Generous Giving at Christmas and Beyond

 ✧ Black Friday ✧ Cyber Monday ✧Giving Tuesday

I am starting this blog on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally called Black Friday. It has come to mark, in the U.S., the beginning of the retail Christmas-gift-buying season.

Black Friday

In decades past, business book-keepers recorded, by hand, their operating losses in red ink, while black ink was used to show profit. Stores may have operated with limited financial margins and many were “swimming in red ink” all year long, up to the Christmas gift-buying season. 

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, holiday buying might turn their operating numbers from “red” to “black.” The sales frenzy could make a company’s whole year profitable and keep a business “in the black.” The day it started to turn around was to be happily known by many as “Black Friday.”

File photo dated 22/11/18 of shops in Canterbury, Kent, displaying offer posters ahead of Black Friday sales. Scam online shopping "bargains" that turned out to be too good to be true cost shoppers ??15.4 million over Christmas last year, according to police. Issue date: Monday November 22, 2021. PA Photo. Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, received reports relating to 28,049 shoppers conned out of their money when shopping online over the Christmas period last year ??? an increase of almost two-thirds (61%) compared with a year earlier. See PA story MONEY Scams . Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire Some have alternately theorized the ominous-sounding sales day was derisively dubbed “Black Friday” by Philadelphia police in the 1950s. It seems the influx of holiday shoppers meant police officers had to work longer shifts managing happy congestion and human chaos in the downtown shopping areas.

Today, we are in the beginning of a world-wide economic downturn. Some are even calling this financial “reset” a “recession.” Some of the recent Black Friday promotions offered 20, 30 or even 70% off many products, from toys to televisions and more! But with inflation in the U.S. hovering between seven and eight percent, it is gobbling up much of whatever discounts many post-Thanksgiving buyers found!

Cyber Mondays

“Cyber Monday” is a term created by retailers to encourage people to shop virtually, online rather than or in addition to “brick and mortar” stores. These targeted e-commerce transactions on the Monday after Thanksgiving (in the United States) pumped new life into the sagging sales many store-front operations were experiencing. These online purchases could conveniently be done by buyers in their pajamas, comfortably cloistered away at home.

The COVID pandemic made internet-based purchases ubiquitous. These contactless experiences catapulted many neophyte start-ups to the level of legacy sales points. Free shipping and rapid delivery options completed the marketing experiences.

Giving Tuesday

“Giving Tuesday” was created a decade ago (in 2012) to match the spending experiences of customers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday with a stimulus for philanthropic donations to charities in need of support. 

Although it started in the U.S., Giving Tuesday has reportedly made its way to more than 70 countries. Your internet inbox is probably filled with requests and notices about your tax-deductible giving opportunities–often with “matching gift” notices by friendly partners of these charities and nonprofits.

Giving online provides the anonymity many donors prefer and the motivation Jesus encouraged when He warned about doing our “charitable deeds before men”:

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, …(Matthew 6:1-4; NKJV)

Grace Giving: a Service to Fellow Believers

The Apostle Paul took up collections among the believers in the churches he had started–not for himself but for the needy believers in Jerusalem and Judea, who were being persecuted and suffering economically (e.g. 2 Corinthians 9:1-5).

Notice the words Paul used when He wrote about the collections. It was “ministering to the saints,” a service to fellow believers. It was to be a “generous gift,” willingly pledged and carefully collected in advance of his coming, so no one would feel forced or under pressure by his presence. High-pressure offering appeals are not compatible with grace giving.

Beloved Bible expositor Warren Wiersby had an aptitude for the use of words. On this matter of grace giving, he once said: “We must not be ‘sad givers’ who give grudgingly, or ‘mad givers’ who give because we have to (‘of necessity’); but we should be ‘glad givers’ who cheerfully share what we have because we have experienced the grace of God.”

Paul wanted the generosity of these believers, toward their brothers and sisters in Christ, to flow from their hearts and not from a sense of religious duty. He wanted their gift to return to them, as an abundant harvest, which is always larger than what is sown. That way, they would have more than enough of everything they needed, with an abundance left over for them to continue doing good deeds.

In 2 Corinthians 9:8-10, Paul urged believers to give what they had in their hands and trust God to multiply it back to us abundantly, so we can continue to give in a cycle of blessing. We are blessed in order to be a blessing to others, both tangibly and spiritually!

Evangelist Oral Roberts once marveled, “How great is our God! We have no lack in Him–only potential!”

In the Gospels, Jesus spoke of a divine law of…

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Thinking About Thanksgiving, Gratitude and Blessings

Thanksgiving Day is just a few days away for U.S. Americans! It is a favorite holiday–perhaps only exceeded by Christmas–to gather with family and friends to watch parades, play (American) “football” and eat delicious food–often from legacy recipes!

