We Need to Have a Spirit of Generosity

Examine our motives when we give

Paul writes a succinct reminder to Jesus’s followers in Corinth. By extension it also applies to us. He says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Generosity produces blessing, whereas stinginess results in scarcity. In another letter Paul is more concise: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

So, we should give.

Why? Because the Bible says to.

How? Give with a willing spirit, not begrudgingly but happily (2 Corinthians 9:7).

What should we avoid? Giving to get. Giving to others in order to earn a return on our investment is not generosity but selfishness. Yes, I know people who have given from their poverty and God repaid them one hundredfold. But the hundredfold blessing seldom came quickly and often involved sacrifice along the way. When we give in order to get, we miss the point. God discerns our motives (Proverbs 16:2). God says that that when we bless others, he will bless us even more. Click To Tweet

Blessed to be a blessing: God promised Father Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Or consider that “A generous man will prosper,” (Proverbs 11:25).

Full Circle: In the Old Testament God says he will bless us so we can bless others. In the New Testament he says when we bless others, he will bless us even more.

The point is, we need to give generously, but we best do so for the right reasons.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 9, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 9:6.]

The Bible Says to Put Others First

Do not seek your own good, but what’s best for others

First seek the good of others.We live in a narcissistic, self-centered world. We put ourselves first and care only about what’s in our best interest. Too many people live their life with the attitude that “it’s all about me.” In doing so, they miss so much.

Let me share a secret: It’s not all about us. It should be about everyone else. When we put others before us, we help them and enrich ourselves in the process.

Paul reminds the church in Corinth about this. He tells them directly, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24, NIV).

While this can go to extremes, most people have no worry about that.

On an airplane, for example, the instructions say that if the oxygen masks drop to put yours on first, then help your neighbor. If you don’t, you might pass out before you can help others in need. Then everyone suffers. I also read of a family so intent on feeding their starving neighbors that some of them starved themselves to death in the process.

No, self-preservation is crucial, but beyond that, put others first. The Bible says to. What’s this look like? It’s up for each of us to decide.Pick one thing you can do for others and then do it. Click To Tweet

  • It could be as simple as standing aside to let someone get in line ahead of us.
  • It might be giving someone a ride even though it will make us late. (What if we’re on our way to church?)
  • How about giving up a seat on the bus and standing?
  • Perhaps this means mowing our neighbor’s lawn even though ours needs attention.
  • Should we take the last piece of pizza or let someone else have it?
  • What about walking so someone else can use our car?
  • Even more bold, how about giving someone our car because he or she needs it more.

We can do many things to seek the good of others, so many that it might overwhelm. But instead of letting the magnitude of options paralyze us into inaction, pick one thing to do for others and then do it.

Doing good for others is the right thing to do.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 10:24.]

3 Ways to Worship God

Worship means different things to different people, but what’s important is that we do it

3 Ways to Worship GodSome churches call their Sunday meeting a worship service. This has always troubled me. Yes, I knew that singing to God was a form of worship, or at least it should be. And I understood the part about “worshiping God with our tithes and offerings,” even though I didn’t see God getting too much of what we dropped into the offering plate. But the sermon?

How could listening to a lecture, often a boring one, be a form of worshiping God? In truth, aside from a few songs and the collection, the bulk of most church services are either education or entertainment. Is that worship? I don’t think so. I hope not.

Here are three ways we can worship God. (And like a good three-point sermon, they all begin with the same letter.)

Singing: As I said, singing to God is a way to worship him. More broadly, music is a path to worship. That means we can sing or listen to music. Music can also involve movement, rather it be clapping our hands, raising our arms in praise, or dance (from rhythmic swaying to getting down like David, 2 Samuel 6:14).

Yes, singing can have a physical component. It can also involve senses. Sight: seeing others sing and dance (or watching a light show). Hearing: listening to those around us sing and hearing the instruments. Smell: incense or a smoke machine. Touch: holding hands with fellow worshipers as we sing. Taste: singing while we take communion. (For the record, I’ve experienced each of these sensory elements in worship at various church services, though not often.)

Unfortunately, I’m musically and rhythmically challenged, so I struggle to worship God through music and movement. But give me a strong beat with catchy lyrics behind it, and I can engage in song as a means of worship.

Serving: Helping others, both with our time and through our money, is a tangible form of worship. I enjoy the action of doing something for others, offering it as an act of service to them and as a form of worship to God.

