You’ve chosen a cause you believe in – but are you really making a difference? There’s more to it than the size of your gift. Giving well is wisely stewarding what you have and making a life impact with it. From a biblical perspective, everything you have belongs to God, and you are to steward those resources while they’re in your possession – which is a process of giving it back to him. If you observe the biblical practice of tithing, please note that giving well is about giving above and beyond your tithe. Read More
I was asked to write a two-part article on “Choosing a Cause and Giving Well.” Here is part one of the article, which is also available as a pdf download.
Let’s be honest – hundreds of books have been written on stewardship and charitable giving. This brief article isn’t meant to compete with those books, but to supplement them with a simple set of criteria to help the average person make a few wise choices and get connected quickly with quality causes.
Frankly, I lose interest in a cause that I don’t connect with. Media I see requesting money often feels manipulative, playing on my guilt. I’m told I must “hurry” to give because the world may end without my immediate involvement. If an appeal touches my heart, that’s fine. If a request shames my conscience, I will find another place to give. Read More
As the church leadership team gathered for a meal, planning and prayer, someone asked about my recent return from Haiti. I’d been having a bit of trouble knowing how to answer some of the questions this past week. Joe turned to me and asked, “Do you have PTSD? I fought in Vietnam and I know what you’re going through.” I thought a little bit and nodded my head. Joe continued, “Seeing death, seeing the casualties – we can talk, okay?” The confirmation was helpful – why I’ve resisted looking at my photos and have felt awkward summarizing the mission. Joe fought in a real war – with bombs and shelling and shrapnel. It didn’t seem like my experience with the devastation in Haiti was on the same level.
I was on a different battlefield – no question about that. But we were also at war. The spiritual battle and oppression, the Haitian practices of voodoo and the occult, the political corruption, and yes, the death and destruction. Port-au-Prince is a war zone, with every other structure reduced to rubble, and refugees clamoring for aid – seeking shelter under tarps in every open space in the city.
I am grateful that Joe had the insight and the openness to connect with me, and help me step out of the mental fog of war. When we run headfirst, we must be cognizant of the cost of battle. It’s not an excuse to escape from doing what God calls us to do. But it’s the recognition that fatigue, heartbreak and trauma come from being at war. I am taking time to mourn, to process, and to re-gear. Because we know the battle is won, but the fighting isn’t over.
It’s hard to express how grieved I am right now, upon returning from Haiti for the 2nd time this month. While we worked to bring focus to a desperate situation, we encountered spiritual oppression, arrogance, spiritual immaturity, narcissism, division and distrust. We had to pray constantly and be on guard against forces of confusion and critical spirits.
Praying and striving to stay focused on Christ’s provision for the people of Port-au-Prince and greater Haiti was far more difficult this time around. In hindsight, I feel foolish to have been caught so off-guard. Why am I surprised, after writing just last week about God’s light in the darkness being His power shining forth through us as earthen vessels, that the rest of the passage would be just as real? Read More
The sun was still overhead, but the sensation of spiritual oppression was all around us. We walked from the presidential palace, whole floors collapsed, past the piles of rubble which had been the Haitian treasury building. A caravan of military vehicles made its way through the recently plowed streets. More than three weeks after the earthquake of January 12, 2010, very little had changed. Broken cinder blocks and twisted rebar still covered city blocks, and a look upward revealed rooflines at every angle to the sky – but none of them as they should be. These buildings, businesses and homes were now unintended mausoleums, housing the bodies of thousands of children and adults. The living were still wandering in the streets, Read More
Learning to live headfirst is harder for some than others. I’d assess myself in the bottom 20th percentile of “naturally living headfirst.” I frequently remind myself, as greatly needed, that a thousand lies of the accuser come rushing at me every day. I purposefully read Scripture and recall it throughout the day, because (as my friend JP says) the truest thing about me is what God says is true.
If it comes down to living as a strategist or living out my faith, I want to live by faith. Planning, strategy, sequencing – these are all beneficial to the Christian life, and I’m grateful, because they are part of my strong suit. But none of them help me live by faith; sometimes they offer excuses for me to not rely on Christ.
Let me illustrate how this played out over the last two weeks… Read More
He was wearing a black shirt with a drawing of a cross. It said “Killed in the line of duty” and had a quote from Philippians. Hugo had been wandering the streets of Port-au-Prince, but when he saw us he motioned for us to come to him. My teammate Ted was taking video and stills in front of the collapsed Treasury and Hugo saw something he thought we’d want on film. More than 3 weeks after the earthquake, a young man’s body lay covered with dust, trapped beneath shards of concrete. I could see his face, his ear, his arm. It was heart-piercing and unforgettable.
