GENEROSITY of Treasure

Casey & Anna Huebner’s story of Generosity of Treasure. We showed their story during Northshore’s Generosity series in March. It’s a great transformational story of financial freedom and stewardship.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/21991743[/vimeo]

For more stories of Generosity, click HERE

Generosity of TOUCH

The Junior and Senior High Ministry just wrapped up a great year of small groups by having an appreciation dinner.  About 50 of our leaders came out for some Ooba’s Mexican food, a little piñata action, and some sharing of stories from the last year.  Our church has been blessed with some amazing volunteers.  Here were some of the stories and reflections:

  • A funny moment of reflection: When talking about relationships, a lesson discussed how “Below the Chin Touching” was a big No-No.  Well, one 6th grade girl proceeded to ask why touching below the chin is such a bad thing.  She scratched below her chin and couldn’t figure out what was so bad about chins.  Her leader chuckled at where this particular week’s discussion was going.
  • One leader pointed out how over a dozen of our current small group leaders actually grew up in Northshore’s Student Ministry…and now they are leading as adults.  One particular leader has grown up from eating all the coffee sugars and creamers to now discipling other boys.
  • A couple leaders shared how their young boys could not pray at all when the year started. But by the end of the year, they had moved on from just saying “Thanks God for this day,” to more personalized prayers.
  • One leader reflected on the relationship change with his guys, where now the guys call him for advice and help on some pretty deep issues.  It is no longer just a Tuesday night relationship.
  • One mom who is now a high school leader realized the importance of the other voices in the lives of a teenager besides just the parent.  The more positive voices, the better!
  • Another mom shared how this role as a youth leader is so outside of her personality…but her girls are pleading with her to come back next year and be their leader.

To all of our Student Ministry leaders – THANK YOU!

Generosity of TREASURE (a Tithing Story)

Todd Fredrickson, one of Northshore’s Overseers, sent me this story about the generosity value of TREASURE and his personal experience with tithing. Thanks Todd!

I started tithing while I was in graduate school, which was an interesting time to start because I have never been closer to the poverty line.  My tuition was paid for, but my stipend for books and living expenses was only $600 a quarter. And more than $200 of that went to rent. So, after my tithe and my rent, I was trying to stretch about $300 out across an entire quarter.

I ran out of money with three or four weeks left in the quarter.  It wasn’t life-threatening, because I knew that if I really had to I could ask my dad for money and he would gladly send me some.

But I also knew that that probably wasn’t what I was supposed to learn from my new commitment to tithing. So, one night after looking into cupboards and a refrigerator that were all but empty, I got down on my knees and prayed, “God, for the first time in my life I am trying to be obedient with my finances. But right now I don’t know what to do, and if you could encourage me somehow I’d be grateful.”

The very next day, when I picked up my mail, there was a check for some work I had done several months earlier while I was on a break. I had long since forgotten about it because at the time I did the work it seemed like a trivial amount. The check was for $23 and change, and $23 never felt like so much money. It covered my next trip to the grocery store.

Two weeks later, same thing. No money. Food almost gone. Similar prayer. “God, here I am again. I am ashamed to have to ask you for some encouragement again so soon, but I could really use some.”

The next day, I was walking across campus, past the office of a man I knew from my previous school who worked in the athletic department. I thought, “You know, I should drop in and say ‘hi’ to Steve. It’s been a while.”  I popped into his office, and we had a great chat, catching up on a couple years’ worth of changes in each other’s lives.

As I was getting up to leave, he said, “Oh, by the way, CBS is broadcasting our basketball game tomorrow, and they asked me to round up some help.  If you’re available, I could use you. I think they’re paying $50.”

Fifty dollars! That would easily get me through the end of the quarter, with plenty to spare. It could just as well have been a million dollars for how happy and relieved I was.

Now, I know the skeptics will attribute all of this to coincidence. After all, that check for $23 was something I had coming to me. It’s not like God made it fall out of the sky so I could find it on the sidewalk. But it was all about God’s timing. I had completely forgotten about it, and God used it at just the right moment to encourage me.

And I had walked past Steve’s office 100 times without ever once thinking that I should go in. Why did I get that prompting at the perfect time? That’s not a coincidence. It was the Spirit setting a divine appointment to encourage a young believer who was, for the first time, trying to be obedient with his money.

I’m not suggesting that because I was tithing, God owed it to me to provide money every time I felt squeezed.  Nor am I saying that He has always done so or will do so in the future.  No way is that what I’m saying.  But I do know that God is faithful and loving as well as sovereign, and since that time I have never had any trouble tithing.

What stories can you share about God’s providence as you responded generously with your treasure?

