Monday, July 21. James 2:1-7. 1) How do people generally regard the poor? 2) What is the paradox of the poor according to James?
Tuesday, July 22. Revelation 2:8-11. 1) The church at Smyrna (ancient Greece) was wealthy by human standards. 2) What was Jesus’ critique of them? 3) Why do you think it was so?
Wednesday, July 23. Mark 14:3-9. 1) In this text a woman annointed Jesus’ feet with very expensive ointment. What do you think the gesture “cost” her? 2) What did Jesus say about it?
Thursday, July 24. Acts 9:36-43. 1) In this text a woman named Dorcas dies and is prepared for burial. How did people respond to her death? 2) What would you say about her life and its meaning?
Friday, July 25. 1 John 3:16-18. 1) According to John, what did Jesus do for us? 2) What should we learn from Jesus’ model?
Saturday, July 26. 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. This is Sunday’s sermon text. Sermon Title: Excel in this generous undertaking.
Prayer for the Week:
Generous and compassionate God. We always see you in the countless ways that human beings treat each other with compassion, sacrifice, and mercy. So we ask you to visit us with your generosity, not to improve our own lot, but to be kinder and more merciful to those around us who do not have enough. In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.
Hymn of the Week:
There is a sea
by Lula Klingman Zahn, ca 1935
This is a song about the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea and how they compare in sharing the water that flows into each.
There is a sea which day by day
Receives the rippling rills;
And streams that spring from wells of God,
Or fall from cedared hills.
But what it thus receives, it gives
With glad, unsparing hand;
A stream more wide, with deeper tide,
Flows on to lower land.
There is a sea which day by day
Receives a fuller tide;
But all its store it keeps, nor gives
To shore nor sea beside.
It’s Jordan’s stream, now turned to brine,
Like heavy, molten lead;
Its dreadful name doth e’er proclaim,
That sea is waste and dead.
Which shall it be for you and me
Who God’s good gifts obtain?
Shall we accept for self alone,
Or take, to give again?
For He who once was rich indeed
Laid all His glory down;
That by His grace our ransomed race
Should share His wealth and crown.
Devotional Article of the Week:
Exercising the Spirit: Generosity
How can being generous grow our spirits?
by Scott Owings
One day Nasrudin asked a wealthy man for some money.”What do you want it for?””To buy an elephant.””If you have no money, you will not be able to maintain the elephant.”
“I asked for money,” said Nasrudin, “not advice.”
(Anthony de Mello)
In our culture of “zero sum gain,” where the bottom line is the bottom line, the story above sounds like foolishness. After all, who hasn’t heard the adage, “Give a man a fish and he’ll be hungry tomorrow; teach him to fish and he’ll never grow hungry” While pragmatic advise, it simply is not the gospel.
Jesus said it this way, building on the Old Testament plea to be generous.
“Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow” (Matthew 5:42).
“Be generous and lend them [the poor] whatever they need” (Deuteronomy 15:8).
When Jesus (and Moses) uttered these words they were likely shocking. After all, the economic culture of first century Palestine was made up of, primarily, working class peasants with very little expendable income. So, when Jesus said, “Give to those who ask,” they wouldn’t have been thinking, “Will this effect my 401-k?” but rather about the next meal on the table. Nonetheless, Jesus’ call—then and now—was to be generous, regardless of how the recipient might use the gift or how much we might have in the bank.
And the reason for such counter-cultural, strange advice?
The gracious generosity of God, seen most beautifully in the Incarnation!
It is simply amazing to think that God gave the greatest gift of all, his very nature, with the possibility of eternal life forever, and many—far too many—would refuse or squander it. And yet, such is the nature of radical-no-strings-attached generosity!
That’s not to say God wants his generosity to be spurned or not appreciated. And of course when we seek to be generous, we desire in our heart of hearts that nothing be wasted. The real bottom line, however, is we are to be generous, not expecting anything in return, simply because it’s part of what it means to be a child of God.
As we seek to put on this virtue of generosity, not expecting any immediate reward or even to be thanked, we give the Spirit space to conform us into Christ’s generous identity, to the glory and praise of Father-God.
So, how can we foster a more generous way of life? Like the other disciplines, it takes practice—that is, a willingness to start where we are with hopes that, through time, grace, and experience, generosity will become a way of life. Here are a few practical suggestions that you might try on for size.
Pack a few non-perishable snack-bags, keeping them in your car and looking for opportunities to give them to those in need. (See Heartlight’s article on care bags and also the recommendations of our readers for things to put in them.)
Start a missions envelope, putting in, for example, 10% of any unexpected income (i.e., bonuses, tax refund, birthday gift, etc.). Then, every six months (and/or when opportunities arise for spontaneous giving) make an anonymous gift to the missionary of your choice.
Make a list of your blessings, thanking God for the experiences, people, and things that are tangible reminders of God’s generosity in your life. The idea here is, as we remember how generous God has been with us, we can’t help but look for ways to show our generosity to others!
It could be said that generosity gives birth to simplicity and simplicity makes generosity possible. One practice that can foster both is this: when you receive a new shirt, or dress, or book, give one away. Not only can this be a blessing to others but it can be a tangible, though perhaps small, step of not accumulating more.
Invite someone to lunch, coffee, or over to your home for a light snack. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. Remember, it’s the [generous] thought that counts!