Category Archives: Generosity

Having More Than You Need

Having More Than You NeedWhy does God give some of His children more than they need and others less than they need? So that He may use His children to help one another. He doesn’t want us to have too little or too much (Proverbs 30:8–9). When those with too much give to those with too little, two problems are solved. When they don’t, two problems are perpetuated.

God distributes wealth unevenly not because He loves some of His children more than others, but so His children can distribute it to their brothers and sisters on His behalf. Paul said that the God who supplies seed to the sower will increase our store of seed.

Why? So we can stockpile seed or eat it? No, so we can scatter it and spread it out that it might bear fruit. Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s His provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with this money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build His kingdom in heaven.
~ Excerpted fromThe Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

The tricky part is that we often tend to compare what we have to those who have more and feel like we’re missing out. The reality is that we are better off than the majority of the world.

How are we using our resources?

Need ideas on how you can help others?  Check out this blog post.

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Generosity, God, influence with the world, Kingdom of God, Loving others, Money, Religion and Spirituality, Stewardship

Radical Faith: Why one church gave away their tithe for a year

What follows is by John Richardson.
***

Do you remember the story of Jesus walking on the water?

The disciples were half-way across the Sea; Jesus was standing alone on the bank of the water; the Father said, “Go ahead, step on top of the waves.” That’s an amazing moment of faith to me.

I completely understand that Jesus is fully God. But the reality is also that He is also fully man: a man who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) So stepping on top of the water must have been a remarkable moment of faith.

In the logic of the moment, Jesus obviously realized that this had never been done before. People don’t walk on water.

A few species of lizards can run across the water, but they know not to slow down. Several bugs can float on top of water, but they don’t have the mass of a fully-grown man. And in this moment, the Father is telling His fully-grown-man-Son to stand on a liquid surface.

The amazing part is that Jesus trusted Him enough to take that first step. That’s a ridiculous amount of faith. It’s in the realm of God asking you to flap your arms and fly. It defies all laws of nature. But Jesus trusted enough to follow in simple obedience.

Not too long ago, our church stood on the bank of the water. We’re kind of slow. We didn’t even understand how close we were to the water’s edge – and to a ridiculous faith challenge.

Our prayer was simple, but honest. We came to God asking one question that we genuinely did not know how to answer. We prayed,

“What can we do so that our neighbors will consistently see You when they interact with us?”

Much to our surprise, we sensed that the answer from God was, “Become generous as I am generous.”

And as we prayed further, we realized that He wasn’t kidding. He was prompting us to give away all of our tithes and offerings for an entire year.

For our small church community, this was one of those “Go ahead, defy the laws of nature” moments. God was challenging us to put our faith in action. He was asking us to love our neighbors with our resources.

After much fear and trepidation, we decided to go for it. Our faith paled in comparison to that of Jesus, but the Father held our hands as we stepped onto a liquid surface.

From April 2010 through April 2011, all of the tithes and offerings that were given to Traceway went to help the abused, neglected, sick, poor, and unstable of our city.

These gifts from God went to keep a few families out of home foreclosure after job losses. Other gifts went to provide housing for abused mothers who escaped literally with their children and the clothes on their backs. Some gifts went to pay medical bills and build handicap access ramps. Others went toward providing a vehicle for a family and aiding in disaster relief after a devastating local tornado.

These gifts were not a redistribution of wealth. The gifts were an entry point into the lives of these families. Each donation provided an open door for sharing the love of God and providing these people with a church community that would embrace them.

To be completely honest, not all of the giving turned out the way we hoped.

We had a few Peter-esque moments where we thought we were going to sink. At other times, we struggled because of the attitudes of the recipients. Some of them wanted a handout and nothing more. One lady even got mad at us after the 1997 Toyota Camry that we donated to her was not up to her standards. In those moments, we saw the mess that often accompanies incarnational-giving.

But we also learned how deeply God values our willingness to walk into the unknown with Him.

Potentially on par with that, we learned that God values our willingness to walk into the mess with Him. After all, that’s what He does…day after day after day. He joins each of us in our mess. He loves us and generously gives us gifts that nudge us closer to Him.

