I became a Christian in 1977 soon after I joined staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. I had to raise my own support. Having faith for provision was a new realm for me. It was a wonderful experience for me as I stepped out in faith and saw God move and reward that act of faith. I first visited Apostles in 1978 and experienced liturgy with life. Since then this has been my church. God baptized me in the Holy Ghost as a result of a Life in the Spirit Seminar at Apostles.
Through the years, God has brought Betsy and me to new realms in the area of trusting him, sometimes in tight places. When Betsy left the US geological survey, we went from two decent incomes to one. We thought for sure we would need to sell our house at some point and move into a smaller one. But at the same time, we felt that it was important for her to be home with the kids. It is sometimes hard but joyful to follow God.
It was tough at times but through the years we have done our best to be faithful tithers (though not always successfully) but that’s where our hearts are. God is faithful though, and about a year ago we were able to pay off our house. I'm not sure how God did it but I know He's faithful!
Why do we give?
We can give out of obligation, we can give because we see needs, and these are good motivations. But I have become convinced that the better way is to give out of honor, and best of all is to give out of joy. I haven’t always believed, but now I am convinced that giving is the best expression of our aliveness and that honor is the currency of heaven.
A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Voice of the Prophets Conference in Lancaster PA. It was a powerful experience as these mighty saints of God were hearing from Him and speaking to us. It was most encouraging. At a certain point, while we were there, I felt like the Lord was telling me to give $100 to a staff worker there whom we are aquatinted with. I struggled with it and talked to God but finally submitted and found a Wells Fargo ATM. I then struggled as to whether I was doing this to please man or to please God. As I was talking to God and wondering about my motivation, I realized that I had to obey and give the money. I prayed, “Lord, be with me in this.” I then went to the registration desk where the staff person worked and asked if they knew where he was. They said he had a death in the family and he had to leave but they could get a message to him so I gave them the money. I believe God was saying He had provided a way for my left hand not to know what my right hand was doing! But more importantly, I believe I was joining God in what He was doing. It infused joy into the whole thing, for me, that’s giving with joy.
The next night I was having a hard time sleeping. "Why?" I begged the Lord, "Lord speak to me." And the Lord spoke to me and He said, “I Am speaking.” I said, "Wonderful, now what are You saying?" and He said again, “I Am speaking.” He showed me that just like He is constantly sustaining our lives He's constantly speaking to us all.
Five days later we were teaching a class and doing Lectio Divina. We listen as we read the word of God and let some phrase or word capture our attention. We then allow it to fill our imagination and ask God to reveal whatever he wants us to see in regard to the phrase. This was the scripture we read.
9 Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10 Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. 11 Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord.
Not only is He constantly speaking, He is constantly leading. God loves a joyful giver. Why? I believe at least partly that when we hear from God and do what He says, it instills into us the joy that He is feeling.
I believe God has spoken to Betsy and I about what we are to give and it will take faith. I drive a 2005 Prius with 111,000 miles on it. It makes noises, but it's been faithful. We decided about a year ago that it was time to replace it and we have been saving to do that. We also feel that God has spoken to us about how much to give to this campaign, which in our case it means that we will have to pray this old Prius through another year, but it is way worth it. God is instilling joy. We are giving for joy. (It takes more faith to drive an old car anyway!)
We are also giving for honor. As Terry Fullum wrote in a Gods Warehouse, a "biography" that marked Apostles' first 25 years in 1993:
"Does the word biography seem strange to you in this context? Webster says that a biography has to do with the history of a life and life processes."
That book was not about an institution called the church; it was about a people called together by the Holy Spirit and infused with His life. That book was about life processes such as birth, infancy, nurturing, learning, increasing identity, calling, equipping, obeying, and emerging mission in life—all this in the brief span of 25 years! (Now almost 47 years.)
The founding members, a few of whom are still here, had a small list of principles to which they were committed which gave shape to the congregation right from the start. They wanted a church where apostolic teaching, experience, and mission were evident. All of this was to be grounded in a worship that puts relationship with God and one another ahead of religious exercise. Like life, it is a story that has many victories and some defeats, great faith and a little folly, much laughter and some tears.
As I read it, I was filled with wonder, awe, thanksgiving, and praise for a people and their God who have walked so far together in so short a time. I want to honor Alice Buck. I want to honor George and Gretchen Kiett, Ken MacGowan and all of the others watching: Pete Buck, Pricilla Osman, Hellen Parker and many others. Their experience will serve to instruct, challenge, and bless all who read this book with eyes of faith, a heart of love, and a will submitted to fulfilling the purpose of God. After reading it you may feel, as I do, that this story has just begun.
- Sam Stalcup