building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Generosity”

The Fly Zone

Ever heard of the fly zone in a relay race? David Green (the Hobby Lobby guy) wrote about this concept in his book Giving it All Away. He used the analogy of the hand off of the baton in the fly zone as the hand off from one generation to the next. The fly zone is the place where one runner ending a race hands the baton to the next one starting their race. The first is winding down and the next is sprinting ahead, and it’s a crucial time to transfer the baton. It is an instant that can either win the race or lose it with a bad hand off.

David Green has quite a bit of wealth to hand off to the next generation. However, it’s more of handing a vision to be carried on long past his retirement or his death, and the wealth that has accumulated to be able to continue what has been started. David’s story is really inspiring. He didn’t have much, but God has blessed him through the years because of David’s faithfulness to the vision. This vision was given by God to David, and God has provided the means to accomplish the vision. David is passing the vision and the means to the next generation.

David has been given an insight we all need to comprehend. His business is not his own – it’s Gods. The money it generates is God’s. What would God want done with His money? He would want others to benefit. He would want His Kingdom to grow. And this is what David has done. He has set hours that would allow family time for his employees. He pays the employees living wages. He believes a manager should be able to do his job in 66 hours – the same hours the store is open. If that manager can’t handle it in that amount of time, then that person is wrong for the job. And the Green family is not guaranteed a job. They have to earn just like everyone else. Impressive.

David has a godly vision for the business and for the family. The business gives 50% of the profit away to projects the family decides to fund. There are several criteria that are considered on every project. If the project doesn’t meet the criteria then it’s a pass. I believe this is a good plan for anyone who wants to be a good giver. Being generous is more than spontaneous giving. It’s having a plan and sticking to it no matter how much you make. It’s a percentage. As wealth grows, the money given grows by the same percent decided ahead of time. David started with a percentage and grew the percentage until 50% was given away. The other 50% went back into the business to grow the business.

This book is not about a business. It’s about a mindset; a foundation for living out the vision. David has raised a family that has the same vision; that has the same values and is leaving a legacy that will be carried on for generations after him. David caught the vision and values from his parents. I got the gift from my parents too. They got it from theirs. We all have received this precious gift that needs to be carried on. It’s how the Gospel message has been transferred from one generation to the next. But we need to understand this is our time. I am in the fly zone. My parents have done their job. It’s my time, and it’s your time regardless of how you got the gift – it’s your time to pass it on.

One of the things I came away with from the book is to have a plan. Giving it all away is a plan, but a plan needs to have a foundation. What really matters to me? What’s my vision for the Gospel message and how can I fund the vision? This is the foundation that needs to be set. Hopefully, I can pass this same vision so that it doesn’t die with me. My vision should stay longer than one generation. I should be able to fund the vision so that it has its own legs to continue the race.

This is not about me and what I can do, but what God will do through me for His glory. It’s His vision and His glory. I just happen to be His runner just as David Green is His runner in this race. We all have a part to play to finish this race. We are in the fly zone, and it’s our responsibility to make a good pass. We can’t drop it now; this race is too important! Let’s finish strong!

You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.

You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way.
2 Timothy 4:3-7 (MSG)


Take the Time

For the last twenty-five years, my family has gathered at the beach for our annual vacation. There are now four generations gathered in one house for a week. We asked a few years ago if everyone still wanted to do this, and it was a vehement YES! My nephews have grown up with this annual tradition and were not about to let it go anytime soon. It’s a pretty special time. For about ten years or so, the house was the same. But over time, we have outgrown houses as the family has grown.

This year, the house we are in is the same one we’ve had for the last four years. It’s quite different from all the others. All the others have the basic necessities. This house is different because the owners are gifted in hospitality. Everything you would possibly need for a week’s stay is provided – not only all the small appliances, lots of pots and pans with ample dinnerware that could easily provide for a large family like ours.

But the real kicker that takes these owners over the top is the extras that are provided for our stay. One drawer is full of every type of plastic bag. There are storage containers of every size. One cabinet is filled with every spice you could imagine. Dish detergents, laundry supplies, cleaning supplies (even though we’re not required to clean); to me, it’s very thoughtful and much more than expected. I know we are paying for this hospitality, but the owners could provide the bare minimum – most do. They could get away with the bare minimum, but they have chosen to provide more.

