All I Want for Christmas...

As we dive into our 1more giver series, and begin to prepare our hearts for the Christmas season, I want to ask: Can you imagine this?

Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Revelation 21:3-4

This promised reality has been made possible by the gracious investment of God sending His Son, Jesus, to the world. Christmas shows us God’s heart for every single person. He desires that every person would flourish. Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a * rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10).

* Spiritual Capital - God dwelling among His people, and His people knowing Him completely and cooperating with Him fully.

 

Relational Capital - no more war or conflict between people; instead, perfect relational harmony and peace.

Physical Capital - no more death or sickness; instad perfect health for our bodies and environment.

Intellectual Capital - creativity and ideas abound.

Financial Capital - no more poverty or lack of any kind, but abundance of everything needed for a full life.

OIKONOMICS: How to Invest in Life’s Five Capitals the Way Jesus Did” pg. 98

 

Have you ever really stopped to consider Jesus’ investment? Can following Jesus give

us the rich and satisfying life today, before Heaven? Yes! The key is understanding that giving in the Kingdom of God is less about sacrifice and more about investment.

 

To solidify this learning during the holiday season, will you join me in a little experiment?

 

Here it is: Spend some thought time each week between now and Christmas, (alone, with others, perhaps with your family) and jot down some specific answers to the questions below.

 

Week 1: Spiritual Capital

What specific actions will I take this season to invest energy in following Jesus?

 

Week 2: Relational Capital

What specific actions will I take this season to invest energy in growing relationships

with family and friends?

 

Week 3: Intellectual Capital

What specific actions will I take this season to invest in ongoing learning, in creativity,

and in thinking deeply about things that really matter?

 

Week 4: Physical Capital

What specific actions will I take this season to stay or get healthy so that I can live and

love well?

 

Week 5: Financial Capital

What specific actions will I take this season to invest my finances so that the Kingdom

pursuits that I care about have the funding they need to be effective?

 

You are a giver. Invest your 5 capitals freely.

 

And, with an investors temperament, invest in your Kingdom Portfolio. Enjoy the

abundance! Our shared mission depends on it!

 

The Gift of Giving

What is a good investment today?

Over the last few years we have watched companies, banks and small business struggle and fail. We all have a friend or neighbor who has sold their home, downsized or moved away in hopes for greener grass somewhere else. The financial world is a mess and the risk is high in an unstable world economy.

Galatians  6:7-9 says, “You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

 

Investing in the lives of people with our time, talent and treasure for the glory of Christ is always a good investment. Numerous passages of Scripture challenge believers to serve. God has invested in each of us, distributing gifts by the Holy Spirit, equipping us to invest in others.

 

I admit there have been times when I’ve felt the nudge to act but let insecurity get in the way. We convince ourselves that we’re not qualified, that someone better equipped will come along to serve, someone with more money will give, or that we are just too busy to get involved. The inadequate feeling you might have when an “assignment” comes along – take comfort in it. That’s God telling you He wants you to step out and trust Him to show up. He’s not asking us to be perfect, a willing heart is enough. God will do the rest. Believe it or not, He’s called us all to much bigger things than what we feel capable of doing. That’s what makes comfort zones so boring and God’s work so awesome.

 

To minister effectively we must embrace a servant philosophy. The Bible says, "Consider others as more important than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). This is such a vast contrast to our consumer, financial driven society where the rich and famous are lifted up and the poor and humble go unnoticed. Each person, each soul, is so valuable to God. Much greater than our personal desires and dreams. The world will not remember us for how much we accumulated, we will only be remembered for the lives we touched both here on earth and in heaven.

 

Allow the hand of God to slow you down, open your eyes, and touch your heart that you might serve like Christ. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” Galatians 6:9

 

 

 

Talent

Know that you have everything you need to serve others. Do your best and trust that God has the rest.

 

Time

If you’re not seeing opportunities to serve, you’re too busy. Set aside some time in your schedule and pray that God opens your eyes to see the opportunities all around you. It doesn’t need to be something magnificent, in fact, it rarely ever is.

