Attitudes In Giving

 

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Few areas of the Christian life can be more misunderstood and frustrating than that of generosity. My entire perspective changed after learning what the Bible actually teaches—suddenly I wanted to be generous. But then I was frustrated by another problem: an unlimited number of needs versus my limited resources. How should I decide where to give? My church, the hungry poor, campus and prison ministries, missionary efforts, radio and television programs, and many other vital ministries needed financial support.

Attitudes in Giving

God evaluates our actions on the basis of our attitudes. John 3:16 reveals his attitude toward giving: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (emphasis added). Note the sequence. Because God loved, he gave. Because God is love, he is also a giver. He set the example of generosity motivated by love.

An attitude of love in giving is crucial: “If I give all my possessions to feed the poor…but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) What could be more commendable than giving everything to the poor? However, generosity without an attitude of love provides no benefit to the giver.

In God’s economy, the attitude is more important than the amount. Jesus emphasized this in Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.” The Pharisees had been careful to give the correct amount, but Christ rebuked them because of their attitude. He looks past the amount of the gift to the heart of the giver.

We can consistently give with love only when we recognize that we are giving to the Lord himself. We see an example of this in Numbers 18:24: “The tithe of the sons of Israel… they offer as an offering to the Lord” (emphasis added). If giving is merely to a church, a ministry, or a needy person, it is only charity; giving to the Lord is always an act of worship, expressing love and gratitude to our Creator, Savior, and faithful Provider. Whenever we put something in the offering plate, we should remind ourselves that our gift goes to the Lord himself.

In addition to giving with love, we are to give cheerfully. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) The original Greek word for cheerful is hilarios, which is translated into the English word hilarious. What a picture that creates! We are to be joyful givers.

When was the last time you saw hilarity when the offering plate was passed? The atmosphere more often reminds us of a patient in the dentist chair awaiting a painful extraction. So how do we develop this hilarity in our giving? Consider the early churches of Macedonia: “We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

How did the Macedonians, who were in terrible circumstances, “severe trial,” and “extreme poverty,” still manage to give with “overflowing joy”? The answer is in verse five: “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” The key to cheerful giving is to yield ourselves to Christ, and ask him to direct how much he wants us to give. That places us in a position to experience the advantages of giving with the proper attitude.

Stop and examine yourself. What is your attitude toward giving?

Advantages of Giving

Gifts obviously benefit the recipient. The church continues its ministry, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and missionaries are sent. But in God’s economy, gifts given with the proper attitude benefit the giver more than the receiver. “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35) As we examine Scripture, we find that the giver benefits in four significant areas.

1. An increase in intimacy

Above all else, giving directs our heart to Christ. Matthew 6:21 tells us: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is why it is necessary to give each gift to the person of Jesus Christ: it draws our heart to him. Do you remember the faithful steward in the parable of the talents, and his eventual reward? “Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 25:21) Giving is one of your responsibilities as a steward, and the more faithful you are in fulfilling your responsibilities, the more you can enter into the joy of knowing Christ more closely. Nothing in life compares with that.

2. An increase in character

Our heavenly Father wants ushis children­—to conform to the image of his son. The character of Christ is that of an unselfish giver. Unfortunately, humans are selfish by nature. One essential way we become conformed to Christ is by regular giving. Someone once said, “Giving is not God’s way of raising money; it is God’s way of raising people into the likeness of his son.”

3. An increase in heaven

Matthew 6:20 reads: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” The Lord tells us that heaven has its own “First National Bank,” where we can invest for eternity. Paul wrote: “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” (Philippians 4:17) Each of us has an account in heaven that we will be able to enjoy for eternity. Although it is true that we “can’t take it with us when we die,” Scripture teaches that we can make deposits to our heavenly account before we die.

4. An increase on earth

Many people have a hard time believing that giving results in material blessings flowing back to the giver. Time and again, however, we encounter that very principle in the pages of Scripture. Consider Proverbs 11:24-25: “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”

Examine 2 Corinthians 9:6-11: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…. God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality.”

These verses clearly teach that giving results in a material increase: “…will also reap bountifully …always having all sufficiency in everything…may have an abundance…will supply and multiply your seed…you will be enriched in everything.”

But note carefully why the Lord returns a material increase: “Always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…will supply and multiply your seed for sowing…you will be enriched in everything for all liberality.” As shown in the diagram below, the Lord produces an increase so that we may give more and have our needs met at the same time.

Study the cycle of giving. One reason the Lord reveals that we can anticipate a material increase is because he wants us to recognize that he is behind it. God has chosen to be invisible, but he wants us to experience his reality.

When we give, we should do so with a sense of expectation—anticipating an increase from the Lord even though we have no idea how or when he may choose to provide it. Our experience has shown him to be very creative! Remember, givers experience the advantages of giving only when they give cheerfully and with love—not when the motive is just to get.

