Inspiring Generosity

Over the past year, I have been privileged to meet up with Dr John, an inspirational speaker. Most months we have been able to catch up over a cuppa in his home. Dr John and Sue, his wife, live in the UK and you can read all about their story in the website: http://johnbradshawtalks.co.uk/ 

My Story

I grew up in Zimbabwe during the civil war. After finishing school I was conscripted into the army and volunteered to join a specialist unit defusing booby trapped land-mines. During that time I was badly injured and am now totally blind.

After partially recovering from my injuries, I pursued an academic career. I obtained a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge and went on to teach university level Computer Science for several years. At the same time, I managed a large undergraduate residence at the University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg.

Following a successful career in the academic world, I returned to the family farm to pursue my dream. After 7 successful and happy years, we were evicted as part of Mugabe’s land redistribution programme, having been given just 24 hours to vacate the farm. We lost both our homes and our livelihoods.

Determined to stay in my beloved country, I returning to education, as headmaster at one of Zimbabwe’s leading independent schools, Watershed College. From there I was approached to head the top girls boarding school, Peterhouse Girls. I am told that I was the only totally blind headmaster running a “normal” school in the world.

In 2014 due to the continued difficult political situation and family commitments, I resigned as headmaster and moved to the UK with my wife Sue and Sabre, my guide dog.  We now live in Sherborne, Dorset.

If you are based in the UK, then maybe you would like to arrange for Dr John to speak at your business or organisation or function. His desire is to inspire people to be generous in their relationships with iothers.

When Supporters Give More than You Need

Have you ever seen a time when supporters give more than you need?

To really learn how God wants us to do our ministry fund-raising, it is good to look at His instructions for building the Tabernacle in the wilderness. This took place near the beginning of the Israelites’ big move from being slaves in Egypt to possessing their promised land.

Remember, they were in transition for 40 years. God wanted them to have a place to worship Him, and it needed to be attractive enough to keep them from making and worshipping golden idols like that calf again. So God gave Moses very detailed instructions for the creation of the tabernacle and the visual aides for their worship. (See Exodus chapters 25-31 and 35-40 for those precise details).

Who was to pay for all of that though? How was Moses to raise the funds for this big ministry project?

Simple. Once Moses had explained the plan to all the people in the camp, he was to invite the people to contribute the raw materials and the wealth needed to complete this big place of worship. The materials needed were specified but the giving was optional, and the amounts the people wanted to give were optional.

What happened? Did Moses have to plead every Sabbath for the people to give, even a tenth?

No. When Moses told the people plainly the details of God’s instructions, the people responded gladly and – listen to this: they gave more than what was needed! Moses had to tell them to stop. (I don’t know of any other place in the Bible where this has happened).

We see in Exodus 35:29, “All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the LORD freewill offerings for all the work the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do.” Then in the next chapter, 36, we see that the skilled workmen appointed to do put the tabernacle together, told Moses that the people had brought more than enough. “Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.‘ And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do the work.

Say! Wouldn’t you love to send out such a message to all your supporters? – Whoa! Whoa! Stop! We’ve reached a time when supporters give more than we need!”

Let’s go back to the Bible to see what might be the requirements to trigger such a situation.

Please note that God had given Moses all the detailed instructions and patterns for building every part of the tabernacle and it’s furnishings. All he was required to do was share those plans with the people, and ask them to bring the material resources. Some of the women spun yarn and made linen fabric, and even sewed animal skins together, so they were able to be involved practically too.

The most obvious suggestion then would be to share your plans with your supporters and show them that this is direction from the Lord God Himself. (This implies that you have heard from, and worked out with the Lord beforehand what His plan is for your ministry).

Secondly, if your supporters are motivated by the plan and see that it is from God, you will not need to tell them how much to give. They will want to be part of the Work of God, and will gladly give as much as they can. You may, in fact, reach a point where you have to ask the givers to stop giving – because you have more than you can use! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Generous Conversations

How many people have you talked to today?

