October 21, 2010

Physical and Spiritual

John 6 is a great commentary on how we all think. Jesus feeds more than five thousand people from a few loaves and fish and then teaches on how Jesus is the true bread from heaven. It seems straight forward however the listeners seem to be completely lost.
They are missing the spiritual connection that Jesus is making from the physical miracle (he calls them signs for a reason). When they approach Jesus after the miracle he knows they are seeking him because he supplied their physical needs not because they are seeking spiritual life.
We do the very same thing. We seek after physical healing and help often going to Jesus as a genie to meet our needs. In giving we can think, "Lord, I'm giving this now and please bless me." While we know that He multiplies our gifts just like the loaves and fish we often expect the result to be physical as opposed to the spiritual. God knows we have both and cares about both but in this world we often care more about the physical.
Don't be afraid to ask God to bless us in particular ways, especially in prayer but let's not also be closed minded in expecting God to bless us only in physical ways. Often it can even be more a blessing to be transformed through difficulty into his likeness rather than lack transformation in comfort. We would do well not to be like the majority of listeners in the passage but be open to receiving spiritual blessings and not grumble when they are not physical.

March 10, 2010

Why do we worry about Money?

We could say that there are a lot of reasons. I would like to focus on one for today. I think the reason we worry about money is because God provides for us in a way contrary to how we want God to provide for us. When was the last time you pulled the string on why you worry about money?
Certainly you know the scriptures that discuss worry and others that discuss God’s promises. If we believed the Bible for what it said would we worry about money? I think we would seek first the Kingdom and expect God to do the rest. I also believe we would be willing to allow God to provide to the level He wants and in the avenue He wants. The problem that missionaries face when they raise support is the very act of humbling themselves to receive the gifts. Why is it ok for them to humble themselves so much when requesting support but not for us when we approach God? Is it because we believe we earn it through our job? Probably.
The deeper heart issue here is the way that God provides and trusting that God will provide. It’s much easier to say God provides when your bank account has a couple of extra digits than the average man. Since we have not witnessed it with our eyes and in our own lives we doubt it. But we are also not surrendered to allow God to provide it the way He desires to provide it.
I believe that giving sacrificially brings us into that realm of feeling the pressure of seeing God provide. When we give sacrificially with joy I believe God is glorified and He promises to provide. It gets sticky when we start looking at the Josephs and Jobs of the Bible. What if God called you to that?
My hope is that when or if He does that we will remember the simple truth that God is working all things together for good and we do not live on bread (or money) alone but by every word that is God’s. My hope is that we will be willing to surrender our own will to His will even in the context of our finances, particularly when they are tight.

March 4, 2010

Learning from Advertisements

We should be able to learn a lot from advertisements. The first thing any advertisement or sales process is going to do is challenge your identity or something you believe. This is often accomplished without words but even in radio advertisements it is there: “Are you hungry all the time but want to lose weight?” Or in other words, “Are you fat?” Quick! What’s your answer? You only have a split second to tell yourself whether that is true. How about, “How would you like to drive a brand new xyz with no payments until 20XX?” Translation, “Do you like what your car says about who you are?”
In each case what we believe about ourselves is terribly important. The only way to resist the lies is to believe the truth (or another lie but we are not going to get into that here).
So what do you believe about money? I can tell by advertising that security is a big deal to us. I can also tell that making and having a lot of money is a big deal to us. I wouldn’t have to ask anyone personally, I just have to read the paper. What is important to you about how you handle your money?
The things we worry about are the very things that we are not putting into God’s hands and leaving them there. Jesus tells us in Luke that we should not worry about clothes or money but believe that God will provide for us. It is important that we believe these truths or else we believe lies that lead us to bondage through worry or believe that something else is going to satisfy. The world cannot give us peace or life the way God can. If you see an advertisement and it hits a nerve think to yourself, “is this true.” I encourage you to be like the Bereans and know for sure.

March 1, 2010

Giving in Response to Grace

Christians often have a perspective of giving that is at odds with scripture. This blog is called Macedonian Grace because God gave grace to the Macedonians to excel in giving. Few people would readily admit they were called to the grace or spiritual gift of giving and many probably see giving as an uncomfortable chore of believing right up there with fasting. This is born out in the examples of what we give. The next two posts should be read together but for the sake of size I will post them separately. They both point to how we view giving and if we see it in a context of grace. May you excel in the grace of giving. So be it.

