Is Giving Better Than Receiving?

Giving

 

You might not know this about me, but I love Christmas time. The whole season fills me excitement and happiness. As an example of my Christmas loving spirit, my wife and I cannot usually wait until December to start listening to Christmas music. In our house this year, we were jamming to some good Christmas tunes back around Halloween time (Yes we are one of those families).

Christmas time is also the time of the year that we bust out all these different sayings and greetings. We say things like, “Seasons greetings,” “Tis the season to be jolly,” “Peace on earth” or “Bah humbug” (That one for all you individuals that don’t like Christmas). Then there is a phrase I hear all the time around Christmas: “Giving is better than receiving.”

I agree with this statement, but at the same time, what if we have got it wrong? In Luke 1:46-56, we find a passage that is a song or poem that Mary gives as praise to the Lord. What caused Mary to sing this song? Her song of praise comes right after her meeting with Elizabeth who says a blessing over her for being the mother of the Lord. Perhaps this was the inspiration of her song or it could have been a reflection on everything that had happened to her up until that point.

Mary’s outlook on her situation has always been amazing to me. It is easy to read the Christmas story and picture Mary as this happy mother-to-be that is enjoying her pregnancy. What we quickly forget is how she was probably looked down upon by those in her village. She was the girl who couldn’t wait for the wedding night and got pregnant.  We also, never hear anything about Mary’s parents. Did they believe Mary or perhaps they were disappointed in her like the rest of her village. I have always imagined that perhaps these things were the reasons Mary went to visit Elizabeth. She wanted a break from all the stress and tension of her home and village.

It is with this background that we can being to understand Mary’s song a little better. She is singing a song of Joy because of what God is doing and has done in her already. She is singing because of what she has received from God.

The season of Advent is a season of preparation. It is a season where we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus into the world. Christmas and Advent are not about gifts under a tree or a red suited man breaking into your house and steals our cookies, though those are fun things that we’ve made part of our Christmas season. Christmas and Advent are about the joy we receive as Jesus comes into our world and into our own lives. When we begin to focus on this, there is an undeniable joy that comes with Jesus’ presence in our lives. It is this same joy that lead Mary to sing her song of praise. It is this same joy that caused Elizabeth’s baby to jump for joy in her womb as Mary greeted Elizabeth. It is this joy that can transform our lives and calls us to tell others about this joy and invite them into the Advent season of Jesus’ transforming presence.

The giving of the knowledge of Jesus’ love and joy to others is an amazing experience but nothing can beat receiving Jesus’ grace and forgiveness into our own life’s. With all the gifts you buy this year, giving might be better than receiving, but Jesus came with the first of his unending joy and made receiving better than then giving.

What do you think about this idea? Share your comments below and never forget to share this with people you know and get the conversation going.

Step Out Of Bed! – An Alarm Clock That Always Works – App Review

Step Out Logo

Do you ever find yourself waking up to the sound of your alarm clock only to quickly press your snooze button and fall right back asleep? Then you discover that another hour has passed and you are going to be late for work, school, etc? This was my daily situation not too long ago and it frustration me to no end. I never woke up when I wanted to.

On this blog, I try to focus on writing things having to do with church leadership or spiritual formation. I am very aware writing a review of a alarm clock app doesn’t really fit into ether of these categories or does it? Before I get to that, let me tell you about “Step Out Of Bed!” and how it has revolutionized my life.

Step Out 1

Step Out Of Bed! Smart Alarm Clock was developed by WeHelp and is build around a simple concept. They created an alarm clock that does exactly what it is titled. The app functions like a normal alarm clock. You set a time that you would like the alarm to go of and there are a few features you can tweak. You can wake up to the iTunes library on your iPhone. Also, you can activate a shake to snooze function, but where Step Out Of Bed! really shines, is in its two ways of turning off the alarm once is goes off.

The first option is my personal favorite, it is called the “Get out of bed” mode. and that is exactly it. In order to turn off the alarm, you must get out of bed and take a total of 20 or more steps with your iPhone. When I told my wife about this function, she replied, “So, you can just shake it and make it think you are walking somewhere?” The answer is NO YOU CAN’T! I am not sure how exactly it does it, but if you stand in one spot for too long and shake the iPhone, it will give you a message accusing you of cheating. Then it restarts the step counter.

Step Out 2

The second option is called “Force to go somewhere.” In this function, before you go to bed you take a picture of a location in your house that you want to be at when you wake up (in the bathroom, in the kitchen, by the coffee pot, etc). Then when the alarm goes off, you must go to the predetermined location and take a photo matching the opine you took the night before. The app then analyzes the two photos to determine if you are in the same location or not.

Step Out 3

There is one thing that I wish was available in this app. There is only one display choice for your clock. It would have been nice to have a few different display options to choose from. Apart from this one thing, this app from WeHelp does exactly what I needed it to do and I can honestly say that I have awaken every morning at the exact time I wanted to for the last three months that I have been using this app.

Now back to the question of, “Why am I writing about an alarm clock app?” Spiritual development has a lot to do with self discipline. We have to be intentional about seeking after God and letting Him shape us. For me, before anyone else is awake in my home, I spend time studying the Bible and praying. The morning time is when I have found to fit the best for me. I also understand can be at different times for different people. So, I write about this app because it has helped me in developing the discipline I needed to wake up in the mornings.