Conversation 

This is maybe a surprise question but I believe an important one. Taking time to engage meaningfully with others – such as staff in shops and supermarkets –  is very important to everyone. The bank, which I use here in the UK, encourages their staff to be friendly and to “connect” in a real way with customers. They sometimes ask a question like: “Do you have anything interesting lined up for the rest of the day?” or “Do you have anything special in your schedule this afternoon/morning?” Excellent communication skills.

While travelling in an inter-city train recently, I noted an advert. It depicted a “senior youngster” looking somewhat sad.  The script stated that she had not spoken to anyone for 3 weeks or so. Thus readers were encouraged to text a suggested gift of £3 to the organisation that would enable the lady to have a lunch out and make friends. In the script, it also stated that there were 1 million others just like her in the UK who were in similar situations.

Quite a challenging advert…. I checked it with someone else in the caring profession who endorsed the fact that many folks went for long periods without talking to anyone…. Let’s turn this situation around.;…

Recently, on a train journey, I had the wonderful experience of being able to dialogue with the person sitting next to me for about 2 hours…  It was so rich and interesting as we had both been overseas on assignments. On arrival, I was able to meet other members of the family….

Noticing a business commuter on an evening train doing a puzzle…. I said “Good evening..” He was so grateful to be able to talk to someone. He shared how so often no one would engage in conversation. As we dialogued, he asked me a question he had been desiring to ask someone in the Non-Profit world. “Should he have a significant donation to lodge with our organization, how would we guarantee that it reached his desired destination?”. It was a privilege to outline our verification process for recipient projects. He was very grateful, I then enquired if I might ask him a question. ” Should he hear of a country manor house management that was looking for good managers could, he let us know?” “Look out for the phone call..” was his kind response.  His business was designing special showrooms for cars, furniture etc….

Global Nomad….

Provision Through Poor Single Women

As a servant of God, do you appreciate, or despise God’s provision through poor poor single women? Maybe you feel so sorry for them and dare not ask them to help you out?

Here’s another way God provided for Elijah. (Note that God delights in surprising us with ways of providing for us that we would never have thought of).

(Yes, we looked at this story a few weeks ago, but this time we look at it from another angle).

This story is also in 1 Kings chapter 17, following right after the time Elijah spent by the brook Kerith, where God fed him through Ravens and the clear water in the brook. Because of the drought in the land, the brook dried up eventually too. So God told Elijah to get up and go to the village of Zarephath in Sidon.

God told him that He had already commanded a widow there to feed him. We don’t read any details about how God did that, but we can be sure He had already commanded the widow. Elijah didn’t even have to hunt for her.

As soon as he reached the gate of Zarephath, he met a woman gathering sticks for a fire. He asked for a drink of water in a jar.

As she went to get it, Elijah called out, “And please bring me a piece of bread.”

The woman must have recognized him as a prophet of God; she stopped and said, “As surely as the LORD your God lives, I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

This woman knew something of the God of the prophet, and must have had some respect for this God, but had not trusted Him for herself yet.

Well, Elijah had just completed a course in trusting God, so he caught on to God’s plan for provision through poor widows. Elijah told her to make a little cake (or bun) for him first, and then there would be enough for more for herself and her son in her resources. Her flour and oil would not run out until the day the Lord sent rain again.

The widow woman obeyed and found it to be so. All three of them were able to eat until the end of the famine!

Do you see a giving principle, and an asking principle, staring right at us in this true story?

The woman decided to trust God to provide for her and her son, but putting the request to provide food for the prophet or servant of God first. By getting her priorities right, God met all her family’s needs. That would be the giving principle.

From Elijah’s side, he merely had to obey God and ask (as instructed), the first widow he encountered at Zarephath. They both had to show fresh faith every day, yet, I’m sure their faith in God increased as they saw that He met their need for food on a daily basis.

