Rethink your Giving

Rethink GivingAs we end 2015, now is a good time to rethink your giving.

 For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 

Are you giving what’s right, or what’s left? 2 Corinthians 8-9

Is God blessing you? If so what are you giving back to your church, missions, or community? We can never just stay in the glory of great experiences and insights of worship and growth or even riches. There has to be a time when we take what we have learned and apply it. Not hoard, or be miserly with abundance.

How can we reset our thinking on stewardship? Be grateful for what you have and what Christ has done!

When the reality of Christ’s power and purpose hits us, we must also realize that others will not have the same beliefs and experiences. We see our friends with the latest phone or car or clothes or electric dog polisher, and we need to pray and ask, is it necessary? Then on the flip side, we will face the daily trivialities of life that seem to take a toll on us. We will face people who will reject us. We will try to put into practice what we have learned and we may fail. We can become frustrated and give up unless we focus, learn, and do not give up. We can best get through by our prayer life, and by our trust and reliance on His work!

Do not let your lack of willingness to grow in the faith rob you of His plan for you or rob what you are doing for others too. We can enjoy the mountain top or the wealth if you have it, but we also have to get busy in the valley where we live. When we do succeed, we need to be sure it is His success that is motivating us. Enjoying success and blessings is not a result of faith or what faith is about. Faith helps our relationship with God by bringing us closer to Him so He can use us more.

The Gospel is about One God Who is Sovereign and loves, while we are separated deeper and further than we can imagine from His salvation because of our sin. Yet, God is the One Who seeks us out with a love deeper and further than we can imagine and what to reconcile with us.

The Gospel is what we have that is true value. Remember, money and things are tools, not a lifestyle, Christ is to be our life and glorifying Him is to be our style. Our experiences and ideas tend to get in the way, so God has to sometimes knock us off our stool of pride and complacency, even greed, so we will look to Him (Job. 13:15; 2 Cor. 5:7).

Enjoying success and blessings is not a result of faith or what faith is about. Faith helps our relationship with God by bringing us closer to Him so He can use us more. Our experiences and ideas tend to get in the way, so God has to sometimes knock us off our stool of pride so we will look to Him (Job. 13:15; 2 Cor. 5:7).

What are you going to do so you do not let your lack of willingness to grow in the faith rob you of His plan for you?

 

The Best Financial Moves

Finance-RoundupWhat are the  best basic financial moves a Christian must make?  Here are the top six from Crown:

First, make giving to the Lord’s work your top financial priority. The Bible calls us to honor the Lord with the first fruits of our wealth.  I believe 10% of our gross annual income is the starting goal.

Next, have an Emergency Savings Account. Start with a $1,000.  Build it up to 3-6 months of your income to be prepared for unexpected expenses. It is more essential than a long-term retirement account.

Third, pay off debt. Consumer debt like credit cards, store accounts or loans from family and friends needs to go first. After that, pay off student loans and mortgage loans.

Fourth, have an up to date written will. If you don’t have a will, the government has one for you and you won’t like it. This is essential for married couples – especially those with children.

Fifth, be sure you have proper insurance coverage.  It is best to have some level of health, life and disability insurance.  Regarding your property, at a minimum protect against catastrophes.

Sixth, automate a long-term savings plan. If you company offers a matching plan, take advantage of the maximum benefit.

While investing and retirement planning are important, I find many people jump to that step and skip over some of these basics.  By covering this list first, you will be in a much better position to manage day-to-day financial challenges. Even more important is making giving your top priority. This step helps keep your financial priorities in order.

Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late, Larry Burkett. visit Crown.org for more.

A lack of Generosity is a lack of Faith and Obedience!

Generosity faith

 Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Luke 7:41-42

Read Luke 7:36-50

God is generous with His grace, so we should be generous toward each other and be thankful. And finally to refuse to see His goodness and turn from sin, is the ultimate contempt to our loving Lord!

Generosity as a Scriptural definition, refers to giving without expectations in return. 

This attitude of Generosity produces our character allows us to give to others because God has given abundantly to us. It is the wise view and use of stewardship that all possessions belong to God. We are merely the caretakers for His purpose. It will see the Lord as the Source of true blessing, not our selfish desires.

