Francis of Assisi: Alms

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Francis of Assisi: Alms

But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. Luke 11:41

“Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.”

Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) in Saints’ Quotes: Holy Quotations for Purification of the Soul, Collection on Alms.

This is a powerful idea we must not overlook.

Those who have more than enough must with grace and humility, share with those with less than enough, not in a way that creates unhealthy dependency, but in a manner that gives a hand up to those in need.

All we possess on this earth, we will leave behind at death, so the test is what we do with it whilst we are living. What will you do with what you have?

For Jesus, alms or generous giving to the poor cleanse us because they demonstrate the veracity of our faith. Only in giving do we grow ino the caring and sharing people that God desires us to become.

The first leg of my journey in Africa is to get the GTP Africa staff and key volunteers trained in Stations of Generosity by a partner organization. It’s a tool for spreading generosity among oral cultures.

The training happens on 28-29 September 2022 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Pray for us as we travel and convene on 27 September prior to the training. I will arrive later today from USA.

Chris Maphosa travels from Mutare, Zimbabwe. Gabrielle Fortunato will welcome us in Cape Town. Donald Mqwathi will also travel from Johannesburg, as he hopes to help with trainings in South Africa as a key volunteer.

Thanks for your prayers, and please consider a gift to GTP to support our work in places like Africa. Click here to give. I’ll share more about our work here in the days to come.

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Ignatius of Loyola: Means

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” 2 Kings 4:2

“All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know Him better, love Him more surely, and serve Him more faithfully. As a result, we ought to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God. But insofar as any created things hinder our progress toward our goal, we ought to let them go.”

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in Saints’ Quotes: Holy Quotations for Purification of the Soul, Collection Three.

The heart of this quote is that God wants us to appreciate and use what we have.

It reminded me of our recent reflections on Elijah and Elisha. It was Elisha who said, “Tell me, what do you have in your house?” That question is for all of us.

We must look closely and see what God has given us. Then we ought to appreciate it and use it. Our tendency is toward discontent and because we feel we lack, we fail to use what we have.

Growing in generosity is really about understanding all we have been given and how we are to respond to that. Ponder this and follow the leading of the Spirit to grow.

And say a prayer for me as I head to South Africa today for GTP. I’ll share more about the purpose of my trip in the coming days.

In the meantime, appreciate what you have and use it for God. That’s all I am trying to do. Are you with me?

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St. Bridget of Sweden: Let go

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39

“You ought to be like a person who lets go and like one who gathers. You should let go of riches and gather virtues, let go of what will pass and gather eternal things, let go of visible things and gather invisible. In return for the pleasure of the body, I will give you the exultation of your soul; in return for the merriment of the world, I will give you the merriment of Heaven; in return for worldly honor, the honor of the angels; in return for the presence of family, the presence of God; in return for the possession of goods, I will give you myself, the giver and Creator of all things.”

St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) in Saints’ Quotes: Holy Quotations for Purification of the Soul, Collection Two.

This is one of those quotes that inspires you so much you just have to read it again, and then resolve to lose your life for the sake of Christ to gain everything you’ve ever dreamed in Him. Read. Resolve. Repeat.

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Ignatius of Loyola: Forgetfulness

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. Luke 9:24

“He who forgets himself in the service of God may be assured that God will not forget Him .”

Ignatius of Loyola as recounted in A Thought from St. Ignatius of Loyola for Each Day of the Year (New York: Bezinger Brothers, 1887).

This applies to ladies too. I want to honor my wife, Jenni, today. She’s hosting a Soulcare Anchoress retreat today, helping people anchor their soul in Jesus.

She forgets herself in service to God so I give thanks that God will not forget her. Do you forget yourself, or as Luke would say, lose your life for Christ’s sake?

Generous living requires forgetfulness. We must all forget about ourselves and focus on the needs of others. In so doing, we can trust that God will remember us.

