Your generosity is another person’s miracle.

I’ve been coming across many references of God’s and Jesus’ miracles recently. For example, I visited many sites of their miracles on my trip to Israel this summer, our current series at church is based on my pastor’s latest book, The Grave Robber, and my small group is discussing a bible study called Miracles: Signs of Gods Glory.

Today Pastor Mark was taking about the miracle of the fish and loaves. I love this miracle and it is an inspiration behind my family’s charity, The Masterpiece Fund. We believe that God will multiply the generosity of others so that we can bless more and more people who need support and comfort.

And while Pastor Mark preaches about how much more we will be blessed the more we give, he makes sure to note that this is not a get-rich-quick scheme and the blessings may not come back via financial returns. Blessings come in many forms—a sense of what is important in life, becoming content in what you have and not chasing after material things, the spiritual lifting of your heart knowing you’ve helped another person, and yes, sometimes God just plain provides what you need, just when you need it.

I have witnessed God’s blessings many times. There have been many stories from people I know who with an ounce of faith were rewarded many times over. Here are a few examples.

About 10 years ago, a friend of mine was suffering from cancer and was unable to work. Our friends created a fund to help his family pay some bills while he was getting treatment. One friend only had a few dollars left in her checking account, but felt overwhelmed by a sense from God that everything was going to work out. He had always provided for her and she just knew by faith that it would work out and it did. A week after she sent that check, her boss told her she was getting a mid-year promotion and a raise.

Another friend lost his job a few years ago. Even though he was out of work and cutting the budget pretty deep, he continued to tithe. He kept watching his spending and praying for a job, but he also had faith that somehow God would take care of him even though the savings was drying up. Just at the time when the checking account was about to empty out, he received a significant financial gain via an insurance policy that had been contested for two years. It came at the exact time when it was most needed.

About 2,000 years ago, a little boy who most likely was poor, offered up his lunch to Jesus. Jesus used that little boy’s generosity to multiply those fish and loaves to feed thousands of people. Multiply is the key word here. God can do more with our small offering than we can possibly imagine. Don’t discount Him—after all, with just a mustard seed of faith, He can move mountains for us.

We each have gifts we can offer. Sometimes it’s financial and other times it’s giving our time, support, love, a shoulder, a place in our homes, a phone call, a laugh, a prayer, help repairing a faucet, carrying a heavy load, healing a broken arm, and so much more. Anything you can do to give that will benefit someone—whether they are a rich neighbor or a poor orphan—your kindness is making our world a brighter and more blessed place to live in.

Go ahead and test God on this. Give with your heart for the purpose of glorifying God and helping others. Keep a gratitude list and pretty soon you’ll start seeing the blessings pouring in.

Be someone else’s miracle. Here are a few ways you can be part of the loaves and fishes miracle that continues today.

The Masterpiece Fund
This fund invests the generous donations of people like you and uses the interest gained plus the donations to give to Kingdom causes. In its first year, we have given to the International Justice Mission, The National Community Church’s Dream Center, and the New Life Bible Camp.

Redeeming Grounds
This organization partners with coffee growers in highly distressed areas such as Columbia and buys their coffee at above-market prices. These farmers are able to get out of growing coca (cocaine) leaves and help restore their communities and share the Gospel.

National Community Church Missions
There are a number of mission trips that are organized by members of National Community Church. These mission trips help people around the world. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in tears as I witnessed three beautiful girls standing up front next to one our campus members testifying to their faith. Our church member missionary makes frequent trips to Nigeria to help the people there who are being persecuted and in this case, kidnapped and harmed. A few months ago, terrorists captured 300 young girls and held them captive. The world was appalled. Three of those young women had great courage and jumped from moving vehicles, leading several other girls into some scary woods where they trekked for several days before finding safety. And now they are safe in Virginia with hope for a wonderful future because of missionaries willing to go into these violent regions.

Luke 6:37-38
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Random acts of kindness from our youth.

It seems to be a season of giving. My church recently did a series on giving and I’ve been seeing a lot of examples of generosity lately. As my niece puts it—you tend to become more aware of certain things happening around you when you are thinking about those things. I would agree. And maybe…just maybe…when you notice acts of kindness, you’ll be inspired to act that way toward others.

Sometimes those lessons in humility or bravery or kindness come from unexpected sources. Last week I heard of two examples of young college students committing random acts of kindness. Normally in our society, college students tend to be “poor.” So their acts reminded me of what Jesus said in Luke 21: 3-4, “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” I  think we could learn a lot from these two young people.