The International Aid Example

In the Old Testament, God took no pleasure with the Israelites for offering blemished lambs as their offerings and today we offer the leftover items in our house when the opportunity presents itself to give. I recently visited Global Aid Network, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, and while being pleased with their operation, was also surprised by what I saw there. In the very front of the warehouse are bins for clothes and shoes individuals gave to be sent to people who are in need worldwide. I looked in the bin and saw shoes that were worn through the sole and into the thin lining inside the shoe. I looked into another bin and saw a shirt that had multiple grease marks and a tear around the armpit. Originally I was shocked that GAIN would deliver these clothes and before I could even bring up the question the guide told me that over half of what is donated has to be thrown out because it is not worthy to send.
Why would we give these things? When I began to pull the string I became even more upset. We buy nice things for ourselves and give what we have worn out. Imagine meeting the person who received your old shoes. Could you look confidently and feel proud of yourself when they try to put on your leftovers? Now turn the table and you will see why it means so much that God gave us His precious son and maybe more so why he would get so upset when the sacrifices the Israelites performed that were a foreshadowing of The Sacrifice to come were of their second best.

Grace and Giving

Now consider the greater context of giving again with Jesus’ own voluntary death as a precursor. Why do we give? Because we are commanded to give as Jesus gave and so by giving become like Him. Giving in light of Jesus’ gift is the natural response; in fact worship, of what God has done for us.
Those who see giving as one of many in a list of to-dos for believers are missing the point. Just like those who think that by giving they are earning favor with God, they are operating out of a paradigm contrary to the gospel. This is the gospel: that in spite of our alienation and struggle against God, He, in His great love, sent His son to rescue us from being alien from Him and adopted us as His children so that those who are His children and even those who are not will know of how wonderful He is. This is the gift of God and the status we receive is permanent. Unchanging even in the light of all the things we can muster to do for God, like giving or fasting or any other discipline.
I believe that when we understand the gospel and recognize that we are giving back to God just what he has already given to us, we can joyfully and freely give expecting God to do wonderful things in concert with His character.

February 24, 2010


Boy oh boy, nothing like discussing doubt. Just after I finished posting “Peace of Mind” I went to a sales meeting and heard, “It is our job to open the door just enough to allow a little daylight of doubt” in the listener’s mind. It struck me so hard I wrote it down. Who does that? Who opens the door to allow the daylight of doubt in our minds? The devil does. I almost fell out of my chair. I understand what he was meaning. The only way to get a content customer with a competitor to switch is to tell them what they are missing or how the competitor doesn’t do it as well, essentially instilling that sliver of doubt.
But it makes me think I should be reading The Screwtape Letters instead of the Bible to become the best salesman – to know when to apply the pressure and when to let up and let psychology take over.

I would love comments on this. Do you think it is wrong to put doubt in the minds of people? If so, should we not do it when we are addressing a person that believes something that is not true or in other words when the doubt may lead someone to the truth? Does doubt lead someone to the truth? I think these are interesting questions.
Finally, I want to tie this together. As in Peace of Mind, be on your guard against people sowing doubt. My suspicion is that the more we learn to doubt things in our lives the more accustomed we become to doubt everything and then we end up as cynical pessimists frankly. The devil doesn’t even need to work because we do it for him. I have often felt a talented salesman wields a sharp blade and it can easily cut the mind of the listener either positively or negatively but I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts. As a believer, our first priority is to know God and trust God. When we begin to doubt that the church will use the money we give wisely or are always thinking there is a better way than what God commanded we miss the mark of trusting God and leaving the results to God. I am not advocating a lack of discernment on the believer’s part but I do want us to recognize that we often believe the doubts the devil puts in our minds regarding the effectiveness of obedience, the Spirit of God, and depending on God. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Internal Rate of Return

As I was wading through the blogosphere yesterday I ran across this section of an "MBA Mondays" series from A VC and wanted to connect many of you to it. While an IRR calculation may not come up that often in your decision making, it really should whenever you are doing a cost benefit analysis of returns over a period of time.

