Christian living and giving

32All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.  33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34that there was no needy person among them.  For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.  (Acts 4:32-35)

The first sentence sets the tone for what follows:  All the believers were one in heart and mind. Luke is describing the extraordinary sense of unity that the early believers felt.  The phrase heart and mind indicates to me that their unity was far more than just an intellectual understanding of Jesus; they were united in their faith in such a way that they deeply experienced the feeling of a common bond in Christ.

This experience was so intense that it spilled over into the practical issue of possessions. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own.  Instead they shared everything they had.  This is an extraordinary statement; how was this sharing actually carried out?

Some have claimed that the Christian church practiced socialism or even communism.  But that is not really what happened.  It is true that they shared what they possessed and had everything in common, but Luke’s phrase, “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own”, indicates what actually went on: sharing here applied to every possession.  In a socialist society, members still have private personal possessions.  You may not own your land or house, but you do possess books, pots, and other items, which you do claim to be your own. The sharing of all possessions expressed an attitude of each believer, not a community rule.

The summary of Acts chapter 2 gives us a clearer understanding of how possessions were held in common.  Believers sold personal possessions to meet the needs of brothers and sisters, thinking that the value of their possessions were no longer reserved for their own ends, but for the common good of their new community.

Luke makes the point that in doing this they regarded personal property as a means to serving the community, acting in the way loving family members would do for one another.  They did all this because of the supernatural resurrection of Jesus from the dead, for His resurrection was proof to them that His teaching on Kingdom lifestyle was the right way to go.

At its heart, Christianity is not a religion of ideals.  It is not a philosophy.  It is a way of life, born out of the transforming power of redemption through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.  Our lives are changed, not because Jesus has a way of making us agree with His principles, but because the power by which He conquered death comes into those whom He has called to salvation.

So what are the implications for us with regard to giving?  What does this passage teach us individually and as a church about giving?

First of all, we ought to have a mind set for giving.  Again, the impression Luke gives us is that the early believers spontaneously gave to meet the needs of one another, which appears to have risen more out of a natural mind-set that they ought to be looking out for each other, rather than on any teaching given by the apostles because there is no record of such teaching at this stage.

This mind-set for giving is one of the key signs of whether someone has become a follower of Christ, because the one who has experienced the saving grace of Christ, not only becomes conscious of God but of his or her neighbours, especially those who are also in the family of God.  Christians shift from a mind-set of self-centredness to one which sees the needs of others, and it leads to a natural desire to give whatever they have the power to give.  It may be money; it may be possessions; it may be time and attention.

How attentive are you to the needs of others, whether in the church or not?  Ask God to show you the needs of His church here and the needs of the wider community.  As you do this He will show you how to get beyond the “how are you doing” greeting and find out how those around you are really doing.  Giving starts with caring enough to know the needs.

Do you know the needs of the church?

Do you pay attention to the reports on how well giving is meeting the Parish Share?

Do you know the widows in the church and their needs?

Do you know the families in the church — the names and needs of the children and the help the mothers could use? 

Secondly, we ought to give generously. That is clearly the trait Luke is bringing out in his description of the early church. That sentence in 2:45, — Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need — is not the description of a people who look through attics, garages and sheds, or wherever things are stored, to unload what they had no use for.  They gave generously what was precious to them in order to support all.

But how much is generous? Perhaps it is when others begin to question your judgement about your level of giving!  Sensitive Christians will give what they ought to, not because their emotions, or their guilt, are stirred, but because God is telling them to do so.  What should be evident of the Christian is that they give more of their money, talent, and self than the non-Christian.

Thirdly we are to have the right motive for giving.  This motive is to come out of a sense of unity and belonging.  That is what is meant by verse 32: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Like the early believers we ought to feel united to one another.  This is more than simply recognising that we hold the same beliefs.  We ought to feel that we belong to the family of Christ, and as members in a local church we ought to feel that we belong here – to this church and to each other.

That’s hard to do, – to keep the feeling of belonging.  It is hard enough in a family.  How much more difficult then, to feel a unity and belonging in a church where people come and go, come from different backgrounds, have families of their own and other groups to which they belong?  This is all made even harder when we’re meeting on YouTube, Zoom, in restricted numbers and when we have to socially distance ourselves from others!  No, it is not easy, but the very act of giving helps to nurture the spirit of belonging.  When people give and receive out of a sense of belonging to one another, they nurture that bond.

Fourthly, we are to give out of the joy and power of our redemption. I get this from verse 33: With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.

We give because of the grace of God working within us. Note what I just said – We give because of the grace of God working within us.  This means that we do not give in response to the grace of God; we give empowered by the grace of God.

Do you see the difference?  The attitude of the early Christians was that they gave because of the joy of giving, not because they felt obligated.  That joy came from the grace of God and the power of the resurrection.

We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, as we are told in Ephesians 2:10.  All that means is that we are created in Christ to do what we were originally created by God to do – to joyously glorify our God through pouring out our lives in service to him.  And our God takes delight in our serving one another.  It is not an obligation he places on us; it is a joyous privilege that he gives us the power to do.

True Christian giving is not paying God back for anything, no, we are joining in the joy for which God created us and for which Jesus Christ redeemed us.  We are joining in the activity that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in doing themselves.  That is a wonderful privilege that God has given to us.

So a question to think about as you go about your daily life:

Have you added Jesus to your life, to make you feel better about yourself, to help you overcome your personal difficulties, to guide you in what you want to do?

Or

have you completely and utterly submitted yourself to Jesus, given up all that you are, all that you have, given up your whole life to Him in order to know the joy for which God created you and for which Jesus Christ redeemed you through the resurrection?

