John Chrysostom: Turn you back

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John Chrysostom: Turn you back

The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9

“For whereas usury is a crime practiced by the heathen, with God it is praiseworthy. Will you not give to the poor? Consider who it is that begs of you through the poor man and attend to the dignity of the one who receives. Yes, the poor man receives, but it is God who is the borrower.

Understand to what depths the Master descended to accomplish this, so that he might turn you back from cruelty and hatred: For you saw me hungry, and you did not feed me; thirsty, and you did not give me to drink; a stranger, and you did not welcome me; naked, and you did not clothe me. Will you not therefore give to Christ in his hunger?

Both you and the poor man together partake of his body from the altar table. You both likewise partake of his holy cup. Christ grants you to commune in his great and fearful mysteries, and yet you do not share your small and paltry things with him? Will you not give him thine own?”

John Chrysostom (347-407) in On Fasting and Almsgiving.

As I read through this ancient treatise on fasting and almsgiving, it moves me that the incarnation, God becoming flesh, aimed to turn us back from cruelty and hatred by showing us what giving generously to the undeserving looks like.

May God, this Lent, turn us back. May He change our minds and break our hearts to see that when we share, we will be both be blessed and be turned back from cruelty and hatred that aims to destroy us. Our very lives depend on whether or not we get this.

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John Chrysostom: He gladly becomes your debtor

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17

“Surely you see the multitudes of poor people in the street, how they remain outdoors even though they are sick or naked? Some are younger, some are older, some of them are leaning on one another for support — how great is their misfortune! Give, therefore, to your fellow servants, so that you might have the Master in your debt, for he gladly becomes your debtor and pays back your investment with interest.”

John Chrysostom (347-407) in On Fasting and Almsgiving.

Tough times fall on everyone, old and young.

Today’s Scripture and words from John Chrysostom alert us to the fact that the LORD sees when we help those in need and will reward those who act generously: He gladly becomes your debtor.

God cares so much that we help others, He stands ready to replenish and reward the faithful.

This Lent, I want to give you that opportunity right now. Because GTP did not hit our year-end funding target, I learned that we have only about 60 days cash on hand.

This is a first for me as President and CEO. We’ve never been this low on cash since GTP started.

Rather than keep the need quiet, I humbly ask for help. Can you join GTP as a monthly giver today. Set it up here. Whether you give $10 or $100, your monthly support will keep the work going.

I am fasting and praying for monthly supporters. Seek the Lord and join us in the work at the level God leads you.

In obedient service to Jesus Christ, GTP multiplies faithful stewards and mobilizes peer accountability groups (like ECFA in USA) to build trust and grow local giving to God’s work.

Looking for partners to help make sure this work continues for months and years to come.

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John Chrysostom: The Foundation of your Salvation

Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” Exodus 18:15-23

“Almsgiving is thus the wing of prayer. If you do not provide your prayer with wings, it will never fly. When, however, your soul sprouts wings, it flies immediately to heaven. How long will the love of money and the desire for possessions last? All those things, brother, last no longer than the present life. But you will say to me, “Say these things to yourself!” And indeed I do say these things to myself, and also to you, because this is advice for everybody. When I myself hear these things and amend my ways, then I am benefited by you. Even if it is a slave who says these things, I would still take the advice; and if it is a free man, I listen eagerly, because it is not a person’s station in life but the utility of the advice that makes me accept their words. For if that
great Moses, who spoke with God, did not shun the advice of his father-in-law, though he was a barbarian, but to the contrary received his advice, which was confirmed by God, how much more should we? I am not telling you to give away everything you own, but from your surplus to give to the poor, so that your surplus may become the foundation of your salvation.”

John Chrysostom (347-407) in On Fasting and Almsgiving.

It’s my dad’s birthday today. Happy birthday Dad. Thanks for your sharing of your surplus all the years I watched you growing up. It proved to be the foundation of your salvation and mine too.

I saw you and mom help others in need, not so much with a hand out, but rather a hand up.

That shaped my understanding of life in God’s economy. I learned that each of us has been blessed to be a blessing. And when coupled with the words of Jethro, one person can’t do it all alone.

In today’s Scripture, Moses had to serve as the representative of the people before God.

And He also empowered others to share the load with him. This leads me to a request. The work of GTP continues to grow and the needs grow faster than we have resources.