When I heard Louie Giglio’s message about having an Open House, I thought of this house. Louie is teaching about the traits of a Jesus follower in his latest sermon series. We should exhibit hospitality as the norm. When Louie spoke about hospitality, I immediately thought of this beach house and its owners. These people know how to open their house to others. They share the blessings with others. Again, we’re paying for the blessings, but it’s more than what is expected. And yes, it’s evident the owners are Christian based on the scriptures placed around the house.

Louie says we should be known for our hospitality. We are supposed to do more than the bare minimum. We could do just what is expected of us, but what sets us apart are the extras that we provide for others on our paths. Most people love the ones who love them. Most people will be considerate of others to a certain degree. Most will give something for a cause or passion. But we are called to be different than what is expected.

Jesus gave us examples to live by. He taught with stories to show us how the Kingdom of God was represented on the earth. He taught the story of the Good Samaritan as an example of not only what He did for us, but how we are to treat others – our neighbors. The Samaritan not only bandaged the wound, but put the victim on his own donkey, took him to a place where the victim could heal and paid the price for the stay. Jesus said we are to do the things He has done. He gave us the example of serving when He stooped down to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus taught to go the extra mile. If we have two tunics, give one to someone who has a need. We are to see a need and fulfill it.

I don’t know if you are like me, but that makes me feel uncomfortable. This gift of hospitality sounds much like generosity. By nature, it’s not who I am. I want to want this. I want to be different. I want to grow in this area. God gives us opportunities to grow in areas where we need to grow. The opportunity will most likely come from an uncomfortable place. We have to have eyes that see the opportunity. As the other two men who saw the victim passed him by, the Good Samaritan saw and stopped. He took the time to meet the need.

Louie pointed out in his message we are to be lights that are not hidden. Each day we are to let our light shine in the darkness. We are given these gifts to use them to draw others to God. Gifts are meant to be shared. We are told to be different – even if it means we have to get out of our comfortable place to do it. The house is a good reminder of who I need to become. Open and inviting. Willing to share what I have with others. To be the light to shine for Jesus and do what He did. To take the time to be a neighbor to someone today.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

The Next Level: Fearless

When I was growing up, my Mom used to give me a back rub to help me sleep at night. She would come in after I had gotten in bed, we would say a prayer and then she would give me a little relaxing back rub. Needless to say, I love back rubs! However, I have to pay for them these days. Yesterday, I had the opportunity for a massage. I haven’t had one in over a year, and it was a real treat for me.

The massage I had yesterday was a bit different. The therapist did some deep tissue work, but she also stretched me. The stretches were a bit difficult -at times I felt I was being stretched too far. It was actually a little painful. But after it was all said and done, I felt good. I was relaxed. Today, everything is loose and feels amazing. Even though it was painful in a spot or two, I must have needed the stretching the most.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked God to do whatever He needed to do in order to move me to the next level. I guess in theory I asked Him to stretch me. Stepping out in faith really tests those faith muscles. We really don’t know how much faith we have until it is stretched – until it’s tested. Then we can know whether what we say we have is really true.

The challenge came from the pulpit on Sunday. Generosity is the tool for stretching. I have been in this church body for a little over four years, and the pastor hardly ever speaks about money. He reminded us that the church didn’t need the money, but we, as the Body, needed to be stretched (my words, not his). God has all the resources available to Him so He doesn’t need our money. The pastor emphasized that generosity is a heart issue.

The challenge is to step up to the next level of giving. The last level is fearless giving – Andy Stanley calls it “crazy” giving. It’s “sell your assets to give away” kind of giving. It’s what the early church body did to make sure no one was in need. But I would say that each level can be a step into fearless giving. Each step takes us out of the comfort zone. The first step to give is instant giving; throwing money in the pot as it passes or emotional giving. It can be uncomfortable to someone who has very little to give when an opportunity arises. But fearlessly, they give.

The next level is giving intentionally; setting aside money to give regularly. Having a plan in place before the opportunity arises. Again, if someone has never done this before, it’s uncomfortable to plan ahead – who does that nowadays? The next level is proportionate giving. This is a percentage of what is made. If income goes up, so does the giving. Again it can become a fear factor when it looks like we’re not going to have enough to cover the bills.

Then the pastor called the last level fearless giving. Sell and give; in other words, sacrificial giving. To be stretched until it hurts. This is a faith building exercise. Do we really believe God has all the resources in His hands? If we do, then we will sacrifice all we have because we believe God will take care of all our needs. After all, it says so in the Bible. Do we believe it or not? Are we willing to step out in faith to do the thing He calls us to do? He may ask us to go into the deep end where we have to trust Him.

