Posts filed under THRIVE

THRIVE: GIVING --Jess Griggs

If you’re anything like me, when you hear the pastor mention “giving” from the pulpit, your thoughts turn to money, and are immediately followed by a heavy feeling of guilt somewhere in your stomach lining as you finish off your three dollar latte and slouch further into your seat. The good news for you is that I’m not here to persuade you to tithe more, or to tug at those weary heartstrings. My aim in this post is to encourage you, wherever you’re at today, towards freedom in Christ, and a new perspective on what it means to give.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1

Up until very recently, tithing was such a burden for my husband, Doug, and I. We both came from families where money was either not available, or it was mishandled to the point of bankruptcy. We justified our little-to-non-existent financial contribution to the church by telling ourselves we contribute in other ways. And we really did – from Sunday school teachers to small group leaders we did it all. We sacrificed time, we invested in relationships, we felt the sting of cramped schedules and over commitment. Yet in all that time, not more than a few dollar bills made their way from our pockets to the offering plate.

I’m not saying that serving is less important than giving, or vice versa; both are required of us as healthy, contributing members of a church family. Acts paints a beautiful portrait of how the church should work, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” – Acts 2:44-47

For Doug and I, it was a matter of trust. Both of us were starting out in new careers, and we had no savings to speak of. Living paycheck to paycheck was all we had known, so the idea of having anything left over at the end of the month was so strange, let alone actually giving the first of our earnings to the church, and trusting that our needs will be met anyway. We came before the throne of God willing to sacrifice everything except for financial stability, and were discouraged when we felt like we weren’t growing. It became apparent what needed to happen; yet like stubborn children, we continued to cling to a false sense of security and safety we built with every paycheck. The gnawing guilt of not tithing festered, but we were determined to ignore it.

One evening, Doug broke down and said, “I have lived in fear of money my whole life. I’ve never wanted to be controlled by money, but I’m learning that even when you have nothing, you can still be a slave to security.” We confessed our selfish desires and ambitions, and discussed our fears. That night we promised to hold each other accountable for our giving, and started by writing out the first check to the church.

“For Doug and I, it was a matter of trust.”

There was nothing super spiritual about that decision, and so far the floodgates of heaven have not opened and showered blessing upon financial blessing on us. In fact not much has changed on the outside. But we do not give in order to receive – we give out of obedience, and our obedience turned into joy. An amazing thing happened when we decided to surrender our finances to God – he took away our shame, just as He promised He would. The burden and stress of our feeble attempts to “hide” our sin from God was wiped away, and we were free to “walk in the light as he is in the light.” (1 John 1:7)

I want to challenge you today to take these words to heart, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” – Philippians 2:14-15

Guilt or shame should never be the driving force behind your giving; but rather a holy desire to be obedient to your calling as children of God, honoring Him in everything you do.

Posted on September 29, 2015 and filed under THRIVE.

THRIVE: SERVE. SERVING VS VOLUNTEERING.

I make a lot of resolutions. I fail a lot of resolutions. But one new fall resolution I have is to celebrate more. I don’t do that very well both in my personal life and church life.  And I should.  I tend to look more analytically at stuff. But God wants us to celebrate early and often!

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Rejoice always" means to find something positive in everything. Pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances, including church! The church needs to celebrate better!  If not for us, for all the people who attend our church to see that God is doing some amazing things in people's lives!

So, what does serving and celebrating have in common?

When you get to be my age (I'm in my mid-40's), you start to care less about your own birthday but make a big deal out of your kid’s or grandkids birthdays (no I do not have grandkids yet).  You get more joy out of their wins than your own.  You get more joy out of seeing other people’s successes more than your own. 

When we serve and we see our service benefiting other people’s lives as we point them to Jesus, it makes us joyful!  We celebrate!

So the Apostle Paul makes a big deal out of this issue of serving others in 1 Corinthians 12:1.  He says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

This is crucial.  Paul says, "Ya gotta know this.  Don’t ignore this.  Don’t treat this lightly. The entire functionality of the church hinges on this idea of joyfully using your spiritual gifts to benefit and grow the church!"

