Lessons on Charity from a Child

In Isaiah 11:6 there is a prophesy about the birth of Jesus, “a little child shall lead them.”  A humble baby was the form God used to teach the world the way of salvation.  I believe God often uses children to teach us His lessons today also.

So it is with the story of Rachel Beckwith. Her life can teach us the ways of Christ. Rachel was a giving child from and early age. At 5 years old, she heard about an organization called Locks of Love, a charity that takes donations of human hair from donors and creates wigs for people who have lost their own hair because of cancer or other diseases. Rachel unselfishly had her own hair cut off and sent to Locks of Love. Learning how it added dignity to a suffering person’s life, she grew her hair out for a few years and donated it again!

Then when she was 8 years old, her church began raising money to build wells in Africa through an organization called charity:water. Rachel couldn’t believe it when she learned that many children in Africa had no clean water. She didn’t just feel bad, she acted. She acted by giving up her ninth birthday party.  She gave friends and family a special request.  Instead of giving her presents, would they donate $9 each to charity:_water for water projects in Africa.  She sent up a birthday page for donations at the charity:water website.  In her own words recorded on the page, she let’s us know she hoped to raise $300.

I first heard of this type of campaign at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. I thought, “What an idea!”  A kid giving up their birthday presents to give a drink of water to a child.  It sound like Jesus to me. (Mark 9:41).

Rachel’s 9th birthday was June 12, 2011.  She had her donation site set up and told her friends.  Unfortunately she only raised $220.  She was a little disappointed but the story doesn’t end there.

ON July 20, Rachel was with her family riding in a car when two trucks collided to create a 13-car pileup. Their car was hit and Rachel was left in critically condition.  The rest of her family was unhurt.

Church members and friends, seeking some way of showing support, began donating on Rachel’s birthday page — charitywater.org/Rachel.

Her family and friends told Rachel at her bedside—not knowing whether she could hear them — that she had exceeded the $47,544 that the singer Justin Bieber had raised for charity:water on his 17th birthday.

When it was clear that Rachel would never regain consciousness, the family decided to remove life support. Her parents donated her hair one final time to Locks of Love, and her organs to other children.

After her passing, news began to spread about Rachel’s last fund-raiser. Donations poured in, often in $9 increments, from all over the world.  So far her website has raised over $1 Million dollars for clean water in Africa! This outpouring is explained this way:

Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water said,
“Adults are humbled by the unselfishness of this little girl.”

Rachel’s mom is planning a trip on the anniversary of her daughter’s death next year to see some of the wells being drilled in Africa in her daughter’s name. She said.

“It’ll be overwhelming to see Rachel’s wells, to see what my 9-year-old daughter has done for people all over the world, to meet the people she has touched.”

Lord may we all learn the lesson of unselfish activism from this one child’s sacrifice.

If you’d like to give to Rachel’s last birthday wish go to: http://mycharitywater.org/Rachel/

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Sand Dollars

One of the areas that is thought about the least yet impacted the most during a person’s last 30 Days on this planet is their finances.  In their last month most people stop thinking about paying their bills, saving their money or earning that first million.  Their thoughts instead turn to their relationships, their regrets or their eternal home. If they do think about money, those thoughts are usually motivated by concern for a loved one.  There is either a desire not to leave a financial burden to their families or instructions on how to obtain inheritance carefully set aside for those they love.

No, with 30 Days to live there is no longer a hustle and bustle to earn but an urgency to give.  People become generous, even frivolous at times with money.  No longer looking at money as the goal but as a tool to bring some pleasure to themselves and others with their fleeting few days.  When we think about it, isn’t that the true purpose of money?  It is at best a temporary tool to make life better while we’re here.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

We shouldn’t build our lives on money or around obtaining it because it’s temporary.  Sand Dollars is what they are.  (No, not the kind on the beach I’m cleverly using the same wording.) The money we have is made of sand, here a little while then washed away.  Ask anyone who has build their life on the pursuit of money…they will tell you in the last 30 days of life it’s meaningless.  To be wise and build on the rock we must look at what God says about money.

How, begin by tithing.  By giving God back the first portion of all He has given us, we are in fact acknowledging that He is the giver of all we have.

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! – Malachi 3:8-10

The tithe doesn’t belong to us.  It is the Lord’s.  He doesn’t tell us to give it but to bring it because it belongs to Him.  After that, ask God what else to give and be generous.  It isn’t always money He wants but a giving attitude, open your home, give rides or serve in church.  A great way is to give even AFTER you have gone.  People with 30 Days to Live often think of that also.

Remember held money is temporary money. Money given is a seed. A seed that can sprout endlessly all the way into eternity.