The faith of the people who make up Traceway Church is typically closer to that of a sinking Peter than that of a buoyant Jesus. But we are learning to trust the voice of God and stay alert to His movements.

As God calls us to follow, we hope to run forward with courageous faith. We are learning to trust the voice of the Father and create environments to unleash radical faith as He leads.

How will we trust God today!
***

John Richardson has been a pastor and church planter for over ten years. His passion is to see the church more accurately reflect the heart and ministry of Jesus. His first book, Giving Away the Collection Plate is available at http://www.tatepublishing.com. John and his wife, J.D., have three daughters and live in Mississippi.

3 Comments

Filed under Choices, Faith, Generosity, God, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Loving others, Money, Religion and Spirituality, Serving

Punching holes in the darkness

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of classic books like Treasure Island, spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century. As a boy, Robert was intrigued by the work of the old lamplighters who went about with a ladder and a torch, setting the street lights ablaze for the night.

One evening, as young Robert stood watching with fascination, his parents asked him, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”

When we invite Jesus to sit on the throne of our heart we are giving ourselves to further God’s kingdom purposes, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we choose to forgive those who have hurt us, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we sacrifice our comfort and resources to help others in need, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we honor God’s boundaries with our sexuality, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we pray for those who despise us or hate us, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we take time to listen, really listen, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we let go of worry and instead praise God, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we offer kinds words in return for harsh words, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Culture, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Generosity, influence with the world, Kingdom of God, Loving God, Loving others, Praise

Being the hands and heart of God

Ever watch a movie or theatre production where someone in a supporting role actually outshines the main character? It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, its noticeable. That’s sort of how I feel about the book of Ruth. In case you are not familiar with the story of Ruth here’s a quick overview.

During the period of the Judges Elimelek and his wife Naomi, along with their two sons, leave Israel to escape a famine and relocate in the land of Moab. Elimelek dies, their two sons marry Moabite women and then 10 years later they die. Naomi is left with two daughter-in-laws in a foreign land. She returns to Israel with Ruth who refuses to leave her side.

Life for widows at that time was very, very bleak! Out of love for Naomi, Ruth gleans (collects leftover grain) from a local field belonging to Boaz. Knowing of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, Boaz acts favorably towards Ruth not only protecting her but providing extra grain for her to collect. Upon learning of this, Naomi instructs Ruth to make herself available to Boaz for marriage. They eventually marry and everyone lives happily ever after. Honest!

But there’s more!

The loyalty Ruth demonstrates for her mother-in-law Naomi is admirable; especially considering that Israel and Moab had a history of being bitter enemies. But what Boaz does is even more amazing.

As God’s holy people, Israelites were to reflect the heart of God by trusting Him enough to act as His hands and heart toward the less fortunate within their community.  Much of the Law was designed to provide opportunities for Israel to trust God, to be generous like God, to demonstrate the love and the justice of God.  God’s means of taking care of the poor, the widow and the orphan was through His people.

The levirate marriage was one such custom.  The term levirate means “husband’s brother.”  It was employed when a man died without a son to inherit his land and carry on a family line.  When those circumstances arose, the husband’s brother was responsible to take the widow as his wife and produce a first-born son who would bear the dead brother’s name.  This son would be the rightful heir to his dead “father’s” estate and would carry on the deceased’s family name.  The following children born to the union of the widow and her new husband would belong to the new husband and bear his name.  (Deut. 25:5-10).

Any man who took on this responsibility was known as a Kinsman-Redeemer. Taking on this role was optional and when another relative declined to accept it, likely because Ruth was a Moabite, Boaz willingly stepped in. He had to give his resources to buy the land owned by Naomi/Ruth but would not keep it as his own. Their first-born son would receive it to carry on the lineage of his grandfather/father.

Boaz had nothing to gain from this arrangement other than the company of Ruth as his bride. His selfless act of compassion is remarkable; and it is a foretelling of Jesus’ role with all of humanity.

Jesus gave up His very life to pay our debt of sin, something we could not do, and purchase for us new life and an eternal future with God. Just as Boaz reflected the love and justice of God, we who follow Jesus are called to reflect it as well among those we encounter daily.

How will we be the hands and heart of God to those we encounter today?