Hungry Woman Barred Entry

A friend of mine told me a story about her dauther who is a college student. It goes something like this.

“As I was waiting for my daughter to come out of this building from her appointment, I noticed she stopped to talk to a woman in ragged clothes sitting outside a restaurant. I was worried at first, then noticed my daughter going in to the restaurant. She came out with a bag of food and handed the woman some money.”

My friend asked her daughter what happened and she replied, “The lady had money to buy lunch but was not allowed in. So I went in to buy her lunch but just paid for it myself.”

The next day my friend checked her daughter’s bank account to discover a balance of $11. And she just spent $7 of it on a poor woman she didn’t even know.

Reese’s Pieces vs. Starbucks

My niece told me the other day she encountered a homeless man who asked her for some money. She told him she didn’t have any but she could use her bank card to buy him lunch at Starbucks across the street. He declined showing her a lack of teeth and inability to eat real food.

He then asked her to go to the CVS to buy some Reese’s Pieces. You are probably thinking what I thought at this point—the man is failing in the mental health department. Yes, he was ill, but that didn’t stop my niece from going out of her way to find some cash for him. She returned to the man and handed him some money for lunch. After pulling a secret agent spy-like maneuver, he left.

Wow, what can I say? Both these young women don’t have much financially but they gave of themselves. They gave time and respect to two human beings who needed love and support from those of us who are blessed with so much. I think most of us would have hurried on to what we thought was more important and rationalized not helping them. But the truth is, these two human beings were much more important than getting home faster or to an appointment on time.

Do you have any stories of generosity? Share them and help us inspire good deeds everywhere. And if you want some creative ways to share your blessings during this time of lent, check out 40 acts. We love creativity and sharing and this is right up our alley!

Proverbs 19:17
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.

generosity

Photo source: http://ryanpeterwrites.com/2013/06/matthew-and-money-generosity-is-always-right/

Render unto God your heart.

The theme of National Community Church’s recent sermon series is I Like Giving. One of my favorite guest pastors, Dick Foth, gave a sermon last week about giving. It wasn’t the typical speech about the importance of tithing; this was something so much greater. It reflected the greatness of giving in the way God wants us to give.

Foth read a familiar scripture to us, but the way he read it—with non-verbal communication that included in a new reflection of how I’ve heard this scripture before—gave it completely new meaning to me. Foth was describing how Jesus most likely delivered the words He said in Mathew 21-21. When the scholars were trying to trick Jesus by asking Him if they should pay Roman taxes, Foth said he imagined Jesus saying, “Let me see one of those coins… then after looking at it and holding it out to the scholars, Jesus said, “Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s.” Then Foth imagines Jesus tossing the penny on to the ground as if it didn’t mean anything, saying, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” and Foth then imagines Jesus pointing to each person and saying slowly and deliberately as if looking into their hearts, “and unto God the things that are God’s.”

You see, that coin was made in the image of Caesar—just a coin, nothing that really means anything—and it was all Caesar could claim. But God—He made you and me in His image. We and the universe are all God’s and He loves us. God wants us—our hearts—not money that we collect.

When I truly thought about that it was very powerful. I write checks to help people but God wants more of us. He wants our hearts to be in it. It’s easy to give what you have extra of. It’s harder to give what you really value and don’t have as much of. To me, that is my time. Lately I’ve been living in a situation where I’ve been giving up more of my private free time to help family, friends, foster dogs, and those who need some comfort and help of others. It doesn’t come easy to me. I’m used to owning my time and loving my privacy, but giving more of me is what God wants. And the more I give up my tight hold on my time for myself, the more I get out of myself and become a better person. A more loving and caring person. Someone that would make Jesus smile. Someone who brightens other people’s lives instead of sucking the light in for me. I’m still working on it (one small step at a time), but God has been blessing me lately with opportunities to help loved ones and friends.

Jesus gave us a gift not to be surpassed. He gave us His life. We cannot out give God but we can strive to give more of ourselves.

John 15:13
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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Creative worship and storytelling.

Today my pastor (National Community Church’s Mark Batterson) went through our annual report. There were a lot of impressive numbers and any organization would be proud of the growth, the giving, the numerous missions throughout the world, and the number of people who have been positively affected by the volunteers, members, and staff of NCC.

That’s all really great, but pastor Mark reminded us several times that every number is a person and every person has a story and it’s the stories that are important. We should be sharing our stories and praising God for our blessings.