Some ways to build God’s Kingdom after you depart this planet are:

  • Take out a low-cost, term life insurance policy with the your local church as the beneficiary. (Please do this after providing one for your family, not before.)
  • Set your estate up to tithe to your local church as your assets are distributed.
  • Name the charity of your choice with a lump sum in your will. (Please see your attorney to set up these last two.)

By doing any of these your finances will actually be building the Kingdom of God on the earth even after you’ve gone on to glory!

Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank you for every good thing you’ve given me in my life.  My home, job all the money I have come from you.  Help me to always acknowledge you as my Lord through tithing then help me to be generous with what remains.  I don’t want to be controlled by money but use it as a tool for your Kingdom.

Thoughts for Today

  • How often do I think about money?  Is my life dominated by the need for more money, the pressure to pay bills or the desire to have certain lifestyle?
  • Do I put God first in my finances?

Action List

  • If you’re not tithing, start now..
  • If you area tither, pray about ways you can be more generous.
  • Set up a plan to give to work of God (such as your local church) after your death.

30 Days of Putting God First – Part 2

If we only had 30 days to live an important change would be to put God first in every area of our lives as we prepare to spend eternity with Him.  Yesterday we discussed giving God the first day of every week and the first part of every day.  Today we look at two very practical ways to put God first.

Give God the First Part of My Income

As a person faces eternity, somehow money loses its importance.  The last 30 days of a person’s life they become extremely generous, realizing that you can’t take it with you.  Jesus told us to store up treasure in heaven, not here on earth.  The best way to do that is to give to God first, before everything else.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first part of everything your land produces. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine. – Proverbs 3:9-10

As we honor the Lord by returning the first 10% of everything He has given us back to Him, He then increases our blessings.  If we wait until after the bills, after home repairs etc. there’s usually little left to give.  If we give to God first, He multiplies what’s left supernaturally.

“I never would have been able to tithe on the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” — JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, SR.

As we are faithful in the temporary things He can trust us with eternal things.

Give God the First Consideration of Every Decision

People will ask, “Does God really care where we work or where we live?”  YES, He does. He cares about the smallest details of our lives because He loves us.  (The very hairs on your head are all numbered. – Matthew 10:30)  There is nothing to small for Him to care and nothing to big for Him to handle.

If we had 30 days to live we would ask God to heal us.  In the grand scheme of the countless years of eternity and the vastness of the universe, whether one person lives 100 years of 30 years is meaningless.  What I’m trying to say is, to God all our requests are little things so don’t be afraid to ask.

Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:6

By asking God what His will is the various parts of our lives we involve Him in our day-to-day lives.  If He’s involved, then we have His wisdom, His presence and His blessing.

Remember, Give God…

  • The First Day of Every Week
  • The First Part of Every Day
  • The First Portion of My Income
  • The First Consideration of Every Decision

And you will soon find yourself living for eternity.

President Obama Targets Charitable Giving

President Obama’s recently released budget includes a proposal for a cap on charitable contribution deductions. He says this cap is being proposed to equalize the value of a contribution deduction among taxpayers in different tax brackets.

Will President Obama’s proposals spell disaster for churches and other charities? It’s hard to tell but we certainly know that churches wouldn’t benefit from it.

Here’s an example of the effect of the President’s proposed limit on itemized deductions, if enacted by Congress. A wealthy taxpayer in the 39.6 percent bracket makes a $100,000 contribution to his church. This contribution will result in tax savings of $28,000. Without the President’s limit on itemized deductions, the same contribution would result in tax savings of $39,600. In other words, the same contribution would be $11,500 more costly under the President’s proposal.

You may say “Well who cares if rich people don’t get their tax deductions?” but should a wealthy American be penalized simply because they’ve earned well? Consider Pastor Rick Warren who earns millions a year but gives 90% to his church and lives on the remaining 10%.   He would be liable for a huge tax burden that would decrease the amount given to church to pay the tax.

What about average Americans who may give sacrificially?  Twice in my life I’ve given away more than 50% of my income to my local church. I would not have been able to pay the taxes on the total amount.

Our tax laws are structured to encourage people to donate to charities.  In these tough econmic times Mr. President we don’t need the government to take money out of our churc offering plates.  Leave our donation incentives alone!!

Please write your congressman and tell them to not hurt our churches by taking away charitable giving tax incentives.

Personal Growth Part 3 – What is Your Plan?

If you don’t plan you won’t grow (see Personal Growth part 1).  So let’s get some concrete, measurable goals that we can make the most effective us of our lives for God’s Kingdom.

Psalm 90:12 – Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.

