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C.S. Lewis: Correction

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8

“By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness — the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, “What does it matter so long as they are contented?” We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven — a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all”. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless; that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) in The Problem of Pain (Québec: Samizdat University Press, 2016) 21.

As I continue to lean into the intersection of generosity and kindness this year, I am struck by the fact that, as Lewis puts it, “my conception of love needs correction.”

God is not our grandfather in heaven that desires that at the end of the day “a good time was had by all.” Though the world thinks we are here just for fun, we are here for higher purposes.

As we think about our giving, this means we shift from giving to things we care about to giving to things God cares about. We do this because it’s all His money.

Let us make sure our giving is coupled with love and kindness so that it reflects His presence in the world and does not just appear as us promoting our agendas.

To get to this place may require a correction for us. We may need to change our concept of what love and kindness is and how that is expressed. Once we get that right, our giving changes.

It will look less like the “senile benevolence” of a grandfather who just wants everyone to be happy and look more like the Heavenly Father who wants everyone to know Him and His love.

And I hope you are as blessed by the new header photo as I was to shoot it last night on our evening walk with the dog. The view of the foothills was magnificent with the light shining through the trees.

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Oswald Chambers: Infidelity

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Matthew 6:25

“Jesus sums up commonsense carefulness in a disciple as infidelity. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will press through and say, “Now where does God come in in this relationship, in this mapped out holiday, until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.

“…Take no thought…” Don’t take the pressure of forethought upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is infidelity; because worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything that worries us.

Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in? Is it the devil? No, the cares of this world. It is the little worries always. I will not trust where I cannot see, that is where infidelity begins. The only cure for infidelity is obedience to the Spirit. The greatest word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon.”

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest (Uhrichsville: Barbour and Company, 1997) reading for 23 May. Special thanks to Daily Meditations reader and Aussie mate, Josh Reid, for alerting me to today’s gem of a thought!

I wonder what you thought when you read the title of today’s post. Most would think about unfaithfulness between humans. That’s an awful thing, for sure. Here, however, Chambers points us to a much bigger issue.

I want you to pause to think about the fact that your most important relationship is not with a human. It’s with God. Because provision is God’s job and not yours, and when we worry about it, we are guilty of infidelity.

God, forgive us for our infidelity. Against you and you alone have we sinned when we have worried about even little things. We pledge to put to work what you have entrusted to us faithfully. Our hope and help is in You and You alone!

I got home late last night from Chattanooga. Thanks for your prayers for great board meetings for GTP. From these meetings, many great things will unfold thanks to God’s forethought and action on our behalf. All glory to God!

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Manfred Kohl and Robert Osburn, Jr.: Examine Ourselves

“To address corruption and integrity, one must begin with the condition of one’s own life. Do I strive to practice integrity, to be open to reformation by God, to become more holy? It is not enough to condemn big bribery scandals or power-seeking individuals. We also have to examine ourselves.

Robert Osburn, Jr. concludes his most recent book, Taming the Beast, with a paraphrase of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-11):

If you suffer poverty, corrupt wealth is utterly inferior to living under God’s eternal rule and reign (v. 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven).

If you must suffer loss in your pursuit of an honest life, your sorrows will always be met by the comforting, encouraging friendship of those you have treated kindly and honestly (v. 4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted).

Although you could manipulate people with your money, how much greater is the restrained use of your power (‘meek’) for others’ good; the result will be that people will demand that you become their leader (‘inherit the earth’) (v. 5: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth).

Whereas greed and corruption are never satisfied, the deep, passionate desire for justice and holiness always satisfies, day after day (v. 6: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied).

Rather than making demands for bribes, showing mercy and kindness to people makes them want to shower you with the same mercy and kindness (v. 7: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy).

Those who are not corrupt have nothing to hide and will not only never fear others but also never fear the face of God (v. 8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God).

Those who help others to be reconciled with each other will be wealthy beyond imagination, for as God’s children they will inherit the wealth of His kingdom (v. 9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be call sons of God).

If, in your pursuit of godliness, the corrupt make your life miserable, remember what the poor person knows so very well: nothing can compare with the glories of living under God’s rule and reign (v. 10: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven).

If you are mercilessly attacked for living a life of honesty and purity, take great joy in two facts: 1) The Old Testament prophets suffered similarly, and that means you are in good company; and 2) You will have a greater reward than the richest corrupt leader could ever imagine (vv. 11-12: Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you).”

Robert Osburn, Jr. in Taming the Beast: Can We Bridle The Culture of Corruption? (St. Paul: Wilberforce Press, 2016) 225-226

If you examined yourself, what would you find? Confidence? Concern? Conviction? Take a moment to read the paraphrase of the Beatitudes again.

