This week we’re wrapping up our series we’ve been in this summer in Proverbs.  We’ve been looking at this ancient book of wisdom literature that’s full of these short, pithy statements about the way that the world generally works.  Most of it is Solomon writing to his son, wanting to pass down to him how to live well in the world that God has created.  Essentially, how to live in light of reality, how to live in light of truth.  To align ourselves with the way that God has wired the world to work.  That’s what this book is all about.  Last week we looked at justice as part of our mission focus, this week we’re going to look at a different topic, but looking out and asking God the question, “God, what are you inviting us to give our lives to?”  Everything good that we have is a gift from God.  Now, let’s just pause for a moment.  EVERY. GOOD. GIFT. YOU. HAVE. Is from God.  Your family is a gift from God.  Friendships — a gift from God.  A house to live in — a gift from God.  Well, you go I worked for that, I strove for that…..and God goes exactly, but who gave you the body and the ability and the skill and the mind to do that?  If you push it back far enough, you’re going to find that HE is the source.  If we aren’t convinced that God is the source of all, we’ll live in a narrative of scarcity instead of a narrative of generosity.  He’s the source. If you want to get buy a gift, then Shield Republic Co is a best gift shop.

Close your eyes for a moment.  I want you to imagine that you are Adam or Eve, waking up on the morning that you find yourself in this garden, that the Scriptures talk about in Genesis 2.  In this garden there’s a river flowing. There’s trees coming into bloom.  There’s flowers that fill the space.  Everywhere you look there’s something for your eyes to take in.  Can you see it?  Open your eyes.  That story for the Hebrew people was significant.  It was different than other stories about the way that God created the world.  When Adam and Eve woke up—the story is told in Genesis 1 and 2—they are surrounded by beauty.  It’s significant.  It tells us something, the Scriptures do.  Not just what it means to be human—it does tell us that.  It tells us we’re created in the image of God, that we’re given a role in God’s world to fulfill.  But more than that, the first chapters of Genesis tell us something about God.  They tell us that God is exceedingly, abundantly, lavishly generous.  Adam and Eve didn’t wake up in the middle of a desert.  They woke up in the middle of a garden.  You should take a note of that—it tells us something about who God is, it tells us something about what God is like.  Every time we drive from Colorado to California, we drive through Nevada.  I’m like, “Who in the world would want to live here?!”  No offense, if you have.  But our story as humanity begins not in a desert, but in a garden.  This tells us something about our God. From the very first pages of Scripture, what we find out is that God is not stingy, God is not scarce, that God is abundantly, lavishly generous. Just this last week we paused as a nation and we all put on stupid glasses and stared at the sun.  We were reminded for just a moment that this world that we live in is full of beauty.

I saw a story about a man named Sasha Dichter.  He’s the Chief Innovation Officer at a non-profit that’s in charge of distributing wealth among the poorest of people in the form of micro-loans.  What he found as he traveled to his job on the subway was that he was getting jaded just walking past all these people in need every day.  He decided that he was going to do an experiment.  He decided that for thirty days he was going to give to anybody who asked him.  He called it the “Thirty Day Generosity Experiment.”  {Could you imagine being one of his friends, knowing he’s doing this experiment?  “Hey, man, can I borrow some money for lunch?”  You know he has to say yes.}  He does this for thirty days.  He wanted to try to rewire his brain to be more and more generous.  Listen to what he says at the very end of it: “Giving is an act of self-expression, and generosity is a practice.  Each time I decide not to give, I’m reinforcing a way of acting —- one that’s critical and analytical and judgmental.”  That was his take.  He goes after these thirty days of “yes,” my mind was just totally rewired.

