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Richard Foster: Do justice

Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 2 Corinthians 8:14

“Our study of money leads us to one inescapable conclusion: we who follow Jesus Christ are called to a vow of simplicity. The vow is not for the dedicated few but for all. It is not an option to take or leave depending on our personal preference.

All who name Christ as Lord and Savior are obliged to follow what He says, and Jesus’ call to discipleship in money can be best summed up in the single word simplicity. Simplicity seeks to do justice to our Lord’s many-faceted teachings about money.”

Richard Foster in The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power (New York: HarperCollins, 1985) 71.

I’ve made it safely home and have to share a story that took place while I have been traveling. I will keep the names anonymous, but I must share what happened because the story exalts the God of heaven!

I’ve had the privilege of helping a friend as a teacher and coach over the years. Out of the blue that person asked if I had a need. I did. I had been asking God to supply a need for weeks.

As a couple, they talked and replied. Rather than get into the details, I want to emphasize the big idea. Doing justice to Jesus’ teachings means that sometimes we help others and sometimes they help us.

We are all in this together! We do justice to the teachings of Jesus by showing our faith in times of need (with fervent prayer to God) and sharing in times of abundance (so needs are met).

I shared out of my experience when help was needed. The couple shared God’s resources following His leading to meet a need they perceived we had. Notice how our stewardship is always linked to what we have.

And this is not optional. Following Christ is choosing simplicity! Thanks friends for your obedience in sharing! We praise God for how you are putting His money to work in ways that bring Him glory! May this be true of all of us so we do justice to the teachings of our Lord!

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Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson: Live into the paradox

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:25

“People rightly say that money cannot buy happiness. But money and happiness are still related in a curious way. Happiness can be the result, not of spending more money on oneself, but rather of giving money away to others. Generous financial givers are happier people, as we will see.

So, while money cannot buy happiness, giving it away actually associates with greater happiness. The same holds true for other forms of generous giving, such as volunteering and taking care of family and neighbors. This win-win outcome of generosity also holds true for other kinds of well-being, such as health, avoidance of depression, purpose in life and personal growth.

This paradox of generosity has very significant implications. It points to an important general principle that people ought to be aware of, which is that — contrary to the “common sense” suggested by strict economic cost-benefit analysis — generous givers actually tend to enhance themselves personally by reducing what they spend on themselves.

People actually grow by giving themselves away. By caring for other people, those who give generously end up increasing the quality of their own lives. For people who want to be happy, to enjoy health, to lead purposeful lives — which we assume includes nearly everyone — this paradox of generosity is important to understand.

It tells us that we ought not simply work to acquire, to accumulate, to save, to grasp, and keep and spend for ourselves. We need instead to live into the paradox of generosity. We need to learn to share our resources generously with others. Then, in turn, we will likely find ourselves happier, healthier, and more purposeful in life.”

Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson in The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose (Oxford: OUP, 2014) 11-12.

I am typing this from New Delhi airport about to board my long flight to Tokyo and then my connection from Tokyo to Denver. This will post somewhere en route. My heart is filled with gratitude for an amazingly fruitful trip. To see the organization that I have had the privilege of helping mobilize in India for rallying greater generosity, visit the EFAC India website.

While I am exhausted, I am not empty. I feel enriched. It’s what happens when we live into the paradox of generosity. We don’t figure it out until we live it out. Solomon grasped this as today’s verse reveals. It took me years to figure out. Have you? I never dreamed that God would provide such opportunities for service.

What are you waiting for? Live into the paradox!

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Joy Esther Jebaraj: Detached

[Job] said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

“A heart filled with contentment can soar above any pulls… A few of my colleagues buy a new dress every week, mobiles [phones] every six months, change cars every two years, buy houses every five years, and change their jobs every four years…

From childhood, my parents taught that God had given us what we needed, and how privileged we were as many lacked what we had… My peers made fun and looked down on our house without extravaganzas, like modular kitchens, our low-end Indian cars, and our choice of eat-outs.

Nevertheless, God has give us (my husband and me), the heart of contentment and their talks or looks could not put any pressure on us to change the way we do. Simplicity, a grateful heart for all that God has given and sharing with those who are in need should mark our lives…

Properties and possessions have the power to grip with a craze for more and detour our journey of faith. Job’s life showcases how earthly possessions can vanish in no time. Through conscious efforts, we can detach ourselves from the passion for possession.”