If confidence grows within you linked to life under God’s reign, then pray that others will also grasp it by following your example.

If concern deepens for the brokenness of the world, then fast before God and call on Him to sort challenges only He can sort and show you your role.

If conviction pricks your heart, then confess your sin and find freedom and forgiveness. Jesus wants to give you a new start beginning today.

The pathway to integrity starts by simply walking in obedience one day at a time. As you do, say a prayer for my meetings in Chattanooga to continue to go well. So far so good. Thanks God.

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Chris Wright: The greatest problem

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You day and night for Your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against You. We have acted very wickedly toward You. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws You gave Your servant Moses. Remember the instruction You gave Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to Me and obey My commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.” Nehemiah 1:5-9

“The overwhelming witness of the Bible is that the greatest problem for God in His redemptive mission for the world is His own people. What hurts God most, it seems, is not just the sin of the world, but the failure, disobedience, and rebellion of those God has redeemed and called to be His people, His holy distinctive people… We have to deal with the idols of power and pride, the idols of popularity and success, and the idols of wealth and greed.”

Chris Wright in his Lausanne Cape Town presentation, as cited by Manfred Kohl in “Do we care about corruption? How integrity can tame the beast of bribes and extortion” (Lausanne Global Analysis: May 2019 · Volume 8 / Issue 3).

Today I have GTP board meetings in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Pray for wisdom for us as we seek to tackle “the greatest problem” on the planet head on with God’s help.

Our walls are broken down. Churches and ministries worldwide are riddled with corruption, greed, and a lack of integrity. This represents a leading hindrance to generosity.

Nehemiah was brokenhearted by his own sins and the sins of God’s people. His prayer contains a powerful statement that points the way forward for us: “Return to me!”

What does returning look like?

I am discerning that fasting, prayer, and confession are required to deal with the failure, disobedience, and rebellion of God’s people to exhibit integrity.

That’s what God desires. It’s the only path that helps us abandon greed for generosity and shift from serving wealth to serving God.

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John Hampden Gurney: Rob Mammon’s temple

And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. Luke 16:9

“Dispense your money so as to win the poor man’s blessing. Take that which, through men’s unrighteous dealings, so often becomes a curse to its possessor, and let it be clean while you have it, and a boon to someone else, when you part with it. Rob Mammon’s temple, so to speak, of some of its heaped-up offerings, and consecrate to charitable uses what is really God’s, and not the idol’s, though men pervert it to profane uses so often…

When ye fail; that must be understood of the hour of death. Your dismissal time will come like that of the unfaithful steward. Your light will be quenched, your strength wasted, your place left empty, your work at an end. Be ready for that time, and prepare…The friends thus made shall greet you at your entrance into your eternal home, if they shall depart before you.”

John Hampden Gurney in his sermon on Luke 16:1-9 entitled “The Mammon of Unrighteousness; It’s Slaves and Masters” in Christian Almsdeeds and Faithful Stewardship (London: Rivingston, 1862)

I’m reading classic stewardship sermons from the mid-1800’s and finding inspiration for my teaching and speaking in modern settings.

In today’s excerpt, I appreciate how Gurney speaks pointedly of those with heaped-up wealth. Money “becomes a curse to its possessor.” It controls those who hold on to it. He challenges people to “let it be clean while they have it.” It is made clean through giving. We “rob Mammon’s temple” when we consecrate money for “charitable uses.”

Jesus alerts us to be prepared for our dismissal time. Why? There are eternal implications related to our earthly obedience. In that sense, all stewardship ministry is not trying to rob God’s people but helping people “rob Mammon’s temple” so that while alive, they store treasures in the right place for eternity.

Today, as CEO of Global Trust Partners, I fly to Atlanta. With my Board Treasurer, Mark Whitsitt, and CFO/COO, Shawn Manley, have key meetings with a number of people, including the CEO of National Christian Foundation and the CEO of TrustBridge Global. Pray for us as we discuss ways we can collaborate to inspire God’s people to faithfully dispense God’s money to trusted ministries.

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Joseph Barker: Love kindness

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4

“To love mercy. That is, to love to exercise it; or to exercise kindness and compassion to one’s neighbor; to the poor or distressed [Micah 6:8].

We may observe here, that it is not merely some external act of kindness to the needy or distressed, which is enjoined; which one may perform with great reluctance, from some sinister motive; but to love mercy is what is enjoined; to love to do acts of kindness.

Agreeably to this, saith the Apostle, “Let every man give according as he purposeth in his heart; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver” [2 Corinthians 9:7].

