Can you keep a secret?

Read: Genesis 18-19, Matthew 6

SECRET: Separate, hid, concealed from the notice or knowledge of all persons except the individual or individuals concerned.

Some things in life should be public. Our faith being one of those things. No one should ever doubt your salvation or your Christian walk. The way you behave in public should set you apart. But some parts of that walk should remain secret. Jesus addresses three such portions: giving, praying, and fasting.

In Jesus’ day, there were those in the temple who went to great efforts to make sure that everyone knew what they were up to. They needed the world to know that they were righteous and holy because of what they were doing. Let the trumpets sound and the heralds declare!

To what end? What was the purpose in making public their “holy” acts? If it was for acknowledgement then their entire purpose for giving, praying, or fasting was made void for all of those things should be done to glorify God. And if we are seeking our own glorification for doing those things, then how can God get any glory?

Jesus tells us these things should be done in secret. For if we do it when no one is watching, then we can know that our heart is in the right place and our reasons for doing these things are indeed for the glory of God. The reward we look for should not be immediate gratification, but eternal glory. In each instance, we see that there is a reward for keeping our holy acts between ourselves and the Lord.

…so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:4 (NIV)

Matthew 6:6

…so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:18 (NIV)

You see, when we turn our focus on to God rather than on ourselves, not only is the glory given to whom it belongs, but we also receive the reward our actions deserve. A reward is not warranted if our sole purpose for giving is public accolade. But when we give for the purpose of being generous, even in secret, God sees and He stores up for us a heavenly reward that is far greater than anything we could receive here on earth.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

God’s kingdom should always be first and foremost. It is first for His benefit that we give, pray, and fast. Those things will then benefit others and ourselves last. Matthew Henry said that what we do must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men.

Not all secrets are shady. There is nothing dubious or nefarious in giving, fasting, or praying. Jesus encourages us to do all of these things. And it is not only that we do them that matters, but how we go about doing them.

No doubt

To even the most accomplished scholar, the book of Revelation can be daunting. Filled with inexplicable visions and prophecy, who can really know what the writer saw? But there are a couple of things that we can be sure about.

First, no matter what’s going on, worship continues. Aside from that half hour pause, every being in heaven continues to worship God. Their songs, their attitudes and their posture never changes.

Second, is the assurance holding on to God’s promises.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The whole world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15 (NLT)

The host surrounding the throne of God was so confident in their remarks that they announced long before the end what the end would be. According to John, the entire world is in turmoil at this time and yet the declaration is past tense.

But those two songs which precede it show that the real result is the coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom. The tense is that of prophetic certainty—the Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, though all is in the future. But there is no more doubt about the future than about the past if God has determined it.

F. Bertram Clogg, The Abingdon Bible Commentary

When God makes a promise, we can be as certain that He will keep it as though it has already come to pass.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him. That is why we say, “Amen” when we give glory to God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

Notice the use of past tense again here. All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him. In whom? Him. Jesus. The Amen. The Alpha and the Omega. The One who knows both the beginning and the end because he is the beginning and the end.

You may question or doubt a few things in Revelation, but there should be no doubt at all when it comes to whether or not God’s promises will be fulfilled.

Daily Bible reading: Micah 4-5, Revelation 11

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

Tell me about it

When was the last time you got excited about something you experienced? For me, it was last weekend. My football team won. And not only did they win, they kicked butt. They walked all over my pastor’s favourite team. This was no ordinary win, either. This win marked the first time in several years that my team didn’t have a losing record. Our wins and losses for the season are currently tied. Halfway through this season, they’ve now tied the number of wins they had all last season. I was pretty excited. So what did I do? The next day, I donned my jersey, my team-coloured flip flops, my team cap and bandana. I waltzed into church and waited. I knew my pastor would notice. We’ve got quite the rivalry going—especially since his team had played the first seven games of this year undefeated. He noticed. I didn’t have to say much, my clothing and smirk got the point across.

My point in all this? I experienced something exciting. I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to let people know that my team isn’t a losing team anymore.

If I can get that excited over a bunch of grown men throwing a ball and launching themselves at each other, how much more excited should we all get over eternal salvation? When something good or exciting happens, we should talk about it! We should let everyone know!

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts.

Psalm 145:4 (NLT)

It may be in style for parents to let their kids make all their decisions on their own, but where does that get you? Kids make poor choices. You don’t even have to be a parent to know that. How do kids learn to make good choices? Their parents tell them. They talk about good choices. They talk about the rewards that come with making good choices. Their parents lead them and guide them along the path that leads to a good, healthy, and prosperous life.

There may be those that would say loud proclamations aren’t for the Church. We should be humble and quiet.

Praise the Lord!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!
How delightful and how right!

Psalm 147:1 (NLT)

Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim your greatness.
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
they will sing with joy of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:6-7 (NLT)

How will the world ever hear about all the good things God has done if we refuse to tell them? I believe that the measure we talk about what God has done will be the same measure in which we will experience God. The more we talk about miracles, the more we expect to see miracles. But if we never talk about it, how will we ever learn to expect it?