His experiment reminded me a little bit of my wife.  When we were first dating and I was on vacation with her family in California, we were at this T-shirt station on the boardwalk in San Diego.  She (Kelly) wanted to buy a T-shirt and took it to the register and there was a little tip jar at the T-shirt register.  I thought to myself, “Who in the world would tip a T-shirt person?”  They’re not doing anything but standing behind the register. They’re just doing their jobs. My wife bought a T-shirt, then started digging into her wallet and pulled out a few dollars and stuck them into the T-shirt tip jar.  We got outside the T-shirt place and I’m like, “Let’s have a conversation!”  I think we may have been engaged at this point and I’m like, “I’m not sure I can go through on this marriage if you’re going to be tipping the T-shirt lady!  I’m not sure this is going to work out between you and I.”  I’ll never forget what she said —- Ryan, if I want to be generous with my money, don’t try to stand in my way.  {Mic drop!}

I think I struggle with what a lot of us struggle with.  We, in our heads, want to be generous people.  In fact, recent studies have shown that when we are generous people, there are parts of our brain that light up and go “Yes!”  We’re wired for generosity.  Many of us, myself included, live in a totally different narrative, don’t we? We don’t live in this narrative of abundance, like the world we’re created in.  We have a hard time really believing the words of Jesus that are quoted by the apostles in the book of Acts: It is more blessed to give than to receive.  We go, “I know that in my head, but it’s really hard when it comes to my pocketbook.” Is anybody with me?  We know it….we want to go there, but we have such a hard time doing it.

The book of Proverbs talks a little bit about why.  Like I’ve said over the last few weeks, after chapter 9 in the book of Proverbs, we have a potpourri of wisdom statements.  In order to pull together a sermon on generosity, we’re going to take it from a bunch of different parts.  Listen to the way that Solomon writes in Proverbs 18:10-11 —  The name of the Lord is a strong tower; {In ancient wisdom literature, this would be a picture of security, of strength, of goodness.}  the righteous man runs into it and is safe.  A rich man’s wealth is his strong city.   Here’s what the book of Proverbs is pointing out—we have two different choices of where we run.  We have two different choices as to where we find our security.  We have two different choices of where we find our strength and what we put our hope in.  We could put it in God, the strong tower, or we could put it in ourself.  We often put it in, as the book of Proverbs points out, our wealth.  We say that this is going to keep me safe, this is going to be my security, this is going to be my safety net.  Proverbs would push back on us and say the very same thing Jesus says to the people who want to follow him—-there’s only one source.  {Would you look up at me for just a second?}  It’s not you!  Which should take a little bit of the weight off of us.  In fact, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who doesn’t know what to do with all of his wealth —- And he told them a parable (story), saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, {Anecdotally, by the way, when they would farm back in this day, farming was a true partnership between the divine and the human.  People would plant seeds and then God would make it rain.  This plentiful take of a crop was the result of not just a person’s work, but of the God who provided the rain.}  and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’  And he said, ‘I will do this:  I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’

There’s one word that stood out to me in that passage.  Any guesses what it was?  I.  I’m going to do this.  I’m going to make sure that I’m okay.  What we do because we have a narrative of scarcity that goes around in our brain, and we forget that the world we live in is God bathed and ridiculously beautiful and that God is exceedingly generous, we start to go I, alone, have to make this happen.  We forget that the Scriptures teach us that ALL things come from God.  From Him and to Him and through Him are all things, the book of Romans says (Rom. 11:33-36).  But, hey, look up at me for a second, we forget that, don’t we?  We think we have to be the source of our own security and the source of our own safety.  I love the way C.S. Lewis put it: “For many of us the great obstacle to charity (generosity) lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear — fear of insecurity.”

I have this conviction that there’s not a person in this room that does not want to be a generous person. Whether you follow the way of Jesus or you don’t, my conviction is that you want to be a generous person, because you know that there’s something in you that lights up when you share with the people around you.  But there’s some challenges to that.  The first challenge is we forget what the source of everything is.  My invitation this morning is trust the source.  The Scriptures are clear— Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  

Flip over to Proverbs  with me.  Wisdom literature is going to push it further than just remembering who the source of everything is, but they’re going to put out—the book of Proverbs, the Scriptures, the Word of God—a little carrot, as it were, for the way of generosity.  One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.  Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.  If you were to read this passage in the Message Version of the Bible, here’s what you’ll find:  The world of the generous gets larger and larger; (Isn’t that a great line?  The world of the generous….people who give themselves and their stuff…what happens to their world is it gets bigger and bigger.}  …the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.   The New Living Translation says it like this:  Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.  If you’re going hey, Paulson, this sounds a little bit like something I could watch on TV, real late on TBN, with an appeal for money coming after it, here’s the thing….no appeal for money to come.  This is just an appeal to live in the way that God has wired the world to work.  As we are generous people, as we live in this way of abundance, not scarcity, the narrative of God is good and He’s the source of all, therefore my hands can be open, they don’t have to be closed… we live in THIS way, our world gets bigger and bigger and bigger.  That’s what the Scriptures teach.