Time to think

This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.

Read again the two passages from Scripture: Acts 4:32-35 & John 20:19-29, and let them speak to you afresh in light of Christian living and giving.  As God speaks to you why not write down in your journal what you sense God is saying to you?

The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.

Can I ask you to consider these questions?

  1. How attentive are you to the needs of others, whether in the church or not?  Ask God to show you the needs of His church here and the needs of the wider community.  As you do this He will show you how to get beyond the “how are you doing” greeting and find out how those around you are really doing. 
  2. Have you added Jesus to your life, to make you feel better about yourself, to help you overcome your personal difficulties, to guide you in what you want to do? ….OR….
  3. …have you completely and utterly submitted yourself to Jesus, given up all that you are, all that you have, given up your whole life to Him in order to know the joy for which God created you and for which Jesus Christ redeemed you through the resurrection?

Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond to these questions.

As you ponder on them, why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.

Spirituality of Fund-raising Part 6

Prayer and Gratitude

Today we’re looking at prayer and gratitude.  Prayer is essential to a Christian and needs to be learnt as a discipline as we grow in our daily walk with Jesus.

There have been many occasions when I have known the importance of prayer in my life, no more so than when we were experiencing difficulties with the challenging behaviour our oldest daughter Rachel was exhibiting as a teenager!  We didn’t know where to start.  Actually we didn’t know how to pray, let alone where to start!  Eventually I realised that we should ask God how He wanted us to pray.  That was what we He was saying to us – “Ask me how to pray”!

When I did this He gave a clear and simple strategy and vision: praise Him for Rachel.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Anything more would have meant that I was overstepping the boundaries He was clearly setting out for us.  Anything less would have been an act of rebellion toward God.

We really didn’t want to do this, because her behaviour was testing us to the limit.  But when we got on board with God’s vision and strategy for how He wanted us to deal with, and pray for Rachel we gradually began to see a positive change.  So much so that Rachel herself, after about three months, asked us what we were doing because she could see that we had changed and that she also could see that she herself was changing for the better.  When we confessed what we were doing, because God had told us so, she did stomp off, but we were undeterred!  We’d got in the habit of praising God for her, so we held on and remained obedient to the vision and strategy God had given us.  He was true to His word.

Praying in a disciplined way, the way God had commanded us to pray, meant that we went from hostility and suspicion to hospitality and greater love for Rachel.  We were grateful for Rachel in a new way.  We had a new attitude of gratitude toward Rachel.

I know we weren’t praying for money with Rachel, but we couldn’t have done this if our security base in God wasn’t strong, so how do we become people whose security base is God and God alone?  How can we stand confidently with rich and poor alike on the common ground of God’s love?  How can we ask for money without pleading, and call people to a new communion without coercing?  How can we express not only in our way of speaking but also in our way of being with others the joy, vitality, and promise of our mission and vision?  In short, how do we move from perceiving fund-raising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognising fund-raising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?

For us, with Rachel, prayer was the spiritual discipline through which our hearts and minds were converted from hostility and suspicion to hospitality and greater love for Rachel.  Our thoughts and attitudes about her were reoriented toward God, and not self.  So, with regard to fund-raising the same principle applies; prayer is the spiritual discipline through which our mind and heart is converted from hostility and suspicion to hospitality toward those who have money.  Gratitude is the sign that this conversion is spreading into all aspects of our life.  From beginning to end, fund-raising as ministry has to be grounded in prayer and undertaken in gratitude.

Prayer is the radical starting point of fund-raising because in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others.  To pray is to desire to know more fully the truth that sets us free (see John 8:32).  It helps us discover the truth of our identity in Jesus.  For us with Rachel, God’s truth was to praise Him for her.  So, prayer has the power to uncover the hidden motives and unacknowledged wounds that shape our relationships.  As we praised God Barbara and I had a lot of confessing to do in regards to the mistakes we’d made in bringing Rachel up.  The Good News of prayer is that it allows us to see ourselves as God sees us.

Prayer is radical because it uncovers the deepest roots of our identity in God.  In prayer we seek God’s voice and allow God’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance so that we can begin to hear what God wants us to know.  And what God wants us to know is that before we think or do or accomplish anything, before we have much money or little money, the deepest truth of our human identity is this: “You are my beloved son.  You are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased” (see Luke 3:22).  When we can claim this truth as true for us, then we also see that it is true for all other people who claim this to be true for themselves, regardless of who they are, and what we think of them.  God is well pleased with us, and so we are free to approach all people, the rich or the poor, in the freedom of God’s love.  Whether people respond to our fund-raising appeal with a “Yes,” a “No,” or a “Maybe” is less important than the knowledge that we all are gathered as one on the holy ground of God’s generous disposition toward us.  In prayer, therefore, we learn to trust that God can work fruitfully through us no matter where we are or who we are with.

So, God commands us to be grateful; it is for our benefit, not His, that we are.  If you list out the ways God has loved you – He saved you, redeemed you, made a way for you, has forgiven you, lives in you, is transforming you, welcomes you into heaven, – we will be reminded of the magnitude of His love for us.

Hebrews 13:15 says,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.”

In this context, what is confession?  It is acknowledging and recognising God’s hand at work, which in turn requires looking for the places where God is at work.  It’s easy to go through the day focused on self; what I am trying to accomplish, overcome, or fix?  A posture of gratitude keeps my thoughts focused on God and what He is doing in me and around me.  It reminds me that I am not alone.

Gratitude is all about paying attention.  It’s a habit of noticing, and responding to what God is doing.  Becoming continually God-focused and grateful takes practice.

