Friday, December 21, 2007

Generosity 101

Most emails now days are Fwds. They had a beginning somewhere though. They were either invented by someone clever or real life happenings. We never can tell sometimes. We rely on websites like Snopes to verify if they are true or not. Well, here is an email I am sending out. I have verified it true. In fact I stood right before the guy after it happened and listened to him tell me the story. Heath is a friend of ours from Africa. He and his wife Emie and their 4 kids are missionaries out there in Nelspruit. I loved his view on Generosity and what God has taught them about it. This family would give anything if God told them to. AND they have been blessed greatly for obeying Him. For instance I know that on 2 occasions God has told them to give away their only car and 2 times God has blessed them back with another car. Here is another example of God's heart at work. This incident happened in Portland before they went to Africa.

Anyway, its a good email. You should pass it on. I do not promise blessings if you forward this email but I can promise blessings if you open your heart to God and listen to Him. I myself need to listen more carefully and obey more frequently.

If you just have to verify if its a true story, you can ask him yourself on his blog.


Generosity 101
Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is a reprieve from up North. I'm not sure if it's the weather (today happens to be a very humid 85 degrees) or the lack of flickering icicles hanging in rhythm to Jack Frost. Maybe it's the lack of commercialism or the lack of finances. Whatever the case may be I get the sense that the 25th of December could come and go without me noticing. With so little to buy I have been forced to ruminate on generosity once more.

I love 2 Corinthians 9 insights into this mystery. I get to determine the level of return I want for my generosity. It may be a lot like the stock market. There is risk involved, but I don't get anything if I don't risk anything. Many of us have a hard time risking so much with such great uncertainty of return. I then take this attitude into being generous. Subsequently it hinders me. Yet there is no possibility that I could ever give and not receive, it's a sure thing. It is a principle of the Kingdom of God.

God loves a cheerful giver. Yet I wonder why we don't laugh when the offering plate passes us, maybe he means something more. The word cheerful connotes more than a
simple chuckle. The meaning carries the idea of hilarious. It's to the point of being ridiculous, wild, and comical. I picture handing someone money yelling, " I can't believe I'm doing this!" or, "Why am I having so much fun giving?" I had one of those experiences awhile back.

I took some used books and tried to get some money for them at a used bookstore. I guess I was getting tired of moving them around. I was both surprised and $150 richer with a wad of cash in my pocket. I came bounding out of the store victorious and noticed a homeless man down the street digging through the garbage can. I knew I should have gone out the other door. I was stuck, the Lord had set me up and he was going to have a hilarious hoot of a time. He told me to give him my spoils. As I strolled over to him, the Lord said to give it all to him. ALL? Yes! ALL. How about $30?

That seemed like a good compromise, so I pulled out $30 and put it in my pocket. "I know you hear me Heath. I said all!" "OK!" Twenty more went into my pocket. By this time I had come up to him and he was in a pretty desperate state. He could not look me straight in the eyes and just seemed to be out of it. It was a few awkward moments before the Lord gave me questions to ask as he kept up his search for lunch. Finally we broke through and he wept on the side of the road as I prayed for him to be delivered of alcohol and other demons. Immediately we had eye contact and he was a different person. He stood up right, spoke clear sentences, and never went back to digging in the trash.

It had to be the most phenomenal conversation I have ever had. We were both crossing borders into each other's lives. He was living a life of guilt and convinced the Lord would never forgive him and I was holding out with "my" money. As we talked we were breaking down lies and he was becoming clean. I have never seen such a transformation like the one I experienced on the sidewalk of Stark Street in NE Portland.

Our conversation went on for about 45 minutes as he shared life as a homeless man and how his choices landed him there. He spoke of his family that he longed to see again and his desire to make things right. It was heavy but freeing all in the same moment.

I asked Him how much money he would ask me for if I told him to ask for anything.
He sheepishly said $20. Twenty dollars? That's all? I was beginning to catch onto God's humor.
Why didn't you ask me for $50?
"I am not worth that much," he said.
"Yes you are!"
"Why not ask me for $100, or $150, or a million dollars?"
"No way," was his reply.
I handed him $50. "Here this proves that God loves you."

With tears rolling down his face and snot coming out both nostrils, he was slowly catching the love of God as his beard was catching his emotions. He took hold of the bills and took hold of about $50 worth of God's love and forgiveness.

This was getting really fun now and I could not contain my excitement. "Actually, here is another $50 for you to prove you are worth it. You already have the most expensive gift you could ever receive. If I gave you a million dollars it still wouldn't compare to the price of Jesus' gift. This money stuff is cheap. Here. Jesus is so madly in love with you, have another $50. And you know what. I have a brand new pair of sneakers in my truck that I think will fit you.

He was a mess, snot everywhere and completely beside himself. He could barely stand as shock was setting in. Then he would seal the deal and prove my sincerity. He wiped his nose and offered me his snot-covered hand in a shake and said, "We're friends." Without thinking too long, I shoved my hand into his and we embraced. It was beautiful.
He strolled down the road with his cart, $150, and a new pair of sneakers. The most important gift he left with was $150 experience of God's unconditional love. I climbed into my truck and screamed at the top of my lungs, "That was so much fun. I loved it God. Thank you!" My 4Runner became a hovercraft that day. My wallet remained empty, but my heart became full.

For the first time I understood hilarious giving. All I wanted to do was shower this man with the love of God through the tangible. I caught a glimpse of giving when it is so ludicrous, so bizarre, but so God. I could just see Jesus rolling on the ground in laughter, yelling, "I love this stuff! It's so outside their box, it's hilarious." He probably laughed for hours.

I tried to attach a song but could not so here are the lyrics.
SONG LYRICS: Brave Saint Saturn "Heart Still Beats Inside"

"The girl in the alley kneels with exhaustion
She's guarded by the skinny guy who limps from some infection
Behind a veil of bleached thin hair her eyes tell a story
Like a photo of Berlin, December 1944
She's looking for a handout, she's been high for several weeks now
She's too far gone for ********** and the money just gave out

And her heart still beats inside
And the blood runs in her veins
A remnant of life remains
Her heart still beats inside

The man finally comes to the door, I've seen him several times
He always looks pissed off and his sunglasses stay on
I think he got his biceps and tattoos while in prison
And it doesn't seem to bother him when he says "go to hell"

And his heart still beats inside
The blood runs in his veins
A remnant of life remains
His heart still beats inside

The thought it comes to my mind, to somehow intervene
But it could bring me trouble, and what can I do anyway?
It's hard to be effective when it happens so often
To see a life unraveling, through drawn venetian blinds
I'm sickened by compassion, I'm stifled by my limitations
Anesthetic apathy, come take the pain away

And my heart still beats inside
The blood runs in my veins
A remnant of life remains
And my heart still beats inside

Oh God, we need you here
We're sinking fast and we don't care
The evidence is all around me, on both sides of my door
Our hearts beat"


The word "generosity" comes from the Old French; the original word carries with it a meaning of, "characteristic of noble birth." Umm, it sure seems to fit perfectly. People who are generous, characteristically reveal they are of Noble Birth.

So this Christmas, risk it. Your Father has more money to spare and you have something to prove . . . Your Noble Birth!

"Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten" (2 Cor. 9:9). "Thank God for his Son- a gift too wonderful for words (and worth more than all the money in the world)" (2 Cor. 9:15).

Merry Christmas from way down South!

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