Cheap and easy

Have you ever known another Christian who thinks you should do things for or give things to them just because you’re both Christians? Somewhere along the line, a lot of believers got it in their heads that everything should be cheap and easy. Free is even better. We’ve got this idea in our heads that it’s a blessing. Generally, it’s not. It’s cheap. It’s greedy. It’s unbecoming of a group of people who should be known for their generosity, not their ability to rip people off in the name of faith.

David, having grieved the Lord, was instructed to build an altar and offer a sacrifice at a certain place. That certain place was a threshing floor belonging to a man named Araunan. Araunan offered everything to David for free.

But the king replied to Araunan, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

David paid for the threshing floor, the wood for the fire, and the oxen to sacrifice. As the king, it probably didn’t break the bank. But he still refused to offer something to God that he didn’t have to pay for.

Centuries later, another sacrifice was required. Like David’s sin needed a sacrifice, our sin, too, needed a sacrifice. Only the payment for our sin was much greater than the purchase of a floor, wood, and ox. The payment required on our behalf was the life of God’s Son.

As Jesus prepared for what he knew he had to do, he let out one last agonising prayer.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Luk 22:42 (NIV)

I cannot imagine the torment Jesus went through during that time in the garden. He knew the physical pain would be unbearable. He knew the weight of the sins of the world would be crushing. And he knew that he would forever be separated from his Father.

These are just two examples, in a book of many, that we are to emulate. Jesus taught on and lived a life of generosity. That practice continued in the early church as Paul writes to commend the church at Philippi.

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.

Philippians 4:15 (NIV)

Only one church of many understood the concept of generous giving. The point was not that Paul needed so much (even though he did), but that the church received far more because of their gifts.

Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Philippians 4:17-18 (NIV)

David could have very easily accepted the gift Araunan offered to him, but he knew that he needed to pay a price or the sacrifice would not have been his, but Araunan’s. Jesus, too, could have prayed that the cup be passed and stopped there. God may have even allowed it. But Jesus knew a price had to be paid. Paul could have sent the gifts back to Philippi since he had more than enough, but he knew that the church needed to give so that they could receive more.

You see, generosity is not something we should expect from others, but it is something we should expect of ourselves. How much value do you place in something that came cheap and easy? Compare that to something that you paid dearly for.

Someone may or may not have need of what you have to give, but you have far greater need for the space your sacrifice creates in your own life. If you want a blessing, you have to make room for it. If a gift costs you nothing to give, is it really worth giving? What does that say about you? What does that say to the person receiving the gift?

No matter who you give to or what you give, whether it be to the Lord, a brother or sister in Christ, or the homeless person on the street, give generously. Give faithfully. Give as though it’s the first gift you get to give and the last you’ll ever be able to give.

Read: 2 Samuel 23-24, Luke 22:31-53

Four crazy friends

It’s been so long that I can’t remember if I actually heard the sermon or not or if I’ve just heard it mentioned so many times. There was a pastor who once said that every Christian needs four crazy friends. Why four? Why do they have to be crazy? Do I really want one friend like that let alone four?

Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

Luke 5:18-19 (NIV)

This is why every Christian needs four crazy friends. The paralytic man was in a bind. He’d heard that Jesus had been going around the countryside healing pretty much everyone who came near him. But there was a problem. He was paralyzed. There was no way he could get to Jesus and it was highly unlikely that Jesus would just show up at his front porch. So when Jesus came near, there was some conspiring amongst friends to get the man to Jesus, no matter what it took.

Now, how many of us would be willing to carry a friend to a crowded meeting? How many of us would try to talk our friend out of going. Maybe we’ll send a text or a shout out on social media. Does Make-A-Wish come out all this way? If we were honest with ourselves, most of us don’t have one, let alone four friends who would go out of their way and make a great effort to get us much-needed aid.

But more than needing four crazy friends, we should also be one of the four crazy friends.

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 (NIV)

If you’re willing to be one of the crazy friends, someone who is willing to go beyond the extra mile for a friend, you’ll have a greater chance of having those crazy friends when you need them. Maybe you won’t need a crew of burly guys to lower you through a roof, but you may need someone who will stay up with you all night if a child is sick in the hospital. You may need someone who will take their lunch break to pray with you. You may yet need someone to physically carry you or maybe just to carry you from their knees.

