It’s a Wonderful Time for Giving

It is now 3 weeks until Christmas.  For those of us who like to prepare well in advance, our shopping is down to those last few hard-to-buy-for loved ones.  Procrastinators still have 20 shopping days left and some have 18 or 19 days until they begin shopping.

Whether you have been done with your shopping for weeks or haven’t begun, there is still time for you to think of others who are less fortunate.  It isn’t too late to put some money in the Salvation Army kettle or buy a gift for a needy child.

In case you haven’t decide which worthy charity to support this year, I am offering up a few of my favorites.

Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child–The ministry founded by Franklin Graham has provided shoe box gifts to 157 million children in impoverished countries for 25 years.  It’s too late to drop off a box at a collection point, but there is still time to build a shoe box online.   For a $25 donation, you can select items for a boy or girl.   You pick the age range and are lead through the process of picking a Wow item, 2 small toys, and 3 accessories.  Essential items, including toothbrush, comb, crayons, colored pencils, and a notebook, are added to each box.   https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Ministry–Donations to this ministry provide gifts to children who have an incarcerated parent.  2.7 million children in American have a parent in prison. Prison Fellowship provides gifts to more than 10 percent of those children using donations collected.  To learn more about this ministry and/or make a donation, go to https://www.prisonfellowship.org/about/angel-tree/.

Toys for Tots–The Toys for Tots toys collection drive sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps since 1947 has another week or so left in their toy campaign to provide toys to less fortunate children.  You can drop off a new toy at a collection bin and the toy will be given to a child in your area.  Or you can make a cash donation.  97% of donations go to provide toys and 3% is used for fundraising expenses.  To find your nearest collection site, go to https://www.toysfortots.org/donate/toys.aspx

These are just a few of the many organizations that are devoted to helping children in your community and around the world have a very Merry Christmas.

“The Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35.

May your family be blessed as you share His blessings with others this Christmas Season.

Honoring God With Our Money: Cultivating True Wealth

For the past three months, I have taught a Sunday School class entitled, ‘Honoring God With Our Money.’  In this final lesson, we looked at true wealth and how to cultivate it.  Money is a necessity in our world and it serves many purposes.  However, money in and of itself cannot bring true happiness, contentment, or joy.  And money most certainly cannot buy eternal life.

The Bible teaches us that true wealth can only come from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  To enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, we must admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior, recognize that Jesus is the only one who can be our Savior, and accept His freely-offered sacrificial death as cleansing for our sins.  Repentance and faith in Jesus leads to true peace on Earth and ultimately to an eternity in Heaven.

In Proverbs 22:4, King Solomon wrote that “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.”  We must come to the Lord humbly admitting that we are sinners and in fear that He will give us the just punishment our sins demand before we can truly accept His gift of salvation.  In accepting Jesus as our Savior, we become children of God and joint heirs with Christ in the abundance of Heaven.

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what he must do to obtain eternal life, Jesus told him to obey the commandments.  When pressed for what else was necessary,  “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  The come, follow me.'” ( Matthew 19:21)  The  next verse tell us, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Matthew 19:22)  This young man was so tied to his earthly riches that he was unwilling to give them up for the true riches of Heaven.  How very sad!  Our earthly possessions are fleeting, but true wealth will last forever.

Jesus further illustrated to his disciples the way to acquire true wealth by telling them the parable of the sheep and the goats, found in Matthew 25:31-46:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
 
 

I urge you, as you read this post, to consider whether you are cultivating true wealth through your relationship with Jesus Christ and through your actions.  If you are not, it’s not too late to start.  For those of you who do know Jesus Christ as your Savior, I urge you to use the money God entrusts in you wisely and to honor God in all that you do.

Honoring God With Our Money: The Workers in the Vineyard

The Bible makes it very clear that employers are supposed to treat workers justly and pay them  a fair wage when it is due to them.  Most of the Scriptures on the subject of workers are in agreement with our current employment practices and law.  However, the Parable of th Workers in the Vineyard doesn’t seem to fit with our ideas of fairness.

