We are kicking off a new sermon series for this Lenten 2014 season about Generosity. As we approach this topic of generosity, we realize it may carry with it some preconceived notions or baggage for some of us. (Uggggh! I have to give away my money and my time and my stuff!?!!?!?) Let us take a moment this week to pursue some self-examination about this topic in our own selves. This activity will help you approach our series with some mindfulness and openness to trying new ways of being generous. We will also become aware of areas in us that may bristle at the notion of being generous. It’s important to know these places in ourselves so we know how to pursue change or understand our hesitancies if we should have them.
So self-examination….sound familiar? It should! Self-examination is a spiritual discipline we recently covered in our Sacred Rhythm series based on Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms. You can access our sermon activity about it here and listen to the sermon if you’d like a refresher.
The basic elements of doing a self-examen are:
4. Give Thanks
6. Ask Forgiveness
7. Seek Spiritual Friendship
Let me help paint a picture for how we can do this around the topic of generosity…
1. Preparation: spend some time settling into a quiet and introspective place of mind and body. Take 5-10 minutes. Take a deep breath; find some quiet in your home or in a nice place outside. Get comfortable in your body and your space. Just be still and remember that you are coming before a Loving God. Think of a verse of Scripture or a song that refers to His love. Jeremiah 31:3 God says “I have loved you with an everlasting love” or the song that says “Your love never fails.”
2. Invitation: in a posture of prayer, invite God to come with you as you consider your attitude towards generosity present and past.
3. Review: take time now to think about your present attitude towards generosity. Get a journal and pen and write some thoughts. Here are some prompts to help you do a thorough review:
• What images, feelings or actions does the word ‘generosity’ conjure? And why do you think that may be?
• Think about how your family handled giving while you were growing up? By “giving” we mean tithing to the church, sharing time and resources with others like food, clothes, physical space, words, our talents and other financial gifts.
• What were ‘gift’ holidays like? Were gifts given freely or was something required in return?
• In your past experiences of generosity, have you viewed ‘generous decisions’ being made with wisdom or frivolity?
• Have you or someone you care about experienced generosity as a detriment?
• Have you ever personally experienced or seen someone else receive a blessing in return of an act of generosity?
• Have you ever felt joy in giving a gift to someone before? (not just monetary, but any gift) Have you seen someone else feel joy by giving you a gift?
• Do I currently tithe regularly and a full 10% of my earnings? How do I feel about tithing?
• Do you know God to be a generous God to you or to those around you? Why or why not?
• Can you think of any Scripture verses around the words of “giving” or “generosity” if not, do a word study. (We’ll dig more into this one in blogs to come…)
These are just a few questions to get the ball rolling. Let the Holy Spirit help your examine flow freely here and take you to places, memories or feelings that you need to re-examine and/or release.
4. Give Thanks: offer thanks to God for opening your mind and heart to this examine. Thank God for people in your life who are good examples of generosity and for times where you have experienced free, beautiful, joyous generosity.
5. Confess: release to God areas where generosity feels difficult for you. Invite God now to show you moments, places, people or activities surrounding generosity that do not come easily or cheerfully for you. Think of what may contribute to those things being difficult and imagine, with God’s help, what generosity may look like here in the future.
6. Ask Forgiveness: tell God of your willingness to change and take action steps to have God’s generous heart be formed in you. Feel confident of your forgiveness. (1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”) God will continue to guide you in your transformation as you abide in Him. Ask if there are any concrete steps that you need to take to make changes in this area of generosity.
7. Seek Spiritual Friendship: find relationships with a friend or someone in your community group to share what you have learned about yourself. Share the areas in which generosity is filled with joy and cheerfulness as well as areas where there is room to grow or where you find difficulty. Resolve together to pursue change and transformation in this area of your life.
This is an excellent activity for us to do before we dive into this sermon series. We believe your life and our community will benefit from us all examining our attitudes towards generosity. May you know our God to be a generous God and may He shed light into places of previous darkness for you. And may we be known as a generous people to those around us as we are filled with God’s generous mercy, grace and love! Remember our year’s theme of “Fill”and “Overflow”from Romans 15:13!