No matter where we are in life, we can’t do it alone. I don’t know about you, but if I have to have people around me, I’d rather they be the crazy kind than the boring kind.

Read: Joshua 19-20, Luke 5:17-39

Empty-handed

Read: Exodus 34-36, Matthew 23:1-22

Exodus 34:20

Rule number one of Bible reading: look at the context. You don’t only need to know what a verse is saying, but you need to know what else is being said in connection to it. In the Bible I use, this verse stands alone. It its own paragraph. The context is God giving instructions to Moses to give to Israel.

How often do we hear someone say that they have nothing to give? Apparently this argument mattered not to God. No one in Israel was to approach God with nothing. Even the poorest person had to come with something. If God demanded something of His people then, why should we believe that He would expect anything less from us now?

The truth is that, even if we have absolutely nothing, we still have something to give. So long as we breathe, we don’t have to approach God with empty hands. But we do. Too often we go to God with outstretched hands, begging Him to put something in them. But that’s not what He wants from us. Yes, He wants us on our knees, not as beggars, but humble servants.

So long as breath fills your lungs, you have something to offer God. You can offer Him your praise and thanks. You can offer Him your service. You can offer Him your life.

If we claim that we have nothing to give, what we’re really saying is that God isn’t quite enough. He didn’t do a good enough job creating us. He missed something.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my God is enough. He did enough. He didn’t miss anything. At the very least, I owe Him my life.

The next time you approach God, consider His instruction to Israel. Do you go to Him with open hands hoping for crumbs? Or do you go to him with hands outstretched offering the heart that pulses in your chest. Does He want your begging or your service?

What’s in your hands?

 

Through the eye

Read: Exodus 16-18, Matthew 19:16-30

Ask any Bible teacher or scholar, even a kid in Sunday school, and you’ll get an assortment of responses as to what Jesus meant when he spoke of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Matthew 19:24

Some may tell you that they eye of the needle was a reference to a smaller gate within a large gate. The main gate broad and high enough to admit a fully loaded camel, while the smaller gate was easier to open to permit men and women to pass through. Another may tell you that the gate was large enough for a loaded camel to pass through, but only on its knees. Yet another may speak of a customs gate of sorts. The gate being large enough to admit a camel, but not with its load. The purpose being that the load could be inspected before being allowed into the city.

All of these explanations can be tied with Jesus’ words. A man cannot bring earthly possessions through the gates of heaven. A man must humble himself in order to gain entry into eternity. All that we bring must first be inspected and judged by God before being permitted.

But what if no explanation is really needed? What if Jesus was speaking literally? Some scholars believe that the stories of a gate called The Eye of the Needle surfaced only after Jesus made the connection. The camel was the largest animal in the area at the time. The eye of a needle was the smallest commonly known passage. There was no way a camel would fit through.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Of course it is impossible for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle! That was the whole point of what Jesus was trying to say. He left no room for questioning. Salvation is impossible without God. Entry into heaven can only be gained when we leave our stuff behind. God will only take us as we are without the extras we have a habit of making so important.

Our treasures are not stored up when we hoard them on earth, but rather when we do the opposite and give it all away.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

Matthew 19:21 (NIV)

Instead of looking for the academic explanation, let’s look at this literally. As Jesus said it.

Leave the stuff. Give to the poor. Follow him.

Irrevocable

Read: Genesis 29-30, Matthew 10:1-23

A story came out in the news this week about a pastor of a large church. He, like many of us, has a past. And, like many of us, he dealt with it and left it where it belonged. Until recently, he had been enjoying the success of marriage and family and ministering to his congregation.

Before I go further, let me clarify that the situation in question happened when he was a young man working in a church. The actions were of a sexual nature and involved a 17-year-old girl. By all accounts, he was immediately remorseful and admitted his transgression to those to whom he was accountable in the church. He apologized to all involved and was removed from his position. Nothing has been brought forward to say that such actions took place on any other occasion.

