Monday, November 30, 2009

Are You in the Giving Spirit?

Recently I became a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northern New Mexico and was paired with an 8 yr. old boy named Christian. On one of our outings I took him to see the new movie based on the classic Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol. It was quite a thrill with the techno animation and in 3-D. Of course, the story itself is pretty powerful. I was reminded how miserable it is to be a miser like Ebenezer Scrooge was and the joy of giving was rekindled as we saw Scrooge transformed due to his visits of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.

Not soon after seeing this movie I listened to the audio book The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn. If you read just one Christian book in 2010, I highly recommend this one. Alcorn sums up the message of his book with six keys of giving. These are reproduced below along with some points to ponder taken from 18 study questions he posted on his web site. Listen for the voice of God’s Spirit as you read and see if God just might be calling you to embrace more of the giving spirit this Christmas and beyond. Someone said, "You’re never more like God than when you give."

Key #1. God owns everything. I’m His money manager.

We are the managers of the assets God has entrusted—not given—to us. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1). The land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants...the silver is Mine and the gold is Mine (Leviticus 25:23; Haggai 2:8). It is required of a steward [property and money manager] that he be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

  1. If God is the owner, then what is my role? Do I have any rights? What are my responsibilities?
  2. Do I fall into the trap of "tipping" God a little each month? If I tithe faithfully, what are my responsibilities with the remaining 90 percent of my income?

Key #2. My Heart Always Goes Where I Put God's Money.

Watch what happens when you reallocate your money from temporal things to eternal things.

  1. Last year, did I give to others (e.g. tithes, offerings, personal gifts) as much as I spent on myself (e.g. entertainment, vacations, club memberships)? How does my giving history reflect my understanding of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:38-39, the second greatest commandment ("Love your neighbor as yourself")?
  2. Specifically, what keeps me from giving more? Am I afraid of giving? Do I trust that God will meet my needs if I give?
  3. How much giving (percentage of my gross income) would it take to make me uncomfortable ... 5%? 10%? 25%? 50%? More?
  4. Do I consider money I’ve given away as part of my ‘net worth’? Do I give the same attention to the money I give as I do to the money I invest?

Key #3. Heaven, not earth, is my home.

We are citizens of "a better country—a heavenly one" (Hebrews 11:16).

  1. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." As God’s steward, am I sinking His money into temporal things, or am I sending it on ahead, using it to advance His Kingdom?
  2. Am I more attached to the things of this world or to the things of God’s Kingdom?
  3. Does the way in which I live my life, spend my time, and handle my money point others to Christ? Am I more excited about the latest release of a Hollywood movie or the spiritual growth of a friend? Do I see a business deal as a prospect for profit or as an opportunity for ministry?

Key #4. I should not live for the dot but for the line.

From the dot—our present life on earth—extends a line that goes on forever, which is eternity in heaven.

  1. Alcorn compares our short lives on earth to a dot and our eternal lives in heaven as a never-ending line that extends from that dot. If God were to audit my finances, would He conclude that I live more for the "dot" or more for the "line"? What would some of His observations be?
  2. Do I consider money I invest as "mine" but money I give as "lost"?
  3. Do all of my purchases or spending have eternal consequences?

Key #5. Giving is the only antidote to materialism.

Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It dethrones me and exalts Him.

  1. Have money and possessions created greater faith or caused greater fear in my life?
  2. Are my possessions "competing" with my giving? If materialism is a "disease," then what is the "cure"?
  3. Which is really most important to me – "building bigger barns" (Luke 12:16-21) or "storing up treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-21)?

Key #6. God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

God gives us more money than we need so we can give—generously.

  1. Why have I been given more than I need? How am I using the "surplus"?
  2. Do I really believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)? How does my belief tangibly prove itself in my life?

To sum it all up, Alcorn says, "You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead."

Seeking an eternal perspective with you,

Pastor Massimo

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