At NCC we have three core convictions. The first is that the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. I was smiling as Mark quoted Ephesians 2:10 (the scripture that inspired the Masterpiece Fund). God is infinitely creative (if you question that, take a look out the window at how beautiful our world is). And each of us is unique and special. No one can praise God the way you can—in your own unique and creative way. At NCC our beliefs are orthodox—our methods (meeting in movie theaters) are not.

Another conviction is that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. Wherever we are, there goes the church. We need live our lives out in the world and spread hope and love at every intersection and with every encounter.

A third core conviction is our belief that God will bless our church in proportion to how we give to missions and care of the poor in our city. As my family decides on the recipients of donations from the Masterpiece Fund, we pray. We ask for your prayers for us and the Fund as well. Mark preached that unless God builds the house, we labor in vain. We can promote the Masterpiece Fund and ask people to contribute, but unless we keep praying and following God’s plan, we won’t grow or prosper.

As we’ve mentioned on our web site, our hope is that we can feed thousands with small donations from people such as you. We believe God will bless the contributions so we can help more people. The more contributions come in, the more we can give away. The more we give away, the more we are blessed. We may not start off with lots of readers, or facebook likes, or big donations, but that’s okay, as long as it’s blessed by God and we start somewhere doing something.

But as I said earlier, it’s all about the stories. We want to hear your story. Whether it’s about a unique person you met this week or an inspirational message about an answered prayer, share your story!

Zechariah 4:10
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
Creativity begins when we are children. Hold on to that throughout your life and bring joy to those around you.
Harmon painting at Grandma's house

In the beginning.

Welcome to the first post for the Masterpiece Fund! Let’s talk for a minute about what the Masterpiece Fund is and how it relates to you and the gifts and blessings you’ve been given.

Everyone has gifts. Some use their gifts to fight injustice, others can talk to anyone anywhere and become a trusted friend with a shoulder to cry on, some quietly add up numbers or create schedules, some inspire through sermons, blogs and speeches, and others write checks. I’ve always been one of those “write checks” kind of people. But I know God wants more from me. He wants me to be more involved, sacrifice some of my time that I so greatly value and be part of the larger community—take an active role in the life of others.

So, I started using my gifts by setting up the Masterpiece Fund. Yes, I wrote a check. And now comes the more. What my gifts are and how they can be used, I’m still working out, but for now I’m going to write this blog and hopefully provide inspiration, stories, resources, laughs, and things to think about for you and all the friends you share this with. And I’ve started volunteering a little more here and there. This “keep-options-open-introverted-girl” is making some commitments and loving it.

I started the Masterpiece Fund because I wanted to honor my brother’s memory. My big brother Greg passed away in 2012 and took a chunk of my heart with him. Greg was a father of four beautiful children, a great son to parents who outlived him and a wonderful friend to many, including his little sister who hung around all the time getting fixes of family life and laughs with him and the kids. Greg was a wonderful role model. He loved the Lord and wanted more than anything else to spend eternity with his family. He taught his children faithfully and loved and cared about people whether or not they were in a relationship with Jesus. Through his faith and love, and just how he conducted his life, he showed me the kind of life I wanted to live. Yes, Christians can have fun and they can have problems and they are normal people. I saw that through him and was able to open my heart to Jesus. So I want everyone to remember my brother not only because he was such a big part of my life but also because his principles are worth sharing and praising. If Greg were here today he would turn the limelight off him and turn it toward God. That is exactly what we are going to do through the Masterpiece Fund. Praise God and glorify Him through his blessings.

It is with humble prayer that I ask God to bless the Masterpiece Fund. Through this fund, we can do God’s work on His earth. We will seek the poor and abused of this world—not turning away because it’s too hard to witness the sad brutality of their lives or because we feel we can’t save the world. We will face them head on with love in our hearts and prayers for their healing and hopefully some hard cash for resources that will lift up their lives with food, shelter, safety, advocates, education, enlightenment, counseling, and more.

Please help us do what Jesus did for the crowds. Let’s have faith and pray that He will turn a few loaves of bread and fish into enough to feed thousands. Let’s have faith and prayer that He will use the Masterpiece Fund to provide resources both monetary and spiritual that will heal and lead to salvation for His children. Let’s have faith and prayer that word will get out and others will feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to use their gifts to help others.

If you have resources to share, want to use your gifts to help us, want to write a blog post, share your experiences and testimonies, tell stories about God’s work you’ve witnessed, have prayer requests or answered prayers to share, please write to the Masterpiece Fund at donations@masterpiecefund.org.

Please share this with all your friends and family, co-workers, church members and leaders, and anyone you want to inspire.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.