I have found this to be true too. During the years I cared for my parents, I maintained my pledge to God to pay my tithes and offerings. Back in 1977 I had begged God to help me get out of debt and promised that I would give a tithe to missions (as I already was doing) but then give another tithe especially to missions. It took a few years, but I have kept that pledge through thick and thin. During those caregiver years I often had no income except what a pen pal might tuck into a card or letter.

Do you notice that I still have body and soul together? 🙂 God did not fail me, and I learned that I didn’t need everything I wanted. Not only that, but I learned that God delights in making provision through poor widows and single women.

What if you are in Elijah’s sandals, as a servant of God, relying on the gifts of others so you can focus on ministry

Then, like Elijah, a worthy example, you must trust God to lead you to those He has appointed to meet your needs. They may not be rich patrons, or large foundations. They may be poor single women who have to trust God for their own daily bread. They may grow in faith and obedience at the same time you are learning to do the same. The point is to trust God, not the poor woman.

After a while the Lord may put you into a different situation again, to learn new lessons and to cause someone else to learn to give. It’s all a question of trusting the God we serve with an utter abandon. Then we will know that He will never fail us!

Do not despise God’s provision through poor widows or even single women and old maids.

An Angel to Meet Your Personal Needs

Has God ever sent an angel to meet your personal needs?

This story happened just after the contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah, prophet of God, and the 450 prophets of Baal – all to determine who was the One true God. God provided fire to burn up Elijah’s soggy offering; the people rose up and killed the 450 false prophets; and rain came at last. But Elijah was so drained from the whole experience that when Queen Jezebel sent word that she would have Elijah killed within 24 hours, he took off running.

God had not changed or lost any power to deliver him, but when anyone of us is utterly exhausted we are liable to imagine and do stupid things. He left his servant behind at Beersheba and kept running.

(What a rush of panic adrenalin!) He ran for another full day into the desert.

There he dropped under a broom tree and begged God to take his life.

Does any memory come to the surface of a time when you panicked and ran the other direction until you dropped in your tracks?

The part that surprises me here is that God did not scold Elijah and remind him of his fantastic victory on Mount Carmel. God just let His servant sleep. His body needed recharging first of all.

Then he needed nourishment. So God sent an angel to bake him a bun or small loaf of bread, and bring a bottle of water. Not just once, but twice. No scolding, just, “The journey is too long for you; you need to eat.”

That almost sounds as if God had scheduled this trip for Elijah. It was part of His divine plan for His servant.

Now that angel food and water must have been powerful stuff, because by the strength he received he was able to travel another 40 days and 40 nights, until he reached Mount Horeb. That’s was God’s mountain, the place where He had written out the ten commandments on tablets of stone for Moses and the people.

Hey, if we are going to run away – the place to run to is God. Get away and alone with HIM! Never mind the distance or the cost!

Now for some of us that may not mean such a long trip. I know I could never run that far or long.

In my case, I know that I just need to reach for my Bible, and go curl up in my soft recliner, and ignore all my usual to-do lists. When I’m over the initial exhaustion, I get back to my computer desk and start journalling away, to work out the issues before the Lord, waiting for Him to show me His mind and attitude and even His specific message for me in all of this.

I can’t say that an angel has ever wakened me from a sound nap to offer me physical food from Heaven. But I have been spiritually nourished by God’s Word, and gained fresh insights and enthusiasm to go on in serving the Lord.

I’ve never seen an angel with my eyes; perhaps an invisible angel has come to meet my personal needs. I just credit the Lord with the sense of His presence and encouragement. In the Old Testament days He seemed to send angels, but today we can meet with the Lord directly if we are His.

The important thing to remember when we panic is to run towards the Lord, and not away from Him!

Provision Through Poor Widows

As a servant of God, do you appreciate, or despise God’s provision through poor widows? Maybe you feel so sorry for them and dare not ask them to help you out?

