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Posts tagged ‘Overcoming Selfishness’

Loosen Your Grip – Overcoming Selfishness

Overcoming SelfishnessPaul’s letter to the Philippians gives us a snapshot of him in prison, laying aside his personal needs and concerns as he tells members of the imperial household the Good News about Jesus, and as he crafts letters to firm up young believers.

So the self-denying perspective of his “thank you” to the Philippian believers for their gift rings true.

Interact with God’s Word:  Philippians 4:10-20

  1. Paul refers, in verse 14, to his “present difficulty.” What was his situation when he wrote this letter?
  2. How could Paul state, in verse 11, that he had never been in need? Doesn’t he add that he has learned to live on “almost nothing” and with an empty stomach?
  3. When you’ve heard verse 13 quoted, is managing with plenty or little what has come to your mind?
  4. How about the promise of verse 19? Is it unconditional? Or is it offered to those living sacrificial and generous lives?
  5. How do you distinguish between your needs and your wants?
  6. How do you square Paul’s insistence that God is taking care of him with the circumstantial extremes he has just cited?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you focus less on your material situation and more on bringing glory to Him.

Philippians 4:10-20

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.

16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. 18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

Loosen Your Grip – The Envelope Tradition

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”  – Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:11-15

Our son Kevin, 12, had a non-league wrestling match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, in ragged sneakers and no headgear to protect their ears, contrasted with our boys in their spiffy uniforms and shoes. We took every weight class.

My husband Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly. “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “This could take the heart right out of them.”

That’s when I got the idea.  Knowing Mike hated the commercial aspects of Christmas, I went to a sporting-goods store, bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.

On Christmas Eve, I tucked an envelope in the branches of our tree with a note inside telling Mike what I’d done as my gift to him. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year.

For succeeding Christmases, I followed the new tradition—sending a group of mentally disabled youngsters to a hockey game, and so on.  The unmarked envelope became our Christmas highlight.

Our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree—always the last gift opened—to reveal its contents.

—Anonymous in Ken Canfield’s They Call Me Dad

My Response: What giving element could I work into our Christmas traditions?

Thought to Apply: Nothing is really ours until we share it.—C.S. Lewis (British scholar & writer)

Adapted from They Call Me Dad (Howard, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – A “Provision Kiss”

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Our first provision miracle happened with a rental property. After Gail and I married, we lived in a Wisconsin apartment we mockingly called “the Palace.” It had one space heater and a toilet and tiny shower in the closet. We were paying $90 a month.

Friends of ours in St. Louis told us how they got a home for $240 a month in a market where similar homes were going for close to $500. They’d looked at their budget and asked God for a home in that price range.

God might do the same for us, we thought.  We examined our budget.  It would be a stretch, but we could afford $125.  We prayed, “Lord, Your Word says You care about these things.  We ask You to give us a home for $125 a month.”  Then we watched the paper.

For the preceding month it had listed no rental homes for less than $300. But three days later, an ad appeared for a two-bedroom home—for $125!  We went to see it, then called the owner. “I’m probably asking too little for the house,” an elderly lady said. “I’ve had so many calls about it.”

We went to meet with her.  As we were talking, a junior college professor called and offered her more.  “Thanks,” she replied, “but I want to give it to this nice young couple.”

—Ed Gungor in Religiously Transmitted Diseases

My Response: Have I ever prayed about my budgeting?  Should I?

Thought to Apply: You will never need more than God can supply.—J.I. Packer (Canadian theologian)

Adapted from Religiously Transmitted Diseases (Nelson Ignite, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – Urge to Splurge

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

Bonus Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

Slick, colorful brochures lie on my desk. They’re from sales representatives eager for me to use their state-of-the-art equipment.

But nothing will be purchased until Materials Management scrutinizes my justification letter, explaining why, when, where, and how the equipment will be used. These requirements methodically expose any emotional attachments I have to an apparatus’s newness. I’m forced to honestly measure its value to my department.

And since I know Materials Management won’t approve a purchase based on a letter filled with feelings, I usually don’t waste my time writing one—and throw 98 percent of the pretty brochures into the trash!

Composing a mental “justification letter” is a savvy practice that works great in everyday life, too.

I used to get so excited about the newest high-tech gadget that I’d practically run to buy it, never questioning its value to my life. Soon it would be added to my I-felt-I-had-to-have-it dust collectors.

