Archive for November, 2010

Circle of Blessing

November 24th, 2010

“Abundance of joy . . overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.” 2 Corinthians 8:2

“Joy that floods a thankful heart overflows in joyous liberality.”

My thoughts today are about a “circle of blessing.”

Enjoy a Blessed Thanksgiving! But remember, thanksgiving is not a day; it’s a lifestyle. Thanksgiving brings to mind the dual graces of gratitude and generosity; those two are directly related. Truly grateful people are consistently more generous people. I have observed that people who struggle with being thankful seldom find it in their heart or means to be generous with others. Since they hardly ever feel that God or anyone else has given enough to them, they feel little inclination to express thanks to God or share generously with others.

A grateful heart is the secret of true generosity of spirit, and both are choices you make. The Bible principle is this: “Freely you have received, freely also give.” Matthew 10:28 NIV. So begins and continues an endless circle of blessing for yourself and others. “You are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving . .” See 2 Corinthians 9:6-12 NIV.

Expressions of generosity begin with a heart thankful for what has been given or done for you. Most of us learn to give by either receiving such undeserved generosity until we cannot ourselves withhold when having the ability and opportunity to give to another, or by experiencing the overflowing joy that comes to those who live liberally and give generously.

“Just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8.7 NIV. In the context of this verse, Paul used the example of Christ-followers in Philippi to encourage those in Corinth to discover their joy in a lifestyle of liberality.

Notice the remarkable description of these truly generous people: “Their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.” 2 Corinthians 8:2. Joy doesn’t come because you want it;  joy comes when you choose it. Unhappy people are not generous in character or conduct, and generous people are not unhappy. Joy that floods a thankful heart overflows in joyous liberality.

Generosity is overflowing, not sparing. These joyful, generous folk gave “according to their ability, and beyond their ability.” 2 Corinthians 8:3. Giving must overflow from a thankful heart in the measure you have received, or you will restrict the amount you feel you can afford without being the poorer for it. You are richer, never poorer, when you give as unto the Lord.

Generosity begins with yourself, and then involves your resources. “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then gave to us by the will of God.” 2 Corinthians 8:5.  If you do not first know that you belong to the Lord, then you will not believe that what you have belongs to Him, to be shared.

Generosity recognizes everything belongs to God. “they . . gave to us by the will of God.” 2 Corinthians 8:5. If you belong to Him and He is the Source of all you receive, how can anything you possess be unavailable to His direction?

Generosity is a grace where you can excel, however much or little you have. “As you excel in everything . . also excel in this grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8:7. What you have been given is with grace and generosity – practical evidence of God’s gracious kindness and generous provision; what you give must be with grace and generosity as well.

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Tell It Like It Is

November 23rd, 2010

“No . . messenger (is) greater than the one who sent him.” John 13:16 NIV

You do not merely deliver a message; your life is His message – of mercy and forgiveness.”

My thoughts today are, “tell it like it is.”

Imagine if the FedEx driver thought himself more important than the package he was bringing to you, or the postman considered the job was about him rather than the mail he was delivering. They are only messengers doing the bidding of another, faithfully and reliably. It seems a challenge to remember, “It’s not about you!” Living as though everything is about you will not buy you friendships or popularity. “No . . messenger is greater than the one who sent him.” John 13:16 NIV.

You and I have a job to do, a most important one. Simply stated, your task to complete is delivering God’s message faithfully and accurately. Tell it freely and frequently, but tell it like it is, not as you may wish it to be. Your willingness and carefulness to bear the message of grace and faith reflects your regard for the One who sends you. “We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you . . be reconciled to God.” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NLT. The Bible tells a story of a reluctant messenger who considered himself more important than the message.

You know the story of “Jonah and the Whale.” Read Jonah 1-4. God gave Jonah a message to deliver to Nineveh, but Jonah didn’t want to deliver it because he disagreed with some of it. He did not like the assignment or the message. God told the prophet to go to Nineveh, and warn them to repent and they would be spared judgment. The part about God’s judgment on wicked Nineveh, he really liked; the part about God’s forgiveness and grace, not so much!

