On Saturday night, Daniel and I were invited to an exclusive charity event in central London.
I spent most of the day beforehand spouting about it to anyone who would listen.
“What charity is it?” they asked.
“charity: water,” I replied, expecting some eyebrows to rise. Perhaps a gasp or two.
Silence. Nothing. The majority of the people I spoke to had no idea who charity: water were. It was a stark reminder to me about how important my job is.
Here’s why I need to tell you about charity: water.
Right now, 800 million people on the planet don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water. That’s one in nine of us. Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
charity: water is a non-profit organisation bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. They use 100% of public donations to directly fund sustainable water solutions in areas of greatest need.
But really, those figures are too much to grasp for many of us. We know that some parts of the world are in dire need, but 800 million is too great a number for us to comprehend. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve never done a six-hour roundtrip to a dirty swamp, just to carry a 40lb jerrycan full of dirty water back to your village; we just can’t imagine what that’s like. So charity: water put faces to the figures, and tell stories from the front-line. They help us to understand why we need to help them, so that they can help others.
Watch Rachel Beckwith's story, and be inspired:
If you’re a UK giver, and you’d like to make regular donations to charity: water tax-effectively and quickly, you can open up a giving account and start making gifts today
To make a one-off donation, visit www.give.net/charitywater
Peter, a good steward
Simon Peter is a worshipper.
He serves what he worships. And he also stewards and manages what he serves. What does Simon Peter steward? And how and why is his stewardship good?
These two questions have together one immediate solution: Before his campfire meal with Jesus, (John 21) Simon Peter served men. He was a people pleaser par excellence. A well-liked leader, a ruler of a team of fishing boats, people depended on him and he was totally dependable. He worshipped being liked and respected. And he was. Peter pleased his god ─ men’s approval ─ and was well-rewarded.
But Peter begins to change after he first encounters Jesus (Luke 5). It is the morning after a poor night of work. Peter's two boats and crews have laboured and caught nothing. Jesus enters Pete’s boat and requests that they move out a little from the shore. Peter listens. After teaching, Jesus asks Peter to fish again. Simon Peter's revealing response:
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break…both boats so full that they began to sink.
A miracle: where there was nothing, now there is everything.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Peter falls to his knees, but he is not worshipping. He is caught in fear. Jesus is no longer a “master”, one of many good masters and teachers. Jesus is “Lord”. Peter is deeply attracted to Jesus, yet he is also repelled. He needs Jesus to “go away.” But Jesus stays.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Jesus’ first command to Peter is to banish Peter’s fear. Peter then leaves everything behind: his fear, his boats, worship of man’s approval. Change begins because Peter’s object of worship is different: Jesus.
Peter is drawn in by a perfect love that removes, casts out fear. Peter, now a good steward, follows.
Want to go deeper? You can download the PDF below for more:
“Are you settled in yet? How are you and Priscilla settling in? Are you sorting things out?“
Following our move to the United Kingdom from New York City, kindly Brits have asked this ‘settling’ question of me more then a few times. (This is one of the key differences between a Brit and a NYC native: the seasoned New Yorker never asks if you are settled in. It is understood that isn’t happening till the end of a lifetime).
Yes, we are settling in. Yet, I worry about ever getting too comfortable. I hope I always go where the Lord desires me to be. I never want to ‘settle’.
Terah, Abram’s father, settled for Haran and is a bad steward as a result. Terah is so obscure in bible history that most people don’t know who he is. His name in Microsoft Word spell check always comes up underlined in red. Even though he is Abram’s father, he is not known. Abram is known primarily by his God-given new name, Abraham. This illustrates a core fact of Abraham’s life: he was a man of faith. God, as his father, renames him Abraham and calls him to be a father of many nations.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God….And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11: 8-10; 12
Terah was called before his son Abram was called. He left his home and family in the city of Ur for the land of Canaan.
This is the account of Terah’s family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive. Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran. Genesis 11: 27-30
Note verse 31: But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Haran is actually half way from Ur to Canaan. Terah moved from his home and set out leaving part of his family (his son, Nahor and Nahor’s wife, Milkah). He was supposed to go to Canaan. He never made it to where he was called to. Why? The writer of Genesis gives us a clue that this is a failure through the two words, “but” and “settled.” They speak not only about Terah but to and about us.