Amount to Give

Let’s survey what the Bible says about how much to give. Before the Old Testament law, there were two instances of giving a known amount. In Genesis 14:20, Abraham gave ten percent—a tithe—after the rescue of his nephew Lot. And in Genesis 28:22, Jacob promised to give the Lord a tenth of all his possessions if God brought him safely through his journey. With the Law came the requirement of the tithe. The Lord condemns the children of Israel in Malachi 3:8-9 for not tithing properly: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you!”

In addition to the tithe, there were various offerings. The Lord also made special provisions for the poor. Every seven years all debts were forgiven; every fifty years the land was returned to the original land-owning families. Special harvesting rules allowed the poor to glean behind the harvesters.

God made another significant provision for the poor in Deuteronomy 15:7-8: “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.” Even under the law, the extent of one’s giving was not to be limited by a locked-in, fixed percentage but was to be adjusted by surrounding needs. The New Testament teaches that we are to give in proportion to the material blessing we receive. It also commends sacrificial giving.

What I like about the tithe is that it is systematic, and the amount of the gift is easy to compute. The danger of the tithe is that it can be treated as simply “another bill” to be paid. If we fall into that sort of attitude or rut, we will not be in a position to receive God’s richest blessings. Another potential danger of tithing is the assumption that once we have tithed, we have fulfilled all our obligations to give. For many Christians, the tithe should be the beginning of their giving, not the limit. And we should never, never close our hearts to the obvious needs we encounter in our path through life.

How much should you give? To answer this question, first give yourself to the Lord. Submit yourself to him. Earnestly seek his will for you concerning giving. Ask him to help you obey his leading. I am convinced that we should tithe as a minimum and then give over and above the tithe as the Lord prospers or directs us.

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5 Ways To Stay Out Of The Red On Black Friday

 

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Helmet… check. Flak jacket… check. Last will and testament updated… check.   Okay, it sounds like you’re all set to go shopping on Black Friday.

 These sale events have gotten out of control, literally! A couple of years ago there was a near riot over $2 waffle makers at Wal-Mart, and a woman in California pepper sprayed 20 other shoppers to get to an Xbox video game console.
Well, how can we keep ourselves out of the Red on Black Friday? Here are 5 ways that should really help:

  1. First of all have a Christmas shopping spending plan! Know exactly what you’re going to spend beforehand, and stick to it.
  2. Do your homework on where the best deals are and make a shopping list for anything you’re not buying online BEFORE you leave the house.
  3. Don’t get sucked into opening store credit cards for a discount!
  4. Don’t forget about Cyber Monday (Monday, November 30th). It is a really big deal these days, and there are plenty of deals to be had online.
  5. You can go to a deal tracking website, such as, DealNews.com. They also have smart phone app that will alert you if a deal pops up that matches what you’re looking for.

Some Black Friday stories are so silly that you have to laugh. But they are also symbolic of something sad. The world is intent on taking Christ out of Christmas and replacing Him with holiday gift giving. So, make a real effort to keep yourself and your family focused on the real reason we celebrate Christmas. The birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Vote For America

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The most contentious campaign in our lifetime for the office of president is thankfully drawing to a close. Now is the time for “we the people” to vote for those who will lead our local, state and national governments.

 

I want to challenge you as strongly as I know how – to vote! In our nation, we have the amazing privilege of voting. Countless men and women have sacrificed everything, including their lives, to leave us the legacy of freedom and the right to choose our elected officials.

 

It is especially important for followers of Christ to vote and be prayerful and careful in our selection of who we support when we cast our ballots. Each of us should guard against being unduly influenced by the media and negative ads trashing candidates. Instead, we should focus on some basic filters through which we can evaluate those running.

 

For my wife, Bev, and me, our first filter is this: Is the candidate committed to protecting the most vulnerable and helpless among us – the unborn? If the answer is no, we will not vote for them. Part of the reason we are so passionate about this as our first filter, is that we adopted both of our children as newborn babies, and three of our four grandchildren were also adopted as babies. We cannot imagine life without them and are so grateful that our children love Jesus and follow Him. God is all about life!

 

So please, VOTE! And please establish your own filter through which to evaluate the candidates.

 

Warmly in Christ,

 

Howard Dayton

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Explaining Financial Lingo

 

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Financial lingo can sometimes sound like a foreign language. What are indexed annuities? What is an amortization schedule? How ’bout a no-load fund? Well, if you sometimes hear financial terms and you don’t quite know what they all mean, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Let’s look some common financial terms.

What are large cap stocks and small cap stocks? What does all that “cap” stuff mean? Cap is short for capitalization which simply is the total value of the company’s shares. Large cap stocks have a market value of $5 billion or more, and small caps have market values of between $50 and $500 million.

What’s a mutual fund, and how does that differ from simply buying a stock? A mutual fund typically holds ownership in maybe hundreds of different companies. If you buy a stock, you buy ownership in just one company.

