Some text notes from my studies on the Sermon on the Mount: Read more
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Over the past few weeks I have posted occasionally on Facebook and Twitter about my trip to Africa. More details are HERE.
I am so grateful to those who have given and all who will pray this September when I go to Ethiopia.
I am incredibly close to completing my fundraising for the plane ticket. Here is the challenge: If 20 friends reading this will give $20… I’m done. That’s all it takes.
If you can help with this, I can purchase the ticket and have that out of the way and begin to prepare for my time in Ethiopia as I concentrate on the teaching material and prayer.
THANK YOU again for your help! The “Africa Calls” page can link you to our church giving page, or you can donate other ways mentioned on the “Africa Calls” page.
The ability to live a generous life has nothing to do with an income level. Paul gives this testimony about the church in Macedonia:
While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. (2 Cor. 8:2)
When I was growing up I had no idea how “little” my parents really had because they were always so incredibly generous. If they came on someone who had a need, they would share out of what they had in their home. Over the years they housed and fed whole families. They were in the TV and appliance business and Dad was constantly giving away his services in repair and installation to people who needed it. They lived with incredible generosity.
I remember one delivery my dad made when I was in high school. A man had purchased a TV antenna. (They used to have those things, and they went on the outside of the house.) Dad had delivered it to him, but the man had said he would install it himself and save the installation charge.
We delivered the antenna and my dad started asking a few key questions to get an idea of how much this guy really knew so he would successfully install the antenna. I was a teenager and thinking only of getting out of there and back to the warm store, but I knew as Dad was asking this guy questions, the man had no clue as to what was needed to put up the antenna. I also knew what was next: Dad was going to come back to the truck, get his tools, and put the thing up for the guy… no charge.
He would hire guys to help him out at the store who just needed the work.
They would give of their resources and time to churches. Whole buildings went up with my dad’s skills. They have lived with incredible generosity. And they are not wealthy in any worldly sense of the word.
They are immensely rich spiritually. I am so immensely rich spiritually because of the heritage they have passed along to me.
I don’t need a huge income to live generously. I can take my meager skills and give them in places that may not “compensate” me in the way I could get in some other place. I want to give my best to people no matter their lot in life because I want to live generously.
It’s amazing what Paul says about adversity and generosity. It was hard times that drove the Macedonian church to generosity. This I can testify about my own church. In a current economic climate where churches are seriously challenged for resources, I have watched my congregation struggle through those same tough times and STILL give beyond what I can believe. We have taken up amazing offerings for people, supported MORE missionaries, and watched the hand of God take us through some deep valleys. There is a sense of joy and awe in the midst of the hard time.
I don’t have to believe my bank account to live generously. For that, I am so deeply thankful!
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not say, “IF you give…” He said, “WHEN you give…”
We can hassle over tithe or some mandatory number, like 10%. But, why?
The point is GIVING.
Why give at all? Giving is a bold statement, which is why I try to push myself past an arbitrary number like 10%. Giving says, “Lord, I worship you with this part of my life. I think I need ALL that I have earned, but I am releasing this to you because I trust you for all I need.”
We are releasing our responsibility in finances to say, “God, you invited me to test you in this. Here it is. It is now your responsibility.”
God invited it. I don’t think he is about to let us down!
1 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do- blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matt. 6:1-4, NLT)
The challenge in any discipline is doing it for KINGDOM purposes, and not our own purposes. It is an incredibly difficult challenge to keep our own egos out of the equation.
The discipline of giving should bring us to a place where we learn to look to the needs of others first and then find our needs met by our Father in heaven.
The power of giving is not found in the amount we give and how loudly we proclaim that in front of others. If we want to do it that way, we have our reward right then. This, of course, doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people. They like the attention.
But that isn’t the Kingdom of God. If the Father is to be pleased, then we learn to give in a way that takes attention away from us and focuses on the need and the Kingdom.
Our social media crazes have truly challenged us on this concept. We do everything for the photo op, and the Facebook post, and the Twitter post… etc.
Let this be our challenge in the days ahead: find the opportunity to give to some need without anyone knowing. Don’t post it on Facebook. Don’t tweet it. Don’t even take a picture. Double check to see if anyone else is watching… and make sure as much as possible no one is watching. Then give.
Last year I watched a student from the college where I teach step out to give to a homeless person. She had no idea anyone else was watching. When I thanked her later for the incredible generosity, she was a bit embarrassed. She didn’t do it for the recognition. She had done it out of compassion in that moment.
Give like no one is looking. Let it tear down the idols of self-promotion. Let it build the Kingdom.
