Thinking Out Loud

February 10, 2012

How “Love One Another” Plays Out in the Real World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 am

December 24, 2011

Making Your Giving List and Checking It Twice

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas time isn’t a lot of fun. We just made the last of our supplier payments online. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is a major goal.

So this is a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a tax receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others. 

You may be tempted to give something to charities in the broader market, but remember that the broader population will respond somewhat to their appeals. I believe there are Christian causes that only we can give to, and we should “do good to all… especially those which are of the household of faith.”

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water, aid the fight against human trafficking, provide start-up funds for micro-businesses, deal with health issues in countries where access to medicine is still limited, or assist oppressed people — especially women — see justice.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? These make a huge difference in the lives of children, but aren’t fully supported by fees. Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? A regional Bible College, or Christian University College? Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically?
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators or the various Bible Societies.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing.

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need.

September 23, 2011

The God Pocket: Intentional Generosity

I had watched this video a couple of times; but wasn’t sure I get where Bruce Wilkinson — no relation — was going with The God Pocket.  Was there some ancillary item called a “God Pocket” we would see in a bookstore display next to the book itself, or was he speaking figuratively?  The video had me confused and I didn’t get a review copy of the book, so I checked the publisher marketing:

God wants to put a face on giving – and the face he has in mind is not yours, but his. What if you could take something out of your pocket today that would make God wonderfully personal and absolutely real to someone who, only minutes earlier, had been secretly calling out to God for help, for an answer, for any shred of evidence that He cares?

Discover the incredible resource that’s small enough to fit in your wallet or purse, yet big enough to change someone’s life – starting with yours. In “The God Pocket,” Bruce Wilkinson tells you what that little something is, explains how to deliver God’s provision to someone in need, and shares how God is ready to reveal Himself through you.

The God Pocket Prayer
Dear God,
Today I ask to be sent to show Your love and deliver Your funds to the person You choose. I carry Your provision in my God Pocket, and I am ready and willing. I am Your servant, Lord. Whenever You nudge me, I will respond! Here am I – please send me!

So I realized he was talking about giving, and the God Pocket had to be some kind of ‘wrapper’ for a money gift which is a token of financial encouragement, which I suppose you could design or create yourself; but in the giving process, there would have been some advance preparation and prayer.

But at that point, I was still guessing.  There were no consumer reviews online for the hardcover from Multnomah with the full title: The God Pocket: He Owns It. You Carry It. Suddenly Everything Changes.

So it was time for some serious research, i.e. Google. One blogger mentioned that the concept of “the God pocket” is introduced in You Were Born for This:

One concept that was very inspiring was the God Pocket.  He encourages Christians to set aside an amount of money (maybe $20) that they always keep tucked away in the billfold or pocketbook.  That money is to be used in the lives of others as needs present themselves.  He told the story of feeling led to leave all $20 as a tip for a waitress.  She came to him before he left in tears explaining that she was a single parent and had prayed God would provide the money she needed for medicine for her ill child.

Another wrote about You Were Born…:

A buzzword he coined “God Pocket” blessed my socks off.  I have a tendency to be what is kindest to call “thoughtlessly generous”– generous without giving thought to if it is how the Lord would want me to give.  I’m a need meeter.  If I see a need, I have the funds/ability, I try to meet it.  I love to try to help meet needs.  However, just because there is a need, and just because I can meet it, doesn’t mean that I am the best one for it and it’s hard to know when/where/how.  His idea of  the “God Pocket” really encouraged me to become deliberate in preparing to meet needs rather than reacting to the needs in front of me.  I think it is what I’ll take from the book and use/value the longest.

So my guess wasn’t too far off.  My next step is to place a bill in a special part of my wallet so that I am prepared to do what Uncle Bruce — we might be related, Prayer of Jabez made a lot of money after all — recommends in terms of planned or intentional generosity. 

Or I could simply read the book and see how one might craft a short note that would accompany the gift.  I think it’s publishing mid October.

August 6, 2011

Partnering With Partners

After our charity diversion two nights ago, we ended up making our Africa Drought donation to Partners International.  This is the organization I’ve mentioned a few times at Christmas, and I’ve already written here about my disdain for giving money only to have it eaten up by subsequent donation solicitations by mail.   The link above is to the Canadian office, but Partners is active in the U.S. as well.  Both Partners and Food for the Hungry in Canada are registered with the government for 1:1 matching of each donation with government funds.  And then just before I sent our modest donation, my teenage son came downstairs with a $10 bill to increase our gift.

I just feel like we had to do something.  Especially in the face of the enormity of the need. How can we not?

