Am I Generous?

 

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.  Ecc.5:10

 

Two business graduate students from an Eastern college decided to experiment with the generosity of people across the United States. They traveled as two young men who’d lost all their money and needed help getting to their destination. Their sole purpose was to see if they could determine, overall, which economic level was the most generous; poor or rich.

            Like most of us, they had been raised with the idea that rich people, for the most part, are not generous; that they tend to grab for more and don’t have time for those down on their luck. These two students were embarking on a nationwide trip to take firsthand notes.

            After three weeks and several hundred meetings, meals, handouts and job opportunities, their discovery actually fortified the idea that the rich are not as generous as the poor. They were stunned as people with barely enough to get by were the first to help them, giving freely of food, money and a place to stay the night!

            The higher up the economic ladder they went the more suspicious and less generous they found people to be. Most often these people expressed the idea that they should take care of themselves. Rarely did they meet a person of wealth who offered them lodging.

            If these two young men came across our lives what would be our response? Would they leave our lives touched with the generous love of the Lord, filled with food, clothing and a place to stay? Or would we be found on the list of those not willing to reach out with help?

            Matt. 5:7  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

            Matt. 6:1-4  Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

            Luke 6:30-31  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

Prov. 3:27  Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
      when it’s in your power to help them.

Lining our lives up with Jesus shatters our worldly ideas and dreams. He takes us beyond the rules and liturgy of the Pharisees into a world of personal responsibility and servanthood. He led the way by showing Himself as a servant instead of the Lord of all the world. Jesus did what His Father in heaven required of Him and that is what He expects of us.

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Treasures

 

“Storing up treasure as a good foundation for the future…” 1 Tim. 6:19

The hotel conference room was filled as the anxious crowd anticipated words of financial wisdom from a well-known Christian financial advisor and he did not disappoint. He carefully explained ten of his “secrets” for investing that have proven successful over the test of time. The crowd was beaming as they imagined building their prosperity.

And then he surprised everyone with a story that seemed out of place. He told of a Bible teacher who taught a class of 25 people, all of whom were solid Christians. On this day, he passed out a questionnaire. They were to simply answer a question regarding the verses on the page: Do you think these verses are literal? Do they apply to Christians today? Are we to live by them? The verses were: *Matthew 6:19-34.

At this point he paused and said, “For those of you who may not recall those verses, here they are,” clicking his remote and splashing them across the screen. Again he paused, giving them time to absorb the Scriptures.

“I can see I’ve thrown a bit of cold water on most of you. But think about it with me. First I gave you excellent, proven methods to increase your wealth. Now I am simply reminding you what Jesus said about that wealth and where your treasures should be. Money and the accumulation of it is worthless and usually detrimental to our lives. Giving to those who need help, with the money we’ve earned is Biblical and pleasing to the Lord.”

“In this context, you will see white buckets at each door as you leave. They are there to accept contributions for the aid of widows and orphans. Allow me to give you this reminder as you leave:

“May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in Him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

*Matthew 6:19-34   “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

22 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

What is this treasure?

2 Cor. 4:1-7  This is why we don’t get discouraged, given that we received this ministry in the same way that we received God’s mercy. 2 Instead, we reject secrecy and shameful actions. We don’t use deception, and we don’t tamper with God’s word. Instead, we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God by the public announcement of the truth. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are on the road to destruction. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.

5 We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us.

Col. 2:1-3  I want you to know how much I struggle for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who haven’t known me personally. 2 My goal is that their hearts would be encouraged and united together in love so that they might have all the riches of assurance that come with understanding, so that they might have the knowledge of the secret plan of God, namely Christ. 3 All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him.

Can we claim not to love wealth more than our brothers and sisters in Christ when we see them hurting and do not sacrifice what should matter to us less than their need? While many of us pursue status symbols that television suggests are “necessities,” evangelical ministries to the poor claim that forty thousand people die of starvation and malnutrition daily. That means roughly twenty-seven a minute, twenty of whom are children under five years old. ~InterVarsity Press New Testament Comment

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Do All Roads Lead to God?

