Posts Tagged ‘giving’

The Generous Receiver of Gifts

December 8, 2016

How we receive gifts also tells much about us.

I have been thinking about the encounter of the rich young man with Jesus. The one where Jesus got to the point of his problem. He had too much stuff, and he couldn’t let it go. Maybe he was like a hoarder. Maybe he was like Scrooge McDuck (for those of you old enough to remember) who was mostly pictured sitting in his vault with piles gold coins and sacks of gold coins.

But if someone is going to give generously, then that means someone must receive.

How do you receive?

I learned a long time ago to adjust my wants to reality. Growing up in a family without much money can form you in one of two ways. In my case, I wanted things, but learned that many were beyond budget. So, I adjusted my expectations. On the other hand, I know of people in similar situations who grew up only to crave the things they couldn’t have as children even more than when they were little.

Do we adjust to reality, or do we expect reality to adjust to us? 

Maybe we have seen way too many advertisements (and they date back to the early 1800s) of the joyous kid opening presents. And we think that if we can’t capture that picture in reality, then Christmas is ruined. I have even heard pastors equate a joyful Christmas to the number of presents under the tree!

I’m sure for many not receiving the gift, or not receiving enough gifts, is disappointing.

But maybe that is because the anticipation of Christmas is misplaced. It focuses on quantity of presents.

What do I appreciate? I appreciate that someone thought of me.
I bet that is true for most everyone. Except for those whose focus is on the wrong place.

Then it’s time for an attitude adjustment.

Where’s Your Heart Today

May 2, 2016

We had lunch yesterday with a couple who have devoted more than 20 years of their lives to mission work in West Africa. Charley teaches Old Testament to pastors in Senegal and the Ivory Coast. I really like the idea of helping local people grow and pastor and teach their neighbors.

The life of such a missionary is a rhythm. Go and serve. Return to the home country to refresh, renew acquaintances, and raise money for their support. They live from donations. It’s not an easy life, but with the right personality, it’s a good life.

This is one way of living out the last commandment of Jesus to his followers, “Go out to all the world teaching and making disciples…”

Do you support any missionaries?

A friend who has tried being a missionary has found that people over the past few years have become more and more unwilling to support missionaries. Churches are more inclined to look inward and spend money on their own wants and needs.

My wife and I send support to a number of ministries. We actually have organized our finances such that we can tithe to the local church and give offerings to ministries and causes that touch us. For you, maybe you count all the various groups as parts of your tithe.

It’s all where your heart is. Maybe you do it out of a sense of duty instilled at an early age. Maybe you’re a generous person as part of your natural personality. Maybe you’ve learned to become more and more generous.

Check out your own finances. If you are using close to 100% just to fund your own needs, maybe that means your heart is focused upon yourself. Taken to a place of dominating your personality, that’s called narcissism.

If so, consider the 80-10-10 guide to finances. When money comes in, set aside 10% for your church and charitable giving; set aside 10% for your future in savings; live on 80%. As you become better at this, you will find that you can live on less than 80% and give more. That is the point when your heart is changed.

Check out your church’s finances. Study the financial report. If your church has budgeted less than 25% of its budget to intentional giving outside its doors, then it is NOT a missional church–no matter what it tells itself.

Go check in with your spiritual cardiologist and seek the status of your heart.

The Measure of How We Love

March 31, 2015

He had great wealth. However, he also tried to be close to God by following all his commandments. From the very beginning of his life, he said, he had always kept the commandments.

But somehow he just didn’t feel as if he had arrived into God’s grace.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked the teacher.

“Sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow me.”

When the church begins talking about tithing or giving offerings, do our thoughts turn to ourselves? How much should I give? The question usually means, what’s the minimum amount I can give and still be considered good?

And usually we think in terms only of money. We ignore giving our minds to God in order to grow properly or to teach or preach more effectively. Or giving our bodies in service.

Jesus said, follow me. Give up everything in order to follow me. Anything that serves as a barrier to total commitment, get rid of. Just follow. We just love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. That pretty well covers it.

I read this in the Celtic Prayer Book. “It is not what we give of ourselves or our resources that is the measure of how we love, but what we hold back.”

Our teacher didn’t hold back. If we are striving to be a disciple, that is to emulate the life, of Jesus, then we need to stop and analyze our thoughts, feelings and actions. What are we holding back that interferes with being a follower?

They Came Over The Hill

March 17, 2015

These posts are usually meditations with a point. However, last week several of us visited Tijuana for a mission trip. In addition to serving at an orphanage with children (from 4 to 20), we also visited an active landfill. The experience was overwhelming. I’ve changed literary styles for this meditation.

The scene was eerie, much like a movie about an apocolypse. 