Can you make a gift to GTP to deploy staff to grow stewards and set up peer accountability groups? Click here to give.

in the first four months of this fiscal year we will minister to workers in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Cayman Islands, Australia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Albania.

Lack of funding may cause us to postpone work in Brazil, Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, and Antigua & Barbuda.

Thanks for considering this need during Lent. Please see it as an opportunity to lay a foundation for your salvation and to give to help strengthen and empower others to grow as givers and to help ministries grow capacity.

Moses could not do everything. Ministry workers need our help like Moses did.

GTP shows them how to be good stewards who follow standards which builds out the administration and governance and positions gospel ministry to reach more people.

I wrapped up speaking and mobilizing workers in Melbourne and headed to Sydney today, city three of five on this trip.

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John Chrysostom: Fast as the Ninevites

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Acts 10:4

“I say this not to condemn you, but for the sake of those who are negligent. You know that, whenever I see you taking wing, I desire you to fly still higher, for such is the tyranny of love. And just as lovers of money are never sated with gathering gold, I too always desire your spiritual progress. Therefore, brother, if you wish to be received by God, fast as the Ninevites. They did not receive the Law, as Paul said: For when the nations who have not the Law do, by nature, the things of the Law, they are a Law to themselves, though they have not the Law. Do not, then, render the fast futile, because fasting does not ascend to heaven by itself but only when it has almsgiving as its sister and companion. And she is not only her sister and companion, but also a conveyance. And how do we know this? Because the angel said to Cornelius: Your prayers and your almsgiving have ascended as a memorial before God.”

John Chrysostom (347-407) in On Fasting and Almsgiving.

This phrase “fast as the Ninevites” really struck me.

Fast as if your life depends on it. And combine almsgiving to it as the companion and conveyance. Today’s Scripture affirms that God sees this combination.

But don’t just do it. Do it as if your life depends on it. And see what happens.

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John Chrysostom: What have you earned from your fasting?

There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer. Ezra 8:21-23

“Fasting is a good thing, just as it is good to read Scripture, when, that is, your reading is followed by actual deeds, for if you read Scripture but do not do what it says, you read unto your own judgment and punishment.

For Scripture itself says: It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be made righteous; and Christ himself says: If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.

Blessed, then, is he who speaks into the ears of those who hear, especially when their hearing generates spiritual interest and dividends, by which I mean obedience and the keeping of God’s commandments, just as the Lord says: So that when I come, I would have received my own with interest. Tell me, then, brother, what have you earned from your fasting?

For even the farmer sows that he might reap; and the merchant travels, that he might collect money; and the sailor crosses many seas, that he might fill his ship with goods. Don’t say to me: “I have fasted for so many days! I have not eaten! I have not drunk wine! I have gone without bathing!” Show me instead that, being wrathful, you became meek; and being cruel, you became compassionate.”

John Chrysostom (347-407) in On Fasting and Almsgiving.

One of my words this Lent is moderation. I am trying to work less and create margin for better things.

Last night I had the best somewhat spontaneously planned dinner with Paul Dettmann, a likeminded Christian steward with whom I had a remarkable number of common friends.

I am so glad I did not opt for landing in Melbourne and going to my hotel and just doing more work.

Perhaps you are learning this in Lent. When you let go of bad or even good things, you find better things, life giving things, growth in areas you need growth.

I pray your Lent is a time of fasting but coupled with gain, new heavenly earnings.

Ezra fasted from something good, getting help from the king. He asked God for something bigger, deliverance from God. Notice trusting the king would be forsaking God. He had to forsake the king to trust God. God showed up.

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John Chrysostom: Sleek, beautiful, and vigorous

And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. Luke 11:39-41

“For, “Give alms,” it saith, “of such things as ye have, and behold all things are clean unto you.” “Alms,” not covetousness, for that which proceeds from covetousness endures not, though thou give to those who need. For almsgiving is that which is free from all injustice, “this” makes all things clean. This is a thing better even than fasting, or lying on the ground; they may be more painful and laborious, but this more profitable. It enlightens the soul, makes it sleek, beautiful, and vigorous.”

John Chrysostom (347-407) in Homily 81 on John’s Gospel.

