Friday, April 28, 2017

Work For More Than Yourself


Working is the ordinary means ordained by God to provide the necessities of life. But have you considered that simply providing for your necessities is not the only reason for having an income? Far too many think only of making a living for themselves. “So long as my needs are met I can give thanks and be satisfied. After all, isn’t this what Paul taught? And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1Tim. 6:8).” This is obviously true, especially in light of the greedy heart that Paul is exposing. But this is not the only truth to consider.

At least two other Scriptures indicate that part of God’s intention for you in working is to have extra to be able to give. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth (Eph. 4:28). And, I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). It is godly to make enough money and budget what you make to have extra to be able to give to the needs of others.

You cannot give to needs that arise above your own if you do not have a sufficient income, savings, and budget with purpose to give. You should be prayerful stewards of what God entrusts to you, and then trust Him for more, that you might have more to distribute (1 Tim. 6:18). 

Oh, by the way, make sure you are not robbing God by holding on to all that He gives you. It is all His. Acknowledge Him by designating a healthy portion from the top, not the leftovers.  He is worthy of worship. One way to express that worship is through monetary giving. You will always find a way to invest in that which is most valuable to you.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Your Treasure and Your Heart


What does your budget, or use of money, say about you? Have you looked over your expenses recently? Is it even fair to evaluate one’s heart, or placement of priorities, by looking at one’s budget?

When Jesus was asked a question by someone who was concerned about getting his fair share of the family inheritance, He responded in Luke 12:15, ...Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. What do your expenditures say of what you believe life consists? Jesus’ warning is still valid today!

After speaking about life priorities and exhorting His disciples to live with a different value system than the world around them, He gave this well-known dogma in vs. 34, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Jesus certainly seems to make the connection between what you treasure and your treasure. What you treasure (your heart) will always be revealed by where your treasure is going. You support what you believe to be valuable. What you give yourself to and what you give to is really what you treasure. 

While the applications are many, and it would do you good to evaluate other areas of your life objectively, I’m especially thinking here about financial resources. That takes us back to the budget. What do you see about yourself when you consider where your money goes? Is there evidence that your treasure is somewhere other than this world and this life? Do you see significant resources going toward support of things that have eternal value?

Don’t misunderstand. Using your resources to provide for your family in every way that is proper is godly and reveals a right heart. There is no need to think that you need to starve your children in order to support a missionary. God is not calling you to abandon personal and family care and responsibility to build up His kingdom with all of your finances. He doesn’t really even need your finances to build His kingdom! But if He has your heart, your finances will reflect that.  

While it is possible to tithe and your heart be far from God (Pharisees), it is not possible for your heart to be after God and your budget not reflect that. The ministry of the gospel is the primary mission of Christ’s church. Are you contributing generously and cheerfully to the support of the ministries of your church? Where is your heart?

If you don’t see how your budget can handle giving unto the Lord, then it is time you evaluate the priorities of your heart. ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you (Luke 12:31)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Strength In Weakness


2 Corinthians 12:8-10 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Whatever this thing was in the Apostle Paul, he calls it an infirmity. The word is typically used to refer to a physical sickness, or some form of weakness in the physical frame. This seems to be the way Paul intends it in this context. The word is translated weakness in verse 9.

It is certainly proper to pray fervently for the removal of one’s infirmity. This requires identifying and naming it. It is not out of order to investigate one’s infirmity as one seeks to determine the cause, and perhaps a solution from the Lord. If the Lord grants healing, those who know about His intervention will join together in giving Him praise.

But, God may have other plans for us in regard to infirmities. They certainly affect us. We are weakened by them. We are challenged physically, emotionally and mentally. We need help! 

God gave Paul as an example to us that we might know how to best respond to continuing and severe infirmities. If through prayer God is not pleased to bless means or directly intervene to grant us healing, we must assume that He will grant us grace. This includes a special measure of the power of Christ resting upon us. 

It seems that this special grace comes when one resigns to glory in the infirmities as that which God has ordained. To glory, in this case, is not incessantly focusing upon it and talking about it. This glorying is to recognize the infirmities to be from our Father’s hand so that in the context of our recognized weakness we might be instruments that manifest the power of Christ. 