Joy Esther Jebaraj in “Contentment” in Management Devotional 2018 (Chennai: Christian Institute for Management) reading for June 7.

While the language of today’s post reflects the heart of an Indian sister in Christ, the heart of this message relates to all of us. We must resist the passion for possession, for trying to own things. Whatever we think we own, owns us because God owns everything.

How do we detach? We must attach to God and His perspective on possessions. Only when we realize how privileged we are to enjoy and share things do we realize simplicity marks the only pathway to freedom and enjoyment. No one can enjoy anything when they are a slave to it. No one!

Do things have you gripped “with a craze for more” and have they sent your faith off track? If so, is it time to recalculate the route back home? Take the posture of Job. Everyone came into this world naked and leaves that way. The only treasures we can take with us are those we have given away.

What do I take with me from India as I depart tomorrow? I have a deep sense of joy, and my faith is stronger as well. What a privilege it has been to facilitate strategic meetings in four key cities! God has stirred an awakening in accountability. Ministry administrators, chartered accountants, legal and other professionals desire to champion peer accountability.

Today’s turnout for the New Delhi event was very encouraging. The heat has been intense, another 110°F day. Also for a number of reasons just a few days before the event, we had to change the location of the meetings, and still some 75 to 100 influential people came. Praise the Lord!

When I say influential, I mean one of Supreme Court Justices of India, the Postmaster General of India, mission and denomination leaders, the heads of the Christian legal, management, and chartered accountant groups, to name a few examples. As it was determined that a church would be an unsafe venue, thankfully an official arranged our meeting at, of all places, a government building just down the street from the U.S. Embassy.

Will it result in greater generosity among the people of India toward God’s work? Over time, undoubtedly. In the short run, skilled people must do the hard work of helping ministries comply with standards for faithful administration and setting up accreditation processes to verify compliance. Such work builds trust for people to give to God’s work.

In their own words: “The future of India is in our hands.”

Father in heaven, these consultations have been described as “a gift from God for such a time as this.” With outside funding becoming increasingly limited due to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act among other factors, by your Holy Spirit, set up accountability structures through their efforts to build trust and rally generous giving from within this nation for your work for your glory. Do this I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

And Happy 21st Birthday to my daughter, Sophie. If there’s anyone who is detached from possessions and attached to Christ its her! God bless you Sophie! Attachment to Christ marks your life! I love you!

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Joanna Marcus: Master Key

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

“Have you ever taken a moment to observe another person? Watching people as we sit by, sipping our coffee can not only give us a unique insight into human behaviour, but also show us how important our own attitudes and thoughts are. The attitude we have as we go through life speaks volumes about what’s inside. Our attitude determines our progress.

Our thoughts are important and it all takes a turn for the better when we choose to put on an ‘attitude of gratitude’. Praise and thanksgiving to the Lord should be a way of lifestyle for the Christian believer. It means continuing in an attitude of gratitude toward God every day, and is a master key to seeing the fullness of God manifested in our lives in every circumstance…

Worry and anxiety stem from relying on our own ability to get through the challenges that life throws at us. It’s easy to fall back to being self-centered especially when our lives are fast paced and it takes everything you can do to meet the next deadline. Self-reliance traps us into putting an immense amount of undue pressure on ourselves. Worry is an absolute waste of time and keeps us rooted to the spot. It doesn’t move things forward. All it does is steal our joy and keeps us very busy doing nothing.”

Joanna Marcus in “An Attitude of Gratitude” Christian Manager: The Management Magazine for Today’s Christian Leaders (Chennai: Christian Institute of Management, June-July 2017) 18-19.

As you can imagine with four meetings in four major cities in four days in India, I am doing my share of travel late at night or early in the morning. Everything is foreign to me, such as streets with cows on them. While the meetings have far exceeded my expectations and the Spirit of God is powerfully at work stirring an awaking in accountability to pave the way for greater generosity in India, the physical and mental strain of this trip is testing my limits.

What about you? Are your circumstances testing you? Do they seek to limit or hinder your generosity?

