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I Was Wrong About Giving Tuesday

As someone who works closely with several non-profit organizations, I am distinctly aware of Giving Tuesday.

In the United States, this Giving Tuesday “holiday” comes from an honorable desire to help non-profits continue their good work. However, there’s also an angle of manipulation, used to capitalize on a season when Americans are already spending a lot of money and feeling guilty about it.

The idea is that after several days of self-indulgence—which would often include a Thanksgiving feast, days off of work, and lots of spending—Giving Tuesday is a chance to use your resources selflessly.

When I began working on fundraising projects, I would often dread this time of year and the hectic (and sometimes annoying) campaigning that it brings. I knew that my clients’ appeals would most likely get lost in the avalanche of emails, social media posts, and phone calls that characterize Giving Tuesday. What was the point?

Why should Christians, many of whom already tithe or volunteer with their church, join the Tuesday craziness? Don’t we give enough? Isn’t it just a marketing ploy, anyway?

This year, however, I am working on one Giving Tuesday project that is very close to my heart. This non-profit creates multimedia Bible study tools which equip churches to include persons with intellectual disability.

I desperately want to see this organization reach their fundraising goal because I have seen firsthand the good that they do. And I know the leadership well; I respect their vision for the future. It’s enough to make me wonder if there’s more to Giving Tuesday than I originally thought.

Here are three reasons I’m choosing to participate this year:

 

Reason #1: To exercise my giving muscles

Have you ever heard it said that forgiveness is like a muscle in your body? “Exercising forgiveness” can be compared to exercising your body—the more you exert it, the stronger it gets and the easier the task becomes.

Giving is like that. The more we practice generosity, the easier and more natural it becomes.

A small step of faith—even if the amount you choose to give is very small—softens our hearts to be open to something bigger and better. God calls us to be people who are saturated in the habit of generosity—people who are full of kindness, goodness, and gentleness (see Galatians 5:22-23 for more on the fruit of the Spirit). And it doesn’t come naturally; we must practice and “do our exercises” with His help!

 

Reason #2: To make a difference

But we don’t just give for our own edification; we give because it truly makes a difference. This year I have seen the impact that even a small gift can make.

For the campaign I mentioned earlier, this non-profit client only needs to raise a few thousand dollars. It’s a big sum for one person, but if it were split among all the people on their mailing list, it would only amount to $2 per person. The price of a cheap cup of coffee. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? What’s difficult is getting a few hundred people to believe that their small gift is meaningful.

Let me tell you that God can use anything—even $2, or two loaves of bread (remember the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14?). Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12, emphasis added).

 

Reason #3: To express joyful gratitude

One of my favorite Christmas stories is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Actually, it’s only a favorite because I know it so well; my dad watches two or three different versions of the play or movie every year without fail.

In the story, the character of old Mr. Scrooge is transformed from sour, cynical, and abrasive to giddy, hopeful, and kind. He has been given a second chance in life and sees how fortunate he truly is. Scrooge’s newfound joy is immediately translated into generosity—he showers gifts on his employee, generously tips the errand boy, and makes a large donation to a local charity. Why? Because joy is expressed in gratitude—especially when joy comes from knowing that you have been forgiven a great debt.

Friends, we have been forgiven a great debt through God’s son. Jesus told his disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8b). Generosity is a way for Christ-followers to gladly proclaim, “The Kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 10:7).

 

So… Giving Tuesday. It’s here. It may feel like too much, and perhaps you’ve vowed to stay offline all day just to avoid the appeals. But I encourage you to give it a try—a small gift, a generous gift, a joyful gift. It will make a difference in that organization. And it will make a difference in you.

How the Fourth of July Reminds Me of Jesus

The Fourth of July holiday—commemorating the beginning of the American revolution against the motherland, England—is a central part of the United States’ origin story. Odds are that even if you don’t live in the USA, your home country has an origin story, too.

This year, I am learning that the birth of my country bears a lot of similarities to the origin of the global Church—the gospel story. How so? Let’s take a look at the gospel as it’s presented in Hebrews:

There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. (Hebrews 7:23-25, NLT)

 

Once and Forever

Although now it is celebrated with parades, fireworks, and a day off work for most Americans, the very first Fourth of July was really the beginning of eight years of bloody conflict. The revolution brought all-out war to American shores, and the Fourth of July marked the “point of no return” when the colonists crossed the line from mere grumbling to high treason. They were going to war with their king; they were preparing for battle.

In the same way, Hebrews describes Jesus’ actions as “once and forever.” His death on the cross was the point of no return. There was no plan B, and no way to escape. Just like the acceptance of a revolutionary document, Jesus’ actions were public, final, and powerful.

 

Interceding on My Behalf

I love the Bible’s use of the word “intercede.” It always reminds me of a courtroom, with a passionate lawyer pleading the case of the defendant. But of course, in a courtroom there must also be a plaintiff—an accusing party.

For the American revolution, there was a clear enemy in mind. England was accusing the colonists of subverting rightful authority. The colonists laid out their “case” in the Declaration of Independence, detailing grievances from the king across the sea. The “courtroom” was set.

