Generosity

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October 1

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

IMHO one of the biggest tragedies of this pandemic has not been the loss of jobs. It has not been the shuttering of businesses. It has not been the sicknesses, the suffering, nor even the deaths that have come (no matter how bad that is for some). It has not been the loss of income. It has not been the fear. It has not been the masks or the lack of in-person learning that some children have had to endure or the sheer inconvenience. No. I think it has been something much more insidious. Something that has ripped out the core of some people. What is it?

Loneliness.

People feeling all alone. People isolated. People feeling as though no one cares. Some could go days without human interaction of any kind. No call. No visit. No contact, especially of the human kind. We have tended to wrap ourselves into our own cocoon and safely ensconce ourselves in a self-made protective barrier. Or so we think.

Why am I thinking of this today? Because of this verse of Scripture I read: “But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there shall be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (I Cor. 12:24-26 emphasis mine)

The tragedies of this pandemic are many. But being alone may be the greatest. It should never be. One of the challenges of being the church is its calling to reach out to all.  That includes those who are holed up in their bunker, their cocoon of “safety.”

“Father, help me not to be guilty of keeping my eyes inward. Help me to look out for others and to share their burden.”

July 15

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

One of the characteristics of society today-truly of every culture-is selfishness. “Me first.” “It’s all about me.” “I’m worth it.” “As a matter of fact, I do own the road.” “I don’t care what you think. I’m going to do it my way.” Frank Sinatra even had a song where he bragged, “I did it my way.”

That selfishness oozes over into just about every aspect of our lives. In reference to possessions we call it hoarding. In reference to finances we call it “saving for a rainy day.” Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with saving. In fact, it is wise and biblical. But. to be miserly, to hoard, to close our eyes to those in need…now that’s wrong! That is being selfish.

I like being generous. I like giving things to people-books, taking people out to eat, etc. I don’t have much. I know when/if the time comes, Jo and I will be on the short end of the stick. Financially, that is.  But when it comes to generosity, we will be able to know we were. We will have to trust God to “reward” our generosity. I read a saying:

“Do your givin’ while you’re livin’, then you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’.”

I’ll never be able to say to myself, “Self, build bigger barns to contain all you have.” What I will be able to do is to know I have treasures laid up in heaven where rust and moth do not destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal.  (Matthew 6: 19-20)

“Father, help me to be a generous person. Help me to never hoard or gather around me for the purpose of keeping to myself. Help me to follow the example of Jesus.”

June 22

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Yesterday was Father’s Day. It turned out to be a right fine day. There was the worship that started it off right. It was good to see some more folks venture out. Each week a new group of people is venturing out.  I came home to a home-grilled meal of salmon, asparagus, baked potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob. Some friends stopped by with ice cream (I am their surrogate father/grandfather). I went to the Y then came home and read a novel the rest of the evening. A nice relaxing day. I am grateful.

Gratitude seems to be a dying art these days. We run around so much trying to meet our own agenda that to take the time to be thankful is lost on us. With inspiration from Chuck Swindoll, I’d like to take a few moments to consider how we often take things for granted.

  • There is a light over my head. Thanks Tom
  • There is electricity pulsing through my house. Thanks again Tom.
  • There is an instrument that allows me to talk to someone miles away. Thanks Alexander.
  • I will soon get in my truck to drive to work. Thanks Henry.
  • On my face are glasses which help me to read. Thanks Ben.
  • We will soon celebrate the 4th of July with a waving flag. Thanks Betsy.
  • My life is given over to Jesus. Thanks mom and grandad.
  • I come home each day to a place of warmth, welcome and love. Thanks Jo.
  • I am called father by two beautiful and special young ladies. Thanks Tami and Janna.
  • I am called “grandpa.” Thanks Braden.
  • I serve a group of people who love me, call me pastor and friend. Thanks OVCF.

I could go on but it would take pages and still not be exhausted. Instead of complaining, let’s be thankful.

“Father, thank you for so much, for so many gifts. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to You for it all.”