As our prayer deepens into a constant awareness of God’s goodness, the spirit of gratitude grows within us.  Gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared.  Gratitude releases us from the bonds of obligation and prepares us to offer ourselves freely and fully for the work of the Kingdom.  When we approach fund-raising in a spirit of gratitude, we do so knowing that God has already given us what we most need for life in abundance.  Therefore, our confidence in our mission and vision, and our freedom to love the person to whom we are talking about donating money, do not depend on how that person responds.  In this way, gratitude allows us to approach a fund-raising meeting without grasping neediness and to leave it without resentment or dejection.  Coming and going, we can remain secure in God’s love with our hearts set joyfully on His eternal Kingdom.

Living thoughts

This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit.  This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.

Read again the two passages from Scripture, (Psalm 100 and John 5:18-23), and let them speak to you afresh in the light of giving, stewardship, fund-raising as ministry and developing an attitude of gratitude.  As God speaks to you, why not write in your journal what you sense God is saying to you.

The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.

Please consider these questions based on this week’s sermon:

  1. How do we become people whose security base is God and God alone?
  2. How do we move from perceiving fund-raising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognising fund-raising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?

Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond this question.

As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.

Prayer Response

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;

teach me to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labour and not to seek reward,

except that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen.

St. Ignatius Loyola

Spirituality of Fund-raising Part 4: Asking

Did you find a quiet place and seek the Lord and ask….

“What of mine is God asking me to be prepared to offer to Him for use in extending His Kingdom here?”

If you did that how did you get on? Any surprises?

Going back a couple of weeks I spoke about the Kingdom of God being our security base because the Kingdom is where God provides for all that we need. It is the supernatural heavenly realm of sufficiency, where we are no longer pulled here and there by anxiety about having enough.  And this amazing Kingdom of God is all about relationship.  So how we relate to an eternal loving God who has come down to us, is all important if we’re going to see fund-raising as ministry.  This then begs the questions: What is your relationship with money like? Are you free from it?

If we have a strong security base with God then we’re likely to trust God, and step out in faith, feeling free to share the Good News of Jesus.  The same is true when asking for money.  If our security is totally in God, then we are free to ask for money.  Only when we are free from money can we ask freely for others to give it.  This is the conversion to which fund-raising ministry calls us.  Already we have seen that many people have a hard time asking others for money because money is a taboo subject.  Why is it a taboo subject?   Because when our own insecurities are connected with it, we are not free.

Also, if we’re jealous of the rich, and envious of their money we probably don’t have a free and healthy relationship with money ourselves.  In the same vain, we are not free if we feel anger towards those who have money.  We may believe that they have made their money in a dishonest way.  So, if rich people make us jealous or angry, we reveal that money in some way or other is still our master, and so we are not ready to ask for it.  It’s not honouring to God at all if we ask for money out of anger or jealousy, especially if we suppress these feelings behind polite words.  Requests for funds under such attitudes may well not be successful.  It may well put the person in a defensive position.   As I have already said in all our asking, it’s best to see it as an opportunity to draw someone into responding to the invitation to journey with us on the road of faith.  We do this by sharing the vision God has given us.

But once we are prayerfully committed to placing our whole trust in God, and we are concerned only for the Kingdom; once we have learned to love the rich for who they are rather than what they have; and once we believe that we have something of such great value to give them, then it will be easier to ask someone for a large sum of money.  We are free to ask for whatever we need with the confidence that we will get it.  That is what the gospel says: “Ask, and it will be given to you; …knock, and the door will be opened to you” (Matt.  7:7, NIV).   In all that we are doing, whether asking for money or not, we’re to do it out of faith in God, believing we can find God, that He hears us, and responds to us.  God doesn’t leave us hanging and waiting for His high five in return!   We’re not to give up.  Instead we are to be persistent, keep asking, for if we’re asking in line with God’s plans and purposes we can trust that the Spirit of Christ, who is guiding us, is also guiding the person we’re asking.

If for some reason a person says “No,” to our request then out of our security base we will be free to respond gratefully.  Perhaps their financial resources are more urgently needed elsewhere.  Maybe they are not yet ready to make a real commitment to our vision.  Perhaps we need to listen more deeply to the Spirit so that our asking will be clearer and our vision more attractive.  If we approach potential donors in the Spirit of Christ, we can do so with an attitude, and in an atmosphere, of confident freedom.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1, NIV).  This freedom is freedom from self.  In Christ we are now free to do, with Him, what we considered impossible to do before.

Asking people for money is giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the Kingdom.  So to raise funds is to offer people the chance to invest what they have in the work of God.  Whether they have much or little is not as important as the possibility of making their money available to God for Him to use to extend His Kingdom here.

This is what we see in the feeding of the 5000.  With only five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus was showing us how God’s love can multiply the effects of our generosity (Matt. 14:13-21).  What He was initially given seemed completely insufficient, but in His hands it became more than enough.  We often feel that our contribution to Jesus is meagre, but He can use and multiply whatever we give Him, whether it is talent, time or treasure.  The truth of this miracle is that when we give all that we have to Jesus our resources are multiplied, not for us, but for God.  God’s Kingdom is the place of abundance where every generous act overflows its original bounds and becomes part of the unbounded grace of God at work in the world (2 Cor. 9:10-15).  God has given us resources to use and invest for Him.  Paul gets us to think about seed; they are not foolishly thrown away, hidden, or devoured.  Instead seed is sown in the ground and tended until it produces its harvest, which in turn enables farmers to produce both food and also more crops.  So when we invest in God’s work, He will provide us with even more to give in His service. 

