Actions > Words.

Fruit of the Spirit Image

The evidence of one’s faith is often referred to as “fruit of the Spirit” because Christians rely on the Spirit to guide them to right actions and develop their character. It’s also sometimes called “Christ-like behavior” or “Christ-like character.”

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Why I Give on #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday

If you’ve donated to a nonprofit organization within the past few years, you’ve likely got an inbox full of donation requests for what some consider to be a “made-up holiday.”

The good news is that the narrative around this “new” non-holiday has finally started to turn, and people are seeing it for what it really is: an opportunity to collectively show unparalleled support to nonprofit organizations small and large who are working tirelessly to make this world a better place.

As you know, I am privileged to support thousands of nonprofit leaders worldwide. What you probably don’t know is that every year, when #GivingTuesday rolls around, we have a long discussion about whether or not they should participate in it. Why?

Why would a nonprofit organization—especially one that NEEDS the money to accomplish its mission—be unsure about participating in a national day of giving that was created to bring our hearts and minds back to a state of benevolence following cut-throat Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales?

Why would any nonprofit neglect engaging in a day of giving so widely marketed and advertised on both social and traditional media?

3 Reasons Why Nonprofits Hesitate Asking for Donations on #GivingTuesday

REASON #1: THE TIMING

Even though #GivingTuesday is a national campaign, it sometimes comes right on the heels of an organization’s established annual fundraiser (e.g., an organization that supports breast cancer survivors having an annual gala in October). It’s also smack-dab in the middle of many organizations’ year-end campaigns which may account for up to 30% of the annual budget. And some communities have begun organizing their own giving days which tend to overshadow the national giving day.

REASON #2: PREVIOUSLY DASHED HOPES

When Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began offering matching funds to nonprofits raising money on the social media platform, MANY nonprofits hopped on the bandwagon to raise double the funds for their organizations. Sadly, we all learned that the matching funds were gone within an hour (usually less) with much of the funding going to LARGE organizations. This disappointing experience left many with a bitter taste in their mouths since they had worked so hard at getting the word out.

REASON #3: FODF (FEAR OF DONOR FATIGUE) — Especially during this pandemic.

The bottom line is that nonprofit leaders are keenly aware of when and how they ask for your support, and they’re afraid of over-asking. They don’t want to appear greedy, even though they need the money to move their missions forward. How many times can you ask the same person for money before it becomes awkward?

What’s a Nonprofit to Do?

#GivingTuesday will be widely promoted whether individual nonprofits actively participate or not. The fact is #GivingTuesday has become one of the largest philanthropic days of the year, and it’s on a growth trend. Every donation matters.

I think all nonprofits should participate in the day. Regardless of their size, it makes no sense to leave money on the table when many people plan to give the day after Cyber Monday.

In the Nonprofit Leadership Lab, we have encouraged nonprofit leaders to talk with major donors and their boards to secure their own matching funds. That way, when people donate, their donations are doubled or tripled with no reliance on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s match.

Why I Give on #GivingTuesday

On #GivingTuesday, I like to make a bunch of small donations to a variety of nonprofits addressing issues about which I am passionate. I do it because (1) every little bit helps; (2) it’s encouraging to the nonprofit leaders to see donations come in on #GivingTuesday; (3) it puts me on the organization’s email list; and (4) joining forces with other donors to make a positive difference in the world just plain feels good.

Imagine what a huge difference we could make if everyone made a small donation to the causes they care about.

And while I am not a huge fan of email, I do appreciate being added to nonprofit organizations’ email lists. I don’t read every word of every email, but being on their email list gives me a front-row seat to watch them in action throughout the year, and this helps me make a more informed decision about who to support with bigger donations.

On #GivingTuesday, it feels good to spread small donations around to every organization you know is doing an amazing job! 😊🧡🌍 Share on X

I challenge you to give a little something to at least one organization before midnight this #GivingTuesday, and if you can give more, please do it. Don’t wait. Not only will your donation be greatly appreciated, it could be doubled or tripled! Every little bit helps. Really. Especially now.