 

Treasure

In America we've become consumed with material goods. Do you realize that if you make $40,000 a year you are in the top 3% richest people in the world? It is not wrong to enjoy the blessings we've been given. However, God commands us to return a portion of what He's given to His kingdom work.

 

Find out where your salary ranks: http://www.globalrichlist.com.


 
 

Leadership is In You

The 7 basic elements of leadership in God’s Kingdom are in every Jesus-follower, and God’s idea of successful leadership may be different from our own.   
 

As a church, we’ve been examining what it means to be a leader – how God calls us each to influence and make a difference. In Higher Ground, we have the unique privilege of seeing how students lead in their own settings on a regular basis. Higher Ground exists to equip students with the skills they need to be life-long followers of Jesus, and included in that is the ability to lead well. It is so exciting to see students use their God-given talents to influence others and serve the Lord in their unique ways. Often we think that, in order to lead, we need to have a wealth of knowledge, a level of maturity, self-discipline, and a fully developed sense of confidence. As I work with students, I have found that to be untrue. In fact, it is when students are placed into leadership and mentored well that they develop the aforementioned skills. The act of leading others is a powerful, hands-on way for students to learn to trust God and understand how God uniquely made them.

 

This school year, students will have a multitude of ways to live out the idea of 1more Leader. We believe each student is able to lead well, as long as we don’t put leadership in a box. We give them space to serve and be creative and influence others according to their own gifts and talents. Here are some simple examples:

  • One student has a passion for reaching out to other students and encouraging them to engage in our community. She asked if she could send out postcards and notes to students when they aren’t able to come to Higher Ground or if they need encouragement. Absolutely!

  • On retreats and large group nights, we often do 2:2:2 partners (2 Timothy 2:2). Older students are matched with younger students for discussion, prayer, debrief, and mentoring.

  • Last year, our high school students organized and led the middle school girls’ Christmas Party and Spring Tea Party.

  • This fall, one of our students will be helping to facilitate FaithBuilders on Sunday mornings.

 

One of the most exciting things that we have going on is a Student Leadership Team that was started last fall. This group is open to any interested junior or senior in high school. Students meet once a month to talk about leadership skills and then to discuss and plan different aspects of Higher Ground. They lead Bible studies and worship times, plan service projects, have lead roles in their lifeGroups, and work to set an example for the younger students in Higher Ground. We have given them full freedom to use their creativity and influence to make Higher Ground a place where teens can fully experience the love of Jesus.

 

Lately I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned about leadership as I equip students to lead well.  Below are some lessons that God and our teens have been teaching me over the years.

  • Leadership is about being willing to experiment. The outcome isn’t always known, but if you don’t try, you won’t know the impact. I love this about kids! With a little encouragement, they love to take a risk and try something new.

  • My idea of success often isn’t God’s idea of success. I have seen plenty of ideas “flop” – or not measure up to what we hoped would happen. However,  the real success in those times is in how students work together, trust God, and grow in character. When we learn to notice the God moments in each thing we try, we begin to notice the things that God considers successful.

  • There is no one personality type that is better at leading than others. Each of us is part of a body and each part is useful. There is a spot, and a need, in God’s Kingdom for each person and their unique talents and gifts.

  • My expectations are often too low. I don’t expect enough from students, from myself, and from God. Great leadership happens when we are able to believe in what God can do in ourselves and in others.

  • God made us to work together, not in isolation.

 

I am sure there are plenty of other lessons, and I am certain God will continue to teach those to me this year as watch our young people follow Jesus.  What is your passion? What is your dream? What risk is God asking you to take? My prayer is that you adopt the attitude of a teenager as you explore those things this month – dream, be willing to take a risk, find a friend to help, and trust God for the outcome.