May 29

Friday, May 29th, 2020

I always have mixed emotions. I struggle between compassion and hard-heartedness. You don’t find them in our little town because we don’t have an intersection going to an interstate. Or coming off one. People who panhandle. They have signs designed to catch your attention and tug at your heartstrings. Are they really in sorry shape or are they playin’ ya? As the pastor of a church we get calls for help. One guy called and he was staying at McCormick’s Creek State Park’s Canyon Inn. Expensive, even in off-season. He said his car broke down and he was having to stay the night and would we help him by paying for his room for another night? We have a much cheaper-priced hotel in town.  Aaaahhhh No.  About a week later the same voice called asking for gas for his moped to get to work. $25? I asked him if he called last week because I recognized his voice. It was the only honest thing he said. Answer: No again. Awhile back Jo & I were on our way to Ohio and stopped for gas. A guy was sitting at a pump and asked if I had money for gas. First mistake: I should have offered to pay for gas. Second mistake: giving him money for gas. He got in his car and drove away without getting gas. (Smack my head). Ironically, we were driving the interstate and maybe 20-25 miles later and guess who was in the middle with his hood up?

I’m torn because the Bible talks about helping others. About entertaining angels unawares. It tells me to give without expecting anything back. So I struggle with helping or turning my head or just saying no. Stats show many of the panhandlers work together and shuffle around and do rather well. We shouldn’t give to get; we should give to be rewarded; we shouldn’t give to get on God’s good side.

What about you? What do you do? What do you think?

“Father, give me wisdom and discernment to know if I’m being snookered or truly helping someone in need. Help me not to become jaded to helping others.”

May 19

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

As I have stated several times before, I’m reading through the life of Jesus using John MacArthur’s book, One Perfect Life. Part of today’s reading from Luke 12:13-34 was on covetousness. Or maybe it was on God’s provision. Guess that depends on one’s perspective. 🙂

Covetousness is the desire to want more, to have more. Stretching it out, covetousness can lead to hoarding, selfishness, misplaced priorities and wrong thoughts and actions. After telling His listeners to beware of covetousness, He tells the parable of the rich fool who was so impressed with what he had that he decided to build more and bigger barns.  Building bigger barns was not the issue; the heart of the man wanting them built was.  That decision didn’t go so well with him.

But Jesus uses it as a teaching point to tell the people they needed to not pursue earthly things but to be rich toward God. He then gives the teaching about the birds of the air and grain in the field and to seek God’s kingdom first.

I love being a generous person. This covid thing has taught many valuable lessons to all of us if we will listen, but one big one is how quickly earthly things fly away. Covetousness says, “Hold. Gather. Grasp.” Generosity says, “Give. Scatter. Release.” I know it’s much more intricate than that, but the simple way says, “Don’t keep for yourself. Give it away.” I don’t want to be a selfish person, a keeper, a scoop-things-in-close kind of person. I want to be a generous person, a giver, one who sees who he can share with.  I have resigned myself to the fact that unless God intervenes, the end of my life may not be (most probably definitely will not be) spent with a silver spoon, a huge RV (not that I would want one anyway), fancy vehicle, and unlimited spending and travel. But to know I gave away what I can’t take with me anyway will be satisfying.

“Father, help me to keep seeking Your kingdom first. Help me to be a giver, not a taker; a distributor, not a hoarder; generous, not covetous. And then leave the future up to You.”

April 30

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Stuff! So much stuff! When we had to move my sister-in-law from the duplex she lived in (inherited it from us in 2005 when we moved here) to a long-term facility, it was up to us to clean out her place. I’m not sure I had ever seen so much stuff as I had then.  She could be classified as a hoarder to a large extent.  But it made me think about me and Jo. When we got married while in college, we had nothing, except the clothes on our back (and a few others). When we moved to our first ministry we took very little in the smallest U-Haul possible. Our first apartment was sparsely filled. Then Tami came along and you know what that means. Each move brought a bigger moving truck. Stuff!!

One of the good things about the current situation brought on by the pandemic is that it is causing us to pause. Do I really need this? Should I buy this? Should I hold off for a bit? People keep saying that “God has taken away all we hold dear in this pandemic.” Sports? Suspended or cancelled. Work? Unemployed or cut back drastically. Entertainment? Quarantined away. Eating out? Delivery or take out only. I don’t know God’s motives or methods but it sure has had us take pause to consider the fragility of things.  I keep thinking of Jesus’ words: “Why worry about what you will eat or what you will drink?…No man can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:25-33)

Stuff? It’s gone in a matter of seconds. It can’t be taken with us. Ultimately, it will burn up in the fire that will consume everything. Some things are essential like a chair when you’ve given yours away to your daughter who is having to start all over. (We are not Japanese either). Or a weed-eater when the other one bites the dust. Rather than buy, I’m thinking Purge! Now or later it’s outa here! It is much better to give away than to keep buying and receiving.

“Father, help me to make wise choices. Help me to discern what is extra and what is essential…in things and in life.”

