Christianity 201

May 20, 2016

Giving With All You Have

ESV Acts 20:34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.

Today it was my intention to introduce the ministry of Mustard Seed Associates and the website Godspace, but at the last minute I discovered we had shared their ministry with you previously, back in June, 2012. Click the title below to read this at source, and then take some time to look around the blog.

Alms….and legs, feet, hands and eyes

Christian generosityBy Rowan Wyatt

Acts 20: 34-36

As you walk through the shopping area in the center of Tunbridge Wells, on any given day, you run the gauntlet of being pounced on and harangued for money, often quite aggressively, by people who are being paid by charities to sign you up for direct debits for their already very rich charities. You can always tell the charities that can’t afford to pay people to hassle you for money, as the volunteers collecting are patiently waiting, greeting each clinking of coins with a grateful smile, whereas the paid collectors hassle and are aggressive, and don’t care about the charity.

When Keren and I were hit by some financial hardship recently we were determined to continue, as much as we could, to give our money to the charities and organizations we support. We had to cut funding to some, and as we sank deeper into hardship we had to cut even more. I have never felt more upset than I did then, to write to people and say “I can’t give anymore”. We have a girl, Mekdes, that we sponsor in Ethiopia through Compassion UK. We have supported her for many years and we decided that no matter what we would always ensure we could pay for her, I am pleased to say we have never once failed to provide our sponsorship money for her.

Giving is a gift that God has given us. Some may scratch their heads at that, how can us giving our money away be a gift from God. But it is and it’s not just a simple act of contrition to make you feel better about yourself, it is a real way of blessing people and being blessed in the process. I can’t get to Ethiopia to see Mekdes but I know that thanks to our small act of giving each month, she receives clothing, food and education. It is a way of touching someone’s soul, connecting with love, not because you have to, or it’s the right thing to do but because LOVE has moved you to do it. It is a gift to us to know that thanks to our giving Mekdes has a better chance in life, and with the thousands of others who also sponsor children through Compassion, others get that blessing too.

Giving is not just an offering to help those in need it is also an offering to God. It is pleasing to God, he wants us to give and finds joy and love in that act, He delights in us when we give gladly. Look at Mark 12: 41-44 to see Jesus’ viewpoint. The large sums being offered didn’t interest him, he was only concerned with the heart of the giver, the poor widow who had naught to give but gave anyway, with a willing and joyful heart. Because she loved God, and through that act God blessed her, what a precious gift.

The title of this article may seem a bit flippant, but I really mean it. Give with your all, your whole body and soul. If you don’t have finance to give, then give in kind with your time. Physically serve, use your hands and feet, helping people or working for free doing some part-time admin. All is a gift from your heart which blesses others and yourself.

Who do you give to? Follow your heart, let God speak to you. Ask him where you can direct your help and allow him to guide you in what charities/organizations you should donate your money or time to. There are charities that I wouldn’t give a penny to and others I wish I could give more to. It isn’t possible to help all of them, no matter how hard you try, so follow your heart. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. A few days ago I was out and I saw a homeless girl, huddled with her dog in a doorway. I can’t put her up or give her a home. I can’t give her a job or an income but what I could do was remember that poor widow and give what I had to give. I didn’t look to see what I gave, I just gave all the cash I had, patted the dog and walked on. God used me to bless that girl and blessed me at the same time.

You often hear nowadays of compassion fatigue. I don’t think people are tired of being compassionate or giving money to charity, I do feel they are tired of the aggressive tactics being used in the streets, or seeing the managers of these charities driving around in very expensive company cars and living in big houses on large salaries, all paid for by the donors. Look at who you give to and pray about it. Let God guide you and when he makes it clear, give joyfully and as abundantly as you can, just as God has.

 

For starters please take your time to look at these few wonderful organizations. Thank you.

 

Compassion UK Compassion UK

Compassion USA Compassion International

Compassion Canada Compassion Canada

 

July 17, 2015

Proverbs on Poverty…

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dollar sign…and Riches

Today we pay a return visit to the daily devotional blog Christian Blessings. This post is from Dr. Bob Dellinger. Click the title below to read at source.