* This article was originally posted on December 3, 2019. It’s been updated for the December 2020 #GivingTuesday.

Warning: Avoid the “Tithe-Pod” Challenge

Warning: Tithe-Pod Challenge

Did you know that nearly 30% of charitable giving is realized during the final month of the year? There’s something about the weeks between Thanksgiving and the December holidays that heightens the spirit of generosity in our communities. 

And yet, with 70% of giving happening between January and November, I think we could make the case that people simply enjoy giving.

So, let me ask you this: Why do you give?

Widespread Generosity

What compels you to offer kindness to strangers? Why would you spend your hard-earned money on a gift for someone you may never meet? Why pack a backpack for a foster child? What’s in it for you when you surprise the next person in line at Starbucks® by buying their cup of coffee?

Giving

Compassion for others can be cultivated all year long, and altruism never goes out of style. 

Compassion for others can be cultivated all year long, and altruism never goes out of style. Share on X

In the same way that nonprofits rely on recurring donations from their patrons, churches count on the regular charitable giving of their members and frequent attendees: a tithe.

What Is a Tithe?

In the Old Testament, the tithe was originally a small portion (10%) of one’s harvest—whether grain or fruit—and was used to support the priests. Its use grew over time to include care for the poor, but the amount was always 10%. Interestingly, tithing as a compulsory practice is not taught in the New Testament. 

Ron Kelley, Director of the Prestonwood Foundation in Dallas, Texas, explains this development in his article Our Giving Is an Act of Worship

When it comes to the New Testament, the actual word tithe is no longer mentioned, so does this mean the strong message of giving to God in the Old Testament is no more? Nothing could be further from the truth! In light of what Christ has done for us on the cross and the amazing grace we receive, our giving should be a reflection of what our heart treasures. ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matt. 6:21). Our giving should be viewed as a part of our worship to the Lord.” 

While it’s true that many Christians give to their local church on a regular basis, some averaging more than 10% of their income, the vast majority of churchgoers donate significantly less.

This gap in tithing (actual vs. projected) has caused some church leaders to “think outside the box” and come up with new, innovative ways to motivate giving. While some have added new, high-tech options for giving (e.g., kiosk, iPad®, website, text-to-give,  etc.), others have turned the tithe into a transaction with a guaranteed ROI (return on investment).

Last year, I attended a church where preacher sermon started with a disclaimer: “This is NOT a prosperity gospel.” It was repeated twice so those in attendance would be clear about what was NOT going to be presented. 

Then, without further hesitation, the book upon which the sermon would be based was held up: The Blessed Life by Robert Morris. It’s description on Amazon reads as follows:

This book will transform your life for the better, bringing you guaranteed financial results. But it will do more than that. It will change every area of your life: marriage, family, health and relationships. For when God changes your heart from selfishness to generosity, every part of your life-journey is affected.”

Although the description contains a seed of truth (final sentence), I’m still trying to figure out how “guaranteed financial results” is not a prosperity gospel. Seeds of truth mixed with false teachings make for fuzzy faith and unrealistic expectations.

Seeds of truth mixed with false teachings make for fuzzy faith and unrealistic expectations. Share on X

As the service progressed, I became more and more uncomfortable. When the speaker suggested that Jesus was “God’s tithe,” I kinda threw up in my mouth.

But Wait . . . There’s More!

When the speaker challenged us to “test the Lord” and tithe a full 10% of our income for the next 90 days, I tilted my head to the side wondering where exactly this was headed.

What you talking about willis

Why just 90 days?

The preacher boldly proclaimed that if we didn’t experience God’s blessings in our lives by [exact date]—90 days from the date the sermon was preached—we could ask for a full refund AND the elders would cut us a check “no questions asked.”

This was a first for me.

I couldn’t sit there any longer passively pretending to agree with what was being said.