This brings spiritual rewards to us who give generously to God’s work.  It’s unlikely that we will become rich through our giving, but those who receive our gifts are helped, for in giving we are blessing others.  In return we too will be blessed by our loving, generous, and gracious Heavenly Father.

When we truly enjoy God’s unlimited generosity,

we will be grateful for what our brothers and sisters receive.

Jealousy will simply have no place in our hearts.

“Bread for the Journey” by Henri Nouwen

Time to think

This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.

Read again the two passages from Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:10-15, and Matthew 14:13-21.  Let them speak to you afresh in the light of giving, stewardship and fund-raising as ministry.  As God speaks to you, why not write down in your journal what you sense God is saying to you?

The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.

Can I ask you to consider this question:

Who is God asking you to share His vision for this place with?

Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond to this question.

As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.

Prayer Response

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;

teach me to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labour and not to seek reward,

except that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen.                                                             

St. Ignatius Loyola

Spirituality of Fund-raising Part 3

 How rich are we?

I believe that all who are in Christ are rich beyond measure.  But still we see so much poverty around, not only materially, but more importantly, spiritually.

So how can our Bible passages help us here?

There could be 3 ways to look at the statement “you will always have the poor with you” from Deuteronomy 15 and Matthew 26, (see also Mark 14:7 and John 12:11):

  1. that we can never end poverty,
  2. that it is the role of Christians, not the government, to try to care for the poor, or
  3. that Jesus, rather than the poor, should be our concern.

Do these words say that we can never end poverty, or does it support a movement to abolish poverty with the poor taking the lead?  In Matthew’s account of the anointing of Jesus, an unnamed woman appears at Simon the Leper’s house with a jar of expensive perfume.  Right at the very beginning of this event in Jesus’ life is poverty, for Simon is a leper, an outcast, who lives in Bethany, which means “the house of the poor” in Hebrew.

Mark and John also have an account of Jesus being anointed a few days before His death.  John’s account happens, however, before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, whilst both Matthew and Mark place it after this triumphal entry.  Whenever it happened I want to suggest that it is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry; it puts Jesus on a collision course with the Roman Empire, a course that leads directly to His betrayal, crucifixion and then resurrection.

Nowhere else in the Gospel of Matthew is Jesus anointed. Only the unnamed woman does this. The Hebrew word for anointed is “Messiah”.  The Greek word for anointed is “Christ”.  So, Jesus is made Christ and considered to be the Messiah only a few days before His death.  There are probably multiple meanings of this anointing*, but the obvious one is that Jesus is being anointed for His burial.  This unnamed woman in Matthew and Mark’s account is the first person to recognise that Jesus is going to die and wants to ensure that His body is prepared.

(*Jesus is anointed on his head with a special anointing ointment for kings – the same process that David and the other kings in the Hebrew Bible are brought through. It seems that Jesus is set up as an alternative king to Caesar when he’s anointed in this passage.)

When the woman anoints Jesus, she is chided by the disciples for doing so. They accuse her of wasting this very expensive and valuable perfume. They say that if they had sold that perfume, they could have earned a lot of money and given it to the poor.

(Now John’s version is slightly different here: Judas criticizes the woman.  And it reads that Judas says this not because he cares about the poor but because he’s the treasurer and regularly steals from the coffers.  Judas uses the poor as an excuse to make money for himself.  Something that still happens today!)

The disciples’ concerns in Matthew seem to be asserting a common way we still use in addressing poverty. You earn money, or come upon nice things in some way or another which you sell, and then use that money to donate to the poor.

But in this story, Jesus doesn’t praise the disciples for their idea of addressing poverty. Instead, He praises the woman for her alleged waste of the perfume.  And then to make matters worse, Jesus then says this classic line:

“The poor are with you always but you will not always have me.”

For someone who’s concerned about meeting the needs of the poor, this sounds pretty bad. This sounds like Jesus is justifying poverty.

But Jesus’ response to the disciples and praise of the woman with the line “the poor are with you always” echoes or actually quotes Deuteronomy 15, – one of the most liberating “Jubilee” passages in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 15 explains that if people follow God’s commandments there will be no poverty. In fact, this passage lays out the Sabbath and Jubilee prescriptions that are given so that the people of God know what to do to ensure that there is no poverty, – that God’s bounty is enjoyed by all.  It concludes that because people do not follow what God has laid out, “there will never cease to be some in need on the earth” (or, “the poor you always have with you”), and because of that, it is our duty to God to “open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour.”  Jesus’ followers would have understood His reference to Deuteronomy 15 and would have known that God had other plans for addressing poverty.

What we read here in Matthew 26 highlights a main theme of Jesus’ teachings: in caring for the poor, in Jesus’ way, we can end poverty.  There are other passages in scripture, such as Matthew 25 where Jesus reminds us that what we do to the least of these, we do unto him.  The Old Testament prophets all emphasise our duty to care for the widow, the orphan, the alien, those in need.  There is the community of goods in Acts 2 and 4 that tells us that the early Christians had no needy people among them because they shared and cared for each other.  Even the Apostle Paul following his revelation of Jesus started a collection for the poor of Jerusalem that he discusses in Romans, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians – more than any other single theological issue.

In Luke 4, Jesus reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and announces that He has come to fulfil this passage – to proclaim release to the captives, to bring good news to the poor, to let the oppressed go free. This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s the first place where He really shows what He’s made of, and what His life on earth is about.

