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Adam Hamilton: Pumpkins and Jack-o-lanterns

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

“One day in a chapel service, some members of my church staff offered a wonderful and compelling illustration of how God works within us. They noted that in some ways human beings are like a pumpkin that is to become a jack-o-lantern. If you’ve ever picked pumpkins from the field, you know that no pumpkin is perfect. The task is to incorporate your pumpkin’s imperfections into the design you carve into it. You look at the pumpkin and begin to imagine what it can be. Next you draw on it a face of some sort. Then you come to the first step of actual transformation of the pumpkin, which is also the messiest. You open it up, and you begin to scoop out all the nasty, slimy, smelly stuff inside. Then you carve the face or design, which is no doubt a bit painful for the pumpkin. And, ultimately, you replace all of the muck with a light that shines from within.

This is a picture of what God intends: that greed and envy and materialism have been replaced, and that God’s light shines within us in a way that gives light to others. As we allow Christ to work in us, seeking first His kingdom and striving to do His will, we begin to sense a higher calling — a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. If God calls us to go or to do or to give, we can because we are free.

A key part of experiencing financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint. I am not suggesting we should never buy anything for ourselves. I am not suggesting we should not buy a new car or go on a vacation to buy new clothes or something else we might want. I am suggesting that, with the help of God, we aim to simplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more; that we live counter-culturally by actually living below, not above, our means; that we build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit; and that we build in what we need to be able to live generously and faithfully.”

Adam Hamilton in Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009) 24-25.

It has been 12 amazing days of fruitful ministry and priceless fellowship in Manila with Anjji and Lynda Gabriel. My visit culminated with a trip to CCT Tagaytay Retreat and Training Center where the flowers were absolutely stunning (pictured above).

Shortly, I head back to Seoul for 4 more days to lead a church retreat for New Harvest Ministry before heading home. Thanks for your prayers as God graciously continues to sustain me and watch over my family back in America.

Back home it’s the time of year when people set out pumpkins to celebrate the fall harvest season. What a beautiful picture Hamilton and members of his staff paint for us in connecting the transformation of the pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern with what God does with our greed and envy and materialism.

What’s in your pumpkin?

If we liken our lives to a pumpkin filled with yucky patterns of overspending, self-indulgence, and foolishly storing up treasures on earth rather than in heaven, we cannot shine until we allow God to remove all that. Think of it this way: Generosity is not us doing things for Him; it’s allowing Him to do His best work, to shine through us.

God’s design and desire is to make us beacons of light that no longer exhibit slavery to money and all its stinky sins. Instead, when we make money our slave by avoiding debt, living simply, and giving generously, it positions our proverbial pumpkins to shine like jack-o-lanterns in a dark world.

Whenever you see a pumpkin this season, take a moment to ask God if there is anything needs to come out of your life so that, like jack-o-lantern, you shine brightly for Jesus.

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Richard Foster: Frantic Scramble or Freedom

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:24-25

“For Christ money is an idolatry we must be converted from in order to be converted to Him. The rejection of the god mammon is a necessary precondition to becoming a disciple of Jesus. And in point of fact, money has many of the characteristics of deity. It gives us security, can induce guilt, gives us freedom, gives us power and seems to be omnipresent. Most sinister of all, however, is its bid for omnipotence.

It is money’s desire for omnipotence, for all power, that seems so strange, so out of place. It seems that money is not willing to rest contented in its proper place alongside other things we value. No, it must have supremacy. It must crowd out all else. This is, I say, the strange thing about money. We attach importance to it far beyond its worth. In fact, we attach ultimate importance to it. It is tremendously instructive to stand back and observe the frantic scramble of people for money.

And this does not just occur among the poor and starving. Quite the contrary — the super-wealthy, who have really nothing to gain by more money, still seek it furiously. The middle class, who are really quite adequately cared for (and who are from a global perspective the wealthy), continue to buy more houses than they need, to acquire more cars than they need, to have more clothes than they need. Many of us could live on half what we now receive without much serious sacrifice…”

Richard Foster in The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power (San Francisco: Harper One, 1989) 28.

In my post yesterday as well as today, I am focusing on the deeper spiritual issues that hinder our service to God and our generosity. Our class was courageous to “go there” with Kuya Anjji and me, and I pray you too will go there with me in this post. The central spiritual issue that hinders generosity is idolatry to money.

