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[ Preparing for a gift day ]

As we head towards the gift days at the end of this month for the purchase of St Barnabas, I thought it may be helpful to write a post about preparing for gift days.

We’re by no means experts, and we certainly don’t always get it right, but as a couple Jenny and I have been through building projects with 3 different churches now, all of which have involved gift days. During these times God has taken us personally on a journey of learning increasingly to trust him with everything we’ve got.

As elders we wouldn’t ever want to be prescriptive about what you should give, that is between you and God, but as we prepare to give at the end of this month towards the purchase of St Barnabas there are some principals that Jenny and I have found helpful and I hope you will too.

1. Commit to praying.

Carve out time in your schedule to pray. If you possibly can, set aside some time to pray specifically ahead of these gift days.

Pray for the work which we’re believing God will do amongst us in St Barnabas. Pray for the men and women who live around that building who we’ll have increasing opportunity to share Jesus with. Pray that the building would be a place where many people would find hope, life and freedom as they encounter God.

Thank him for his provision in your life. It’s easy to look around at all the things you don’t have and become discontent. We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with a message that we need more, that we deserve more, that we’ll be satisfied if we have more. We all know that this isn’t really true but it doesn’t stop us from slipping in to it! So make a habit of thanking God for his provision in your day to day.

Thank God for the way he has provided for us as a church. We’ve never lacked the resources we need to do what we believe God has called us to. God is faithful, and he promises to provide, this gives us a real confidence that if St Barnabas is the right next step for us that He will provide. But our confidence doesn’t lead us to complacency because we know that God loves it when we pray, when we declare our dependance on Him and when we step out in faith.

Finally pray that God would give you wisdom to know what to give. As you pray remember that His wisdom is not the same as yours, in fact godly wisdom can at times seem crazy and even irresponsible if you measure it by the worlds standards. When Jesus asked the disciples what they had to give people to eat at the feeding of the 4,000 they gave him everything they had (Mark 8). They didn’t give him what was left after they’d eaten their fill. They gave him everything and unless God did something miraculous with it everyone was going hungry. Seven loaves and a couple of fish don’t go far between 4,000 + people!

2. Read your Bible.

Read what the Bible has to say about giving and let it do you good. There is lots of advice out there but the bible should be our plumb line in all things.

The generous heart of the Father, reflected by his generous people, throughout both Old and New Testaments is truly breathtaking.

When God spoke to Moses about building a tabernacle, a place of meeting for God and man, the people responded so wholeheartedly that Moses had to ask them to stop giving! (Exodus 36)

Jesus’ teaching on giving, following Him and trusting God in the gospels is rocket fuel for our faith and a wrecking ball to our false towers of security. He highlights a widows faith filled offering of 2 copper coins (Mark 12 and Luke 21) and unashamedly asked people to leave behind all their worldly security, everything they had, to follow him.

And the pattern we see in the early church is challenging to say the least. The Macedonian church in 2 Corinthians 8, gave ‘beyond their ability’, giving themselves ‘first to the Lord’. In Acts 2 we read about believers selling property to help meet need, these guys weren’t messing around!

The Bible won’t tell you what to give but it’s got a lot to teach us about how we give.

3. Talk with your spouse (If you’re married)

I know this sounds obvious, but bear with me. Jenny and I will pray together and pray separately ahead of a gift day, but we’ll both be seeking God on what we should give. We’ll talk about what each of us believes we should give and then we’ll come to a settled place of agreement between us.

This never fails to be a helpful process. More often than not, having prayed about it, we’ll come with the same figure, which never ceases to amaze me, but also provides real encouragement that we’re not crazy, but we have heard from God.

The other scenario that sometimes happens is that one will have in mind a much higher figure than the other; our experience is that this is also a great moment because it means we have to look at why we’ve come to such wildly different amounts. There are different reasons for this, sometimes there are good reasons; but to be honest, usually it’s because one of us was putting more stock in a healthy bank balance than we were in trusting God to provide and the other gives us a helpful reminder of where our security really rests.