Hugo’s home was crushed and his family was dead. He asked if we could pass word to his cousin in the U.S. that he was still alive. He didn’t seem to know where he was going. I asked him about his shirt – was he a Christian; did he have a church? While we spoke, Haitians continued to wander up and down the streets. A young woman balanced a hardshell suitcase on her head and just watched us from the corner. Military convoys passed by, the Red Cross, the UN. Two CAT earth movers were parked next to the twisted rebar, unmanned. Ted spoke softly with Hugo as we tried to offer him compassion and aid. Then we had to leave.
The media reports the numbers: how many dead, how many orphans, how many homeless. There is tremendous darkness, tragedy and pain.
Only Christ can bring hope. No amount of darkness can consume light. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made His light shine in our hearts…
We can build the Kingdom together. Offer the Gospel to the lost. Build new communities. Bring healing and hope. Get ready to join in – you can find your role as the Church comes together for Haiti. More very soon…
This is an invitation to be a part of the Body of Christ at work in Haiti. We are collaborating to work as one – hopefully networking as many churches and ministries in the U.S. and the world as we can to support indigenous ministries in Haiti, and building on a long-term plan that incorporates the physical, spiritual, economic and social needs of the people.
Right now a core group from Southern California churches and ministries are working together and making as many connections here and in-country as possible. Leaders in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are coordinating an effort that will establish lasting engagement from followers of Christ. I will be joining a team on the ground in-country next week. This is not a “service team” per se, though we will deliver aid & supplies. Service and outreach teams will be needed in the near future, but right now we are only sending crisis response teams, such as medical teams, and a handful of ministry leaders.
Please recognize that by the time you read this, many things will have changed. We are working in a highly fluid period of crisis and transition with a goal of moving from urgent relief towards long-term recovery.
I will highlight one current opportunity before us – one of many… Read More
5) Give something lasting in honor of someone, such as a donation to a charity like World Vision in your recipient’s name, and they will know that a child has clean water and food this Christmas. When I was a kid, I knew it was always appropriate to plant a tree in Israel in someone’s honor. Just don’t copy George Costanza from Seinfeld and make up a fake charity like The Human Fund.
4) It’s always nice to get what you want rather than something useless. Choose something from their Christmas list, or ask them what they’re saving up for. When I was younger, I thought my Gentile neighbors were audacious in the lengthy lists posted on their bedroom doors for their parents. But you know, how many years of waxy Russell Stover chocolates and Walgreens colognes does it take to realize that it’s nice to gift something someone actually wants?!
3) One of my favorites – something not on a list – someone just knows you well enough to know your likes & longings. Every year my wife buys me a new Get Fuzzy cartoon “day at a glance” calendar. It’s not because I often lose track of the date – my iPhone tells me that every time I look at it. It’s not even a surprise, I’m pretty sure I’m getting one this year. It’s that she knows me. I love being known. Don’t you? (I admit that some of us are more work than others. My dog is really easy to shop for.)
2) Time. Sorry if you think it’s cliché, but it’s true. I’m a dad. My kids can talk all day about the awesome new video game they want, but they’d rather me sit down with them and play Legos, or Monopoly, or throw a ball, or just have me watch them draw than have the latest and greatest. And it’s not just kids who value your time. Or your spouse. Your closest friends love spending time with you. And then there are people no one is spending time with – they would be blessed if you’d sit down and ask them a few questions and listen to their stories. Is there someone lonely in your church or office who you could give a great gift by inviting them over or buying them coffee?
1) If you think giving is better than receiving, you should reconsider. The ultimate giver, Jesus Christ, gave His life so that you could know Him, experience forgiveness and taste eternity. Who do you know who hasn’t entered into a relationship with the living God? The best gift you could ever give them is the Gospel so that they can receive Christ – our Immanuel, God with us. Put aside your fears and excuses, and share the love of the Messiah with someone yet to meet the Lord. Make it the best Christmas ever, and help someone celebrate the arrival of the incarnate God with eternal life! It fits everyone’s budget, because the price has already been paid.
If no one has ever explained the Gospel to you, or you have a question about how to share the Gospel, please get in touch through the comment form under “Contact us with questions.”