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

Just a few

While Saul sat in hiding, his son Jonathan, was out trying to find a way to defeat Israel’s enemy. Without questioning his own motives, the young man place his trust entirely in God. Without care for his own being, Jonathan pushed ahead and trusted that God would lead him to save Israel.

Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by a few.

1 Samuel 14:6b (NIV)

If it is God’s will to accomplish something, all He needs is one willing and obedient person to turn the enemy’s camp into confusion. While Saul sat indecisive, Jonathan followed God’s guidance—which lead Israel to victory.

God will direct the steps of those that acknowledge him in all their ways, and seek him for direction, with full purpose of heart to follow his guidance.

Matthew Henry

The will of God in the hands of just a few is far greater than swords in the hands of many. When our confidence is in God, nothing should be able to stop us from pursuing His will and achieving victory in His name.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31 (NIV)

Like Jonathan, we can put our confidence in our God who knows the ending from the beginning and everything in between. He has ordered our steps, all we need do is take them as prescribed.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

Read: 1 Samuel 13-14, Luke 14:1-24

Nothing more, nothing less

Gideon, for all his faults, had a few redeeming qualities. While he was not the leader Israel expected for their army, thanks to his obedience, Israel’s army of 300 routed the Midianites. That same army chased Zebah and Zalmunna, two kings of Midian, and killed them. Though Gideon was instrumental in leading his own family astray, there was some wisdom yet in the man.

But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”

Judges 8:23 (NIV)

Some rules were bent or broken, but in this situation, Gideon stood firm. At the very least, he understood that his victory in battle was due only to the fact that the hand of the Lord was on him. His place was to lead the army where God told him to. Nothing more, nothing less.

It is important that we learn to keep to the purpose God had set out for us. Where would Gideon have ended up had he chosen to go against God’s orders and take the entire army of thirty-two thousand men into battle. Would they have been victorious? Maybe. Would they have given all the glory to God? Probably not.

It is only in the will of God that we will find our greatest success—not necessarily according to worldly standards, but certainly heavenly ones. And in that success, it is important to give glory and honour where it is due. To the one who calls us. To the one who makes mighty warriors of the least likely.

Read: Judges 8-9, Luke 8:22-56

Mighty warrior

If you have to go into a fight, who are you taking with you? Who is going to lead you and your army into battle? You’re going to pick the biggest, strongest, meanest guy you can find. The guy who inspires (or terrifies) people to follow him. He’s the guy who can flip your car. He’s the guy who simply whistles and everyone falls into line behind him. That’s the guy you’re taking into a fight with you.

Israel has a big fight ahead of them. God needs to pick the guy who will lead them. Gideon was that man.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges 6:12 (NIV)

This guy must be something special if an angel of the Lord is calling him a mighty warrior. Gideon must be big and strong and well-able to lead an army.

“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Judges 6:15 (NIV)

So… Gideon isn’t a big, strong leader. He’s the runt of the litter.

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Judges 6:16 (NIV)

Many of us disqualify ourselves from our calling saying that we’re not enough. We’re not big enough. We’re not strong enough. We’re not smart enough. We don’t have what it takes. But that’s the point.

Not only did God pick the least consequential person from the weakest clan, he took an army from thirty-two thousand down to three hundred and won the battle. God isn’t nearly as interested in brains and brawn as He is in obedience. He is not looking for greatness, but humility.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Luke 9:48 (NIV)

When God takes the least and leads them into victory, there is no doubt as to whom it belongs. If we were capable of accomplishing the will of God on our own, He would never receive the glory. But because He calls the weak and the wounded, His glory shines through. No one is disqualified from the call.

Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior on his own. It was because God was with him that he became a mighty warrior. Maybe you’re not called to lead an army into battle, but God has called you to do something great. Don’t count yourself out because of what you can or can’t do, but rather count on God because of what He can do.

Read: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Places, everyone!

Do you know your place or position? I hope you know your position at your job (it won’t be your job for long if you don’t). Maybe you have a place at the family dinner table. I bet there’s a place at the grocery store you like to park. Do you have a favourite position to sleep in?

Through much of our lives, we know our place and, most of the time, we’re prepared—if not willing—to take that position. So why is it so difficult for us to take our place in the kingdom of God? Sure, we’ve got a place once we accept Jesus as our Lord, but there is much more to it than that.

Way back in Judges, a woman—yes, a woman!—was judge over Israel. Through Deborah’s wisdom in hearing from God, Israel was able to defeat Sisera and his Canaanite army. Through her joy in victory, she sang a song.

When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

Judges 5:2 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse could read something like this:

When leaders take their place and lead,
when the people willingly submit—
praise the Lord!

Deborah’s song goes on to describe the battle, then she closes.

So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.

Judges 5:31 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse may read something like this:

No one can deny you, O Lord!
The Church will rise and endure
when those who love you take their proper place.

