The Heart of Giving

give love liveOver a year ago, God placed some specific financial goals on the hearts of both Derek and I, so that we could ultimately give to others. Since the very get-go of this journey, I hunkered down and decided to give my very best.

Recently, God revealed to me the true motivation of my heart in deciding to give my best. It came about when Derek decided that we needed to wait on purchasing something I’ve wanted for a while. We had the ability to walk out of the store with my “toy” in hand, but all I walked out with was a crummy attitude.

I knew the reaction in my heart wasn’t due to just being told “No.” There was a deeper reason for why I truly believed I needed that item. Not even just needed, but deserved it. God showed me that deep down the true reason of why I worked so hard in meeting our goals wasn’t the freedom to give to others, but the freedom to consume things on myself. Instantly my heart turned to repentance and an honest prayer came out: “God, I want to have the heart of a true giver.”

The next morning, God took me to 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, 11:
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work…He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.”

God showed me that the theme of this passage isn’t finances, but it’s the heart of giving. Realizing this, I read it again. This time, the words grace, sufficiency and righteousness stood out. Understanding that my righteousness in Christ means I’m complete, whole and lacking nothing, and that grace (God’s ability or power) reigns through righteousness, the passage came alive. God says that when we give from a heart that believes in its true state of righteousness, he will make all grace abound so we can ultimately give to others.

If I give from a heart of lack, then I will be reluctant to give. I will want to keep my resources for myself so as to meet my own needs. If in that attitude I choose to not give at all, I’m saying no to more than just the giving of my resources. I’m saying no to grace abounding in my life and an increase to the harvest of my righteousness.

Whether it’s giving time to a friend in need, genuine love to those in our family, or full surrender to God in our moments of pain, we all have something to give.

This post was written by Abbie Kellum. To read more about her, click here. 

Gift-Giving That Won’t Break the Bank

giftDo you struggle with gift-giving times?  Do you spend, buy, charge and/or rearrange your budget in November and December, and then have guilt or struggles in January and February?  Your head and heart say you want to give all your favorite friends and family members the best gift ever…But put it down on paper, and how can you afford to do that and pay your bills for the next two months?

Do you give gifts because your love language is gifts or giving, or is it because of obligation, acceptance, love, expectations or another motive?

Matthew 2:11, ” After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  This is one of the most famous times of gift-giving.

We’ve all heard “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  Take time for others, and many times the gift of yourself can be the best gift you can give them.  As we age, or others in our life age, we and life get busier and busier – spending time with family and friends becomes more precious than ever.

God has called me to practicality.  He made me literal–very literal–so in my thoughts, that is how I process things.  I make a list of what I want to accomplish, then I make a list of materials needed. I narrow that down to what I already have on hand and what I need to purchase or make ahead of time.

Use your talents for your gift-giving, such as calligraphy, painting, arts and crafts, or baking.

  • Make a fruit basket
  • Travel basket for kids on the road
  • Game basket for a family (much more economical than giving a gift to each family member)
  • Relaxing basket – bubble bath, candle, bath salts, lotion
  • Movie night with rental gift cards and microwave popcorn or homemade caramel corn in a large popcorn bowl
  • Basket of homemade canned goods, homemade bread & jam or local honey.
  • If you make desserts or homemade candy – give a treat on a nice dish they can reuse.  You can buy these at the local estate sales or thrift stores
  • Make a nice fruit pie, banana or strawberry bread
  • Give a ham
  • Use your photography and buy or make a picture frame for a special picture
  • Give coupons for your services: babysitting for a young couple, dinner and a movie, a home-cooked meal or dessert and coffee
  • For the booklover – Amazon.com or Christianbook.com gift cards
  • Give a rosebush for a lifetime of roses if you can’t afford the dozen
  • Family recipe cookbook
  • Make a photo calendar or scan photos and place on a CD or DVD for viewing together, or a flashdrive for a digital picture frame for the person that has everything

Evaluate your reasons for giving, your heart and your budget. Then give freely of your talents, time, love and gifts.