Our flesh tempts us to respond to such situations by either retreating to comfort in order to avoid difficulty or to run to worry, which just exacerbates the problem. I suppose there are other responses we could have but those two come into view as two significant fleshly patterns that wage war against the generous life. For example, my flight from Chennai was three hours late today. That meant my ride in Mumbai was no where to be found.

It was 110°F outside and humid, and I had no phone service. But I did have a line that has no international roaming charges: prayer!

So, in response, I did not think What am I doing here? and retreat from the challenge, but the temptation to worry did cross my mind. That’s not accurate. It flooded my mind. Having just read this article in the CIM magazine, I chose instead to give thanks. I paused to breathe and express gratitude to God for things like my safe flight and that my bag came off the carousel. I promptly located a cab and got to my hotel in no time.

What does this have to do with generosity?

Don’t let circumstances cause you to flinch. Stay focused. You are not alone. Empty yourself generously for Jesus Christ with an attitude of gratitude for anything that comes your way. Don’t worry about what might happen if you give richly and put yourself out there. Things will undoubtedly not go as you expect. Check your attitude. Gratitude is the “master key” that opens our eyes to see “the fullness of God manifested in our lives in every circumstance.”

And if you find yourself stuck, cry out to God. I am confident that you too will be filled with the peace of Christ. It’s the only thing you need to help you navigate the world outside your comfort zone! I say this because the generous life is only lived outside the comfort zone. Thank you God that you are always with us on every square inch of this planet, and that in every situation, we can present our requests to you and experience a generous supply of peace!

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Anand Joshua: Trust and Generosity

“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

“Nurturing relationship and engagements builds trust and that changes everything. We need to be aware of the following when we nurture relationships.

– Every feeling and each decision is based on trust.
– People like to be associated with those they can trust.
– Jesus asks “Do you trust Me?”
– Can we ask ourselves, “What do I trust?”

There seems to be quite an amount of internal interactions that happen when we engage with people. It becomes more complicated when it moves into a ‘giver-organization’ relationship. Givers start their engagement with an organization at various levels, from an enquirer or volunteer to giver or advocate or ambassador…

An organization that is committed to an approach that strategically builds consistent and honest relationships moves beyond transactional engagement. Givers who experience trustworthiness in their relationship with the organization, move to a transformational engagement such that even during times of trouble, pain and difficulties their are willing to stand with the organization and show them the support.

Trusting relationships hold onto each there and move on paving the way for an ongoing enduring engagement.”

Anand Joshua in “Nurturing Engagements” in Christian Manager: The Management Magazine for Today’s Christian Leaders (Chennai: Christian Institute of Management, April-May 2016) 6.

The meetings in Bangalore went great thanks to the hosting of Arpit Waghmare of Operation Nehemiah and his network of ministry professionals! Thanks for your prayers. Anand will host a large group today in Chennai. When I saw him on Sunday, Anand gave me a copy of this magazine and I appreciated his article.

It touches on the reason I came in India. I am here to help mobilize an accountability movement. Anand did a survey of givers here and discovered the top factor they were looking for related to generosity was accountability. Accountability builds trust. Givers want it because God made us to work together with Him in trust relationships.

Countries like USA have ECFA which enhances trust. It’s been a privilege to help catalyze AfCAA in Kenya, CMASC in Australia, CCFK in South Korea, CCTA in the Philippines, and CONFIABLE in Guatemala. Pray with me for an awakening of accountability in the world’s largest democracy: India has 1.3 billion people.

Givers care about trust because Jesus cares about trust. One pastor testified today, “Accountability cannot be optional. It must be essential for ministries in India because it is God’s work we are administrating!” While a complex set of factors have limited trust in this nation, the tide is turning. The Holy Spirit is working!

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P.K.D. Lee and Pauline Daniel: Repentance from riches

“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

“[John the Baptist] was called for a change in a person’s attitude towards God that affected their actions and life choices. Thus the evidence of their repentance would be that the wealthy would share with those who did not have enough, and those in power would cease oppressing and extorting those under them. That is, they were to turn from a lifestyle of self-seeking pursuit of wealth to a lifestyle of generous sharing of wealth.

What is repentance that will bring about such a lifestyle change. Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 6:24). The repentance is from service to money or material things. What does it mean to serve wealth? It means to trust and depend on wealth, and to see it as the provider for your needs.