The Pharisees focused on following the letter of the law whilst their hearts were far from God and drawn toward money and personal gain. Here Jesus instructs them to give as alms the things that are within.

Chrysostom helps us see what’s happening in this text. The actions of the Pharisees flowed from covetousness or wanting things for themselves. So what is it that makes us sleek, beautiful, and vigorous?

In short, it’s wanting the best for and sharing our best with others. We do this and things are all good or all clean for us. This helps us move well through life in a sleek and vigorous way, not bogged down by wealth but using it beautifully.

My speaking at the inaugural CMA Standards Council Annual Address (the peer accountability group I helped form in Australia) and CMA Fundraising Network Launch event in Brisbane went great.

Headed to Melbourne now. Appreciate your prayers for continued fruitful work: 2 events down and 9 to go.

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Cyprian of Carthage: Reward or Persecution, White or Purple

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. Revelation 22:12

“If the day shall find us, whether it be the day of reward or of persecution, furnished, if swift, if running in this contest of charity, the Lord will never fail of giving a reward for our merits: in peace He will give to us who conquer, a white crown for our labors; in persecution, He will accompany it with a purple one for our passion.”

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) in his Treatise 8, On Works and Alms, 26.

This statement concludes this treatise. I will move my attention to other famous Lenten writings.

But let’s consider Cyprian’s last words here. With them, I want to encourage you to live in anticipation of a white or purple crown for either attaining reward or enduring persecution.

All who give their lives to charitable works can anticipate one or the other, or maybe even both. We can count on rewards but we may also experience persecution along the way.

We must not give up when it happens. Instead, we can take heart in knowing that Christ warned us and assures us of reward linked to what we do in this life.

I am thankful to inspire old friends and meet new ones over the next three weeks in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide. And at our own expense, I am glad Jenni will join me for service in three of the five cities.

Why do this? Our Aussie mates care deeply about God and about honoring Him in every aspect of their lives. We hope to inspire them to give themselves to God afresh and anticipate white and/or purple crowns.

Praying the same for you.

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Cyprian of Carthage: Saving labor of charity

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky. Philippians 2:12-15

“An illustrious and divine thing, dearest brethren, is the saving labor of charity; a great comfort of believers, a wholesome guard of our security, a protection of hope, a safeguard of faith, a remedy for sin, a thing placed in the power of the doer, a thing both great and easy, a crown of peace without the risk of persecution; the true and greatest gift of God, needful for the weak, glorious for the strong, assisted by which the Christian accomplishes spiritual grace, deserves well of Christ the Judge, accounts God his debtor. For this palm of works of salvation let us gladly and readily strive; let us all, in the struggle of righteousness, run with God and Christ looking on; and let us who have already begun to be greater than this life and the world, slacken our course by no desire of this life and of this world.”

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) in his Treatise 8, On Works and Alms, 26.

This is the pep talk of pep talks. This is the locker room speech of locker room speeches. Here Cyprian equates the “saving labor of charity” with a list of things. It’s so profound, I will bullet them for emphasis:

  • a great comfort of believers,
  • a wholesome guard of our security,
  • a protection of hope,
  • a safeguard of faith,
  • a remedy for sin,
  • a thing placed in the power of the doer,
  • a thing both great and easy,
  • a crown of peace without the risk of persecution;
  • the true and greatest gift of God,
  • needful for the weak,
  • glorious for the strong,
  • assisted by which the Christian accomplishes spiritual grace,
  • deserves well of Christ the Judge, and
  • accounts God his debtor.

Which phrase stuck out to you?

For me, the fact that “the saving labor of charity” serves both as “a comfort to believers” as it blesses people and “a thing both great and easy” showing anyone can do it.

If we were sitting in a pep rally or locker room with the Apostle Paul, he would say, you can do this! You can, and you will save yourselves from your own sinfulness and shine like stars in the process.

And Cyprian, if he was there too, would add remind us of the comfort our sharing brings and that the work is both great and easy. So what are you waiting for?

Ask God how He wants your charity, your grace-motivated generous giving, to grow this Lent. Follow the leading of the Spirit and take action today.

I will have arrived in Sydney and connected to Brisbane, Australia. I shot the new header photo near Mt. Tamborine Conference Center where I am staying. Thanks again for your prayers for safe travel and fruitful ministry here.

