It’s common for folks to use #Blessed on social media to express something good that has happened or something good that they got. It is a way for folks to celebrate something good while trying to be modest about it. But, that is not how Jesus used the word. Before I get to that, what does “blessed” mean? From the original language, it can be translated as “happy” or “fortunate.” It means having favor with God, being fully satisfied and doing well. What’s clear from the entire Bible, from the beginning (Genesis 1:22) to the end (Revelation 22:7), God wants us to experience his blessings and live in a state of blessing. God wants us to be content, satisfied, and happy.
Depending on the church you grew up in, you might have missed that God actually wants you to be happy. The churches I grew up in emphasized that Jesus had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20), owned nothing and that we were to die to ourselves and take up our crosses (Matthew 16:24). That is all true. But there was no place for happiness in our faith. For too many years I believed that God was the cosmic killjoy. All I ever heard taught was that we were to sacrifice, suffer, and be somber in all things. I was taught that wanting to be happy was just another way to describe being uber selfish. It’s no wonder that so many people don’t want to have anything to do with church people who refuse to be happy.
Our faith is built on good news (also called the Gospel). The Bible is overwhelmingly clear – God wants to bless us. That means he will give us what we need to live in that condition of happiness. Of course, that requires that we have to trust him and follow his ways to find and live in that blessed state. Now that doesn’t mean that God will remove every challenge or difficulty. We can be blessed and happy even in trials – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
This past Sunday I reminded our church what Jesus said as recorded in Acts 20:35 – it is more blessed to give than receive. Jesus turns the #Blessed posts upside down. Being happy is not found in getting good things, but in giving good things. Generosity is the real path to satisfaction. God wants us to be really happy and we find it in being generous.
God wants you to be happy. He’s given us the path. Learn to give generously. Give an abundance of good words to others. You can’t be unhappy when you are blessing others with your words. Give generously out of your money and possessions. You can’t be unhappy when you meet the needs of others directly or through your church or a non-profit. You can’t be unhappy when you give of your time, effort and service to make a difference for others. You can test that out by joining us in Serving Our City on November 17th. Never stop giving thanks and gratitude to God and others for how he has blessed us, sometimes even in the midst of hard times. You can’t be unhappy while being grateful.
Every person, every organization and every church has values. Sometimes we are not aware of them and often they are not clearly articulated, but they drive how we live and shape who we are. Values are the foundational motivations for what we do. They provide our inspiration as non-negotiable guiding principles. They shape what we say “yes” or “no” to. They influence and characterize everything that happens in and through us. They give our church community its unique “flavor.” And for many of us, these values are what we love about being a part of Pantano. So, values matter!
Over the last six months, our leadership team has prayerfully and carefully looked at what we truly value in our church. After lots of healthy discussions and rewrites, below are the newly clarified values of Pantano Christian Church. I doubt that there will be many surprises at what you’ll see. And remember that these values do not replace what we believe (see our Statement of Faith) but are built on those beliefs. We’ll do a deeper dive into these values and their biblical basis in a series that we’ll launch in May. The six main values are in bold type below, followed by short descriptions in italics. What do you think?
We are unapologetic grace givers.
We are all broken, incomplete people in need of God’s grace. We meet people where they are and generously give away the grace we’ve freely received.
What matters most is loving people to Jesus.
Loving God = Loving People. Everyone has value and matters to God. We pursue those who don’t know Jesus to help them write a new life story with him.
Being “kingdom first” drives us beyond our own church community. We strive to join God wherever He is at work. Church is who we are, wherever we are.
Radical generosity reshapes our world.
As a kingdom first church, we share our resources and people selflessly.
The Bible transforms how we live and who we become.
The Bible is our primary source for transformation. We move beyond information to practical and relevant application.
Connected people are changed people.
Community is essential to connect with God and others in order to be transformed.
We pray you would consider how each of these values could be shown in your own life.
No, we did not, nor are we having twins. But I’ve sure enjoyed getting to know some twins. I’ve gotten to observe several sets through our church as well as watch some twins who are athletes, writers, and speakers. Whether identical or fraternal types, there seems to be a very special bond and connection between the two. That bond is strong regardless of the fact that they can have very different personalities, likes, and hobbies. That bond is visible whether they like to dress the same or not.
For several years now I’ve been on a spiritual journey of learning about and growing what seems like spiritual twins. These “twins” are character qualities that also manifest themselves and are grown through practice and action. These “twins” have been two of the powerful forces shaping me lately. The “twins” are gratitude and generosity. There is a strong bond between them. They feed off each other and enhance each other. They are not identical twins, but they clearly are close to and related to each other. Yes, in a spiritual sense, they come from the same heavenly Father.
Here are some random reflections of some things I’ve learned, am learning and continue to explore about the twins of gratitude and generosity:
My wish for you is that you intentionally grow the twins of gratitude and generosity. What I’ve discovered is that it doesn’t matter which you do first. With intentionality, one leads to the other. So, get started! Find a way daily to practice both generosity and gratitude…and watch God grow you in wild and crazy ways.
I am so proud of our church. Pantano is a generous church! Literally, a thousand of us at Pantano serve in some way at our church, in our community or globally over the course of the year. We couldn’t do what we do and make the difference we are making without you. THANK YOU!
As a church, we give away about half a million dollars every year to local and global organizations and missions. These organizations have been vetted as trustworthy and are making a difference in their communities. And, that dollar amount doesn’t include the service time we provide. THANK YOU for making that possible.
Christmas Eve Offering – The Center of Opportunity
Every year we give our Christmas Eve offering away. Sometimes we’ve given that to international projects and sometimes we’ve given it locally. Often we’ve split it between groups. This year, I’m excited to announce that our Christmas Eve offering will go to the Center of Opportunity. This is a one-stop center run by the Gospel Rescue Mission. A generous family in Tucson bought the old “Holidome” (the Holiday Inn Conference Center on Park, south of Ajo), and gave it to the Gospel Rescue Mission for $1 a year for 99 years!
Hoping to open in the Spring of 2019, the Center of Opportunity will provide about 300 emergency beds and over 30 Christian social service and government agencies will be serving our homeless population in Tucson in this one location. These agencies will help the homeless move toward self-sufficiency by providing emergency housing and meals, job training and placement, health and dental services, government and veteran assistance and so much more. And, the Gospel Rescue Mission will make sure that each person is introduced to Jesus and will disciple those who are ready to follow him.
Year-End Giving – Room for More
It is normal for folks to evaluate their giving as we come to the end of the year. If you are planning to make a year-end gift, please focus your giving toward our Room for More project. We are just getting started with construction for the Student Union to provide room for our students and children. We must make Room for More. We took out a construction loan to get started, but I’d like to pay off the entire cost by the time we occupy in the spring of 2019. That will only be possible if we all give generously and sacrificially.
How To Give
The easiest way to give is to give online. You can give your regular gifts as well as your Christmas Eve offering and Room for More giving online – https://pantano.church/give/. Or, you can use our envelopes (they have a place to mark regular giving or Room for More) or use the special green Christmas Eve offering envelope that will be in the seat backs on Christmas Eve. Another option is to have your gift sent from your checking account; call us if you have questions and need help – 520.298.5395. THANK YOU again and in advance for your amazing generosity, which allows us to make a difference in the lives of people both now and for eternity.