Summary: This is the third in the Advent Conspiracy series...

**This is an abbreviated message due to the mornings activities...

Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking through the themes from our Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.

The idea of the campaign is pretty simple and its built on a belief that we are all caught - the trap we are caught in is consumerism or materialism...

Most of us don’t even realize how much we trapped we are. I’m sure you’ve heard how they train circus elephants, right? If you’ve been to the circus you see these huge elephants being led around and performing with just a small rope around their ankle. They are so large they could easily break the rope or chain - but all their lives they’ve been chained. As a baby, the chain was larger and more significant and seemed huge. They would tug and try to break free, but they soon realized that was impossible. As they grew, the chain was nothing except a mental reminder that they couldn’t break free, even though in reality they could...

I don’t think we realize that materialism and consumerism has us trapped... Ashley and I were in New York City this past week. I had a conference there and took her along. We did a little sight seeing before we left and one of the places we went was Times Square. Times square is all about consumerism. Everything is bigger than life. The lights and advertising are almost overwhelming, but here’s something funny. Of all the pictures Ashley and I took - the only one she really wanted - the one she asked me to take, was of her with the neon Macdonalds sign in the background. You see, for her - Macdonalds is a cultural icon. She’s been marketed to from macdonalds her whole life...

When we talk about giving - I think we have the same problems... We don’t understand that we are trapped by consumerism and materialism so guess where giving begins - It begins with us.

We ask what do you want to give? What can I give? is about us. We will give, but ‘we’ comes first.

I have two quick thoughts for you this morning from scripture:

the first is from John 3:16 and it serves as a reminder that God began the giving... That God is a giving God - that one of his primary characteristics is giving... “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

One of the main parts of the Jesus story is the idea that Christ is Immanuel - God with us... Christ gave himself to us - he gave completely, he gave fully. The incarnation represents the ultimate act of sacrifice...

What if we came to understand that rather than our giving beginning with us - as followers of Christ, our giving begins with him? I think the call of Christ was to re-order our priorities and our finances and our lives around him!

Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)

He also said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” (Matthew 13:44)

if you read much in the gospels at all, you will find that Jesus says we have to choose... We either choose to use our wealth primarily for us - giving is about and begins with me - or we learn to leverage our wealth to build for the God’s Kingdom.

I think one day we will stand before God and he will ask us “What did you do with what I gave you?” How will you answer that question?

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