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Lori Guenther Reesor: Gather and give

As it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 2 Corinthians 8:15

“Conventional fundraising wisdom promotes efficiency: how to extract to maximum amount of money from
the minimum amount of donors. Thus, the efficiency model focuses first on donors who have the most money. Efficiency trumpets total dollars raised rather than how many people contributed. Doubtless readers are familiar with the large thermometer sign showing the total donations in red. I dislike fund-raising thermometers. Ten dollars from me and $499,990 from you is not a successful church capital campaign…

Could we instead measure the number of contributors? This presumes that everyone is asked to contribute. By everyone, I mean everyone – kids, youth, students, families with mortgages, seniors. Babysitting money, lemonade stands, offers to help sweep up during the construction project – all of these gifts are joyfully acknowledged and accepted, celebrated even…Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 8:15 that some have gathered much and some have gathered little. Yet in God’s economy, when we share there is enough.”

Lori Guenther Reesor in “Whose Church Is It Anyway?” in Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation, vol. 19 (Richmond: ESC, 2017) 20-21.

How we do campaigns in church and parachurch settings communicates what we believe and value. Reesor provides great wisdom here that, if applied, will help your church do more than raise up gifts. You will raise up givers who are rich toward God, and your efforts will transform the community you serve. What is her advice?

Abandon conventional paradigms. Instead rally your church family or parachurch constituency to participate in God’s work with what each person can gather and give. Celebrate that everyone can contribute from what they have. Do this and you will do more than fund your project. You will help everyone grow spiritually.

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Marcia Shetler: Generous legacy

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16:9

“Deciding how to steward what God has given us at the end of our earthly lives can be difficult to think about and discuss. The legal aspects can be challenging to comprehend. Some choose to avoid what they don’t understand. A May 2016 Gallup poll showed that 56 percent of US households do not have a will [or living trust]. A Google consumer survey conducted in Canada in June 2016 showed that 62 percent of Canadian households do not have a will [or living trust].”

Marcia Shetler in “Legacy Generosity: It’s all in the (Church) Family” in Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation, vol. 19 (Richmond: ESC, 2017) 19.

Do you have a will or living trust?

Jenni and I set up a will early in our marriage after having children. Once our children reached 18 years old, we set up a living trust. We put all our assets in the trust. Here’s the list: our townhouse, two cars, two laptops, two phones, our books, our fly fishing rods, our hunting guns, our treadmill, our exercise bike, our home furnishings, our clothing, and our bank accounts.

If something happens to me or my wife, we’ve given each other the gift of far fewer headaches to deal with along with grieving because the survivor legally serves as a fellow steward of these assets. And some ask about our bank accounts. We function with what I like to describe as a mina (cf. Luke 19:11-27), which in antiquity was about three months income. It provides basic margin to live, give, serve, and love. The rest is stored up in heaven.

Need help? Put God first. Live simply. Care for the needs of your children and your aging parents. Store up as much as possible in heaven. Talk about all this with your children. Ask God for daily bread and everything else. Set up a will or preferably, a living trust, and put all the assets you steward in it, so that you are welcomed into your eternal dwelling. The family you leave behind will thank you and likely follow your example.

Sadly, I think most people don’t set up a will or living trust because they are not ready to give an account for their stewardship.

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Thomas Chalmers: New affection and better hope

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 1 John 2:15

“The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity – and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness.

The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one. Nothing can exceed the magnitude of the required change in a man’s character – when bidden as he is in the New Testament, to love not the world; no, nor any of the things that are in the world for this so comprehends all that is dear to him in existence, as to be equivalent to a command of self-annihilation.

But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God.

It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy, by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed Mediator. It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw nigh unto God – and to live without hope, is to live without God; and if the heart be without God, then world will then have all the ascendancy. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy.”

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), Scottish minister, economist, and theologian in The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. This a great treatise worth reading.

Only when love for the world is rightly displaced by love for God in Christ in our hearts do we have a new affection and a better hope that surpasses all other affections and hopes.

What does this have to do with generosity?

If we love the world, or anything in the world, we are giving our affection and setting our hope in the wrong place. We can’t be generous because we are torn within. We think we need that which Christ calls us to let go of so we ignore Him and hold on to money and things thinking we know better!

We know this because we lived this way for years.

We have learned that Jesus is not trying to rob us, but rather trying to help us. He’s the new affection and better hope that frees us to enjoy life and things without being enslaved by them, and because we have everything we need in Him, we can enjoy and share all things freely.

