Generosity as a Spiritual Discipline

What is generosity? There are a few definitions but a good technical one I like is this – the virtue of one who is free from pretense or hypocrisy

A non-technical one would be The way you handle your resources because you are secure in who you are.

Now let’s clear the air, can you be generous without following Christ? Yes, generosity is not a uniquely Christian talent. Generosity is the way you handle the resources you have because you are secure in who you are and what you have. If you have millions of dollars, you might be generous with money because you are secure in your finances. You might be generous with your time if you have nothing but time because you know you have plenty of it.

But that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about how Generosity allows us to put Jesus first. We are talking about generosity as a Spiritual Discipline. We are not talking about giving out of our abundance, we are talking about giving out of our security in who we are and who we belong to. We are talking about how we can be generous because we are seeking Christ and because Christ has redeemed us and all we have.

The focus of Christian generosity is Jesus and others. It is freely and lovingly giving away what we have with a glad heart so that Christ is honored, and others are blessed. I would also add that it is intentional and systematic. Generosity can be impulsive and spontaneous, but a generous person is intentional and systematic in the way they give.

I think 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 is a great place to start when looking at what the Bible teaches on generosity. This week let’s take a little time to go through this section of Scripture verse by verse.

6 Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. 

7 Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

8 And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 

9 As it is written:

He scattered;
He gave to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.

10 Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 

11 You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. 

12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. 

13 They will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others through the proof provided by this service. 

14 And they will have deep affection for you in their prayers on your behalf because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 

15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

Verse 6: Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. 

If we give sparingly, we reap sparingly. If we give generously, we receive generously. Why? This is for two reasons. One that is just how it works. That is the system God has created, it is as real as gravity or magnetic attraction. To be generous is to live with an open hand. Two because generous people have shown God, they will give so they can be trusted with more. To be generous is to live with an open hand so things can go in and out of the hand.

Verse 7: Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

This is where our technical definition comes in handy: the virtue of one who is free from pretense or hypocrisy. We give cheerfully because we want to, not from pretense. Pretense can be for fame, glory, or to get God to owe us. We give from our security in Christ.

Acts 4:32-37 talks about how some people in the early Church were selling things they did not need to give to those who were in need. This caused a man named Joseph to sell his field and give the money to the church. It was such a gift that the people called him Barnabas which means son of encouragement. Barnabas was secure in who he was and that the Gospel had redeemed everything, so he was able to do that amazing thing.

A couple named Ananias and Sapphira saw this and decided to sell their field and give some of the money to the church. The problem was they pretended to give all the money because they wanted notoriety. Their hearts and lives had not been redeemed by the Gospel. They gave from the wrong motives thinking God would have to honor that, but the Holy Spirit knows a liar when He sees one.

Verse 8: And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 

When we give from a cheerful heart, secure in our identity in Christ, allowing the Gospel to redeem everything in our life, God gives us everything we need. Not everything we want, everything we need. God makes every grace overflow to you. The grace for your relationships, the grace for your job, the grace for your family, every grace you need God can and will make overflow. Sometimes the things we hold on to need to be let go and in that letting God we see God move in an area we did not realize was connected to the thing we let go.

Verse 9: As it is written: He scattered; He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.

This is saying that God freely scatters and gives, and we see that and understand that His righteousness endures forever. God is the most generous one. He is the most giving. He gives and He gives. He gives life. He gives breath. God gave the breath in your lungs. He freely chose to breathe life into us, mere mortals. But He also gives salvation through His Son that He freely gave for our sins.

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.

Verse 10: Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness

God gives the seed to the sower. You and I are the sower. God is the one who gives. God is the one who gives us what we need. Both for us and for others.

“The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit.”

Basil the Great

What do we give? This is a very important point in our discussion about generosity. We are not just talking about money. We are not, not talking about money, but we are not just talking about money. We are talking about giving whatever we have for the sake of the kingdom. We are talking about allowing Jesus and the Gospel to redeem everything we have and then use it freely for His kingdom. We should be so free with our resources that it confuses people.

Time: Luke 2:36 talks about a woman named Anna who was a widow. Her husband died after 7 years of marriage. From that time on she spent her time at the temple worshipping and fasting and praying. She was probably doing this for about 60-61 years. 60-61 years she spent her days worshipping, fasting, and praying. She could have remarried; she could have done a lot of things but instead she chose to be generous with her time and give it all to God. She interceded for the nation, for the world, in prayer and fasting. 

You might be busy; I get it we are all busy. In our connected, social media, cell phone-connected world we are all busy but as my wife says, “you choose your busy.” Ephesians 5:16 says, redeem the time for the days are evil.