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20: 1 – 16)
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[ for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.  He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.  About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

The discussion questions asked how would you feel if you were one of the first workers to be hired? I think most of us would be as upset as the workers in this story were.  Imagine toiling for 8 – 10 hours in the hot sun, only to receive the same pay as those who worked for only one hour.  Yet, those first workers hired got exactly what they were promised–a fair day’s wage.

If you were the last worker hired, you attitude would be one of extreme gratitude.  All day long those workers had waited for someone to offer them employment.  Each time an employer showed up, I am sure they prayed to be chosen.  The last workers need employment just as badly as the first workers hired.  They had families that needed food and provision.  When the employer finally called them over and offered them work, I am sure they were grateful for the opportunity but were expecting only an hour’s pay.  How their hearts must have swelled with thankfulness when a full day’s wages was paid to them.

I believe that Jesus described an employer who looked at each worker with compassion and saw the desire of their hearts to provide for their families.  His distribution of pay was not intended to hurt those who worked all day but to help those who hadn’t been provided the same opportunity.  Today our employment laws prevent employers from treating workers differently.  However, the law doesn’t prevent employers from being generous with employees who need assistance.

One of the ways an employer can honor God with her money is to ask God to show her which employees are hurting financially and to look for ways to bless those individuals.  An employer might provide an employee with an opportunity to work overtime and earn extra money.  She might provide additional training and money for college classes to help an employee to advance into a higher paying job.  If the employee’s need is urgent, God might instruct the employer to personally provide the funds to meet the need or to direct the employee to churches and agencies which provide assistance.

An employer who seeks to honor God with his money will find many opportunities to bless his workers and help improve their lives.  God, in turn, will bless that employer and allow him to create more jobs to provide more people with employment.

Honoring God With Our Money: Giving Back

In this lesson we have looked at God’s provisions for us.  Today we examine the question, “What should we give back to God in return for all He gives us?

In First Samuel 15:22, we read that God desires obedience above sacrifice.  “But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

God expects His people to obey Him in all things, including giving to the work of the Lord.  The Israelites were trying to keep God’s favor by bringing sacrifices and burnt offerings while disobeying His instructions to refrain from participating in the evil practices of their neighbors.  Samuel was telling them that offerings are not enough.

In 1 Corinthians 16:1,2, Paul instructions Christians to provide for those who do God’s work. “Now about the collection for God’s people…On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income. ”  Furthermore, Paul doesn’t ask that each person give equally, but rather than each person give in accordance with his or her income.  This supports the concept of tithing, in which everyone gives 10% of their income to the work of the church.

 

The Bible provides clear instructions on how are we to give.

 2 Chronicles 24:16  “All the officials and all the people brought their contributions gladly.

 2 Chronicles 31:12 “They faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes, and dedicated gifts.”

Proverbs 3:9 “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

Exodus 35:2  “And everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.”

 

2 Corinthians 8:12 tell us we are to give in accordance with what we have. “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”

Giving according to what we have—typically 10%, or a tithe, of our income–ensures that everyone is contributing but no one is unduly burdened. 

Furthermore,  2 Chronicles 31:12 (see above) instructions us that we are to give contributions, tithes, and dedicated gifts.  Tithes are the first 10% of our income that belongs to God, contributions are gifts above our tithes, and dedicated gifts are given to meet a specific purposes.

 

 We should give to the work of the church out of obedience to God and in thankfulness for the many blessings He bestows on us.  As if that were not enough, however, God has promised to extravagantly bless those who tithe and provide for His work.

Malachi 3:8-10  “You ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'”

 

2 Corinthians 9: 10, 11 “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 made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God”

 

Our Life Application verse reminds us that God wants us to give cheerfully and that He will bless us in accordance with our generosity to the work of the church and to others.

