Book Reviews From 2013

Plastic Donuts (video review)

Plastic DonutsHere is a video review Waterbrook Multnomah Press asked me to do on Plastic Donuts. This review is especially for other pastors, but I think you’ll see how much I liked this book. If you would like to read my full book review, you may do so by clicking here, you may also read some of my favorite quotes from the book by clicking here.

Calvary Assembly of God, get ready … you’re going to hear more about Plastic Donuts soon. And I’ve got a special gift for you too! Stay tuned.

10 Quotes From “Plastic Donuts”

Plastic DonutsPlastic Donuts is a fresh look at the biblical concepts of tithing and giving offerings. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These are some of the quotes that caught my eye—

“What I didn’t realize was that my lifestyle had frozen my giving at the 10 percent level. When it came to my finances, my lifestyle had all the influence. The issue is not about my needing to sacrifice my lifestyle. The issue is about my giving a gift that is connected to my heart.”

“In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provided instructions on giving, praying, and fasting. For each, He focused on the heart standard but did not provide an amount standard (see Matthew 6:1-18).”

“David praised God seven times a day. Daniel prayed to God three times a day. Moses fasted from food and water twice, for forty days straight. Daniel fasted twenty-one days from rich foods and wine. Where did these faith heroes get their standards? They determined them. It’s human nature to seek something that is concrete, an inviolable guideline, clear marching orders. … But let’s be honest. Are we looking for a rule to follow so we can check it off the list? Or does a strict rule help to soothe a sense of guilt and confusion? It’s always easier to follow rules than to follow a living God. The absence of rules can cause tension in determining the amount of our gifts. Shouldn’t there at least be a minimum? If not, suddenly it’s wide open. Multiple options appear.”

“God is not looking for the same gift from all His children. He wants a personal gift.”

“You may not think you have the ability to give. But if you pay attention, you’ll be surprised at just what abilities you really do have.”

“Tapping your true giving ability will require countercultural lifestyle choices—such as debt-free living or a reduction in your spending.”

“If you want to grow your faith, grow your gratitude. To grow your gratitude, take time to count your blessings.”

“No matter what your ability or inability, God can be pleased with your gift.”

“Could it be that a giving lifestyle apart from love and obedience to God is simply philanthropy?”

“In the end, it is the condition of the giver’s heart that makes the gift pleasing to God.”

Plastic Donuts (book review)

Plastic DonutsEvery once in awhile a book comes along that addresses a topic in such an innovative way, that I get an insight I had never considered before. Plastic Donuts by Jeff Anderson is just such a book.

Tithes. Offerings. Missions support. Building funds. It seems pastors cringe when they think about addressing these subjects, and congregants squirm when they hear their pastor addressing these subjects! “After all,” many think, “every church-attending Christian knows they should give, right? We know it and the pastor knows it, so why do we need to talk about it?”

But Plastic Donuts will give you a take on church giving that you probably haven’t considered before. It all comes from an insight Jeff Anderson got when his young daughter served him some plastic donuts.

The book is short, but powerfully-packed. I would say that its size would make you think it could be read quite quickly, but the content is so thought-provoking and eye-opening, you may find yourself taking time to rethink what you thought you knew on this subject.

Here’s my final word: Get this book. Get it for yourself and get it for your pastor. Everyone will be grateful that you did.

I am a Waterbrook Multnomah book reviewer.


  • To read some of my favorite quotes from this book, click here.
  • To watch a video review I did of this book for Waterbrook Multnomah, click here.

Money And The Church

Unfortunately, far too many financial scandals have tainted the church, and therefore any pastor who mentions tithes or offerings or missions support is usually viewed skeptically.

So sad! Especially because it should NEVER be this way!

The Apostle Paul gives an excellent teaching on financial gifts for church ministry in 2 Corinthians 8-9. I love this example he gives about the Christians in the impoverished area of Macedonia—

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:3)

Severe trial … extreme poverty rich generosity…. Want to see this in a modern-day setting? Check out this video:

Wow!! If the homeless can give like that, why can’t we?