But my growth in Christ has taught me to be still when the urge to spend strikes. If I pause to allow the Holy Spirit to put my feelings in check, I can honestly measure any product’s value to my life—and break the chain of foolish spending.

—Howard Swann in Texas

My Response: Could I justify my latest major purchase by Material Management criteria?

Thought to Apply: You can’t have everything.  Where would you put it?—Steven Wright (humorist)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – Whose Wheels?

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: All the believers … felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.  – Acts 4:32

Bonus Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Several years ago when my mom had to stop driving, I picked up her car, a Ford Escort. Slow but economical, it became my transportation between home and the church I pastored 90 miles away.

After I resigned, it became an extra car.  We knew it belonged to God, so we sometimes loaned out “God’s car” to friends in need. A buddy from a home Bible study needed short-term wheels, so I let him use it. He liked it and asked to buy it.

We agreed on a price, he made a small down payment, and promptly quit paying. He didn’t change the registration with the state, so we remained liable.

Soon after, he quit returning my calls. He did respond to an e-mail, saying he’d take care of the registration. He never did.

Months later I received notice of a parking violation and other problems. I contacted our church, and he’d quit attending. Short of tracking him down and taking him to court, Mom’s car and the money have disappeared. That ticks me off. We had counted on that money and didn’t have a lot to spare. Justice plays a role in my anger.

But, I try to remind myself, God owns that car. He didn’t “steal” it from me, but from God.

Renouncing ownership means we keep a loose grip on our stuff; we try not to get too attached.

—Tim Riter in Not a Safe God

My Response: The part of Tim’s response I can relate to is …

Thought to Apply: All you are unable to give possesses you.—Andre Gide (French author)

Adapted from Not a Safe God (Broadman & Holman, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Found Wanting

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse:  “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.”  – Luke 12:15

Bonus Reading:  Job 31:24-25

Growing up, my brothers and I were notorious present-beggars. We’d get our minds set on the ultimate Christmas toy, then beg relentlessly.

As we got older we became more skilled (or so we thought), strategically placing the Sears toy catalog open to the right page in places we knew Mom and Dad would look: in his recliner, under her pillow, in the refrigerator.

One year we set our sights on a big yellow G.I. Joe troop transport with six oversized knobby wheels. The commercials showed it careening through rugged battlefields, rushing Joe and his Kung Fu grip to the action.

Well, our subtle “product placement” worked; we got the toy for Christmas. We rushed out to play with it, and quickly realized our yard was pretty much … flat. No rugged battlefield to be found.

Sure, with a little imagination we made the toy work, but I couldn’t escape a tinge of disappointment.

So it goes with stuff—and the chase isn’t confined to childhood.  Many people have convinced themselves they should pull the trigger on the bigger TV, the fancier fly rod, the sportier car. It never satisfies, does it?

Solomon said that “Those who love money will never have enough” (Eccl. 5:10).

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: What potential possession am I emotionally chasing? Can it deliver on my expectations?

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Lend Your Stuff

Overcoming SelfishnessWho Said It…Tim Stafford

Tim Stafford started his writing career with what is now Ignite Your Faith magazine (then Youth for Christ’s Campus Life). Next he moved his family to Kenya and founded Step magazine, for Christian youth in Africa.

With Philip Yancey, he co-authored notes for the popular Student Bible. Now Tim’s family, including wife Popie, a counselor, and three children, live in Santa Rosa, California.

Tim is a senior writer for Christianity Today and has written many books, including a historical fiction trilogy.

What He Said…Lend Your Stuff

For some people no act of generosity comes harder than lending because they’re emotionally attached to their possessions and can’t let go.

Something seizes up inside at the thought of letting your new car go on the church ski trip or lending your power tools to the group going to Mexico to build houses. The car may get dented. The tools may get lost or broken.

However, such tangible acts of generosity make sense to children in a way that the abstract writing of checks might not.

We made it a family policy, when we bought a new minivan, to make it available to the church or school anytime they needed it. And they needed it frequently!

We sent a full minivan to Mexico, into the Sierra for ski trips, and to a great variety of other destinations.

I almost always found it a little hard to let the car out of my hands. However, I am quite sure my children will remember these small acts of generosity and want to imitate them.