April 2

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

In the midst of this pandemic we are going through right now, we are also seeing great acts of giving, of serving. We hear or read of people who are going out of their way to serve. One of the men from the church found himself in the ER parking lot the other night because he was not allowed into the ER after his father suffered a stroke. There were some people (I’m guessing from a local Bloomington church) who were singing and praying in the parking lot for the workers in the ER. There are people who deliver meals and supplies to the house bound (for free).  We have a local grocery store delivering groceries for free. We have local restaurants making food for pick up but also, in some cases, delivering food for free.  There are those performing random acts of kindness. And many more.

What many people are experiencing, perhaps for the first time, is the joy of giving. There have been times when I have experienced a day of the blahs. I found one of the greatest ways of getting out of the doldrums is to give myself away-visit a nursing home, or a hospital, or a shut in. Visit a widow or widower who is lonely. Focus on someone other than myself. What I found is that it wasn’t the other person who was blessed, as much as it was me.

People got the wrong idea when they read “God loves a cheerful giver” and immediately think $$$$. But that’s where they are wrong! There is much more to giving than $$$$. Give your time. Give your talent. Do something for someone else and see the joy that comes back to you.

“Father, help me not to always be looking out for myself. Help me to give myself to others.”

December 25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

You SHOULD NOT be reading this today! You should be with your family and friends, not on the computer.  🙂  And I know what you are thinking: “If I should not be reading this you should not be writing this.”  True that. Except for the fact I still got up early to have my Quiet Time and to get my “mind juices” flowing before starting my day.

This morning the church I pastor will be offering a hot breakfast to the community. We typically have less than on Thanksgiving, but as Jo and I talked yesterday, it is a “crap shoot” to plan on how many to expect. We will still deliver breakfast to those who have requested it, plus to the civil servants and gas station workers who have to work this morning. At this point, we have about 30 deliveries to make to individuals and the number of workers is usually in the 30 range. So my drivers (I’m in charge of deliveries) will stay busy. We have generally served close to 20-30 on a typical Christmas morning. Who knows today?

Why do we do it?  For several reasons actually. One, several years ago I was asked by the Chamber of Commerce (of which I’m a board member) if the church does anything for Christmas. The local UMC does a lunch so we certainly weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. Don’t need two churches competing over that. So we offered a breakfast. Two, it had already been on my heart to do something so I took it as confirmation we were to take this step. Three, and this is my motivation: I don’t believe anyone should spend Christmas alone. For various reasons people do. I want to give them an opportunity to not be. Some are down and out on their life situations and are alone because of loss or because they have no family left locally. NO ONE should spend Christmas alone. And four, I believe it is what Jesus would do. His famous words “When I was hungry, sick, in prison…” motivate me to reach out. Those who help, those who give up some time on Christmas morning to help, are showing that same spirit.  I’m not opposed to but am not part of the social justice crowd. I prefer to do it one person at a time.

So very soon I will be heading off to the Lion’s Club where we offer the breakfast. It is right in the heart of the town and can be easily accessed by walking.  If you happen to be reading this, I would appreciate your prayers for safety for my drivers and for someone to not feel so alone this Christmas.

And I pray God’s blessing on your day of celebration of the birth of our Savior.

December 6

Friday, December 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Generosity vs Stinginess.

I think one of the overarching themes of this time of the year is generosity. The idea of Jesus’ words through Paul (“It is more blessed to give than to receive”) are, perhaps, never more prevalent than at Christmas. I know for me I get great joy in giving and seeing the faces when that gift if accepted and opened.

In many minds the “seed” for that generosity is a somewhat mythical creature named Santa Claus. I don’t get on the bandwagon about SC. I have bigger fish to fry. That is not a battle I choose to fight because, frankly, I don’t care. I really don’t. Those fools who say things like, “SANTA had the same letters as SATAN; they are just mixed up a little” are fighting a losing battle. That is just dumb. The legend of SC comes from the supposed inspiration of a real person, St. Nicolas. His idea? Generosity. Seeing a family or someone in need and trying to help.

Granted, some have taken it too far. Christmas is often more about trees, gifts, lights, etc than about celebrating the birth of Christ. But rather than protest in rebellion to that, we ought to use that as a springboard to be the most generous people around. Generosity ought to be one of the “calling cards” of the Christ-follower, not stinginess.

After all, the greatest example of generosity is the story we want to promote: the generosity of a loving God to lost humanity with the greatest gift of all.

“Father, help me to be a generous person not one who is stingy and wrapped up in himself. Help me to follow Your example.”