***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 10 this week. To learn more about The Story click on the page tab above.

5 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Generosity, influence with the world, Justice, Loving others, Loyalty, The Story

This is where the Church belongs!

Like most of us, Thomas Keinath felt the need to spend some time away from the office. In Keinath’s case, the “office” is Calvary Temple, a “mega-church” with a 2,000-plus seat sanctuary in an affluent suburb, in Wayne, New Jersey.

Instead of a personal retreat or a fun-filled vacation, Keinath spent that week living with the homeless in nearby Paterson, New Jersey.

During the day, he wandered through the streets dressed like everyone else. At night, he joined the homeless as they built fires to keep warm from temperatures that dropped into the teens.

He wrote mini biographies about the people he met and their life story. Why would he do all of this?

According to Keinath, “I needed to understand what they were experiencing, and I needed to feel their pain; how could I bring help or healing to the streets if I did not know what their needs are?”

To put it bluntly, people in Wayne tend to avoid Paterson like the plague. But not Pastor Keinath and the folks at Calvary Temple.

This church is reaching out to their neighbors in some vital and tangible ways. They are not only taking basic supplies to the homeless but they are bringing them to services at the church on Sundays.

This is just the beginning of what Keinath calls “a long-term solution” that includes building a center that will “shelter the homeless while helping them recover from problems including substance abuse.”

Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39) is being the church as God intended. It’s living out the gospel like the Christians of Caesarea did centuries ago.

In the early fourth century, the city was hit by a plague. While everyone was fleeing the city, the Christians stayed to minister to the sick and dying.

As the church historian Eusebius wrote, “All day long some of [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them.” Other Christians took it upon themselves to feed the rest.

This is how Christianity prevailed over Rome and spread like wildfire. And the same is still possible today.

Hitting the streets to meet peoples’ needs. This is where the Church belongs!

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Church, Compassion, Generosity, Grace, influence with the world, Inspiration, involvement with the church, Kingdom of God, Loving others, Serving

Money CAN Buy Happiness!

Despite the abundance of folk wisdom on the topic, it wasn’t until a decade ago that researchers started to take a hard look at whether money really does have anything to do with happiness. What the studies found is that while there is a connection between wealth and happiness, it is pretty weak.

“It’s not a zero correlation, even at higher income levels, but it’s not a very big correlation,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside and a leading happiness researcher. Money, she says, “matters less than we think it would.”

But as further research spelled out, spending money on others can result in increased levels of happiness!

First, they surveyed 632 Americans on their general happiness, along with what they spent their money on, and found that higher “prosocial spending”  – gifts for others and donations to charity  – was indeed correlated with higher self-reported happiness.

Then came a detailed look at 16 workers before and after they received a profit-sharing bonus from their company. They found that the only factor that reliably predicted which workers would be happy six to eight weeks after the bonus was their prosocial spending  – the more money people spent on charity and gifts for others, the happier they were.

But was the happiness caused by giving money away, or were charitable people simply happier to start with? Good question!

To show a connection, they then performed an experiment in which volunteers were given a small windfall of $5 to $20. Some, chosen at random, were told to spend it on a bill, an expense, or a gift for themselves. The others were told to buy a gift for someone else or make a charitable donation.

Afterwards, the second group  – the ones who had given the money away  – reported being significantly happier than those who had spent the money on their own needs.

Turns out Jesus was right!

You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” ~ Acts 20:35

Feeling a bit down? Need a little pick-me-up? Looking to jump-start the flow of endorphins (happy hormones) through your veins?

Go give something away!

***

4 Comments

Filed under Generosity, Joy, Money, Stewardship

A question as we head into Christmas

Here’s a question we all need to ask ourselves from time to time: Why do I have so much? …We need to slow down occasionally and force ourselves to wrestle with that question.

Why? Because a consumer-driven culture keeps us laser-focused on what we don’t have, and focusing on what we don’t have leaves our hearts vulnerable to greed… If God has blessed you with more than you need, it’s so that you can share your abundance with those who have need. Embracing that simple truth is the key to ridding your heart of greed.

