Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Give What You Can

April 19, 2016

“If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give.  God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t”  2 Corinthians 8:12

So often when we are asked to give, we think “Oh I can’t give much right now, I have all these expenses.”  And we end up giving nothing.  But if we love God and we want to give out of love for Him, we will have a different mindset.  We’ll think, “What can I give?”  And we’ll look for ways and means to give all we can out of a heart of love.  The same thing happens as we age.  As the years go by there are things we can no longer do, and things we don’t do as well as we used to.  We may also have less income than we used to, and less in the way of things.  But when we think with a heart of love, we discover we have sources we never tapped before.  We have more time, more experience, perhaps more patience, well defined skills we can teach, the understanding that comes from having lived through many situations and survived them.  In the same way, asking “what can I give?” opens up venues we possibly haven’t thought of before.  We may not have a lot of money, but we may find money in items we no longer use, a skill we can donate, some money we can save by doing something differently, and so on.  The trick is to think “Can” instead of “Can’t”.  Two school age kids baked and sold cookies for a couple years until they were able to build a clinic overseas.  Who would have thought two school age kids could have funded the building of a clinic?  But they didn’t think about what they didn’t have–they thought “what can I do?”

 

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Charity and Who Gets the Credit

January 28, 2016

“And if, as my representatives you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded”  Matt 10:42

Jesus didn’t specify who deserved our charity, or our kindness.  He said even the smallest kindness would be rewarded.  But He put a big “if” in there too.  We are to give as His representatives.  Why would that be?  Perhaps its because Jesus wanted the good news of His Grace and His great Salvation to be spread.  But perhaps there is another reason as well.  Who gets the credit for our charitable giving?  Do we do it so we shine?  Or do we do our kindness anonymously, but make sure people know that all things come from Jesus.  All we have to give came from Him, and our impulse to give came from Him also.  How do you let people know that?  He will guide us through His Spirit toward the best way to do that in the situation, but our priority needs to be shining the light on Jesus Love, not on ourselves.

Who are the Swine?

January 19, 2016

“Don’t give holy things to depraved men.  Don’t give pearls to swine!  They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.”  Matthew 7:6

 

What did Jesus possibly mean when He said this?  In our modern Christian culture, we believe we are to give charity to everyone without question.  We are to preach the message of hope to all.  We are to persist without fail in giving, loving, and sharing Jesus.  Sometimes we feel we must knock endlessly at doors that never open, and even at doors where the voice inside yells “go away”

All Christian charities go through times of financial struggle.  When the economy is bad, donations dwindle, yet demands increase.  Would Jesus say to be good stewards of our resources and accountable to our donors and to Him to use what we have where it seems to do the most good?  Do we want to work where we see changed lives, or where we have labored in vain, sometimes for years.

Anyone who has worked in inner city ministries has seen two things that are distressing.  In the first case are the Christmas giveaways.  In some ministries some attempt at order has been forced by the situation.  People must pre-register, and people must come at an appointed time because the ministry can’t deal with a crowd that is too big.  Some ministries make an attempt to give a little five minute talk about the “real meaning of Christmas” and perhaps offer a prayer to the group that is pawing the ground waiting to get the gifts.  And many could testify to what always happens.  Huge crowds arrive early.  There is pushing, shoving and shouting.  People arrive who never preregistered and still expect gifts.  Usually there has to be a police presence to keep order.  There is always shouting and anger, and complaints about the gifts not equalling the expectation of the recipient.  The time, money and stress that went into the program drains the ministry, its staff and its volunteers.  And at the end of the day, some wonder why the ministry does this every year.  What usually isn’t asked is:  How did this honor the name of Jesus, and was His message heard by anyone.

