Category Archives: Giving

Wise giving

This article explains the extra tax benefits of donating stocks that have gone up in value rather than selling them first and then donating: Give Like a Smarty.

That is a wise way to give. But you can make it simpler and better by opening a Vanguard Charitable fund, where you donate directly to a fund in which you basically have complete control over the donations that come out. Schwab, etc. have similar programs.  I’m just a big Vanguard fan because of their extremely low management expenses.

You can review whatever stocks or mutual funds you have and make transfers from the investments with the highest % gains to maximize your tax benefits.  Why pay capital gains taxes and then donate?

The online tools make it easy to have checks sent directly from your fund to your designated charities.  If you keep a minimum balance there are no fees.

Leave a comment if you have questions about this.  It may sound complicated at first but once it is set up it is easy to administer.

Acts 5 = worst church marketing program ever?

Short version: If God can grow his church while striking two generous but deceptive donors dead, then maybe — just maybe! — He doesn’t need slick, manipulative, man-made “church growth” programs.  Just preach the Good News inside and outside the church.

The title is sarcastic, of course.  The church grew dramatically even with this not-so-seeker-sensitive approach where God kills Ananias and Sapphira on the spot for lying to the Holy Spirit (and if that wasn’t enough, the next passage is about how the Apostles were arrested and beaten for proclaiming Jesus). It is unfortunate that mainline, “seeker-sensitive” and “emergent” churches didn’t study it more carefully before watering down their doctrine so badly.  When leaders feel that they must twist or ignore the word of God to advance the kingdom it is evidence of weak or non-existent faith.

Acts 4:32–5:11 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

In the midst of the explosive church growth we read this cautionary tale.  Some people read it as the early Christians being communistic, but that isn’t the point at all.  As always, we must read carefully and in context.

The passage describes the general behavior of believers but it doesn’t say God commanded this (“no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own.”). 

Peter didn’t say that Ananias and Sapphira were obligated to donate anything at all: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?

The sin wasn’t in not giving enough, it was lying to God.   This was a serious thing, especially when the church was forming.  They needed purity and honesty, just like we do today.  Just because we are in the age of grace doesn’t mean that God doesn’t take sin seriously. 

Satan was defeated at the cross in an ultimate sense, but he was and is still active in tempting Christians and non-Christians. 

Despite this event, the church continued to grow.  Consider how lax church discipline is in the U.S. today.  I’m not wishing for judgments like those again Ananias and Sapphira, but the lack of discipline has let all kinds of false teachers in the church and corrupted our witness. 

Again, this passage was not a Biblical command to never own property.  Saying your possessions aren’t your own doesn’t mean anyone can come take them, it is recognizing that ultimately they all come from God.  We aren’t giving him anything He didn’t give us in the first place.

Other passages round out the New Testament guidance on giving, notably 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We don’t need deception to spread the Gospel.  We need the truth.  We should share it as ambassadors, but we should share it without apology.  If you distort the message to appeal to spiritually dead people, then don’t be surprised when your church gets off track.

One of the reasons I’m careful about choosing which charities to support

Once you are on their mailing lists, it is hard to get off!

I donated money to a Campus Crusade guy about 15 years ago.  I was the leader of the Christian Employee Network Group at Compaq (and subsequently HP) and we met on several occasions.  But I eventually stopped the support because I wanted to channel it elsewhere.

But I’m still getting updates from him in the mail!

I contacted him twice to have him remove me from his distribution list.  Nothing happened, so I started just throwing them away unread.  We moved in 2003, but he somehow got the new address (I didn’t give it to him).  Then we moved in 2009 and the mail still kept coming.  We moved this year and I just got an update.  Argh!  What a waste of stamps.

This is why I primarily support our local church and then a handful of other carefully-selected charities.  I’d rather give more to fewer organizations than a little to many of them.  I am good at saying “no” to the little requests (grocery store checkout suggestions, general solicitations, etc.).  I treat it like I do my retirement investments:  I want to diversity a bit but not too much, and I want to ensure that my money is going where it can do the most good.

