“…there was a richness about them…”

From the “Guest Blogger” Series on I Am the Clay

Pastor Aaron

Guest Blogger: Aaron D. Burgner, Lead Pastor at Church at the Mall

I’ve been wanting to feature a “Guest Blogger” series on I Am the Clay for some time now by using great writers, thinkers, and communicators I’m blessed to call my friends. My guest today—and my first guest blogger—is my pastor, Aaron Burgner.

The article below was one he sent to our church family via email and graciously agreed to let me post here. And while it’s a very personal message to our congregation (as you’ll see in the final paragraphs), his message is universal—give richly because you’ve been given richly. As with every sermon he preaches, he captures the heart of this particular message in a unique and compelling way. (Services at my church are not to be missed.)

To hear more from him, check out our church website at churchatthemall.com… our Facebook page… or listen to our “Church at the Mall” podcast. (The handsome fellow above can flat out preach the word.)

And if you’re in the Central Florida area and looking for a church home, you won’t find a better one than Church at the Mall. God is at work in a mighty way and we would love to have you come be a part of it.

• • •

Church Family,

During some of my devotional time this past week I was struck by a verse in Proverbs that I have read many times before.

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Proverbs 11:24

My Grandpa Burgner (Poppie) was one of the most giving people I have ever known. He worked for the county, fixing roads his entire adult life. I remember as a young boy spending time with him riding around in his pickup truck taking eggs from his chickens and delivering them to the men that he worked with on the roads. He was always giving what he had to others, whether it was from his garden or his money.

Looking back, my grandparents never had much, but I thought as a child that he was the richest person in all of Medulla, which was pretty much the known world to me at the time. It was the way he and my grandmother chose to live their lives—as givers—because of the outflow of God’s grace in their lives, that led me to believe they were rich. I know now that they were not rich at all, at least not in worldly terms. But there was richness about them that no one could ever take away. The Spirit of God gave them a joy in their giving that could not be stripped away, and it seemed to intensify the more they had opportunity to give.

Sadly, as a pastor, I have also known many people who have much, and yet they cling to it as if they actually have eternal control over the things with which God has blessed them. I can hear King Solomon’s heart when he wrote these words in Proverbs. Probably spoken out of his life experiences, he learned that riches are found in the joy we find in God. Ultimately, it is in Christ that we find this joy as we are a giving people, the way that Christ gave. King Solomon also saw that the tighter we cling to the resources that ultimately all belong to God, the more miserable we become.

I want our church to be a giving church. I want our church to be a church that has maximum ability to send more money to the nations for the purposes of the Gospel. I want us to be debt-free so that we aren’t sending money to a bank, but rather using it to see people’s lives changed by the power of the gospel. I want us to be a rich church. Not rich because we have more, but rich because we give more. I want us to be satisfied in Christ and find our joy in Him alone.

I ask you to help us tackle our debt as a faith family—that we would give graciously of what already belongs to God. And His Word tells us we will be all the richer for it.

I love you church family, and it is my joy to be your pastor. I am looking forward to the 30th of September as we have the opportunity to do more for the purposes of the Gospel. I am praying for you and that the riches of Christ would overwhelm your life.

For His Glory,

Aaron D. Burgner

• • •

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10 Ways to Live a Holy Life, Part 2

[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life. 2 Timothy 1:9

In 10 Ways to Live a Holy Life, Part 1 I introduced the idea of personal holiness in the life of the Christian. The Bible is plain that aiming for holiness should be the goal of every person who has been saved by God’s grace.

For some people, however, the concept of God’s grace is treated as more of a “license to kill,” the thought apparently being that, not only is there nothing we can do to earn God’s grace (true dat) there’s also nothing special we have to do afterward, sort of like having a reserved seat at a baseball game – even if you don’t wander in until the bottom of the ninth, you’ve still got a seat waiting for you.

But looking at 2 Timothy 1:9 (above), there are definitely two parts to the “Livin’ La Vida Christian” equation:


Living under grace includes a reserved seat all right, but you need to be there for the whole game – and not to just drink beer. To quote myself from Part 1, being holy means that:

…now that I know Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I’m supposed to be different from the average non-Christian guy on the street – different in the things I do, the things I say, and the things I think about.

True dat, as well.

The first three items in Part 1 of the “Holiness Listicle” dealt with things to do to aid you in your quest for holiness:

  1. Go to Church
  2. Read the Good Book (and other good books)
  3. Pray

Part 2 deals with three BE-haviors. And, just like with the first three items, we’re using Jesus as the benchmark. If He would be it, then we should be it.