So if you are a person that needs something to help develop the self discipline of waking up to meet with God or if you simply need an alarm clock app to wake you up every morning, look no further that WeHelp’s “Step Out Of Bed!” app.

Click here If you would like to download “Step Out Of Bed!” from iTunes (Cost: $0.99) or find out more about the app by visiting: http://www.SmartlyUseful.com

#GoingSocial – Book Of The Month Review

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The world of social networking seems to change with every passing month. Trying to keep up with every network and blog post feels much like trying to ride a bull. You are never quite sure which way the social networking trends will turn. I remember the day my friend first asked me, “Are you on MySpace?” I looked at him with a confused look. “What in the world is MySpace?” After at bit of a conversation with my friend about MySpace, he helped me make a profile page and without realizing it, I had entered into the world of Social Networking.

Whenever someone begins to look into the world of social networking, it can become an overwhelming task. There are so many networks, such as facebook, twitter and Linkedin. There are so many blogs and news feeds to read. Where does someone begin? How do you do social networking right? Further, as a church leader, how do you use social networking to better your relational connections with different people?

social-media-confusion

These questions are the core focuses of Terrace Crawford in his book #GoingSocial. Throughout #GoingSocial, Crawford looks at four major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Blogs) and he looks at many social networking sites that are up and coming. Crawford does a great job of breaking down what each social network offers and further helps show how a certain network can be utilized with the world of ministry.

I would highly recommend this book to any church leader that is wanting to get started into the world of social networking. This is where the book didn’t connect with me. Crawford does a great job of explaining each network for someone who is new to the social networking world. I am not that person. I am very aware of the inner workings of many different networks, seems I use them almost every day. So, I cannot say this book revolutionized my view of social networking. But if you are wanting to find a book that will help you wade into the world of social networking in your church ministry, look no further than Terrace Crawford’s book #GoingSocial.

Let me know in the comments below what you think about the use of social networking within church ministry.

If you would like to pick up a copy of #GoingSocial follow this link to amazon: http://tinyurl.com/GoingSocialBook

Fusion: Book Of The Month Review

Fusion Cover

“Seven minutes is all you get to make a positive first impression. In the first seven minutes of contact with your church, your first-time guests will know whether or not they are coming back. That’s before a single worship song is sung and before a single word of the message is uttered.”

When you first read this quote, it seems impossible. How could a single person decided if they are going to attend or not attend a church in seven minutes? I do not completely understand, but I have been in church long enough to see that it is a true statement. This is why Fusion by Nelson Searcy is such an important book for anyone in church leadership to read and put into practice.

Within the first couple chapters, Searcy begins to lay out what he calls “the assimilation system.” Perhaps the term assimilation is not a familiar one to you. The dictionary defines assimilation as: to taken in; to understand fully. Whenever I hear the word “Assimilation,” I flash back to my Star Trek days and remember the Borg. A half human robot race who would assimilate anyone they captured and make them part of the Borg collective.

Luckily, Searcy is not writing a book on how to make every person into a Borg. Instead, his goal is to help us as church leaders succeed at bringing people into a fully-engaged membership of your church. Searcy writes:

“…‘assimilation’ can be defined as the process used to encourage your first-time guests to continue coming back until they see and understand God’s power, accept Jesus as their Savior and commit themselves to the local church through membership.”

The goal of Fusion is to help you as a church leader to understand and implement the assimilation system into your church setting. Searcy does an amazing job a walking through each part of the system. Each part of the assimilation system is a step set up to help encourage an individual to move forward in the system. The goals of the system can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Get a first time guest to become a second time guest
  2. Get a second time guest to become a regular attender
  3. Get a regular attender to become a member of your church

These three goals should be the goal for every church. Searcy lays out how him and his staff at his local church reach these goals. What makes Fusion even better is that many of the things Searcy recommends are not complicated. This does not mean that they are things that take do not take some work, but they are simple steps that any church can make to bring more people into church membership.

You might be sitting there thinking to yourself, “This sounds like a numbers game. You are focussing to much on the number of people you bring into membership. That is not what it should be about.” I would completely agree with you. I commonly say in my ministry, numbers are not what matters. The truth we much realize is that the number do matter as well. Searcy states it perfectly:

“We do care about numbers! Why? Because every number represents a life.”

Every number is someone seeking after God and if you are a church leader, that should matter.

One of the most impacting aspects of this book was how it changed my perspective. Searcy continually refers to first time guest as gifts from God. He points out that if God is giving us a gift each week. We have better be prepared to receive it. The church is not about me. It is not about what I want to get out of it. Church is for the unchurched person. It is a place for broken people can come and find healing. The assimilation process helps church leaders and church members begin to realize the focus of church needs to be on the people not in the church.

As you read through Fusion, Searcy lays out “The Assimilation System” and how it can be implemented in your local church. Much like when you go on a big journey, it is the destination that reminds you of what all the hard work was for. The end goal of the assimilation system is the same. Searcy states;

“The heart of the Assimilation System is to introduce new people to God and help them become fully developing followers of Jesus Christ.”

I highly recommend Fusion to any church leader to read. If you have read Fusion and want to share your thought, please feel free to do so in the comments below.