Posts Tagged ‘generosity’

EDS Byron Nelson ClassicI always think of Byron Nelson, the legendary golfer, during this time of year. I met him eight years ago, just  weeks before he died.  But I’ll finish that story later.

Let’s Start Talking is in the middle of our biggest fund raising activity of the year. Once a year–during August and September–we have what we call our Season of Generous Giving.  Typically, we conclude this season of fund raising with the September Celebration Dinner, this year on September 25.

The activities and emotions of this season are all over the place!  We start with trepidation! Since September 30 is the end of our fiscal year, we need a successful fund raising effort to finish paying for the work that we have already done! The difference between a successful effort and a less successful effort can mean the difference for us of finishing our fiscal year with a positive or negative bank balance! So much is at stake!

But we also start with great faith that our God is rich in mercy and His people have all the resources needed for His kingdom to advance.  Most years, our prayers and efforts are richly blessed, but other years, the same prayers and often greater efforts do not result in all we thought we needed.

In this context, I was thinking about Luke 10 and  the report of Jesus sending out the 72 on their short-term mission.  “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals . . . ” (v.4).  What was he thinking about there–what was he trying to teach them?

If LST put a team on a plane to somewhere, but told them not to carry a suitcase and don’t take any money, we’d be considered irresponsible and negligent.  If a church required missionaries to go without support, they would be used as a negative illustration at every missions conference for the next decade.

So what was Jesus doing?  Teaching?

For those being sent out, perhaps he was trying to teach them total dependence on the Great Commissioner!  If they went out completely self-sufficient,  they would not learn to be content with whatever God provided.  Remember Paul’s words, a missionary who also went out with insufficient support–measured at least by today’s standards–but with absolute trust in the One who sent him: ” I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11,12)

But, if the workers had gone out with all they needed, what would those to whom they were going fail to experience or learn? This is what gave me the most pause for thought.

They would not have learned that to be asked for help is an opportunity to participate in the plan of God.  I’m always a little surprised during this Season of Generous Giving at a few people who are somehow offended when we ask them to participate  with us financially.  Some of them are perhaps like Ebenezer Scrooge and simply don’t believe in charity because they believe so strongly that they have earned and deserve everything they have!  What foolishness!

I suspect most, however, just find it awkward, and they don’t like to be put in awkward situations. Either they don’t think money is something you talk about, or they may not be able to say either Yes or No to the request without some embarrassment–and they don’t want to be embarrassed.

So should someone not hear the Gospel because you are embarrassed?  Or maybe this is a place where God can transform our thinking, to refocus us on others rather than ourselves?

They would not have learned that it is more blessed to give than to receive!  We only know that Jesus said this because the great missionary Paul told us so. It’s not recorded in the Gospels.  Those who received the 72 would not know what God would do for them if they had not offered them food, shelter, maybe money, and sandals!

What would God do to bless us if we gave to support those who are going?  I can only imagine good things–and He is able to do more than we can imagine.

They would not have learned that generosity is at the core of the message proclaimed by those who go!  Can you even imagine a person of peace saying, “Well, I totally accept the message from God that you have brought into my home, but I’m not going to give you a bed or share a meal or offer to give you an extra pair of sandals because if I do, I won’t have enough for myself.” Unthinkable!

The 72 took nothing with them because they believed that people of peace would offer them all they needed to accomplish their mission.  My experience with a lifetime in missions is that some are generous if you ask–but almost no one is offering. 

Now back to my memory of Byron Nelson.  One Sunday in August 2006, I was teaching an adult class at church, talking about LST.  After class and after the aisle had cleared, a large elderly man came toward me on his scooter.  He introduced himself to me–but I knew who he was. It was one of the greatest golfers of all times Byron Nelson.

He immediately  asked me a question which I am almost never asked: “How is your ministry doing financially?  Is there something I can do to help?”  I was literally speechless for a second,  managing finally to tell him that we were always in need of support–a pretty lame answer for such a generous question.

He invited us to come to his home that week and present our needs more particularly.  We met him and his wife Peggy, presented our need, then left them to talk and pray about it.  Within days, we received a check in the mail from the Nelsons–not for the amount that we had requested–but for TWICE AS MUCH!

Here was a man of peace who offered  without being asked and who was more generous than “required.”  He will be remembered by many for golf, but he is known by God for his faithfulness and his generosity!

Go out today–and tomorrow–and offer to support someone who needs your help to do the mission of God.  Offer without being asked–and watch that missionary’s  eyes glisten and voice crack–and know that God is smiling.