I think of my mentor, Dan Busby, whose life is hanging in the balance in ICU. He’s walked out of there once by God’s mercy. God can help him do it again. God, as Dan has forgotten himself, please come to his aid. Amen.

I am also thinking of my friend, Ken, today. He is living with his brother to help him because he has cancer and needs care. God, as Ken and all of us forget ourselves, remember us please. Amen.

Perhaps you can think of someone forgetful. Pause now to pray for them. God hears your and mine intercession. He invites it. What a generous God we serve!

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Catherine of Genoa: Benefits and Love

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

“God shows the soul also, that all the benefits bestowed on her by creatures (whether spiritual or temporal) are given because God moves them to it; and hence she learns to take no heed of creatures, what service soever they may have rendered her, for she perceives clearly that it is God who has done it by the action of his providence. By this vision the soul is more and more inflamed, and finally abandons herself to love, casting aside all creatures, and finding in God such fulness that she can regard nothing else but him.”

Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510) in Spiritual Dialogues 3.7 as part of Life And Doctrine of Saint Catherine Of Genoa (New York: CPAP, 1907).

As I think about factors that hinder generosity, my mind goes to the fact that we, as souls, often cherish the gifts of God more than God. When this happens our love shifts from the Benefactor to the benefits. We serve them instead of allowing them to provide a service to us.

Lest any of us allege immunity to this, just think of statements we have all made. I need coffee. I need that car or that phone. Hear me, souls, that it’s great to enjoy coffee, cars, and phones. We must, as Catherine notes (echoing James), they are just gifts from our loving God.

When we relate to them in this way, it positions us to steward them according to the Master’s generous wishes. Sit with the Holy Spirit. Is there any benefit to which you have disordered love? Pause and label it as a gift from God. What happens in your heart?

Father, may your heavenly light help us have clear vision and captivate our souls so that we are filled with gratitude for your providence and so we may overflow with love and generosity because our souls have found all we need in you. Amen.

I am thankful for the gift of my brother, David today. He turns 59. Happy Birthday David. May you cast aside all created things and find your fulness in God, and may we all who are reading this, do it with you, as it marks the way to life, freedom, and joy.

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St. Nilus of Sinai: Blessed

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:2

“Blessed is the mind which, during prayer, is drawn neither to the material nor to possessions.”

St. Nilus of Sinai (d. A.D. 430) in Saints’ Quotes: Holy Quotations for Purification of the Soul, Collection One.

We live in a world that looks for peace of mind. We can help them find it. It’s found in focusing on God and not on things. Think about it. When we pray without ceasing, we find ourselves growing in contentment, gratitude, peace, joy, and so much more.

And when we focus on the material or possession, where does that lead us? We drip with discontent, entitlement, unrest, and sorrow. Want to blessed? St. Nilus points the way to blessing and generosity: pray, pray, pray so that your focus is not drawn to the material or possessions.

The former will lead to satisfaction whilst the latter to dissatisfaction. The link to giving relates to letting go. Generosity helps us let go of the things that try to dominate our minds. God, help us fix our mind and affections on you. Amen.

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Maximus the Confessor: Self-indulgent

But the one who is self-indulgent is dead while she lives. 1 Timothy 5:6

‘When you find your intellect occupied pleasurably with material things and becoming fondly attached to its conceptual images of them, you may be sure that you love these things more than God. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Scripture calls material things “the world”; and worldly men are those who occupy their intellect with these things. It is such men that Scripture rebukes when it says: “Do not love the world or the things that are in the world. . . The desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and pride in one’s possessions, are not of God but of the world.”‘

The self-indulgent person loves wealth because it enables him to live comfortably; the person full of self-esteem loves it because through it he can gain the esteem of others; the person who lacks faith loves it because, fearful of starvation, old age, disease, or exile, he can save it and hoard it. He puts his trust in wealth rather than in God, the Creator who provides for all creation, down to the least of living things.’

Maximus the Confessor (580-662) in The Writings of Saint Maximus the Confessor 51-52.