Our van was stopped by security where we were questioned. Allowed through into the landfill, we parked near some newer cars. Some sort of business was transacted there that I do not wish to know.

We grabbed our two boxes filled with 100 ham and cheese sandwiches and three packages of bottled water. 

We are outside Tijuana, Mexico. It is desert. Hot, even in March. Dusty, with spirits blowing mini-dust storms as if impeding our way.

The dirt and dust dried out our sinuses and became grit in our eyes.

We hurried beyond the cars, across a road and over a rise. The scene below was beyond belief. Hundreds of people. Maybe 500. Maybe more. Sorting through the days droppings from the parade of waste trucks. Hoping for enough valuable material or recyclable stuff to get paid to make it through another day.

They saw us. Over the ridge. I looked up. Men with hoodies and neck cloths protection from the dirt. Coming toward us. At first, admittedly a little fear. But there was no harm.

We offered a sandwich, a bottle of water, a blessing “Dios te bendiga”.

Each one offered a grateful “gracias” in return. I have even witnessed these people sharing during my past trips. They often look out for each other. A spark of humanity and God.

When we had given the last of our offerings, we hurried back to the van. Escaping the sights, the smells, the dirt.

Had we 400 more sandwiches, we would not have had enough. When asked why even bother, I responded, “It’s like the story of the starfish thrower. We can’t help them all, but those we do help appreciate it. And out of their misery and slavery, perhaps they hear the blessing of God.”

One little church was built in their little tent city on the other side of the hill. The people who built the church and visited on Saturdays had led one man to salvation by the power of the Gospel. That’s one. It’s a start. Just like our sandwiches. A start.

Just like back home. We can help one. Maybe we can’t help everyone. But one at a time. That’s not unlike what Jesus did. One at a time.

It was the juxtaposition with the bright and happy kids cared for by the orphanage that was most shocking.

Why do we go on these trips? 

We are called to coviction about how great we have it. And how great to burden and calling to share what we have. Not unlike the rich young man in Matthew 19, where he proclaimed that he had followed all the comandments since he was a youth. “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor, then follow me,” Jesus replied. We gave only a little, but we were reminded about how great the task is that remains.

Our hearts were enlarged by the experience. May we always retain the perspective of life in the spirit.

Love Language of Receiving

January 20, 2015

He then realized that his wife’s “love language” was receiving. So he decided to give her something every day for a week, and then to give her something every week for a year.

John Ortberg mentioned as an example this story from a book called “Five Love Languages” or something like that. Disclaimer: I have not read the book.

But that example really threw me. A love language of receiving? I suppose that everyone likes to receive a gift. Even me, although I have few wants or needs. But, as a way of life?!

I have another word or two for that “language” or life attitude. Spoiled. Self-centered. Self-absorbed.

Maybe I’ve taken the illustration too far. Maybe there is a nuance I missed or that Ortberg didn’t mention.

It seems to me through observation and reading that one of the major problems of our times–and this isn’t only America–is just that self-absorption or self-centeredness. I’m amazed at the number of times in a day I can observe examples of people thoughtlessly unaware of others around them. (Oh, and you can tell a self-centered person by asking them–they’ll think that there is nothing wrong in the example I just cited.)

But there is a spiritual gift, agape, that entails giving. I don’t know what we learned about the wife, really, from Ortberg’s example. It is obvious that at least one person made the leap from self-centered to thinking of someone else.

For that, the apostle Paul would rejoice. He taught that many times.

Receive as a blessing; give to be a blessing.

Pay It Forward

April 9, 2014

There was a couple that I knew at a restaurant that I frequent. Got the idea that I’d pick up their check. Too late. They picked up mine.

They paid it forward.

Next time I picked up the check for some people I knew. Then again for a random group. Just told the server to tell them that someone was paying forward.

We had a pastor who would pay for the next person in line at the gas station.

I read about a guy who travels even more often than I. He always stops at the shoeshine stand whether he needs it or not and pays with a $20–no change.

I tip the housekeepers in hotels. They have a crummy job at low wages. I’ve heard about the condition many people leave behind. And I really appreciate their service. I don’t leave a lot of money (probably should leave a little more), but one day I came back to my room to pick up something and the housekeeper was down the hall. She thanked me profusely. It was just the recognition of doing a good job, I think.

Sometimes I send a gift card for a night out to someone at work who has performed extra work or has just been outstanding in some way and could really use the recognition of a job well done.

I think that I still can’t embed videos on this version of WordPress (I must remember to upgrade). But when I saw this video it brought a tear to my eye. I presume that it’s real–it was forwarded by a couple of people that I trust.

At any rate, watch this Best Shift Ever episode of Prank It Forward and enjoy.

Do you ever pay it forward?