July 27, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Lynx

And now here’s a Wednesday Link List that needs no introduction…

  • The other members of the band America (“A Horse With No Name”) pay tribute to Dan Peek who later had a career in Christian music, who passed away on the weekend.
  • Jay Grelen joins the cast at GetReligion.org, a blog that looks at how the media handles religious stories.  His own story was interesting.
  • Josh McDowell believes that the internet is the greatest threat to Christian belief: “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell.  Read more at Faith and The Law.
  • Pressured by his elders’ board to apologize, Mark Driscoll makes a half-hearted effort following his remarks on Facebook about “effeminate worship leaders.”  Rachel Held Evans calls him a bully.
  • Just in case you’re wondering, here’s the website for Hope Unlimited Church in Australia, the church Mark and Darlene Zschech call home since leaving the Hillsong mother-ship; though they’ll still be part of music events.
  • Tim Challies looks at the ‘Christian’ label being applied to the man who brought about the carnage in Oslo, Norway.
  • Paul Clark reads Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God and notes that the greatest books — starting with the Bible — have already been written.
  • Paul also has a great article on creating a “culture of generosity” within your church in this article about stewardship.
  • C. Michael Patton knows how to kick off a discussion and he’s got enough readers that he gets a response.  Be sure to read all the comments on this discussion about praying over and over and over and over again.
  • Michelle VanLoon at Her.meneutics tells about growing up in the 1960s and ’70s with her father’s porn magazines openly displayed on the coffee table and how it affected her.
  • While it wasn’t a Christian story per se, Eugune Cho posted this story about the latest “Susan Boyle” type of story on Korea’s Got Talent.   Read about Sung-Bong Choi.  (No relation to Song Sung Blue.)
  • While this one isn’t a link at all, I wanted to post something rather unique: My church is doing a VBS during the last week before school starts and they’re doing it as an evening program from 6:30 – 8:30 PM.  Different, huh?
  • For our Canadian readers: Yes, it’s true, McMaster Divinity School is giving Christian broadcaster David Mainse an honorary doctorate degree.  (My favorite Mainse quote: “My wife and I were virgins on our wedding night and we’ve been virgins ever since.”  …They have four children.)
  • Nick Costello’s book, Kiss What? is another book to examine the music scene and might be a resource for the teen in your home who is OD-ing on popular music culture.  Here’s a video preview.
  • Here’s a Vimeo vid on the release of the full (OT & NT) edition of the Common English Bible.  (Note: This HD clip takes awhile to load.)
  • New Blog of the Week: Housewife Theologian by Amiee Byrd — Articles of interest to women and a penchant for reviewing books in the Reformed tradition.
  • He calls his blog The Ugley Vicar and recently posted this hymn verse that was sung while attending a “Junior Clergy” conference; a verse that should be the prayer of all of us:

Facing a task unfinished,
That drives us to our knees,
A need that, undiminished,
Rebukes our slothful ease:
We, who rejoice to know Thee,
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known.

December 23, 2010

An Incredible Act of Generosity

Filed under: charity, philanthropy — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

As we come within hours of a day marked by believers and non-believers alike with a spirit of giving; here’s an example of that kind of giving spirit in action.  Today I want all of you to click the links. I dare you. The first one will take less than 1:00 to read and will make you want to click the second.  But it’s not for the weak of faith.

This is the Christmas Sunday service at Cross Point church in Nashville, Tennessee where Pete Wilson pastors.

To prepare you for what you’re about to read, here’s the short version.

Now that you’re ready for it, here’s the detailed version.

That is one amazing Christmas service people will long remember.


And what better time to remind my Canadian readers that we have two days left to contribute to the Salvation Army iKettle. Click here to donate. Your donations stay with the S.A. branch closest to your community.

Watch or listen to the service at Cross Point.  Go to their media page and select December 20th.

November 25, 2010

Our Now Annual Appeal for the Salvation Army

Filed under: charity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

We’re back with another year of giving our online friends in Canada an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in need.   The program is called iKettle. Any of my Canadian readers can host a kettle with a few clicks of the mouse.

Fellow-Canadian blogger Rick Apperson got us on to this last year.  Back then, we decided that if we could raise nearly $4,600 to sponsor my oldest son’s summer working at Camp Iawah, using our mailing list alone, we ought to be able to raise at least $1,000 for the Salvation Army.  We found out quickly that it was going to be a greater challenge.   Not sure why.

Last year we launched this through an e-blast to people in our personal and business e-mail address books.   This year we’re launching it in the blogosphere.