We also have an accuser, friends. Revelation 12:10 describes a future in which “the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down”. To imagine the Enemy continually accusing me before God is terrifying. I am a sinful person who falls every day. What could I say in my defense?

But there is the good news! Jesus says it all for me. He lives forever to intercede on my behalf.

 

Victory!

The result of the American Revolution was a happy one for the colonists: they gained independence from England. Their victory would have been nearly impossible to predict, for the opposing force was more powerful, experienced, and better-equipped than they were.

Our victory in Christ came through a similar way. The Enemy we face is mighty, experienced, and better-equipped. It seems that he would easily overthrow us—except for the help of one man, Jesus Christ.

And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:21-22)

Jesus clears our guilt away, pays our debt, and clothes us with righteousness! We aren’t just free—we are adopted as heirs and can approach God’s throne with confidence. Now that is an amazing, revolutionary victory!

 

Living in the Light of Victory

The Fourth of July isn’t only a time for celebration; it is a time for sobering up. Each year, Americans are reminded of a conflict that left thousands of families torn apart and a fledgling nation that sang of justice while continuing to oppress others—African Americans, Native Americans, and more—for decades to come. The America we know today is not sanctified—not even close. No human effort could hope to truly create a perfect, holy nation.

When we remember the true human condition, evident in history and in our own souls, it is easy to feel hopeless. The very next verses in Hebrews (10:23-25) are an encouragement for these times: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Sometimes this life wears on me—I feel tired, anxious, and defeated. I am ashamed of my own pride, anger, and fear that get in the way of living a pure life. In times like these, the author of Hebrews encourages us to cling to the church—motivating one another to good works, meeting together, encouraging one another.

Finally, we should recognize that we are forgetful, and sometimes the best thing we can do is sit down and recall God’s mercies in our life.

The Fourth of July is a great holiday, but it celebrates an imperfect and costly event in history. No man-made effort, however revolutionary, can truly establish a nation of justice and liberty. Thankfully, we have an all-powerful victor on our side, who has won the victory once and forever. Just like Americans remember the Fourth of July every year, we as Christians also need to be continually reminded of Christ’s victory in order to celebrate and live in it.

I’ve Arrived. Now What?

It’s been a year since I graduated college, and so much has happened already! I’ve been blessed with a fun and challenging job in my field of study. I live at a wonderful house with two friends. My life is overflowing with healthy, exciting, good things—most people would say that I’ve “arrived”.

But some days, I’m ashamed to admit that I still struggle with discontentment. Despite all the good things that fill my life, there are moments when it’s just not enough and these thoughts fill my mind: Am I so greedy that all of these blessings can’t fulfill me? What’s missing from my life? And the worst question: Where am I going?

Without a clear goal to strive towards, my life now seems stagnant instead of stable. There are so many possible paths for my life, but now that I’ve finished college and chosen a career and a city to live in, I wonder if I’ve made the right choices. The trajectory of my life seems to be heading somewhere pretty mundane—a normal, middle-class existence in America. Anxiously, I wonder if I was meant to be doing something more extraordinary or important or. . . meaningful?

The writer of Ecclesiastes faced a similar situation. Even though he had wisdom, status, wealth, and influence, he still felt at times that “everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

So what should we do when, like me, we’ve “arrived”, and find ourselves feeling empty?

 

1. Go back to our first love

I saw a commercial recently that proclaimed, “Experiences are the true riches in life.” I love experiences. I enjoy travel, concerts, and new activities. But some of the most wise and godly people I know collect very few experiences—yet their lives are still rich. They have learned that the true riches of life are found in the person named Jesus.

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you,” exclaims the psalmist. “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods. . . I cling to you” (Psalm 63:3-8, emphasis added).

When I feel anxious, it always comforts me to read my Bible, especially the Psalms, where the authors cry out with raw joy and pain. Through scripture, God tells us a story of mankind’s fall and redemption that is so grand and beautiful that it puts all of our worldly experiences to shame.

Our experiences may be good, but in the end the dissatisfaction that we feel with these experiences points us to the best—the God who created them. It is He who gives meaning to all we do. And when we are grounded in His story, we do not need to fill our time chasing experiences.

 

2. Give up the driver’s seat

Part of my anxiety during this period of stability is due to thinking that maybe I should be moving on to something better instead of staying put. Most of my college friends are getting jobs in other cities and moving away. Some are going overseas to be missionaries, or starting families of their own. Perhaps I should be seeking a new job, house, or dream?

I am in control of my life, which means I can steer it in the wrong direction. What if I’m missing something by staying here?

But these anxious thoughts are easily quieted when I remember that I’m not actually in control. We all have the power to make decisions, but the Christian’s challenge is to release that control. Let God determine where you are going—He should be in the driver’s seat!

I need to surrender my life to God by confessing that I can’t do this on my own. I need to regularly choose to dwell on God’s promises instead of my fears. Surrendering to God does not make me feel powerless. Instead, it brings immense comfort. If God is in control—not me—then all I need to do is listen to His voice and follow His direction.