You don’t figure it out until you live it out that the call to let go of it and to deploy to those with less than enough is a righteous response, a declaration of dependence, and the path to freedom. By righteous, I mean, it’s the right or obedient response to Jesus. We proclaim Him as Master and depend on Him rather than the power money alleges.

Neither Jesus in today’s Scripture, nor Richard Foster who penned these words, nor I have lost our minds. Crazy are the people (including many so-called followers of Christ) participating in the frantic scramble rather choosing the path to freedom. We must “go there” because it is Jesus who forces people to declare their allegiance.

Jesus speaks far more pointedly than I am in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. In plain terms, he says, “Pick a side, and if you don’t choose to reject the side that everyone follows you have succumbed to serving it.” There have been many highlights on this trip to the Philippines. Among them was watching the students choose the pathway to freedom and life.

It’s fitting for today’s post to call us to serve God and not money as the title of my last series of talks with Kuya Anjji is “The Seminar About GOD: Governance, Obedience, Discipleship.” He came up with the cool title for this event at the Philippine Bible Society office. Pray for us as we facilitate discussions with ministry board members and administrators all aspects of the faithful oversight and administration of God’s work.

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Loren Cunningham: Selfless and Obedient

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

“Obedience in giving is an act of spiritual warfare. For instance, if a person in Chicago responds in generosity, giving way his money — say, to help with a missions project halfway around the world — the forces of Satan are driven back in Chicago. The amount is not important but the attitude is. Any amount — even a widow’s mite — given selflessly and in obedience batters the powers of darkness right to Lucifer himself. Giving selflessly means that the gift will not help the giver in any way. It’s not given so that he or she can have a more comfortable pew or a safer neighborhood. It is given away, and only God can return the blessing to that giver. This kind of giving shakes Satan, loosening his control in the country receiving the gift but even more in the country of the giver.”

Loren Cunningham in Daring to Live on the Edge: The Adventure of Faith and Finances (Seattle: YWAM, 1991) 62. The new header photo is a picture from our Good and Faithful training time with the CCT Support Office staff. CCT is the largest Christian group of ministries in the Philippines.

Cunningham echoes the Apostle Paul in raising our awareness to the spiritual battle going on all around us. Selfless and obedient giving shakes the forces of evil and brings the kingdom of God around us on earth as it is in heaven.

On this trip to the Philippines, Anjji Gabriel and I have witnessed the breaking down of spiritual strongholds. People are finding freedom in understanding and living out the truth of God’s Word related to money. The struggles have been real and the victories visible.

I like to pray the Lord’s prayer when I stretch each morning. Join me, and when you do, ask God what role He wants you to play today in making His kingdom come and His will be done. Our selfless and obedient giving releases heaven all around us.

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Michael Blue: Open Hands

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:7-11

“God has been challenging my understanding of giving and generosity over the last few years. I have always held too tightly to money and relied on my control of money for security. I have realized that through giving, and particularly through spontaneous giving, that I am being freed from the power of money. My dad often says that “giving breaks the power of money.” I have seen this to be true more often in my life recently because of a new understanding of what it means to give. If I rightly connect that God owns it all, then I must hold all that I have with an open hand. This means that if I feel God telling me to give, I give. It is so freeing to sit back and listen and watch how God teaches me to use money as a tool to accomplish His will instead of letting it be used as a tool to control me. Giving is such a remarkable blessing. Don’t miss the adventure and the joy!”

Michael Blue in Master Your Money: A Step-By-Step Plan For Experiencing Financial Contentment by Ron Blue with Michael Blue (Chicago: Moody, 2016) 249. This is one of the required texts for my Faith and Finances course.

Remember not to read today’s biblical text prescriptively as instructions to manipulate God to find the path to material prosperity, but as descriptively for discerning God’s design for life. And consider three thoughts in response to the Scripture and meditation.

Firstly, whatever we hold tightly to in our hands, actually holds tightly to us. When our hands our open, they can both receive and give. When they are clenched, they are free to do neither. We fail to function according to God’s design for us.

Note the connection between the head and the heart. The text says not to harden our hearts or shut our hands. When we don’t share what God supplies, we are guilty of sin. Holding back what God designed to be enjoyed and shared is stealing (cf. Eph. 4:28).

Secondly, there will never cease to be poor in the land. I chuckle when I hear people talking about eradicating poverty on earth. I say this because the Lord declares that the problem will persist, so who do they think they are that they can say otherwise?

Only in the new heaven and new earth under the reign of Jesus will that condition be gone. Why make this point? Blue rightly notes our role in the meantime. We get to be people who share with open hands and experience the remarkable blessing for doing it!