Talents: Exodus 31:1-11

The Lord also spoke to Moses: 2 “Look, I have appointed by name Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every craft 4 to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 to cut gemstones for mounting, and to carve wood for work in every craft. 6 I have also selected Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be with him. I have put wisdom in the heart of every skilled artisan in order to make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, the ark of the testimony, the mercy seat that is on top of it, and all the other furnishings of the tent— 8 the table with its utensils, the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, the basin with its stand— 10 the specially woven garments, both the holy garments for the priest Aaron and the garments for his sons to serve as priests, 11 the anointing oil, and the fragrant incense for the sanctuary.

God gave these men the skill and the ability to do everything that was needed and they in turn used their gifts generously to make everything that was needed.

We are called to be generous with our talents. The talents we have are for God’s use. I know some amazingly talented people who give their talents generously for the Kingdom. I believe that everything God has called any church to do at any given time is available to them because of the people who make up that body. So, what talents or abilities has God given you that you can use for His kingdom?

God has given you talents to use for His Kingdom.

Money: David was called to build an altar to God and he comes to Araunah to buy his threshing floor. This man offered it to David.

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 2 Samuel 24:24

David knew that if he was going to give to God it had to be from his heart and his wallet.

When they were building the tabernacle, the order went out for people to bring what they could to build the house of God. At one point the people were bringing too much

Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, Exodus 36:6

The people had to be restrained from bringing more. They were so grateful to have God in their midst they just brought what was needed. Where did they get all this? The Bible tells us that the Egyptians gave them gold, silver, and jewelry before they left Egypt. They were supplied with the needs and then God called for an offering.

In the church we take up tithes and offerings, but here is the thing. We do not tithe because 10% is a magic standard. 10% is an example, God does not want your 10% God wants your generous gift.

When my family first felt we needed to start giving we could not give 10%. Our finances had to be fixed, so we started with 2.5% (I think) and then worked up to 10%. If you cannot give 10% there is no condemnation. But the question is this: Is God, is the Gospel a factor and consideration in your finances? When you budget, does your budget include giving money to the work of God?

In all this, the point is not to earn Jesus’ presence or grace. It is to practice a spiritual discipline that says Jesus you are first. Jesus, you are my priority. Jesus, you have preeminence and authority over my time, talent, and resources.

Verse 11: You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. 

God is the one who enriches us in every way. God enriches us in our generous giving of our time, talent, and resources in every way. This causes thanksgiving.

Verse 12: For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. 

Generosity is twofold. One, it provides for the needs of others who thank God, and two it shows our thankfulness to God. He wants you to give in church and to others who need it. We also call this giving alms.

When you see someone in need and give you are not just giving money or time or talent you are giving grace and Jesus. You are dispensing grace in the name of Christ.

People respond to a gift given with thanks to God. In giving alms you are giving like Jesus and allowing others to see Christ.

Verse 13: They will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others through the proof provided by this service. 

The generosity we have gives room for others to give God glory. It also proves our confession. If we say we believe the Gospel, that we confess Christ is Lord then generosity is a proof of that statement. We sometimes, and for good reason, get confused by James’s statement in James 2:17-18  

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

James is simply saying that if you confess Jesus as Lord then there will be evidence of this. It does not happen all at once and it takes a lifetime to cultivate but little by little because you confess Christ as Lord and because He is changing you, we provide proof of our claim.

Verse 14: And they will have deep affection for you in their prayers on your behalf because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 

Because of this the people then have “deep affection” for us in their prayers. It is not that we are buying the prayers of others, but it is that we have proven to them that we care and this moves them. Our giving shows the overflow of God’s grace in our lives.

It is a cyclical relationship. You see that people love you, care for you, and give to help you, so you are driven to pray earnestly for them.

Verse 15: Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

In all of this, it causes us to say, “THANK YOU JESUS FOR YOU!” The indescribable gift is Jesus who makes all this possible.

Just as we said in the beginning, the purpose of this is Jesus and to place Him first. The result of this is we the giver and the one who receives give glory to God for Jesus.

Just a Thought,

Mike

What happens when Jesus becomes our Priority?

Jesus is first and we want to enter into His constant stream of goodness, truth, and the reality of who He is. What happens when we do this? What are the natural outcomes of putting Jesus first? First, there are a few ways we can do this. These are Spiritual Disciples or arrows we can pull out can use.

Briefly:

Scripture

We saw we can do this by reading Scripture. We can take time to dedicate ourselves to reading His Word, to be transformed by His truth. We can also take time to let Him speak as only He can by His Spirit.

Silence and Solitude

We can practice silence and solitude. In our culture, we do not value silence and solitude. We have so many noises around us, so many voices calling for our attention, and so many distractions that a great arrow we can pull out of our quiver is silence and solitude. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” We need to be still.

Practicing the Presence of God

We can and we need to change the way we think. Instead of going to a time with God, we incorporate the practice of always being with Him. We can see Him in the most mundane of actions because He is always present.

St Patrick said

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”

Outcomes:

There are a few things that happen in us and in our lives when we place Jesus first. Just like with the arrows in our quiver, there are many outcomes to placing Jesus first. Just two quick ones.