So Jesus is saying that you either see God as your provider or you see wealth as your provider. You cannot hold both beliefs… Essentially Jesus was saying that one could not enter the kingdom of God while loving money and trusting it for their day to day lives. So the repentance called for is a repentance from trust in money and material things.”

P.K.D. Lee and Pauline Daniel in Generosity: It’s not about Money but Attitude (Chennai: Lifeoscope, 2017) 12-13.

Lee gave a passionate talk at The Generosity Summit 3.0 in Chennai and mentioned this theme which caught my attention. The thrust of the repentance narratives aims at where people place their trust. We can only put it in one spot. He also quoted Luke 6:46 with zeal, when Jesus said this pointedly to His followers. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” 

For Jesus, the Christian faith must be lived out with integrity. This comes keenly into view in countries with much poverty like India. Those who say they trust God must handle money obediently by enjoying and sharing it. If our lives show we serve money, we actually do more harm to the name of Christ than good because they appear as hypocrites. How can we tell if we serve money?

Financial statements tell the story. Would yours show you have stored up wealth for yourself? If so that’s precisely what Jesus said not to do. And if you serve with a ministry, what would your ministry financial statements reveal? Would they show that you are holding on to money for financial sustainability? Jesus would again tell you that your trust is misplaced. You might rank among those crying “Lord, Lord” that He sends away (Matthew 7:21-23).

My comments here are but a snippet of our conversations here in India. In the face of such dense and widespread destitution, it comes into view as unthinkable for those with more than their basic needs met to keep their surplus for themselves. Also pictured above is a snapshot I took from a cab driving along Marina Beach in Chennai en route to the airport to fly to Bangalore (Bengaluru).

Starting today, I facilitate 4 consultations in 4 cities in 4 days with up to 100 ministry administrators, accountants, legal and other professionals at each one. In short, we will explore the biblical foundation for faithful financial administration and how following standards of responsible stewardship can help restore and preserve God’s reputation while also rallying greater generosity nationwide.

Pray with me for an awakening in accountability across India for God’s glory.

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National Generosity Network, India: Generosity defined

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

“Generosity is a response of love in recognizing God’s ownership of all things, and His grace to us in giving salvation and blessings, and this generosity leads to a positive view of people and situations resulting in putting others before self and sharing of time, money, and resources.”

National Generosity Network, India definition of “generosity” in Generosity Through The Bible (Chennai: Lifeoscope, 2018) 3.

The Generosity Summit 3.0 in Chennai has been a rich, learning experience for me. I received this booklet and deeply appreciate this definition. Let me expound on three elements of it.

That “generosity is a response of love” reminds us that our generosity finds its roots in God’s generosity to us. How has God been generous to you today? Give thanks for material and spiritual blessings.

God forms in us a “positive view of people and situations” as we realize that God has saved and blessed us to love and serve others. Who might you minister to today? As a conduit for God, scatter His kindness.

In “putting others before self and sharing of time, money, and resources” we appear with humility like our Lord Jesus Christ. What can you share with those around you? Put to work whatever you have.

So far, my brothers and sisters in Christ here in India are teaching me about the “materiality” of loving generosity. Jesus desires that we dispense the love of God in tangible, selfless ways to people. Will you?

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Nancy Guthrie: Giving yourself away

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6:9

“An insatiable appetite for wealth will only make you miserable. I intend to save your from being endlessly unsatisfied, irrelevant, selfish, and shallow. I’m calling you to find your joy not in amassing more for yourself but in giving more away — in giving yourself away.

By no means am I suggesting that you impoverish yourself; I’m showing you how to avoid impoverishing yourself… As you set your heart on Me, confident in My goodness, pouring out that confidence through a wealth of good works serving others, you will accumulate that which will enrich you forever.”

Nancy Guthrie in Abundant Life Day Book: 365 Blessings to Begin Your Day (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2011) June 6.

My journey in India began with a beautiful morning, driving on roads (with few lines) filled with cars, motorcycles, animals, and people going every direction. The air was filled with noises. People were adorned with rich colors. The photo above from the back seat of a car gives you a glimpse of my adventure. Each person I have met has been very kind to me, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Traveling internationally to new places always stretches me. Regardless of the place, my thoughts can range from captivation to suspicion. You may be surprised by what I enjoy most about it. I find peace in the zone of communion with Jesus. It’s indescribable! When I return to comfortable surrounds, I realize how easy it is to assimilate to the culture, get distracted from perpetual communion with Him, and be drawn to endless emptiness.