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ImageFund raising—and giving—can be like pulling teeth! But when you pull them with a rocket, it’s a whole new experience!

Before we go any further, you need to watch the first part of this video—just the first minute and thirty seconds is enough!  VIDEO

Let’s Start Talking traditionally has used September for special fund raising efforts. We call it our Month of Generous Giving.  Most years, we are simply trying to make up budget deficits so that we can end our fiscal year in the black.

This year is special!  LST has been given a huge gift—a kind of matching gift in a way.  Last May, we were put on notice that we would have to vacate the office space that we have occupied for the last eleven years because the owners of our building were closing it.

While driving home in July, I noticed a “For Sale” sign in front of the Mid Cities Church building, so I called one of the elders to inquire. He told me they were selling their building for 1.26 million dollars—but that they really appreciated Let’s Start Talking and would sell it to us for much less.

On August 16, we signed a contract to purchase this building for just over 50% of the asking price. The leaders of that church gifted the ministry with a building worth twice as much as what we will pay for it.

What does this mean for LST? 

  • A nice new home in a central location with plenty of room to grow into the future!
  • Our own large training and event area. The auditorium seats 250 and is attached to a large kitchen.
  • More room for special uses like web conferences, recording/video studio, and continuous FriendSpeak usage.
  • A strong financial asset.

It also means that we need to raise an additional $104,000 for our down payment this month!

Those of you who are very sharp will now see the connection between the video and fund raising. It’s only taken me four days to figure it out:

  • The little boy had a big idea, but had to completely trust his father to accomplish it!  I’m the kind of person who has lots of ideas—some that work and many that don’t—but it was a wonderful day in my life when I gave the burden of success over to God and learned that “the horse is made ready for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31)
  • The boy had to push the button!  The dad could have done everything, but he asked the boy to make the decision and push the button.  God’s sovereignty does not make us Christians passive, as some would argue; rather, He has entrusted us to choose and to act upon those choices.  We have signed this contract and made commitments, believing that our Father wanted us to push this button.
  • The moment came suddenly!  Even though the preparations were made and even though the boy had to push the button, the actual moment of launch and loss of the tooth were sudden and surprising!  We were not even dreaming of purchasing in May, and our first inquiries with banks about financing were unanimously discouraging.  This new building burst on the scene unexpectedly, and within days we not only were able to come to agreement with the selling church, but we had secured initial financing from a local banker.  And now we are moving in on September 15!!
  • I think I see first fear, then thrill in the little boy’s eyes!  And I know how he feels. This may always be how people feel who are learning to walk with God.  You may feel this way too when you think about a gift more generous than you have ever given before! It’s scary sometimes to walk with God—but the thrill will follow!

I don’t want to stretch this metaphorical essay too far.  You certainly will have your own feelings about the video and what it says to you.

Let me just say that in this Month of Generous Giving at LST, we are blessed to receive not only the love and affection of thousands of people who make both large and small contributions, but each year, we are given a front row seat to watch and experience the goodness of God!  He is the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17).

Fund raising—and giving—can be like pulling teeth! But when you pull them with a rocket, it’s a whole new experience!


If you would like to make a donation to help LST during our Month of Generous Giving, just click here DONATE.

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For Christmas, when I was about ten years old, my brother and sister, who were seven (twins) gave me an Uncle Wiggilyboard game.  They were so excited about giving it to me—and with every right because the game is for 7 year-olds!!  They played Uncle Wiggily all afternoon; they loved the gift they gave me!  For me, it was one of those gifts you have to pretend to be happy to receive.

That was Christmas fifty years ago, but not only do I remember the feelings of the day, but our family then and the next generation of kids in my own family know exactly what is meant when we say, “That’s an Uncle Wiggily gift!”

I recently received a very generous gift, but it was given with both spoken and unspoken conditions. The person (not my wife!) had every intention of being generous—and was—but lacked the gracious spirit that should accompany a gift.

I was still appreciative of the gift, but I thought to myself, there is more to being generous than just giving a gift, so I thought I’d share with you just a few thoughts about how to be a gracious giver, not just a generous giver.

Give happily!

People give gifts for many reasons:  obligation, coercion, habit, or social acceptability. It may sound strange to say, but I suspect that the people who give gifts because it makes them happy are among the best and most gracious. Sounds a bit selfish, doesn’t it. After all, my siblings were quite excited and happy about giving me Uncle Wiggily.  Well, it shouldn’t be the only characteristic for gracious giving, but if giving brings the giver no joy, the gift is diminished.