Another scenario is the feeding program.  A lot of gospel missions, who otherwise do good work in rehabilitating the willing addicted, also feed anyone who comes in for the meal programs.  Often they do a little sermon or prayer first.  Those who came for the food are restless and distracted, angling toward the door nearest the food line.  Few appear to listen or pray.  At the end of the week, or the year, the staff could ask themselves if anyone’s life was changed by what happened at the mealtimes.  One could ask whether this honored the name of Jesus, or if it looked like bribery in order to hear a “sales pitch”, rather like the “free meals” at hotels which require one to hear a pitch involving real estate, investments, cruises, buyers clubs or something of that nature.   Might it not be better to just feed the hungry, and perhaps have a sign saying, “Be blessed, in the name of Jesus.”  It seems like this might at least be more honoring to Him.   He did indeed tell us to feed the hungry.

But who are the swine?  There are some who are absolutely hostile to the name of Jesus and His message of grace, and are indeed hostile to God himself, even in the “one God fits all, all religions are the same” open and liberal brand of God.  Should we argue the truth of Jesus with those who are hostile?  Possibly Jesus is saying “Don’t waste your breath”, but also may be saying “Don’t expose yourself to harm in this case.”   Its interesting that Jesus himself wouldn’t work miracles on command for those who came to see a spectacle.  They weren’t interested in what He had to say, they were just curious and wanted to be amazed.  He also did not feed the crowds a second time when they followed Him only because He fed them.  Indeed, He called them on their motives.   Jesus may be protecting those who serve Him from wasted resources, from burnout, and even from unnecessary exposure to physical harm.

But who are depraved men?   Depravity is the absence of a moral code, values or ethics.  A depraved person lives by the law of the jungle–“all about me, what’s in it for me, and I don’t care who I step on”   They also engage in “deeds of darkness” according to Jesus, and He leaves it to our imagination what those deeds may be.  They could range from illicit sex to plotting murder for gain, and everything in between meant to pleasure the self and harm others.   One thing is certain: while many encounter risk to self when they go into dangerous places to share the gospel, it would seem Jesus is not calling us to go into an Islamist terrorist encampment to preach the Christian message.

What if We Believe Jesus? part 1

January 16, 2016

”  You cannot serve two masters:  God and money.  For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.”  Matt 6:24

Jesus said this as part of the famous Sermon on the Mount, possibly the most widely quoted of His speeches.  Do we believe that?  What would life look like if we served God before money?

I think often of those missionaries, ministry workers and pastors who take a vow of poverty.  They have the necessities of life, but no more.  Some never own a home or a car, or much of anything but their clothes, a few books and perhaps a personal computer.  They live in ministry supplied housing, usually quite plain.  Life for these people doesn’t consist of owning things, or pursuing pleasures that cost money.  Life is very simple, and revolves around relationships, and their interior life with God.  I have family members in the Salvation Army.  They have little, and while their old age will be provided for,  they will always have little.  I know other people who are supported ministry workers.  They also live simple lives, and have to depend on the support of others to do their work.  All of the above are some of the happiest people I know.  They work harder than a lot of people, but aren’t trying to climb the career ladder or compete in the rat race.  They do what they do out of love for God and others.

I also am aware of Christians who try to excuse their materialism as God’s blessing or God’s providence.  They are sure that abundance is God’s will for them, never mind they have spent a large amount of time and energy acquiring their material blessings.  To them, prosperity is a sign of God’s favor.  Well, it may be that God allows some to prosper monetarily without a lot of setbacks, but Jesus also taught that “To whom much is given, much will be required.”  Those who have wealth will use it for God’s glory if God indeed has first place in their lives and is their true master.

For most people not in ministry, we need to ask ourselves if God owns everything we have, or if we do.  If God is our master, He does own it, and we are just the managers of that amount He has trusted to us.  We need always to seek His will as we invest what He has given us for the good of others and to further His Kingdom.   As someone once said, we need not ask God how much to give Him, but how much we should keep for our own needs.