All of your works will thank you, Lord,
and your faithful followers will bless you.
They will talk together about the glory of your kingdom;
They will celebrate examples of your power.
They will tell about your mighty deeds
And about the majesty and glory of your reign.

Psalm 145:10-12 (NLT)

If God has done something, anything, in your life, talk about it. Ask others what God has done in their lives. Talk about it. Boldly share the story of God’s wonderful goodness and just see if you experience more.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 145-147, 1 Corinthians 11:1-15

 

Aim higher

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Romans 14:17-19 (NLT)

Inclusion is the chant, but division is the outcome. We see it in the news every day. One side yelling at another side, each one believing they’re right. But if you would ask the individuals, most everyone says they want the same thing—peace and harmony. So why are the results the opposite? Why are we tearing each other down instead of building each other up?

I believe it all begins with the individual. Luke said that, whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45b). When one side is screaming at another, one must wonder what is really in their hearts? Is it the peace and justice they claim to want or is it hate and division?

Our aim, like Paul tells us, should be for harmony in the church and [to] try to build each other up. So how do we do that? I think David’s thoughts can start us down the right track.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

If what is in our hearts will determine what we say, let’s get good things in our hearts. Here in Psalm 103, David speaks to himself, reminding his spirit of the good things God has done. He’s putting good things into his heart so that good things will come out of his mouth.

Getting the good stuff to stick is hard when we’re constantly being bombarded with noise and negativity, but if David could do it, if Paul could do it, we can, too.

For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)

Start with reminding yourself who you belong to, whom you serve. Then remind yourself of all He has done for you and for those who have gone before you. Fill your heart and your mind with goodness and peace and joy. Then your aim for harmony won’t seem to lofty.

Try a daily confession. Write your own from verses that speak to you or find one (like this) that lines up with the Word of God. Speak to yourself like David did. Tell yourself who you are and what God has done for you. You may be surprised by what you start to say. When those good things start to pour out from your spirit, the natural effect will be the building up of those around you.

Let us, as the Church, aim higher.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 103-104, Romans 14

Act like it!

Christians should be the happiest, most joyful people on the plant. There are some who call themselves Christians that may balk at that statement, but it’s the truth. There are no scriptures in the Bible that would indicate that Christians must be a solemn people, prone to frowns and fits of self-deprecation.

So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.”

Romans 8:15 (NLT)

Everything that I’ve found in scripture that speaks of how we should act as children of God indicates that we should stand out from the crowd—not because we are miserable, but because we have something that everyone else does not. Our faces, our actions, our attitudes, our responses should reflect the Spirit of God that lives on the inside of us.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)

Romans 8:9 (NLT)

2017-08-05 15.17.05

Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver #89, Duron Carter, tossing a pass to my nephew.

I was recently at a CFL football game with my sister and her two boys. We had passes that allowed us down on the field before the game while the players were warming up. Even though our team doesn’t win nearly as often as we would like them to, we’re still big fans and cheer them on. So there we were cheering on some warm-up catches when one of the best receivers in the league tossed a pass to my nephew. My nephew (who plays football) managed to throw back a decent spiral, got a smile and a wave from the player. It was a special moment. We made sure everyone knew he’d caught the only pass from that player that day. Both our words and our actions indicated that this kid was something special.

If a single pass from a professional football player can make our day, how much more should the fact that we have been made heirs with Christ reflect in our lives?

With all the noise and distraction around us, it can get difficult to remember who we really are. That’s why it is so important to take the time to listen to the voice of the Spirit within us.

For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NLT)

God hasn’t left us on our own. Just like your last name is a perpetual reminder of who you are, who you belong to, and where you came from, the Holy Spirit within us is there to also remind us of who we are, who we belong to, and where we came from.

Listen to that voice that God put in you. You are a child of God. A child of the King. Brothers and sister of Christ. Heirs of the Promise and so much more. And it’s okay to act like it. Our membership in the Kingdom of God is something to be celebrated and shared.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 78-81, Romans 8:1-18

To boldly go

… to boldly go where no man has gone before.

You’ve probably heard that phrase more than a few times. It’s the mission of the starship Enterprise.

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

The Church has a similar mission—only it’s a life-long one, not just five years.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

Did you know that this instruction from Jesus doesn’t apply only pastors? It applies to Christians. Period. But a lot of us tend to look at this as a job not an opportunity. The more we see taking the Gospel to the world as work, the less we’re apt to do it. So how did the early church manage to grow so much so quickly?

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness.

Acts 4:29-31 (NLT)

The church prayed and—amazingly enough—God answered their prayers!

They didn’t pray for their leaders to be bold, they prayed for boldness for themselves. Every member of the church received the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News boldly. We don’t have to share the Gospel, we get to. And we don’t have to do it on our own power. If your desire is to see more people brought into the Kingdom of God, God is not going to withhold the power of His Spirit to help you do so.

Jesus told us to bring the Gospel to the world, but he also promised the Helper.

It’s time that the Church—the whole Church, every member of the Church—pray for boldness to preach the Good News. Now is not the time to sit back and reevaluate our message so that we don’t risk offending certain groups of people. Now is the time for us to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to fall on us all so that we boldly go forth and preach God’s message.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 12-13, Acts 4:23-37