Give for the joy of the recipient!

If they had just given me a new baseball glove, I would have been ecstatic!  I will admit having to learn this part from my wife Sherrylee. I would have often bought gifts that I thought were great, if she hadn’t stopped me cold with the question: why would they want that?  An honest answer would have been, “because I really like it and they should too,” an answer which would have revealed how little I was thinking about the other person! A great gift should be great to both the giver and the receiver.

Give without conditions

A gift with strings may not even qualify as a gift! What do you think about people who give at church—as long as everything pleases them, but then use their “gifts” as leverage to make things happen the way they want it to happen. These gifts are more like purchases of influence!

What about people who give to create a debt of gratitude?  “Do you remember what I gave you? Now, I need something from you!”

Give with a smile, not a grimace!

I’m still learning a lot about generosity. Often Sherrylee is more generous than I am, so we give a gift that she gives with a big smile—and I give with a little smile. My smile has gotten bigger over the years as I watched her graciousness and the joy she brings to other people with her wonderful gifts.  Learning to be a more gracious giver is one of her gifts to me.

Give your gift wrapped appropriately!

It’s not that the wrapping—whether literal or metaphorical—changes the value of the gift, but it does tend to reflect the care and thought put into giving the gift.  The metaphorical wrappings for some gifts might be a special dinner, or a special moment, or simply accompanied by an expression of personal joy. Wrapping doesn’t have to be expensive to be especially appropriate.

“For God so loved the world that He gave . . . .”

 He didn’t have to! He gave only for the benefit of the recipients! He only required that the gift be received, not earned.  He gave out of pure love (while we were yet sinners), and He wrapped it in flesh and glory, so that we could recognize the glory that is ours.

Being a gracious giver begins with the realization that every good thing we have—even that which we think we have earned and own—every good thing is a gracious gift from a gracious God.


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Marley is not dead! Neither is Scrooge!

I had a dream last night about speaking at some kind of campus retreat with lots of college students! In the middle of the event, someone was leading a prayer, and during this prayer he said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” In my dream, this very nice looking young man suddenly stands up and starts to speak, saying that the word us is not in the original text and that this other student was misquoting Scripture and that he ought to be more accurate.  My dream skips a space and the prayer and event are over, but I go and find this student and take him aside because I didn’t want to embarrass him, but then I put my hands on his shoulders (yes, that much detail to this particular dream!) and say to him, “You’ve got to learn to be generous! Don’t be stingy!”

That’s the end of my dream!

But, of course, I woke up and wondered where this came from!  It could come from Christmas shopping! It might be the result of listening to the Republican Debate last night while I worked around the house. It might have also come from end-of-the-year fundraising at LST!  Or it might have just come from me!

I did not grow up with a spirit of liberality! It wasn’t my parents’ fault; it was my own fault. So I have worked my whole life to learn to give freely. Sherrylee has helped me; my children and their wonderful spouses have helped me. Aimee, very discreetly years ago after she and Philip first married, gave me a little wallet card with the scale for tipping at restaurants. I was a little embarrassed at her thinking I was not tipping enough, but she was right! I love her for loving me enough to take that risk! And I tip now, thinking about being generous, not just what the minimum amount might be.

I hate it that the politicians have made the word liberal a bad word for many peopleLiberal at its root means free and came to also mean generous. The word liberal or a form of it appears many times in the King James Version—even describing God, but then fewer times in the NIV, and not at all in the New Living Translation.  I do suspect it is because of the political hijacking of the word. I hope they have not hijacked the spirit!

Fortunately, liberality of spirit is not just a financial thing. As in my dream, we can be generous or stingy in our spirit of judgment toward others’ faults or errors as well. For most of my life, I did not know the following passage from James 2 was even in the Bible. I read it many times, but I didn’t know it was there:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me freedom and releasing me from the chains that I dragged around by having a stingy faith, a judgmental faith.  Thank you for showing me mercy instead of judgment!

Marley is dead! At least the old man; the new man is alive, growing towards a fullness of God-reflective liberality in everything!

God bless us everyone!

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Following up my post on “I Just Have To Ask . . . ” I thought I would give you a chance to express your own opinion about being asked for donations.  If you didn’t read the blog, go ahead and take the poll, then click on this link (http://wp.me/pO3kT-6S) to go back to it.  Feel free to use the new share buttons and get some of your friends to take the poll. The more, the merrier.  (And you will not get a fund raising request by answering the poll–I know what you were thinking!)

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