Here’s another way God provided for Elijah. (Note that God delights in surprising us with ways of providing for us that we would never have thought of).

This story is also in 1 Kings chapter 17, following right after the time Elijah spent by the brook Kerith, where God fed him through Ravens and the clear water in the brook. Because of the drought in the land, the brook dried up eventually too. So God told Elijah to get up and go to the village of Zarephath in Sidon.

God told him that He had already commanded a widow there to feed him. We don’t read any details about how God did that, but we can be sure He had already commanded the widow. Elijah didn’t even have to hunt for her.

As soon as he reached the gate of Zarephath, he met a woman gathering sticks for a fire. He asked for a drink of water in a jar.

As she went to get it, Elijah called out, “And please bring me a piece of bread.”

The widow must have recognized him as a prophet of God; she stopped and said, “As surely as the LORD your God lives, I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

This widow knew something of the God of the prophet, and must have had some respect for this God, but had not trusted Him for herself yet.

Well, Elijah had just completed a course in trusting God, so he caught on to God’s plan for provision through poor widows. Elijah told her to make a little cake (or bun) for him first, and then there would be enough for more for herself and her son in her resources. Her flour and oil would not run out until the day the Lord sent rain again.

provision through poor widows

The widow obeyed and found it to be so. All three of them were able to eat until the end of the famine!

Do you see a giving principle, and an asking principle, staring right at us in this true story?

The widow decided to trust God to provide for her and her son, but putting the request to provide food for the prophet or servant of God first. By getting her priorities right, God met all her family’s needs. That would be the giving principle.

From Elijah’s side, he merely had to obey God and ask (as instructed), the first widow he encountered at Zarephath. They both had to show fresh faith every day, yet, I’m sure their faith in God increased as they saw that He met their need for food on a daily basis.

I have found this to be true too. During the years I cared for my parents, I maintained my pledge to God to pay my tithes and offerings. Back in 1977 I had begged God to help me get out of debt and promised that I would give a tithe to missions (as I already was doing) but then give another tithe especially to missions. It took a few years, but I have kept that pledge through thick and thin. During those caregiver years I often had no income except what a pen pal might tuck into a card or letter.

Do you notice that I still have body and soul together? 🙂 God did not fail me, and I learned that I didn’t need everything I wanted. Not only that, but I learned that God delights in making provision through poor widows and single women.

What if you are in Elijah’s sandals, as a servant of God, relying on the gifts of others so you can focus on ministry?

Then, like Elijah, a worthy example, you must trust God to lead you to those He has appointed to meet your needs. They may not be rich patrons, or large foundations. They may be poor widows who have to trust God for their own daily bread. They may grow in faith and obedience at the same time you are learning to do the same. The point is to trust God, not the widow.

After a while the Lord may put you into a different situation again, to learn new lessons and to cause someone else to learn to give. It’s all a question of trusting the God we serve with an utter abandon. Then we will know that He will never fail us!

Do not despise God’s provision through poor widows or even old maids.

Trust God, Like Elijah, for Daily Food

Could you trust God like Elijah, for daily food?

trusting God like Eljah for your daily food

God used a raven or ravens to bring Elijah his daily food when God sent His servant to hide in the ravine called Keireth. Elijah did not have to make appeals or plead for these provisions. God just took care of them, albeit in a very simple way to a basic limit. See I Kings 17:1-7 for the story.

It is humbling to trust God for our very daily food, never having enough for the next meal until that time comes. And yet, when we submit to such a trying situation with real faith in God – yes, even if it is struggle of the will at first, – we will come to a quiet confidence in our God. Worry and fear fade away, as we become convinced to our bones that God really is a loving Heavenly Father, and He is truly providing for us.

As I write that, I realize that this is exactly what God taught me over the 20+ years that I cared for my parents in their home. They expected it of me as their eldest and single daughter. For two years I resisted and wrestled with God in prayer over this. Mainly I was afraid to trust God with such a risky and indefinite future. But I did want to please Him most of all, and though I didn’t sense pressure from the Lord, I did feel that He was quietly waiting for me to come around.