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H. Fred Bernhard: Our offering

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

“Giving isn’t about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s a sign of our spiritual discipline. We give because it’s the only concrete way we have of saying that we’re glad to be alive and well. Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs — on the lives we lead, the God we serve, the families we raise, the communities which nurture us. Our spiritual condition can be summed up with this prayer: “No matter what we say or do, God, this offering is what we think of you.”

H. Fred Bernhard in “Stewardship in the Small Church” in Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation, vol. 19 (Richmond: ESC, 2017) 18.

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. Jenni and I are celebrating this year with 25 special dates (two per month in 2017 and one today). I chose this post because I like the prayer as we celebrate this milestone together with God: “No matter what we say or do, God, this offering is what we think of you.” I love you Jenni! Thanks for offering yourself to God with me as a living sacrifice.

God, thank you for letting us live to celebrate 25 years of marriage together. You have carried us through sickness and health. Thanks for teaching us, by your Holy Spirit, that giving is not about the receivers or the gifts but about reflecting the love of Jesus to the world. Our marriage is our offering to you. May our lives bring you glory. May this be true of our brothers and sisters reading this too. Amen.

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Paula Killough: Mustard seed gifts

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20

“Jesus calls us to be generous global Christian disciples because we worship a generous, loving, global God. The church is now a global, multicultural reality, and there will always be room for and need of a multiethnic witness to the reconciliation that has come in Jesus Christ…

God’s presence of healing and hope carries the church through all the challenges of daily life. Small mustard seed gifts can grow into great works of holistic witness. We are called to establish global connections and share of ourselves. There is great power in the stories of what God is already doing around the globe, sharing the dreams of global leaders that may not yet be fulfilled…

The good news is not that the Church has a mission but rather that God’s mission has a Church. The Church is called to bless, restore, and heal all the peoples of our world. Our mustard seed gifts of love can change everything.”

Paula Killough in “A Case for Global Generosity: From Jerusalem to the Ends of the Earth” in Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation, vol. 19 (Richmond: ESC, 2017) 16-17.

God’s work is spreading around the world because of mustard seed gifts. People are sharing of themselves and their resources and growing as generous global Christians. As a result, many around the world are coming to know Jesus and finding hope and healing in Him.

Mostly, I appreciated how Killough concluded her case for global generosity. “The good news is not that the Church has a mission but rather that God’s mission has a Church.” You and I, along with brothers and sisters around the world are God’s Church.

We are God’s instrument for extending blessing, restoration, and healing to the world. How do we do this? With humble faith and mustard seed gifts!

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John Stanley: Wired to contribute

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

“We are wired to contribute, not consume. Lives of consumption isolate our souls from the true source of happiness. Contributing to the well-being of another turns out to be the most powerful and undervalued expression of generosity.”

John Stanley in his Generosity Gameplan blog post entitled “Edward” dated 27 June 2017.

Society tells that life is found in consuming things. Through a powerful post in which he shares about the loss of a generous friend, John Stanley reminds us that God made us for more than consumption. He wired each one of us to contribute.

And our contributions take many forms that are not monetary. People commonly celebrate financial contributions to organizations, and often overlook small things like contributing to the well-being of others. These contributions are often the most powerful and undervalued expressions of generosity.

Regardless of what others are saying and doing, let’s serve one another humbly in love! I am excited to do that from home in Colorado (pictured above on our walk last night) as I don’t have another trip planned for six weeks. Our loving service to those around us may be the greatest gift we give to God and others!

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Khuram Masih: Careful giving and receiving

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

“The church is the ultimate resource to show love and kindness to poor and needy to bring them back toward God. To be generous on every occasion requires faith to believe that God will, indeed, care for our needs if we show His love by caring for others…God is the main source of everything, whatever possessions we have will pass away, so we have to be careful in the area of giving and receiving.”

Khuram Masih, student at Torch Trinity Graduate University in his Philosophy of Biblical Stewardship Paper dated 2 July 2017.

Khuram is a passionate follower of Christ from Pakistan. In his paper he emphasized that God is the main source and we are the ultimate resource in order to drive home the point that we are the hands and feet of Jesus to bring people to God through how we generously show love and kindness rooted in deep faith.

He rightly urges God’s people to be careful in giving and receiving because we must do rightly on both counts in order to bless others on every occasion. How are you at giving and receiving? Someday you will meet the main source, face to face, and have to give an account for your stewardship. Are you ready?

