Why Even Rich People Should Ask for Money…

The Ministry of Asking…

When I was in my teens and twenties, I could easily have been persuaded to become a career missionary except for one thing: There’s no way I was going to ask other people for financial support. If I was being honest I probably would have said, “God, I’ll do anything you want except ask people for money.”dollar-2091736_640

As my life journey continued, I thought maybe God was prospering my career so that one day I could afford to send myself into ministry without burdening others. But even as my bank account grew, God was transforming my thinking. I began to see fundraising not as something we do so that we can do ministry, but as an important part of the ministry God intends for us to embrace.

After all, God has no shortage of resources and could easily fund every well-intended ministry without having to involve other people. But He rarely does that. Why?

Here are some of the reasons why I’ve decided that I need to ask others to financially participate in my missions activities even if I can just write checks and pay for them myself:

  1. I need to know that others believe in what I’m doing. If Godly people who know me are not supportive, I should question whether this is really something I should be doing.
  2. Asking for money is humbling. There is no more appropriate way to enter into a ministry opportunity than from a humble posture. The more money I have of my own, the more humbling it is to ask, and the more I need to be humbled — especially as I engage with those who have so much less.
  3. God wants to use me in the lives of those who support me. It may be helping them learn the joy of giving; learning to discern when to say “yes” and when to say “no”; or possibly something totally unrelated to money that God gives me the opportunity to speak into.
  4. It allows them to fulfill their calling. Not everyone is called to go; but those who aren’t may still be called to give or pray for those who do go. I don’t want to deny them the opportunity to participate in God’s work according to their ability.
  5. They get connected to other aspects of God’s work. You may be connecting them to a ministry they’ll become part of for a long time. Their eyes may be opened to the breadth of God’s love and work around the world.  That ultimately expands their view of God himself.
  6. Their support may exceed your needs. That excess provides resources to the ministry that they wouldn’t have if I wrote a check just covering my own portion. Donors to each of my disaster relief trips have provided extra money to help the survivors.

If those are good reasons to raise support, why would I just pay for it myself?  Pride.

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Election 2016: What Matters Most…

The majority of American Christians are celebrating that their preferred Presidential candidate (or at least the lesser of two evils) won. While I don’t believe either party’s candidate has demonstrated the virtues we should require of a President, I do believe that God establishes the leaders of nations to accomplish His purposes. In the Old Testament we see that included Kings who ruled well like David, Asa, and Jehoshaphat, and it included Kings who didn’t rule well like Ahab, Rehoboam, and nearly all the kings of Israel’s Northern Kingdom. map-1027738_640History will tell which camp President Trump will fall into.

Although he certainly doesn’t see it this way, I believe the future of America is almost entirely not in his control.

So who is in control?

Well, certainly it’s ultimately in God’s control. But it’s intriguing and mysterious how things work when the sovereign God creates people with a free will and gives them dominion over a planet. The Bible often demonstrates God taking action based on the choices of man. Read the first half of Judges and mark all the places where the people did evil in the sight of the Lord, and all the places where it says the people cried out to God. See how God responded in each case.

Likewise, God brought the Assyrians and Babylonians into power over Israel because of the behavior of His people. So if God acts in response to the behavior of His people, what does that mean to us today?

It means the future of our nation depends not on who is President; not on who the Supreme Court Justices are; not on which political party is in power; and not on anyone’s position on any other issue. Those are results, not causes — the results of God acting in response to the obedience (or not) of His people. Our success on every issue depends on God softening or hardening hearts so that our efforts succeed.

Which brings me to what matters most about this election season and gives me the greatest cause for hope.

For months I’ve campaigned for us to carry our God-given responsibility to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways so that He would hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land (II Chr 7:14).

My hope is in the increasing awareness and affirmation of believers who, like me, have despaired to the point of finally recognizing and accepting our ongoing responsibility. We are becoming the Daniels and Nehemiahs that pray, not only for own sins but for the sins of our nation. Perhaps, God willing, this will change the direction of America. Won’t you join us?

I won’t always agree with President Trump, but I pray for the grace to always respect him as God’s appointed leader, like Daniel, Paul and others did with leaders in scripture. I’ll pray regularly for him, even as I continue to pray regularly that God will awaken us to our responsibility.

Before You Vote…

This sounds a lot like what I wrote in July, but with the elections upon us I’m willing to be redundant.