Proverbs 22-23 – Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s reading: Proverbs 22-23.

Don’t jump to conclusions about riches and poverty. The Bible doesn’t present a simple black-and-white picture, but a full canvas of colorful details. Both conditions have their dangers and opportunities. Read carefully to understand God’s wisdom about wealth.

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.

God is the creator of all people and he shows no favoritism. All of them are sinners and need forgiveness. Each one, rich and poor, will live one life and then face judgment, but Jesus died for each one so that they could have eternal life.

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Wealth is not the most important possession. Many things are more valuable, including the esteem of a good name. Such esteem is the result of a life lived wisely and righteously. God isn’t condemning riches, however. He’s just pointing out that they aren’t the ultimate goal in life and you shouldn’t let a desire for wealth interfere with a godly life.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Economic facts are as real and unavoidable as gravity. Wealth gives power and influence that inevitably lead to domination of the disadvantaged. A godly and wealthy people could use their power to help the poor, but unfortunately the opposite often happens. As an obstacle to wealth and a cause of further loss of power, nothing stands out like debt.

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

Poverty is a fact of life in every generation. I’ve spoken previously about Bryant Myers’ description of how broken relationships cause poverty. The spiritual poverty of separation from God, the economic distress of oppression by other men, the personal destruction of abusing one’s own mind or body, the hazards of living in a dangerous environment – all these contribute to or cause poverty. God cautions us that there will always be poverty, but also exhorts us to show mercy to the poor.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

I said earlier that God didn’t show favoritism to the rich or poor, but he repeatedly states that he will stand up for those who are treated unjustly. That usually means the poor or disadvantaged. The wealthy who oppress are warned that their day in court is coming, and God will be sure to mete out justice.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Money and possessions are temporary. We may lose them due to the ups and downs of life, but it’s certain that we will lose them when life ends. Even so, money tempts us to do things that we shouldn’t. We work too many hours to the detriment of our family life. We hoard money or else spend it selfishly on ourselves rather than sharing it with the needy. We fail to give back to God. We deal dishonestly in order to get richer. In all these ways and others we lack the wisdom to restrain our interest in money. But, as Jesus said, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? The love of money can blind a person to the spiritual or eternal truths of life.


After formatting and posting this, I discovered that just as we do, Christian Blessings borrows material from other sites. The original post for this was found at Bob Dellinger’s Bible in a Year Blog.

 

June 6, 2012

On the Nature of Benevolence

Today, for C201 post #800, we’re featuring the writing of fellow-Canadian, Jamie Arpin Ricci, who recently blogged an excerpt from his book, The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press) available at your local Christian bookstore. To read what follows at source, which we always strongly encourage, click over to Of Love and Charity.

Recently I took part in a lively discussion about the word “charity”.  While the intended use of the word in the discussion was referring to “voluntary giving of help, typically money, to those in need”, someone else mentioned that the word “charity” is often used as an explicitly theological term meaning love- specifically agape, the unconditional love of God and/or the love we are called to hold for all others.  I argued that the use of “charity” to refer to “love” is the result of the Vulgate translation of agape- a likely use to differentiate it from sexual love. However, etymologically, “charity” has primarily been used to reference benevolence to the poor.  I contend that the very small segment of Christian usage of the term as love does not accurately represent the words original and most common usage, historically or today.

Be that as it may, the intersection of love and charity became the heart of the discussion.  Jesus said:

“When you give to the needy, do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is don in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3)

So how should we understand these secret works of righteousness? Interestingly, the Greek word used for “acts of righteousness” is not the same word in every manuscript. Some ancient manuscripts that include this passage use the same word for “righteousness” as the one in the Beatitudes, the righteousness/justice we are to hunger and thirst for. Other manuscripts, though, use an entirely different word meaning “almsgiving” or simply “gifts to the poor.” After shooting off a few e-mails to some Bible scholar friends of mine, I learned that while the best manuscripts use the former meaning (that is, they refer to works of justice), the reason the other meaning is used at times is because the primary “act of righteousness” in the Judaism of Jesus’ day was almsgiving.