So Jesus demonstrated that poverty would not exist if people follow God’s laws and commandments, i.e. living out the “Sabbatical Year” and “Jubilee.”  Jesus is saying that poverty is the result of society’s disobedience to God by following the laws and ways of the world.  There is no poverty in God’s Kingdom; there is no exclusion.  All of God’s children are valued and all life is affirmed.

But I think in loving the poor, God is not just considering those who have little or no money, for anyone who does not accept Jesus as the Son of God and follow Him as their Lord and Saviour is poor in spirit, and poor in their quality of life!  We must claim the confidence to go to these people and say:

“We love you because of who you are, a person created in the image of God, and we want you to know God personally for yourself through the transforming power of His Son Jesus”!

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at Bethany was showing an amazing level of generosity, both materially and spiritually.  I believe that she was acting directly on behalf of God, who knew how it was going to end for Jesus, that His body would not be anointed for burial as it should be.  (As it turned out there wasn’t time to do the right thing.)  So God arranged for it happen before His death.  She acted as God called her to act.  There was no apathy or tightfistedness here from this woman. 

Prompted by God she acted in a way that can inspire us to give what we hold most dearly to the Lord, offering it for His service.  I believe God wants us to see all we have, especially the most precious objects we have, our skills and giftings, and our money, as belonging to Him, to be used as an offering to bring glory to Him, even if it means giving them away.

Having such an attitude will demand a sea-change in us.  It is challenging to offer our most prized possessions to God for Him as a sacrifice.  But when we are prepared to do this we bring glory to Him.

I believe that is the reason why Jesus said, “what she has done will also be told, in memory of her”.  In God’s Kingdom there is no apathy or tightfistedness.

As brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ we have inherited a priceless spiritual wealth. So in considering this passage from Matthew’s Gospel about giving, stewardship and fund-raising I conclude with a question:

What of yours is God asking you to be prepared to offer to Him for use in extending His Kingdom here in these villages?

Can I encourage you to find a quiet place and ask yourself that question.

Time to think

This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.

Read again the two passages from Scripture; Deuteronomy 15:1-11 and Matthew 26:6-13, and let them speak to you afresh in light of giving, stewardship and fund-raising as ministry.  As God speaks to you why not write down in your journal what you sense God is saying to you.

The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind, than just simply thinking on things.

I concluded the sermon with a question:

“What of yours is God asking you to be prepared to offer to Him for use in extending His Kingdom here in these villages?”

Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to answer this question.

As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others.

Prayer response

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;

teach me to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labour and not to seek reward,

except that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen.                                                             

St. Ignatius Loyola

The Spirituality of Fund-raising: Part 2

Helping the Kingdom Come about

Last week I spoke about the ministry of fund-raising being a conversion experience as it helps us to realise our vision and mission.  Vision and mission is all about extending God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  Likewise, fund-raising is a very concrete way to help the Kingdom of God come about.

But what is the Kingdom?

Jesus spoke on many occasions about the Kingdom.  His message was, “Repent for the Kingdom of God has come near”.

Scripture clearly teaches that we are to make the Kingdom our first priority, and when we do, “all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33).

The Kingdom is where God provides for all that we need. It is the realm of sufficiency where we are no longer pulled here and there by anxiety about having enough.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matt. 6:34).

Jesus also compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed:

“It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” (Mark 4:31-32).

God’s love is strong enough to sacrifice His Son for our sake.  Our response to this is to willingly sacrifice self for Him, and when our love is in line with God’s love we experience Kingdom love, a love we find that it is stronger than death (1 Cor. 13:8).   We are called to plant and nurture such love here on earth, and when we do this we are releasing the Kingdom of God here.  Our role as the children of God, Christ’s Church, is to create a community of love for all to see.  Paul is clear about this: “Follow the way of love” (1 Cor. 14:1).  In other words, make love your aim!

Covid-19 has given us all an opportunity to demonstrate this way of love, the Kingdom of God way.  Many have given themselves to connecting with friend, neighbour and family in a way that is offering God’s love in both practical and spiritual ways.

The Kingdom of God is all about relationship.  How do we relate to an eternal loving God who has come down to us? If fund raising is ministry then what is our relationship with money like? We will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to it.

What is the place of money in our lives?

How many of us know how much money those closest to us earn, or used to earn, at the moment?

Do we normally talk with them about their money?

Is money ever the subject of dinner table conversation?

Are family conversations about money usually anxious, angry, hopeful, satisfied?

Did our parents talk with us about money when we were children?

Do they talk with us about it now?

Did they teach us skills in how to handle money?

And in our own turn, do we discuss our financial affairs with our children?

Are we comfortable telling them how we earn it and how we use it?

Often, when it is too late, animated family discussions centre around money.  Growing up as a child it was tight and it led to tensions.  When I speak to wedding couples, we have discussions about money, and too often they say they have never had such conversations before! 

Money is not only a central reality of family relationships, but it is also a central reality in our relationships with people, institutions, and causes beyond family life.

So how do we spend the money we have?

Are we inclined to save it so we will be prepared for emergencies, or do we spend it because we might not have it later?

Do we like to give our money to friends, to charities, to churches, to political parties, to educational institutions?

Where are we, in fact, giving our money?

Are we concerned about whether our gift is tax efficient?

How would we feel if people used the money we gave them in ways other than those for which we gave it?

Imagine giving a thousand pounds to someone thinking the money would be used to help needy children, only to find out that it’s been used to pay for a foreign holiday.  Would we get angry?

How does having, or not having, money affect our self-esteem, our sense of value?

Do we feel good about ourselves when we have a lot of money?

If we do not have much money, do we feel bad about ourselves?

Is a low or even modest income a source of embarrassment?