So my advice is to do the same: Give, because giving is fun*, but do so with discernment.

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 The point is this: 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.

*Oh, and give because Jesus promised rewards, and He has the most credibility of anyone in the universe to back up his promises.

Matthew 6:19–21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Why Leftist economics illiteracy matters: Importing refugees is immoral even without the terror risk

And of course, the terror risk is huge.  The system is like a giant magnet drawing in terrorists.  But let’s ignore that and consider how this feel-good process ignores that we have limited resources to help people, so we must help them in the most cost-effective way possible.  Discernment and wisdom are virtues.

Source: Why Refugee Resettlement Is Immoral 

In other words, each refugee we bring to the United States means that eleven others are not being helped with that money. Faced with twelve drowning people, only a monster would send them a luxurious one-man boat rather than twelve life jackets. And yet, with the best of intentions, that is exactly what we are doing when we choose one lucky winner to resettle here. Some will object that we can do both — relocate some refugees here and care for others in their native region. But money is not infinite. Every dollar the government spends is borrowed and will have to be paid back by our grandchildren.

. . .  The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports a $2.5 billion funding shortfall in caring for Syrian refugees in the Middle East. The five-year cost of resettling just 39,000 Syrians in the U.S. would erase the entire current UNHCR shortfall. Security concerns aside, it is morally unjustifiable to help the few at the expense of the many.

So while the “Christian” Left is churning out self-congratulatory memes for not just spending but wasting other people’s money to show how “generous” the Left is, the adults in the room are thinking about how to best help the refugees and to keep people safe.

I have said many times that Leftists literally fail at basic economics, and that is no exaggeration (though it is a slight exaggeration to say that my dog did better on a college economics test than Leftists would).  And this is where that really matters.  If people mismanage their own finances, that is one thing.  But pretending that we have unlimited funds is counterproductive, dangerous and wasteful.

So sure, it costs 12 times as much to bring a refugee to the U.S. than to settle him in the Middle East and it greatly increases the risk of terrorism against our neighbors, but let’s spend their money anyway because economically illiterate Leftists post fallacious guilt-inducing memes.

I encourage people to read all of the National Review article.  But one of the problems with Leftists is that not only do they just consume Leftist media, but that same media tells them to never consume conservative media.  Because bias.

P.S. Try to forget that these pro-abortion extremists care so much about “the children” that they insist that Jesus is fine with killing them up until their first breath.

I followed K-Love’s advice and donated what God told me to: Zero.

K-Love radio is a national Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) station that uses the same fundraising approach that KSBJ does in Houston: Lots of “sloppy God talk” instead of just explaining their ministry and inviting you to participate à la 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (The point is this: 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.).

Example: They endlessly say to give “what God tells you to,” as if that was something we should expect God to do.

Now could God give you a specific figure?  Of course!  He’s God!  But is that in any way normative based on scripture?  Should you expect him to give you a specific amount? Of course not.  Even a cursory reading of the Bible would reveal how ridiculous that is.

This ties into the lack of discernment so prevalent in the church and how badly people do with decision making and the will of God.

KSBJ would have testimonials like a guy in bankruptcy who donated to KSBJ with what little he had.  Great example, eh?  Stiff the people who lent you money and give it to KSBJ.  Very God-honoring.  /sarcasm

And while they had plenty of testimonials by people who donated and then got blessings, they never mentioned those who gave and didn’t get the Joel Osteen-type rewards.

One of the things I loved about Care Net Pregnancy Center in Houston was how they never used any emotional ploys.   They just shared all the great things the ministry did and gave people the opportunity to join in.  They have thrived for years and even paid a building loan off very early.  Trusting God with the results and skipping the games can be really effective — and much more God-honoring!