Ostensibly, this cherished time together is in the tradition of our nation’s Pilgrim ancestors, who gathered four hundred years ago–after a hard first year in their new land–to give thanks and gratitude to their gracious and generous God. Their focus was, as ours should likewise be, to thankfully celebrate the blessings received and those yet anticipated from our most benevolent Benefactor.

From preschoolers to “old schoolers,” we can simply use this holiday as a holy day and humbly express our gratitude for our God’s unmerited favor and bountiful blessings. Parents and grandparents can guide their children in meaningfully counting their blessings–remembering and reflecting on their health, family, love, and life itself. But such gratitude must be directed to someone. It is meaningless, otherwise. Our ultimate gratitude must be to God Almighty, the “giver of every good and perfect gift.”

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
 And it will surprise you what the Lord has don
e.

  See YouTube video of “Count Your Blessings” with Guy Penrod.

Thanksgiving, Gratitude and Blessing

Three words–Thanksgiving, Gratitude and Blessing, in one grammatical form or another–are often used together or even interchangeably at this special season. I regularly see them as imperatives on inspirational posters, coffee mugs and book titles: “Be Thankful,” “Be Grateful,” or the ubiquitous “Be Blessed!” Or, perhaps, even more often these days, I see the inspirational affirmation, “I AM blessed!” But there are important distinctions in their definitions and aspirations.

A thankful person is motivated to express gratitude and praise to God for what He has done and what He has yet promised to do. By faith, we can lift up our hands and give proper praise to God and bless His holy name (Ps. 34:2). 

Dr. Michael Youssef, in his book “Empowered by Praise,” says that “gratitude is demonstrated by a determination to express thanks, a promptness in voicing thanks, an intensity in expressing thanks, and a life of humility.” He illustrated these insights with the thankful leper Jesus told about in Luke 17. The social outcast fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving profound thanks and praise for his healing. He was the only one of ten, outcast lepers who had been miraculously healed by Jesus, yet he was prompt and intense in voicing his gratitude and thankfulness!

“Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:3-5; NASB).

The Psalmist seemed to know how to express his grateful praise, in giving thanks for the bountiful blessings we receive at the hands of our good, loving and faithful Lord and Master! He is our omnipotent God, our marvelous Creator and our caring Shepherd! No wonder the Psalmist urges us to:

…give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. (Psalm 107:21-22, NIV).

If we cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” we will find an atmosphere of joy and happiness. I recently found this affirmed in an old truism, “He who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.” Instead of focusing on things we don’t have, we must learn to be content with what we do have. It is the way to godliness (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Near the beginning of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he praised God as the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). He went on to identify some of those blessings as including being chosen and adopted into the Family of God, redeemed through Christ’s blood, bringing the forgiveness of our sinful trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

Near the close of this meaningful epistle, Paul gave instructions in chapter 5 on how we can “avoid the unfruitful deeds of darkness” by being “filled with” or controlled by the Spirit, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:11-20, NASB). 

Did you follow that progression? We can walk as children of Light by…

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What Do You Really Know About God’s Plan for Your Life?

I’m not a heavy user of digital media. I get “Friends Requests” in messages from  Facebook, but while I do have an FB account and “follow” some friends and relatives, I just don’t have time to be regularly involved with the minutiae of other people’s lives. Consequently, I don’t have Twitter or Instagram accounts and I initially thought Tic Tok must have something to do with clocks or watches.

Okay, so I may be “old school” and “ignorant” (without knowledge) about these modern developments, devices and doings. But I do know that some of the more digitally informed people, may actually be “misinformed” about the most important issues of this life and the one to follow, where we will be judged by God and His Son, for all we have done in this life. They may have been  “misinformed” by friends, relatives, educators or “groomers” who indoctrinate them in sinful worldviews, lifestyles and practices . 

More serious and insidious than those who may be ignorant of or have been misinformed about God and His plan for their lives are those who are deliberately dis-informed about these crucial and important matters concerning eternity. Jesus warned about people in the last days who will deliberately “dis-inform” or “deceive” others (Matthew 24:11, 24 ).

What Must We Do to be Saved?

Jesus taught that God loved this world of sinful people so much that “He gave His only begotten Son” that sinners could be saved from the guilt and shame of their own sins and sinful natures and have “everlasting” or eternal life (John 3:16). He further stated this was done so the whole world of sinners could be rescued, or “saved” from the due punishment they deserved (v. 17).

On the Day of Pentecost (50 days after Christ’s resurrection) the Apostle Peter explained to his fellow Jews what the unusual sounds and sights were all about as they witnessed the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that had been promised by Jesus Himself (Acts 1:4-8) just weeks before. Peter explained that “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel,” and then related about Jesus’ resurrection, proving the acceptance by Father God of His sacrificial death to redeem or save us from our sins. Luke,  the historian of this early church age, explained:

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 2:36-38; NIV) 

Peter called for the crowd to “repent,” which meant to change their thinking and direction of devotion. It includes sorrowfully turning from the rituals of the religious direction they were pursuing and then turning to the reality of recognizing Jesus as the Christ or Savior of the world. Being baptized “in the name of Jesus” means to “confess Him to be all that His name denotes.” The reality of faith and practice blends into a new reality and everlasting life in Christ (John 3:16-18).