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Cyprian of Carthage: Labor Charitably

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 1 Corinthians 3:11-14

“What, dearest brethren, will be that glory of those who labor charitably — how great and high the joy when the Lord begins to number His people, and, distributing to our merits and good works the promised rewards, to give heavenly things for earthly, eternal things for temporal, great things for small; to present us to the Father, to whom He has restored us by His sanctification; to bestow upon us immortality and eternity, to which He has renewed us by the quickening of His blood; to bring us anew to paradise, to open the kingdom of heaven, in the faith and truth of His promise! Let these things abide firmly in our perceptions, let them be understood with full faith, let them be loved with our whole heart, let them be purchased by the magnanimity of our increasing labors.”

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) in his Treatise 8, On Works and Alms, 26.

I am sad to draw near the end of this treatise by Cyprian of Carthage. Reading it has been the perfect way to prepare for and start Lent in 2024.

Here Cyprian says to “let these things abide firmly in our perceptions” so our charitable labor will increase and so we can anticipate eternal reward.

Think about it. Seriously, stop what you are doing and think.

If you received a reward that would perish in minutes, you would label it worthless, right? It would be a waste of time and money to pursue.

But if I gave you a reward that would last for millions of years, how would you respond? I hope you would give yourself and the resources you steward toward it.

That’s what Lent is all about. We learn to labor charitably and to direct all we are and all we have away from earthly and toward eternal purposes.

I will give you an opportunity to do this right now. Some have asked me if GTP received sufficient funds to activate the work of a $1.25 million grant at year end.

The answer is no. As I have surrendered this need to God, He has reminded me to trust Him to move people to give in His timing. I am waiting on the LORD.

The need is great, around six figures. And I feel led today to remind you to consider giving to activate this work to serve Spanish and Chinese churches worldwide.

Please pray and give as God leads according to your ability. And when you do, praise God that you are on the giving side as it is better to give than receive.

Even if you have already given, give again. When you give, you store up treasures in heaven and can anticipate eternal reward. As part of Lent is growing in giving, please click here to make a gift to GTP today.

And pray for my safe travel. As you read this, I will be over the Pacific flying to Australia for 3 weeks of work in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide.

Jenni will join me for 2 weeks of the trip, for the Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide portion. Reply for a copy of my trip prayer schedule. And please do make a gift today.

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Cyprian of Carthage: Common

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. Acts 4:32

“Let us consider, beloved brethren, what the congregation of believers did in the time of the apostles, when at the first beginnings the mind flourished with greater virtues, when the faith of believers burned with a warmth of faith as yet new. Then they sold houses and farms, and gladly and liberally presented to the apostles the proceeds to be dispensed to the poor; selling and alienating their earthly estate, they transferred their lands thither where they might receive the fruits of an eternal possession, and there prepared homes where they might begin an eternal habitation. Such, then, was the abundance in labors, as was the agreement in love, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “And the multitude of them that believed acted with one heart and one soul; neither was there any distinction among them, nor did they esteem anything their own of the goods which belonged to them, but they had all things common.” This is truly to become sons of God by spiritual birth; this is to imitate by the heavenly law the equity of God the Father. For whatever is of God is common in our use; nor is any one excluded from His benefits and His gifts, so as to prevent the whole human race from enjoying equally the divine goodness and liberality. Thus the day equally enlightens, the sun gives radiance, the rain moistens, the wind blows, and the sleep is one to those that sleep, and the splendor of the stars and of the moon is common. In which example of equality, he who, as a possessor in the earth, shares his returns and his fruits with the fraternity, while he is common and just in his gratuitous bounties, is an imitator of God the Father.”

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) in his Treatise 8. On Works and Alms, 25.

As I lean into the idea of giving and sharing in Lent, I am moved by the way in which Cyprian, an early third century bishop, quotes the book of Acts and calls us to be imitators of God.

He does so by celebrating how the early church viewed everything as “common” and how God supplies to all of creation all that we need in “common” so when we are “common and just” in our generosity, we imitate Him.

This is thoroughly un-American thinking. In my culture, people focus on owning possessions. When God owns everything, this represents toxic thinking. Nothing could be more unhealthy for Christians.

Everything we possess came to us as a gift from God who gives us the ability to produce wealth. We must see all we have as common. This mindset change is vital as we begin Lent.

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