He goes on to say: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:11-12

Think about this: body parts get their very existence and definition from being part of the body.  The liver is a liver because it’s part of a body.  The eyes can’t exist independently of the body. And we, like a physical body, get our definition and purpose by being part of a body of believers: the church.

Paul says it is God Himself who distributes the gifts, just as He determines.  What a comfort to know that we can’t earn gifts like gems on a game on our smartphones.  We can’t buy them, earn them, or sign-up for them!  Each gift is given for the building up of the church for God’s glory.

So, what is a spiritual gift?  It is a divine, God-given ability that He gives to people to use to build up and strengthen the local church.

Here’s a great list of the spiritual gifts and a free online test you can take to learn more about what your spiritual gift(s) might be that God has given you: www.spiritualgiftstest.com.

Here’s a few spiritual gifts fact checks:

1. Serving is God’s idea. It's not a religious pyramid scheme to get office work done.

2. Serving with zeal is God’s plan for the growth of the church and the kingdom. We should be fanning into flame the abilities God has given us.  We should use our gifts with zeal, not boredom!

3. You can serve with supernatural joy. If you try to serve in your own strength, it won't last.  God offers his strength to do His tasks.

So, what is a spiritual gift? It is a divine, God-given ability by which God gives to people to use to build up and strengthen the local church.

I think we are officially going to ban the word “volunteer” at NorthCreek. Why?  Well, it might be just a matter of semantics, but follow me on this one:

  • My volunteering is based on my schedule
  • My serving is based upon my obedience to God
  • My volunteering is based on a cause I care about
  • My serving is based upon what God cares about
  • My volunteering is based upon what I want to do
  • My serving is based upon what God wants to do

Serving is better than volunteering!

So, here’s where serving starts:

  • It starts in your heart. Jesus came to serve you and me salvation, forgiveness, and joy.
  • Then it moves to our homes.  Great family members serve one another.
  • Then it moves to our church. Our gifts are not for us. They’re for others!
  • Then it moves to our communities and world.

So how do you know what your spiritual gift is? Try these:

  • 1. What turns your crank? What makes your heart thump when you hear about serving?
  • 2. Take a spiritual gifts survey. www.spiritualgiftstest.com 
  • 3. Test drive some spiritual gifts. Find out what you might be good at.
  • 4. Ask other Christians. They can reflect back to you what you're gifted at!
  • 5. Just do it!  There's nothing like just going for it.  Start while you wait if you don't know what your spiritual gifts are yet.
  • 6. Talk to your church leadership and let them know what your gifts are!

Finally, Paul gave one final piece of advice to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 6:10- Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

  • You can’t be a great father or mother for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great son or daughter for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great church member for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great leader for a lifetime without God’s strength.

Jesus knew this well. It was the Father’s power that God tapped into when he was tired, exhausted, discouraged, and criticized.

So what's the formula for serving?  This is it: when we serve, God gets the glory, we get the joy.

“for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Serving really is celebrating what God is doing.  When we use our gifts for God, something awakens in people’s lives to God.

Looking for a place to SERVE Jesus and others?  Join us at NorthCreek Church and use your gifts for God’s purposes.  

THRIVE: LOVING BY LIVING THE GATHERED AND SCATTERED LIFE

The Book of Acts was written to show us the history of the early church and how it grew to be one of the most powerful entities in the world. The early church modeled for us how they became strong and expanded:

Acts 2:42-45: And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Now, pay attention to the geographical nature of verse 46:

46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Did you catch that?  They GATHERED together in the TEMPLE regularly, AND, they SCATTERED out into PEOPLE’S HOMES or more intimate spaces and places regularly.  It was their rhythm.  It was their pattern.

Gather.  Scatter.

Temple.  Homes.

One place.  Many places.

Large space.  Small spaces.

Many voices.  Few voices.

Not either/or.  It’s a both/and.