And in another passage, the Apostle intimates that a man may give all his goods to feed the poor, and have no charity; and asserts that such an act will profit him nothing; but it is charity or love, which is acceptable to God [1 Corinthians 13:3].

He requires of man to love mercy; to be of a merciful disposition; not merely to perform external acts of kindness occasionally; and for some selfish end; but really to take pleasure in doing good.”

Joseph Barker Sermon 15 on Micah 6:6-8 in Sermons On Various Subjects (Boston: William Pierce, 1835).

When we dare look deeply into the heart of God, we find that God loves mercy, kindness, and truth. As I think about this idea and explore it in classic sermons, I find a striking insight. Most people don’t love mercy, kindness, and truth.

Most people don’t love mercy. Most people want wrongdoers to get condemnation, forgetting they themselves are wrongdoers. These say, “They must get what they deserve.” I see it worldwide. It is the opposite of mercy. If we all got what we deserved, we would get death and eternal separation from God.

Most people don’t love kindness. We see this on the roads of the world. “Get out of my way!” Such is the proclivity of our flesh: to care only about ourselves often at the expense of others. Alternatively, kindness opens the door for others like Christ opened the door of heaven for us.

Most people don’t love truth. They exchange truth for a lie saying, “truth is whatever I want it to be,” rather than “truth is the way things really are.” Thus, they neither want to know God for who He is nor to see themselves for who they really are.

What’s all this have to do with generosity as we start another week?

God desires us to serve as conduits of generosity, but He cares more about the qualities forming within us as givers than the measure of our giving. He was us to be merciful, kind, and truthful givers who “take real pleasure in doing good.” When this happens, we become the kind of givers that He deeply loves.

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Richard Foster: Countercultural people

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His Word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

“If we really want to be a countercultural people, I suggest first of all that we simply “shut up and listen.” We listen to our neighbor. We listen to the angry. We listen to the fearful. We listen to the bruised and the broken. We listen, simply listen.

Next, we wait. Patiently. In faith. In hope. All the while we hold forth a flickering but inextinguishable light in the midst of the approaching darkness. We hold tightly to the promised word of the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). Oh friends, how we need to recapture the good news of the evangel, which brings light to overcome darkness, hope to transform despair, and peace to conquer the violence of this emerging age.

Third, our listening and our waiting leads us to show forth a unique and countercultural way of living and speaking where justice and mercy are extended to all peoples; where prayerful civility conquers angry rhetoric; where compassion reaches out to the poor, the destitute, the hungry; where plain, honest speech overcomes deceit and duplicity; where gentleness, generosity, empathy, and kindness govern our lives, our neighborhoods, and our nations; and where love reigns over all.”

Richard Foster in Casting a Vision: The Past and Future of Spiritual Formation (Denver: Renovaré, 2019)  13-14.

Foster casts a vision for spiritual formation in the times which we live in this free ebook. He suggests that our generosity and kindness must be preceded by listening and waiting to come across as the countercultural people God has called us to be.

Sit and think about that for a bit.

This pathway shows where we place our trust. Those who speak rather than listen and act rather than wait appear as the driving force of any kindness or generosity. Alternatively, those who listen and wait are positioned to live and speak as countercultural people.

Let us discipline ourselves to listening and waiting before living and speaking and see how that shapes our generosity, our kindness, and our love. I suggest reading Psalms throughout the day as well to constantly reset your mind in dark and crazy world.

It was so special yesterday to have many friends and family members gather in our townhouse for Sophie’s college graduation party. The community of love affirmed her accomplishments, and even more importantly, many noted how the journey has shaped her into an amazing woman of God.

We celebrated Peter, her fiancé, and Emily, Sammy’s fiancé, as well. LORD, help us model the way for the next generation to follow us. Help us listen and wait so that they see You and Your power at work through our countercultural living and speaking. Amen.

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Arthur Henry Stanton: Bring up the ledgers; take them to the altar.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

“The stewardship is the holding, as you know, of another man’s goods for a time — proprietorship for a time. Of course it involves great responsibility, and it naturally demands that at some time an account of the stewardship must be given… What I want you this morning to do is, as it is in the Gospel, to bring up your ledgers, and just see, just think, for if you think you must pray. Bring up the ledgers; take them to the altar. Ask God to cancel the items with blood — smear the page with the blood of the covenant. It is the blood of Jesus Christ only that can take away my sins. And when the sacrifice is offered, put your hands together, say to your own soul, and to your God, “ God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Arthur Henry Stanton in his sermon “Faithful Stewardship” in Faithful Stewardship and Other Sermons (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916) 1, 7.

I enjoyed another stewardship sermon today that is more than a century old, and it’s content is as relevant as the eternal gospel from which it quotes repeatedly.