For a great book on Generosity and Treasure, see Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle.

Generosity of TOUCH

This story of generosity and “touch” was recently sent to me. The author wishes to remain anonymous. It’s a beautiful story of pain, redemption, healing, and a willingness to be used by Jesus.

I had come to the realization a while ago that God wanted me to get involved with abuse victims. That’s what I have to offer hurting people. Acceptance, compassion, and understanding. A heart that is broken to the pain abuse victims have to deal with. But I needed to experience healing in my own life. So my husband and I have continued to work with our Christian counselor because we’ve needed to get a “firm foundation” in our marriage so I can be stable as I serve and reach out to others.

Then a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk with a woman whose small son was abused. A few days after talking and crying with her, I fell apart. I didn’t think that I could work with abuse victims, especially not after seeing my reaction to this situation.  It caused too much pain for me. Too many feelings of inadequacy. Too much fear and hurt and brokenness. I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I was too afraid.

During Northshore’s Generosity series, God kept pointing me towards reaching out to abuse victims. Every week. With every topic. But I fought Him. Couldn’t He see I was not equipped? Couldn’t He see I was not good enough? Couldn’t He see that I was too afraid? Couldn’t He see that I have had enough of pain and suffering in my life? I have no strength left to deal with this anymore. I wanted Him to leave me alone.

One evening in my small group, we talked about Generosity value “Treasure.” I almost didn’t go to small group.  I wasn’t feeling very good and began to come up with excuses. I have discovered in the past that when that happens there is probably something that I need to see and hear, and often I realize that Satan is trying to discourage me. So I went anyway. During Pastor Jonathan’s message on “Treasure,” he said something that took on a whole new meaning at our small group: “Sacrifice has been defined as a willingness to give up something I love for something I love even more.” That statement permeated my heart. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I was listening to some music. There was a song about the path that God has put us on. He wants to use our life to reach out to others. To heal others. To love others into His kingdom. It finally all came together for me. My abuse is a gift for others. Like Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I get the blessing of giving up me for others. For His kingdom. And I am at peace and am no longer fighting with God.

How can Jesus use your story and your pain for His work and healing in others’ lives?

Generosity of TOUCH, Part 2

Here are some more stories about generosity of touch.

Story #1 (stories from Andy Wright, Pastor to Junior High Students):

Two mothers, Margaret Downs and Anne Stenson lead a monthly effort to provide breakfast for all our students on “Breakfast Sundays,” when the students often invite friends to come to church with them.  This service is totally behind the scenes, but a great example of giving TIME and TOUCH to those who don’t “offer much in return!”

Paul Siegwald, a High School student, has sacrificed an amazing opportunity to connect with some brothers on Tuesday nights in his own small group, and instead, he has taken a group of 8th grade boys as a valuable small group leader and is seeking to point them towards Jesus.  It is one thing to give up being a part of a small group when your small group is boring, but Paul has a great peer group!  Thank God for the blessing he is to our Jr. High students!

Story #2: After reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love this past summer, I felt God nudging me to quit making excuses about why I wasn’t serving those around me and get involved in ministry. I’ve known about World Relief for more than three years, but I always had an excuse for not getting involved. “I work full time. I’m pregnant. I have an infant. My life is busy…” (insert any applicable excuse in here). We can so easily talk ourselves out of getting involved because we think we are either already doing enough or we have to wait for the next life stage or someone else will do it, etc.

Anyway, we signed up with World Relief to house refugee families that are resettling in the Seattle area. Within two weeks of completing our application and background check, I received a call from World Relief. They needed housing for a young Iraqi couple with an infant son. When they came to our home, they had been in the U.S. for 24 hours and had spent their first night in Florida in the immigration process. They left everyone and everything they knew behind. They had one large suitcase and a backpack for two adults and their 10-month-old infant. We had them in our home for four nights and have stayed connected to them as “cultural companions.” We’ve visited them about two to three times a month.

I feel like there is so much more we can do for God’s kingdom and His people. We don’t have to travel to an exotic country and be away from our family to serve another family in need. The mission field is right here in our own backyard. World Relief is a local Christian organization that “welcomes the stranger” here in our own area.

Story #3: Pam (Liu) Davila is a former student of mine and member of Northshore. Several years ago, she did a very generous and brave thing. Her mother needed a kidney transplant, so Pam donated one of her kidneys to her. It was a successful transplant, and I know Pam’s parents are very grateful for her sacrifice.  Pam was in her early twenties when she did this.  Here’s a bit of background on Pam. She and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when Pam was only 3 or 4 years old.  Through the prayers and influence of some Christian friends, Pam gave her life to the Lord when she was a sophomore in high school. Pam was in my Spanish classes all 4 years of high school. It was a pleasure to see her mature and blossom in her Christian faith and in her Spanish abilities. A few years after graduating from Wheaton College, Pam went as a missionary to Peru for two years. There she met her husband, Fernando Davila. Pam and Fernando started going to Northshore about a year ago. Pam’s parents are not yet believers, but I know they see the positive things Pam’s faith has produced in her life, and prayerfully, they will one day come to know the Lord.