Jonah did not want to be a messenger. He agreed that Nineveh deserved God’s judgment for their wickedness. But Jonah did not want them to repent or receive mercy. To avoid the assignment, he first boarded a ship in the opposite direction and when that didn’t work out so well, he did go to Nineveh and indeed they did repent and God forgave. Jonah 3:8-11 NKJV. Jonah pouted, angry with God. He presumed that what he thought was to be preferred above what God said – a message of mercy and their subsequent redemption.

Don’t be resistant, nor reluctant. You and I are called to go where God says to go, and say what God says to say. The Bible says, “The Lord gave the word, great was the company who published it.” Psalm 68:11 KJV. Our task is not to persuade; it is simply to faithfully relay the message of God’s love and mercy, and do so with honesty and humility. “And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? . . faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Read Romans 10:13-17 NIV.

All around you are people living in a modern Nineveh, not by choice but by birth, who dread God’s judgment but are unaware of His love and kindness. You do not merely deliver a message; your life is His message – of love, forgiveness, and mercy. Some may not respond positively at that moment but others will, and for all, seeds of truth are sown in hearts. Our task is not to persuade; it is simply to faithfully relay the message of God’s love and mercy, and do so with honesty and humility. See Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV/Mark 16:15-18 NKJV. No adlibbing; souls depend upon your accuracy and authenticity. What another does with that message is theirs and God’s responsibility. God alone can and will convince, convict, and change hearts and minds.

My prayer for you today is to share the message God placed in your heart for others.

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Serious Questions

November 22nd, 2010

“How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 1 Corinthians 15:35 NIV

Life now is a brief prelude to a life glorious beyond all you could imagine.”

My thoughts today are about “serious questions.”

Questions are haunting if you cannot find acceptable and reliable answers. Among the most common of those are the questions about death, and what follows. Who isn’t curious to know if there is life after death? Who doesn’t want that to be true? There are a lot of questions. What are yours? In the Apostle Paul’s estimation, the questions seem to be how that happens, and what the effect will be.

To have such questions presupposes there is life after death. If there is not some experience after death, then those questions are moot and pointless. And deep in every heart is a whisper that there must be more to life than what we now know. Sad are those who have allowed their questions to persuade them this is all there is, but they would be wrong.

In a chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which his great theme is resurrection, Paul asks the questions you want answered, “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’” 1 Corinthians 15:35 NIV. Accepting the reality of the eternal, “how and what” are good questions with which to begin. At some moment, everybody comes to this reality with questions; many have varied opinions. The Bible has answers you can trust.

Paul contrasts the differing physical bodies God has given to man, animals, birds, and fish. “Just as there are different kinds of seeds and plants, there are also different kinds of flesh – of humans, animals, birds, and fish.” 1 Corinthians 15:37-39 NLT. Your body will designed for eternity just as God has designed the uniqueness of each species for life here on earth – animals walk, birds fly, fish swim, each safe in its respective element – perfectly suited, no acclimation necessary. “It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye . . our perishable, earthly bodies will be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.” Read 1 Corinthians 15:52-54 NLT.

Paul observes the differing splendor of the physical heavens to give us a glimpse of one’s experience after death. As one author has written, “Your faithful service now is what determines your status then.” Paul foresees, “The splendor of heavenly bodies and the splendor of earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another, and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead” 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 NIV.

For those who live Godly lives now, the splendor of life after this life will be more splendid, beyond compare. “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, He will give eternal life.” Romans 2:6-7 NIV.

Paul distinguishes the differing expression of life here with the life that awaits. “The body that is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” Paul’s rational and reasonable conclusion is as yours should be? “If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 NIV.

How will He do this? “He will take these weak, mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same mighty power that He will use to conquer everything everywhere.” Philippians 3:21 NLT. Like His glorious body, imagine that! What answer beyond that could be needed? Life now is a brief prelude to a life glorious beyond all you could imagine.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV. Whatever the specifics – known or yet to be revealed – the reality exceeds the best you could have wished for.