Similarly I like being able to give money to causes I’m passionate about or to people in need as the Holy Spirit directs me. Both are ways to serve and both offer a path for worship. I relish the opportunity to worship God through these forms of service. Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.” This is a form of worship. Click To Tweet

Silence: In our multitasking, always-on society, the hush of stillness is an anachronism to most, one that causes many people to squirm. Few people can tolerate silence for more than a few seconds.

Yet in our silence—along with its partner, solitude—we can quiet our racing minds and still our thumping hearts in order to connect with God. Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.” Yet, setting time aside to be still presents challenges. For most of us, meeting with God in silence doesn’t just happen; we must be intentional.

In my times of silence I connect more fully with God in worship, get deeper glimpses into his heart, and am best able to hear his gentle words of encouragement, correction, and mostly love. So good!

Just as I make it my practice to attend church, I have a parallel practice of giving to my community each week. I also (usually) block out one day out of seven to fast, and part of that time includes worshiping God through silence. All three are forms of worship, though for me, helping others is more practical and resting in God’s presence is more meaningful.

God has uniquely made us and gives us different ways to worship him. When it comes to worship, one size does not fit all. Find the one that fits you.

[This is from the February issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]

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3 Lessons from the Early Church

Dr. Luke describes 3 characteristics of the Acts 4 church

3 Lessons from the Early ChurchThe book of Acts unfolds as an historical narrative of the early church, the activities of the first followers of Jesus and those who join them. For the most part, Acts simply describes what happens, with little commentary and few instructions for proper conduct.

While we can look to Acts as a possible model for church life, we would be in error to treat it as a requirement for right behavior. In this way Acts can inform us today, but it doesn’t command us. For example, if I wrote, “My church went to a baseball game after the service,” no one (I hope) would think I was saying that attending baseball games is prescriptive of church life. No. It was merely descriptive of what one church did one time. We would never build our theology on a statement like that.

So it is with the book of Acts. Yet we can learn from it. Luke writes three things about that church:

Unity: The Acts 4 church is of one heart and mind, just as Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:21). Their actions are consistent with Jesus’s prayer. Jesus prayed it, and the early church does it; I hope unity describes every one and every church.

Community Minded: In the Acts 4 church, no one claims their possessions as their own. It isn’t my things and your things; it is our things. They have a group mentality and act in the community’s best interest. While we might do well to hold our possessions loosely, notice that this isn’t a command; they just do it out of love.

Willing to Share: Last, the Acts 4 church shares everything they have. Not some things, not half, but all. This would be a hard thing for many in our first-world churches to do today but not so much in third-world congregations. Again, this isn’t a command (and later on Peter confirms that sharing resources is optional, Acts 5:4); it is just a practice that happens at this moment of time in the early church. These 3 characteristics of the early church should inspire us to think and behave differently. Click To Tweet

While these three characteristics should inspire us to think and behave differently, and can provide a model for church life, we need to remember that the Bible gives us no commands to pursue a communal-type church. We can, but it’s one option. Of the three only unity rises as an expectation because Jesus yearns for it to be so. That should give us plenty to do.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 4, and today’s post is on Acts 4:32.]

God Deserves Our First, Our Best, and Our Most

How much time we spend on our activities reveals our priorities

God Deserves Our First, Our Best, and Our MostKing David longs to build a temple for God, but God says this is not to be. Another, a descendant of David, will attend to its construction. Instead David must content himself with the temple’s planning and in accumulating its building materials. Then he dies, having never seen the temple he desired to build.

Solomon succeeds his father, David, as king of Israel. Solomon oversees the construction of the temple. A grand edifice, it takes seven years to build, a fitting effort for God’s earthly dwelling and the center of Jewish worship and life.

However, in a telling aside, the Bible indicates that Solomon spends almost twice as much time building his own residence. This seems out of balance: seven years for the house of God and thirteen years for a house for Solomon. What does that say about Solomon’s priorities? The temple is for all the people, as well as for God; the palace is for Solomon. Yes, the palace must be a structure worthy of a king, but spending over a decade on its building may be a bit much, especially given that it consumes almost one third of Solomon’s forty-year reign.We must truly make God our priority. Click To Tweet

Yet I wonder how often we effectively do the same thing, placing greater emphasis on the things we do for ourselves than the things we do for God, the time we spend with him, and the offerings we give. We need to not only put him first, but he also deserves our best and our most. I fear we too often fall short in those areas.

We must truly make God our priority.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Kings 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Kings 6:38-7:1.]

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The Art of Giving to God

By giving to God we demonstrate our love to him

The Art of Giving to GodJesus says to give “to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” Luke 20:25, NIV. While the context of this relates to paying taxes, the ramifications go beyond money. The Roman government, in general, and its ruler (Caesar), specifically, have an array of expectations that go beyond tax revenue. Caesar proclaims himself as god, and we see the far-reaching implications. Caesar wants for himself what the Jewish people reserve for God.