What is a growth stock mutual fund? It’s a mutual fund where the primary objective is appreciation of the stocks it holds.  It may not payout much of a dividend.

What’s definition of an IRA and a Roth IRA, and what is the difference? They are Individual Retirement Accounts that are tax advantaged and both grow tax free.  When you invest in an IRA you get a tax deduction on what you put in, and you pay taxes on what you take out. With the Roth IRA, you don’t get a tax deduction on what you put in, but what you take out is tax free.

What’s an amortization schedule? An amortization schedule is simply a loan repayment schedule for a real estate mortgage.

What is a will, and what’s a trust? What’s the difference between the two? Both wills and trusts name one or more people to manage an estate and direct how the assets are to be distributed. The biggest difference is that a trust does not have to go thru probate.

Learn and understand these terms and you will have passed your first test in Financial lingo 101!

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The Importance Of Budgeting

 

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When you hear the word budget, what’s your reaction? If you’re like most people, confining orcomplex come to mind . . . a financial straightjacket that’s going to require hours of tedious bookkeeping.

That’s why we call it a Spending Plan – because it’s simply a way to make sure you spend your money in ways that are most important to you instead of getting caught up in impulsive spending. Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.” These days fewer of us have flocks and herds, but the principle of staying on top of your finances still applies.

So, the first step is to decide the best type of spending plan for you to use. You might choose to use a pencil and paper budget, a software program, or a popular online budget like www.Mint.com which is free.

Then, track your income and spending for 30 days to develop an estimated budget where you’ll break down your spending by category; for example, giving, housing, food, and transportation. You can visit www.compass1.org to see suggested percentages of what you should be spending for each category.

Once you start your Spending Plan, you’ll realize that it’s dynamic as your income changes and as life happens – you’ll always be tweaking it to make it more accurate.

A budget – a spending plan – is the most effective financial tool to help you make real progress on your journey to true financial freedom.

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5 Ways to Raise MoneyWise Kids

 

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After sharing the Gospel, one of the most important things you can pass on to your children is how to handle money God’s way. The trouble is, a shocking percentage of parents fail to pass along strong money management skills to their kids.

Here are 5 money lessons your kids should know, and fortunately, it’s never too late to start teaching them.

  • Kids need to know that credit cards aren’t free money! Yes, a bill comes every month and if you don’t pay it in full, interest piles up fast. Teach by example and pay off your credit cards every month.
  • The biggest “secret” to managing money is to live on less than you make. Otherwise, you can’t save for emergencies or invest for the future. Teach your kids to save every time they receive income.
  • Giving. Jesus was right when He said, “It is more blessed to give and to receive” (Acts 20:35).  Young children naturally think they’re the center of the universe. Teaching them to generously help those less fortunate is an important life lesson.
  • Teach them to manage a bank account. It’s not rocket science. Help them set up an account and teach them how to record transactions, keep the register balanced, and reconcile the account.
  • Finally, paying back student loans isn’t fun. In the past, students could borrow their way through school, get a good job and pay back loans quickly. No more! Today jobs are harder to come by and student debts are a lot higher. Teach them to borrow as little as possible. This will help them choose a major or a minor that gives them marketable skills so they can land a job after graduation.

Remember what Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Teaching your kids to manage money God’s way is a gift that will last their whole lives and impact their children as well.

Warmly in Christ,

Howard Dayton

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5 Things to Remember When Buying a Used Car

 

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Listeners to our MoneyWise radio program often ask us about the best way to buy a used car. How much should they pay? How can they be sure that it’s in good running order and won’t have any major problems?

There are 5 things to remember when making a used car purchase:

First, do your homework and decide on the make and model of cars that will meet your needs. For example, a family of six is going to need a very different vehicle than a single person.

Second, visit www.Edmunds.com to get a good idea of the sales prices of the used cars that you’re considering.

Then, Google the make and models of these cars with the word “problem”, and you’ll soon see if there are recurring problems with any of the cars.

Next, remember to check out some online reviews on the dealership from whom you are considering buying the vehicle. Small used car dealerships often get their inventory from car auctions. These vehicles may appear to be in good running condition, but may also have costly problems that you will be dealing with after purchasing the car and driving it off the lot.

Which brings me to my last point……..before you pay for a car, have a reliable mechanic check it out for problems. This is super important! That’s why we are so thankful for our auto mechanic, Slim. He’s been repairing our type of car for more than two decades and . . . Slim is really HONEST! I’d never consider buying a used car without Slim going over it carefully and giving me the thumbs up to go ahead and purchase it.

And if you don’t know an auto mechanic like Slim, ask the Lord to help you find just the right one. Then ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations until you find a mechanic that you feel is fair and credible.

Following these simple guidelines will help ensure you a positive experience when looking to purchase a used car!

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