Worshipping God’s Gifts

“The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” Exodus‬ ‭12:33-36‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Not only did God rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt, He also showered them with clothing for the journey and with silver and gold. Later on in the story we see that some of that fabric and those precious metals would be used in the construction of the tabernacle. But God would only ask for those with willing hearts to give to the cause of the project.

“And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord ‘s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them.” Exodus‬ ‭35:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The generosity of all those Israelites never ceases to encourage me to be more open with all God had blessed me and my family with. Since they were slaves in Egypt you know they didn’t have much. Most, if not all, of what they brought had to have been given to them upon their exit from the land. That’s because God is a giving God. As if our freedom is not enough (which obviously it’s more than enough) God goes beyond. He always gives more than we deserve. And the response of a thankful heart is to always give back to God’s mission and purposes. But, unfortunately, this passage in Exodus 35 came after a failed response by the people of Israel a few chapters earlier.

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”” Exodus‬ ‭32:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

All of us will do one of two things when God opens up His storehouses for us. We will either make gods of it, or we’ll be generous with it. We can be conduits of His generosity and let it flow through our hands. Instead, we often fall in into the trap of being dead ends. We set the ‘things’ God gives us at such a high value we never want to let go of them.

I have a saying that I tell to my kids when they’re being reluctant to share. I say, “we don’t deserve to have anything that we’re not willing to share with others.” That’s a lesson I have to occasionally relearn myself. If there is anything we posses that we aren’t willing to use to benefit or aid others, we’ve made it an idol. We are actually worshipping something that God has blessed us with. We might as well melt it down and make a golden calf out of it. Fortunately, God does not forsake us for our moments of selfishness. Hundreds of years later, in the book of Nehemiah, the Levites were recounting the story of the Exodus as the people confessed their sins before the Lord.

“Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” Nehemiah‬ ‭9:18-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I want God’s generosity to create a more generous heart in me. I want to live open handed. When God blesses me, I want to see it as an opportunity to bless others. I want to invest more of my time in the pursuit of heavenly treasures, not earthly possessions. I want nothing to be off limits for those in need.

“”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Cheers to the generous life!

Offering our Best

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And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the Lord or give them to the Lord as a food offering on the altar.You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted. Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the Lord; you shall not do it within your land…

Leviticus 22:21-24 ESV

One thing I’ve been guilty of is giving away my leftovers. I make a trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army with things that I no longer need or want. I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with passing along things that others may find useful. Hoarding it would be wrong and selfish. The problem lies in the singularity of giving. If these are the only types of things that I am offering to others, then my heart needs to get realigned with the biblical concept of giving.

According to Leviticus chapter 22, the heart devoted to God is one who gives freely, gives things that are in perfect condition, and gives what would still be of great value and use to him or her. That’s super challenging! In preparation for writing this post, I’ve tried to take inventory of anything that I’ve given that fit these three criteria. I can tell you, it wasn’t a huge list. For myself, and I’m tempted to say most Christians, I don’t think freely giving is the hard part, until it comes to giving away the prime stuff that we still want or need. Honestly, we should be giving our suits and nice things away and not just the clothes we no longer fit in and utensils we no longer use. If we value a possession too much to share it, then we don’t deserve to have it. That’s the principle I’ve tried to instill in my children, so I better make sure I’m living by it as well.

Jesus calls us to offer our lives for the sake of the gospel so no possession we have should be a problem. Nothing is valuable enough to stand in the way of showing God’s love. Since everything comes from God, nothing is off limits as an offering of praise. To withhold anything from God is like saying that I’m good enough to receive it but God isn’t good enough for me to offer it up to Him. That was the problem with the rich young ruler that Jesus spoke with in Mark chapter 10. All he had stood in the way of serving and following Jesus. That was in stark contrast to the first century Christians who sold of their own possessions to give to those in need. Nothing was off limits for them and nothing should be off limits for us today. What applied to them, applies to Christians still today.