As we turn our attention to saints through the centuries, today’s quote by Maximus offers keen insight on the path to self-indulgence.

It starts with our intellect being “occupied pleasurably with material things” and then it moves to “becoming fondly attached.” From there the rest is history. Our heart is captivated and we become enslaved to wealthy. We think we have to have it to live comfortably. The antidote to self-indulgence is generosity.

I want to invite you to practice it right now according to your ability. At GTP we are hiring staff in Nepal, Malaysia, and Rwanda this month. We get messages asking for help daily from Christian ministries trying to advance the gospel and wanting assistance to build capacity.

These new staff will position us to empower and train national workers to build trust and grow local giving in challenging places. We also plan to convene our global team in Cape Town next month for the first time since the pandemic. Give generously as you are able. Click here.

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Solomon Andria: Three examples

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 2 Timothy 2:4-7

“Paul gives three examples of how Timothy should serve if he is to fulfill his mission. He should be like a soldier who concentrates on pleasing his commanding officer, an athlete who submits to strict discipline, so as to win the price, and a farmer who has to work hard if he wants a good harvest.”

Solomon Andria in “2 Timothy” in Africa Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 1504.

Today concludes our exploration of sharing through the from an African perspective. Let’s take with us these three examples as a reminder. Paul asked Timothy to reflect on three word pictures: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer.

He referred to the soldier to encourage us to stay focused on pleasing God. He referenced the athlete to call us to play by the rules. And he mentioned the farmer to alert us that for our efforts we will receive a reward, a share of the harvest.

Reflect with Paul and Timothy on the three examples. Does one of them strike you as relevant for you to remember right now?

Jesus, help us stay focused on pleasing you as good soldiers, grant us find victory with your strength and by playing by the rules, and bless us our efforts with fruit so we can taste a share of a great harvest. Amen.

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Paul John Isaak: Repentance

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 3:10-14

“Various groups of people approached John to ask what repentance would mean in their case. Ordinary citizens were told that their work of repentance would be a willingness to share life’s necessities of food and clothing with those in need. Tax collectors were told that for them it would be ceasing to demand more than the appointed amount of tax. Soldiers were told that for them it would be refraining from extorting money or goods by force or by falsely accusing people; they must be content with their army wages and provisions.”

Paul John Isaak in “Luke” in Africa Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 1236.

If we polled Christians today, they would likely not equate failure to share with the extortion or theft of tax collectors and soldiers. John’s making the point that in God’s eyes, they are the same.

People often approach me with questions like they did with John the Baptist. Even as many found his answers radical, many find my comments too countercultural. Admittedly, I don’t have all this figured out.

But there is one thing I know…when we pursue God’s heart with humility, He shows us what needs to change, and our job is to do what He says. When we do, He works through us to accomplish His purposes for His glory.

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Tewoldemedhin Habtu: Warning and Encouragement

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken. The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:7-9

“This proverb is merely realistically presenting the economic leverage one set of people have over others when it states: the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. It has both warning and encouragement: warning to the one who sows wickedness and encouragement to those who suffer. The wicked person will reap trouble and the rod of his fury, which brought suffering to others, will be destroyed. Encouragement is also given to the righteous [who share].”

Tewoldemedhin Habtu in “Proverbs” in Africa Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 790.

We live in a world that encourages debt. It provides people things they want and also mortgages their future, sending them to slavery.

To sow injustice is to aim to rule over others. Alternatively, to share with those in need is praised by God. So don’t miss the message.

Habtu helps us see the two ideas at play here. One is a warning and the other is encouragement. The warning is for those who have economic leverage.

Will they use it to share or to sow injustice and to maintain their place of dominance? Do you see that material blessing comes with a test of obedience?

And if you suffer, take heart. God sees. He will break the rod of those who oppress and fail to share at some point. Take heart.

God, when we are blessed, teach us to share. And when we have need, show us your faithfulness through the obedience of others by caring for us. Amen.

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