Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Generosity Questions

You are the exception!  

By virtue of the fact that you opened this page and are reading these words, you are already in a small minority of people.  Why?  Because most people who read the title of this post and saw the word "generosity" would run the other way.  (see today's message about generosity here)

There are many reasons people don't want to talk about this.

  • Guilt - because some know they should be generous, but they aren't.  
  • Shame - because some would like to be more generous, but past decisions put their finances in a bind, so they can't.   
  • Distrust - some assume that anytime someone uses the word "Generosity" (especially a church!) that it must be code for "we want more of your money."
  • Uncertainty about what God will do.  This is a big one.  It was the big one for me when we first began to give generously.  When you start giving a lot of money away (whatever that means to you), it's a huge step of trust in God.  What if I run out?  What if I need it later?  What if...
The story of my life and the lives of countless other people who give generously is this:  You cannot outgive God.  He ALWAYS blessed us far beyond our giving, if we will be faithful and give generously - lavishly.  Here are five reasons I give like that, with a few scriptures you might want to take a look at:

  1. Blessing from God & Trust in God.  If we tithe (give 10% to our local church where we call home), God's promise is to bless us in lavish ways.  This does not necessarily mean that God will bless us with more money, though that often does happen.  But regardless of the form it comes, the blessing ALWAYS comes.  Here's the promise: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Mal 3:10, NIV)
  2. God entrusts me with resources for HIS purpose, not mine.  Matthew 25:14-30 is a powerful lesson on this, and I encourage you to read it.  The punchline of this potent Jesus teaching is that I am responsible for being faithful with what God entrusts to me to be used on His behalf.  When I'm faithful with little, God will entrust me with more.
  3. God expects me to give with a smile, not a frown.  If you're going to be mad about it, God would rather you keep it.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7, NIV)
  4. I am no longer hostage to my money.  It used to control me, now it works for me.  I don't need money, I need something - Someone - lasting!  God will provide my needs, and I'm not relying on something as temporary and uncertain as the dollar anymore!  And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19, NIV)
  5. I am responsible.  Another parable in Matthew 25:31-46 makes it clear that I am supposed to care for the needs in front of me.  When I give generously by tithing to my church and giving beyond that to other needs, I am doing my part.
When I'm finished with this life, I want to be able to look back and know that I took care of my family and that I wasn't a burden on society.  Nothing wrong with those goals, and I have them too.  

But I want to also know that I left the place better than I found it, and that I was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.   You cannot be fully devoted to God and not be a generous giver.  God gave lavishly.  We are to do the same, and in return, we get to have a better, freer life, and know that we made a difference along the way.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who Are You Cheating?

All of the people who report to me on our staff send me a weekly report which consists of reflective questions about their ministry and other aspects of their life.  Questions like, "What are the most important things you are working on right now?" and "What's something you learned last week?" and "What are you reading?" are all a part of this reflective exercise.  There are some quantitative questions, too.  I respond to each weekly report with written feedback and then we usually have weekly meeting where we can flesh out some of what's going on and things that need input, etc.

One of the most important questions on each report is this one:

Last week, did you cheat your family or did you cheat the church?  Elaborate.

I don't know where we got the question.  Probably borrowed it from some other church somewhere.  But it's an excellent question.

In the ebb and flow of life, nobody hits perfect equilibrium all the time.  There are weeks when the church demands a disproportionate amount of my time and attention.  Then there are weeks when family gets more than their fair share.  The idea is to ensure that - over time - everyone is given appropriate attention.

You see, in churchlife, if you're not careful, you can easily neglect your family all the time.

The question is intended to help see trends.  If someone said that they cheated their family last week, it's ok.  Often we don't even talk about it.  If it happens two weeks in a row, we usually start to talk about adjustments that need to be made.  If it happens three weeks in a row, we start to put the brakes on.

The quickest way to an unhealthy life is to have an unhealthy family.  And if your family is consistently getting the shaft, you're on your way to your family being unhealthy.

I went through a brief season recently when my family got the short end of the stick for 3 or 4 weeks in a row.  So, I took some time.  I took Susan away on a surprise trip to a very fancy hotel in Washington DC and we spent a couple of days and nights touring and eating out and enjoying being away from normal life.  We also blew more money than we'd usually spend, but it was an investment worth making.

This week, my youngest son, Joshua, had three basketball games - his last three.  These games were during the day and they were a little hard to make.  But having missed a good bit of games in recent weeks, I decided that I would be there for these no matter what it cost or what I had to do.  So, I went.  And this week, I cheated the church.

As a Senior Pastor, one of the things I feel very strongly about is ensuring (to whatever ability I have) that our staff members have healthy family lives and that they don't sacrifice so much at church that it causes resentment and hurt at home.

I have to live that, too.  I'm a Dad and a Husband before I am a Pastor and Leader.

How about you...who'd you cheat last week?

Friday, February 15, 2013

A plea for you

This series is called Unleash.  Believe it or not, God himself - who thought you up and created you in every detail before you were born - wants you to have a life that reaches that full potential, unleashing all that He created you to be.

Think for a minute about your physical body.  If your liver is healthy, and so is your heart and lungs, but your joints are falling apart, you will have some limitations, won't you?  It doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.  It just means that there are some things you aren’t able to do that you’d like to be able to do.

Well, what we’re doing in this series is a survey of some large topics of areas that affect all of us.  Relationships, time, money, generosity, your spiritual life, and more.