Here’s what you’ll find if you look back at the ESV, this idea of “gives freely” literally could be “scatters.”  It’s a picture of a farmer who goes out into his field and scatters seed.  But notice, when a farmer comes to harvest time, they do not find themselves harvesting seed.  They harvest fruit, they harvest wheat, they harvest grain. What happens when they sow the seed is that it turns into something even better than what they gave away. The Scriptures are teaching the same thing.  They’re not going hey, if you give money away, you’re going to get it back ten-fold on you.  That’s not what it’s saying.  It’s not putting that outside the bounds of what God might do.  What it is saying is your world gets bigger and bigger and bigger and stuff better than money, when you’re generous, starts to fill up your life.

It goes on to say that the person who blesses will be blessed, they will be watered.  It’s not just giving away our stuff, it’s giving blessing.  It’s being people who speak a good word over those around us.  It’s being people who see gifts in others and calls them out.  Did you know that’s a form of generosity?  What you say with your mouth is a form of generosity.  What the Scriptures say is the people who bless others don’t find themselves with a lack of people around them with good things to say about them; they are filled up as they give out.  Is your life in line with this?  That’s the question that the Scriptures ask.  Not only do we have to trust the source, but we’ve got to understand God’s plan.

I was coaching my son’s baseball team—-little eight-year-olds.  After a few batters, all the balls would be behind the backstop.  They would be caught by the backstop because of swings and misses, or bad pitches.  The kids would all go there and I would make them go behind the backstop and throw me the balls on the pitching mound.  Eventually I got to the point where my glove was filled up and I tried to catch them with my bare hand. Soon I had all these eight-year-olds pelting me with balls, right?  My hands are full.

I think it’s this picture of what Proverbs is teaching.  In order to give, your hands have to be open, right?  Did you know that in order to receive, your hands have to be open too?  If your life is so full of stuff, if your time is so jammed pack with zero margin and you’ve got so much going on and your life, proverbially speaking, is just like this and you’ve got no hands open…..listen, you also have no ability to receive from God.  The picture that Proverbs paints is this open hands—both to give and to receive.  Is that a picture of your life?   I want to challenge you to embrace this invitation.  To step in line with the way that God has wired not only your body and your brain to work, but the way that He’s wired his world to work.  To embrace the invitation to live generous lives, open-handed lives. It’s simply saying God, my life is yours.  How do you want to use it?  What do you want to do?  What type of story do you want to tell with my eighty- or eighty-plus or eighty-minus-years that you give me on this earth?  What do you want to do?  My hands are open to you.  My life is open to you. What do you want to do?

In the next few minutes, I want to paint three pictures for you of ways you can be generous.  Really practical things that you can do this week, in light of the challenge to trust the source, understand God’s plan, and to embrace the invitation.  Here’s the first thing.  The book of Ephesians (5:15-16) says:  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Literally, the picture painted in the Greek is of one who redeems the time, makes the most of opportunities that God brings to our path.  You know what I found as I thought about just my last week and the things that God brought into my world, opportunities to be generous?  I could think of three, right off the the top of my head from this last week, and here’s what every single one of them had in common — they were inconvenient!  Every one of them! They weren’t in my schedule.