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise…

Luke 3:10-11 ESV

Jesus doesn’t say if you have 10 tunics give away one or if your pantries are overflowing with food then give some away. If we have more than one of something, it’s an abundance. That’s something that is hard for many in a modern society to grasp. Let’s give more because we want to love more, both God and others.

A Pick’me up story for today

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Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (NIV) [my emphasis]

I came across a story the other day, that really brightened my day. I hope it does the same for. Here it is:

Olivia, Eric, and their three daughters — an infant, toddler and 5-year-old — were living in a partially converted school bus. The family of five had been moving across the U.S. when they broke down in Greeley, Colorado.

Broke and homeless, Olivia was certain this holiday season would be nonexistent for her kids.

Meanwhile, Virginia Finch and her daughters were preparing Thanksgiving meals for the homeless. They heard about a family living behind the nearby gas station and went to deliver the food to them.

It was Olivia and her brood.

Finch and her daughters listened to their heartbreaking story. The second they got home, they began putting a plan in place for what they could do for the troubled family. With the cold season approaching, the Finch family could not bear to think of the babies suffering in the cold.

“There’s no way I’m going to leave a baby with no crib for a bed on the holidays,” Finch thought to herself.

That’s when she thought of the second house that her family was preparing to sell or rent. She returned to Olivia with a proposition, and at first, the struggling mom of three thought it was some kind of cruel joke: Finch asked the homeless family if they would like to live in the house.

Story from Littlethings.com

We may not all have a house to give, but we all have a life to spend giving.

We love each other because he loved us first.

1 John 4:19 (NLT)

Dear Church, Stop Giving Your Crap to the Poor 

John McDermott is a Formerly Homeless Man Who Now Has Housing

Re-posted from faithit.com

I was getting ready to leave for a trip to Kenya a couple of years ago, when a church emailed and asked if Mercy House had any specific needs. I quickly responded and told them I wanted to give Maureen, our Kenyan Director, an iPhone, so we could communicate during (almost weekly) power outages. I told them if they would buy one instead, we could use the money for other needed items.

On the church’s Facebook feed a few days later, I saw an appeal that said something like, “We want to support a ministry with a used iPhone. If you have an old one you can donate, please let us know.”

 I was given an older iPhone a week later. On the ground in Kenya, I realized it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than 10 minutes. The phone was junk.

So, when I left Kenya, I gave Maureen my used one that worked.

The church contacted me after the trip and asked how Maureen liked her new phone? I told them it was useless and said, “Don’t worry about it. I gave her mine.”

“Oh, we feel badly, please let us replace your phone! We want to buy you a brand new one, an upgrade. You deserve it,” I told them I used my husband’s upgrade and already had a replacement phone. “OK. Instead we would like to write you a $500 check for the inconvenience.”

Give it to Maureen, I said.

And they did.

While the church tried to make it right, I was bothered by the fact they were more than willing to buy me a new phone I didn’t need. I have noticed this mentality permeates the church as a whole: The poor will be happy with our leftovers. They don’t know any better. They live in Africa or Honduras, they don’t need the latest technology or the best brands like we do. They will appreciate anything we give because something is more than nothing.

Why do we give others—often those in service to the poor or the poor themselves—something we wouldn’t keep or give ourselves?

Somehow collecting clothes for immigrants has become the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff we don’t want and gathering baby items for new moms is the perfect excuse to toss out stained and worn clothing we wouldn’t dare use again. I’ve packed suitcases with beautiful donations, but mostly I’ve pilfered through piles of junk donated in the name of Jesus.

It’s time to stop giving our crap to the poor.

There’s nothing wrong with used or second-hand. It’s often my first and favorite choice. Many organizations and ministries depend on used gifts. But if we give used, it should be our best. I’m not saying when we clean out older clothes or toys or things we don’t use any longer and donate them—that this is wrong. I am saying if we give it away, it should be something we would use ourselves.

The poor may not have wealth, but they have dignity. I’ve met people without electricity or running water who swept their dirt floors daily, pressed their clothes neatly, walked miles to work on muddy roads, dodging sewage, and never had a speck of dirt on them. They value their own worth, we should too.

