a good time (kairos) at your small group?” Kairos is seizing the day and taking advantage of the moment. 

Jesus uses this word in a number of places.  In speaking of the end times in Mark 13:33, he tells us to be on guard because we don’t know when the time (kairos) of his return will come.  In other words, he tells us to be vigilant and ready to seize the day and take the opportunity. Although the word “kairos” is not used in the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Jesus is clearly pointing out the concept.  Jesus enters the house of Martha.  Martha frantically goes about her duties of serving Jesus, and whoever else has entered the house with him. But her sister,Mary, sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to his teaching. This seems to irritate Martha, who asks Jesus to command Mary to get up and help.  Jesus simply responds that Mary has chosen the better portion. He doesn’t tell Martha that her choice of service is wrong, he simply tells her that Mary’s choice is better.  Mary chose “kairos.” She chose to seize the opportunity to enjoy Jesus.

As you go about your Christmas routines, ask yourself if you are intentionally choosing “kairos,” and enjoying the season. It will be full of opportunity, and there will never be another one exactly like it. Or are you slavishly trying to manage chronos without enjoying the opportunities that are relentlessly marching past you. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

INVEST with Illumination!

Mike Hosey, An Elder
One of the most fulfilling things a person can do in life is to invest in others. Everyone does it differently.  Some people invest in others with daily face time. Others do it with prayer. Still, others do it by being a helping hand when one is needed.  But there are a few other ways that we can all invest in people, regardless of our individual talents or leanings. 

One particular way is to invest with illumination. Consider the example of Jesus. In John 1:1-5 Jesus is called “the Word.”  That passage says that Jesus, The Word, was a light in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome him.  This is not really an amazing fact. Darkness has never been able to overcome light, and never will.  The darkest dark must flee from even the dimmest light, and the brilliance of Jesus has not dimmed one lumen since he first stepped into our world.
Interestingly, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:8 that we Christians once walked in darkness, but that we are now light.  He adds that we ought to walk as children of light.  That is, that we ought to walk like children of The Light -- Jesus. Let that sink in for a second . . . as Christians, we are taking on the role of Jesus in this world!

Paul was only echoing Jesus himself when he penned those words to his Ephesian brothers and sisters.  Jesus told us in Matthew 5:13-16 that we are the light of the world, that we can’t be hidden, and that we should let that light shine so that people in a dark world can see our good works, and as a result of seeing those good works, they will give glory to God! We may be considerably dimmer than Jesus, but even Jesus recognized that our dim lights would dispel the darkness of our fallen world, and thereby give glory to God. 

As we get the word of God into us, we will begin to live that word, and become a kind of embodiment of that word, just as Jesus was (and is) the truest embodiment of God’s word. In fact, you will become an inferior form of the word in this world, and be a light in this world.  Here is a final profound thought for you to consider regarding that reality:  In becoming those things, you may very well be the only scripture that some people will ever read.  You may very well be the only light that some people may ever see.  And you may be the last “Jesus” standing between a dying person, and a hell on earth or a hell in eternity.