Why We Tithe 10%

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  — 2 Corinthians 9:7

In my career, I live and breath philanthropy. I have been the recipient of immense generosity in the past, and I work daily to connect donors to the causes they care most about.

Philanthropy: the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. 

TRUE philanthropy is cheerful and generous, and it is not something that comes naturally to everyone.

As Christians, my husband and I each feel that it is important to give our time, talents, and treasures wherever possible. But we are also human, and the reality is that we don’t always make the time or effort to pour into others. We can be pretty selfish, getting hung up on our own situations, and disregarding others’ needs. So when we first combined our incomes, we made it a point to put tithing in our budget. At the LEAST, we would give every month.

The “10% rule” comes up early in the Bible, starting in Genesis when Jacob vows:

If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house,and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.  — Genesis 28:20-22

The New Testament references giving MANY many times. It’s pretty clear that it is an expectation of us, not a request.

Look, I know the Bible tells us to do (and not do) a LOT of things, many of which I (and probably most of you) fail at on a daily basis. And there are plenty of months where one of us (usually always me) tries to justify why it just doesn’t make sense to give away that much when we have THIS and THAT and ALL OF THESE THINGS happening in our life. But if we go down that road, there is almost never a GOOD time to just give money away. Instead, we choose to joyfully give to the organizations that we care about and that are doing God’s work in their communities. We do occasionally use a part of our tithing budget to give to non-Christian causes that we care about, but generally speaking, tithing was asked of us in order to give back to God’s work. And honestly, we have reaped so many blessing from God these last several years, I have to believe it is in part, at least, due to our constant and (mostly) cheerful tithing.

PHEW that was a mouthful. I’m wide open for any thoughts or questions you might have. How do you give or tithe, and how do you decide when/ how much?

When Envy Creeps In

In an effort to be as authentic as Bonnie, I want to talk a little bit about envy today, how it creeps into our lives, and what God has to say about it.

As Bon points out in her post on authenticity the other day, we all KNOW by now that the things we see in social media are only representations of OUR BEST SELVES and OUR BEST MOMENTS. I don’t show you pictures of when I wake up in the morning. I don’t talk about what makes me cry (and let’s be real, I’m a Crier, with a capital C). I don’t talk about how I have no idea how to get our old claw-foot bathtub completely clean and it taunts me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I don’t talk about real issues, like body image and marriage hiccups and finances. And if I do talk about them, it’s in a very general sense of “Sometimes people have body image issues…” Like, HELLO. I DO. You do. We all scream for ice cream.

So I found myself feeling very envious the other night, some having to do with social media, which I slap myself on the wrist for. But some envy coming from made up things in my head. Unrealistic expectations of how things SHOULD be. How I COULD be.

I took a step back. I dove into the Bible. Check out some of Galatians 5:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

I know it’s a lot, but READ it. Seriously, read it. How many of the “acts of flesh” are you doing? How many of the “fruits” are you NOT doing? For me, it’s oh so many. Of both. Okay, so, I don’t partake in witchcraft and orgies, but I get jealous. I get angry and have little temper tantrums. I’m DEFINITELY selfish. And I definitely get drunk sometimes, which usually leads to one or more of those other things I just named.

If I acted lovingly to everyone around me, ESPECIALLY myself, would I feel so envious of others’ accomplishments, or would I feel more satisfied with my own? If I practiced self-control, in my eating, drinking, prayer, and reactions to others, would I be less jealous of those who seem to successfully lead a healthy lifestyle when I struggle with it? If I truly gave my husband all of the love I have to give, and put his own needs above my own, would I be envious of other marriages that seem to go smoother? I remind you and myself at this point that we only know so much of what other people are going through, and we only see BEST sides represented online. But yet, we become jealous of what others have and do.

How to remove this envious feeling from our lives. If I could really complete that statement, I’d probably be super wealthy right now. But have you considered that maybe it has NOTHING to do with all those other people, and EVERYTHING to do with you? Instead of getting hung up on everyone around you, turn the focus to yourself.

Remember this goody in Matthew 7?

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

I constantly fail at looking at MYSELF when dealing with any issue, be it envy, anger, or negativity. So my goals are to continue to be introspective, something I seem to keep failing at. What do you do to improve yourself? Any tools for assessing your own struggles?