Continuing on…

The Holiness Listicle (4-6)

4. Be Honest

I’m not talking about grand theft auto or “if you like your health plan you can keep your health plan” types of dishonesty. I’m referring to the everyday things we do without thinking, like making up excuses when we return something to the store we just didn’t like or not correcting the grocery checkout clerk when he charges you for cucumbers instead of zucchini, their more expensive twin. Solomon in his wisdom wrote:

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. Proverbs 12:22

Can’t get no plainer than that. So…

  • Don’t “forget” to claim some bit of income on your tax return or inflate your charitable giving (especially not your giving to the church).
  • If the cashier gives you too much change back, return it – even if you have to get in the car and drive back up there. Even if it’s just 50 cents.
  • Drive the speed limit; come to a complete stop at a stop sign; yadda yadda. Those are the laws of our land. Romans 13:1 says we are to obey those laws: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.” Of course, if a law contradicts God’s law, then we are to obey God first. Interestingly though, God is strangely silent on driving down the interstate like you’re demon possessed…
  • If you agree to do something, do it. If later you can’t or just don’t want to do it, don’t make up an excuse – simply initiate an honest apology: “I know I told you I would do this, but I just don’t want to do it. I’m so sorry; I don’t have a good excuse. I hope you can forgive me, but if not, I understand. Please don’t key my car…”
  • Sick days aren’t meant to be taken just because you’re sick of working; and there is no such thing as a “mental health day,” at least not in any company policy manual I’ve ever seen. If you just can’t bring yourself to come in, ask for last minute vacation day or a day without pay. Better yet, ask God for strength, put on your big boy underwear, and go to work.

“Little white lies” are not little; “fibbing” is not cute; and “fudging the truth” is in no way related to that creamy, delicious, chocolaty confection. Be honest. And that includes not trying to make yourself look more exciting or more interesting than you are on social media. If you’re quiet and kind of uninteresting, just know that no one ever went to hell for being boring.

Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No”. Matthew 5:37

So be totally honest, even if no one will ever know. Actually, you know who will know?

Yep – Him.

5. Be a Giver

When we become followers of Jesus, part of the process of becoming a new creation is the development of traits or abilities we can use to serve the Lord and further His kingdom (or the re-direction of abilities we already have). In Romans 12:6 Paul says:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

There’s no other way to read this – we should all have a gift (some of us more than one).

Paul lists those gifts in the next two verses:

  • Serving (Singing in the choir, passing out church bulletins, working in the nursery, going on mission trips)
  • Teaching (Sunday school, vacation Bible school, classes in managing ones finances in a Biblical manner)
  • Encouraging (Emails to your pastor, “Six months sober – that’s awesome, bro!”, “You go, girl – that song touched my heart!”)
  • Contributing to the needs of others (Giving money or – even better – food or clothing to the “least of these”)
  • Leadership (Pastoring, leading a church committee, holding a Bible study)
  • Showing mercy (Visiting those who are sick or just being a good listener)

No doubt there are others. As the saying goes, “It takes all kinds.” Be sure whatever kind you are, you’re using what God has given you to serve Him in the manner and amount He specifies.

Was Jesus a good steward of the gifts He possessed?

Well, duh…

6. Be Peculiar

Nobody likes to feel different from everyone else around them (except maybe Miley Cyrus). That’s one reason personal holiness can be a tough journey. But as Christians, that’s our calling. Paul said:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world… (Romans 12:2, NLT)

A few weeks back I read an article written by Christian writer Roberto Rivera who had some really spot-on things to say about separating ourselves from the world:

People [referring to Christians] who couldn’t begin to tell you about the biblical Noah can talk your ears off about ephemeral pop culture matters. In our desperate desire to seem “relevant,” Christians are clamoring to join this vacuous conversation.

I love to talk about the Lord and the (hopefully soon) return of Jesus. I love to talk about what I’ve read in the Bible and a bit of commentary I thought was really compelling. I love to talk about why we shouldn’t be surprised at what’s going on in the world, because the Bible pretty much lays it out in detail for us. But in my circle of close friends, I can only count on two of them to not glaze over or get that “I’ve just been Jesus juked” look on their face while mumbling the obligatory “God is good, all right” when I try to start that conversation.

How can we as Christians not spend more time talking about the Lord than we do about the new season of “Downton Abbey”? David says this about God:

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

He’s done – and will do – that for me, too – and I can’t stop talking about it. It saddens me and sometimes makes me feel like I’m the only person in the world (besides those two friends) who can’t get enough of talking about the Lord.

Would Jesus be the third? You betcha.

So “be” all that God has called you to “be.” If He’s truly made you a new creation, He’s placed these things in your heart – you can’t not do them.

From here on out the list gets a little hairier – Part 3 will detail a couple of things we need to watch out for in our holiness journey. Buckle up…