Joy Not Obligation

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Psalm 23:1-3 God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. 
   You have bedded me down in lush meadows, 
      you find me quiet pools to drink from. 
   True to your word, 
      you let me catch my breath 
      and send me in the right direction.

I have been really challenged lately over the matter of my finances. It seems to me that perhaps one reason for my coming to Saipan was for God to challenge me in this whole area of giving and of having enough. And the more I have studied the gospels, the more I see that God’s heart is often so far from mine. He promises us life abundantly. He came to be our shepherd. To give us our daily bread. But we have turned that into a need for new cars, new houses, new clothes, and new gadgets. Sure, most of us good Christian folk will make sure we have allotted out 10% in tithe..but then we take the other 90% and treat it like it is our money to do with as we please. I don’t think that was the idea God was getting at when he said, “God loves a cheerful giver.” See, I don’t think God wants our 10%. I think God wants our hearts. He wants us to submit to Him and to submit our finances to Him. He wants us to make every financial decision based upon His heart. The two greatest commandments are summed up as loving God and loving our neighbors. Shouldn’t our finances be a reflection of lives that follow those commands? And yet, so often we hear of needy brothers and sisters and we simply pray and ask God to meet their needs while going about our daily business. Perhaps God is up in Heaven saying, “Hello, I put you there so you could meet their need.” Because reality is..most of us don’t need a thing. And most of us have the capacity to meet incredible needs. So then the question becomes, why don’t we?

I would admit that so often my spending habits got in the way. I bought this or that and all of sudden did not have the money left. But since my options for spending money are limited here, it has given me time to stop and think about it. And I have realized how incredibly rich I truly am and how much stuff I have that I really don’t need. But ultimately what I have found is a joy that comes from being in relationship with Christ, not from buying a new outfit or the latest ipod. See, in giving, I have found that I am blessed far more richly then I could have ever imagined.  In worrying less about what I have and more about those that have not, I have found a love and a desire for Christ and for others that I cannot explain. So for the next few months my goal is to figure out how to make it stick. How to keep this lesson stamped in my heart when I am back in a world bombarded by ads and people with the newest, latest, greatest, and trendiest. I think I know the answer.. it comes from aligning my heart and life with God’s heart and life. When you are able to see things through His eyes, the world becomes a much clearer place and giving becomes a habit and a joy, not a dreaded obligation.

Vulnerable Post #1

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I am in the middle of a study called “Economy of Love.” It is an excellent study done by Relational Tithe and Shane Claiborne. It is a movement to act counter-cultural and to decide to have enough. To live in a community where today we have enough. Not always everything we want, not always new clothes, cars, toys, or gadgets, but a community where everyone has enough. I am going to keep posting questions and quotes from the book because they cause you to think.

“The model of incarnation is that Jesus moved into the neighborhood. Jesus entered into the struggle, was born in the middle of a genocide (Matthew 2:16-18), and struggled through poverty and pain even up to the point of the cross. And that’s the model we are called to follow.”

Not sure you are rich? Go to www.globalrichlist.com and see where you are located in terms of world wealth. It might surprise you.

Relational Tithe

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I have been really convicted this past year about my finances. God has blessed me with so much and I have just seen ways that I waste that. Along with that, I have been doing a lot of studying on tithing in the Bible and our finances and how they should be used. This brought me to exploring other ways to tithe. I heard about an organization called Relational Tithe via a book I was reading. After many months of putting it off, I finally visited their website. Instantly I was hooked. I found a group of believers working to create a distributive economy in which everyone has what they need. This is done through relationships. Tithes are given and then doled out to people in our circles that need the money. It is a glorious picture of believers from all over coming together to meet mutual needs in light of scriptural guidance. I joined a group and have been getting to know the members. It is a blessing to have all these new friends from all over the world. I am excited for what the next six months is going to bring about in my own life and in the lives of my new friends. As we journey together exploring what it means to have enough, I know that my heart and mind are going to be challenged to give more and love more.

I can’t wait! Bring on a community where everyone has enough and needs are met on practical and relational levels.
In other news, I also got connected with a child sponsorship organization that works heavily in the area of Africa I spent a summer in. I requested a child from the village I lived in and got the most precious little girl. I am praying that Lord-willing I will be able to visit her this summer and connect personally with her and her family. Even if not, I am super excited about being able to pour back into a community that changed my life!

Pondering This

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Among us English-speaking peoples especially do the praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung. We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition. We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient realization of poverty could have meant; the liberation from material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly–the more athletic trim, in short, the fighting shape.
-William James

If each morning I need an Americano from my local coffee shop, I’m not necessarily greedy; I’m just less free to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to live responsibly toward my fellow human beings.
-Shane Claiborne