When we give ourselves away wherever God leads us, when we move out of our comfort zones, and when we set our hearts on the Lord, we move to places only possible through dependence on Him. There we learn new things, meet new people, and we are not overcome by our surrounds. Only then can we see the world for what it is: much that swirls around us seeks to impoverish us.

We can avoid becoming impoverished by setting our affections on Christ and allowing Him to produce a “wealth of good works” through us. If it sounds crazy, you really only figure it out as you live it out. Here’s my best advice: Leave your comfort zone. Take your kids with you (if you have kids). Hold tightly to Jesus. Avoid impoverishing yourself (and them), and give yourself away (figure it out together)!

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Ann Voskamp: Live given

Then Jesus declared, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

“When we can relax, when we can trust, when we believe there is enough to be broken and given like bread to the needy, when we can live, as He has abundantly — then we are living into the generosity of abundance. There is a more abundant, excellent bread than striving materialism, than fear-driven walls and fences and lines, than a mentality of not-enough.

Jesus is the Bread of Life, and you don’t have to bake it or make it or fake it. Jesus is the Bread of Life and though He was rich, “yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Culture and economics and politicians may say it takes money to make money. But Jesus’ life proves it; it takes the mystery of poverty to produce the generosity of abundance…”

Ann Voskamp in The Way of Abundance: A 60-Day Journey into a Deeply Meaningful Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018) 146.

Looking for a devotional on abundance? While I have not read this book in its entirety, I’d commend this one to meditations readers, as the excerpts I’ve mined contain golden insights. Think of it as a guidebook for living life in the reality of the ascension of Christ, who is with us always.

To “live given” is to grasp “the mystery of poverty” which produces “the generosity of abundance.” If that sounds too mystical, think of it this way.  We don’t have to “live taking” anymore because we have everything we need in Christ. We are fully nourished by the Bread of Life. We have “enough” in Him. Make sense?

Having arrived safely in Chennai, India (pictured above from the rooftop of my hotel), I will attend The Generosity Summit 3.0 from Thursday to Saturday. What a privilege to learn from and with fellow believers who seek to “live given” and aim at grasping the “generosity of abundance” found in Jesus Christ.

What’s it like here? Beautiful, colorful, hot and humid — over 100 degrees today. I am in Chennai (think: the Los Angeles of India) and the home of the longest beach in the world, Marina Beach. So if L.A. has “Long Beach” perhaps Chennai has “Longest Beach”, though I will likely not see it because I will be in meetings.

Help all of us, Father, wherever we are, to “live given” so that others will discover the mystery of poverty is the pathway to hungering and thirsting no more. Satisfy our souls with the Bread of Life. Show the abundance of generosity through us by your Holy Spirit, I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Billy Graham: God’s abundance, our abundance

When [Jesus] had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Luke 24:50-53

“The key to spiritual satisfaction is being right with God. When through faith we are in the position of sonship, then God’s riches become our riches; God’s abundance, our abundance; God’s power, our power. When a proper relationship has been restored between us and God, then happiness, contentment, and peace of mind will be a natural outgrowth of that restored relationship.”

Billy Graham (1918-2018) in The Secret of Happiness (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985) 70.

Today we observe the ascension of Christ. Hard to believe that it’s been 40 days since Easter! Time flies when you are having fun exploring the relationship between “abundance” and generosity through church history.

With the recent passing of Billy Graham it seemed fitting to locate the theme in his writings. I am typing this from Washington Dulles airport. Assuming flights are on schedule, I should be somewhere between Frankfurt, Germany, and Chennai, India, when this posts.

Are you spiritually satisfied? Only in Christ do we have everything we have ever needed and will ever need. God’s abundance is our abundance. This truth aims at bringing us the same joy it brought the first disciples. I pray each person reading this grasps this realization.

The reality of His ascension must not leave us feeling alone but should serve to remind us that our Lord is with us always, even to the end of the age. Knowing that He is with us always, empowers us with courage and strength to serve generously where we live or on the other side of the planet!

Thank you Lord that wherever we go You are there, and You are everything we need!

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