A different Pregnancy Resource Ministry had a speaker who used the “give what God told you to give” line.  The guy was very sincere and the ministry was sound, so we gave anyway.  But why use such word games?  God “told” my wife a different number than me.  So was one of us holier than the other, or was one hearing from Satan?

I had only been listening to K-Love a couple days when they started their pledge drive.  Great timing.  Their normal programming seemed fine, as far as CCM goes.  But that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Update: And as Pastor Timothy noted in the comments, if God is going to speak to you outside his word with that specificity, why would it be with on something like that?  How come these people don’t ask God to tell them exactly whom to share the Gospel with?

King David vs. the theological Left

If you ask the government to take from neighbor A by force to transfer to neighbor B, then that is not charity on your part, and certainly not something Jesus taught. He said to give your own money.  Yet the theological Left and its false teachers do this endlessly.

These people, who claim the name of Christ, should follow the example of King David when he was making an offering to the Lord: 1 Chronicles 21:24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

David wouldn’t even take the offerings that were given freely.  He didn’t want to just re-gift something to God.  The theological Left does something far worse than re-gifting: They advocate taking from others by force to “give” in their name.  They are greedy (wanting to keep what they have) and covetous (jealous of what others have), not generous.  Don’t let them fool you, and don’t be a part of it.

Give generously, but give your own money.

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 The point is this: 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.

I’m with Bono on this one.

Via Bono: Only Capitalism Can End Poverty.

This is a great day. For years, Bono has been something of a pain, banging on about the need for billions of dollars in Western foreign aid to Africa. I have criticized him for ignoring the real source of African poverty – lack of capitalism – on numerous occasions.

But, unlike many who hate capitalism without reservation, Bono is open to changing his mind. Here is Bono giving capitalism its due recognition during a recent speech at Georgetown University. As the musician put it, when it comes to poverty “free enterprise is a cure.”

Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming.

According to the World Bank, global poverty is declining rapidly. In 1981, 70 percent of people in poor countries lived on less than $2 a day, while 42 percent survived on less than $1 a day. Today, 43 percent live on less than $2 a day, while 14 percent survive on less than $1. “Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history,” wrote Brookings Institution researchers Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz in a recent paper. “Never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time.”

Yes, we should still share with the less fortunate — preferably out of our own wallets.  But we must use good discernment with giving to ensure that it isn’t counter-productive.  Know the charities you support and ensure that they are really making a difference and are run efficiently and effectively.  Use good discernment and pray for wisdom!  But don’t forget that making people more self-sufficient may be the greatest gift.

For example, one of the reasons we love and support the AIDS Orphan mission in Kenya is that it doesn’t just cost effectively (literally $10/child/month) feed, clothe and educate these orphans (and the widows who take care of them), it also gives them life skills.  We met many kids who baked bread, sewed, did hair care, planted trees, etc. and made such good livings that they supported themselves and their siblings.  Their joy was contagious.  We feel blessed to be a small part of that and feel confident in giving to the program because we’ve seen it first hand many times and have gotten to know the leaders well over a number of years.

Should Food Stamp Purchases Be Limited to Healthy Food?

Fooducate (a great app to use in the grocery store to see
how healthy your food really is) asked the title question on their
blog
. My response: The choices should be limited to
healthy foods. They listed these potential objections, to
which I would ask people to simply consider a parallel of neighbors
helping each other.

  • Limiting the food choices
    is paternalistic nanny state oversight.
Limiting choices on drink
sizes is ridiculous. That is true nanny-statism. But
this is vastly different: You have a choice to accept or reject the
free food offered by fellow citizens.
Would you accuse your neighbor of such things if they only
offered you free healthy food?
  • Eliminating food
    choice would create a stigma and shame SNAP
    beneficiaries.
What stigma? You are getting free food.
You should be grateful.
  • The diets of SNAP
    participants are generally comparable to the diets of Americans of
    similar economic means, so why single poor people out?
Because taxpayers are paying for their food.
  • The cost of reprogramming computers and retraining
    grocery store staff for the hundreds of thousands of food items in
    stores is prohibitive.
It would be worth it to help those people.
And it would save on the medical
costs.
  • Where will the line be drawn between healthy /
    non-healthy foods? Is a cereal with 12 grams of sugar nutritious? 8
    grams? 4 grams? What if it has added fiber?
The details could be worked
out. I would make things really simple and focus on things like
oatmeal, milk, bread, cheese, fruits, etc. And I wouldn’t let
them have cards that they could sell for cash and use it for drugs,
cigarettes, bad food, etc. Part of our problem is that by
trying to save money with technology (normally a good thing!) we’ve
made it too easy to abuse the program. That kills the cost
savings.