Or do we think money doesn’t matter at all?

How do we feel when people ask us for money?

If you are of a certain age you may remember Pink Floyd’s song Money, from their Dark Side of the Moon album. It highlights how money and power go together, and how it can make you selfish!  That’s what money does.  There is also a real relationship between power and a sense of self-worth. I’m sure you’ve known times when money has been used to control people or events.  Perhaps you’ve done that yourself.

It’s worth asking ourselves, do we use our money to make things happen the way we want them to happen? Do we ever use money simply to give others the freedom to do what they want to do? A few years ago Barbara and I gave some money to another church saying that they could use it as they see fit.  A year or so later we heard that they’d used it to take their staff away on a retreat, it was a real spiritual treat for all!

If any of these questions makes us uncomfortable, it may be because talking about money is hard for us, harder that talking about sex or religion!  This is most noticeable when we must do some fund-raising, we feel being up front is not easy! 

Henri Nouwen (see footnote [i]) says that this has something to do with the intimate place in our heart where we need security, and we do not want to reveal our need or give away our security to someone who might, maybe only accidentally, betray us.  This highlights an independent spirit we all have, whose voice can shout very loudly when we’re being asked to financially support someone or a project!!  “If I give will I have enough for myself?”

But that is not surprising, after all we live in a culture where we’re encouraged to secure our own future.  Such an attitude cannot be supported by Biblical teaching, however.  I know I have preached on this numerous times before; Jesus knows our need for security. He is concerned, because security seems to be such a deep human need.  Remember His words from Matthew’s Gospel,

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21).

So what is your treasure?  God, or money?  This is saying, if our heart is divided we cannot find security.  In Luke 16 Jesus says something very radical:

‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.’ (Luke 16:13).

What is your security base; God or Mammon?

So if we believe God, (which we do), is calling us to appoint a paid worker for children’s and families’ work, are we trusting in God or self to fund such a role?

If Jesus were here I think this is what He would ask, “Is your security in God or Mammon?”  We cannot put our security in God and also in money. We have to make a choice. Jesus’ soundbite is “Put your security in God, and His kingdom.”  We have to make a choice where we want to belong, to the world or to God. Our trust, our basic trust, Jesus teaches, has to be in God.  As long as our real trust is in money, the harsh reality is that we cannot be true members of the Kingdom of God.

All the questions I have asked are simply to help us consider whether we are, perhaps, still putting our security in money.

“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  (Prov. 11:28).

What is the true base of your security?

Is your security base based on the truth of the ways of Scripture, and so of the Kingdom, or on the lies of the ways of the world?

Time to think

Read the two passages from Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13 & Matthew 6:19-24 & 33-34) and let them speak to you afresh in light of fund-raising as ministry.  As God speaks to you why not write down (in your journal) what you sense God is saying to you.

In the text of the sermon there were many questions.  Don’t feel that you have to go through them all in one go, instead choose a couple to ponder on each day over the coming weeks.

As you ponder on them why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others?

Prayer Response

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;

teach me to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labour and not to seek reward,

except that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen.

St. Ignatius Loyola


[i] Henri J.M. Nouwen, “The spirituality of fundraising” published by Upper Room Ministries, (2004)

The Spirituality of Fund-raising: Part 1

Fund raising as ministry

How do you view fund-raising? 

Do you see it as someone else’s job because you’re just too embarrassed to ask someone for some money?  I know that is how I have felt.  But is this the right attitude to have? 

Reading Henri Nouwen’s book “The Spirituality of Fund-raising” has opened my eyes to seeing fund-raising in a new way, a way firmly based on Scripture, God’s true word to us.

So how do you see fund-raising?  Is it a response to a crisis? Is it a form of ministry?

Henri Nouwen sees it very definitely as ministry!  Why? Well it does two things.  First it gives us an opportunity to announce our vision (where we want to get to) and mission, and secondly it gives others an opportunity to join us in our vision and mission. 

Scripture tells us that vision and mission are central to the life of God’s people.  The simple truth is this; without vision we perish, and with no vision of where we want to get to, our mission loses its way.

Our first reading from 2 Kings was gloomy.  But it clearly tells us what happens if you have no vision; you have no mission!  (2 Kings 21:1-9).  King Manasseh did not seek God, he did not listen to the words of God’s prophets, therefore he wilfully led God’s people into sin.  His actions angered God and they showed that he had no faith in God.  Not listening to God led to destruction.

On one occasion when we were praying about the children’s and families’ position that Mel Ramos will be taking up, this quote was shared…

‘Vision without action is a dream.

Action without vision is a nightmare.

Vision and action together changes the world.’

(From a resource titled “The Bible in One Year”)

We believe God has given us a vision here that involves stepping up through the gears with regards to children’s and families’ work.  If we don’t act on it our vision is only a dream.  Dreams go nowhere if they stay as dreams; action is needed, and action leads to mission.

We believe that God has shown us a need; for families and young people to be pointed towards God through His Son Jesus.  Such a vision will need resourcing in order for us to meet their needs.  So this vision will lead us, Jesus’ Church here, (that’s all of us), into new directions as it will give us new opportunities for mission (Acts 16:9-10).  This vision calls us to exercise faith in God, not in ourselves, but in God alone. This vision gives us courage to speak when we might want to remain silent (Acts 18:9).

So, fund-raising as ministry, ministry we are all called to, gives us an opportunity to invite people to journey with us in our vision and mission in a clear and confident way.  Such a ministry is not begging, instead we’re saying “We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you — your energy, your prayers, and your money — in this work to which God has called us.”  Success depends on us believing in this vision and mission. 