The use of both Greek words suggests that Jesus was referring to the Jewish practice called tzedakah, a Hebrew word that loosely means “charity” but has as its root the Hebrew word for justice (tzedek). Rooted in the gleaning laws of their agrarian past, the complexities of the developing economy led to a more sophisticated set of guidelines and requirements about giving to the poor.  However, consistent throughout that development was the central fact that such giving was always to be done anonymously. What we can glean, then, is that while Jesus is commenting broadly on works of justice, most of his listeners would have thought immediately of tzedakah. And given that Jesus continues by directly addressing the practice of almsgiving in the following section, this connection is obviously intentional.

The connection between righteousness/justice and providing for the poor must not be missed or minimized. Its long history in Judaism and Christianity, and Jesus’ clear affirmation of its continued practice, should be more than enough to make us mindful of its significance for the church. As we have explored earlier, it is not uncommon these days for Christians to believe that God calls us to care for the spiritual needs of others, with material needs being of secondary priority (and often a distant second at that). Some even go so far as to say we are not called meet the material needs of the poor at all. However, most would simply minimize such charity as a secondary, less important aspect to the higher spiritual calling of saving souls.

We cannot miss that Jesus makes no such division or distinction between the spiritual and material needs of humanity. The righteousness and justice we are called to hunger and thirst after, and the shalom we are called to create in the world—even in its brokenness—is absolutely concerned with the whole person, in- deed all of creation. The disintegrative nature of sin is being reversed by the work of Christ’s redemption, moving us toward the intended wholeness of creation, reflected in the nature of the Garden of Eden before sin. It was good! Our commitment to Christ and his mission, then, must be equally devoted to the restoration of the whole person and the whole creation.

When we understand the dynamics at work here, we see that Jesus is not teaching anything new in respect to the requirement of giving to the poor (and acts of justice in general), nor are his warnings about doing so to be seen as righteous by those watching us. This was something all good Jews knew to avoid. Something clearly distinguishes Jesus’ admonition. He is not forbidding us from doing works of righteousness before others (which would indeed be a contradiction of his earlier mandate in Matthew 5:13-16), but rather he is warning us against doing such works for the purpose of being seen by others. Once again, Jesus is forcing us to examine the intentions of our heart, for the true nature of our righteousness is found there, not in the act itself. We must live in the tension between the interior formation of our hearts and the ethical behavior it gives birth to. We should not be surprised that this was such a common problem in his day. After all, which of us does not like getting praised for our good works? This is a universal temptation that we all face.

~Jamie Arpin-Ricci

 

Jamie was featured previously here at C201 on January 2nd, 2011 with an article entitled The Biblical Concept of Godly Leadership.

May 10, 2012

Money and Wealth: It’s All His

Today we’re zooming in on part two of a two part series about money… so you might want to read part one.

[visual: me leaning on one foot, and then the other, waiting for your return]

…Okay, we’re back.  So you already know that this is by David P. Kreklau who combines something that sounds really exciting with something that sounds rather boring — he’s a CPA with the US Air Force.  Part two (click the title to link direct) is:

Awkward! …the Impact of Sovereignty on Our Money

Have you ever been in that awkward situation where somebody wants to give you money but you are embarrassed to receive it… or maybe you want to give money to someone but they are too embarrassed to take it?  As my daughter would say, it feels “awkward…!”

In my last blog I talked about how we take pride in our money and we allow it to bleed into our identity… making us feel like we have all the control over our money, which can create these awkward situations where we convey feelings of pride either in giving or receiving.

But the point I made was that God is sovereign over all things, including whatever it was that helped you obtain your wealth… whether your choices or upbringing, etc.  And therefore, whatever amount of money you have, that is what God has chosen to distribute to you.  Thus, you need not tie your identity to your wealth.

The Impact of Sovereignty

Here are some practical ways that this understanding should affect our money.