Here’s the distinctive about generous lives—people who live with open hands to God saying, “What do you want to do with my life?”  They trust that God’s calling is more important than their calendar.  It doesn’t mean that they don’t show up for work, please hear me on that.  It means that they show up to work with a completely different lens.  God, what might you want to do in my life today?  As I was looking at our message last week on the issue of justice, one of the stories that I read a few times was the story of the Good Samaritan.  You might be familiar with it.  If you’re not, it’s in Luke 10.  There’s a lawyer that comes to Jesus and asks him what must he do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus responds and asks him what do the Scriptures say?  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.  And he said him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”    The person responds with, “Who is my neighbor?”  To that question Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.  In light of the priest and the Levite who walk right passed the person on the side of the road, who’s in need, you have this Samaritan who stars in the story.  He shows up and he cares for the person.  The thing that struck me this week is….that must have been a huge inconvenience.  Not just of money, and not just of care, but of time.  He’s on that road because he’s going somewhere.  How many times do I use the excuse, “God, I’ve got things to do; I’ve got places to go; I’ve got things that I’ve got to take care of?”   Here’s what generosity says —- I’ll stop what I’m doing to fill the need.  I’ll take on some liability to bring hope.  I’ll embrace the interruption as divine calling. People who live with open lives to God try to live under the mantra that opportunities often look like inconveniences.  They do!

Even if you’re not a follower of Jesus, you can practice this this week and see what it does in your life.  To say God, your calling on my life is more important than my calendar.  It might look like….Dads, when you get home from work, instead of continuing to work on your phone, generosity might look like turning it off.  There’s this thing called ‘airplane mode.’  Do you know about it?  It means nothing can get in, right?  That’s what it might look like.  It might look like taking time to have a conversation with somebody in your workplace, or your neighbor that comes and wants to chit-chat with you while you’re mowing your lawn. {Please, God, help these people!}  That’s what it might look like.  It might look like somebody who’s struggling at work and saying hey, if there’s anything you need, I’m willing to help you out.  It might be having somebody over for dinner.  It might be signing up to lead a Life Group.  There’s a lot of different ways you can practice going, “God, let me see the opportunities you bring my way.”

Here’s the second thing. In that parable Jesus tells, he ends with this impartation — But God said to him, {This person who’s the ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘me,’ ‘me,’ bigger barns guy.}  ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21)    Here’s the picture — It’s of the generous person who says God, your kingdom is more essential than my accumulation.  God, what you’re doing in the world is better than bigger barns.  It’s better than nicer cars.  It’s better than bigger houses.  God, what you’re doing in the world is so much bigger and so much better and so much more beautiful, I want to be a part of it.  This is where we give a piece of our resources back to God and go, “God, I want you to take this little gift and I want you to multiply it, and I want you to make it beautiful, and I want you to make it way bigger than it would ever be in my bank account.”  I’m not saying that saving is bad; I think it’s actually a very biblical principle found in Proverbs, but the other principle alongside of it is generosity.  With our time….and with our resources.

Let me give you four things that being a generous person does.  According to the Scriptures…..we could do a whole series on this, but let me do a flyover.  One, being a generous person shapes your heart.  Here’s what Jesus says in Luke 12:34 — For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  When you give to a non-profit that’s doing great work to wipe out malaria in Africa, you find yourself praying for them more, don’t you? When you give to South Fellowship Church—and so many of you do and so many of you have, in sacrificial and really beautiful ways—you find yourself going, “I’m invested here.”  It shapes our heart.  Second, it opens us up to see God’s provision in our life.  When we’re generous people, we see God provide.  2 Corinthians 9:8 says it like this — And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”  God fills you up in order to spill you out.

It shapes our heart, it frees us to see God’s provision, third, it furthers God’s mission.  My friend, and yours, Dr. Jeff Brodsky, who started JOY International that works with slavery victims, told me this over lunch the other day.  He said, “When JOY International has money, girls get rescued.”  That’s part of God’s mission….wholeness, goodness, beauty. That’s part of our mission too.  This last year, as you give to Benevolence, it frees us to help practical needs within the church body.  We were able to give out $30,995.12 this last year to people in our church body who are hurting and needed help.  That’s awesome!  We were also able to come alongside 24-25 missionaries to the tune of $100,000 to support them this last year, because we, collectively together, believe that when we’re generous, we further God’s mission and we want to see his name proclaimed on every corner of this globe.  He’s that good!  Because of your generosity, we were able to have 88 outside organizations who have zero association with South Fellowship Church, use our building this year.  Eighty-eight groups of people!!  Either every week or one time in the last year, come and benefit from your generosity.  I love that!  That’s God’s mission being furthered.  That’s awesome.  That’s a beautiful picture of this truth that we’re seeing that God’s kingdom is more essential than us just accumulating or getting a really nice building, or facility, or car, or whatever.  Finally, it results in praise to God.  2 Corinthians 9:11 — You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