I stood up and walked out.

Also a first for me.

I went home and googled “money-back guarantee on tithe,” and I was completely shocked to learn that MANY churches—some with very popular pastors—offer the same 90-day tithe challenge to their attendees.

What in the world?

One does not simply

Don’t get me wrong: I love a good money-back guarantee.

In fact, all of my favorite retailers—Costco, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, and Hobby Lobby—offer a guarantee on every product they sell. Their refund policies ensure me that if something is wrong with my purchase, I can rest assured that they will make it right.

Makes Sense for Retailers

Major retailers stand behind the products they sell which means the buyer is taking “zero risk” with their purchase. The money-back guarantee is a win-win for the customer and the retailer: They cultivate a relationship of trust while increasing both sales and customer loyalty.

Money-back guarantees make sense from a retail and customer service standpoint, but do they make sense in church? Share on X

Money-back guarantees make sense from a retail and customer service standpoint, but do they make sense in church? 

Should a person’s tithe be given the same type of guarantee as a portable heater, a bag of chips, or a bottle of Tylenol®? “If you’re dissatisfied with the results, we’ll refund your money”?

Tylenol; guarantee

Why would a church’s leadership feel compelled to underwrite or guarantee a person’s tithe? And is this practice theologically sound? Does it stand up to a Scripture test?

Without “proof-texting” and pulling verses out of context to prove your point, is there ANY evidence in the Scriptures that leaders should offer a money-back guarantee on someone’s tithe? 

Are Tithe Refunds Scriptural?

Can you find any time a Levite, Pharisee, Sadducee, Prophet, or Apostle ever offered to refund someone’s offering or tithe if God didn’t come through for them with financial blessings? Within 90 days?

The answer is a clear and resounding NO.

If guaranteeing a tithe is so clearly unbiblical, why are so many churches doing it? 

My research led me to see that the idea of offering a “90-day money-back guarantee on your tithe” is really nothing more than a pastoral dare. One pastor came up with the idea, experienced success with increasing giving at his church, and then dared other pastors to do the same. And they did.

The whole thing reminds me a lot of another dare that made national news in early 2018: Teens were daring each other to upload videos of themselves eating a Tide Pod. And they were doing it. Why? Instant fame? Proof they were tough? Cool?

Tide Pod Challenge

Eventually, Proctor & Gamble, the manufacturers of Tide Pods® published a video instructing their customers to (you’ll never guess) use their laundry detergent pods in the washing machine to do laundry. Go figure. 

Once I realized that the 90-day tithe challenge is nothing more than a pastoral dare, I renamed it. I call it the “Tithe-Pod Challenge.” Get it? It’s a tithe challenge issued from the “pod”-ium. And it’s not biblical.

Public Service Announcement:

Unlike Tide, the church has no parent company like Proctor & Gamble to take the reins and issue a proper warning against taking the dare. Therefore, it’s left up to us regular folks to pay attention and boldly sound the alarm. Here’s my warning:

Stop! Do not offer money-back guarantees on tithes. A tithe is a faith-based act of worship and obedience. The tithe belongs to the Lord, and He has not authorized anyone to offer a “money-back guarantee” for disappointing ROI.

Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that taking the tithe-pod challenge could cause serious spiritual health problems in your church.

One final thought: This article isn’t about the spiritual discipline of tithing, and it’s ‘s not about God’s faithfulness: It’s about church leaders offering a money-back guarantee on the tithe. And that, my friend, is just plain wrong.

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts on offering a “90-day money-back guarantee” on tithes. Have you heard of this before? Let’s discuss it further in the comments below.


Woman Holding Flower by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
Don’t Walk Signal by Kai Pilger on Unsplash
Tithe photos from Adobe Stock Photo
Other images public domain

Trust: A Measure of Contentment

Trust as a Measure of Contentment

I’ve recently discovered a wonderful app for my iPhone called “Abide.” It is designed to help people experience the peace of Christ through Biblical meditation and guided prayer.