Here is the link: How to Calculate a Return on Investment courtesy of A VC. Enjoy.

February 22, 2010

Peace of Mind

If you have ever received any sales training you will know that at the end of your pitch you have to appeal to a benefit. Nine times out of ten one of the benefit is “peace of mind.” The entire sales process is to build into the listener the recognition that he is completely unaware of something significant, i.e. the market is going to crash; and convince the listener that you have what he needs, i.e. inside information or the truth regarding what is really going on. The good salesman ties it together, “but I’ve been there before and seen it. With me you can rest easy at night knowing I’m looking out for you and your family. That should give you peace of mind.” If the listener tracked along at this point they have a crucial decision to make. Pay the cost and have peace of mind or deny the sale and worry.
Advertisements work because we do not have our guard up. If we knew that we were being quizzed on what provides peace of mind we would certainly not think the newest car, security system or insurance would provide it. Hopefully we would all answer, “God alone is my peace” and further, “His peace is not like the fake peace the world offers. He gives me real peace.” Unfortunately we don’t have our guard up and when we watch commercials we are not trained to consider the veracity of the claims. The result is that we end up spending a lot of money on things we shouldn’t have purchased in the first place.
But that isn’t the only way our desire for peace of mind affects us financially. It is commonplace in the securities industry to sell based on the anxieties that investors have. The classic, “do I have enough?” and “what if I lose it all?” drive many to make poor investment and financial decisions. It is so natural to want to do your job well and be able to provide for your family. But it is altogether wrong to believe that you are sole provider for your family and the responsibility is entirely yours to control what you have been given. Stewardship is important and God must be involved in our concerns and decision making as it relates to our finances. What steward would not ask the owner what the owner wants? As soon as you depend upon yourself you will no longer be depending upon and trusting in God.
We all want to find peace of mind. And it we look for it in the wrong place. The accuser is at work on us trying to get us to doubt God’s peace, presence, and guidance; and be anxious about our own safety and security. God did not make us to be independent of Him and so we naturally seek peace. But let us remember that it is God alone that provides true peace and while the salesman means well, he offers peace of mind that will not truly satisfy.

February 19, 2010

Comfortable – a Heart Issue?

Today I had the opportunity to meet with an estate attorney. He said, “I don’t want to make so much money that I end up leaving an estate to my kids. I just want to make enough so I have some in the bank and am able to provide for as many kids as I have, maybe 4 or 5.” But it was the look he gave me after he said it that said it all. It was that quizzical look wondering if I approve or disprove of his rejection of outright greed. He went on later to say that he just wanted to be “comfortable.”
It’s a question of the heart really. I think of the man that bought a million dollar home. When he found out his acquaintance bought a 2.4 million dollar home he was upset decrying the purchase as excessive and wasteful only for him to purchase a second 1.8 million dollar home after he received an inheritance.
The things we care about most often are the same things we play mind games to prove to ourselves it doesn’t have a stronghold in our lives. Like a man who really enjoys food rationalizing to himself that he can eat exquisite meals so long as he only spends so much judging both the one who spends more for delicacies and the one who cares little for what he consumes. What we think about and what we believe really do define us.
I couldn’t help sharing with the attorney that God may not be calling him to live comfortably and despite his desire to run a low overhead law practice God may actually call him to provide employment to another because he has the means to do so. So often we do not ask God what He would have us do or see the responsibility we have as a steward of God’s gifts. Can you provide someone a job but avoid it because it involves delegation or may bring into question your organization’s image or competence? Perhaps you should allow gleaning in your business as a blessing to those willing to work. What is that one thing that if a friend asked to borrow it you really would be upset if it came back broken? These kinds of questions may help you pinpoint those things that are holding an inordinate strain in your life and reveal what you treasure. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke).