Prison ministry and a big hug from a Hampton Inn employee . . .

I was getting breakfast recently at the Hampton Inn (Mmmmmm . . . waffles) and heard an employee in the kitchen singing Power in the Blood ( “. . . in the precious blood of the lamb . . .”).  I leaned in to tell her that I liked that song and we shared a smile.  Then without thinking I leaned back in and mentioned that we had just been singing it at a prison ministry weekend.

Her co-worker walked out with me and thanked me for the ministry.  I didn’t think much of it  at first, but she repeated it and then leaned in with tears in her eyes and said that her son was locked up and how she really appreciated people going to minister in prisons.  We talked for a minute then she gave me a giant hug.  Please pray for Valerie and her son and that God will send people to him with the truth and love of Jesus.

It reminded me of how effective and important well-run prison ministry programs can be.

Thanks and blessings to all the people who have established and are running these programs!

—–

Also see Kairos Prison Ministry.  I’ve leading a weekend program this October, so if you are in Houston area and would like to participate on the inside or outside team, or just come to see the closing program to hear how the weekend helped the offenders, please let me know!

I’ll never look at geneologies in the Bible the same way

Faith Comes By Hearing is a ministry that produces audio recordings of the Bible in 371 languages and all are available for free download. Some countries are 80-90% illiterate, so getting the spoken Word to them is a powerful evangelistic tool. They have a product which is just really, really cool. “The Proclaimer is an audio player containing the New Testament on an embedded microchip. It has just one purpose: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations! The Proclaimer is practically indestructible. It can play by solar panel . . .”

This is a great ministry to donate to as well as a terrific source of free audio Bibles for your MP3 player.  Check out their web site and see what I mean.

I heard their President speak a couple years ago and was fascinated at how many of these cultures fixate on the genealogies that we reflexively want to skip over.  But for them, a person’s ancestors have a big impact on their credibility.  So when they realize who Jesus’ ancestors were they were prepared to take him more seriously.

Do you want to go to prison?

Just for a visit, of course.  Leave a comment if you want an application to attend the October 14 Kairos Prison Ministry weekend closing ceremony described below.  The application is due October 2, so you need to act quickly.

Attending a Kairos Closing is truly a rewarding experience.  You will be privileged to witness persons whose lives have been changed by the Holy Spirit as shared through the Kairos weekend team.

Closing dates and their Closing Application dates are as follows:

Closing Date                                     Application due Date

October 14, 2012                            October 2, 2012

March 10, 2013                                February 27, 2013

June 9, 2013                                      May 25, 2013

October 13, 2013                             September 29, 2013

Closings are held on Sunday afternoon of the Kairos Weekend from 4:30pm to 7:30pm.  To attend a closing:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older
  • You cannot be on an inmate’s visitation list for the carol Vance unit
  • You cannot be a friend or relative to an inmate at the Carol Vance unit

To apply to attend a Kairos closing, fill out and submit an Application Form by the due date listed above. After the application is received, a confirmation will be sent to you that it has been received via email. You will be notified if you were approved. The week before the Closing, an email will be sent to you with a map and other instructions concerning your visit.

About that “brother’s keeper” verse . . .