(Deuteronomy 16:17; Proverbs 11:24-25; 13:7; Matthew 10:8; 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15)

To despise God is to refuse to acknowledge His sovereignty and work, as well as His generous gift of grace. Refusing to yield your life over to God’s will, will cost you greatly in judgment and in life; as God’s ways are better than ours!

The lack of Generosity will reflect a lack of faith and obedience! 

  • Giving generously involves much more than performing outward actions; it comes from what Christ is doing in the heart! True generosity must be motivated by a heart that is poured out in Christ.
  • When a Christian is giving from selfish motives, they expect a return in their “investment,” when a real growing mature Christian gives nothing is expected in return. As their investment is eternal, the other so called Christian investment is in the world of today.
  • The key to successful Generosityis the same as in our faith development, where being active is the deployment of our faith. See your faith and your stuff as products from God, where faith is His work in us, and our stuff and desires need to be His implements.
  • In the church as well as the world, we as Christians are the product demonstrates of the precepts of our LORD. We do this by words and by our actions of our character and fruitful and faithful living.
  • Be the difference, so others in your church can see our Living Lord in the mirror of yourself as you reflect Him! To reflect Him, we have to act, think, and be as He has called us (2 Cor. 5:20).

If you think there are no rivers coming into you, then seek what is blocking them. Is it sin, attitude, fear….?  God blesses those who steadfastly embrace His call, and who stay true to Christ.

Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character and Fruit of Generosity from God’s most precious Word by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:

  1. How do I exhibit Generosity in my daily life?
  1. What can I do to develop a mindset to know that all I have in life belongs to God, and, since He supplies all I have and need, I can model His grace through being Generous?
  1. What blocks me from being Generous?
  1. How can I make Generosity function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?

Generosity is an example of our trust and reliance on God. Because He has given so much to us, way beyond what we can comprehend, we can therefore be charitable to others. 

Thus, Generosity is an act of worship–to model Christ, and see the big picture that goods and material things are not important, but relationships are. This goes to giving back to God, providing to those who have less, and making sure your church is modeling this character. A selfish church that does not give, and only sees themselves as a charity, will become a Dead Sea rather quickly. How sad and pathetic that would be–an unconcerned, uncaring, and self-absorbed quandary to the neighborhood, and a disgrace to the Kingdom! 

How would you define Generosity?

 define GenerosityOne gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:24-25

We are to make every effort to represent Christ and make the most of what we are given for His glory. We are stewards of all that we have, whether small or great. The better we use our gifts, the more generous He is with us with more gifts, abilities, monies and opportunities. We are called not to waste our opportunities; rather, be diligent and faithful to our call, abilities, and prayer with love and hospitality.

Do what God has called you to do and do it with passion, truth, and in love!

We are called to be charitable and generous to others with what Christ has given you, and to serve Him without being held back by fear, time, or lack of talent. And when we can’t do it ourselves, we can supply others with resources to make it so. As Christians, we are to typify faith and reason together so we can exhibit the maturity needed to make wise decisions and have a purpose in life.

People in the world may be more concerned for their own needs and agendas than they are for God’s clear purpose, but as Christians, we are called to go beyond ourselves to serve others well (Titus 2). Kindness is the proof of authenticity (Rom. 2:1-4; 12:4-21; 16:1; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23)!

So, are you generous? To see what that means look to these passages:

Positive examples of being generous from Scripture (Exodus 36:2-7; Luke 7:44-8:3; 10:33-37; 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7)

Negative examples of being stingy from Scripture (Haggai 1:2-9; Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 25:31-46; 26:6-13)  

God is generous with His grace, so we should be generous toward each other and be thankful. 

For us to be good stewards, as we are called to live, serve, and do all that we do in life for the honor and glory of our Lord and Savior. How do we do this? Realize how generous and gracious our Lord is. We need to trust Him and accept His provisions, even when we do not see them. And finally to refuse to see His goodness and turn from sin, is the ultimate contempt to our loving Lord! (Acts 7:38; Rom. 3:2; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Jude 24-25)!

  1. What are the things that cause you to be stingy with what God gives you?
  2. How does greed counteract Generosity?
  3. What happens to our relationship with God, and with others, when we refuse to see all that we have is His?
  4. When have you been filled with Generosity?
  5. In what situation did you fail to be Generous when you should have been?
  6. What issue is in your life now, which would improve with being more generous?
  7. Think through the steps you need to take to put Generosity into action in a specific instance. If you are not a giving or hospitable person, seek to discover why. You are blocking God’s work in you. How can you release your selfish attitudes, and embrace the flowing in and out of His work in you?

