Dear Friends in Christ,

During this month’s Generosity Campaign, Chip Ingram has been our guide. His friendship with John Saville when Chip was a pastor in his twenties and John was an affluent businessman in his seventies became the core idea for his 2011 book: The Genius of Generosity. John gave Chip $5,000 to spend on helping people in need. Chip thought about John every day as he tried to decide who needed the kind of help that John’s money could provide and who needed pastoral love and support. Every two or three months, John met with Chip to celebrate over lunch, to hear heartwarming stories, and to top-off his discretionary fund. “Let’s do it again!” John announced and another $5,000 cycle of generosity began.

Reflecting on his friendship with John Saville, Chip Ingram came to a stunning realization. Long before a wealthy friend gave him his first $5,000 to distribute to neighbors in need, God had been making the same opportunity available to Chip his whole life. Every time he cashed a pay check and spent what was needed to satisfy his own needs, God was challenging Chip to see the world’s needs through God’s eyes and to respond with generosity. Giving God the first ten percent – a tithe – was not meant to form a transactional relationship. God was not saying, “I’ll give you what you need as long as you ‘pay the rent’ and give me a tithe.” God had something much better in mind: “Get to know me. Let’s be friends. Use what I give you to enjoy life – but also to spread my generosity to those who need it more than you.”

Last week I wrote to you about Renee Lockey, an obstetrician in Texas who was inspired by God to “work like a doctor but live like a nurse.” After paying for a decent home, a dependable car, and a comfortable retirement, Dr. Lockey realized there are better things to do with her earnings than lock them in banks. By living frugally on one-quarter of her salary, she has been having fun giving away three-quarters of her pay to reflect what she is learning from the most important relationship in her life: her friendship with God. If you haven’t taken a moment yet to hear Dr. Lockey tell her own story, please click here for eight minutes of heartwarming inspiration: http://www.generouschurch.com/764

This week I have been inspired by the message of Bishop Hannington Mahemuke. On his way home to Kampala after attending a stewardship conference, all hell broke loose. Soldiers invaded. His town was destroyed. The people of his churches were exiled and imprisoned. In their distress they asked God to send resources from the West to fulfill their needs. But Bishop Hannington begged to differ. Relying on a promise he had been taught during that stewardship conference, he taught his people that God had already provided all the resources they needed to recover from calamity.

Bishop Hannington’s promised turned out to be true. While they were still imprisoned behind miles of razor wire, the bishop urged his people to gather up every blanket they could afford to share with others and give them away to the camp’s orphaned children. Every child was provided for. Hope returned. Joyful gratitude replaced greedy hoarding. By the time Kampala’s exiles were released, they were also ready to rebuild their village with growing trust in God. Trades people and business owners worked diligently to rebuild the wealth they had lost, not for the sake of having wealth again, but for the joy of giving it away with generosity. As their bishop had promised, giving generously made something that had once felt like a duty feel more like a heartwarming privilege. To see Bishop Hannington’s six-minute testimony, click here: http://www.generouschurch.com/genius-videos, scroll down, his is the fourth video on the page.

Do you give to God through our church out of dry and dusty duty or with the same kind of joy that friends give to friends? Once you try giving with generosity and joy you will never go back to the drudgery of doing your duty.

See you in church!
Pastor Joel

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