Adapted from Never Mind the Joneses (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Overcoming Selfishness

Overcoming SelfishnessPaul’s letter to the Philippians gives us a snapshot of him in prison, laying aside his personal needs and concerns as he tells members of the imperial household the Good News about Jesus, and as he crafts letters to firm up young believers.

So the self-denying perspective of his “thank you” to the Philippian believers for their gift rings true.

Interact with God’s Word:  Philippians 4:10-20

  1. Paul refers, in verse 14, to his “present difficulty.” What was his situation when he wrote this letter?
  2. How could Paul state, in verse 11, that he had never been in need? Doesn’t he add that he has learned to live on “almost nothing” and with an empty stomach?
  3. When you’ve heard verse 13 quoted, is managing with plenty or little what has come to your mind?
  4. How about the promise of verse 19? Is it unconditional? Or is it offered to those living sacrificial and generous lives?
  5. How do you distinguish between your needs and your wants?
  6. How do you square Paul’s insistence that God is taking care of him with the circumstantial extremes he has just cited?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you focus less on your material situation and more on bringing glory to Him.

Philippians 4:10-20

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.

16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. 18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

Loosen Your Grip – The Envelope Tradition

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”  – Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:11-15

Our son Kevin, 12, had a non-league wrestling match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, in ragged sneakers and no headgear to protect their ears, contrasted with our boys in their spiffy uniforms and shoes. We took every weight class.

My husband Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly. “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “This could take the heart right out of them.”

That’s when I got the idea.  Knowing Mike hated the commercial aspects of Christmas, I went to a sporting-goods store, bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.

On Christmas Eve, I tucked an envelope in the branches of our tree with a note inside telling Mike what I’d done as my gift to him. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year.

For succeeding Christmases, I followed the new tradition—sending a group of mentally disabled youngsters to a hockey game, and so on.  The unmarked envelope became our Christmas highlight.

Our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree—always the last gift opened—to reveal its contents.

—Anonymous in Ken Canfield’s They Call Me Dad

My Response: What giving element could I work into our Christmas traditions?

Thought to Apply: Nothing is really ours until we share it.—C.S. Lewis (British scholar & writer)

Adapted from They Call Me Dad (Howard, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – A “Provision Kiss”

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Our first provision miracle happened with a rental property. After Gail and I married, we lived in a Wisconsin apartment we mockingly called “the Palace.” It had one space heater and a toilet and tiny shower in the closet. We were paying $90 a month.

Friends of ours in St. Louis told us how they got a home for $240 a month in a market where similar homes were going for close to $500. They’d looked at their budget and asked God for a home in that price range.

God might do the same for us, we thought.  We examined our budget.  It would be a stretch, but we could afford $125.  We prayed, “Lord, Your Word says You care about these things.  We ask You to give us a home for $125 a month.”  Then we watched the paper.

For the preceding month it had listed no rental homes for less than $300. But three days later, an ad appeared for a two-bedroom home—for $125!  We went to see it, then called the owner. “I’m probably asking too little for the house,” an elderly lady said. “I’ve had so many calls about it.”

We went to meet with her.  As we were talking, a junior college professor called and offered her more.  “Thanks,” she replied, “but I want to give it to this nice young couple.”

—Ed Gungor in Religiously Transmitted Diseases

My Response: Have I ever prayed about my budgeting?  Should I?

Thought to Apply: You will never need more than God can supply.—J.I. Packer (Canadian theologian)

Adapted from Religiously Transmitted Diseases (Nelson Ignite, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – Urge to Splurge

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

Bonus Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

Slick, colorful brochures lie on my desk. They’re from sales representatives eager for me to use their state-of-the-art equipment.

But nothing will be purchased until Materials Management scrutinizes my justification letter, explaining why, when, where, and how the equipment will be used. These requirements methodically expose any emotional attachments I have to an apparatus’s newness. I’m forced to honestly measure its value to my department.

And since I know Materials Management won’t approve a purchase based on a letter filled with feelings, I usually don’t waste my time writing one—and throw 98 percent of the pretty brochures into the trash!

Composing a mental “justification letter” is a savvy practice that works great in everyday life, too.

I used to get so excited about the newest high-tech gadget that I’d practically run to buy it, never questioning its value to my life. Soon it would be added to my I-felt-I-had-to-have-it dust collectors.