Thirdly, don’t miss the journey language today. It’s “challenging,” “freeing,” and an “adventure!” My students here in Manila this week like to quote my oft-used saying, “You don’t figure it out until you live it out.”

Sure it’s hard. It requires faith to take this journey. That’s the challenging part, but it’s also an invitation to freedom, and the pathway to adventure as we realize the privilege of blessing others with open hands in gratitude for all we have received from God.

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Denny & Leesa Bellesi: Uncharted Territory

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Luke 10:33-35

“Uncharted territory. Each of us is often so busy and preoccupied with our own-charted agendas that we can easily miss the opportunity God presents to make a difference in someone’s life. A kind work, a simple gesture, an investment of time, attention, compassion, generosity. The opportunities are all around us every day. We live and work in a world of people who need to see that God cares and makes a difference. You and I may be the only glimpse of Jesus some people will ever see.”

Denny and Leesa Bellesi in The Kingdom Assignment: What Will You Do With the Talents God has Given You? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 86.

In what new territory might God want you to move? The beauty of the Good Samaritan story is the simplicity of it. He “saw” a person in need and “had compassion” on him. Are we to blind to see, and too busy and self-absorbed to have compassion on those in need around us?

Each of us can chart a new course right where we are. We must determine what in our normal pace of life that we walk by, that we miss, because we are just focused on our own agendas. God cares as much about how we treat people on the journey as He does the destination we are headed and what we do there.

This is very hard because we realize the little things are really the big things. It’s stuff like giving a person our undivided attention or greeting by name and with gratitude a person who serves us. We can be so focused on what we are doing or planning to do that we miss what God has for us, right in front of us. In so doing, we ourselves become the Levite or the priest in the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10:25-37).

Today I will speak at a “Put Your House in Order” Governance Forum sponsored by CCTA and ATS speaking on themes from The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance (forthcoming this month). Pray for God to give the group eyes to see and receptive hearts to apply what they learn, because the content will likely push listeners into uncharted territory.

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E. Calvin Beisner: Gleaning Today

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:9-10

“Charity does not always mean giving something for nothing. Individuals’ charitable giving, just like churches’, needs to be governed by the four principles connected with gleaning: (1) if they are able, recipients should work in return for their aid; (2) giving should be privately controlled and as direct as possible so that givers can know well the needs of recipients; (3) givers should distinguish worthy from unworthy recipients (2 Thessalonians 3:10); (4) the main goal of charitable gifts should be to meet basic survival and health needs. Private givers need to be as careful as churches not to foster dependency or pander to sloth or prodigality in recipients. At the same time, they need to be ready to give generously where needs are real and recipients are willing to do all they can to comply with biblical patterns for living.

The early Christians took their responsibility to care for poor fellow believers so seriously that they were even willing to sell houses and lands to do it (Acts 4:32-37). Though no one would have excused taking another’s property without permission by appealing to the needs of the poor, still believers considered their property entrusted to them by God for the good of the whole Body of Christ (Acts 2:44-46). Their great generosity contributed to the credibility of the gospel so that preaching was fruitful (Acts 2:47), confirming Christ’s prediction, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).”

E. Calvin Beisner in Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001) 222-223.

In developing countries like the Philippines where there is much poverty, Beisner’s four points provide a solid summary for structuring assistance of the poor in accord with God’s design for gleaning today. As we have discussed in class in plain terms, we must not merely give hand-outs that result foster dependency but hand-ups that build disciples. In so doing we position the poor to contribute to their own flourishing.

Of course, the Good Samaritan provides us a snapshot of this (Luke 10:25-37). He was keen to the needs of those around him. He stopped what he was doing and inconvenienced himself to assess the situation. He contributed time and money to help the hurting man get back on his feet, and he promised to return to see to his full restoration. Jesus instructs us to go and do likewise. That’s my prayer for my ATS students as our class draws to a close: that they will go forth like Good Samaritans!

Over the next week, I will do a series of seminars on governance, faithful administration, and resource development for ministries like Center for Community Transformation (CCT). CCT is known across the Philippines for providing aid that aligns with this biblical design. Check out their website to see an example of an organization whose work transforms the lives of the poor and shapes entire communities for our Lord Jesus Christ in a manner that does not create dependencies but rather builds disciples.