First, Establish a Daily Prayer Time

Psalm 57:2 – I will cry to God Most High, who will fulfill His purposes for me.

Commit to two things, how long and when.  Example: “I will pray for 15 minutes a day every morning.”  Let me say this, all of these are goals to help us to stretch ourselves and grow.  There’s no condemnation, no legalism…use these goals as guides.  If you prayed five days and missed one, don’t get all upset.  Say “I prayed for five days.  Awesome.  Let’s start again.”  Now if you look at your prayer time and you’ve missed three days in a row well, either your passion for God has slipped or your life is out of balance.

Second, Have a Regular Bible Study

Psalm 119:104-105 – Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

Having daily Bible reading is very important but we should all have a weekly study time also.  In our study time we’re not just reading but spending time in a passage, looking up the meaning of words, studying what was happening during that time, looking up related passages etc.  In general going deeper on one section of scripture or studying one idea throughout the whole Bible.

Example: “I will spend fifteen minutes a day reading the word at lunch and One hour a week in study on Sundays.  This week I’m studying all the Bible references to gossip.”

Next Create Personal Accountability

Proverbs 15:32-33 – If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.  Fear of the Lord teaches a person to be wise; humility precedes honor.

Someone once told me “You’re only as accountable as you want to be.”  That’s a true statement.  No one can force you to open up and share your struggles or ask another person to encourage you pursue your calling. This really is the place where people either soar or crash.  We are all human and left to ourselves we will take the easy road.  We need godly input from people we respect.

Example: “I will make myself accountable by joining a Connect Group and opening up to the leader about my struggles.  I will choose one brother or sister who is strong in an area I am weak, to keep me accountable.”

Keep Church Attendance a Priority

Hebrews 10:24-25 – Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.

How can anyone think of personal growth apart from the local church?  A huge part of growing spiritually is the selflessness that comes from being part of a larger vision.  It’s no longer about me and my life but about what God is doing with our church and in our city.

The poor priorities we have where we choose kids sporting events, overtime and leisure activities over obeying scripture to gather together is one of the main things that causes us to stagnate.  We must seek firs the kingdom of God.

Example: “I commit to never miss church unless ill or on vacation.”  “No Molly you can’t play soccer Sunday at 11am because we have church.”

Work at Positioning Yourself

1 Corinthians 14:3 – One who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.

Whatever your gift is use it to build the body up.  Don’t wait to be asked!  If you’re not skilled yet in the gift or if someone has told you that you have a gift, seek out mentoring.  Get around other people who are already succeeding in that area.  Study the word on the specific gift.  Etc.

Example: If you feel called to teach and there’s no opportunity to teach adults, position yourself by using my gift of teaching in the children’s church or in a Small Group.

2 Peter 3:17 – But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Give Generously

Mal 3:8-10 – Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you ask, In what way did we ever rob you? In tithes and offerings You are under a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, says the Lord of Hosts, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!

The tithe is the minimum to call yourself a believer.  Please don’t put comments out about how it’s Old Testament.  Abraham tithed 700 years before the law was written (Hebrews 7:4-10) and Jesus said you should tithe in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23).

We should all be giving above and beyond the tithe because it’s a supernatural thing that increases our faith!  What makes me laugh is when people say, “Well, I pray and just give what God tells me to.  I’m not obligated to tithe.  It’s legalism.” Because they always are people who give less than 10%!!  Do you mean the same God who raised all the standards for those under grace (not just don’t commit adultery but don’t even look at a woman with lust) is going to lower the standard for giving?  Ha!

Example: “I commit to tithe (10%) and to prayerfully give 3% to hunger relief.”

Serve God by Serving People

1 Peter. 4:10 – Each one should use whatever gift he’s received to serve others. (niv)

Serving is everyone’s responsibility.  There should be no spectators in the kingdom of God.  I was blessed by a dear sister who showed up for the back pack give away and said, “I want to help but I can’t stand long because of physical limitations.  What can I do?”  I had her sit at the table and stuff the back packs with the pencil cases.  Her attitude was she wanted to serve in any way she could.  Wonderful!

Example: “I will serve in the Lord by ushering and coming to the church work day.”

Obey the Sabbath Principle

Ex 16:28-29 – How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions?” the Lord asked Moses. “Do they not realize that I have given them the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest?

Mar 2:27 – The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath.

I wrote on the Sabbath in Personal Growth Part 2 so I won’t say anymore here.

Example: I will rest one day a week from my work (including phone calls) and take one week vacation a year with my family.

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Plan to Grow.  If you’re the same Christian you are next year as you are this year…If you don’t look a little more like Jesus, than you’re out of God’s will! Anything God blesses grows!