 

Kingdom Leadership

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At some point over the past several years, you may have heard Pastor Jeff or me talk about our involvement with The Pastoral Leadership Institute (PLI).  PLI began in 1999, and Jeff and I were a part of the first class that went through the four-year learning journey.  Since then we have participated on several different levels with PLI: we attended Board and Executive Development training, have been a part of the training team for PLI-International, and Jeff has served on the Board of Directors of PLI for seven years.  Our most recent involvement has been developing and creating a new curriculum for PLI-Missional Leader, a two-year learning community for pastors and their wives as well as lay leaders.  Emily Powers has been a key contributor to this new endeavor as well.  The cohort consists of 16 couples from around the US and Canada. The final time that this cohort will be together is October 14-17, 2014, and the Church will be hosting them. What an exciting opportunity to have these brothers and sisters in our midst!  


Would you join us as we pray for the gathering and for each participant?  We celebrate what God has done in their lives, their neighborhoods, and their ministries across the country. We look forward to what God has in store in the days ahead as we all continue to join Him in the work He is already doing.


Participants:

Dave and Marilyn Bottorff -- Darien, IL

Jeff and Cindy Corder -- West Unity, OH

Michael and Kristy Grannis -- Belleville, MI

Corey and Stephanie Grunklee -- Lubbock, TX

Bernie and Gretchen Huesmann -- Grafton, WI

Kelly and Katie Huet -- Milwaukee, WI

Luke and Courtney Jacob -- Racine, WI

Eric and Lisa Johnson -- Slidell, LA

Gene and Ann Johnson -- Port St. Lucie, FL

Tony and Lisa Kobak -- Jackson, MO

John and Cathy Koczman -- Santa Clarita, CA

Wayne and Cindy Lunderby -- Chilliwack, Canada

Cash and Tammy Myers -- Racine, WI

Phil and Heather Robarge -- Urbandale, IA

Eric and Sara Trickey -- San Marcos, CA

Tom and Sara Vanderbilt -- Whitehouse, TN


Coaches:

Dave and Diane Bahn -- Houston, TX

Ben and Kate Griffin -- Cottage Grove, MN

Jock and Gail Ficken -- Aurora, IL (Executive leaders of PLI)

Jeff and Amy Meyer -- Madison, WI

 

Leading the Way

Leading the way in preparing for your death is one of the biggest gifts you can give your family.  It is also a gift to yourself as the process naturally involves spiritual growth, and will allow you to follow Jesus’ example of responding in faith to God’s promptings.  Please know that discussing your wishes with family members is more important than any form you complete.  Without the conversation, the legal document could turn out to be worthless!


Since only God knows the circumstances of our deaths, we cannot foresee every decision that will come up.  However, we can prepare to the best of our abilities.  Here is a guide for families making ethical decisions at life’s end, written by Rev. Dr. Richard Eyer of The Concordia Bioethics Institute.

 

“If approached by a medical staff person about initiating or continuing life support measures, always ask to talk to the patient’s physician.  Asking the following questions may be helpful in making decisions compatible with the patient’s and the Christian decision-maker’s faith.

 

1.     What is the medical condition of the patient at this time?  You are asking for an objective medical evaluation, not a philosophical opinion.

2.    What is the prognosis?  You are asking whether the patient is expected to recover or not.

3.    Is the patient dying at this time?   If the patient is not dying it would be morally wrong to intend to cause death.

4.    Is the patient awake?  If so, you will want to discuss his or her condition with the patient and offer to pray for guidance before a decision is made.

5.    Is the patient in any pain at this time?   You are asking whether pain gives urgency to your decision.

6.    If a decision is needed immediately, err on the side of life, not death.  If a decision is not needed momentarily, say, “I need time to talk with my family and/or pastor and I will call you within ________ length of time.”

7.    If the situation allows, leave the hospital and meet with your family and pastor or trusted friends in a prayerful environment.  The distance from the hospital environment sometimes helps you think more clearly.  Make sure you tell the nurse you are leaving.”

 

Living life connected to Jesus sets us apart from the world.  When our decisions reflect the value God places on life and the belief that heaven is waiting, even our dying can point others to Christ.

 

What would you like your family members to know before they are asked to make an end-of-earthly-life decision for you?