The little girl smiled broadly and waved her little hand. Her adoptive father held her and talked about how she was a great blessing to their family. Then he told us how the adoption agency was in dire need of money. Without help, they would not be able to continue their ministry to mothers in trouble and babies who needed a loving Christian home. As a junior high kid, all I knew is that this little girl was one of my friend's little sister and that he loved her. If I had a checkbook and knew how to write a check, I would have emptied out our bank account to help.

When we got in the car, I found out my check writing wasn't needed. Dad had written a check for more than we had in our bank account. While this was a matter of no small concern, mom and dad made clear that this adoption agency needed the money more than we did and they believed God would somehow provide for us for the next week.

God did provide for us. A mysterious and unexpected check came in the mail the next few days, so at this young age I learned an important lesson about the "privilege" and "grace" of giving. The apostle Paul says it beautifully:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord's people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-7 NIV emphasis added).

The Lord Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Most of us, however, don't generally think of giving as a "privilege" and an act of "grace." Very few talk about giving and givers in the other terms Paul uses — "pleaded," "extreme poverty," "welled up," "rich generosity," "beyond their ability," and "excel." However, I can tell you that long ago, on that special Sunday, those words described how our family felt. We were thankful to help young girls in trouble and little babies in need.

This opportunity to give has forever altered my life. I think differently about giving to Kingdom opportunities. I try to give generously to needs involving kids — we support three Compassion kids and two orphans in Peru and try to help with kids closer to home in a number of different ways. And, it is a sweet gift of "grace" to be blessed to give in this way and it is a sweet "privilege" to make a difference in the life of others who need love, a home, and the love of Jesus.

So I encourage you to look back at Paul's words and choose two or three of them that you would like to see come to life in your heart. Then go find something that you can feel good about supporting and ask the Lord to make these words come true in you!

Most of us know the following words as the most familiar verse in the Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Today, let's hear them as the reminder that we are most like God when we love and when we give!

May God bless us as we seek to GIVE_generously in response to all that Jesus has done for us (2 Corinthians 8:9) and given to us (2 Corinthians 9:15).

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