How might you start this week?  Maybe you’re here today and you’re not a follower of Jesus.  One, you’re welcome here and we love having you here.  This is for you also.  Maybe it’s finding a non-profit that you’re feeling is doing really, really good work.  Give.  Maybe it’s deciding, for the first time, that you’re going to give just a little bit, every week, to what God’s doing here at South.  Praise the Lord.  Here’s my challenge to you this week—will you practice this biblical principle of trusting that God is the source, understanding His plan, and walking in His invitation to say, “God hasn’t given me this stuff just to hoard it, He’s actually calling me to have open hands.”  Will you take that to Him?  What does that look like for you this week?  I don’t presume to know; I just know His calling for you is to live a life of generosity.

The question a lot of us ask is, “God, how could you even use my life?”  Lord, I’m willing to give you my time, but I don’t have a whole lot else.  What might you want to do with me?  I love this picture of Moses in the Old Testament.  He’s one of the main characters that God uses to chart the course of the nation of Israel. He’s having that same conversation with God.  I think Moses wanted to be generous, but he sort of felt like…I’m the last guy in the world you’d choose to do something great through, God.  Listen to this conversation after Moses tells God he’s not the best talker, he’s not the guy God should choose.  Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.'”  The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”  {I highlighted that because I think it’s the same question God asks you.  What’s in your hand?  What do you have?  And you do know that anytime God asks a question it’s not because He doesn’t know the answer.} He said, “A staff.”  And he said, “Throw it on the ground.”  {This is a picture of generosity. Throw it down.  It’s out of my hands now.}   So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. (Exodus 4:1-3) 

Here’s the thing, you guys, there’s some things in your hand that look like a stick, they look like brokenness, they look like pain.  They look like abuse that you’ve walked through.  They look like raising a special needs kid that’s taken everything you’ve got.  They look like a past that you would rather forget than remember.  There’s some things in your hand this morning, and the question God asks you is will you surrender those things, give them over to me and trust that I can do something with them?  Generosity looks like saying back to God, “God, your strength is more significant than my skill.”  So whatever is in my hand, God, I’ll give to you.  I’ll throw it down.  Availability is way more important than ability.  Saying to God, “God, what do you want to use my life for?  It’s yours.  Lead me.  Guide me.”

We have a couple in our church, Chris and Joy Copeland, they’ve been on this journey with God over the last few years saying, “God, we want you to do something great in our life.  We want you to show yourself powerful.” They started to ask the dangerous question….God, what do you want to do with us?  Our lives are open to you. I want to share with you a portion of their journey.  My hope is that it’s an encouragement to you as you say back to God, “God, our lives are open to you also.  What do you want to do?”