Guilt is conquered with confession. Anger is conquered with forgiveness. Greed is conquered with generosity. Generous giving will break the grip of greed on your life.  So whether or not you think you have extra, give and give generously.
~ Excerpted from Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

Let’s be honest. Few of us will spend money this Christmas on things that we really need. Most of what we buy will fall under the umbrella of want.

Why not challenge your family and friends to sort through their stuff prior to Christmas and give away 4 or 5 things that others can use. Places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army are great destinations for such things.

And who knows, sorting through all our stuff might give us a deeper appreciation for the priceless gift of Jesus this Christmas!

***

2 Comments

Filed under Anger, Christmas, Forgiveness, Generosity, Greed, Guilt, Stewardship

Celebrating Christmas as Jesus would

Why does God give some of His children more than they need and others less than they need? So that He may use His children to help one another. He doesn’t want us to have too little or too much (Proverbs 30:8–9). When those with too much give to those with too little, two problems are solved. When they don’t, two problems are perpetuated.

God distributes wealth unevenly not because He loves some of His children more than others, but so His children can distribute it to their brothers and sisters on His behalf. Paul said that the God who supplies seed to the sower will increase our store of seed.

Why? So we can stockpile seed or eat it? No, so we can scatter it and spread it out that it might bear fruit. Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s His provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with this money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build His kingdom in heaven.
~ Excerpted from The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

Have you ever attended a birthday party where everyone exchanges gifts with each other but not the person whose birthday it is? Nope! Me either! Jesus said that whatever we do for “one of the least of these we do for Him.” (Matthew 25:40)

Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. What will we give Him this year?

***

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, Generosity, influence with the world, Jesus, Loving others, Stewardship

Saying “yes” to God-prompted opportunities

A while back I heard about a guy named, Sasha Dichter, who directs the innovative non-profit Acumen fund. Dichter has investors all over the world pouring resources into parts of India, Pakistan and East Africa where the average income is less than $4 per day. They have a goal to make 100 million in investments, touching 50 million lives.

That’s amazing. But it isn’t the part of Sasha’s story that inspires me.

Sasha has spent much of his life saying ‘no’ to people, professionally and personally.  When you direct a large operation looking for maximum impact, saying ‘no’ goes with the territory. But after a while, it started getting to him. It seemed to clash with the generous nature his company was built on.

One night, everything changed. Just after boarding a train to go home, a man approached him saying he needed money. Sasha met him with the standard auto response ‘no’ he had become so efficient at providing. Only, it was the last ‘no’ he would say for the next 30 days. He went home, and before cooler heads could prevail, went public on his blog about his intentions.

For 30 days, he would give money to anyone who asked of him. Whether that was his spare change, or millions of dollars of resources that his firm controls.

He knew everybody wouldn’t think this was a great idea.  He knew people would say giving to a guy on the train wasn’t the smartest way to give—that he should give to a homeless shelter instead.  But Dichter realized his generosity experiment was about him.  If he really wanted to see broken places and people in the world healed, he had to start by being more open himself, being willing to take risks. He was “tired of hiding behind what was smart instead of doing what was right.”

The experiment changed his life.

Sasha now has a ‘yes’ bias to his calling that gives purpose to every encounter. He is trying to live life as a ‘yes man’ in response to the issues that grip his heart.

The vast majority of us aren’t about to venture into microfinance in the next 30 days. But we could learn a lot from the spirit of Sasha’s experiment. It could be life changing to make a commitment to God:

God, for the next 30 days, if I see a need, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, I’ll do my small part toward meeting it.

I’ll start saying ‘yes’ to every prompting I feel from your Spirit within my sphere of influence instead of saying ‘no.’

How much difference do you think it would make in the world if you had that kind of availability to God? That kind of intentionality towards others?

I’ll answer that for you: it would make a huge difference. Consistent obedience, a heart that’s open to give God back everything he’s placed in your hands, is enough to change everything.

Make the commitment. 30 days. If you see a need, do as much as can to meet it. If you hear from God, say ‘yes.’ I can’t promise you’re going to end up changing 50 million lives. But I can promise you’ll change the lives of the people God wants you to.

And you’ll be changed in the process!

Leave a comment

Filed under Generosity, influence with the world, Loving others, Money, Morphing, Stewardship