I rarely see Genesis 4:9 used properly, where Cain kills his brother and then cynically answers God:

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

That’s the only place it appears in the Bible, yet President Obama and many false teachers* use it as a trump card to justify wealth redistribution.  Dinesh D’Souza exposes this hypocrisy in How I became George Obama’s ‘brother’, where he actually helps the impoverish literal brother of our rich and powerful leader.

As D’Souza notes, the argument — if true — that George has exhibited some bad behavior would not let the President off the hook for helping him.  After all, it is a Liberal mantra that George’s social conditions are the real culprit.

George’s brother is a multimillionaire and the most powerful man in the world.  Moreover, George’s brother has framed his re-election campaign around the “fair share” theme that we owe obligations to those who are less fortunate.

One of Obama’s favorite phrases comes right out of the Bible: “We are our brother’s keeper.”  Yet he has not contributed a penny to help his own brother. And evidently George does not believe, even in times of emergency, that he can turn to his brother in the White House for help.

. . .

Obama’s refusal to help George is especially surprising because George doesn’t just live in American-style poverty but rather in Third World poverty.  He lives in a shanty in the Huruma slum in Nairobi.  He gets by on a few dollars a month.  Obama also has an aunt named Hawa Auma, his father’s sister, who ekes out a living selling coal on the streets of a small village in Kenya.  She says she would like to have her teeth fixed, but she cannot afford it.  Obama hasn’t offered to help her either.

What’s going on here?  Why is President Obama so hesitant to help family members in need?

A couple of years ago, George teamed up with a British journalist Damien Lewis and the two of them published George’s story in a book called “Homeland.” Yet according to Lewis, shortly before the book’s publication in America, the publisher Simon & Schuster decided to shred the entire print run, more than 20,000 copies.  Lewis tried unsuccessfully to get an explanation from Simon & Schuster but to no avail.  He now suspects that the White House convinced Simon & Schuster that George’s story might prove embarrassing to the president.

In 2010, George also applied for a visa to come to the United States and was refused.   While George confesses that in his younger years he was a delinquent, he has never been convicted of any crime.  Moreover, he has a very good reason to visit the United States: his mother Jael Otieno lives in Atlanta.  So why would the U. S. embassy in Nairobi refuse a tourist visa to the brother of the president who just wants to spend time with his mother?

. . . So what’s the real story here?  Where’s George Obama’s “fair share”?  George’s tragic situation exposes President Obama as a hypocrite.  Here is a man who demands that others pay higher taxes to help the poor—even poor people who are not related to them—while Obama himself refuses to help a close relative like George.

Yet I believe there is a deeper explanation that goes beyond hypocrisy for why Obama wants nothing to do with George.   After all, it would cost Obama so little to raise George out of poverty, and yet he won’t do it.  This isn’t mere negligence; it suggests an active animus.   . . .

No wonder President Obama despises George, doesn’t want him around, doesn’t care to hear George’s views circulated in America, and won’t lift a finger to help him even when George’s son is in the hospital.

 

Christians love to give their own money to help the truly needy.  But the Bible is clear: If you can work but don’t, then you don’t eat.  And it isn’t charity to ask “Caesar” to take from neighbor A by force to “give” to neighbor B.

Even if that verse meant that we are to be our “brother’s keeper” in the sense that they use it, then we’d be obliged to do that with our money, not our neighbor’s.  And those using that line should start with their literal brothers.

*False teachers include people like Jim “the Gospel is all about wealth redistribution” Wallis and race-baiting Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie, who reflexively take the “brother’s keeper” line out of context.  

Acts 5 = worst church marketing program ever?

The title is sarcastic, of course.  The church grew dramatically even with this not-so-seeker-sensitive approach where God kills Ananias and Sapphira on the spot for lying to the Holy Spirit. It is unfortunate that mainline, “seeker-sensitive” and “emergent” churches didn’t study it more carefully before watering down their doctrine so badly.  When leaders feel that they must twist or ignore the word of God to advance the kingdom it is evidence of weak or non-existent faith.