Now, with the #MeToo movement bringing all sorts of people out of the woodwork, this pastor is having to relive his shame. I in no way condone his actions, nor do I belittle what happened to the woman involved. There is no place in society for any sort of sexual misconduct. But, with all of the very public accusations and shaming, what seems to be missing is the greatest component of all: grace.

When Jesus began his public ministry, the people he brought alongside him were far from what society would call blameless. He called the blue collar workers. He called the tax collectors. He called the sinners. And then he walked with them. He ate with them. He taught them. Then he empowered them and sent them off into ministry.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8 (NIV)

Some scholars believe that Jesus’ instructions here did not only reference the physical needs of the people, but were also representative of their need to be healed and revived spiritually. The men Jesus called had all been healed and brought to life in one way or another. The greater their sin, the greater the grace they received. And who better to extend grace than the one who has already received it?

If we demand that this pastor, because of his past sin, is no longer fit for ministry, then we must throw away the entire Bible. We can no longer sing our worship songs. We must seclude ourselves for fear of being infected by the sin that runs rampant in our churches.

Paul’s sole purpose in life was to kill Christians. Matthew was a tax collector (the very worst kind of evil). David, the man after God’s own heart, was a sexual predator and a murderer. Yet all of these men, and more, made invaluable contributions to the Book that we hold so closely to our hearts.

Romans 11:29

Who are we to stand in judgement of someone who has asked for, and received, forgiveness? Who are we to say who is and is not fit for ministry? David was guilty of far worse than most of us and yet we still sing his songs in church every Sunday, thousands of years after they were written. Paul himself should have been put to death for his crimes against Christianity, yet he made some of the the greatest contributions to our faith.

If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

John 8:7b (NIV)

Without grace, we are all guilty. None of us should be fit for ministry. But if we do as Jesus told the woman described in John 8 and leave our life of sin, there is no condemnation. But for the grace of God we should all be buried under a landslide of stones.

For I am the least of all the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (NIV)

God has called us all. No one, not even He, can revoke that calling. And it is only through His grace that any of us are able to walk in the purpose He has set out before us. What I give should be only from that which God has given through me. Judgement is not a gift from God. Grace is.

 

Worship

WORSHIP: To respect; to honor; to treat with civil reverence.

Worship isn’t just what we do when we sing on Sunday mornings. It’s what we have the opportunity to do every day of our lives. Our generosity, when done in the name of the Lord, is both an act of worship as well as the inspiration for worship.

Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out into thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:11 (NLT)

God gives us opportunities all the time—if we have a mind to look for them. There are infinite ways that we can show generosity to those around us. We need only pay attention and act when we see a need.

For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

2 Corinthians 9:10 (NLT)

God has not blessed us so that we can hoard our blessings. He has blessed us so that we can in turn bless others. The more we strive to worship God by blessing others, the more room we make in our own lives to receive a blessing. The Church should be producing a perpetual harvest of generosity. We should be drawing good out of each other so that we can draw more people into the Kingdom.

Look for opportunities to worship God through your actions this week. Allow Him to produce a harvest of generosity in you.

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 1-3, 2 Corinthians 9

Excel

If you call yourself a Christian, you are called to ministry. First, to minister to the world—whether it be your own small corner or abroad in a foreign nation. We are all called to be ministers of the Gospel. Also, we are called to the ministry of giving.

…now I want you to excel also in the gracious ministry of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:7b (NLT)

I can guarantee that God has put it on your heart to give. If you don’t believe so, you haven’t been listening.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17 (NKJV)

If God gives us good gifts and we are to become more and more like Him every day, should we not also be giving good gifts?

If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:12 (NLT)

God doesn’t intend for us to give so much that we become destitute. He wants us to give not only to bless others, but to make more room in our lives.

Blow up a balloon, but don’t tie it off. Let all the air out. Blow it up again. Let the air out. Each time you let the air out, the balloon will appear larger. You’re stretching it. Making more room. There are things that God wants to give us that won’t fit into our lives the way they are. The balloon would pop. But let the air out, and you’ve made room for more the next time you fill it.