One night I woke to a sensation of waves of joy washing over me. I told the Lord, that if that was what He had in store for me, I would – in faith – give up my job and the ministries I had in our local church, and I would move home to care for my parents.

That was a very big move. I had to resign from my job and from 7 responsibilities in the church. The bus ride home took 48 hours and I wept myself dry during that trip. In fact, I was sick for four days when I got to my parents’ home.

(In fact, that first night a call came, and the next morning my parents got on a bus going west, for my paternal grandmother’s funeral. That give me four days of privacy in which to rest and unwind).

There were many adjustments to make, and I spent hours pouring my heart into my prayer journals. But some years later when Mom’s already precarious health got much worse I realized God’s wisdom in having me come well before that period so that I would be able to focus on the caregiving without the trauma of my big move.

Now, I was not to the point that Elijah was, sitting on the side of a trickling creek, and waiting for a raven to drop a single meal-serving of meat into my hand. (I wonder sometimes how many ways he found to prepare that food so he could have a change in taste).

my parents

In my case, my parents were frugal and careful, and debt-free with a big garden that used up the whole backyard, so I could eat well. But I learned to become a better cook. As their health failed more and more, I became like Joseph in Potiphar’s house. I managed everything, and my parents had nothing to worry about. Their meals appeared regularly on the table. I did all their necessary shopping. I learned nursing skills, and how to discern when to take them to the doctor, or Emergency, and so on.

Mom and myself on Mother's Day

Looking back now I am grateful that in the earlier years God taught me to humble myself, be content with what I had, and when I needed something to ask HIM alone, even if it was just postage to write to my pen-pals. He always provided in some rather creative ways. My relationship with Him became far more important than having all that others had, or what I used to think I had to have.

Yes, I could tell many stories of those years, and then the last 10 years since both have them have passed on to their eternal home. How God has blessed me richly since then!

But the point to make here is that if God should send you, like Elijah, to a hidden ravine, and there reduce you to the most elemental needs, and promise to meet those needs, I can testify that you can trust God with an utter abandon! He will take care of you! What’s more, you may well end up with a time of blessing beyond that period. Elijah did not die there in that ravine on the diet God provided. You might – but don’t count on it! When you’ve learned to trust Him, He will lift you up again.

Yes, it is very possible to trust God, like Elijah, for daily food – and everything else you might ever need!

If a Loving Church Congregation Sponsors Your Ministry

If a loving church congregation sponsors your ministry – you are in a most delightful position. You do not have to beg or make constant appeals for funds; you merely send reports and thank you letters.

a loving church congregation

This was the case with the Apostle Paul and the church congregation at Philippi, which he had founded in one of his missionary trips. The believers there loved and cared for Paul, and frequently sent financial gifts. Sometimes these gifts were delivered in person by one of their own, such as Epaphroditus.

Acts chapter 14 tells how Paul and Silas first came to Philippi, met some women at the river on the Sabbath, including Lydia, a seller of purple, having a prayer meeting. They shared the Good News of Jesus and His finished work on the cross for them.

Paul also cast out an evil spirit from a fortune-telling slave girl. This upset her owners and they soon started a riot in which Paul and Silas were beaten, flogged and thrown into a prison. That night an earthquake set them free, and they helped the warden and his family to all come to trust in Christ for salvation.

From that nucleus of believers, a business woman, a slave girl, and a prison warden and his family, a small congregation of the Church of Christ was started in Philippi. Yet it grew and became the loving church of Philippians, who kept in touch with Paul as he continued his travels, starting more churches.

Because they made it their business to keep in touch with Paul they were aware when he was in financial need. I doubt that Lydia was the only giver in that congregation. Though it is likely that her business expertise may have made her a leader in planning how they would gather up funds, and deliver them to Paul – wherever he was.