Acts 4:32-5:11

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Ananias and Sapphira

5     Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

In the midst of the explosive church growth we read this cautionary tale.  Some people read it as the early Christians being communistic, but that isn’t the point at all.  As always, we must read carefully and in context.

The passage describes the general behavior of believers but it doesn’t say God commanded this (“No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”). 

Peter didn’t say that Ananias and Sapphira were obligated to donate anything at all: “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?”

The sin wasn’t in not giving enough, it was lying to God.   This was a serious thing, especially when the church was forming.  They needed purity and honesty, just like we do today.  Just because we are in the age of grace doesn’t mean that God doesn’t take sin seriously. 

Satan was defeated at the cross in an ultimate sense, but he was and is still active in tempting Christians and non-Christians. 

Despite this event, the church continued to grow.  Consider how lax church discipline is in the U.S. today.  I’m not wishing for judgments like those again Ananias and Sapphira, but the lack of discipline has let all kinds of false teachers in the church and corrupted our witness. 

Again, this passage was not a Biblical command to be property-less.  Saying your possessions aren’t your own doesn’t mean anyone can come take them.  It is recognizing that ultimately they all come from God.  We aren’t giving him anything He didn’t give us in the first place.

Other passages round out the New Testament guidance on giving, notably 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We don’t need deception to spread the Gospel.  We need the truth.  We should share it as ambassadors, but we should share it without apology.  If you distort the message to appeal to spiritually dead people, then don’t be surprised when your church gets off track.

Spread the Gospel in persecuted countries and help widows and orphans at the same time

One of our favorite organizations is International Cooperating Ministries, a “non-profit, trans-denominational Christian organization that works toward the mission of nurturing believers and assisting church growth worldwide. With our partners, we leverage simple church growth principles to see our vision of growth in the faith of individual believers, the number of people within each church, and the number of churches within a nation-truly actualizing Christ’s commission to “make disciples of all nations!””

They primarily build churches (roughly $8,000 each) and church/orphanages (roughly $25,000).  The church/orphanages are exciting projects because they not only help the local church and the orphans, but the widows who take care of the orphans as well.  And of course they share the Gospel.  Almost sounds kinda biblical . . .

Here is their basic model:

When a church is built in a poor village, it more than stands out among the surrounding mud and thatch huts … it shines!  And that’s just the beginning of the community’s transformation when a new church is opened…

• Worshippers abandon the shady tree that previously served as their Sunday sanctuary.

• Curiosity draws unbelievers to the new church and the congregation doubles.

• Weeknight small group Bible studies are started using the Mini Bible College.

• Church members share their faith with neighbors, citing God’s miraculous provision of a beautiful new church.

• Weekdays, the building is filled with eager children who now have a school.

• The village leader holds community council meetings in the place where Christians worship every Sunday.

• Visiting doctors and nurses use the church as a temporary medical clinic during their humanitarian missions.

Soon, the pastor is raising up young leaders and they each start new churches in neighboring villages where they meet under a tree – and the whole process starts over again.

When a church is built in a poor village, it more than changes lives, it transforms a community … and reaches a nation!

The transformation begins . . . with your help!

They use a “web” approach, so that each church that receives a building needs to help 5 other churches start in their vicinity.

They offer a “mini-Bible college” to help the churches have sound doctrine.

One of the things I like about them is that their administrative costs are paid for by a foundation, so 100% of what you give goes straight to the projects.

They build churches around the world, including many countries where persecution is rampant.

Check out their web site and see what you think.  You might want to donate or get a group to raise funds for a church.  Perhaps you’ve been seriously blessed and could pay for a whole church yourself!  Think about that for a while.  It is a great way to encourage other believers, help widows and orphans, and spread the Gospel!  Who knows, you might get to go visit them someday in this life, but if you are a believer you can be sure you’ll catch up with them in Heaven someday.

As Jesus said, where your treasure is there your heart will be also.  When you donate to projects around the world your heart will go there as well.