As I reflected upon the concept of contentment, I was reminded about one of the meditations in the app. The verse for the day was Psalm 37:4 which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s a familiar verse, but I was floored when the host flipped it and asked a question for reflection and confession: Is there something for which you are not delighting in the Lord?

Whoa.

I had never thought of it like that. There were actually quite a few things breeding discontent at that moment, and I was convicted.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to believe that delight and content are related: We are only able to take delight in the Lord when we are content.

So, what is contentment? What are the similarities and differences between people who are content and those who are not? Do they have anything in common? Is there a pattern?

Some would assume the line between content and discontent would fall upon economic lines or age differentials or any number of sociological variables. But it doesn’t.

The fact is, you’re just as likely to find a content minority woman living in poverty as you are a discontent rich, white man living in Beverly Hills.

Right?

We all know it’s true, and yet somehow, we still mistakenly assume contentedness is a byproduct of achievement, economic success, and maybe even luck. For example, we are shocked to learn that someone who was well-off financially, fabulously famous, and adored by fans all over the world was so discontent with his life that he did the unthinkable. Yet, we are inspired to learn that someone who had absolutely no financial means, who was known only to her family and friends was so content in her life that she impacted many for good.

So, how does one gain contentment? What are the five steps to contentment that I should take so I can get on with living my content little life?

What if I told you contentment is nothing that can be achieved. Instead, it is the product of mature faith and deep trust. The only way to truly find contentment is to work on your ability to trust the Lord with EVERYTHING.

Got that? One does achieve contentment.

Contentment grows in proportion to trust. The more you trust God, the more content you become. The less you trust Him, the more discontent you are.

Put another way, your level of discontent betrays your mistrust of the Lord.

Let that sink in for a moment.

What this means is that our discontent is a sign not to blame or shame, but to take a fresh look at our relationship with the Lord. Do we trust Him or not?

Contentedness is directly connected to your confidence that God is who He says He is and that He can and will do what He says He will do. Period. Full stop.

For example, the discontent person will compare her situation with another’s focusing on differences always striving to measure up. The content person will notice the same differences and celebrate them wholeheartedly.

The discontent person will covet another’s possessions always striving for more things; whereas, the content person cherishes what she has because she knows from whom it came.

The discontent person will focus on what other people think always striving to please people with a resentful “yes” or frustrated “no,” but the content person communicates healthy boundaries with complete freedom to say yes and no because her contentment comes from being who God created her to be.

Are the differences really that clear cut? I say yes. Yes, they are. Which is great for us, because all we have to do is slow down and pay attention to our thoughts.

If we are focused on what we don’t have or didn’t receive, what we can’t have or can’t acquire, we are discontent.

Discontentment robs us of God’s most precious gift: peace.

Ironically, discontentment alerts us that there’s a problem while pointing us towards the solution. When we recognize the seed of discontent beginning to sprout (or maybe it’s taken root), all we have to do is turn our heart heavenward.

When we remind ourselves that God is in control and that He knows what we need better than we do and when we confess our discontent to Him, He is faithful to forgive and bring peace and contentment as only He can.

When we cry out to God to meet our deepest needs and sincerely place our trust in His plan/timing/purpose, He will fill us with His peace. We will be content. You can count on it.

Originally posted on “Rooted at the Throne” hosted by Rachael Carman. 

A Pleasant Aroma

A Pleasant Aroma

Isn’t it interesting how we associate certain aromas with specific times of the year? Pumpkin spice signals a season of thankfulness; cinnamon, pine, and peppermint usher in the season of giving.

Some smells are so lovely and inviting we automatically inhale deeply as soon as we detect them. Others are, shall we say…disgusting! Within nanoseconds of detection, windows go up, recycled air is blasted, hands cover nose, and we scream, “Skunk!”

Smells are powerful triggers, aren’t they? They can cause a visceral reaction instantaneously which makes it extremely important that we are aware of our own aromatic contribution to our surroundings.

