Just some thoughts on giving:
Before Roy & I moved to Lewiston we came to visit Pastor Mike & Debbie, to see the housing area and visit the church. It was the weekend of the Women's Christmas lunch. Watching over 100 women hug and catch up with one another, I was overwhelmed and a bit intimidated by the love I saw displayed. There was so much comradery and joy in just getting together.
I see the same thing in Africa. In Kenya, we work at the WEEP (Women’s Empowerment Equality Project) centers in the Slums of Kiberia and Gnong. This is a program designed to save the lives of widowed or abandoned mothers suffering from advanced stages of AIDS sparing their children from becoming orphans. The WEEP program commits to providing medical care, nutrition, vitamins, rent assistance and access to ARV drugs; it also assures that their children have school uniforms and other necessary resources to attend school. Once physically stable, the mother is taught a trade to become self-sufficient and break through the impoverished cycle.
We sat with the ladies and listened to each of their testimonies – how they had been found dying of AIDS but now, because of the centers, able to function independently side by side with God. We went to speak to them about hope and encourage them in their race, but instead they touched our hearts with increased faith. We walked out of each place a different person.
Our friend, Evelyn, knew this place of need. She had been introduced to the WEEP center 2 years earlier. Now, free of the ravages of AIDS, she is sharing her testimony and saving lives daily throughout the Kiberia Slums. One such woman Evelyn took us to see was Esther. We found her drifting on her couch; she had not consumed any food or drink in 2 days which left her de-hydrated and confused. She was 32 and weighed in at 62 pounds. She had an 8 year old son with very little time left in life. With the help of a nutritionist and nurse she was given water with re-hydration salts as well as a bit of rice. Within an hour she could speak a little and began responding to questions. Sponsorship money had been donated to her that day so while waiting on Doctors Without Borders to arrive and transport her to the hospital, we processed her into the program. Esther passed away a few months later; however her son has been well taken care of by relatives and is finishing school. Sometimes they are just not found in time. This experience propelled Roy and I to begin a project through Eden's Song called the Esther Project to care for these people while they wait to be sponsored into the WEEP center.
Paul says to the Macedonians in 2 Cor 8:2-7 “Although they were going through hard times and were very poor, they were glad to give generously. 3 They gave as much as they could afford and even more, simply because they wanted to. 4 They even asked and begged us to let them have the joy of giving their money for God's people. 5 And they did more than we had hoped. They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us, just as God wanted them to do. 6 Titus was the one who got you started doing this good thing, so we begged him to have you finish what you had begun. 7 You do everything better than anyone else. You have stronger faith. You speak better and know more. You are eager to give, and you love us better. Now you must give more generously than anyone else.”
Giving is not always about money. Evelyn shares her knowledge of God’s great goodness and love with the women in the slums; others give time, products, services, knowledge or discipleship. Seek Him and His Kingdom first. Whatever God has purposed your heart to do is what you move into.
“They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us”.
I remember my favorite Christmas was when I was 9 and my siblings were 6, 4, and 2. Daddy was getting his PHD and working as an intern at the hospital and mom was nursing at the same hospital. We didn't have much money so again Christmas would be slim pickins. Though I’m sure that we talked a lot about our hopes of receiving Barbie dolls and train sets, we were pretty sure that wouldn’t happen.
That year my Dad had joined a ‘frozen meat’ club knowing that with each order over a specific dollar amount he would get a ‘fake’ Barbie so over the year he and my mom ordered twice. My mom was a beautiful knitter so she made each of my brothers a sweater embroidered with trains. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken her; she must have knitted late into the evening while we were asleep. The toil it took on both my parents continues to touch me. I still have a picture of us four kids proudly holding our gifts and though I was many years older before I realized the sacrifice, it has always been my favorite year because I knew how much love went into creating that special day just for us!
The Lord has also sacrificed to create days soaked in mercy and grace. His love for us is unfathomable. Just as my parents put us first, so does our Heavenly Papa. God tells Jeremiah in 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” As the years go on and our relationship matures in trust, we learn to stand with conviction on the promises God has given us, salvation for those we are praying for even for the house we've been dreaming of.
In Matthew 2:9-11 it says that “the wise men listened to what the king (Herod) said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They were thrilled and excited to see the star. When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him. (Gold prophetically stands for glory, wisdom and truth, Frankincense was a valuable powder that was burned to make a sweet smell. Myrrh was a valuable sweet-smelling powder often used in perfume.)
And then look at the gifts God has offered us; the gift of salvation through His son Jesus Christ the Hope of Glory and the Holy Spirit who imparts the spiritual gifts.
1 Cor 12 it says that “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. Some of us can speak with wisdom, while others can speak with knowledge, but these gifts come from the same Spirit. To others the Spirit has given great faith or the power to heal the sick 1or the power to work mighty miracles. Some of us are prophets, and some of us recognize when God's Spirit is present. Others can speak different kinds of languages, and still others can tell what these languages mean. But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us.”
Paul brings us a great example through the Macedonians who gave:
1. During affliction
2. In spite of great poverty
3. With great joy
4. Beyond their means 5. Freely.
Here’s the charge:
2 Cor 9:6-7 “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give”.
And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure; “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” Proverb 22:8
Here is the promise:
2 Cor 9:8-11 “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (In the AMP it reads “8And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].) 9 As the, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. (Why, because if I know He will continue to provide out of my lack, then I have no qualms about continuing to give.) 11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.”
Here is the outcome:
2 Cor 9:12-15 “So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. 13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”
Giving isn't just monetary; we give of our love and God will increase the love around us, we give of our spiritual gifts and we will begin to see the manifestation of healing, prophetic declaration and miracles. We can give food, time and hope.
I've seen great examples in my own life:
Our new friend Evelyn (& many like her) gave of herself through and after her fight for life.
My parents sacrificed their own comfort time after time to see a smile on a couple of kids faces.
The Wise Men gave out of their abundance.
God freely gave His one and only Son.
This is the season of giving and all of us have a gift to offer whether it is a monetary gift, something home-made, spending time with someone who is lonely, reading to a child or taking a moment to listen to our spouse.
Give Big of yourself.