I’m disappointed by how few Christian leaders I’ve heard calling us to serious prayer for these elections. Many readily share their own wisdom and analysis, although rarely from a humble, God-dependent posture. Whether their conclusion is right or wrong, this approach troubles me.

God is not sitting in heaven wringing His hands over whether we’ll vote for the right candidate. He establishes the rulers (Dan 2:21). He wants our hearts more than our votes. But that doesn’t justify apathy on our part. We have been given stewardship over this planet and have been placed in nations and communities where we can live out that stewardship. However, God is clear throughout scripture that we’re to execute that stewardship in dependence on Him. Attempting to do it on our own guarantees failure, no matter how good our solutions. Our best wisdom cannot override hearts that have been hardened against us. Only God can change hearts, and He generally chooses to do that only when we ask. That’s the power of prayer.

God’s promise to Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14 captures a theme throughout scripture about how God engages with man:

…if my people who are called by my name
humble themselves, and
pray and
seek my face and
turn from their wicked ways,
then I will
hear from heaven and will
forgive their sin and
heal their land.

(ESV, emphasis mine)

This isn’t a call for unbelievers to get their act together.  This is a call for God’s people to acknowledge our inability to solve our own problems — moral, relational, economic, security, education, or any other — without God’s intervention. The same effort will have a different result depending on whether it’s done in our own strength or by looking to God first and always. God makes this case to the disobedient Israelites in Haggai 1:

You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes…You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away.

Contrast that with the promise of Malachi 3:

…put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.

It’s past time for American Christians to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways of trying to heal our land with our own strength and wisdom instead of with the power of God.

 

Who’s Responsible?

Does God want all Christians to vote the same way? I doubt it. A landslide Christian endorsement of either presidential candidate probably isn’t healthy. Daniel 2:21 tells us that He — not us — establishes and removes kings (and presidents, I believe). But God’s interest in our voting goes deeper than just who gets into office.

Sometimes God gives his people what they ask for, like with Saul or repeatedly in Judges where God responded to the cries of His people. Sometimes He gives us what we deserve; like in Judges where evil behaviors repeatedly led to captivity or evil leadership. Since God looks at our hearts (1 Sam 16:7), why we choose matters more to God than what/who we choose.

God’s purpose in everything is to reveal His glory. He wants to bless us, but He won’t compromise His glory. His holiness requires consequences when we don’t honor Him.

The promise God made to Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14 captures a theme apparent throughout scripture. It reveals how God wants His people to engage with Him and how He’ll respond:

…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (ESV)

My people who are called by my name…i.e. we who call Him our God. In the context of America today, it’s not a call to all Americans, it’s a call to God’s people in America. So what does He expect of us? Humble ourselves…pray…seek His face…turn from our wicked ways.

It’s not a call for non-Christians to act Christianly, it’s a call for Christians to act Christianly. By doing this, God’s people bring about blessings on our land. By not doing it, we’re restraining God’s blessings from our land. Yes, I am saying that I believe it is sinful Christians in America, not the lost sinners around us who are responsible for the decay of our nation.

I’ve never been a very patriotic person, nor interested in politics. As a citizen of God’s Kingdom, why care about this earthly nation? But that doesn’t align with the sense of national loyalty found in scripture. God gives man stewardship over the earth and then puts us into specific contexts of nations and communities where we can live out that stewardship. The crisis of character in this presidential election has awakened me to my responsibility. I am grieved to realize that God is giving us what we (American Christians) deserve rather than what we desire.

If you already spend more time humbling yourself, praying for our nation, and seeking God’s face than talking about how bad America’s becoming, then Thank you! I confess that I have not. But I’m committed to turn from my wicked ways of seeking solutions from men. I intend to humble myself, pray, and seek God. Then vote.

If you’re willing to stand with me in that commitment, I would love to hear from you.

What Does It Mean To Be Humble?

I recently responded to a questionnaire that asked, “What does it mean to be humble and where are you in the process of developing humility?” Here’s my response:

Humility is grounded in truth: Truth about who I am and what I can do and truth about who others are (especially God) and what they can do.

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.                             – Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NASB)

Humility builds on a proper perspective of who we are, what we can do, and what we have versus who God is, what He can do, and what He has.  His glory is far more important than my happiness or success, and He is delighted when I know and understand Him so that He can exercise His lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness through me for others.  I must humbly exemplify His love by putting others ahead of myself. (Phil 2:3-4)

Where am I? If God gave me the offer He gave Solomon to ask for any one thing, I would ask for humility. I am incapable of creating it on my own. Humility comes from being close to God and it enables closeness to God.  I would say I am more humble than in the past, but far short of where I need and want to be.