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Jeff Anderson: Heart prompts

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

“Giving prompts — whether the direct kind or the more subtle whispers — are like snowflakes. No two are exactly alike. Not everyone experiences them in the same way.

I once experienced a heart prompt while listening to a man share his story about giving. Meanwhile, a friend who heard the same testimony found it to be offensive. His heart was not prompted at all.

On another occasion, I was listening to a giving message at a banquet. The message did nothing for me, but it generated heart prompts for other people seated at my table. Sometimes heart prompts strike us uniquely at different times.

Have you ever read a familiar Scripture passage, but this time the words jumped off the page in ways they had not done before? The command may not have been new to you. But this time it penetrated your heart different, calling for obedience and action.

Or maybe you see a needy person on the street differently than how you’ve seen the needy in the past. It might even be the same person you’ve seen before, but for some reason this time you feel something different inside.

God initiates heart prompts to draw you near to Him. He knows what a particular giving opportunity will do for you and what it can do for Him too. When you notice a prompt in your heart, you should take it personally because it is personal.”

Jeff Anderson in Plastic Donuts: Giving That Delights the Heart of the Father (Colorado Springs: Multnomah; 2013) 56-58. I love to direct my students to this book. It’s a must-read generosity resource if you have not already read it.

When God gives us a heart prompt, it’s a personal invitation to be His hands and feet. He’s resourced and released us to distribute joyfully His material and spiritual blessings, whatever they may be.

The paradox of Christian generosity is this: when we respond, we don’t end up empty, but rather, God enriches us for greater generosity (Proverbs 11:24-25). That’s life in the abundant kingdom!

The converse is strikingly true: if we don’t respond, we miss out. God will nudge someone else because His purposes are never thwarted. His plans cannot be hindered. Who knows if or when He will ring non-responsive persons again?

Perhaps you are on your knees right now, asking God to meet a need you may have. Or maybe it’s a need for someone else. I remind my students that sometimes we must wait patiently because those God is prompting are not responding.

God loves it when we are responsive rather than reluctant. When we give cheerfully but not when pressured by compulsion. As my weeklong course at Asian Theological Seminary wraps up, this is one of my last words of advice to my students, so I share it also with you.

Be ready, attuned and attentive to the still small voice of God. As He prompts you, live, give, serve, and love like Jesus. The rest you will only figure out as you live it out, because generosity is a fruit of God working in you.

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Ben Witherington III: True Riches, Trustworthiness, and Reputation

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? Luke 16:10-12

“The real litmus test of trustworthiness is what one does with someone else’s resources. In an honor a shame culture, where being shamed was worse than being poor, there was a profound concern with reputation: thus we see here that it matters more how one handles people’s property than how one handles one’s own. The second half of this saying suggests that even when what is one’s own is in fact something that is given to a person. This is ambiguous but probably reflects Jesus’ general view that all material creation belongs to God, so even what we might count as our own is in fact given to us by God. We are merely stewards of what property belongs to us.”

Ben Witherington III in Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis (Brazos: Grand Rapids, 2010) 69.

In the Faith and Finances class here at Asian Theological Seminary, I deliver the material in discussion format by showing short videos of myself teaching (so students realize they have that resource to use in their contexts long after I am gone), then with the aid of Anjji Gabriel, we enjoy rich discussion. I let them do most of the talking because I have found that’s how adults learn best.

The ideas of true riches, trustworthiness, and reputation have come up in our dialogue. For example, Anjji shared a powerful story of almost losing his reputation and his job as a partner with a prominent accounting firm linked to the possibility of being labeled untrustworthy. Everyone sat at the edge of their seat as he testified to nearly losing everything.

Thus, he often proclaims this core question with passion: Can God trust you? He says it to wake people to the reality that God sees all we are doing: whether we relate honestly to money or not, whether we accumulate it or give generously, and whether we treat it like it belongs to us or not. Riches test our trustworthiness.

Though you are not enrolled in the class, you too must pass this test. Will you? Can God trust you? The paradox that comes into view is that only those who are honest with themselves and demonstrate that through faithfulness to using riches as the Master instructed will attain true riches.

Feel convicted to chart a new course? That’s where the students are at right now. The good news from the Parable of the Shrewd Steward (Luke 16:1-9), which immediately precedes this text, is that what matters for dishonest stewards is not how we start (because we all start out as dishonest squanderers of money), what matters is how we finish.