What am I settling for? What are my “buts” when I can’t do or finish something? Do I really believe in my journey, no matter how long and tiring and difficult? Am I “settled?”
Whether Terah was weary of travel; in love with Haran; or lazy, the point is he settled for Haran. He never went where he was called to go. He didn’t follow through. In contrast, Abram, after his father’s death was told by the Lord, Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show up. Genesis 12:1
He didn’t know where he was going, except it was the land the Lord desired him and his descendants to possess. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11: 8.
He went by faith. He found out later it was Canaan, his father Terah’s original destination. The place Terah never got to.
Is ‘only going half way’ as bad as not starting at all?
Want to go deeper? You can download the PDF below for more:
I used to have really strong views on tithing. It used to really wind me up that I was obeying the law and paying my church taxes while others had signed up unfairly to the equivalent of the ‘church dole’, resulting in church ministries suffering and modern day Levites (those who lead us in our worship at church) struggling to get by on measly salaries…
Thing is, I still do have personal views on tithing, but I’ve had enough conversations with others whom I admire, to recognise that there are a number of different interpretations when it comes to this subject.
Does God have a problem with the person who gives strictly 10% as opposed to someone who gives in response to how they see the Father giving, regardless of amount? I don’t know. It’s certainly not for me to judge.
So here’s a question: if God loves a cheerful (hilarious) giver, does that mean we shouldn’t give until we can be cheerful about it?
My experience of giving was that I began as a legalist – thou shalt tithe the first-fruits (oh yes, I went the whole ‘giving-before-tax-and-other-deductions’ hog). But I realised that I often felt nervous that I wasn’t giving enough or fulfilling my ‘duty’ to God. On the advice of our spiritual parents, my husband and I started asking God how much we should be tithing (based on a 10% minimum which we both agreed was our personal benchmark interpretation of scripture). We would both ask God how much we should give, listen to God, compare our numbers, go back to God if they were different and discuss until we both felt a peace that we were doing God’s will with His money.
Based on the passage in Acts 4:32-35, we believed that we didn’t want to dictate how that money was used. The early church brought their giving to the apostles’ feet to be distributed, so we gave that money to the church with no restrictions. Immediately, we both knew we wanted to be able to also give to other people and ministries that touched our hearts. As things were pretty tight – we were newlyweds on one salary whilst my husband was studying – we decided to step out in faith and support a missionary from our church with a really small amount on top of our tithe. The next year, we increased it in faith that God would provide. We reviewed our giving together with God every time we had a pay change, and we honoured Him with the first-fruits of any other one-off income we were blessed with. Funnily, the provision kept on coming (Malachi 3:10).
Soon, we were giving way over a ‘traditional tithe’, although we always made sure that whatever God wanted us to give to, our giving to the church remained at the core. We supported three friends through education, a number of missionaries whom we knew personally, charities whose work really tugged at our heartstrings, a sponsored child, and our church building project. Before long we decided to keep a monthly amount of money aside as well so that we could respond to situations that were burning in our hearts at the time.
We didn’t just pray about our giving anymore. We prayed about all our money. 'The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it …' Over time we’d realised everything we had was entrusted to us and actually, God wanted to partner with us in spending it so that we could experience the joy of giving – not just to the things we wanted to be obedient in, but also in areas or people He’d laid on our hearts. We put off saving for a house because giving was our priority. We gave away bonuses and tax rebates. We sometimes gave away from our savings, and later discovered how much people had needed the money at that exact time. We paid people’s monthly bills (it was interesting explaining our regular Direct Debits to the mortgage company when we finally did buy a house!). We lived an exciting life of generosity with the view that we owned nothing. God owned everything. If Jesus gave his whole life, how could we radically respond?
I’m not saying we’re there yet – with God there’s always more. But in less than seven years, this is our story. I’ve definitely got things wrong, and my motives and attitudes were pretty sucky at the start, but I can humbly say ‘this is what I’ve learnt’, and I’m most definitely a convert to hilarious giving now.
“A steward is both a ruler and servant, one who exists to please his master.”
What makes a good steward? How strong are the links between service and stewardship? And why do such ancient terms matter more than ever today? Can a steward move from good to bad and back again? Or is their destiny fixed from the start?