Many critics of today’s church claim “the church is only after your money,” and in doing so they imply God only values us for our bank account. While this is sadly true at too many church institutions, it’s not what Jesus intends for us and is far from God’s heart.

Yes, God wants us to give ourselves to him. As we seek to put this into practice, however, giving to God becomes more art than rule. Here are some considerations:We give to God through our money, time, worship, love, and devotion. Click To Tweet

  • Money: When most people think of giving to God, they only think of money. Yet, we can’t actually write a check and hand it to God – and what would he do with it anyway? We give our money to God by using it to bless others and support causes that align with God’s heart, according to his Holy Spirit direction in our hearts. This may or may not be the local church. It could be a parachurch organization, to address a pressing social issue, or to help our neighbor in need. Regardless, when we give cheerfully as God directs us, we in effect give to God.
  • Time: We spend time with people we value: family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and so forth. The people we ignore must not be important to us. The same applies with God. Again, this may or may not happen at church. We spend time with God when we fast, pray, study the Bible, and practice silence and solitude. We also spend time with him when we sing to him and talk with others about him. And when we invite him to join in our gatherings, we spend time with him, because he is there.
  • Worship: In singing songs at church about God and to God, we give to him. We can worship him in other ways, too, such as prayers of praise, sharing with others our stories of his goodness, and enjoying his creation. I often worship him when I write.
  • Love: Perhaps the most misused, most misunderstood word in English is love: I love my wife, and I love to watch movies. I love nature, and I love the color blue. I love spring, and I love to write. And I love God. If our love of God means anything, we show it by how we use the money he blesses us with, how we invest our time, and how we worship him. Our love for him is a fitting response to his love for us (see 1 John 4:19).
  • Devotion
  • : The act of devotion encompasses the first four items, but our zeal for God also goes beyond them. We set aside other pursuits to focus on God; we put him first, not in word but by our deeds. Devotion involves sacrifice and focused attention, as though nothing else matters, because nothing else truly does.Giving to God is a lifelong, fulltime pursuit. As our maker, liberator, and friend, he deserves nothing less.

How do you give to God? What other ways are there?

How Do We Give to God?

The Bible says to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

How Do We Give to God?While there is no biblical command to give 10 percent of our income to the local church, that doesn’t mean we should ignore giving.

Jesus’s detractors try to trick him into saying something condemnable about paying taxes. They figure they can use his words against him regardless of how he responds. If he tells them to pay taxes, then they can accuse him of putting the Roman government over God (of literally worshiping Caesar instead of God). And if he tells them not to pay taxes to the ungodly Romans, then they can turn him over to the authorities for treason or even insurrection. Either way they win.

Jesus responds wisely. He tells them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Luke 20:22-25). Once again Jesus foils their seemingly foolproof plan to discredit him.

But how exactly do we give to God?

As a small kid I connected our church’s offering ritual with Jacob’s ladder in the Bible (aka the stairway to heaven, Genesis 28:12). The ushers passed the plates and walked the collection up the aisle to the minister. I assumed that on Monday he would climb Jacob’s ladder to heaven and actually give our gifts directly to God. It made sense to me then. And it made giving gifts to God so easy.

So the question remains, how do we give our gifts to God? Since I can’t actually make out a check to God and hand it to him, what am I to do?

Again, Jesus has the answer. In a parable he teaches that whatever we do to help the less fortunate, we effectively do for God (Matthew 25:40).If we're good stewards of what God gives us we'll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Click To Tweet

So we give to God by helping the poor. We can help them tangibly address their physical struggles and we can help them eternally by meeting their spiritual needs.

We can do this directly through our own actions, and we can do this indirectly when we support organizations that help those in need as they point them to Jesus. If your local church can do this most effectively, then give to them. But check their budget first. For most churches only a very small fraction of the money donated is actually used to help those outside the church.

If another organization has less overhead and uses a higher percentage of donations to help others, then give to them.

Remember, we are to be wise stewards of the money God entrusts to us. We want to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) and not “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26). May we use our money wisely to advance God’s kingdom and hear his approval.

How do you give money to God? How do you ensure you are a wise steward with the money God assigns to you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Another Way to Give to God

What are the ramifications when we are kind to the poor?

Another Way to Give to GodThe book of Proverbs, most of which is written by King Solomon, reels off a list of pithy one-liners. Such is the passage for today’s reading. One that captured my attention is “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,” (Proverbs 19:17).