Too often we are ready to give emotionally off an appeal and we don’t often think about just how much money actually gets to the need. This story chronicles 50 really low percentage charities. Low percentage would be the amount of money they pay to solicitors and how much of the money raised actually gets to the need. I actually saw a ZERO percent on the list!
1 Samuel 15
Saul was commanded to take out the Amalekites and give ALL over to sacrifice. They were to keep nothing for themselves. Everything needed to be destroyed. Instead, they kept out the best spoils for themselves and burned the rest.
Saul’s downfall was disobedience as a leader. He was commanded by God to do something and he thought he was above that command. He then blamed his own people for the mistake. Talk about corrupt leadership!
The point of sacrifice is not sacrifice. It is obedience. We can question why God wants us to give something to him. We can question all day long “how much” we should give. At the end of the day, we need to ask the bigger question: “Am I doing what God has asked of me?”
Don’t give yourself the best and leave God the leftovers. If it is financial giving, give it to him first. If it is time, give him the best. Don’t leave him the scraps. If you know the Lord is asking more than a dollar from you and you throw a dollar in the plate on Sunday, you’ve given him the leftovers. The scraps.
At the end of a game, if one team is blowing out the other, the dominant team will often send in second and third string players to “mop up.” Sometimes they call it “garbage time.”
Sometimes we know the Lord is calling us to prayer or to service and we give him “garbage time” instead of “prime time.”
We talk about “God’s BEST” for our lives… and we are SOOOO ready to receive that. How about we talk about OUR best for God’s presence? Are we ready to GIVE that?
The past few years I have been so abundantly blessed in my own life. When Christmas rolls around I realize I need nothing. I have my family. My teaching and ministry are so deeply satisfying. I have incredible friends. Outside of more coffee and another book, what could I want or need?
In the past couple of years that has led to a bigger blessing in my own life. A few different friends each year have done something for someone else in my name. Last year it was giving to The Eliminate Project, which is taking care of maternal neo-natal tetanus in the last few dozen countries of the world. A couple of friends gave some money on my behalf as my Christmas present. When I read those cards, I was so full of joy!
This year a friends adopted a child in India on behalf of my wife and I. That child will have a year’s schooling. What joy!
And then yesterday I got another huge gift. It was a donation to a family in need of a minivan. I read that card right before the worship service and I began to cry with joy. I almost couldn’t get myself together to go out to the worship service.
This family is a fellow pastor and his kids. He lost his wife to cancer this year and is left with 8 kids. His small church has surrounded him with love and support and I have watched a very godly man walk through a very deep valley in such a way I know God is incredibly real.
People in their church are trying to raise enough money to give the family a new minivan. They have a matching donor who will help.
What the church should have done is put a picture of the nasty old minivan they have right now on the site. I think giving would have gone through the roof!
Honestly, friends, this thing is beyond being on its last wheel!
I know it’s Christmas Eve. I know readership is going to be low. I know you’ve probably spent every last dollar on Christmas already. I know I am asking a lot.
But if you read this today and can give maybe $10 TODAY or TOMORROW, the Krueger family could come really close to getting this very needed vehicle. The giving closes on Christmas Central Time, so if you happen to read this soon and have ANY opportunity to give, I would ask you to bless this family.
This isn’t for me. This isn’t a Christmas present for me. This is for a dear brother in Christ and pastor who could really use this kind of miracle this Christmas.
Perhaps pass this along to others so they can have an opportunity to bless. As I looked at the site, I noticed they had a van donated, so donations can now go to a fund for maintenance. ALSO, there is another fund drive going to help them defray the outrageous medical bills incurred from the wife’s cancer treatments. Giving will make a difference for this family.
God’s BEST to you this Christmas!
Mark 12 gives a contrast in true greatness.
There is the greatness we aspire to (even if we may not admit it at times). For the Jews in that day there was an admiration for the religious leaders. They had places of position. They had esteem. They looked smart.
But all that glitters is not gold.
38 As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. 39 They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. 40 They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.” (Mark 12:38-40, CEB)
The temptation of power and prestige is fierce. Guard yourselves.
Then there is the story of the offering. Everyone is giving huge sums of money, and along comes a poor widow. There isn’t any fanfare for her. Hardly anyone notices the small pittance she drops in the offering plate.
But Jesus notices.
41 Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. 42 One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. 44All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”
Greatness isn’t in the outward display of wealth, honor, or intelligence. Greatness dwells in the person who lays it all on the line. There is no economic barrier for wealth. It could be someone who does indeed make a lot of money, or someone who makes barely enough to survive. The question is not the amount you give. The question is the amount of sacrifice. Greatness is about laying it all down for the Kingdom.