“You must be born again”  John 3:7

Years ago, down in the South, two children were going at it on the grassy front yard; yelling, scratching and pulling hair. After several minutes of this mayhem, the front door opened and their mother called to them in a melodious, magnolia-infused voice, “Y’all play sweet now.”

Many people seem to think that this scenario represents God’s attitude toward us. After all, He wouldn’t want to offend or insult any of His creations would He? Or would He?

“God helps those who help themselves” is one quote attributed to God which, if followed, makes us equal partners with God. We work hard at helping ourselves and God comes along to give us a reward and a pat on the back. God becomes our buddy, our helper, who is anxious that we should have whatever we want. This idea of God is non-threatening and easy to get along with. After all, God is love! Right?

John 3:16  For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is an old quote not heard much anymore. However, it speaks truth to most relationship situations. For example, when we read the Bible verse, John 3:16 over and over, year in and year out the words lose their power. We become contemptuous of what God is saying through this easily spoken series of words: “God loved the world so much he gave his only Son, so if we believe in him we won’t die!” Cool.

If all roads lead to God then why in the world would God have given His only Son to die for all people everywhere? What would be the point of such a drastic measure if every religious belief system leads people to God?

Consider the harsh reality of the words in John 3:16—He gave his only Son. Gave his only son? Did God give Jesus something? How serious is this? If you know history at all then you probably know that Jesus was falsely accused, arrested, beaten nearly to death and then forced to drag his own cross through the streets—to the place of his death—where nails were driven through his hands and feet, attaching him to the cross. Yes, large spikes driven through his already torn, bloody and ripped flesh. A sledge hammer was used to pound the spikes through his hands and feet. This represents God’s love!

Because the world is so familiar with those words, “God loved the world so much…” we have come to a place of treating them with no respect or understanding. God loves you and I so very, very much that He put the sins of all the world on His only Son, Jesus. Jesus became sin for you and me. My sins are forgiven when I understand that Jesus died for them which defies human logic.  However, I have faith that it happened. And my faith has transformed my life…both now and forever.

So, is God our buddy who is not really too worried about what road we take to heaven? Not really. Why would God bring Christ to the world to die as a sacrifice for sins and then casually say, “Hey, don’t worry about your faith or belief. It’s all good.” All roads do not lead to the same destination. Neither in this world or the next.

Matthew 7:13-14  Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.

Acts 4:10-12  But there is something we must tell you and everyone else in Israel. This man is standing here completely well because of the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth. You put Jesus to death on a cross, but God raised him to life. He is the stone that you builders thought was worthless, and now he is the most important stone of all. Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8-10  Because of [God’s] kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.

Romans 10:9-10, 13  For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation. Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Acts 2:36  “Therefore I clearly state to everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus you crucified to be the Lord, the Messiah!”

So then, do all roads lead to God? No! However, God has done everything possible, including the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, to provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him. Faith in Christ brings forgiveness and eternal life.

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Is God’s Will A Mystery?

 

 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” ~Mark 3:35

 

Many Christians spend countless hours on their knees, begging God for an idea as to His will for their lives. Thousands of sermons have been preached, books written and website columns produced, advising believers of the 10 best steps to finding His will (often there is a fee for the book or website subscription).

Considering the extreme measure God has taken for our forgiveness and eternal salvation, is it reasonable to think He would hide His will for our lives? Would God take a perverse pleasure in watching us grovel around begging Him to reveal His purpose and direction instead of happily and joyfully directing our lives to follow a path He alone has created just for us? No secret password needed fellow Christians, God reveals aspects of His will sprinkled throughout the Bible—His love letter to us.