2  Corinthians 9:6, 7 “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he had decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Honoring God With Our Money: God Provides for Us

In week 4 of our study ‘Honoring God with Our Money,’ we are looking at how God provides for us and what He asks of us in return.  We began the lesson by asking you to consider how God has recently provided for your family. 

Every day God is providing for us.  We don’t also acknowledge His provisions and often we aren’t even consciously aware of the many ways God provides for us.  I encourage people I speak to, particularly women, to keep journals of clear incidences of God’s provision. Some financial blessings are quite apparent–you receive an unexpected check in the mail or someone treats your family to lunch.  Others are less apparent–you discover a small leak in your roof before it becomes a major problem, a bill is less than you expected, or many of the items on your shopping list are on sale this week. 

God’s provisions are not always financial–God provides words of encouragement, helping hands, open doors and closed doors, solutions to difficult problems, and other clear demonstrations of His love when we need them.  I encourage you to record those provisions as well.

 

In Deuteronomy 8:17-18  we read, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to product wealth.”

It is God who gives us our mental and physical abilities.  Without his grace and provision, we are able to do nothing.   I am always pleased when I hear athletes, actors, songwriters, and other celebrities thanking God for the talent He has given them.   Like them, we should daily acknowledge that it is only through God’s  provisions for us that we are able to work to provide for our families. 

We need to trust God for our provisions.  The following verses are just two of the many times in God word that He promises that His people will never go without food and that He will provide for us when we ask Him.

Psalm 37:25  “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.”

Matthew 7:7 – 8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

 

God wants us to ask Him for what we need and to thank Him when He meets are needs.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you become more aware of the many ways God blesses you financially each week and make a habit to acknowledge these blessings and thank God for them.

Please feel free to share ways you have seen God provide for your family recently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honoring God With Our Money: Lesson 4

This is week 4 of a 6-week Bible study entitled ‘Honoring God with Our Money’.  This week we look at how God provides for us and how He expects us in return to provide for the work of the church.

 

Think about specific ways have you observed God providing for you and your family?  Jot down a few as a record of God’s faithfulness.  This record of God’s faithfulness will serve to increase your faith when you walk through times of trouble.

 

Read the following Bible verses and think about what each verse tell us about God’s provisions for His people?

 Deuteronomy 8:17-18    

 Psalm 37:25 

 Matthew 7:7 – 8

 Read the story of the widow and Elijah in I Kings 17:7 – 16.  What can we learn from this illustration?

 God provides for all of our needs. What do the following verses tell us about what He ask of us in return?

 1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

 This verse tells us that God desires ___________________________

1 Corinthians 16:1,2 Now about the collection for God’s people…On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.

 This verse tells us that we are to _______________________________________.

 The amount we give should be based on ______________________________.

Exodus 25:2 Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering.  You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompt them to.

 We should give when _______________________________________________.

What do the following verses tell us about how are we to give?

 2 Chronicles 24:16 All the officials and all the people brought their contributions ________.

2 Chronicles 31:12 They _______________ brought in the contributions, tithes, and dedicated gifts.

Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the _____________ ______________of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

 

Exodus 35:2  And everyone who was _______________ and whose _________________ moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.

 What does 2 Corinthians 8:12 tell us about how much are we to give?

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”

 ________________________________________________________________

What types of offerings should we give? (Refer to 2 Chronicles 31:12 above). 

___________________________________________________________

 Read Malachi 3:8 – 10 and 2 Corinthians 9:10, 11.  If we give in accordance with God’s commands, what does He promise us?

 ____________________________________________________________________

Malachi 3:8-10 You ask, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

2 Corinthians 9: 10, 11 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 made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God

 Life Application:

2  Corinthians 9:6, 7  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he had decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Please check back throughout the week for my commentary on this lesson.

If I won the lottery…

Mega millions jackpot
Mega millions jackpot

Last week a couple in our community won the lottery in the amount of $217 million.  They took a one-time payout of $135 million.  I’m not sure if that is their before-tax, or after-tax, winnings.  Either way, it is a  lot of money.  The husband and wife were reported to be planning to retire early, buy a large retirement home, pay off debts, and give money to charity.  The husband bought a quick pick ticket on the spur of the moment as he was preparing to board a plane in Richmond to go on a business trip.  It was certainly a fortuitous decision.