So this is where my Canadian* blog readers kick in. You can’t toss spare change in the kettles anymore because you pay for everything with plastic cards, and you don’t get change. Any bills in your wallet are probably there for emergencies.  Plus, while it pains me to say this, a lot of you shop online and don’t even have the collection kettles in your face anymore.   (Maybe that’s why you shop online!)

So here’s where you go to contribute*.

Donations stay in the community where you live, so if that’s Winnipeg or Calgary or Ottawa or Halifax or some place in-between, that’s where the money will be applied to the Salvation Army Family Services branch; including smaller towns where they have an active presence.

I really hope you’ll help us launch this over this weekend.   We will be repeating this appeal on the blog several times during the next few weeks. Our giving can meet the needs both in overseas relief and development and in the cities and towns closer to home. This is an opportunity to do something on the domestic front in yet another year that’s been rough on many people.

*For my U.S. readers — and there are lots of you — I couldn’t find a direct link to the U.S. program, if there is one. Contact the SA in your local area to find out ways an online donation can serve your own community.


September 10, 2010

Lucado: Your Legacy Will Outlast You

Venturing into new territory — the theme of social concern and social justice — Max Lucado shows how through generosity and compassion we ensure that we “live on” well past the normal limits of life.    Along the way he also makes a strong case for micro-financing, supported by personal contact with people in the third world.

In so many respects, Outlive Your Life seems a thousand miles away from his previous release, Fearless. Anxiety, worry and fear is the result of thoughts turned inward.   Loving and caring for the needs of those less fortunate — both near and far — is the byproduct of thoughts turned outward.   The two titles together bookend the spectrum of the things that can preoccupy our priorities.

Lucado is an easy-to-read and easy-going writer who is at his best in the middle of a story.   Whether he made the story up himself, or is retelling a story from the book of Acts, he knows how to assemble a narrative.   His version of Ananias and Sapphira brings new life to a familiar story and makes me wish he’d stop releasing annotated study Bibles and just do his own New Testament.

Outlive Your Life is a commentary on the first half of the book of Acts.   Yes, a commentary.   Perhaps not in the academic sense, but with every bit as much right to use the term.    As I read it I kept thinking about the difference between the NIV Study Bible and the Life Application Study Bible.   Both earn the term “study,” yet the latter is much more devotional and connected to everyday life.     This is a book-of-the-Bible commentary that may be used by small groups — there’s a ton of support material available for that — but may also be used for personal study.

With Christmas not too far off, many people looking for a gift will simply default to, “Give me the latest Max Lucado title.”   The quality of this book shows why that reputation exists, and why they ought to pick up a copy for themselves as well.

Booksellers:  For a complete list of related products available check out this trade review.

This review was published in Canada where to this point, additional disclaimers are not legally required; but thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!

June 22, 2010

Radical: It Truly Is

On April 30th I responded here to the sample chapter of David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream, all the while not expecting to be given a copy of the complete book.   On Friday that changed.   I started reading around 3:00 PM Sunday and by 11:00 Monday morning had finished all 216 pages.

Radical truly is.

In the meantime, I thought I had included another mention of David Platt in the link list, but I see instead I e-mailed it to several pastor friends:

At an average of 55 minutes, David Platt’s Sunday morning sermons at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, are already far longer than those of most pastors. But to Platt, they seem awfully short. He has been struck in his travels by underground Asian house churches that study the Bible together, under the threat of persecution, for as long as 12 hours in one sitting.

He has imported this practice into a biennial event that Brook Hills calls Secret Church. Starting at 6 p.m., Platt preaches for six hours on a single topic, such as a survey of the Old Testament. About 1,000 people, mostly college students and young singles, turned out for the first Secret Church. Since then, other Secret Church topics have included the Atonement and spiritual warfare. It is now so popular the church requires tickets.

“It’s one of my favorite sights as a pastor to look out at 12:30 a.m. and see a room full of 2,500 people, their Bibles open, soaking it in,” Platt says.

Platt believes churches have lowered the bar for biblical and theological literacy by treating it as something for professionals. Equating serious biblical engagement with seminaries rather than the local church has impoverished both institutions, he says. So Brook Hills has launched its own training center for lay leaders and is preparing a one-year training program for church planters, with separate tracks for full-time pastors and bi-vocational ministers. Platt recognizes that smaller churches lack the human and financial resources to offer these programs, but he thinks the principles transfer to churches with only 50 members.

continue reading at Christianity Today

Radical is a book about the state of the American church.    But while it comes close, it isn’t too American to miss out on a larger audience.   Radical is a book about missions.   But it is engaging enough to eclipse the negative stereotypes which cause books of that genre to escape our interest.   Platt keeps it pertinent by including examples of people in his church who have allowed their lives to intersect with the lives of people in the much broader world.  Examples of people not too different from people like us.