Just as a building needs a foundation for support, God has provided the necessary spiritual support to guide us into all knowledge and understanding of His will. He gave us the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16-17, 26  ~And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

John 14:26  ~But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

1 John 2:27  ~You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

Romans 12:1-2  ~And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  ~Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:9-10  ~So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

So you see, God has provided everything we need to hear His voice, and live according to His will. Romans establishes steps that open the door for the realization of His will in our lives: 1. Give our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice which is true worship. 2. Don’t copy the world (be separate). 3. Let God transform our thoughts which gives birth to the understanding of His good and pleasing and perfect will for our lives.

I call out to God, “Oh God, show me your perfect will for my life.”

God replies, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances!”

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Deep Under Cover: Review

Well-written, well-told true story of an enthusiastic young East German Communist willing to risk his life for the propagation of what he thought was the ultimate socialist life for the world.

Jack Barsky, with the assistance of writer Cindy Coloma, recounts with vivid detail, his double life in America living out the assignment of gathering useable information to exploit the weakness of capitalism and democracy as played out in America. Much to his eventual surprise, American life was far from despicable but enviable. And, as he was forced to see with clarity, Communism fell far short of the model government and guide for the world. It was clearly the opposite, favoring those in the upper levels and ignoring the masses.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

David Nelson

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God Tested Abraham!

 “You would think that in Abraham’s old age—after he had come to the land of Beulah, after the birth of Isaac, and especially after the expulsion of Ishmael—he would have had a time of rest. But ‘it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham.’ (Gen, 22:1) Let Abraham’s story warn us never to plan on a rest from trials this side of the grave.

The trumpet still plays the notes of war. You cannot sit down and put the victory wreath on your head. You do not have a crown. You still must wear the helmet and carry the sword. You must watch, pray, and fight. Expect your last battle to be the most difficult; for the enemy’s fiercest charge is reserved for the end of the day.”

 

                                                                                                                        ~C. H. Spurgeon

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Blueprint or Metaphor?

 

        Charles was teaching an adult Sunday School class with about 25 people. The same group had been meeting for several months and had shared many aspects of their fears and joys and challenges of walking with Christ as Savior. It was a class that seemed focused on serving the Lord, willing to make sacrifices.

        One Sunday, Charles surprised everyone with a test! Of course there were protests and grumblings. “A test? Where are we, in school again?” He smiled and passed out the papers just the same.

        The test was actually not what they thought. Rather than finding out their knowledge of what he’d been teaching, it challenged the depth of their faith, forcing every person to face their “true life” walk with Christ. At the end of the test he included Luke 6:27-38 followed by this question: “Do you think that Christians today are to take these verses literally? Are we to actually live our lives using this as our guide?”

        Luke 6:27-38 (Words of Christ):

  • Love your enemies
  • Do good to those who hate you
  • Bless those who curse you
  • Pray for those who mistreat you
  • If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also
  • If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also
  • Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back
  • Do to others as you would like them to do to you
  • “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
  • Love your enemies! Do good to them
  • Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked
  • You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate
  • Do not judge others, and you will not be judged
  • Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you
  • Forgive others, and you will be forgiven
  • Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

What do you think? Are these verses in the Gospel of Luke an actual blueprint for living our lives today or a metaphor, meant to encourage and challenge Christians to live more sacrificially? Do you find yourself thinking that most of these statements are good as a guide but a few of them are over the top? Did God include these verses to be thought provoking but not literal? Perhaps the purpose of these verses is to provide a basic outline for Christian living but not to be taken literally.

But then, how can we pick and choose which Bible verses are literal and applicable for today’s Believers? Do we have the freedom to ignore verses that present too great a challenge for our flesh? If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, given to its writers by the Holy Spirit then who are we to disregard those which present too great a challenge? We only have to look to the Book of Job to be reminded of who God is:

Job 38:4-7 ~“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

  Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions

  and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations,

  and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together

  and all the angels shouted for joy?”

Finally, what does the Bible itself have to say about all the verses contained inside?:

2 Timothy 3:16 ~All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work.

 

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