Stewardship is Proportionate

stewardship life

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” Matthew 25:14-30

We are to love Jesus, even though we cannot see Him or touch Him. This may go against common sense, but the reality of His grace and impact can sometimes be hidden by our desires, circumstances, and feelings. The same as it is with faith and finances, each one should influence the other as a mark of true Christianity. This is the test of faith and trust, if we see no hope, we then must look to our Lord; then the hope is given and can be seen. The reward of our faith far outweighs any endurance or struggle we face. The joy we have is real and significant (John 20:29).

Read Matt. 25:14-30: What is the meaning of unfaithfulness? How does that relate to stewardship?

  • Stewardship is the wise use of our materialistic goods and abilities, as well as with our time. Wasting time, in the eyes of the Puritans, was a sin, and that notion did not originate with them, but with God’s Word.
  • Stewardship is being neither reckless nor hiding from our duty by playing it safe.

Read Psalm 24:1; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:7; James 1:17: What are the standards for stewardship we are having?

  • Stewardship recognizes that we, as Christians, as well as everything in creation, belongs to God.
  • Stewardship is proportionate to what we are able to give. The poor person’s small gift is just as important as the rich person’s big gift! Sometimes, we cannot give as much as we would like to, due to economic realities, job loss, business not good, sickness, etc., so, we give honestly and efficiently whatever we can.
  • Stewardship is the giving of ourselves and our resources with joy and gratitude for what we have been given. Stewardship is not something that results from a forced obligation or a bad attitude. Giving should always be cheerful! If it is not, then you are not really giving–are you?
  • Stewardship is the comfort of knowing that everything comes from God. He gives us our clarity and the vision and character of what to be and do. We can trust in Him, and not in our materialistic goods.

A prime suggestion to better enable our financial giving

tithe budget

What are some of the things you can do to make sure that your heart is not set upon possessions; more exactly, how can you trust in our God as Provider?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

All this is a result of His sacrifice of Christ’s redemption, His permanence, and His love for us. He lived, died, and rose again for you and me! All we are to do is trust and obey Him, and as we continue in this endeavor, He gives us even more empowerment for enduring life and performing ministry along with His special favor and peace! Even if we do not see Jesus, He sees us, loves us, and helps us persevere. This may seem unattainable or even unfathomable when we are under stress or the hostile occupation of life. However, we can do this because we have access to His empowerment; we are literally kept by God through faith. As we grow in our faith, we become even more precious to God and He will preserve us through trials and life.

From this passage we can see what we gain by our Lord’s grace, so how will that affect our budget and giving?

What we can do is view your promise to give to God that which is referred to as your tithe, like an income tax. Although it is not mandatory, it is a reflection of your character and response to His grace.

As the government so nicely swipes away your hardearned money from the top of your paycheck, consider joyfully setting also the top 10% of your net, or better yet, the gross income, for the Lord’s service– before the bills, expenses, and entertainment.

Do not include the tithe in your budget. Make your budget on the net assets you have after the tithe and taxes. Then, you will have a more realistic budget and keep yourself from getting into debt.

That way, it is done and out of the way. Then, carefully decide to whom it should go. The primary responsibility is first to your local church, and second to ministries that are doing the Lord’s work.  Remember, the people who set aside the first fruits of their resources to God are dedicating themselves to God, and not themselves to themselves.

This will also allow you to give more easily and continuously. Our real and true treasures are imperishable (1 Pet. 1:3-5)!

To help you do this, make a list of them, and put them in a place that you can see daily to encourage yourself. Keep in mind that true treasures are not material in nature, so look to relationships and character.

Do you realize that the prophets of old desperately desired and sought what we have—that which is free, and that we take for granted? Never take your faith or what Christ has done for you for granted. If you do, your spiritual journey will derail, your faith will stagnate, and the hopeless gloom of the world will be your only “vesper” (a bell that summons monks to pray). You will be seeking what is feeble and worthless and disavow what is real and jubilant. We are to declare our faith internally, see its veracity and application, and then declare it publicly.