This post was written by Paula Gowman. To read more about her, click here

Debt Free

misc_decal_debt_free_blueWe reached a huge milestone in our financial life this week. We paid off my husband’s student loan and are now debt-free except for our home. What a journey!

While we were dating/engaged (can’t remember now!), we got involved in a “too good to be true” investment opportunity. We dreamed out loud about how we would spend the motherload just waiting to fill our bank accounts. It felt good to dream until we found out that our investment turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. I didn’t even know what that was at the time; just that the money we invested was gone. Thankfully, we didn’t invest more than we could walk away from and not be too sad. But when your heart is set on big $$$$, it can be a major let-down! We laugh about it today as we drive our used, but paid-for, vehicles, shop local sales, clip coupons and make out our monthly cash flow spending plans (thank you Dave Ramsey).

That was exactly eight years ago. I think it’s almost ironic that this week we finally said good-bye to debt. It feels really good. Here are a few things God taught us along the way.

  1. We learned financial discipline and faithfulness. God seems to be very comfortable with processes. He could’ve allowed us to make a lot of money in that Ponzi scheme, but in His divine wisdom He let us learn how to mature in our financial decisions. We’ve learned (and are still learning) how to work within the financial limitations we do have.
  2. We learned to do life in community. We have had to learn to receive help from others and it is humbling, but it’s not horrible. We’ve learned to bear each other’s burdens (think of someone under the crushing load of a boulder, not a backpack which each person can easily handle). God graciously sent people alongside us to teach us and miraculously give to us as an encouragement to stay the course. Now that we know what it feels like to receive help, we enjoy paying it forward as God gives us opportunity.
  3. Debt is slavery. It is very hard to be the extravagant givers our hearts long to be if we still owe other people and institutions money. Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!!!!

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Father God, thank You for giving us Your best in Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank You for giving us the resources we need to do life spiritually, physically and emotionally. By the power of the Holy Spirit help us to walk out our freedom every day of our lives so we might live and help others live life to the full. Amen!

How has being in debt affected you and your family? What are your stories of becoming debt free?

This post was written by Jodi LaFrance. To read more about her, click here.

Pinching Pennies 101

Why do we fear finances or budgets? Maybe we feel the walls closing in, the restraints starting to tighten. What if we look at it from the positive side? There is freedom in knowing where we are going. Freedom to what we are saving and planning for in our futures.

 As Pastor Paul says, “What we fear we worship. If you fear finances you will worship money.” If you are serious about changing your finances these are a few things you can do:

1.  Make a budget–logging your income and expenses–that’s all a budget is. Now, staying on a budget is a different story. Address the following questions:

a. What’s your income?

b. How much do you have going out?

Then you can be HONEST with your decisions about your finances.

2.  Trust God with what He’s already given you by:

a. Tithing

b. Listening to Him as to how to handle your financial situation.

Malachi 3:10-11 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you …”

* First, bring in the tithe.

* THEN He will rebuke the devourer for you.

There’s an action on our part before the second part can be fulfilled.

Acts 2:42-47 “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”

The Kingdom Assignment by Denny and Leesa Bellesihas many ideas of how others have used their resources to fund Kingdom Projects.

I once heard on the radio of a pastor that decided he was tired of hearing that people in his church couldn’t give money or help out with the things in which he felt God was calling them to. He decided that he was going to organize fundraisers (dinners, garage sales, etc.) to help the families in his church get out of debt. (How many people do you know who aren’t in debt in some form or another?) He started with the person with the most pressing need and the whole church family joined in and one by one they paid off their church body’s debts and they were finally free to do the work of the Kingdom.

All of these things can be used in your life, your ministry and your work. Using the gifts/talents God has blessed you with can bring fulfillment and purpose to yourself and others.

This post was written by Paula Gowman. To read more about her, click here.