This is really an amazing response to infirmities that only makes sense to one who is a recipient of the grace of God. It is a response of self-denial. It is an attitude of repose, deflecting attention from one’s infirmities to the sustaining grace of God which overshadows with the power of Christ, which reaches into dimensions of life unknown in times of strength.

While we should be concerned for and care about the infirmities of others, sometimes our God chooses to manifest Himself most in the midst of infirmities. So, while it is right to seek to be delivered from infirmities, it is better to know the power of Christ in the midst of them. He is glorified as we reflect His strength in our weakness.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Christianity Is Not Business As Usual

For a long time I have been disturbed with what seems to me to be marketing of Christianity by churches and religious organizations. Surveys are taken and strategies are developed based upon techniques that would fit any worldly based organization. The gospel is mentioned, prayer is acknowledged, and God is given lip service. But there seems to be little deep conviction of soul that impacts lives unto holiness.
If our goal is to produce a culture that merely practices Christian principles in public, then marketing and multi-media packages may work. Excitement will generate human participation. Multi-level marketing businesses thrive in this way. Charismatic leaders are able to package a positive message that stirs the emotions and multitudes rally around, feeding off the positive energy of this environment. Many churches in our day have long used this approach and are satisfied by the results measured by money,  men and methods.
But is our goal under Christ to be the creation of a positive "Christian" environment? Should we be satisfied as a church if we are seeing additions, increased bank account, new ministries and better facilities? Jesus said that the goal of eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). It is possible to have all of the form or trappings of religious appearances and not know the God of Scripture and the power of His life in us.
True Biblical Christianity cannot depend upon man's marketing skills and new programs. Biblical Christianity is dependent upon God. We must know Him. He must make Himself known. That cannot be accomplished through marketing and multi-media, or any human production. God makes Himself known by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Word. If we are not dependent upon His ordained means, why should we reasonably expect Him to bless in life changing ways?
As a church, we must not be swayed by the influences of our day that tell us we must be more relative and must become like the culture to influence it. We must remain true to the call of God upon our lives to make Him known through our lives and His message. His life must be lived through us. His message must be ours. We must be determined with the Apostle Paul to glory in nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14).

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why Satan?

Have you ever wondered why God created a being called Lucifer, the chief of the angelic realm? Scripture indicates there was none in all God’s creation above him (Ezekiel 28:13-15) . But he was created. God made him.

The Scripture reveals him as the chief rebel of God’s creation. He is described as being full of pride (Isaiah 14:13,14; 1 Tim. 3:7). His fall, along with a great number of angels, was great (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:3-9).

Jesus calls him a murderer and a liar (John 8:44). Hebrews 2:14, refers to him as having power over death. His goal has always been to destroy life and separate mankind, who is lower than angels, from God. He has done all that he could to derail the purpose of God in creation. 

But we know that Satan will not win. He knows he will not win (Rev. 12:12). From the beginning it was prophesied by God that a seed would come from the woman, without the aid of a man, that would crush the head of that old serpent, the Devil (Gen. 3:15). That seed which came was the Son of God...that he might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). We know that this Prince of darkness was judged at the Cross. His place, along with the angels who fell with him, is reserved in everlasting chains under darkness (Jude 6).

Yet, his rebellion continues as he seeks to keep unbelieving ones in darkness, blind to the only hope for sinful man (2 Cor. 4:3,4). And so all who continue to follow him in his rebellion against God will be cast into the same place of eternal judgment prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41).

Satan is not God’s equal. God is not competing with Satan. Satan is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is targeting as many as he is able, seeking to do as much damage as possible. But God is not threatened by Satan. God is not trying to defeat the Devil. His doom is sure.

Why then has God permitted him to operate so freely and with so much power in His world? There are other answers, but I would suggest that Satan represents to us the futility of rebelling against our Creator. Though he is the most powerful of created beings, his destruction is certain.  He will be bound and confined to a place of absolute misery forever.

What do you hope to accomplish in the end by continuing in your rebellion against God? Learn from Satan! He is held forth by God as the ultimate example of rebellion against Him. He will not succeed. Nor will you! Continue in love with your self and sin, controlled by the pride of your heart, and you will receive the same judgment as the devil.