The only time things went well for Israel was when they had a leader who first submitted to God and led from a place of humility and a people who submitted themselves to their godly leader. Every other time in their history, Israel fell into slavery and war.

We may not be in a physical battle, but we are certainly in a spiritual war. Like Israel, the Church is never more victorious than when we take our proper places. Some are called to lead, but we are all called to follow.

To whom then should we be submitting?

God. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or what our place is, we must always submit to God over anything or anyone else.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (NIV)

Each other. If we can’t even love each other as members of the same body, how will we ever win anyone else over with love? The greatest part of loving someone is submitting to them.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Human authority. As much as it may pain us to do so, we are all under human law and authority. So long as we are not asked to go against the Word of God, we are expected to submit.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)

And how is all of this supposed to help us to be victorious?

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

Nearly every argument the world has against the Church can be silenced if only we would live as we’ve been called to. If we take our places as children of God, submitting to Him, each other, and those in authority over us. It is only when we take our positions that we can truly wage our spiritual war and win.

Read: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50

Tongues of fire

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 3:16-17 (NIV)

Water cleans.

John’s baptism was and still is symbolic of a spiritual cleansing, but it could never be anything more. We use water baptism as an outward symbol of an inner change. Our minds and our souls (mind, will, and emotions) must be engaged when we make the choice to be baptised in water. It is a sign of commitment to Christ.

Fire purifies.

It is only the baptism of the Holy Spirit that brings about true purification. All three parts of our being—body, soul, and spirit—must be engaged to receive this baptism. It is a sign of reliance on Christ.

Anyone can be baptised in water. Some experience great change and profess to feel something more than wet when they resurface. To some, it is merely a public declaration of their commitment to Jesus.

Anyone can be baptised in the Holy Spirit, but not everyone will display the evidence of it—tongues.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:3-4 (NIV)

Holy Spirit baptism connects us to the Father in a way that nothing else can. The fire of the Spirit, the one John spoke of in the Gospel of Luke, cleanses us from within. If we allow it, it will burn away the impurities from our lives. But the key is submission and complete reliance. So long as we fight for control, we will never allow the Spirit to work in us.

There are those who would seek to tame and control the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is not ours to control. Rather, we must give ourselves over to His control. As contradictory as it may seem, there is no greater freedom to be found than when we give over control of our lives to the Spirit of God. It is only then that we have an even greater bond with the Father and an ability to pray His perfect will.

Neither water baptism nor baptism in the Holy Spirit are required of us to gain entrance into Heaven. But if God has provided for us a way to be even closer to Him, why would we not jump at the opportunity?

Read: Joshua 9-10, Luke 3

Please, Daddy.

Read: Deuteronomy 20-22, Mark 14:26-50

As kids, most of us were asked by one or both of our parents to do something we didn’t want to do. Maybe some of us begged not to have to do said task. We’d plead. Even throw a tantrum, depending on how distasteful we perceived the task to be. Eventually, and maybe with the help of a firm hand to the behind, we’d grudgingly do what we were told. That tenuous relationship with our parents was a love/hate one. We loved them for what they did for us and hated them for what they made us do. In all but a few rare cases, all that forced labour was for our own benefit.

Even Jesus had a moment where he questioned God’s resolve regarding the task at hand.

Mark 14-36.jpg

The double title Abba Father occurs only two other times. “Abba” was a common way young Jewish children addressed their fathers. It conveyed a sense of familial intimacy and familiarity. The Jews, however, did not use it as a personal address to God since such a familiar term was considered inappropriate in prayer. Thus Jesus’ use of Abba in addressing God was new and unique. He probably used it often in His prayers to express His intimate relationship with God as His Father. Abba here suggests that Jesus’ primary concern in drinking the cup of God’s judgement on sin necessarily disrupted this relationship.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

As technically as this paragraph is written, it brought me to tears. In my mind, I’ve known since I was a small child that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. I knew that he was/is the Son of God. But in thinking about the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father, we can see just how wrought with pain Jesus was in this moment. Never before had anyone recorded him calling out to God on such a personal level. Maybe he was even hoping that, like with Abraham laying Isaac on the altar, a substitution would be made at the very last minute.

Even greater than the thought of feeling every thorn, every lash, every nail, Jesus would feel the eternal pain of separation from his Father. It is literally a pain worse than death. In death, you know that person is gone. Jesus knew that neither he nor his Father would be gone, but rather there would be an eternal separation between the two.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:8 (NIV)

Think about the one person you are closer to than anyone else in the world. Now imagine knowing that they are still there, but you can’t see that person. You can’t speak with them. You can’t touch them. For eternity. If you knew ahead of time, that would be the result, would you still go through with what was asked of you?

Jesus did. The pain of his torture and death was unimaginable. But I think the pain of separation was even greater. As the time grew near, Jesus became distressed and cried out to God, not as a servant to a master, but as a child to a father, “Please, Daddy…”

Yet he still submitted his will to God’s so that we would not have to endure that pain.