Mostly, Radical is about you and me and all that we could be doing that we’re not doing.   He ends with a one-year challenge called “The Radical Experiment.”   Not content to simply write a book review, I decided to check out the sermon where he introduced the experiment in his home church, The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Platt has a quiet, gentle preaching style and a laid-back southern accent that belies the degree of challenge he is presenting to his hearers. The website Baptist 21 says, “He is a phenomenal preacher of God’s Word, we would probably label him as one of the best and certainly one of the young up and coming preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. God is blessing his ministry as Brook Hills is growing and sees weekly attendance of over 4,000 people.”

Reading the book however, it is very clear that Platt is not entirely comfortable being the pastor of a ‘megachurch’ of 4,000 people and all its attendant accoutrements.  His frequent and intensive visits overseas mean that he is somewhat of a ‘fish out of water’ in the affluence of his home church.  I am sure there are Sundays where his heart is in another place.   Consequently, he is a liaison between the affluent North American Church, and the persecuted church overseas.

…Every few months, a book is released with a message and significance “for such a time as this.”   Books like this capture the spiritual imagination and present us with new possibilities.   Radical is that book for the summer of 2010.

I want to end this with an endorsement the book received from Russell D. Moore, whose blog is often linked here:

“Sometimes people will commend a book by saying, ‘You won’t want to put it down.’ I can’t say that about this book. You’ll want to put it down, many times. If you’re like me, as you read David Platt’s Radical, you’ll find yourself uncomfortably targeted by the Holy Spirit. You’ll see just how acclimated you are to the American dream. But you’ll find here another Way, one you know to be true, because you’ve heard it before in the words of the Lord Jesus, perhaps most forcefully in the simple call ‘Follow me.’

Read this book. Put it away for a time, if you need to, while your conscience is invaded by the Spirit driving you to repentance. And then pick it up again. After you’re done reading, I think you’ll know better how to pick up your cross and follow Christ for the advancement of the kingdom and the destruction of false dreams.”

A copy of Radical was provided by Augsburg-Fortress Canada, the Canadian distributor for Waterbrook/Multnomah. (Thanks, Norm!) The related booklet, The Radical Question is available for giveaway purposes in packages of ten.

November 28, 2009

Salvation Army Kettles Go High-Tech

It had to happen sooner or later.   The contribution kettles manned by volunteers in our communities — some still with audible ringing sleigh bells, but most silenced by city ordinances and mall requests — have gone online.  The program is called iKettle.    Any of my Canadian readers can host a kettle with a few clicks of the mouse.

I found out about this from fellow-Canadian blogger Rick Apperson, and after mulling it over for several weeks, decided that if we could raise nearly $4,600 to sponsor my oldest son’s summer working at Camp Iawah, using our mailing list alone, we ought to be able to raise at least that much for the Salvation Army.

After a disastrous start where I actually gave the wrong e-mail address, my kettle was off and running.   I set the goal modestly at $1,000 figuring we would surpass that by the end of the weekend.  Within a half hour of the e-mails going out, the total started increasing, and then it came to a sudden halt.

Which is where my Canadian* blog readers kick in.   You can’t toss spare change in the kettles anymore because you pay for everything with plastic cards, and you don’t get change.   Any bills in your wallet are probably there for emergencies.   Besides, this year, with so many unemployed or underemployed, the SA needs significant contributions to meet the needs in local areas.

So here’s where you go to contribute*.

BTW, for what’s worth, I don’t like the whole “sponsor me” script on the webpage.   You’re not sponsoring us at all.   Some web designer got that one past them before it could be thought through more carefully.   How about, “Make a Difference;” or even “Contribute”?    Then there’s the liability with the button that allows you to read the text I wrote.   I ended with “Please give generously.”   But the more/less button after the paragraph means your brain sees, “Please give generously less.”   Not good planning, but it’s their first year doing this.

*For my U.S. readers — and there are lots of you — I couldn’t find a direct link to the U.S. program, and their regional websites are a bit of a dog’s breakfast;  but it’s probably better for you to contact the SA in your local area to find out ways an online donation can serve your own community.

This Christmas our giving can meet the needs both in overseas relief and development and in the cities and towns closer to home.   This is an opportunity to do something on the domestic front in a year that’s been rough on many people.

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