Tag Archives: Money

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.

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

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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.
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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!
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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.

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

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Filed under Generosity, Joy, Money, 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!

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

God’s investmenet advice

The Stock Market is getting a lot of attention right now and more than a few people are a bit nervous. Perhaps this is a good time to be reminded of investment from an eternal perspective. What follows is from Randy Alcorn.

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars.” ~ Matthew 6:19-20 (The Message)

Imagine you’re alive at the end of the Civil War. You’re living in the South, but you are a Northerner. You plan to move home as soon as the war is over. While in the South you’ve accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Now, suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war and the end is imminent. What will you do with your Confederate money?

If you’re smart, there’s only one answer. You should immediately cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency—the only money that will have value once the war is over. Keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short-term needs.

As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns—or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time.)

Investment experts known as market timers read signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, then recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable vehicles such as money markets, treasury bills, or certificates of deposit.

Jesus functions here as the foremost market timer. He tells us to once and for all switch investment vehicles. He instructs us to transfer our funds from earth (which is volatile and ready to take a permanent dive) to heaven (which is totally dependable, insured by God Himself, and is coming soon to forever replace earth’s economy). Christ’s financial forecast for earth is bleak—but He’s unreservedly bullish about investing in heaven, where every market indicator is eternally positive!

There’s nothing wrong with Confederate money, as long as you understand its limits. Realizing its value is temporary should radically affect your investment strategy. To accumulate vast earthly treasures that you can’t possibly hold on to for long is equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money even though you know it’s about to become worthless.

According to Jesus, storing up earthly treasures isn’t simply wrong. It’s just plain stupid.

— Excerpted from The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

In which arena, earthly or eternal, are you investing?

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Filed under Christianity, Encouragement, Faith, Money, Trusting God

Keeping up with the Joneses?

Is there any job you would do for only 10 cents an hour? Sadly, more than a billion people in the developing world work for that kind of pay every day, adding up to only one or two dollars to live on. So, you may not think of yourself as rich, but all of us Americans are incredibly wealthy compared to many less fortunate. See how your income compares to the rest of the world at whoarethejoneses.org. You’ll be surprised by what you learn. I was!

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Filed under Contentment, Gratitude, influence with the world, Life in General, Loving others, Money

Jesus sat down to watch

It’s a sobering thought to realize that Jesus is with us always no matter where we are or what we are doing. In many ways, living with this awareness would be comforting and encouraging; to know that no matter what difficulty we are facing we are not alone.

But in some areas of life the reality that Jesus is there watching gives us less than a warm, fuzzy feeling. In fact, it would be absolutely terrifying! One of those aspects of life might be having Jesus watch what we put in the offering plate on Sunday morning.

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.” ~ Mark 12:41-42

Notice that it doesn’t say “Jesus happened to walk by…” or “Jesus glanced over…” No, Jesus intentionally sat down and watched as people filed by and dropped in their offerings.

Why would Jesus do this? Because money is a litmus test of our true character. It is an index of our spiritual life. Our stewardship of money tells a story of how we relate to God. It’s a barometer of our faith in His ability to provide for us. Jesus was so interested in who was giving what that He used it as an object lesson.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.'” ~ Mark 12:43-44

The widow who gave less… gave more! To give from our surplus takes little faith, but to give sacrificially demonstrates our trust in God. Imagine Jesus gathering some folks together to observe what you and I put into the offering plate in order to teach an object lesson.

Would it be a lesson of surplus or of sacrifice?

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Filed under Faith, Money, Stewardship, Trust

Who’s wearing the pants?

It was some 30 years ago and I was with a group of guys from college. We had driven about 20 hours by van to a Youth Minister’s Convention at Ozark Christian College near Joplin, Missouri.

Tony Campolo is one of the most outspoken and humorous speakers I have ever heard but on this day a guy in the audience got one up on him. Tony was good at asking startling questions to grab your attention and on this occasion he asked where exactly the Bible spoke against polygamy. Everyone was quiet until a guy yelled out…

Matthew 6:24 – Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters…”

Everyone there, including Tony, roared with laughter! But marriage, specifically polygamy, is not the context of Matthew 6:24. Jesus was actually speaking about money. The term “master” is mostly lost on those of us who have never lived in a society where the master/slave relationship actually existed. But for Jesus’ audience this term carried plenty of weight. Today, we might say “Don’t let money wear the pants.”

How we relate to money was such a concern to Jesus that 42% of His parables focused on it. That would be the equivalent of a pastor using the pulpit to preach about it 21 weeks every year! Wow! Jesus addressed this issue that frequently because He knew how prone we are to pursue wealth/possessions ahead of a relationship with the Father.

So how do we know if money has become our master? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
* Am I willing to share what I have with others, even the new stuff?
* How much time/energy do I spend thinking about stuff I don’t have but want?

The antidote for all of this is to seek first the kingdom of God and store up treasure in heaven. In other words, view our resources as belonging to God and be looking for how God would have us use them for the benefit of others.

So, between you and money… who’s wearing the pants?

P.S. – Last week’s message dealt with this issue and is posted on my Sermon/Audio page above. It will also be our focus this week when we gather again as God’s community.

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Filed under Kingdom of God, Money, Stewardship