HAVE you ever had a conversation with a belligerent non-Christian who just wanted to argue ridiculous points and every "what if" known to mankind? It can be very frustrating and you probably guessed it, I have had many, and one fairly recently. When it's all said and done, a lot is said and not much got done, except to give me a little inspiration for this letter.

            IN  this particular encounter, this real "smart" (at least he seemed to think so) guy I was having a conversation with wanted me to know that the Church was full of a bunch of frauds and the Bible "full" of, well, something else entirely. After taking a deep breath, so as not to punch this guy's running lights out (talk bad about the church, that's one thing, but talk bad about God's Word and it's on). Anyway, now that I got all the tough talk out of the way, I was pretty upset by the guy's rudeness and foolishness. But he kept on insisting that all the church wanted was his money and that religion was just a crutch that played on weak minded people for, you guessed it, their money. Boy this guy was really worried about his money. He kind of reminded me of Gollum and his "precious" from the Hobbit.

            AS I continued listening to this very opinionated fellow I got to thinking, "What have I lost by serving Christ?" Honestly, I couldn't come up with a single thing that I have lost. I mean sure, I could look at my tithing and giving to the church as money that I have lost. I suppose I could reflect on the time and energy I have expended working in the ministry and serving the church. I could even calculate all the Sundays and Wednesdays I have "missed" out on by having to be at church all those many, many days I have served as a pastor. But I just can't see it that way. I've not lost a thing. It's true, I have invested much in the way of money, time and energy. I have "given up" things in order to answer the call to a lifestyle of ministry. But not only have I not lost a thing, I have gained so much. You see, I like to look at what I am gaining and have gained from giving and serving Jesus Christ.

            WHAT I have come to realize is that even if I gave every red cent penny I have to the absolute worst money grubbing ministry in the world, I still would not lose. In fact, I can't lose. We never lose when we give to the Kingdom of God. A person I know gave me a large check one day after he took me out to lunch. He said I could open the envelope and see the size of the offering. He wasn't doing this to show off, he just wanted to have a conversation about the offering. He said I could use the money however I saw fit for the church and that there were no restrictions on the money. What he said was this, "I will have to stand before God for what I give, you will stand before God for how you use it."

            SO just what did that generous man and his wife lose by giving that offering? Nothing. Whether I used the money properly or not was on me, but what he gave was credited to him. This man may never fully know, until he gets to heaven, just what his offering did for the kingdom of God. It just may be that one or more of you reading this letter will be brought to this man in Heaven by Jesus and He will say, "These people came to Me as a result of what you gave." I can tell you for sure, that many people have asked Jesus Christ into their hearts because of the presence of Jesus here at The Foothills. I can also tell you that the presence of The Foothills Church here in the South Valley is because of the faithfulness of the givers who attend this church. For that I not only thank you, but the thousands coming to this church and the many who will find Christ before He returns. Thank you.

            IF my giving, or your giving for that matter, is focused on how much we are giving up rather than on what we are giving for, then we really aren't giving so much as we are calculating. I don't want to be a calculated giver. I want to be a free will offering giver who loves God and wants to see His kingdom prosper.

            AS for the not so gentle man with whom I had the conversation... he may have saved himself some money by not being a giver, and he may even think I have lost money by giving, but I see myself as not a loser but a winner.