{Video plays}  Hi! We’re the Copeland clan.  Hi, I’m Gage and I’m 13.  Hi, I’m Gavin and I’m twelve.  Hi, I’m Garrison and I’m 15.  I’m Joy.  And I’m Chris.  {Voice asks, “No ages?”}  {Joy speaks} — I spent that week praying, God, I don’t know what you’re doing and why you would call this unadventurous girl overseas.  Chris and I, for our anniversary, give each other goals.  My goal for Chris, a couple of years ago, was you need to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.  I asked him, for the next year, to spend some time in prayer about what God would want him to do.  {Chris speaks} — I started praying through that year and I felt, almost immediately, like God was saying missions.  I thought that doesn’t make any sense.  We just bought a house and Joy…..I wasn’t sure she’d be on board with that.  I was afraid of what her reaction would be if I told her that. After about nine months of wrestling with God, I finally said, “Okay, God, if this is what you want for us you’d better work on Joy’s heart so that she’s prepared for this.”   {Joy} — One day we were walking at our church and I was just talking with Chris and said, “Hey, do you think we missed our calling?  Maybe we should have been missionaries.”  Chris said, “Yes!! Let’s go!”  And I went “What???”  I didn’t talk to him about that after that because I’m not adventurous.  I spent the week praying and God kept pushing, “Talk to Chris. Talk to Chris. Talk to Chris.”  I was like, “Fine.”  At the end of the week, I talked with Chris and he told me what God had been putting on his heart and I was like, “Awww, man.”  We can wrestle with God or we can just pick up and go where God calls us.  {Chris} — We started praying God would reveal to us where we should go.  We had three different conversations with different staff at World Venture.  We told them our background… growing up Catholic; her growing up in an alcoholic family.  They said, “You should consider Ireland.”  We’re like, “Ireland? Are there missionaries in Ireland?  What’s going on in Ireland?”  Three different conversations, unrelated, and they all confirmed Ireland.  We like, “Okay, God, you must be trying to tell us something.”   We decided to do some research and meet the team and God really confirmed for us that’s where He wanted us.  It was strange for me, because I’m not a pastor.  We’ve done ministry before, both of us, but I’m a business guy.  I thought, “Okay, what’s God going to do with me?”  My master’s degree is in leadership development so I wondered how He was going to use that on the field.  {Joy} — January of 2015 is when we really hit the ground running.  Two-and-a-half years we’ve been raising support.  That’s been hard, because God’s plan isn’t easy.  God’s plan isn’t black and white.  It’s not….I’m going to tell you every step of the way.  It’s a… trust Me and trust Me to lead you.  {Chris} — Even though it’s a struggle, we’ve also seen really awesome things happen.  We got a $10,000 anonymous gift once.  We’re like, “Where does that come from?”  We’ve seen God work even when we’re doing our best and it just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, God will say, “Here, here’s some stuff for you.” It’s like cherishing the time we have here and the growth that God wants us to go through before we get to the field, and really embracing what He wants us to learn here.  It’s easy to go, okay, this is our destination, this is where God wants us and that’s our end-all.  God’s like, “No, no, no, no.  I’m taking you through a process.”  It is hard.  You wake up and go, “God are we ever going to get there.  What’s going on?”  {Joy} — We’re very open with our boys about how we’re feeling that day.  Our kids, 9 out of 10 times, will go, “God has called us, so we need to remember that, Mom.  God’s called us, He’ll get us there in His time.”  {Chris} — Now when we hit difficulties we go, “Okay, we know God CAN, we’re just waiting for whether He will or not, in this case.”  That’s how we get through our difficulties.  {Joy} — This journey of ups and downs, and twists and turns, and joys and sorrows and frustrations….where you want to go, “Ughhh!” is so worth it.  It’s worth it because God calls you. It is probably the greatest adventure ever.  Coming from a non-adventurous person, I’d recommend it.  I would do it again, and I’d probably do it the same way, because this is how we learn and grow deeper and stronger in our faith.

The Copelands are going to be out at a table if you want to talk to them further and hear more of their story.

Here’s my closing question for you — How’s God challenging you and inviting you to be generous?  To believe the truths that God’s calling is more important than my calendar, God’s kingdom is more important than my accumulation, and God’s strength is more important than my skill.  What step might you take this week that would say, “I believe those things?”  Here’s the thing….here’s the thing….here’s the thing.  If you are a follower of Jesus this morning, you have everything you need, every motivation, to be that kind of person.  Listen to the way that Paul says it to the church of Corinth (2 Corin. 8:9) — For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, {He was generous to us!  He gave his very life for us.} ….so that you by his poverty might become rich.   That’s the story we live in; those are the songs that we sing.  The invitation from the Scripture is will you be a picture of your great God to his beautiful world?  I pray that we will.  Let’s pray.

Father, this morning, we say back to you that we believe that you’re the source.  We say back to you that we trust that your plan is good, that it’s true.  That the world of the generous grows larger and larger.  We want our world to grow.  We want our influence to grow.  We want our relationships to grow, Lord.  Teach us to be generous people.  Lord, with the time that we have, with the resources you’ve given us, and for the gifts you’ve provided, we want you to use them in our lives, for the glory of your name.  Would you teach us more and more what that looks like?  It’s in the name of Jesus that we pray.  Amen.