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Sondra Ely Wheeler: Mortality and Accountability

And He told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21

“In the Parable of the Rich Fool there are two kinds of appeal. One, the common-sense appeal, is acknowledged (at least fitfully) by all, and is expressed by in the popular proverb, “you can’t take it with you”…The other appeal concerns the possibility and obligation of being “rich toward God,” and the expectation of being called into account. It must be borne in mind, however, that the rich man who deliberates and chooses his course without regard for both his mortality and his accountability is called not evil but a fool (literally “mindless one”). What unites these disparate appeals here and throughout the chapter, and makes union intelligible, is Jesus own reality perspective.”

Sondra Ely Wheeler in Wealth as Peril and Obligation: The New Testament on Possessions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995) 66. I hope you are enjoying this current series of quotes from books I expose to my students.

It’s a privilege to team teach Faith and Finances again at Asian Theological Seminary with Mr. Anjji Gabriel, the executive director of CCTA. He served with PricewaterhouseCoopers for 31 years as a CPA (he likes to refer to his credential as “Christian Professional Accountant” rather than the common “Certified Public Accountant),  and now helps Christ-centered churches and organizations with matters of financial accountability and transparency. In plain terms, he helps them put their house in order.

Many individuals and organizations do not have their house in order. Like the rich fool, many people live with little regard to their mortality and as if they will never have to demonstrate any accountability. Because life is short and eternity is long, it makes sense that Jesus would exhort us to prepare for eternity rather than settle comfortably here. While I may know a lot about what the Scriptures teach on money, Anjji’s presence with me in the classroom is incalculable linked to his knowledge of the Filipino context. We are partners.

For example, yesterday we discussed this text with our students. We gave thanks that God supplies fruitfully when we put land to work. We said that we must not listen to self-talk but seek the Scriptures and do what the Word says when we get blessed with abundance. Here Jesus teaches us to share richly, lest we be relieved of our distribution duties. With his gray hairs and spiritual maturity (they call him Kuya Anjji, which translates something like Elder Anjji), he’s the perfect partner for teaching the “reality perspective” of Jesus.

Today, after class we have an historic dinner that celebrates our partnership at an organizational level. While the relationship between the Philippines and the USA runs deep back to the World War II days, CCTA and ECFA will sign an MOU celebrating our official partnership in accountability. When ministries have their house in order, it positions them for tremendous kingdom fruitfulness. Pray for me as I make remarks and desire to be a blessing to about 60 pastors, ministry administrators, accountants and other professionals.

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R. Scott Rodin: Strange Combinations

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

“If there was ever a place in Scripture where the ethics of the kingdom of God were shown in their most radical form, it was here. What strange combinations we confront: severe trial and overflowing joy, extreme poverty and rich generosity, and a sense of pleading to be allowed the privilege of giving…In Paul’s account of the collection from the Macedonian church, he includes a most important point concerning due process. He tells us that even to his own surprise, these people gave themselves first to the Lord and then to the task of joyful giving. This, according to Paul, is the will of God. It is the right process for His people and the reason for their ability to give richly out of their extreme poverty.”

R. Scott Rodin in Stewards in the Kingdom: A Theology of Life in All Its Fullness(Downers Grove: IVP, 2000) 211.

I cite this excerpt from Rodin’s classic work, Stewards in the Kingdom for four reasons today. Firstly, I love his expression, “strange combinations,” to refer to the generous lifestyle of the poor Macedonian Christians. Our generosity should NOT look normal to the world but should look different, even otherworldly. If we appear to conform to worldly norms then we are almost certainly not exhibiting Christian generosity.

Secondly, Rodin has taught at Asian Theological Seminary in Quezon City, just outside of Manila, where I find myself this week. As my co-author of the book, The Sower: Redefining the Ministry of Raising Kingdom Resources, Scott paved the way for bringing such “strange” Christian thinking here in service to passionate professors like Zenet Maramara and others before my time, and I am grateful.

Thirdly, the Filipino Christians remind me of the Macedonian Christians. Largely speaking, they appear to exhibit the “strange combinations” that Paul refers to in this text, such as extreme poverty and rich generosity. Once you see these combinations in action, you never forget it. It makes a deep imprint on your mind and heart, such that you can’t help but want to follow their example.

Fourthly, I must conclude with a question (and I will ask lots of questions in my teaching this week with my students pictured above): Will you exhibit these strange combinations? The best part of the question is the text explicitly supplies the answer. God’s will for you (and every follower of Christ) is to give yourself to God and the rich, otherworldly generosity will follow after that, because it’s not the fruit of your work but His work in your life.

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