1)      Humility.  Knowing that it is God who distributes to whom He wills should disarm our pride over our wealth and lend us to feel humble in knowing that what we have is only of grace… not ourselves.  And let’s face it, we could all use more humility.

2)      Gratitude.  This humility should naturally flow into gratitude, recognizing that this grace is not deserved and that we actually deserve nothing.  Yet, God gives to us lavishly.

3)      Giving.  Just as we model everything we do after the Gospel of Jesus Christ – how He gave Himself for us when we deserved nothing good – we ought to give graciously to those in need, despite what they “deserve.”

4)      Stewardship/Redistribution.  Remember that since God decides in His sovereignty who gets what, then those who have been given much must remember that they have been given much for a reason.  You have been made a steward by God, and it is up to you to redistribute to those in need.  This is easier to do when you remember that it is not your money.  It is God’s… given to you to use for the kingdom in bringing about His good purposes.  This knowledge should also directly impact how you spend your money.

 5)      Receiving.  We need not feel embarrassed when receiving charity, as this is what God has appointed.  His way of you obtaining that money in this instance just happens to be a gift of love from someone as opposed to a wage.  Is there a better way of feeling the Gospel than receiving a gift instead of earning it yourself?

As you can see, this understanding of our wealth brings profound consequences to how we view money.  You can stop looking inward in terms of valuing yourself by your wealth and start looking outward by trying to breathe value into others.

If God gives abundantly to you, use that money to glorify Him.  If He gives you a nice home, use it to entertain in a Christ-exalting way.  If you are short of cash and someone helps you out, use that money to His glory and see the Christ-like quality of giving in that moment and worship Him.

If the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10)… then the love of each other will disarm that evil.

~David P. Kreklau

August 4, 2011

Keeping Up With The Jones? No, They’re Keeping Up With You

While this isn’t a Bible study or devotional post, perhaps today is a day for putting “feet to our faith.” Trey Morgan blogged this last week under the title, Just How Rich Am I?   It’s short, and when you get to the link, I want you guys to click, okay?

Want some very challenging reading today? I’d love to challenge your thinking for just a moment on how wealthy you and I are.   I’m not here to make you feel guilty, but you may … because I did.

We, as Americans don’t always understand what real poverty is.  A new study by the US Census Bureau shows that of the 30 million in the US who live in poverty still are well housed, have adequate supply of food and have medical care.  The study shows that the typical household, defined as poor by our country, had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the average poor household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.  In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

I’m not down on the poor in America, we’re are all very blessed to live in this country. I’m also NOT saying that there are not some really poor people and homeless people in our country … BUT I AM SAYING that if we only look at poverty in our own country, we’ll never quite understand how the poorest of the poor in our world really live.

Did you know that today 30,000 children will die from starvation? Think about it this way, 30,000 children dying of starvation every day is like six September 11th’s … every day.

Compassion International has created a website called “Who Are the Joneses?” to bring about a better understanding of poverty in America — and then place that knowledge into a global perspective. So, my challenge to you today is see how the poor really live in the world by spending a few minutes on this website …

“Who Are the Jones?”

It’ll only take a couple minutes of your time. So, you up for the challenge?

Trey Morgan


Interestingly enough, last night my wife and I went on the website of Compassion Canada to make a donation to the famine crisis.  Instead we were met with a message that said that while Compassion is active in the countries affected, they are not working in the areas hardest hit by the famine.  Instead, they gave the names of three other charities.  It was late, and we haven’t yet followed up with those three, but I was so impressed I made a small donation to Compassion anyway, simply because I was awed by their honesty and integrity.  Below is the actual text, and for my USA readers, here’s the link to Compassion USA.

…Although Compassion does not work in Somalia, we do work in Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, each affected by the drought to some degree. However, Compassion does not work in the specific areas that are most impacted, such as Southeastern Ethiopia and Northeastern Kenya. 