4. Check your heart.

We can so easily slip into an ‘us first’ approach to our giving. We can make a list of all the things that we need to spend our money on and once we’ve worked out what’s left over we decide what we’ll give. We can find ourselves justifying selfishness as ‘good stewardship’, this is not the way God has called us to use our time or our money.

In his book ‘Small is big, slow is fast’ Ceasar Kalinowski reminds us of this truth :

“As Christians we can falsely assume that our highest calling is to attend a weekly church service and serve in a few church programs. We can continue to live as ‘Good Christians’ who embrace the American Dream and squeeze in some time to serve Jesus when it fits our schedule. But there’s another story we need to hear, one that doesn’t jibe with the tale we’ve grown up believing; The kingdom of God has come, and our King desires our entire life. . . .”

Can you imagine what it would look like if we actually lived like that? If we saw everything we have as kingdom tools and provisions to be used by God for his glory, however he see’s fit?

God doesn’t want to be Lord of your spare time and your spare change, he’s Lord of everything! Now that doesn’t mean that you need give everything to the church, but that you should hold all that you’ve been given with open hands, and a desire to use it all to the glory of God and the good of others.

Jesus hasn’t called us to a comfortable life. The ‘gospel’ of “follow Jesus and all your troubles will melt like lemon drops way above the chimney tops”, is a false gospel. The true Gospel is that the great and glorious creator of the universe has saved you for relationship with him. He gave everything he had to secure that relationship with you and he has provided everything you have., every breath in your lungs and he asks you to use it for his glory.

It’s not about how much you give, but the heart from which you give it. You could give a large amount and do it with a bad heart and for all the wrong reasons, or you could give a small amount with the right heart for the right reasons and God loves that! (Check out the story of ‘the widows mite’ in Mark 12 and Luke 21)

5. Be practical.

The truth is that we can tend to over spiritualise things and actually sometimes we just need to get on. We can expect God to drop extra money in our lap for us to give, and sometimes amazingly that does happen, but most of the time he asks us to use what he’s already given us.

There have been times where we’ve wanted to give but have looked at the bank balance and thought ‘unless something changes we genuinely can’t afford to’. Sometimes what needs to change hasn’t been our bank balance but our priorities. Because we’ve wanted to give, and been convinced in our hearts of an amount to give we’ve had to think practically about how we can do that. At one time that meant eating very simply for a month and cutting out any luxuries for a while. There’s nothing wrong with being practical about giving.

6. Enjoy The Adventure!

Our experience has been that stepping out and really trusting God with our money is exciting. Looking at what we have, thanking God for it and saying ‘Lord, use it however you want’ has been a real thrill. It’s felt risky at times, it’s felt costly at times, but without fail it’s been filled with Joy as we’ve had the privilege of partnering with brothers and sisters and ultimately with our father in heaven to see resources released and lives changed for the glory of God!

C.S Lewis writes, in the Chronicles of Narnia, about this life, this earth all that we see and know as ‘Shadowlands’; just a pale, dull, 2 dimensional image of the true beauty and glory of our eternal home with our Lord and Saviour. When you look at the shadow of a person and then the actual person you realise there’s no comparison! Our problem can be that we become infatuated with and settle in the shadow lands, our affections and priorities begin to revolve around them; our decisions and desires can become dominated by them. My prayer is that God would increasingly help us to see the shadowlands for what they are and see the glory of the creator they point to as so superior in every respect; that we would find the call of eternity so compelling and consuming that the result would be a radical reordering of our lives, our loves, our priorities and passions to demonstrate and declare the good news to everyone we can in every way we can with everything we’ve got!

Let’s expose these shadowlands for what they are and point people towards a greater king and a greater kingdom!

Redeemer Church Office | St Barnabas Terrace | Plymouth PL1 5NN

Tel: 01752 568400

Charity No : 1125216   |   Company No : 6390847