Sloppy Listening

Vulnerability is an essential ingredient of strong relationships. I’ve heard that a hundred times, and it’s true. But vulnerability only builds relationships in the presence of good listening skills.

If you know me personally, don’t judge the value of what I’m about to say by your personal experience with me. I’m not particularly good at this, but my awareness has gone up so now I need to take responsibility to work on it.

What’s going on in your head when you’re “listening” to someone? Here are some of the things I catch myself doing:

  • Trying to “fix” your problemEar-Crop
  • Figuring out what I’m going to say next
  • Thinking about what I’m doing later today
  • Reflecting on things that happened earlier
  • Internally “rolling my eyes” as you repeat what I’ve heard you say many times before
  • Letting my mind wander off into space

Any of those sound familiar? Maybe you think that’s just normal listening. I suggest they are evidences of sloppy listening. Unfortunately, sloppy listening has become an acceptable norm.

Good listening is hard work, but deep, meaningful relationships require it. Here are four listening principles I’m working on:

  1. Recognize it’s not my job to “fix” you. Unasked for advise is called “criticism”. Don’t assume my advice is wanted just because you mention a problem. This takes humility, since my ego is stroked when I get to offer my solutions. I tend to think that whatever pops into my head is the Holy Spirit prompting me to help you, but often He’s trying to teach me, not you. Is my goal really to help you, or to make me look wise? A good test is that I tend to deliver my words with pride but God’s words will clothe me in humility.
  2. Deep relationships are connected with emotional strings. I need to listen for your emotions as well as your words. And what emotions are triggered in me by your story? When I have a chance to respond, I can reflect elements of your story that connected with me and tell you how they made me feel.  That’s much more relational than giving advice.
  3. Encourage you with the strengths I observe in your story. Sometimes we don’t recognize how God has blessed us until someone else points it out. When I was in sixth grade, a classmate read a paper I wrote and commented that I was a good writer. I hadn’t thought of myself as a writer before, but I’ve remembered that comment thousands of times over the past 40+ years, and it always spurs me to keep writing. Be a blessing by pointing out how God has blessed others.
  4. Don’t turn the spotlight on myself. My tendency is to try to top your story with my own, or tell how I would handle your situation. But I need to learn to let the spotlight stay on you. Another test of humility!

Don’t fix, emotionally connect, encourage, and keep the spotlight on the other person. Listen well!

Offended!

I was meeting with a group of about fifteen to twenty guys last night, when the conversation took an unexpected turn. One of these guys is highly respected for his knowledge of the Bible and his zeal for sharing it with pretty much anyone who will listen. The numerous stories of how God uses him to help others are amazing.

But something he said last night triggered a bad reaction from one of the other, less mature guys. The situation escalated as more people got involved, some taking sides, some trying to make peace. From my perspective, the cause of the disagreement was far less significant than the motivations that drove the responses.

Once each man perceived an offense, there was no further reasoning with either one. The Bible warns us that it’s in our nature to get like that:

Prov 18:19: A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.

But it also tells us we shouldn’t succumb to that part of our nature:

Prov 19:11: Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

2 Tim 2:24: The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged

I’ve blogged before about my own difficulties in overlooking offenses. Our drive to prove ourselves “right” and to be vindicated for the sake of our own egos is a powerful force. We can’t overcome it without yielding to God and letting Him provide the victory. But yielding to anyone, including God, is the last thing we want to do in the midst of the battle when we’re defending our own pride.

Prov 11:2: When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.

Last night’s episode would have been dramatically different — in fact highly honoring to God — if either participant had approached the issue from a posture of humility. Instead, pride led to both parties being dishonored, God being dishonored (although He was honored by some of the surrounding responses), and relationships being bruised (although hopefully not broken).

I’ve spent time today praying and fasting for these two guys, that their relationship would be restored, that the Holy Spirit would lead them to see the truth of their own self-centered responses, and that God would bless them with the gift of humility.

This incident also makes me appreciate that we don’t have to be perfect for God to use us.  I started off mentioning how God has used this one brother in tremendous ways — the pride that was displayed in this incident not withstanding. But as someone said last night, I believe God intends to use him in even greater ways than he can imagine — if he can learn to let go of his ego. Our pride is the ultimate cap that places a limit on how much God can be glorified through any of us.