Friday, April 27, 2007

Faithful in the Little Things

I've been speaking recently at our conferences on the topic of Integrity. Just this week I changed much of my talk to focus more on the theme of Integrity itself rather than using it as a precursor to engage my audience in how churches and nonprofit groups demonstrate integrity (or the lack thereof).

I'm reminded me of the verse in Luke. "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." (Luke 16:10)

I have used this verse a number of times in talking about money. It's very much in context as Luke starts off this message with Jesus teaching about the unjust steward who cooked the books in order to ingratiate himself with those who could help me after he was fired by his boss.

In talking about integrity however, I realize that it's really about being faithful in the little things.

To me, integrity is really an alignment of our character with the character of God and our behavior as a result reflects God's character.

Neat idea, the proof however is being faithful over time. Faithful in the little things.

I'm convinced that while none of us have been completely faithful, we can demonstrate integrity in all areas of our life. While many of us have a long way to go, if we start now with the little things, we'll be proven ultimately to be faithful in the big things as well.

If you are one of those people that have really failed big time some little test, take heart. God isn't done with you yet and you can start today to begin work again on becoming faithful in the little things.

I don't know why our society has seemingly become so callous that it appears most believe that integrity doesn't matter or somehow a person's character and integrity can be compartmentalized. As if a person that is unfaithful to his wife would never be unfaithful at work. Or a father that doesn't have time to be a "dad" to his young son or daughter would somehow spend the necessary time to do other right things when pressed for time.

Little things are great starting places for us. They don't take a lot of effort, just a simple alignment with those things that we know are right and true.

Thank God for the little things.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Charitable Giving Increases Dramatically

Recently, there have been a few articles related to how charitable giving is changing and also how charitable giving is increasing somewhat dramatically.

Giving USA 2006, which is a compilation of facts and figures on giving in the United States and has information from the Year 2005 ( the latest information available) , stated that Americans gave total contributions of $260.28 billion for 2005, a growth of 6.1 percent. This is a healthy increase in giving and is likely partially attributed to the increased giving due to Tsunami and Hurricane relief, estimated at over $3 billion.

In Arthur Brooks best selling book, "Who Really Cares", the author states, "The data tell us that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong. In most ways, political conservatives are not personally less charitable than political liberals—they are more so."
Brooks goes on to say in the book that the reason for the charitable difference gap isn't so much related to political ideology, i.e. Conservative vs. Liberal, or Republican vs. Democrat, it's that this gap is 100% related to the difference in faith.
That's right, Brooks concludes, "the enormous charity gap remains between religious people and secular people." It seems that because so many people of faith consider themselves to be politically conservative skews the results so that the conservatives appear to give more than liberals. The difference however is the "faith" not the political persuasion, as Brooks discovered in his research that people of faith GAVE, regardless of their political persuasion.
I did some of my own research based on ECFA financial information. ECFA member organizations saw total income increase 13% in the last fiscal year (combination of 2005 and 2006 data). That is more than TWICE the rate of charitable giving overall. ECFA member assets also increased by 22% to a total of more than $30 billion.
While I'd like to attribute the difference between ECFA charities and all charities (13% vs. 6.1%) to something inherent in ECFA accreditation, integrity and financial transparency, I'm going to have to just attribute it to faith.
As it should be!

I Wish We'd All Been Ready

Yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech weighs heavy in our hearts.

when events like this are close to home, when our sons and our daughters are affected and when the nation reels at how vulnerable we all are, it's good to pause, pray and ponder.

We pause because we are stunned. Stunned at the brutality and stunned because we are reminded that true evil does exist.

We pray because we naturally turn to the One who ultimately is in control. We may not understand why seemingly senseless tragedies happen but we pray knowing that God can heal, God can mend and God protects.

We ponder because we are confronted with our own mortality. The bible says, "we do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14 NIV)
I realize that the media is full of reports from people that want to use this opportunity to express their opinion on a variety of subjects, from gun control to campus security to the need for the government to do something....anything.
I'll take this opportunity to pause, pray and ponder.
For some reason (perhaps you know) I'm also reminded of the song by Larry Norman, "I wish we'd all been ready", and recently recorded by DC talk. If you'd like to see the video, you can click on the link

Life was filled with guns and war
And all of us got trampled on the
I wish we'd all been ready
Children died, the days grew cold

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we'd all been ready


There's no time to change your mind
the Son has come and you've been
left behind
I wish we'd all been ready
A man and wife asleep in bed
she hears a noise and turns her head he's gone
I wish we'd all been

Two men walking up a hill
one disappears and one's left standing
I wish we'd all been ready


The Father spoke
the demons died
how could we
have been so
There's no time to change your mind
the son has come and you've
been left behind(2x)
I hope we'll all be ready(you've been left behind) (3x)

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