Another reason that fund-raising is ministry is that it is a “call” to conversion.  What, a call to conversion?  How?

Well it works both ways, whether you’re receiving or giving it doesn’t matter, for however you are responding to the vision, you are being drawn together to others by God, who is about to do a new thing through your collaboration (see Isa. 43:19).

So what is conversion about?  According to Henri Nouwen to be converted means “to experience a deep shift in how we see and think and act.”  Christian conversion also involves being clothed in the mind of God.  The outworking of this is that we come to our senses, just as the younger son did when he was starving far from his true home (Luke 15:17-20).  So, Christian conversion is a shift of attention in which we set our mind on divine things (Matt. 16:23).  Paul in Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

Fund-raising as ministry involves a real conversion. Does that make sense to you? It did to me.  If you catch the vision, then that vision has changed you, you are converted.  You see things in a new way and want to be involved in experiencing its transformative power because you know, believe and trust that it will make a difference. 

If we apply this to fund-raising then it is ministry, because ministry is about inviting people to relate in a new way to the resources they have.  So, in prayer ministry, for example, you believe that prayer changes people and situations for the better.  This gives people a spiritual vision that God does care and that He is able to change situations, and to change you, so you too come more into line with His plumb line truth.  Prayer ministry is there for the spiritual benefit of all who are involved.

As Henri Nouwen says, “Fund-raising from the point of view of the gospel says to people: ‘I will take your money and invest it in this vision only if it is good for your spiritual journey, only if it is good for your spiritual health.’”

You become richer spiritually by giving in accordance with God’s calling.  The Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 9:11 said, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity…”

I hope that you can see that making connections with those we’re asking is important if we want others to really get behind what we’re doing.  It’s much better for all concerned if we don’t merely receive a cheque.  Therefore, in sharing our vision we’re wanting to enter into a relationship with the hearers because we want givers to be fully on board, for when they are they will spread the word about what we’re doing, which in turn may encourage others to give!  This is natural organic evangelism.

We will fail to raise funds if we think that fund-raising is an unspiritual activity.  I think I can see now that fund-raising is not only a secular activity.  As a form of ministry, fund-raising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.  So, fund-raising has to help us with our conversion too. Are we willing to be converted from our fear of asking, from our anxiety about being rejected or feeling humiliated, from our depression when someone says, “No, I’m not going to get involved in your project”? When we have gained the freedom to ask without fear, in other words to see fund-raising as a form of ministry, then fund-raising will be good for our spiritual life too.

Remember, as we engage in this ministry we are not alone.  We believe that God has a vision for us here, to see His Kingdom grow through people coming to faith in Jesus.  We will achieve this if we stay connected to Jesus.  Remember His teaching on the vine…?

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

With him, we can do anything because we know that God surrounds us with an abundance of blessings. So, those who need money and those who can give money meet on the common ground of God’s love. 

“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

When we shift our attitude about fund-raising – that it is ministry to which all are called, then we can boldly share God’s vision for this place. As we share we are giving others an opportunity to join us in God’s mission as we work towards His vision for us.

Time to think

As you ponder the questions below why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

If “ministry is, first of all, receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we minister” what do you think this blessing is?  Is it catching a glimpse of the face of God?

In fund-raising ministry, we are striving to give people a spiritual vision of the things God is calling us to do.  If people catch this spiritual vision they have experienced conversion. How did your own spiritual conversion to be a follower of Jesus change your outlook on life?  Did it say anything to you about the generosity of God?  If so, what did it say about this?

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

This verse teaches that if we live to give, God will see to it that we receive: but if we live only to get, God will see to it that we lose.  This principle applies not only to giving money, but also to the giving of ourselves in ministry to others.  What ministry has God called you to here?  How are you moving forward with this ministry?

Prayer Response

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;

teach me to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labour and not to seek reward,

except that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen

St. Ignatius Loyola

The grace of giving

The grace of giving

Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash

Based on 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A man said:

“If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.”

“If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you—every single minute.”

“If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”

God was touched, so out of grace and love He gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent… and then He waited, and waited, and waited. Then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.” 1

This is how many people think about giving to God. They first give excuses, and, then dismiss Him, yet… God is still gracious and generous.

It can be difficult to talk about money, but there are over 2000 references to money in scripture, and… the Bible urges us to give our money to God.

As we heard in our reading, Paul urges the church of Corinth to give because the church of Macedonia gave.  But giving is a challenge.  However, there are benefits to that challenge, because giving is itself an act of grace, and this is highlighted in our passage from 2 Corinthians.  In fact, the word grace (“charis”) occurs five times in 2 Corinthians 8:1–9.

It is a wonderful thing when Christians enter into the grace of giving.  Paul shows us a number of benefits when our giving is motivated by grace. 2

One benefit is Joy in times of testing.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2, NIV) 

The example of the churches in Macedonia should encourage you.  Even though they were going through a hard time they still wanted to give.  In fact, they begged to give!  So even if you are going through difficult times, God will still be faithful to you.  He will still provide for you.  That’s the abundance that God gives you in times of testing.

It’s also possible to have wealth through poverty.  Studies show poorer people generally seem to have a greater ability to identify with those in need, have a greater longing for the coming of the kingdom of God, and, as a result, tend to release their finances more easily.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. (2 Corinthians 8:3–5, NIV)

Paul also talks about how the Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord (v.5).  This is highlighting our need to have an attitude of sacrifice and joy in our giving.  You see Paul is laying down the principle that people who give generously out of love for the Lord and His church grow and mature in their faith because they don’t count the cost.

