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No one argues against generosity. It is a value that is reinforced even in the most secular corners of our society. News reports gushed that over $258 billion was given to charity in 2014, the high water mark of charitable donations in the U.S. That’s a huge amount of money. But that number represents a mere 2% of the US’s GDP. “Two percent of GDP is a huge sum, particularly in comparison to other countries,”[i] praised some, but virtue isn’t graded on a curve.
Two percent is not a number to be proud of as Americans. What about Christians? Unfortunately, we do little better, giving approximately 3% of our income to charity. And fewer than 5% of Christians tithe.[ii] Generosity isn’t graded on a curve.
Most disappointingly is the self-deception of Christians. 17% of Christians report tithing despite the actual number of 5%. Worse still, 10% of those who claimed they tithe actually gave less than $200 to charity.[iii]
1. The Stanford Medicine Report on How Men and Women's Brains Are Actually Different: After nearly 20 years of data, it is clear that there are biological differences between men and women, "The two hemispheres of a woman’s brain talk to each other more than a man’s do. In a 2014 study, University of Pennsylvania researchers...found that the females’ brains consistently showed more strongly coordinated activity between hemispheres, while the males’ brain activity was more tightly coordinated within local brain regions."
2. 6 Character Traits to Look for in a Potential Spouse: Really good lists here. Thoughtful inclusions that ring true to unseen obstacles many couples face. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of "controls his passions" and "is in the process of becoming a leader" for a potential husband and "Knows how to admit she's wrong, ask for forgiveness, grant forgiveness, and give grace when you fail her" for a potential wife.
3. Just-Around-the-Corner-Spirituality: Mike Emlet reflects on the promises we tell ourselves about the next season of spiritual growth that will be just around the corner: "The blessed and contented life is not somewhere around the corner where we can imagine living in the perfect spiritual greenhouse to nurture growth. It’s right here, right now, as we learn to experience the sufficiency of Christ’s strength for us in the midst of the good, the bad, and the ugly."
4. Your Sanctification is a Gift: I love this perspective that Tim Challies offers -- something I've never quite thought of this way before. "Your continual growth in holiness is not something you emphasize merely for your own benefit or your own assurance, but something you pursue for the benefit of others. This message cuts hard against the individualism of western society, so is one we need to hear again and again. A wife’s sanctification is a gift she gives her husband. A pastor’s sanctification is a gift he gives his congregation. A parent’s sanctification is a gift he gives his children."
5. Just How Big is the Universe? I love feeling my mind dwarfed by presentations like this.
Our doorbell rang – an odd occasion –I got up from the dinner table and walked toward the door. My step hitched halfway to the door as I realized it was likely a child selling something… too late. I opened the door and a high schooler stood in front of me, fundraising for his baseball team.
Being asked for money makes me uncomfortable.
There is something reasonable about being uncomfortable when we’re asked for money. The pang might speak to whether we are giving thoughtfully. But the reality is that far too often that twinge of discomfort points not to the worth of the cause, but the grip our hearts have on our money.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that God doesn’t wasn’t uncomfortable givers, he wants cheerful givers. The way to cheerfulness isn’t by willing ourselves there, it’s by reshaping our affections. In this series we’re going to unpack four transformative reasons about generosity and then unpack Paul’s instructions for how we ought to give.
I recently re-read Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ after fifteen years. The years that passed made the book that much sweeter. It was made sweeter still by the updated translation which made the book that much more powerful. At over 600 years, The Imitation of Christ sparkles with clarity and application, time apparently hasn't worn any sharpness off its edges.
If The Imitation of Christ was merely the second of its four books, it would be a masterpiece. The second book, titled, “The Interior Life,” challenges and consoles, cuts and bandages. A Kempis's book is a strong call to the imitation of our Savior, and yet is seasoned with profound grace. It is, quite simply, a book every Christian should read.
Miles begins A God of Many Understandings? with an event I remember well: “On Sunday morning, January 18, 2009, Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, stepped to a podium near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, to open the inauguration festivities for Barack Obama with an invocation and began his prayer, ‘O god of our many understandings, we pray that you will…’” (1). That simple opening to his prayer hit me like a tidal wave that day. “O god of our many understandings (?!)” At the same time I felt befuddlement, anger, and a sense that in that very phrase, Robinson had profoundly captured the essence of our modern religious sensibilities.
There have been plenty of books published over the recent years that have decried the slippage in the American church’s commitment to the exclusive claims of the gospel. But I promise you none have been written that are quite like this. The ambitious nature of Miles’s book is remarkable. The book is a biblical-theological tour de force that deals with a host of issues relating to the topic of the exclusive nature of the gospel.
I picked up Young's The Shack first during its meteoric rise after it was published. For whatever reason I had trouble with it and eventually set it down. The Shack was made into a movie this spring and with its resurgent popularity, I figured it was a must read as I prepared to teach a class on the Trinity.
The youngest daughter of Mack, a middle aged man with an abusive past, is abducted and murdered early in the book. As Mack wrestles with God in the midst of this tragedy, he is invited to a remote shack by the Trinity. Mack spends a day with the Trinity (the Father represented by an African American woman, the Son by an Arab man, and the Holy Spirit by an Asian woman).
There are some really wonderful things about The Shack that make the book sparkle. It's no surprise to me that The Shack has made the impact it has in so many lives. The thing that drew me to the book-- its depiction of the Trinity--is at times well-articulated and emotionally touching.