Story #4: I began homeschooling my 7th grade daughters last fall for the first time.  Since they were in 3rd grade at Shelton View, in each of the 3rd grade classes, I have led reading groups.  I’ve done it every year since and really enjoy sharing my love for reading.  Since my daughters also love to read, I wanted to continue leading the groups, so every Wednesday and Thursday morning, the three of us head up to Shelton View and lead a group of 3rd graders for about 40 minutes.  We discuss what the book is about and take turns reading.  My daughters love doing it and both have some kids where English is their second language.  We look forward to these special times each week.

Send more stories to generosity@nsb.org.

Generosity of TOUCH, Part 1

I received numerous stories about generosity and touch, so I’ll do multiple posts on this value. Here are some great stories:

Story #1: Thinking about generosity, I couldn’t help but think of my husband. He was asked many years ago who is the most generous person you know, and he immediately responded, “My dad.”  All his life he gave of himself to others. Now fast forward to a week in the life of my husband. This week he volunteered at the local elementary school where he works with a student that needs extra help once a week. Then when weeding our garden he continued around the corner and weeded the neighbors as well. When he washed my car earlier this week, he asked the single older woman next door if he could wash hers.  She was delighted. Today after he washed his truck he went to the neighbor down the street a single lady who struggles with health issues and washed hers. Tonight as we grabbed a quick bite at taco time, we were eating and I said, “I think the woman ordering at the counter is a woman I’ve seen on the corner with a homeless sign.” He looked up from his food and said, “I’m going to go pay for her meal.” Anyway it makes me cry as I think of how generous my husband is. And it all started with watching the example of his dad.

Story #2: Our boys, who are in their early 20’s, were playing lacrosse and came across a young man who recently moved to the area. He moved without a car, without a job, and without a place to live. At dinner, our family discussed it, and we decided that he could stay with us until he got on his feet. He moved in a week later and was flabbergasted that we would do such a thing. He became part of our family and got a job a couple of weeks later. He stayed with us three or four months, and when he moved out he left a note:

You have been great beyond words to me. You opened your doors to me, a stranger, without question.  You said, “Here is a room and food”… again without question.  I have never met a family like yours.  Most families I know would not offer this kind of hospitality. You all have gracious hearts, and I wish that I could be as generous as you are. You showed me unconditional love in a world that is only concerned with what they get in return.

I cried when I read how this had impacted him. He was not our first “stray,” and I imagine he won’t be our last. We’ve had four people live with us while in transition. What I love is that our kids know when someone needs a place, and they say without missing a beat, “My parents have room.” Our neighbors think we are nuts at times but “that’s how we roll.”

Story #3 (From Pastor Gary Stabbert): On Sunday morning, Elaine Gillespie was generous with her touch in a beautiful way. Another woman who attends Northshore has recently gone through a series of painful experiences with her health and the loss of loved ones. Her emotions were close to the surface when she stepped up to the information booth where Elaine was serving. Shortly after asking Elaine about a class to attend, this woman began to cry. Elaine walked around from behind the booth and took her into her arms. At this expression of care and concern, she began weeping as she rested her head on Elaine’s shoulder. Elaine held her with love and compassion. Sensing the need for follow through, Elaine asked someone who was standing nearby to cover the information booth. Elaine took her to the Prayer Room to care for her further and pray with her. Elaine’s loving touch opened the door to a powerful ministry in this woman’s life.

Keep the stories coming. Send them to generosity@nsb.org.

What People Think of Generosity

Here’s how a group of 9th grade guys from Northshore’s Senior High Ministry gave up their time to find out what other people think of generosity.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/21031261[/vimeo]

Maybe there’s something hard-wired into the human heart about generosity and gratitude.

What do you think generosity is?

Generosity of TALENT

Here’s a great Generosity of TALENT story I received this week:

A friend recently asked if they could purchase a painting I did. Or if I was unwilling to part with it, could they commission me to do another piece for their home? I had mixed emotions. I am not a fast painter, and I’ve never been the kind of person that easily creates something and gives it away. I invest a lot of emotional energy in the things I create, especially my paintings.

I was blessed that someone had connected to my art. It caused me to think about my love for painting. It’s an expression that deeply uses my gift to turn Scripture or visions into imagery. It’s one of the places I feel closest to God. But I already invest a lot of my artistic talents in the church, and it is easy to think that I am already being generous with my talents.