This phrase struck me in particular: “Bring up the ledgers; take them to the altar.” Let me give a short explanation as to why.

In launching a new organization that champions faithful administration of God’s work globally, God is leading me to focus on three things this year: prayer, fasting, and confession.

“Bring up the ledgers; take them to the altar.” is a beautiful picture of confession. We have not administrated the Master’s house rightly and we need his blood to wash away our sins.

How about your stewardship? The only thing that can clean up your mess is humble prayer, fasting or setting aside your desires and plans, and confessing your need for God’s cleansing.

As today’s passage from Luke’s Gospel recounts, only those who humble themselves will be exalted. “God have mercy on me, a sinner” comes into view as the only right place to start.

Bring up the ledgers; take them to the altar.

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William Carpenter: The blessing

If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:10-11

“My beloved brethren, many of the clergy of this city have clearly seen that in our day, there is great need of increased and steady liberality in the Church, even to maintain the religious and charitable institutions existing among us, and they have deeply felt themselves bound to consider how such a want may be supplied, so that God may be glorified, and His people may be found ready unto every good work.

Hence it was that several meetings were held to discuss this subject, and it was deemed most desirable to promote, as far as possible, a proportionate and systematic giving of our substance unto God. To effect this, it was resolved, that a course of five sermons should be preached on the motives, the proportion, the objects, the modes, and the blessings of giving…When we carefully examine the whole Word of God, it is very striking to observe that in almost all the passages where God enjoins giving, He promises blessings and connects them with it.”

William Carpenter in his sermon “The Blessings of Giving” preached in St. Ann’s Church, Manchester on 10 April 1862 in Money, And It’s Responsibilities: A Course of Sermons on Giving issued by a committee of churchmen (Manchester: Hale and Roworth, 1862) 53-55.

The great paradox of generosity is celebrated in this sermon. When God’s Word celebrates generous giving, we also see reference to blessings that return to the giver. This is not about percentage giving or prosperity gospel, which selfishly retains portions. It’s abundant giving that flows richly as God supplies.

It’s encouraging to see the outline a group of prominent pastors used to grow generosity in England in 1862. They focused on the motives, the proportion, the objects, the modes, and the blessings of giving. Pastors and stewardship champions would do well to apply this same outline today.

Start with the heart, which is what God looks at. Urge people to give according to their ability to things God cares about. Make it easy for people to give, and celebrate the blessings that return to givers. We don’t end up empty, but enriched for greater generosity. As Isaiah put it, we appear like a garden watered by a spring.

Today’s my daughter’s birthday. Sophie is 22! She is like a well-watered garden. Wherever she goes, like parched places, she brings life and love. Father, bless her with another great year of service to you. Cause your light to shine though her by your Holy Spirit I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Edward Birch: The Modes of Giving

But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. Luke 11:41

“For the offertory to be prized and to flourish, there must first be an enlarged spirit of charity vouchsafed to the church of God; and then, under the same influence, other “modes of giving” would prosper in the same proportion. Still the advocates of the offertory will be wise in taking heed never to give offence, by even appearing to desire to attract to it the giving already in operation. Let them make it plain that their object is, not to divert giving, but to increase giving by increasing the opportunities of giving, and to enlarge the spirit of giving by setting forth the motives and the blessedness of giving, and then every good man will bid them Godspeed; but let them, on the contrary, be foolish enough, narrow-mindedly and enviously to depreciate other modes of giving, and to boast of their favorite mode, as the one divinely instituted channel for Christian charity to flow in, and then popular, so far as their bad influence can prevent it, the offertory never will become.”

Edward Birch in his sermon “The Modes of Giving” preached in St. Ann’s Church, Manchester on 3 April 1862 in Money, And It’s Responsibilities: A Course of Sermons on Giving issued by a committee of churchmen (Manchester: Hale and Roworth, 1862) 40.

In modern times we talk about the fact that there must be “no competition in the kingdom” or that “God has no favorite charities.” A similar message was proclaimed in the mid-1800’s in England. Rather than tell people to just give to the church offertory, to grow giving to all charities Birch urges hearers to encourage many opportunities of giving. Any other thinking is narrow-minded!

Today’s Scripture reminds us that the clean or right way to give is to see all that comes to you as a grace. Don’t just give to your church as if you are doing your part like paying taxes to God. He does not need your money; He wants your heart. He wants you to see all you have as grace and serve as a generous conduit of material and spiritual blessings. This means you get to give to many things that He cares about.

Give this way and teach others to give this way as well. Don’t try to manipulate people to give to your charity. Encourage them to deploy all they are and all they have following God’s leading to the local church and many charities. Urge this as it is the pathway for helping people experience the blessedness of giving.

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