February 17, 2010

Imbalances in Wealth

The problem of the rich having too much and the poor having too little is daily discussion for many in politics. Many think this is an injustice and as such, as God is the divine controller of all things, reflects on God’s injustice or carelessness. Like many of the concerns those who judge God have – why does He allow bad things to happen at all? In this case, God addresses what the rich and poor should be doing as believers in His kingdom.
To the rich, he tells them to give to help those that are poor; and to the poor, he tells them to receive so no one will have too little and no one have too much. Naturally this relieves the two problems of over and under abundance. It makes sense as members of the body of Christ that if one area of the body was receiving too little blood flow that an area that receives much may curtail the use so that some may reach the appendages. Giving and receiving is an encouragement of our faith and a recognition that God is providing.
Many who are rich say to themselves, “look at all I have” as opposed to honoring God and saying, “look at all I have the opportunity to share and provide for others.” God provides for the rich and poor alike and both should be in the business of using that wealth to build the kingdom of God. Now let me encourage you to be like the Macedonians and excel in the grace of giving where the rewards are eternal and the blessings are practical.

February 16, 2010


Whenever a believer asks me what they should do, whether it is how much to save, or where to make an investment I always think to myself, “Why don’t you pray about it?” Often when I help believers and non-believers alike with their finances I frequently experience the Moses dilemma. When the people were following Moses out of Egypt they clearly saw God working and they desperately desired to have Moses go to God on their behalf (Exodus 20). When people bow down at the altar of their money, they want someone else to do the planning and directing for them. They do it because they want to hold the adviser responsible for their money. But, somewhat similarly to God, the market doesn’t always do what the eager worshiper desires. Unlike God, it isn’t always for their best.
For the believer, however, they have an infinitely more powerful way to deal with their financial insecurities. Instead of worrying about their finances and hoping a professional can keep them on the straight and narrow, they can trust God. Instead of growing rich in worldly things, they can grow rich in the things of God. Both of these require the believer to be knowledgeable of what scripture says about how we should treat our money and that the believer ask God what he should be doing. The first part is rather straightforward, and the second part, too, but in a much more faith demanding way.
It takes a lot of faith to hear that still small voice that speaks to us when we ask. It takes a lot of faith to ask and believe He will answer instead of not asking because one is afraid of whether He will answer or not. This is only compounded when we take something our culture puts so much emphasis upon and has an effect that is as palpable as being the oil that keeps our lifestyle functioning. We wonder when we pray if God will tell us to do what we fear the most, as he commanded the rich young ruler to do and give it all away. Of course it is possible that God would call a person to do it but we have to trust the character of God – namely that He desires what is absolutely the best for us and He is by His very nature good.
So while it is difficult to approach the throne of grace confidently when we ask for discernment regarding what we should do with our earthly blessings that is exactly what we should be doing. Sure there is a role for trustworthy advisers in your life but it is most important to ask the one whose stuff it really is before deciding to spend it or even give it.

February 11, 2010

How Much is Enough?

The human heart is never satisfied. Every time I desire to accomplish something I can always go back and read from Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2 and comfort myself by knowing that its already been done and it doesn’t satisfy. It’s a long lesson I have learned multiple times and we all have. But when it comes to providing for our families and leaving a legacy how much is enough?
Do you ever read financial publications? You can pretty much sum up all that the human heart desires as it relates to money by looking at the advertisements. Answering to themselves whether they have enough is one of the biggest concerns for Americans and you can see all throughout the advertisements.
While most of us wish the Bible had it written in Proverbs 1 the amount above which we have too much money, it specifically does not do that. I firmly believe the reason is because it is different for everybody. This is not an excuse for the compulsive hoarder but more a recognition that God calls people uniquely and that is true regarding their giving and keeping as well.
The United States remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world and many of us live with so much luxury and so little sacrifice that we truly may not be able to identify with the sheep in Matthew 25. Are you feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, welcoming strangers or even being a neighbor to your neighbors? Many of our possessions take up untold amounts of our time and giving them can sometimes be the first step to a larger work God plans to do in our lives.
When we think about the needs of others and recognize the state in which the majority of the world lives in it naturally takes our focus off ourselves and on others. When we meet the needs of others, even at a price to ourselves, we take one more step to fulfilling God’s command to love our neighbor above ourselves. As you reflect on meeting the needs of others and honestly ask God what it means for you to be His steward I am sure He will tell you if you’re holding on to too much.


I've signed the blog up for Technorati and they require a posting of a particular code. That is what this post is for. If you are interested in allowing others to find your blog from a variety of avenues, I recommend you look at Technorati. C4AD2TBANM77 By the way let me know if you know any other ways to allow people who may be interested in learning about Christian giving to visit the site. Thanks.