Therefore, it is with much compassion as your sister in the Lord that I must tell you—and I mean this in the nicest of ways—You smell!

It’s true. 

You have a distinct spiritual scent that follows you wherever you go. 

Don’t believe me? It’s true. The apostle Paul explained this concept to the church in Corinth:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. Who is equal to such a task?"
2 Corinthians 2:14-16a

In other words, to God, his children smell pretty amazing. To those being saved, we are an aroma that brings life. To those who are perishing, we reek of death. 

It’s a profound truth and responsibility that I never considered before.

Some will love our “scent” while others will hate it.

Most importantly, their reaction to my scent has little to do with me, and everything to do with Christ in me.

Photo of young Asian girl smelling daisies

A Legit Sixth Sense

When you carefully consider this concept, it makes sense. Haven’t there been times when you just met someone or passed a person in the store and you somehow knew they shared your faith?

What about the time you engaged the Starbucks barista in conversation, and you instinctively knew they were a Christ follower? Or the time you explained your engine noises to the mechanic while simultaneously realizing she was a fellow Believer?

I’ve always assumed it was “something in my spirit” that recognized the connection, but I never considered what the “something” was. Now, I know: My spirit has a sense of smell—a legit sixth sense!

I’m not going off the deep end here—I promise. I’m not seeing dead people. 

I’m simply using Paul’s analogy to help us think in spiritual terms about something we’ve all experienced: S.O.

You can think of spirit odor (S.O.) like body odor (B.O.)—it’s not as obvious to us as it is to those around us. And the aroma of our spirit depends a lot on where we’ve spent our time. 

Let that sink in for a moment: We carry the smell of our environment with us wherever we go—physically and spiritually.

Photo of lit cigarette balanced on a clear glass ashtray with a red lighter next to it. Cigarette is lit with a trail of smoke rising.

As a little girl, when I spent time with my chain-smoking Nana and Papa, you would know it as soon as I walked into the room, because I smelled like I’d been with them. 🚬

Recently, our teenage son was tending our friends’ chickens while they were out of town. After spending quality time in the coop to refill their food and water, surrounded by the little cluckers, he smelled just like them…all the way home! 🐔

Similarly, when we spend time in the presence of the Lord, we begin to “smell” like Him, too. It’s not a physical smell, but a spiritual aroma. We smell different than we did before, and it’s pretty distinct. ❤️

I guess you could say that we smell out of this world! Detectable only in the spiritual realm, our aroma identifies us as having been with Christ.

As Alvin L. Reid says in his book, Sharing Jesus {without freaking out}:

“As we live daily, bearing the fruit of the Spirit in front of others, we become the aroma of Christ to those we encounter.”

Now, here’s what’s interesting: According to Paul, the exact same aroma that smells like LIFE to some will reek of DEATH to others.

This could be challenging and uncomfortable—especially when it involves family.

Have you ever experienced stress or conflict with someone for no apparent reason? Like every time you’re together something comes up and boom! Stress. 

What if, every time you’re around, they are reacting NOT to you, but to your spiritual aroma? Consider this:

  • Maybe their reaction to you has nothing to do with you personally.
  • Maybe their reaction has everything to do with your relationship with the Lord.
  • Maybe, to them, you stink—not in the physical realm, but spiritually, your smell is more than they can handle at the moment.
Close-up of Black woman lifting blossoms to her nose and inhaling the aroma

In other words: What if, every time you’re around, they are reacting NOT to you, but to your spiritual aroma?

And…

What would happen if, rather than take it personally, you recognize it for what it is; choose not to be offended; and instead, ask God to give you grace and empathy in the situation.

During these unsettled times, it’s critical that we remember two equally important truths:

  1. We cannot control whether or not others like our scent.
  2. We can control what—and who—we smell like.

When you walk closely with the Lord, you will be the aroma of Christ. ❤️

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