Compassion’s ministry is focused on long-term child development, rather than on relief. Our programs protect our children and families to a very great extent against the crippling impact of famine and drought. Therefore, our response to the terrible drought in East Africa is long-term recovery in the areas where we work, rather than immediate relief. Because we are not responding to this crisis with immediate relief, we cannot participate in the Government Matching Program.

…If you have a heart to give immediate relief to those suffering in the worst-hit areas, please consider giving to trusted organizations that are positioned to respond immediately to these pressing needs, such as: World ReliefChristian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) or Food for the Hungry.

December 25, 2010

A Christmas Consideration: Who Are You Giving To This Year?

With Christmas 2010 now consigned the realm of “memories,” and with most people feeling “tapped out” when it comes to giving, it’s time to think of another aspect of giving; the donations we make in the area we generally refer to as “tithes and offerings.”

Oh no!  Not that topic!

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas isn’t a lot of fun. We are about to put the last of our supplier payments in the mail. If there wasn’t going to be any further December activity and the amounts were low, we’re paying all the current invoices as well. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so just getting bills paid is a major goal.

So this is a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship.
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water.
  • Has there been a natural disaster somewhere in the world this year that you watched on television but didn’t actually respond to?   Find out if your denomination or churches in your area know of people who are actually “on the ground” working alongside people in devastated areas.
  • Locally, who is actually doing ministry where you live?  There are always examples of people doing really exemplary work among people in need; people in prison; people dealing with addictions.   Find out what these people need and what avenues of support exist to help financially.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? Do they need money for capital projects;  are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Who provides meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically?
  • The very fact you’re reading a Christian blog means that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators or the various Bible Societies.
  • And speaking of Bibles, this book is illegal in more than 50 countries.  Consider helping organizations that work with the persecuted church around the world.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing.

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need.

‘…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’  ~ Matthew 25:40

November 24, 2010

Maybe They Weren’t Saved in the First Place

For our Canadian Readers:  Giving to Those Less Fortunate — You see them in the malls and big box stores every year.   Volunteers manning the donation kettles on behalf of the Salvation Army.   But in a world where everybody pays using plastic cards, who has change to drop in the kettle?   And what about the people who shop online and don’t see the collection kettles at all?   That’s why we started doing a Salvation Army iKettle.  This is a great program for our Canadian blog readers to take advantage of; what’s more, the money you give stays with the Salvation Army Family Services in your community.   Be among the first to donate by clicking the following link:  

http://my.ikettle.ca/personalPage.aspx?SID=2834666&Lang=en-CA
~Paul Wilkinson

The way to resolve the argument seemed so obvious to me.  I was much, much younger and we were discussing the issue of eternal security.   If they were truly saved, how could they sin blatantly, or how could they walk away from their faith?   It’s obvious:  They weren’t saved in the first place. This is sometimes called the “semantics” solution since it’s about words.   We called this individual or that group of people Christians, but obviously we were wrong to do so since he, she or they weren’t really partakers of Christ or they wouldn’t have done what they did.

[Insert, the “But what about Judas?  He walked and talked with Jesus for three years…” argument here.]

I actually want to talk about a different application of the “semantics” issue.  The one raised in James 2:24, translated traditionally as “Faith without works is dead.” I think what James is saying here is that the semantics test does work here.   If people don’t manifest spiritual fruit, spiritual gifts, etc., in their lives, we do in fact have good reason to say, “Maybe they weren’t saved in the first place.”

In the Evangelical stream that I was nurtured in, we’re relatively new to social justice.   We spent years developing the best teachings on doctrine and theology, but largely ignored the poor.   When non-Evangelical churches did, we dismissed them by saying, “They only preach a social gospel.” Both types of churches were — and some still are — out of balance on this issue.

James isn’t saying we’re saved by works, but he’s saying — especially in the broader context — that works darn well better be in the picture. …It seemed an appropriate thing to write about today, as I posted our online Salvation Army iKettle for our Canadian readers.   I’ll repeat the iKettle appeal here once a week leading up to Christmas, and all three of my other blogs.

James 2 (The Message)14-17Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

18I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

19-20Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

21-24Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

25-26The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.