This is not a cosmic game. Satan was not made so that God would have competition in His universe. God has put before us a clear example of the futility of rebellion against Him. Repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Debt Never Paid

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all that we are; and the second is like unto it, love our neighbors as ourselves. While there is probably no one reading this who doesn’t know the command to love, who of us is not continually falling short? We fall short in that we do not love perfectly and in that we never get to the point at which we have loved enough. It is a debt we can never pay.

Paul makes this point by comparing love with other debts. We owe taxes, rent, utilities, etc.; and sometimes frivolous, fleshly induced debts. We understand financial debt. It is possible to live life in such a way that these kinds of debts are paid in full. In fact, the exhortation of Paul in Romans 13:8 is to owe no man anything. That is often where folk end the quote. To do so misses the point almost completely. Debt-free is good, but is not good enough. You must love!

After pressing the saints with paying up all that is owed in the context of life and legal relationships, he adds this powerful conclusion: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. This exhortation is a transitional statement that allows him to expand upon details of how love is expressed. Of course, he quotes the law, which includes the last half of the ten commandments.

Love is a debt that can never fully be paid. To pay a debt implies retirement of the debt. It is no longer in force. We are no longer bound to it. Love will forever be a necessary rule in the lives of God’s people. One cannot love today and not love tomorrow. If the sun rises tomorrow, love is still owed. We can never stop loving.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul defines and illustrates love in numerous ways. He then speaks of faith, hope and love as three fundamental cords of the Christian life. Faith and hope will pass away, but love will continue in this life and forever. Let brotherly love continue!  We must have and depend upon the Spirit of Christ to enable us to fulfill this commandment. While it is not easy while in this flesh, it is desirable and doable for the those walking in the Spirit. To such, His commandments are not burdensome!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Should Church Members Be Concerned?


According to Romans 14:12, we will all one day give an account of our lives to God. This is a serious motivation for living life carefully. While the believer is not under condemnation because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, there is  indication in Scripture that our life choices will still have some impact upon us on judgment day.

The word account in Romans 14:12, is also used in Hebrews 13:17. God is exhorting saints toward obedience and submission in relation to those whom He has appointed to watch over their souls. Considering other Scripture that uses similar language, it is almost certain that He is specifically referring here to the relationship of saints and elders in the church. Have you placed yourself under the leadership of elders in a church who are committed to watch for your souls? Saints will give account to God for their attitudes and responses to those whom God has placed over their care in the church.

Yet, in Hebrews 13:17, elders are specifically singled out as the ones who must give account. This knowledge governs the nature of their care. This accounting is presumably before the Lord. It may be in prayer, implied in the word watch, used with prayer by Jesus in Mark 13:33. Or, it may be a final day accounting. In either case, there are two possible emotions the elders might have as they give account of the believers under their care: joy or grief.

Your attitude and relationship toward your elders in your church affect your elders in one way or another. One is good and the other is unprofitable for you. When your elders experience joy in their care for you because you are responding with obedience and submission, God is pleased. When your elders experience grief because you are resistant to their leadership or are making choices that ignore their spiritual oversight, God is not pleased. You are responsible to manifest your submission to God by bringing joy, not grief, to your elders. Obeying and submitting to the ones you see are tangible expressions of your surrendered attitude to the One you cannot see.

It is true, elders may sin in lording over church members. Such attitudes and actions of elders will be dealt with by the chief Shepherd. Trust that matter to Him, and if necessary humbly address this sin with your elders.

If you have a heart to please the Lord you must be concerned about the affect of your attitude and actions upon your elders. When you obey and submit there is joy, both in the elders and you. However you flesh out the meaning of unprofitable, it is obviously not desirable for you, and is dishonoring to Christ. Avoiding this conclusion is simple, though it may not be easy: obey and submit to those who have the rule over you. This is Christ’s order for His churches.

Humble yourself before the Lord and purpose to bring joy and not grief to your elders. If you must err, err on the side of obedience and submission, trusting the Lord as you pray for those appointed to lead.