My prayer for you today is that you prepare yourself now for life that is forever!

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God’s Terms

November 19th, 2010

If My people will humble themselves . . then I will hear from Heaven.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

What God asks is never complicated and rarely difficult, but always required.

My thoughts today are about “God’s terms.”

Is there ever a time that you do not need to have God’s gracious attention? From the Bible’s record, apparently there is never a time that God does not hear when a person prays humbly and earnestly. When Abraham prayed, God was willing to spare even the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, if just ten righteous people could be found. The whole story of Jonah turns on the desire of God to send the prophet to the city of Nineveh to warn them and turn their hearts to God, which they did much to Jonah’s displeasure.

But also, there are things that God asks you to do. His promise, as always, is prefaced by a spiritual initiative that you must take if you wish to have God’s grace. What God asks is never complicated, and rarely difficult, but always required. Obedience always costs you something and is usually at cross grain to what comes naturally to you. In the context of today’s verse, God asks four things of you and me:

(1) Turn from self-promotion to God promotion. “If My people, who are called by My name . .“

To whose interests and priorities are you committed, God’s or yours? See Matthew 6:33.

(2) Turn from self-reliance to God reliance. “Will humble themselves and pray . .“

You truly pray when you humbly and honestly recognize your need of God.

(3) Turn from self-direction to God direction. ”And seek My face . .” See Psalm 27:8.

You cannot choose your own way and have God’s attention. See Psalm 37:5.

(4) Turn from self-indulgence to self-examination. “And turn from their wicked ways . .”

Until you want to walk righteously, God cannot work in your life. See 2 Corinthians 13:5.

The reality is this: God sets the terms; they are non-negotiable. God simply says, “If you will, I will!” This is God’s promise, “If My people will humble themselves and pray . . then I will hear from Heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. God is looking for a person who wants Him to do what He has been waiting to do, when that person is willing to do what God asks them to do.   

My prayer for you today is that you will be that person for whom God looks.

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Get It Straight

November 18th, 2010

“Promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching.” Titus 2:1 NLT

What you know to be true must plainly impact how you live.”

My thoughts today are to “get it straight.”

Most Bible translations use the word “doctrine” to describe teaching that is true to Scripture. There is a sad lack of “the kind of living that reflects right teaching” on the part of too many who claim relationship with Jesus Christ. That seems the product of an individual’s too little attention to the authority and substance of the Bible. The word itself, doctrine, may sound and seem a bit stuffy, something old and maybe boring, even though believed to be true.

More often, that has been a better description of its messengers and their uninspiring and unimaginative, matter-of-fact methods than of the Message of eternal Truth. It is a shame that someone can take the Word of God – “powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword . . discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13 NKJV) – and make it lifeless and unexciting when shared.

Translations often use the phrase “sound doctrine,” to express the Apostle Paul’s concerned instruction to the young pastor, Titus, that he know and adhere to the Word of God steadfastly. This small book of the New Testament is only three chapters long, but every verse is filled with Paul’s concerned instruction that what you know to be true must plainly impact how you live.

Paul’s message is this: “. . live wisely in all you do. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good deeds of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Let your teaching be so correct that it can’t be criticized.” Titus 2:6-8 NLT.

Paul was clear. For the Christ-follower, what you say and do must be consistent – always one and the same! Can that be said of you? Your life reflects profoundly what you believe to be true, not what you profess to believe but what you believe strongly enough to obey. The Word of god has not gripped your heart in truth until it has shaped your character and conduct undeniably. I have heard it said, Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear a word you are saying!”

For popularity and crowds, there are churches that have settled for bits of truth, pleasant platitudes for easy listening that demand little of the hearer, informing without inspiring and entertaining without transforming. Do not be part of that audience. Require of a church what feeds your spirit, stirs your soul, and establishes clear convictions.

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT. I fear that time has come as Paul warned. I urge you; be a student of God’s Word and disciple of its truth. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT.

My prayer for you today is to love the Word and live it faithfully.

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