Just like a football team gathers together for the team huddle, Sundays is when we gather to get the play for the week. Then we scatter in groups to run that play out on the playing field of life.  If the play for the week is forgiveness, we are to run with forgiveness on our minds and hearts into every area of life.  If the play for the week is prayer, we are to run with that all week long. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a football locker room at half-time, but it’s a crazy (and quite frankly, a smelly) place.  Often what happens is different parts of the team get together (like the offensive line, DB’s, etc) and they ask each other 3 questions:

                1. What do you see out there?

                2. What adjustments do we need to make?

                3. How can we help each other accomplish the play?

There is great power and value in gathering together in church on Sunday morning.  We can accomplish so much more together than apart.  We're better together! There’s also great power in meeting together in homes to encourage one another, pray for one another, and explore the Bible as a playbook for how to know God and live life. We're better together there too!

In the past few decades I’ve noticed a lot of people want to redefine church.  Honestly, it doesn’t need redefinition.  We don’t need to mess with it.  God knew what he was doing and knew how it would function best.  Acts 2 says it perfectly.  Church is where messed up but growing people gather who want to know God more and are walking together to make known God’s riches, blessings, forgiveness, redemption, and Jesus known.

“Nature is my church”.

“I watch church on TV/online.”

“CenturyLInk Stadium is my church.”

Check it:

If you can do Acts 2 stuff like devote yourselves to the apostle’s teaching, true Biblical fellowship, take communion, publically pray, do baptisms, share stuff, and see God move in the hearts of people on top of a mountain or on your TV or ipad, or at CenturyLink, then count me in!  Let's do church there! That’d be very cool. But if not, those may be “spiritual experiences” for us, but, it’s not church.  Church is so much more. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  We need each other!

Want to thrive?  Live the gathered and scattered life.  Live in community with one another. Join a community group or find a few other Christians to connect with in a smaller space.  Then gather with us at NorthCreek Church in the Bothell Woodinville area.  Come take your right next step with us!

You're a Real Brick

You’re a brick. Well, if you're a part of a local church that is.

Individual bricks can serve some purpose, but bricks used together can accomplish much!

One of the deepest convictions on my heart lately is that, at NorthCreek, God is building His church and we want everyone who calls NorthCreek Church "home" to THRIVE!  Ephesians 1:19-22 says it like this:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

If you belong to a local church, make no mistake about it, God is using your very personhood and your spiritual gifts to build and strengthen His church. We are “being built into a dwelling place for God.”  Yes, God is everywhere, but, there is something quite different when people gather in His name to celebrate and worship him. He is right there with us!

Everything healthy grows.  Children grow in every way.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:14:20 to not be “children” in our thinking, but to grow and be mature in our thinking.

Pastor Mark Batterson has a way with words.  He says it this way: “I know some people who have been saved for twenty-five years, but they don’t have twenty-five years of experience. They have one year of experience repeated twenty-five times.” This is so true.  Instead of basking in the joy of knowing God for 25 years, it's easy to live on autopilot and stay childish in our thinking and just keep living with the same issues over and over again.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So, the question is not whether we should mature or not, but, how?  How do we partner with the Holy Spirit to grant Him access to every part of us to do his transformative work in us?

I know some people who have been saved for twenty-five years, but they don’t have twenty-five years of experience. They have one year of experience repeated twenty-five times.

When you join a club or sign-up for a calling plan, you want to know what’s involved in your commitment.  At NorthCreek, we want you to move forward. To thrive.  We want you to know what we are cheering you on toward. We want to meet you where you’re at in your life, and help you take the next step closer to God.

Here’s what we believe, in general terms, how you can grow and move forward in your personal life and be a part of what God is building at NorthCreek:

LOVE- Be in intentional community with other believers

SERVE- God gives us gifts to build up and strengthen the church

GIVE- Joyfully tithe a portion of your income knowing God desires your first and best offering.

GROW- Be intentional about your own spiritual growth.  Very intentional.

Being a part of NorthCreek is exciting because not only are we as individuals not done growing yet, but our church isn't done growing yet either!  We’re a young church that God is building that challenges people to live the way of Jesus both corporately and personally. Come to NorthCreek knowing that God is building His church with you and I being his building blocks!

For the next 4 weeks we'll be taking a look at these 4 critical areas of growth.  

Be a part of what God is doing at NorthCreek Church!  Join us Sundays at 10am at the Woodinville Movie Theaters.  KidzCity is a great place for kids too!