God has Fixed our Sin Problem

The Apostle Paul’s epistle to the church in Rome contains a  thrilling trail of  theology, explaining our sin, salvation and sanctification. Chapter 3, verse 23 relates the universality of our hopeless, sinful condition: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Three chapters later Paul explained that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is…

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This EXTRA POST for my California readers:

Vote NO on California’s PROP. 1 (AKA State Measure 1)

California’s liberal governor, leftist-dominated Legislature and LA County Supervisors wants you to join them in permanently enshrining unrestricted Late-Term Abortions in our state constitution–for any reason and at any time, even up to the moment of birth. Most California voters (70%) reject this, believing human life begins at viability or conception.

Existing California laws on abortion provide reasonable limits. Yet, they are so liberal that Gov. Gavin Newsom promotes the state as an “abortion sanctuary” and even encourages abortion-seekers from other states coming to California to receive free abortions and care at California-taxpayers’ expense. This proposed amendment is unnecessary.

California’s Prop. 1 (AKA State Measure 1) is extreme, inhumane and costly.

Proposition 1or State Measure 1 is not a law which can be scientifically reviewed later and changed by due process. Rather, it is an amendment to our California State Constitution! It would make this outlandish action permanently part of taxpayer burdens–obligating ever-increasing millions more dollars from you, your children and their children, in perpetuity. 

The “human rights” of children, both inside and outside the womb, matter! Your “no” vote on Proposition 1 will keep existing California law on abortion the way it is now, including the reasonable prohibition of Late-Term Abortions after “viability” (usually 24 weeks). Prop. 1 is purposefully vague on this issue and says nothing about “viability”–thus, potentially allowing abortions right up to and including at the moment of birth!

According to California’s own Voter Information Guide, the amendment “will allow unrestricted late-term abortions” and “will allow late-term abortions at taxpayer expense without limitation for any reason at any time up to the moment of birth — even when the mother’s life is not in danger, even when the healthy baby could survive outside the womb.”

Prop. 1 is permanently extreme, inhumane and costly. Reject Gov. Newsom, liberal legislators and LA County Supervisors and vote “NO” on California Prop. 1 (AKA State Measure 1)

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NOTE: So. California may experience inclement weather on ELECTION DAY, so plan to vote early, using a Drop Box or by Mail (must be postmarked by 11/8).

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A Treasure Map from Heaven

Biblical stewardship is like following a treasure map from heaven. We study scripture to learn God’s plans and principles and then we diligently pursue those to find treasure and rewards in the life to come!

The parables of Matthew 24 and 25 are given to our Lord’s disciples with the common purpose stated that we should watch and be ready for His return, when He will reward us.

Stewardship Over Our Time, Talent, and Treasure

First, the Bible teaches that the foundational principle to all of life is to make God the SOURCE of all things. Jesus taught in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” We must learn to acknowledge God’s ownership of all we are and all we have–on a daily basis.

Secondly, Jesus taught that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). By surrendering control of our finances to God, we accept that His ways are not always our ways. His wisdom and plans may not always include financial increases. They may include some “financial corrections” for our learning and ultimate good.

The third principle on our treasure map from heaven has to do with our commitment to  contentment. Paul said he had learned both to live humbly and to live in prosperity: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:12, NKJV).

Our fourth principle of biblical stewardship teaches us to learn not to seek to escape difficulties, but to seek personal peace in the process and to learn from them. Paul instructs, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6, NIV).

Finally, our treasure map to spiritual rewards in heaven includes the importance of generous giving and living. Surrendering back to God the “firstfruits” or “tithe” (10%) of our income should be a minimum evidence or testimony of His ultimate ownership. And God can make our retained 90% go further than we could with the 100% and still give us seed for sowing into the needs of others (See Malachi 3:8-10, Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians. 9:7-14.)          

Our Future Accountability                     

Like those servants in Jesus’s Olivet parables (Matt. 24-25), we must watch — not just  for an absent master to return, but for our Lord, our “ever present help in time of need,” to work in our lives “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure” (Eph. 1:19; NIV). We faithfully watch so we don’t miss out on opportunities to live and love in the guidance of His wisdom and light. When the Master of obedient servants returns, there will be joy and rewards.

Jesus gave both an invitation and a warning concerning our future accountability: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Revelation 22:12; NIV).

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After you pay your tithes to your local church, where you are being fed, serve in, and support its outreach ministries, you may want to prayerfully and financially support some parachurch ministries that are doing great things for Christ. Here are several such ministries which have gained my prayers and donations recently:

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