I’ve always viewed painting as something that benefits me, but I’ve begun feeling that God wants to use it to bless others. I’ve been scared to venture into this area of sharing my talent. It requires more of me than any other area of using my talents. But I believe that if I don’t venture out into this area, I’ll miss out on a powerful way that God wants to use me. It seems like the scariest areas to step out are the very areas that God can use us most powerfully.

What are some talents that God is calling you to grow in and give away?  Send me your stories to generosity@nsb.org.

Generosity of TIME Stories

Here are some of the generosity of TIME stories people sent this week as we learn and practice Generosity: Choosing a Life of Overflow.

Story #1. The Junior High 30-hour Famine. Check out this video.

The junior highers not only went 30 hours without eating (praying and learning what it’s like to be hungry ), they also raised over $10,000! They gathered over 1,500 non-perishables to take to a shelter and did community service projects around the area! They did an awesome job and exceeded their goal of $8,000. They initially pick the $8000 goal because 8000 children under age 5 die every day from hunger related causes. For $1 you can feed a child for a day. We raised enough to feed 27 children for a year!

Story #2. From Pastor Andy Wright (our Junior High Pastor):

A BIG SHOUT OUT for Dawnelle Patterson and Andrea Langkow, two women in our church who are taking 10 girls from their Jr. High Small Group to a cabin this weekend to love and connect with them.  They both have very busy lives but have generously given so much to these girls!  These weekends are often the spark that starts a major fire in young peoples’ lives!

Story #3. From a busy mom:

During my small group this week, one of the questions was along the lines of “what holds you back,” and I felt that not being an extrovert sometimes hinders me. I was stuck in the frame of mind that generosity of time means volunteering for everything that comes up. Right away one of the group members reminded me that just last week I left my family to stay overnight with friends’ kids so they could have a night away. There had/has been a lot going on with my friends, so I felt they needed that time and asked if I could do this a few weeks prior. I really didn’t consider that generosity of time. It just felt like a need that I could fill.

Story #4. From Sheila Jarvis (whose generosity of time story we celebrated in the study guide and during the weekend services):

Thank you so much for the way you presented my Celebration Story on Sunday. It was a real blessing.
 Since talking to you, the Lord reminded me that I missed out on one very important part of my story… one which highlights the fact that people can be generous servers of God without even realizing it. Because I don’t drive any more, my husband Maurice happily drives me to Moorlands (where I volunteer every day) and then comes back later to take me home. If it wasn’t for his willingness to do this I would not be able to volunteer. In thinking about it I realized that there are many people I know who are faithfully, and often sacrificially, giving their time to minister to others.

Thanks for the stories and keep ’em coming! Send them to generosity@nsb.org

Generosity: Choosing a Life of Overflow

Generosity begins with a generous God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” God is the most generous of givers and as followers of Jesus, we are to become like the God we serve.  And in the joy and act of giving, we are most like God when we give and serve like God. People who have experienced the transformation of Jesus through the Holy Spirit choose to live a life of overflow, freely giving their time, talent, touch, and treasure. But it’s something we have to learn…something we have to live…something we have to commit to.

In our Generosity series during the month of March, we are going to see what the Bible has to say about generosity. We’ll discover biblical pictures of what it looks like to be people who choose a life of overflow with our time, our talents, our treasure, and our touch.  It’s about transformation, not transaction.  And through this series, we’ll learn the heart of sacrifice…giving up something we love for something we love even more.

Generosity is such an important topic and principle for our lives, our church, and our mission to the world that we’ve developed a Generosity Study Guide for this series. We have also developed Children’s Ministry and Student Ministry curriculum, which will mirror the weekly messages in the worship services.

In the study guide, you’ll find an overview and review of Sunday’s message. You’ll also be given questions to discuss in your small group community. During our Sunday services we’ll celebrate stories of generosity, discovering what it looks like in the real world to live out each week’s generosity value. You’ll also find prayer points to pray through so that you might begin and continue to live generously. Lastly, there are also some ideas for families to discuss with children so that we can teach and model generosity for a lifetime.

As you live and experience generosity and choose to live a life of overflow, I’d love to hear your stories. You can send them to generosity@nsb.org.

If you’d like to listen to the four messages on Generosity, here’s the link.

I pray that God would teach and train us to be people who live generously like our Savior does. I pray that God’s generosity would shine through our lives, our families, and our church. And I pray that we’d be changed in the process to become a people and a life-transforming community that lives, looks, and loves more like Jesus.

Welcome to the journey of generosity!

Pastor Jonathan