In this new series we will be answering these questions and more by looking at twelve great Biblical examples of what it means to be a steward. We will explore the good, the bad and the ugly, weighing up the evidence gathered from both Old and New Testaments.
But before we get started, let’s be honest: what hope do we have of success when the only time that most people encounter a steward is when they’re flying at 35,000 feet? Is there enough common ground between our own limited understanding of the term and the meaning attached to Biblical instances of the word?
It turns out that the today’s stewards have little functional difference from their ancient namesakes. An airline steward today is responsible to their captain for taking care of passengers en route to their destination, while a steward in the ancient Middle East was responsible to his master for the care of all the master’s possessions. Both share the role of a ruler and servant, and neither – while sharing a degree of authority – can be termed ‘owner’. Perhaps stewardship is not so alien a concept after all.
Across the coming weeks we will encounter many different examples of what it means to be a steward. We start with the story of an open, trusting boy and end with a picture from the life of Jesus – the perfect example of stewardship.
By showing that stewardship is as much about receiving as it is about giving, Jesus turns the paradigm on its head. And by investing so heavily in the disciples – of whom He commands ‘receive the Holy Spirit…’ (John 20:22) before sending them out – Jesus so perfectly demonstrates the right way to approach the matter.
Over the coming weeks and months we will see it all – epic stories of redemption, cautionary tales of failure and plenty of food for thought. We will come to see stewardship not just as a journey, but a destination and learn to view the gospel as perhaps the greatest possession with which we are entrusted.
But most of all, we will understand what it means to follow Jesus more closely, not just in word, but in deed as well. But will begin our studies with a steward who speaks no words, but only gives his all, a boy who trusts.
Want to go deeper? You can download the PDF below for more:
A brand new initiative for 2013, sponsored by Stewardship’s give.net and backed by the NHS, asks a vital question: what if the UK church saw blood and organ donation as part of its giving?
A new survey suggests that while individual church members may have a significant interest in
donating blood and organs, the bigger picture shows that it is not encouraged by UK churches as
part of their committed Christian giving.
The survey was conducted by Christian Research on behalf of Kore as part of the fleshandblood
campaign launched earlier this year in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).
The survey shows that close to 10% of Christians have given blood in the last year compared to 4%
of the general population who have given blood in the last two years, and almost half of all Christians are registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register compared with 31% of the general population.
However despite these strong levels of engagement the overall findings reveal that many churches in Britain do not yet see blood and organ donation as a part of its giving, with an extremely low 0.3% of respondents stating that either blood or organ donation was a frequent part of their churchʼs teaching and over 75% saying that neither blood nor organ donation was ever mentioned or encouraged by their church.
The Rt Rev James Newcome, Lead Bishop on Healthcare for the Church of England says,
“Extending our understanding of the central Christian themes of generosity and stewardship to
include blood and organ donation has the potential to tangibly transform the giver and the receiver.
The benefit to others is not only life enhancing but can mean the difference between life and death.”
fleshandblood Campaign Director, Juls Hollidge commented, “The church has always been known
for its spirit of generosity. We want to encourage churches and church leaders to explore what it
would mean if, alongside all its other great work, the Church were to see blood and organ donation
as a part of that desire to be generous.”
This unique campaign seeks to equip individuals and churches as advocates for blood and organ
donation enabling them to raise awareness of this key issue with their family, friends and community and potentially help to save thousands of lives each year.
Eight generations ago our ancestors ended the slave trade, yet today the numbers associated with human trafficking are staggering.
Click here to access our special issue Share magazine on human trafficking, featuring interviews with Beth Redman, Gary Haugen and Christine Caine.
Our award-winning Lent challenge - 40acts - is now in its 3rd year.
40 days, 40 reflections, 40 simple acts of generosity.
Join the movement at www.40acts.org.uk and let's start a generosity revolution across the world.
Sign up and you'll receive an email every day during Lent, with a generosity challenge and a thought for the day.