God wants to do the same with us. Giving may deflate us a bit, but God will fill us to capacity again and again, increasing our limit every time. If you tie off a balloon, no air can get in or out. The supply is cut off.

Don’t cut yourself off from God’ generous supply by being stingy. Instead, become a part of His supply chain and allow Him to bless others through the blessings He gives you.

Learn to excel at the ministry of giving.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 30-31, 2 Corinthians 8

The price of wisdom

How much would you pay for wisdom? 10% of your paycheque? An entire paycheque? What about an entire year’s worth of paydays?

It’s all fine and good if you’re willing to pay for wisdom, but it can’t be bought.

Wisdom is far more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold. Coral and valuable rock crystals are worthless in trying to get it. The price of wisdom is far above pearls.

Job 28:17-18 (NLT)

Before we get too far into how much it is worth, what exactly is wisdom anyway and why should we be trying to get our hands on something that is seemingly unattainable?

WISDOM: The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them. Profitable words or doctrine.

Let’s be clear—wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing. A person can be a walking encyclopedia and still be lacking in wisdom. Having all the knowledge in the world doesn’t mean that a person knows how to use it. In short, wisdom is the proper application of knowledge.

If having knowledge doesn’t mean you’re automatically wise, where does wisdom come from?

And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’

Job 28:28 (NLT)

Until God enters the picture, all you can ever have is knowledge. What use is knowledge if you don’t know how to use it properly? Wisdom is a byproduct of a healthy relationship with God. It is not something we can purchase or come across by any other means other than to walk with the One from whom wisdom flows.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

James 1:5 (NLT)

There you have it. Ask God. It’s the only way to attain the otherwise unattainable. The price tag on wisdom is your humility.

Daily Bible reading: Job 26-28, Acts 11

The Lord gives.

How often have you heard someone say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” If it hasn’t been those exact words, it’s probably been something similar. Now think of the context in which you’ve heard those words. I’ve heard them after someone’s house burned down. I’ve hear them after a child dies or a mother miscarries. I’ve heard them when disaster strikes.

I’ve heard enough of them.

Let’s take a look about what we know about God. God is a good. God is love. God is life. If you believe these things about God, then how can you believe that He would take good things away from you?

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?

Matthew 7:11 (NLT)

The more I think about it, the more I believe that people use that verse in Job as an excuse. If we can fool ourselves into believing that God did something bad to us then we have an excuse to distance ourselves from Him. Not only do we paint God in a bad light, but we also deny the fact that we have an enemy that would see us come to harm

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 (NLT)

Do you think perhaps it could be just what the enemy wants when Christians blame God for the good things that have been taken away from them? The more people who are mad at God, the easier time the devil will have. The truth of the matter is that we do have an enemy and he really is out to get us. But it doesn’t have to end there!

Jesus came to give life in all its fullness. Do bad things happen? Yes. Did God do it to you? No! Let’s stop blaming God and start fighting back against an enemy who would see the church brought low believing in a God who would do the very things that satan himself has set out to do.

Keep this in mind: the devil takes, the Lord gives. Let’s be sure the right person gets the blame. If Job never blamed God, why do we?

In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

Job 1:22 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Job 1-3, Acts 7:1-19

Give to the light

Did you know that in many Latin-based languages, there is no specific word to describe the term to give birth? In Spanish, the term is dar a luz. Directly translated, it means to give to the light. If you’re familiar with any of the languages that use this term, perhaps it is of no great revelation to you. But what if we put it in the context that Jesus used?

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

John 3:3 (NLT)

Unless you are given to the light

Believe in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.

John 12:36 (NLT)

When we are born again—accept the free gift of salvation and accept Jesus into our lives as Lord and Saviour—we are given to the light. We become children of the light. We are then able to see through the darkness and no longer have to stumble around because we cannot see where we are going.

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness.

John 12:46 (NLT)

When we stop trying to put our trust in ourselves or those around us and put our trust in Jesus, we are no longer in the dark. We give ourselves to the Light. The Light of the world. The Light that gives life. The Light that illuminates our path. And then that Light shines in and through us so that we can guide the way for others.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 4-6, John 12:20-50