Here are some principles Paul lists about giving:

  • Give because God compels you, not because a man compels you (2 Corinthians 8:3-4)
  • Give yourself to God before you give your income (8:5)
  • Give excellently (8:7)
  • Give sincerely (8:8)
  • Give like Jesus gave (8:9)
  • Give what you say you’re going to give, and do it quickly (8:10-15)
  • Give where there is proper accountability and proven credibility (8:16-24)
  • Give generously (9:1-6)
  • Give cheerfully (9:7)
  • Give where God is glorified (9:8-15)

Giving according to these principles removes the taint of anything shady, and puts the focus on God.


It’s a funny-sounding word, but it has deadly consequences!

Jesus said we cannot serve both God and mammon (Luke 16:13 KJV). That word mammon had no direct translation in the English language, so the translators of the King James Version of the Bible simply did a transliteration: they took the Greek word and carried the same word into English. The translators of the New International Version did something different with this word: they made it Money, with a capital M.

The idea behind this word is placing our trust or reliance in anything except God. For us, the means of our security and basic living needs seems to be money, so Money (with a capital M) seems like an appropriate way to translate mammon.

Jesus recommended giving an offering—above and beyond our tithe—as a way to defeat the Mammon Monster. Giving our tithe is simply obedience to God’s commands. But giving our offering shows our trust in God’s provision.

Giving an offering to God is counterintuitive.

After all, less money is less than more money! If I receive money, I tend to hang on to it. I tell myself, “This might come in handy if the economy nosedives, or if something unexpected comes up.” When I start thinking this way, I start to make money Mammon, because I see money as my provider, instead of God.

What an appropriate way to wrap up our Live Dead series yesterday, as we made faith promises to God. We said, “God, I believe You will provide the amount of money I should give as an offering. And when You do provide, I promise to give it.” Placing my trust in God not only helps me to live dead to the pull of Mammon, but also Jesus promised—

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

I don’t give to get. I give because I trust God to provide.

P.S. By the way, all of the offerings that come in as a result of these faith promises will be going directly to missions. Calvary Assembly of God will not be keeping one cent of these faith promise offerings.

If you’ve missed any messages in our series called Live Dead, you can find them all by clicking here.

Less Giving = Less Good News

We just finished talking about what the Bible says about tithes and offerings at Calvary Assembly of God. Right on the heels of this, I noticed this article in the Grand Rapids Press: “Study reveals church giving at lowest point since Great Depression.”

Here are some of the sad findings:

  • Regular church attendees aren’t even tithing. The average giving is only 2.4% of the attendees’ income.
  • While giving to churches is down, giving to other faith-based organizations is up.
  • The study’s authors noted a “long-term turning inward of congregations.” In other words, of the money that is given to churches, less and less of it is going to needs outside of the church’s walls.
  • Church’s spending on benevolence has dropped 47% since 1968, and now stands at just 0.35% of attendees’ income.
  • “Fewer people are seeing churches as the primary conduit for meeting the larger (charitable and evangelistic) need.”

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the overflowing joy of giving to help the needs of others. He commended those with rich generosity, and encouraged the church to excel in this grace of giving.

Here’s the sad fact: The less we give, the less the Good News about God’s love is shared.

God wants us to give because we want to give. Paul even said I am not commanding you to give, but instead…

Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Let’s change this around. Let’s buck the nationwide trend. Remember…



Mmmm, You Smell Good

Smell is one of the most potent of our five senses. It is strongly tied to memory and emotion. Maybe that’s why a “smelly phrase” appears so often in God’s requirements for the sacrifices the Israelites would offer Him:

An offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord….

As a New Testament follower of Christ, instead of bulls or sheep or goats or birds, I have something more valuable to sacrifice to God: myself.

When I offer myself to God, it’s a powerful aroma that is pleasing to the Lord. Check this out:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ…. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

Offer your entire self to God and you’ll smell really good to Him.

WARNING: In order for a sacrifice to release its full fragrance it has to go through the fire. It’s especially true in the tough times that you can release the best aroma of Christ. So don’t run away from the challenging times—stay in them and release your God-pleasing aroma.

You are the pleasing aroma, so go smell good today!

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