Follow 40acts on Twitter: www.twitter.com/40acts
Like 40acts on Facebook: www.facebook.com/40acts
Guest bloggers this year include: Shaun King (Founder of HopeMob), Krish Kandiah (Evangelical Alliance), Chine Mbubaegbu (threads), Nicky & Sila Lee (Holy Trinity Brompton), Miriam Swaffield (Fusion), Chris Duffett (Baptist Union), Paul Kerensa (Comedian and writer for BBC series 'Miranda'), Ruth Awogbade (Magnify), Lord Michael Hastings (House of Lords), Anne Atkins (BBC Radio 4), James Catford (Bible Society), Rob Parsons (Care for the Family) and many more.
At 11 a.m. on St Andrew’s Day thousands of people across Scotland will stop what they’re doing and read. Hopefully, the country won’t grind to a halt but what a fantastic thought – all those noses in books for an hour. As a self-confessed bibliophile, it’s my idea of bliss.
The Reading Hour is part of a week-long series of events run by the Scottish Book Trust to celebrate the place books have in our lives. For some, reading is a solitary activity, best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a comfy chair; for others, it is more of a communal activity to be shared in book groups, libraries and schools. Some of my most enduring childhood memories are book-centred: buying my first Enid Blyton book (which I still have, by the way), the smell of the mobile library, listening intently to Bernard Cribbins reading the Paddington Bear stories on Jackanory.
So, I pondered, how can we be generous and celebrate our love of books at the same time? Well, it turns out that there are more options than you might think. Here are some of the ones I came up with but you may have more ideas:
It could be the start of a new chapter for you . . . .
http://www.volunteerscotland.org.uk for other reading-related opportunities
Comrie Book Group and the 2011 Booker Prize authors: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00l9g4z
The Seeing Ear http://www.seeingear.org/TSE/
RNIB National Library service http://www.rnib.org.uk/livingwithsightloss/reading/services/rnibnationallibrary/Pages/national_library_service.aspx
Reflections from two Operation Christmas Child Volunteers on shoebox distributions in Serbia
by Claire Beament and Shirley Powell
I will never forget the first little boy I opened a shoebox with in Serbia. The expression on his face when he looked inside was amazing, I cannot fully describe it - it made my eyes prick with tears because his whole face lit up so much and he had the biggest smile on his face. I can honestly say that I had never seen a child look so happy before. One of the 10 year old boys told us (through an interpreter) that he was so grateful to whoever made the box and that this was his first gift ever.
Our second distribution was at refugee homes. The buildings were originally set up as temporary accommodation in 1999, yet people were still living there. We went into one building that looked like university halls; one long corridor with ten doors. Each door led to a room. We spoke to one lady who lived in a room with her 7 children, and she told us that this was the seventh place she had lived in since leaving Kosovo. She started to get very upset, but when asked what impact the shoeboxes had on her and her family her whole face lit up and she said it made her children so happy, as she would not be able to give them gifts like this.
Next we went to a massive Roma community who lived under a flyover. This is the distribution that springs to mind when anyone asks me about my trip. It was unbelievable. It looked like a shanty town – it was like a giant rubbish dump (as most of the residents make money by recycling other peoples rubbish) with shacks for houses, and no running water. It was the underworld of the city of Belgrade; you could see the flyover with expensive cars literally above you whilst standing the middle of this deprived settlement.
There was a baby girl – too young to get a box – held by her dad who just kept crying and crying. I went over to her with a cuddly toy sheep I had in my pocket and as soon as she saw the sheep she stopped crying instantly. That really upset me because something so simple to us meant so much to them.
This experience has shown me that something small can make a big difference. The shoeboxes are only a simple, small gift to us, and they give not only a child - but a whole family - a message of hope.
It was good to be able to share a bit of the love that goes into making a box with some of those kids. What an incentive to do more boxes in the future. I feel truly blessed to have been part of such an amazing team, and to have experienced this incredible journey. These shoeboxes make a real difference, but they’re not the end of the story: they open doors for Samaritan’s Purse partners to help these people in other ways, enabling them to improve many aspects of their lives.
The generosity challenge:
Be inspired by Claire and Shirley’s experience and get involved this year! You’ve got 17 days left to create a shoebox of your own. Take a look here to see how to make one, and where your nearest drop-off point is.
You can also follow Operation Christmas Child on Twitter: @OCC_UK
Join the community and swap Christmas box tips on Facebook: www.facebook.com/occuk
blogs by the Stewardship team and selected guest writers.