Canvas Art {DIY}

This weekend, I finished a little canvas project I’ve been brewing up. I wanted to create something new for the living room wall, and these two canvases were part of that effort. It was really quite simple – I painted the two canvases gold, stuck on acrylic letters and cheap paper doilies, and gave it a good solid spray paint. There are so many variations you could do with something like this…

I’m pretty happy with the results! The edges of the doilies were impossible to lay flat, so that resulted in a little bit of a fuzzy edge, but I still think that it’s pretty! This is a favorite verse of mine, and I thought it would be a good reminder right in the middle of the wall.

Here are a few visuals of the project for you!

Discernment in Friendship {Ruth and Naomi}

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately, and just heard a sermon on this very topic! It is crucial for us to be surrounded by people who will pray for us, love us, and lift us up. We need encouragers, who can motivate us in a way that points us in the direction God is calling us. They give us spiritual encouragement, more than just emotional cheerleading.

The sermon I heard spoke to the role of discernment in friendship:

The Spirit of God brings people into our lives, as does the Enemy. Only by being spiritually minded can we truly discern if someone is a gift from God or a Trojan horse.

It is incredibly important to discern among the many acquaintances and friends in our lives. Just one wrong person in your life can destroy years upon years of your life. So where in the Bible can we find a solid example of beautiful friendship?

One of my favorite biblical stories of friendship has always been Ruth and Naomi, which inspired the Ruth and Naomi Project in Guatemala. Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law, and both of their husbands die. When Naomi tells Ruth to return to her family, Ruth responds, saying:

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” -Ruth 1:16-17

Their friendship is one of fierce commitment, full of love and faith. This is what we all should aim for in our friendships – people who will be at our side, in thick and thin, and always helping us reach our full spiritual potential.

Today, my prayer and hope for you is to discern carefully, and love with your whole heart!

#67 — One book a month

June: Revelations

May: Jude

April: 3 John

March: 2 John

February: 1 John

January: 2 Peter

December: 1 Peter

November: James
1:19-20 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

October: Hebrews
4:12 “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints, and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

September: Philemon
1:15-16 “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good — no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.”

August: Titus
2:7-8 “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

July: 2 Timothy
1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2:11-13 “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

June: 1 Timothy
1: 15-16 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
6: 7-8 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

May: 2 Thessalonians
1: 6-7 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.

April: 1 Thessalonians
4: 11-12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
5: 16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

March: Colossians
3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

February: Philippians
4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

January: Ephesians
4:2-6 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–Just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

December: Galatians
5:6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
5:22-23 Bu
t the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Forgiveness

What is it, really? Why is it so difficult?

I wish I had seriously good answers to these questions. All I really have is my own reasoning.  I don’t think it’s saying what happened was okay. I’ve made mistakes in my past (as we all have) and I carry them with me. I carry them because a) I haven’t forgiven myself fully, and b) I haven’t allowed myself to be forgiven. Why is this so hard? Partly, it’s because I know decisions I’ve made hurt people. They hurt friends and family that I love deeply. They hurt me. And hurt is just not okay with me.

So how do I let things go when I don’t condone them? I leave them where they happened. Apologies have been said, journals written, prayers prayed. At some point, I need to let go of the hurt and anger my own actions have caused others and myself. I cannot control if other people will forgive me. But I can control forgiving myself, and I have no choice but to be forgiven by God. How many times can I be forgiven? “Not seven times, but seventy times seven times…” (Matthew 18)  It is so difficult to remember that not only is He with us in our present moments, but He is still there, at the very moment in our past that caused so much pain.  We can find Him at every place and every time, at any time.

So even when I know this, why do I carry hurt with me? How do I really let it go? How do I encourage others to let it go? What about hurts that others have caused me? So many questions that I grapple with. Well, we are called to forgive others. Why can’t we forgive them? Because they hurt us?  But we, too, have made mistakes.  He who has not sinned shall cast the first stone. I know the pain others have brought in my life at times seems unbearable, but can I somehow move past it? What if they don’t even realize the depths of what they’ve done? Usually, I write. I write as though I am writing them a letter, but I rarely send it or read it to them. Hash it all out–the dirty truth about everything they’ve done, and everything you’ve done. Tell the truth. No one else needs to see it. Cry about it. Pray about it. Lean on others.  See the good, and with time, just let it go.

God is full of truth and grace. What an amazing and gracious God we serve. Nothing is too big for Him. I know it’s easier said than done, but give it up to him. Let him have it and REALLY let it GO. He suffered so we wouldn’t have to…nothing is too big.