But here's the thing:  It’s not a menu from which you should pick some themes and decline others.  If you say, “I think I’ll choose 3 of them and go for unleashing my potential there, but forget about that other one.  No way I’m doing that!” If you do that, life might be ok, but you’ll never reach your full potential.  It'll be like having healthy lungs, heart and liver, but bad joints!  From God’s perspective, your life might be good, but it will never be great.

So, here's my plea:  Don't give up on this series!  It's unusual for us to have a 6 week series at PCC.  I knew attention spans would wane and the risk was pretty good that the energy would fade a bit.  But I decided to take the risk.  Every week of this series is important.  We're putting all we have into it, and the coming Sundays have some incredible things in store for you!  (Including this week - the creative elements and the teaching will leave you saying "I'm really glad I came to church today!")

Let's UNLEASH all that God has for our lives and get every ounce of our brief days here!

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lord, I Have Time

One of my favorite devotional books is a book of prayers written by Michael Quoist.  I'm not normally a big fan of reading someone else's prayers, but this guy seems to be able to really speak my language - very authentic, natural speaking.  He doesn't write in a pious, King James English, high church, talk-down-to-me kind of prayer.  This is real person speak.  It's from the heart.  It's where we live.

So, on February 3, we ended the service at all of our campuses with a monologue that was a dramatic rendition of one of Michael Quoist's prayers called, "Lord, I Have Time", which goes like this:

Lord, I Have Time
by Michael Quoist

I went out, Lord.
Men were coming and going,
Walking and running.

Everything was rushing: cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
Men were rushing not to waste time.
They were rushing after time,

To catch up with time,
To gain time.

Goodbye, Sir, excuse me, I haven’t time.
I’ll come back, I can’t wait, I haven’t time.

I must end this letter - I haven’t time.
I’d love to help you, but I haven’t timae.
I can’t accept, having no time.
I can’t think, I can’t read, I’m swamped, I haven’t time.
I’d like to pray, but I haven’t time.

You understand, Lord, they simply haven’t the time.
The child is playing, he hasn’t time right now...Later on...
The schoolboy has his homework to do, he hasn’t time...Later on...

The student has his courses, and so much work...Later on...
The young man is at his sports, he hasn’t time...Later on...
The young married man has his new house; he has to fix it up.
He hasn’t time...Later on...
The grandparents have their grandchildren. They haven’t time...Later on...

They are ill, they have their treatments, they haven’t time...Later on...
They are dying, they have no...

Too late!...They have no more time!

And so all men run after time, Lord.

They pass through life running - hurried, jostled, overburdened, frantic, and they never get
there. They haven’t time.

In spit of all their efforts they’re still short of time,
Of a great deal of time.
Lord, you must have made a mistake in your calculations.
There is a big mistake somewhere.

The hours are too short,
The days are too short,
Our lives are too short.

You who are beyond time, Lord, you smile to see us fighting it.
And you know what you are doing.

You make no mistakes in your distribution of time to men.
You give each one time to do what you want him to do.
But we must not lose time!
waste time,
kill time,

For time is a gift that you give us,
But a perishable gift,
A gift that does not keep.

Lord, I have time,

I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The years of my life,
The days of my years,
The hours of my days,

They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you, that of their insipid water!
You may make a rich wine such as you made once in Cana of Galilee.

I am not asking you tonight, Lord, for time to do this and then that,
But your grace to do conscientiously, in the time that you give me, what you want me to do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Day The Wheels Came Off

I probably should have expected this to happen.  Just when I started talking about some of these topics, the wheels came off.  First, a little background might help...

In this Unleash series we're doing at PCC, I'm talking about some really cool topics that are very practical - relationships, time, money and more.  How can you unleash the full potential of what you have in your life?  God gave us the wisdom and the tools we need in the timeless truths of the Bible.  

So, on February 3, I talked about Unleashing your Time. "Each of us is given the exact same amount of time," I said.  "From the President to the billionaire to you and me.  Nobody has any more than anyone else.  You can't buy it, rent it or borrow it. 10,080 minutes each week.  Each one ripe with opportunity.  Each of them ready to be redeemed.  The question is:  Are you redeeming your time?  Maximizing your time?" 

Using Ephesians 5:15-17, we talked about setting a life mission or purpose, then priorities, then schedules - in that order.  

It all sounded so nice, so defined, so...orderly.  And, honestly, it normally runs pretty well.  I live a busy life, but I think that's ok.  My life is prioritized based on my life mission, and my time is allocated based on my priorities, just like I taught, and I generally redeem my time, make the most of the opportunities given to me, just like Paul tells us to in Ephesians 5.

But the day I taught on it, the wheels came off!  One crises after another hit, rapid fire.  Any one or two of them would have been easily absorbed, since I build some crisis expectation into my calendar, but there was just too much in the unexpected category to handle.  Not all of it was bad stuff, but all of it was unplanned stuff.  And it just threw everything in my schedule into complete chaos!  

Of course, this happens from time to time, but what made it so ironic was that I just taught about how to manage time in an effective, God-honoring way where you could control your own schedule!!!

By Wednesday of last week, I found myself taking a deep breath and just laughing out loud.  God and I had a good chuckle about it all. It's the way life is, isn't it?  

So, I'm now coming back to my own teaching - something I've done many, many times.  Making corrections, evaluating priorities to ensure alignment with my mission and purpose, then looking at the allocation of my time.  Divesting some things, saying no to some stuff so I can say yes to some other stuff.  

It really works...most of the time!