Today’s Influence Magazine Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com

  • Rollie Dimos reviews Giving It All Away…and Getting It All Back Again, a new book about generosity by David Green and Bill High.
  • Christina Quick summarizes the results of a new Gallup survey that shows churchgoers want Scripture-based, applicable sermons.
  • Doug Clay answers FAQs about properly receipting charitable donations to a church or ministry.

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Review of ‘Your Next 24 Hours’ by Hal Donaldson


Kathleen Connors unwittingly started a chain reaction of kindness when she paid for a family’s meal at the L&M Diner in Barre, Vermont. Over the next 24 hours, 46 other patrons paid it forward and purchased meals anonymously for other customers. Connors found out that “kindness is seldom followed by a period,” Hal Donaldson writes. “One act of kindness can be the opening sentence in a volume of goodwill.”

Donaldson is president of Convoy of Hope, which he cofounded with his siblings in 1994. Since then, Convoy has distributed $1 billion of food and emergency supplies to 80 million people in the U.S. and around the world. He and his siblings were the beneficiaries of the kindness of church folk who took them in when their dad was killed and their mom seriously injured in a drunk-driving accident. “Out of anger and bitterness,” he writes, “we could have chosen a life of crime or greed.” Instead, out of thankful hearts, a charity was founded that has brought help and hope to millions.”

We often hear stories of random acts of kindness. The challenge Donaldson poses in Your Next 24 Hours is to make the day before you “day one of a more rewarding life” (emphasis in original). To help you do that, he offers 22 short chapters about how kindness can make a lasting difference in your home, workplace, school, and community. Each chapter ends with “Kind Ways,” action steps to put kindness in action. The book is written winsomely, with stories from popular culture illustrating biblical principles about kindness, gratitude, and the power of hope.

I’m a friend of Hal’s and a fan of Convoy of Hope, so I’m happy to recommend both him and the organization he leads. But I also thoroughly enjoyed this book and the advice it offers about how to make acts of kindness a nonrandom part of each day.

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P.S. If you found my book review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review originally appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com and it is republished with permission.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (6.1–8) 


There are many believers enduring tribulation all around the world right now. Enduring tribulation raises the question, how shall we then live?

The answer to this question depends on “then.” It depends, in other words, on the environment we are called by God to inhabit. As we read Revelation 6.1–8, it becomes clear that God calls some of us to live in an environment of conquest, war, scarcity, famine, pestilence, and death—or at least to be prepared to do so.

Consider three facts: First, conquest, war, scarcity, and the like describe the actual conditions of many Christians around the world at the present time. Surely, they are justified in reading Revelation in such a way that helps them live godly lives in their environment. Second, many futurists teach that some Christians will endure the great tribulation, namely, those who convert after the rapture. Third, other futurists and all preterists, idealists, and historicists teach that Christians will go through the great tribulation. All Christians should take Jesus at His word that His coming will be like a thief in the night, that it will be so sudden some will be taken and others left. Our best response is to live in such a way as to be watch and be ready at any moment. We all should live knowing that Christ’s return is imminent. Additionally, while waiting for that return, Christians must learn how to live in a time of conquest, war, scarcity, and the like.

Now I know that the mention of these evils—which John portrays as four horsemen—is not the kind of thing that will brighten your day. It is not supposed to. John reports his vision of the four horsemen in order to stiffen our spines, not bring a smile to our faces. His is a realistic counsel: Whatever good we might expect in the future, we must prepare for the worst in the present.

How? By cultivating the virtues of submission, peacemaking, generosity, and hospitality, among others. The rider on the white horse, we are told, “came out conquering and to conquer.” His sole purpose was domination. We might meet this rider with resistance, but Scripture tacks the opposite way. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” Jesus taught us, “and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12.17). Christians can be good citizens even when their state is corrupt.

The rider on the red horse “was permitted to take peace from the earth,” and war ensued. In such an environment, the Christian who makes peace is blessed (Matt. 5.9). Peace, in the Bible, is never merely the absence of conflict. It is also always the presence of the harmony that results from justice. To make peace, then, we must act justly at all times.

The rider on the black horse brings economic scarcity and inflated prices. In the great tribulation, a day’s ration of wheat costs a day’s wage. One can hardly get ahead with prices so high. While the natural tendency under such circumstances is to hoard and save, the truly Christian response is to share. In the early days of the Jerusalem church, believers pooled their resources so that none would be left behind economically (Acts 2.44–45, 4.32–37).

Death, which rides a pale horse, is followed by Hades and brings famine, pestilence, and cruelty in its train. Confronted by the horrors of disease, we often retreat into safe enclaves, excluding from our midst those who might be infected. The proper Christian response is hospitality, the welcoming of strangers into our midst. Such is a distinguishing mark of the disciple (Matt. 25.31–46).

In an environment of conquest, war, scarcity, and death, Christians are called to exhibit the virtues of submission, peacemaking, generosity, and hospitality. That, then, is how we should live.

Three Hard Words (Mark 10.1–31)


Mark 10.1–31 records three hard words of Jesus about divorce, childlikeness, and wealth.

Regarding divorce, Jesus said, “No!” Some Pharisees tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Alluding to Deuteronomy 24.1–4, the Pharisees answered, “Yes.” But Jesus was unsatisfied with their answer, so he responded: “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law. But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

In Jesus’ day, rabbinic schools interpreted the law’s permission to divorce loosely or tightly. Jesus, citing God’s creative purpose in marriage (Gen. 1.27, 2.24), obviously sided with the stricter reading of the law. Just to make sure that his disciples understood him, he said to them privately: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Regarding childlikeness, Jesus said, “Yes!” The disciples tried to shoo away parents who were bringing their children to Jesus for a blessing. The disciples’ actions sprang from an exaggerated respect for their own self-importance, as well as a sad lack of respect for the last, the lost, and the least—here ably represented by children. Jesus rebuked them and said: “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Finally, regarding wealth, Jesus said, “Give!” A rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The rich man was unwilling to do this, however, and walked away. His action prompted Jesus to say, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Do not divorce. Become like a child. Give away your wealth. These are hard words from Jesus’ lips. But why are they so hard? Because they reveal our hidden, secret desires: lust, pride, and envy. We want sex outside of marriage. We want power over others (like adults), not spiritual powerlessness and dependency (like children). We want more things than we currently have. Worse, we want all these things more than a vital relationship with God. But if we sought God, Jesus tells us, God would give us soft hearts capable of obeying these hard words. “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Jesus’ words are not the Bible’s only or even final words on divorce, childlikeness, and wealth. But they are important nonetheless, because they challenge who we are and invite us to become who God wants us to be.

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