Start preparing your response through careful giving and receiving from this day forward. Hear this charge not from someone who lives in luxury, but from a fellow believer who is surrounded by poverty and persecution. Masih believes this lifestyle will bring the poor (that is, the spiritually and materially poor) back to God.

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Da Min Chung: Lifestyle of obedience

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

“If we cultivate the lifestyle of obedience as we walk with God in intimate relationship, He will speak to us where the resources that He has entrusted to us should be spent. Those are not confined only to the area of financial resources but also include natural and spiritual gifts, knowledge, physical and emotional energy, spiritual and material resources, and ultimately, our very life.”

Da Min Chung, student at Torch Trinity Graduate University in her Philosophy of Biblical Stewardship Paper dated 2 July 2017.

Chung reminds us that a “lifestyle of obedience” must shape the stewardship of all we are and all we have. This appears as a daily rhythm in our lives.

In modernity we tend to follow cultural trends and compartmentalize our faith, which often represents one day a week. When we do that we give God a portion of “our” time or “our” money rather than walking with Him in humility and asking Him daily how He desires for us to spend ourselves and the resources in our stewardship, day in day out.

What about you? How do you daily cultivate a lifestyle of obedience?

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Lim Yon Hyok: The sharing life

There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. Acts 4:34-35

“I believe that Jesus saved us from our sins and decided to follow Him. Then naturally I should practice what Jesus has taught and shown. No other option! Up to now I have just keep the basic law in my offerings, the tithe. I have often thought that I do not have enough money. But I am learning it is not matter of how much I give, but a matter of priority. My giving should be based on love and faith in God. The early church showed how they used their possessions with others who were in need. Sharing in community is impossible without faith in God. The sharing life in the early church is completely different from modern church that donates a certain percentage of collected offering to orphanage or nursing homes. Compared to the way of sharing in early church, the modern church might lack love and sincerity.”

Lim Yon Hyok, student at Torch Trinity Graduate University in his Philosophy of Biblical Stewardship Paper dated 2 July 2017.

Hyok reveals a level of honesty and transparency that moves us as readers to consider our own situation. Do we exhibit “the sharing life” as he calls it, rooted in love and faith in God, or do we just dole out a percentage of money thinking of ourselves above others rooted in the scarcity notion that we ourselves don’t have enough?

Hyok was struck by the selfless and sharing posture of Jesus and the early church and challenges us all to see if there is faith, love and sincerity in our own hearts. He was convicted that giving a percentage was like paying a tax and thinking he had done his part. What about you? What are the priorities of your heart and your church? 

Hyok challenges us to focus on our posture and priorities rather than the percentage of our giving. In plain terms, the posture of our lives must be one of faith and trust in God, and the priority of our caring and sharing must think of others ahead of ourselves. Living this way reflects God’s love to the world like the early church!

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Jung Woo Park: With God in our generosity

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. Matthew 25:35

“God is always with the weak and the poor. He remembers what I have done to them even though I don’t realize. He also commands me to live a faithful life with my doing the good to them. If all the resources belonging to and surrounding me are from God, because God is good, everything is good and sharable for His glory. As I don’t know fully the relationship between everything, everything should be aligned to His good will and the goodness of God.

Since I did not create my time, money, family, and will not take these with me on my leaving this world, these are not mine but belong to the Creator. To use these according to the will of God is natural and prerequisite to be regarded as righteous.

God is the only Provider of everything. Like water flow, the blessing should be flowing from the Provider to everywhere in need. Only when the blessing flows through me, I may be with God forever, because God’s blessing is not stopped at a certain point. I know I have to make the flow happen from God to the place in need.”

Jung Woo Park, student at Torch Trinity Graduate University in her Philosophy of Biblical Stewardship Paper dated 2 July 2017.

Jung Woo beautifully describes our role as conduits of God’s blessings, whether material or spiritual. The blessings flow through us, and only when they flow toward the poor and needy are we “with God” in our generosity. It’s why we are on this earth, to minister to the lost and the least!

Only when we steward all that God has entrusted to us rightly, are our actions “righteous” before God. And lest anyone misinterprets what is at play here, consider this explanation: God desires we all live rightly with Him and for others, rather than in self-indulgence for ourselves.

What about you? Are resources flowing from God to the people and places where they are needed through you? When we become the clog in the system, it is likely because fear has made its way into our hearts. As Jung Woo put it, we must live a “faithful” (rather than faithless) life in our doing good.

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