Psalm 37:23 reminds us that, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.” If I’m supposed to move, or if I’m supposed to stay, God will let me know. That doesn’t mean He will always make it clear when I want Him to. I remember how long I agonized over the decision of where to attend college; I was angry with God for not being more clear. But at just the right time, God helped me see what made one school a better fit than the other, and I had such peace about the decision. He made my steps firm.

 

3. Relax and enjoy the view

There’s a scene in the movie The Shack (2017) where the main character Mack is walking with God through a gently rolling meadow dotted with trees. The sun is setting and the landscape is peaceful and beautiful.

Mack has been walking alongside God for a while, and it’s unclear if they’re nearing the final destination. He’s feeling a little anxious and a little uncertain. “Is someone going to tell me where we’re going?” Mack asks.

“Look around, Mack,” God says in answer, gesturing to the beautiful landscape. “Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”

Those are powerful words. It’s as if God was saying, Can you simply enjoy each step of the journey with Me? That is very difficult for me to do. I like control, knowledge, and preparation. I want a complete view of the map before we start the trip. But that’s not usually how God works. He asks us to trust Him for every step.

I’ve learned it’s easier to find joy in the beautiful things of this life when I trust God for the final destination. When I do so, the blessings that I mentioned earlier—a great job, a good home, kind friends—come fully alive. I feel free to cherish them for this season of life, instead of feeling anxious about what changes the next season might bring.

 

So when I’m feeling anxious or restless, I remind myself to stop, look around, and enjoy the journey. Even the author of Ecclesiastes recognized that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time to move forward, and there is a time to remain right where we are. Let’s go back to our first love, give up the driver’s seat, and enjoy the view for however long it lasts.

Hypocrisy in Speech

Day 18 | Today’s passage: James 3:9-12 | Historical context of James

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

I slammed down the phone with a bang and let out a long suffering sigh.
“That was the longest call of my life!” I exclaimed in anger. “Next time he calls, could somebody else answer and tell him I’m not here? What does he think I do all day?”

Lately, one of my clients had taken to calling me multiple times each day to “talk through” one of his projects. These one-sided conversations often had zero results—except for wasting my time.

My co-worker laughed at my sour expression and said, “Nice announcer voice!”

“What?” I asked.

“Your ‘phone voice’, it sounds like a radio host!” She mimicked my very polite and upbeat receptionist line: “Good morning! This is Karen. Yes, thank you for calling!”

She meant it as a joke, but her words stung. Was that really how I sounded? How could I sound so nice while I was on the phone, and so nasty after I hung up?

James explores this hypocrisy here in verses 9-12. Sometimes our mouths are fountains of “fresh water”—from which authentic, loving, life-giving words spring forth—and sometimes they spew “salt water”—venomous, prideful speech. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing,” he observes.
But this dual nature is fundamentally wrong. The same spring cannot produce both fresh and salty water. Neither should our tongues produce both loving and venomous words. Perhaps what James was suggesting was that a tongue which utters curses indicates a heart that is not truly displaying the love of Christ at all.

As Christians, we are called to love not just our friends but our enemies—to show them true love and kindness, not just on-the-phone professional niceness. And one of the first indicators of our real attitude towards people is how we speak of them and to them.

James reminds us that when we curse others through our angry speech, empty flattery, or sarcastic comments, we are attacking someone made in God’s image and likeness (v. 9). Each person carries the imprint of God and is made by His hands. What hypocrisy it is when we become angry and unforgiving with our speech towards another person, all the while knowing how God treats His children with unfailing love and compassion. When we fail to forgive, we have forgotten that God has forgiven us—and furthermore, that He has forgiven them. “Salty” speech promulgates condemnation; “pure” speech proclaims mercy.

So what should we do when we are honestly at a loss for authentic, loving words?

1. Be honest: resist the urge to cover your feelings with a charade. For me, this might mean admitting that I don’t have time for a phone call at the moment and offering to reschedule it to a time when I can give the client my full attention.
2. Be kind: ask God to help you to be patient and to speak with a loving tongue. Now, I offer a short prayer before I even pick up the phone. I bite my tongue when I want to say something sarcastic, and I try to remember the things I truly appreciate about the client and his work.

We have a choice before us today—to offer fresh or salty water.
We can’t do both.
What will you choose?

—Karen Pimpo, USA

Questions for reflection

1. Reflect on the last time you spoke ill of or spoke harshly to another.
How does today’s passage address this?

2. What changes do you need to make in your life today?


Karen Pimpo lives in Michigan, USA, where everybody complains about the weather but secretly loves it. When she was little, she wanted to be a librarian. Not much has changed. Besides literature, listening to and performing music is one of her greatest joys. She sings and writes to help untangle the knots in her head, and because telling stories helps us realize we are not alone. She endeavors to face the unknowns of life with the naive bravery of Bilbo Baggins: “I’m going on an adventure!”

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