We know we should help the poor, and sometimes we do. When we wisely give to them – be it through our time, our possessions, or our money – we benefit them. We also gain because we do so as an act of obedience and an expression of love. And when we are generous in the name of Jesus, he is subtly celebrated. But there is one more thing.

According to Solomon when we give to the poor, we effectively extend a loan to God. In essence, giving to the poor is giving to God. But Solomon calls it a loan. Does that mean that God then owes us? Don’t go there, because we already owe him so much more than we can ever repay. Does the Bible really say that whoever is kind to the poor lends to God? Click To Tweet

Jesus also encourages us to help the poor. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, the king (emblematic of God) says to his righteous followers: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” (Matthew 25:40).

Giving to the poor is giving to God.

What is a way you have helped the poor? What are your thoughts about lending to God? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 18-21, and today’s post focuses on Proverbs 19:17.]

How Do You Affect Others?

We have an effect on everyone we meet. We can touch them in a positive way and leave them better off for whatever time we spend with them, or our interactions can have a negative impact and produce the opposite results. This might be at the store, how we drive, with our neighbors, during work, and when we’re at church. This happens through our actions, our words, and even our nonverbal communications. It’s in person, on the phone, via text, and using email.

How Do You Affect Others?

We have many opportunities to affect others. We can help them, encourage them, guide them, and pray for them. Or we can irritate them, cause them distress, criticize them, and discourage them. We can make their day a bit brighter or a tad duller. We can subtly point them to Jesus or turn them off.

Though I want to live my life with intention and have a positive effect on everyone all the time, I fear I fall short more often than not. Here’s what I recently learned about this:

We Don’t Always Know the Effect We Have On Others: A few weeks ago I was at a writers conference. I attend it every year to learn and to share. Three people surprised me by individually taking time to thank me for something I said or did for them the year before. Who would have known?

We Need to Thank People When They Impact Us: Another person thanked me for the writing newsletter I send out each week. She told me how helpful it is for her and that she looks forward to it. I thanked her for her encouragement. What I didn’t tell her was that I was quite discouraged with the newsletter: for the time it takes to do each week and my assumption that no one really cared. She refueled me to press on.

Sometimes God Leads Us to People When They Need it the Most: I also led a couple of breakout sessions at the conference. The second one did not go well. Though I know I shared useful information and provided value, I also feared I caused just as much confusion. I do know I didn’t communicate clearly: talking too fast and stumbling over my spew of words. When it was over the phrase “train wreck” kept popping into my mind.

Then our enemy, the father of lies, began his attack. My mind quickly spiraled out of control. Within an hour I had retreated to the bathroom to wallow in despair. I couldn’t think clearly and didn’t know what to do. Prayer eluded me.We don’t always know the effect we have on others. Click To Tweet

When I emerged from my seclusion a friend’s gaze caught my attention. I don’t know if she beckoned me or if I was drawn to her. She thanked me for my presentation, the information I shared, and the value I provided.

She couldn’t be talking about me; surely she must be confused. But no, she had sat in the back row during my session. She was there for my train wreck but didn’t see it that way.

I thanked her profusely and told her just how much I needed to hear her words. My eyes misted over, and I gave her a hug of appreciation. Her words rejuvenated me, and the rest of the conference went great – thanks to one person willing to follow God’s prompting to search me out. She had a positive effect on me just when I needed it the most.

[This is from Peter DeHaan‘s October newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.” Do you want to receive his complete newsletter each month?]

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Do You Excel at the Grace of Giving?

There is a curious phrase in the Bible: “grace of giving.” It occurs only in Paul’s second letter to his friends at the church in Corinth. Without it appearing elsewhere in the Bible, there are no other verses we can use to grasp a better understanding of this curious phrase.

In considering it, the “grace of giving” could imply we are to give graciously. The opposite is to give begrudgingly, and that’s not good. A gift given resentfully is hardly a gift at all. Gracious giving is the goal.

Alternately, “grace of giving” could suggest generosity. We give what others need and then give more. Or we give what we can and then make sacrifices to give more. We give “above and beyond” expectations. This, too, may be the grace of giving.

While there is value in both these considerations, I think there is an even better one. God gives his grace to us; we should give a bit of that grace to others. This could be money, or it could be kindness, tolerance, acceptance, or any number of the amazing gifts God has given us, his undeserving followers.

Regardless of how we understand the phrase “grace of giving” and what it precisely means, the key is to give. We are to give to others.

[2 Corinthians 8:7]