Every January our ministry hosts her annual board meetings in Arizona; and, last weekend those meetings cycled around once more.
In fact, it's been thirty-one years of such cycling!
Prior to these gatherings, I work, work, work (as does my assistant, Allison) to compile all the reports each member will need, in order to pray over and discern God's "Best Yes" for FOCUS Ministries in the coming new year.
Much of what the board requires from us runs parallel to what my accountant expects for tax purposes, so all tax-documentation is gathered at the same time and delivered in early January...
...AND, at the same time, the end-of-year receipting for our donors also comes due.
This pile-up happens regularly as I've come to anticipate.
What I don't expect, however, and what always catches me by surprise is the incredible generosity of our donor base.
Every (!) Single (!) Year (!) I am humbled at the out-pouring of gifts to FOCUS Ministries (which keeps "us" in FOCUS), along with their words of encouragement and prayer.
So, as I handed out our annual budget report, showed the board our 2023 P & L documentation, this reality simply overwhelms me time and time again.
I never cease to be ABSOLUTELY STUNNED at the goodness of God as He puts our ministry in the hearts and minds of folks to give...
(side note: this blog is not a ploy for giving to FOCUS Ministries, it is simply me reflecting on the grace of God and His generosity).
As I've given thanks to the Lord, and written such to our donors, my mind keeps conjuring up snippets from the following verse and I've gone back to look at it:
Now we make known to you, brothers and sisters, the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, that during a severe ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in the wealth of their generosity. For I testify, they gave according to their means and beyond their means. They did so voluntarily, begging us with great earnestness for the blessing and fellowship of helping the saints. They did this...because they gave of themselves first to the Lord, and, then, to us...
2 Corinthians 8:1-5, NET
Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.
This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us.
What descriptive words that give us a picture into the heart of committed, Jesus-followers, who have "given of themselves first to the Lord," and, walk in deep understanding of GOSPEL-GRACE!
These Macedonian men and women had given themselves unabashedly and unashamedly to the Lord, fully surrendered to do His will, because of what He had done for them (BTW, this should be a typical response to the gospel).
In fact, the gospel meant so much to the Macedonian churches, that in spite of their suffering and their poverty, they were incredibly full of joy;
...and, when our joy is full, generosity also flows.
It seems to hold true:
The greater the joy, the greater the generosity.
Because this kind of joy isn't stifled by scarcity...
In fact, these folks were so full of joy, it caused them to BEG EARNESTLY and PLEAD for the privilege of helping others in need.
Did you catch those two words in bold print as you read the verse?
I can't help but ask this question:
When was the last time I begged to financially help out other believers?
In fact, have I ever?
Frequently, I see beggars on street corners asking for money.
Never once has there been an enthusiastic "beggar" stopping cars pleading to give money away.
The thought makes me chuckle as I ponder it (and, no, I'm not suggesting we should).
Yet, what a world-changing-dynamic, if more of us who have unreservedly given our hearts to the Lord, gave to the needs of others, starting in our own churches, then going beyond.
Oh, how attractive Jesus would be to the lost who observed us earnestly pleading and"giving of our own means and more!"
Such sacrificial love might turn enough heads, they'd say, "Oh, how they love one another! Whatever it is they have, I want it!"
Yep, this morning, I'm thinking, Jesus is looking for more beggars among His ranks!