After fishing all night, Simon Peter was asked to push off a little from shore so that Jesus could speak to the crowd. After speaking to the crowd, Jesus turned to Simon Peter. Jesus asked Peter to go out into the deep and drop his nets. Peter had caught nothing the night before. He was disappointed and frustrated for sure. This was how he made a living – and he caught nothing. He had already cleaned his nets; Peter already knew it was useless because the fish weren’t there. However, he did it anyway because Jesus asked him to do it. The amazing catch changed Peter’s perception of Jesus. He was actually speechless! He couldn’t even call to his partners to come help – he signaled them instead.

When we are asked to do something with Jesus, it’s going to be crazy. It may even scare us unbelievable so. But after we have been stretched, we are going to feel amazing. We will have a “fish” story to tell. We may have to sacrifice something we dearly love in order to gain something better. We may even come away with a different perception of Jesus. Now wouldn’t that be amazing?! All we are asked to do is trust Him in the process – to become fearless in the next level; to be stretched so that we can grow to become more like Him. Fearless like Him.

Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him. Luke 5:10-11 MSG

Growing through the Motions

I was at the gym yesterday doing my normal thing – working out and watching others do their thing. I was a bit envious of a couple of people who seemed to easily lift heavy weights. There was no strain involved; just easy, smooth reps. A few young women were there lifting heavier weights than anything I have ever attempted. I realized I was trying to compare my weights with theirs. The weights are irrelevant. We all have a level we are trying to achieve in order to grow (or maintain, as the case may be). We are all in a process of growth as we go through the motions.

About a year ago while lifting weights, an older lady walked by and told me I was very strong because I was lifting such heavy weights. The weights I was lifting then was nothing in comparison to the weights the young women were lifting yesterday. But the older woman could not do what I was doing because it was far beyond her capacity at that point in her life. Just like I cannot do what I see the young women do because it is beyond my capacity at this point in my life.

As I was contemplating the comparison game, it brought to mind my pastor’s message from Sunday. The message was on generosity. Jesus spoke about money quite often. The pastor reminded us, Jesus isn’t after our money; He’s after our hearts. There can be only one Ruler of our hearts, and we have to determine who we will follow. God said He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9) – He wants no competition for our hearts.

Jesus sat in the temple courts one day observing the crowds. He saw a widow putting in two small copper coins in the offering basket (the temple treasure), and told His disciples she put in more than anyone else. She put in all she had (story in Luke 21). On another occasion, a rich young man came to Jesus to ask how he could get into heaven. Jesus looked into this young man’s heart and found the stronghold that would keep him out of the pearly gates. Jesus told the young man, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” The young man walked away because he was a man of great wealth (story in Luke 18:18-30). The problem wasn’t the amount of money he had, but that the money had him.

We always like to compare ourselves with a better model: one who can lift heavier weights or one who has more money than we do. We compare up and not down. We compare richness with one who has more than we do; not the other way around. If we live in the United States, we can consider ourselves rich in comparison to the rest of the world; no matter what we have in our bank accounts. The widow put in all she had, and the rich young man walked away because Jesus asked him to give it all up for the sake of the Kingdom.

My pastor said we are all at different levels of generosity. Some are at the base level; giving spontaneously based on our emotional responses. The next level is giving intentionally – with a set amount for a set time period. God commands a certain level of giving. It’s in obedience when we move to the next level and give a percentage of our income back to God. This is the “first fruit offering” required in the Law to fulfill the work of God. I know, we’re under grace not Law. My pastor made the comment, “we shouldn’t give less under grace than what is required under Law.” Good point. My pastor went on to explain the last level of giving; it’s the generosity level of fearlessness.

When God speaks into our hearts, He asks us to give all we have for the sake of the Kingdom. We are to hold our resources loosely. This is just HARD to do. We work hard for the money we receive! However, God is the one who has provided for us in the first place. It’s His money in the beginning. We can be good stewards with what He gives us. We can be the “widow lady” putting in all we have or we can be the “rich young man.” Will we walk away when God asks too much from us?

Fearlessness is a reflection of growth. We are not owners, but stewards of the resources God has given to us. For those of us who call Jesus our Lord and Master, our real treasure is stored in heaven. Growth comes with the amount of trust we place in the One who gives generously to His children. He is a good, good Father who gives generously. We are all at different levels in the growth process. We work in the capacity we have right now, and grow to a new level with practice. Keep lifting higher! It’s hard, but over time we will see it becomes easier and smoother with repetition. One day, we will all be fearless!

Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” Luke 18:28-30

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