We do know from reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians, that they had overseers and deacons, so it may have grown considerably and included people from all levels of social strata.

The question now is; how can you get a loving church congregation to sponsor your ministry? Do you have to be an itinerant missionary first, like Paul, and found such a church somewhere?

Well, that sounds like a good start!

But what about your home church? The one where you heard the gospel first, and where you have been taught and grounded in God’s Word? You have been well grounded in the truths and principles of God’s Word, right? That would be your best starting place.

If not, take time to find such a Bible-practicing church congregation, and become a part of it. Show them love and joy and confidence, and they are likely to gladly agree to be your supporting church in prayers and gifts.

What an ideal – when a loving church congregation sponsors your ministry! I wish that for you!

Caring Generosity

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_age

Caring has many facets and is seen in such a variety of situations. This week I have seen and been reminded afresh of such Caring Generosity. Watching one of the staff in a restaurant so naturally sharing with a senior grandmother in a wheelchair. Sharing a special drink with her sip by sip over 10 mins or so. Really special for sure.

Then hearing of other family members who push their senior parent in a wheelchair about a quarter of a mile to a restaurant to enjoy a meal together roughly once a week. Devotion and quality Caring Generosity.

The Free Wheel Chair project seeks to make such mobility enhancement tools available internationally. What a blessing to those who receive them. They send a container load to organisations worldwide. Caring Generosity indeed. https://www.freewheelchairmission.org/ourwheelchairs

Global Nomad

How to Get Christian Workers Back to Work

We can learn how to get Christian workers back to work from that cup-bearer, Nehemiah-turned-Administrator in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah had his ‘hands full.’ He was in charge or restoration and rebuilding in Jerusalem. Then he learned that the food resources that should be – were not given to the Levites. They were the tribe assigned to tabernacle – then temple – duty. They were to serve there on behalf of all of Israel as God had ordained back in the desert, when He gave Moses instructions for building and managing the Tabernacle. The Levites were to serve there full-time and to be supported by the tithes and offerings brought in by the other tribes.

When Nehemiah learned that the Levites and the singers were leaving their posts in the House of the Lord, and going back to their villages to work their fields – (they had to feed their families somehow, right?) – he knew it was time for an executive decision.

We read in Nehemiah 13:10-13 that Nehemiah rebuked the officials for allowing the House of God to be neglected. He called the Levites together and got them back to work at their posts.

I don’t see that Nehemiah made any big public announcement, but the officials he had rebuked must have done what they were suppose to do because in the next verse we read, “All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and oil into the storerooms.” Then he assigned Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah to be in charge of the storerooms. He made Hanan son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant.

How nice to read the next phrase, “. . . Because these men were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their brothers.” That’s what it takes to run something like that; trustworthy people looking after the management.

So what principle can we find here for how to get support for your present-day ministry in a Biblical way?

First, it is rather obvious, isn’t it – that if God’s people are faithful in giving their tithes to the Lord – aka our local church, then the servants of the Lord will have their expenses and living for their families covered. God’s plan is not flawed.

The problem is with the people who do not obey God’s command. Doing that would be how to get Christian workers back to work.

Now, there are those who argue that today we are not held to the Old Testament commands. Maybe not in a legalistic way, but common sense shows that God’s principles still hold true. We ought to support our fellow believers who are serving the Lord full-time. If all of us who are part of a Church body (which means we are part of the Body of Christ, the Church universal) were to simply bring in a tithe of our income every week, we would not lack for our pastoral staff, education and childrens’ ministries, benevolent works in the community and even sending missionaries to other places that have not heard the gospel.

Maybe what we need now is an administrative person like Nehemiah to call attention to this, and put the Christian workers to work. Then if those who who are in authority will announce that this is how it is to be done.

Those who are in ministry work in the church or on a new field, – we can pray that God will convict the people and cause them to give.He has the power and knows how to get the Christian workers back to work.