Paul goes on to say that giving tests our love for Jesus, as we prove our love by the way we give. This brings us to a major implication:  There is no way to grow to spiritual maturity without committing your finances to the Lord. It’s possible for Jesus to have our money and not have our hearts, but he cannot have our hearts without our money… because money is so entwined with our soul.

Some say that the average person spends 50 percent of their time thinking about money.  How accurate that is I don’t know, BUT I do believe that our handling of money defines our affections, the things we truly treasure, and how tightly we are bound to the world.

There are many “reasons” why we can’t give.  “It’s too hard.”  “I have so many obligations.”  But God’s Word says to excel in this act of grace now.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

The GRACE of GIVING was first revealed in the life of Jesus.  Jesus was rich.  He was God’s Son.  He resided in Heaven.  When He came to Earth, He didn’t decide to be born in a rich palace. Instead, He chose to be born into a poor family. He was born in a borrowed cradle, preached from a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, ate His Last Supper in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed grave.  He who made everything laid it all down and entered into total poverty that weI might be rich. The truth is this: through His poverty we have eternal wealth!

So Jesus has made everyone rich but… He himself was in total poverty for His entire adult life. That should say something about our desire for money.  We shouldn’t worry about it, and we shouldn’t seek it above anything else.

This leads me to the next benefit of the grace of giving. Giving in Grace increases my willingness to do God’s will.

And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  (2 Corinthians 8:10, NIV)

There is a great difference between promise and performance.  The Corinthians had boasted to Titus a year before that they would share in the special collection (2 Cor. 8:6), but… they did not keep their promise.

In 2 Corinthians 8:10–12 Paul emphasises the willingness to give.  You see, grace giving must come from a willing heart; it cannot be coerced or forced.

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:11, NIV)

Note that Paul only gives one command in these verses about giving: that it should be proportionate.  You see I am to give sacrificially, and that is likely to be a different amount to someone else.  The Bible doesn’t say that we should give equally.  However, we are commanded, though, to give equal sacrifice.

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”   (2 Corinthians 8:14–15, NIV)

This isn’t Robin Hood… for God doesn’t steal from the rich and give to the poor. That is socialism.  God doesn’t give everyone the same amount.  No, what God gives us is miraculous blessings.  When I am in need, God readily uses someone else to provide for my need.  Likewise, when someone else is in need, God uses me to help them.

The bottom line is this; it doesn’t matter how much you make.  What matters is with how much grace you give.

In the name of the Father…

1 Lois Cheney, God is No Fool, by Lois Cheney, 1969, Abindgon Press, Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002).

2 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 655.

Sunday 3rd March 2019

The biggest slice of pie

The biggest slice of pie

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (NIV).

A brother and sister returned from school hungry.  Remembering the pie they’d had earlier in the week Frank said he’d cut it in half whilst his sister, Jessica, could pour them some milk to drink.  When Frank put it in on the table Jessica said, “Look what you have done!  You’ve given me the small slice and kept the big slice for yourself.” “Well, how would you have done it?” Frank asked.  “If I were serving the pie,” said Jessica, “I would have given you the large slice and kept the smaller slice for myself.” “Well, what are you complaining about? That’s exactly what I’ve done!”

We might laugh at that story, but selfishness and greed is a very serious subject.

Every day we see people who not only want the biggest slice of the pie for themselves, they want it all.  So Jesus, knowing what we’re like, told a story about a man who was like that.  This man was very rich.  He had a large, fertile farm which produced very good crops.  Notice what Jesus said: “the ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.”  What that says to me is that the man didn’t put in any extra hard work in order to get a good crop.  It was a blessing from God.  Perhaps that’s why the man said: “What should I do?  I have had such a large harvest that I don’t have room in my barns to store all of it.”

So I ask you… “What should he do”?  He should have shared some of what he had with those who didn’t have very much.

Is that what the man did? No, instead he said, “I know what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of everything. Enjoy it. Eat, drink, and be merry.'”  God said to the rich man, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything?”

Because of God’s goodness towards us He has given most of us more than we need; we are indeed rich in Him.  But do we really believe that?  The question is, what will we do with what God has given to us?  Will we share it with those who don’t have as much, or will we greedily keep it for ourselves?  Is our faith and relationship with Jesus stored away, for us to use just when we want to?  Our faith and relationship with Jesus is not just to be stored away for a rainy day.

God is wanting us to go out and use our faith by living it.  If it is going to grow we are going to have to share it by living it.  How do we live our faith?  By involving God in every area of our life. To do this we need to get to know God. And we do this through prayer, reading our Bibles, and hanging out with other believers.

In getting to know God He wants us to ask Him to protect us from evil and sin, and to ask Him to give us the wisdom and courage to make good choices.  As we do these things we will find we are sharing our faith, thus, it shapes our lives, it takes us on a journey with Jesus. We won’t use up all our faith, for Godly faith is limitless, and as we live by faith we will learn from it.

So how ready are you to be a better disciple of Jesus by walking His path of eternal life?  Are you ready to let Him disciple you?  Are you ready to be taught by Him and…when necessary, disciplined by Him? By saying “yes” to this you are showing a willingness to grow in faith and so produce a rich crop for God to harvest in the future for His glory. The wonderful blessing is that as we live our faith we discover the beautiful generosity of God.

So remember the warning that Jesus gave to the listeners of his story… Don’t store things away. If you do you’re really only thinking of yourself.  Recognise that what you’ve got is from God, be thankful and generous with all that you have, especially your faith, and share it with others.  When we are thankful & generous with what God has given us, especially our faith, He will bless us with a full prosperous life.