But my growth in Christ has taught me to be still when the urge to spend strikes. If I pause to allow the Holy Spirit to put my feelings in check, I can honestly measure any product’s value to my life—and break the chain of foolish spending.

—Howard Swann in Texas

My Response: Could I justify my latest major purchase by Material Management criteria?

Thought to Apply: You can’t have everything.  Where would you put it?—Steven Wright (humorist)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – Whose Wheels?

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: All the believers … felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.  – Acts 4:32

Bonus Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Several years ago when my mom had to stop driving, I picked up her car, a Ford Escort. Slow but economical, it became my transportation between home and the church I pastored 90 miles away.

After I resigned, it became an extra car.  We knew it belonged to God, so we sometimes loaned out “God’s car” to friends in need. A buddy from a home Bible study needed short-term wheels, so I let him use it. He liked it and asked to buy it.

We agreed on a price, he made a small down payment, and promptly quit paying. He didn’t change the registration with the state, so we remained liable.

Soon after, he quit returning my calls. He did respond to an e-mail, saying he’d take care of the registration. He never did.

Months later I received notice of a parking violation and other problems. I contacted our church, and he’d quit attending. Short of tracking him down and taking him to court, Mom’s car and the money have disappeared. That ticks me off. We had counted on that money and didn’t have a lot to spare. Justice plays a role in my anger.

But, I try to remind myself, God owns that car. He didn’t “steal” it from me, but from God.

Renouncing ownership means we keep a loose grip on our stuff; we try not to get too attached.

—Tim Riter in Not a Safe God

My Response: The part of Tim’s response I can relate to is …

Thought to Apply: All you are unable to give possesses you.—Andre Gide (French author)

Adapted from Not a Safe God (Broadman & Holman, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Found Wanting

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse:  “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.”  – Luke 12:15

Bonus Reading:  Job 31:24-25

Growing up, my brothers and I were notorious present-beggars. We’d get our minds set on the ultimate Christmas toy, then beg relentlessly.

As we got older we became more skilled (or so we thought), strategically placing the Sears toy catalog open to the right page in places we knew Mom and Dad would look: in his recliner, under her pillow, in the refrigerator.

One year we set our sights on a big yellow G.I. Joe troop transport with six oversized knobby wheels. The commercials showed it careening through rugged battlefields, rushing Joe and his Kung Fu grip to the action.

Well, our subtle “product placement” worked; we got the toy for Christmas. We rushed out to play with it, and quickly realized our yard was pretty much … flat. No rugged battlefield to be found.

Sure, with a little imagination we made the toy work, but I couldn’t escape a tinge of disappointment.

So it goes with stuff—and the chase isn’t confined to childhood.  Many people have convinced themselves they should pull the trigger on the bigger TV, the fancier fly rod, the sportier car. It never satisfies, does it?

Solomon said that “Those who love money will never have enough” (Eccl. 5:10).

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: What potential possession am I emotionally chasing? Can it deliver on my expectations?

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Lend Your Stuff

Overcoming SelfishnessWho Said It…Tim Stafford

Tim Stafford started his writing career with what is now Ignite Your Faith magazine (then Youth for Christ’s Campus Life). Next he moved his family to Kenya and founded Step magazine, for Christian youth in Africa.

With Philip Yancey, he co-authored notes for the popular Student Bible. Now Tim’s family, including wife Popie, a counselor, and three children, live in Santa Rosa, California.

Tim is a senior writer for Christianity Today and has written many books, including a historical fiction trilogy.

What He Said…Lend Your Stuff

For some people no act of generosity comes harder than lending because they’re emotionally attached to their possessions and can’t let go.

Something seizes up inside at the thought of letting your new car go on the church ski trip or lending your power tools to the group going to Mexico to build houses. The car may get dented. The tools may get lost or broken.

However, such tangible acts of generosity make sense to children in a way that the abstract writing of checks might not.

We made it a family policy, when we bought a new minivan, to make it available to the church or school anytime they needed it. And they needed it frequently!

We sent a full minivan to Mexico, into the Sierra for ski trips, and to a great variety of other destinations.

I almost always found it a little hard to let the car out of my hands. However, I am quite sure my children will remember these small acts of generosity and want to imitate them.

Adapted from Never Mind the Joneses (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.