 

The Story of Santa Claus as I told it to my Children

February 17, 2010

Long ago there was a holy man named Nicholas, who wanted more than anything to give Jesus a gift on his birthday.   But what can you give to someone who owns the whole universe?  Then Nicholas remembered when Jesus walked the earth, He said whatever you do for the least important people,  you do for Him.  So Nicholas decided a very pleasing gift for Jesus would be to visit the children of his city, carrying gifts for them–clothing, food and special things that delight children.  Nicholas did this for years, using a carriage if Christmas were warm, and a sleigh when it snowed.  Eventually God called Nicholas home, and that Christmas all the people wondered who would visit the children on Christmas Eve.  Gradually they realized they could visit the children themselves.  And that year, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles, big brothers and big sisters and older cousins and friends, all secretly left gifts for the children on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas morning the children were so surprised.   “Who left these gifts for us?”  they asked.  And the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big brothers, big sisters and cousins and friends all smiled and winked and said “Could it be Nicholas, come down from heaven for this one night?”  Well, the tradition continued for years and years, down to this very day .  Nicholas eventually was called Saint Nicholas, and in the language of little children, who can’t always speak plainly, he became Santa Claus.

Something’s Leaking

October 28, 2009

There is an Indian legend about a man who goes every day to a well to draw water and return home.  He carries two jugs for the water.  One day he drops one of the jugs and it cracks.  When he fills it, it leaks.  Now he feels he must hurry home with his water filled jugs, so as not to lose too much water from the cracked jug.  One day while cursing his luck over the leaking jug, he looked down and was amazed to see flowers growing all along the path where his jug was leaking.

We are made of clay, according to the creation story.  We are also imperfect, broken creations because of sin.  We most certainly leak.  Yet, what does anything leak?  Whatever its full of, of course.  If we are daily filled with Jesus love, we will leak it over a dry and thirsty human race, wherever we travel.

Mercy Ships

September 22, 2009

She was a young nurse just back from serving on board the Africa Mercy in Benin, West Africa.  She had left her job and home in the UK to travel to Africa earlier this year, and spent several weeks as a pediatric nurse on the ship.  She paid her own way to Africa, and paid crew fees (room and board) while serving.  What was her reward?  She saw young children with cleft lips and palates, children who are ostracized in their community, receive a new start in life.  She saw people with huge facial tumors receive the plastic surgery that would not only save them from a death by suffocation or starvation, but give them a new face and a new lease on life.  She saw those blinded by cataracts, either acquired or present from birth, receive sight.  Although she worked harder than ever before, and lived in crowded accommodations offering little privacy, she was so moved by what had happened during her tour of service, she is going back.  When I met her, she was taking further training and planning on serving an additional two years beginning with an outreach to Togo next year.  To see some remarkable pictures and read further stories, visit www.mercyships.org

How to Help When You Don’t Have Much

December 31, 2008

Its been a hard year for many of us.  Even so, many of us look around at those worse off and wonder how we can eke out something to help.  If we can’t give money because we don’t have it, we may have something quite valuable tucked away in the house.  I have resolved to start the new year by going through my things and giving away when I don’t use/need.  My favorite charity is the Salvation Army, because I really believe they make the most out of whatever they are given.  There is a Salvation Army thrift store near me, and I take my contributions there.

Some things to consider are:  clothing in good condition (especially winter clothing right now); bedding (those extra blankets or sheets you never really use, extra towels and washcloths); games, puzzles and other toys (people will buy these for their kids to use when the weather is bad); unused kitchen items (you probably have several you haven’t used in the last year or so); books (if you haven’t read them yet, you aren’t going to); magazines (current only); and other things in the miscellaneous category.

The Salvation Army benefits from the profits on their thrift shop sales, and people in need benefit by being able to buy things at a very good price.  You can no longer get a tax deduction for used items (there may be the occasional exception), but think of it this way, you are helping someone else and simplifying your life.  All that unused stuff keeps your garage and closets messy, and it takes time to take care of  “stuff”.  My mother always taught me its a sin to “sit on” things when someone else can use them.   Now if I can just persuade myself to get rid of some more books…. they are my weakness when it comes to hoarding.