It got me to wondering what I would do if I were to win the lottery.  It’s not going to happen, as I don’t play the lottery.  However, it’s interesting to think about.  I bet most of you have at least thought about how such a staggering sum of money, or even a mere few million dollars, would change your life.  I think most of us would agree in general with the decisions this winning couple announced–early retirement, vacation home, debt elimination, and charitable giving.

But what would I do specifically with that amount of money?  This is what I have come up with:

1) The first ten percent would go to my church and like-minded Christian ministries to share the gospel and love of Jesus Christ.  God asks that we return a tithe, or ten percent, of all that He gives us to support the work of the church and spread the gospel throughout the world.  A big chunk would go to my local church and to support Assembly of God missionaries.  Another portion would go to the Assembly of God’s  emergency relief ministry, C0nvoy of Hope, and to organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse.  Based on the one-time payout of $135 million, the tithe would be $13.5 million.  Let’s round that up to $15 million, leaving $120 million for other things.

2) A large vacation home at the beach would definitely be on my list.  And perhaps a second vacation home in the mountains.  I would love to have a place large enough for my children and grandchildren, as well as my parents and siblings to all gather together in one place.  And, of course, with all those people in one house, I would gladly spend money on a cleaning service. It is hard to imagine spending $1 million or more on a home, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s budget $10 million on vacation homes, leaving $110 million.

3) Donations to my college alma maters would be another priority.  It would be nice to give back in a substantial way to the institutes of higher learning that played a prominent role in my education  My father taught at my undergrad college, now the University of Mary Washington, for 32 years.  It would be very satisfying to donate several million dollars and have a building named in Dad’s honor.  Let’s assume that $5 million goes to each institution, with $100 million left.

4) I would spend another large portion, perhaps the largest, to provide first-rate care for my mother-in-law.  She is in a nursing home and, while she is more than adequately cared for, she longs to be in a real home of her own.  However, she needs round-the-clock care and the socialization afforded her by being with other people.  It would be very satisfying to provide her a warm, homey environment with the care she needs.  I can envision spending $20 million to build a nursing home in which each patient would have a private room and a personal staff to attend to their needs.  After building a nursing home, about $80 million would remain.

5) I would set up college funds for my grandchildren and a nest egg for each of our sons.  Conservatively, these savings funds might consume another five million.  $75 million remains.

Beyond these five expenditures, I think I would set aside a rainy day fund for Steve and I and would donate the rest to charities.  Of course, it would be a chore to decide which charities to support.  The Bible teaches us that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)  I believe I would feel burdened to do the most good I could would the money.  Therefore, I would target organizations that help the homeless and our wounded veterans to get back on their feet.

Winning such a staggering amount of money is really beyond my comprehension.  While this couple is free to spend, save, and share this money as they wish, they have a moral obligations to use the money wisely.  History has demonstrated, however, that many lottery winners frequently wind up broke or in debt in a few years.  They aren’t prepared to handle such a tremendous sum of money and they spend it lavishly and donate to any and all groups that asks for a donation.  I don’t expect that to happen to this couple.  I hope that the money brings them happiness and that with this money, they help many other people to have better lives.

Have you thought about what you would do if you won the lottery?  I bet you have.  What would be your top priorities for the money?

 

February 26, 2013

Follow up to blog post:  I just read a post about a couple who last year won half of the largest powerball jackpot ever.  This couple, Mark and Cindy Hill, have remained true themselves and are generously using much of thei $136 million lump-sum payout to improve their community.  The article states that this is unusual and that history shows that 70 percent of all lottery winners will spend or lose it all within a few years. To read the entire articles, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/25/missouri-powerball-winner_n_2749795.html?1361825691&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D275177