I’ll never forget meeting a woman in Africa who supported her large family by reselling used clothes from America. But when she held up clothes to show me what was for sale—clothes Americans had donated in clothing drives—they were tattered and stained. I was embarrassed.

Her best depended on our worst.

Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.

It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time) doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need. Perhaps we should look a little deeper into our hearts and wallets when we can say, I don’t have money to give to the poor, but I have a lot of stuff. Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give?

“We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live—affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live—because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.” Ann Voskamp

There have been times over the years I’ve gasped and grinned at the beautiful items I’ve sorted and packed  for the impoverished. When we give our best, we are living our best. We are saying with our donation, you are valuable. We are whispering with our gift, you are worthy of the best. We have the opportunity to speak self worth when we give generously.

It’s a promise for them.

It’s a promise for us.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Proverbs 19:17

The next time we have the opportunity to share what we have with someone who is in need, let’s give from the pile we want to keep, not from the one we want to throw out.

by: Kristen Welch

The Giving Pledge


Have you ever heard of the Giving Pledge? I first came across it a week ago in an article about Warren Buffett giving away $2.9 Billion. If you don’t know about Mr. Buffett, he’s one of the wealthiest people in the world. I’m sure you deduced that by the figure. The entire article and the concept of the pledge hooked me. 

In simple terms, it’s the idea that the super rich would give away all or the majority of their wealth in their lifetime. Wow! I had learned of people in the past who had done similar things like Andrew Carnegie who gave away nearly all his wealth to charitable causes. He was, at one point, the wealthiest man in America and quite possibly the world. Past and present, the idea is astonishing.

I know what some may be thinking, “if I had billions of dollars I’d be fine giving it away too.” I admit I had that instinct at first too. But the question becomes, would you really? I have found that the more money and possessions one acquires in life, the more precious they become. I don’t think any of us should be too quick to assume we’d be super generous if we were billionaires. I was told once that I should not presume to think that I’d be generous if I had more, if I’m not generous with what I already have. I think there is tremendous truth in that!

I’ve caught myself praying before that God would give me more of an income so I could give more away. I had to start searching my own heart and take inventory of how I was already giving. I have known many people who said that they’d start giving once they reached “__” point of success or income in their lives. I think that is a fatal mistake that we make far too often. If only I had “__” then I’d give. That’s a thought that has plagued people for ages.

Truth be told, we don’t have to be super wealthy to give lavishly. To give a lot is not merely defined in terms of $, but also in the cost. By cost i am not speaking of money necessarily but of the risk or sacrifice on our part. In the bible, there is recorded a story of a woman who gave, not billions, but rather all she had. We find it in Luke chapter 21. We probably wouldn’t ever see a CNN headline about someone like her but Jesus commends her for giving more than anyone. She gave all she had! How many of us can say we’ve done that? Most people I know struggle with tithing 10% or making donations that would cause them to give up a few Starbucks trips that month. 

My point is, I have to let go of what I have, and I’m guessing so do the majority of people living in a society of affluence. Jesus said that we will either love and serve Him, or we will love and serve money. Another piece of good advice I heard once was, “if I’m not willing to use something I have to benefit others, than I shouldn’t have it.” Sounds bold but I believe it’s solid counsel. 

Most people who read this are probably far richer than they think. But even if they aren’t, they have much they can give. We have time, money, things, encouragement, love, truth, and hope. And we cannot afford to be stingy with any of it. 

The giving pledge Has inspired me to want to make one of my own. A pledge to give more of my life and possessions and money. A pledge to share my blessings in life with others. A pledge to give out of my abundance or out of my lack. I will probably never give billions of dollars away, but I certainly hope to give all of my life away to the glory of Christ. After all, God set the example for giving when He clothed Himself in human form and sacrificed Himself on a cross for the sins of mankind. That was the ultimate giving pledge that He had made ages ago. May it motivate us to pledge our lives to sharing His truth, His love, and His blessings to a world in need! Will you join me?

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8