Transformed:

One is we are transformed. We become like Him. Romans 8:29 in the NLT says,

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

When we place Jesus first, when we practice spiritual disciplines, when we use the arrows we have been talking about we become more like Jesus.

We used to be one thing but as we seek Jesus and make Him a priority we become “blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world” Phil 2:15 says.

When we become more like Jesus, we start to do things like Jesus did. We weep with those who weep we mourn with those who mourn, and we rejoice with people. We begin to react and think like our Savior.

Our Desires Change:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, Eph 5:18-19

When Jesus becomes thepriority, we no longer desire to be filled with other things, instead, we desire to be filled with the Spirit and in that we desire to build others up.

There is another thing that happens. There is something that is produced in us.

In John 15:4-8 Jesus Says,

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples.

Fruit is a byproduct of Priorities and Strategies

What does this teach us? It teaches us that Fruit is a byproduct of Priorities and Strategies. It teaches us that abiding in Jesus, which is another way of saying placing Jesus first in our lives, produces fruit. The act of making Jesus a priority means the fruit will be produced. That is the natural order of things. An apple tree produces apples, and an orange tree produces oranges. That is just how it works. Abiding in Jesus produces fruit. It is as natural as a tree producing its fruit. It is not the goal it is the natural outcome. It is not something to strive for, it is the result. It is not something we produce; it is something produced in us.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

This is what is produced in us as we give ourselves to Jesus. This is what the Holy Spirit does inside of us. We get love, we get joy, we get peace, we get patience, we get kindness, we get goodness, we get faithfulness, we get gentleness, and we get self-control. We do not earn them. We do not work for it. We do not strive for it. We just get it because we abide in Christ.

The things we give ourselves to produce things inside of us. For good or for bad. If you want to know what your priorities are look at the results you have.

It is the opposite of working for it. If you lack love in your life, do not try to love harder. If you lack patience do not strive for patience. Instead focus on Jesus. We make Him first; we give ourselves over to Him and spiritual disciplines. Then these things will be produced in us.

One of my favorite spiritual disciplines is cleaning. I have been doing it for years. I clean because something is dirty, I clean because I want to do it, so my bride does not have to, but ultimately my motivation for cleaning is as an act of worship and surrender to Christ. In doing it, something changes in me. I am terrified of becoming prideful. I don’t know why; I am just on guard against it. So, to help me with this I clean the bathroom. It is hard to think of yourself as something great while scrubbing a toilet.

Again, and this is so important. This is not transactional. We don’t tell Jesus, “I’ll give you 20 minutes of silence and solitude for 8oz of love please.” NO, we seek Him, we desire Him, we make Him the priority, and then He changes us we find a greater capacity to love.

If we put the focus on Christ and Him as priority, then we get more than we could have ever bargained for.

C.S. Lewis said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”[1]

Everything changes because the focus changes. The point is this: If you want the fruit of the Spirit, Abide in Christ and give yourself to spiritual disciplines because fruit is a byproduct of placing Jesus first.

Fruit Attracts Hungry People

Then something amazing happens. Something beyond expectation occurs. Other people are drawn to the change that occurs within us because fruit attracts hungry people.

Acts 2:1 tells us that all the Disciples were together in the upper room and the Spirit fell on them. What were they doing? Acts 1:14 tells us they were practicing spiritual disciples. They were praying, they were placing Jesus first and then the Spirit fell on them. He was changing them and then things changed.

If we jump down to Acts 2:42 it tells us this group of people devoted themselves to spiritual disciples. They made Jesus a priority and because of this, the outcome, the result, was the entire community was changed. This is because the people saw something that drew them in.

The early church did all sorts of things. We can read about some of these things in the Bible. Feeding programs for the poor and the widows. Healing and prayer ministries that were off the charts. Racial reconciliation. Other things are not recorded in the Bible but things that history tells us the early church did. For example, the early church spoke out against abortion and infanticide. An article on the Gospel Coalition talks about this:

More than merely condemning abortion and infanticide, however, early Christians provided alternatives by rescuing and adopting children who were abandoned. For instance, Callistus (d. c. A.D. 223) provided refuge to abandoned children by placing them in Christian homes, and Benignus of Dijon (3rd century) offered nourishment and protection to abandoned children, including some with disabilities caused by unsuccessful abortions.[2]

The early church was nonstop in going against the grain of the culture and doing things that shamed the people of their day because of the love, devotion, and care they had. BUT and this is of utmost importance. Everything they did as a byproduct of placing Jesus first and practicing spiritual disciples. They used the same arrows we have been talking about. The ministries they had, the compassion they felt for their fellow man, and the love they had for the vulnerable was because Jesus was first.

They were not threatened by the world because they knew who they belonged to.

They were radical, first in their pursuit of Christ, and second in their love for others.

We practice the same spiritual disciplines and serve the same God.

We make Jesus the priority, we place Jesus first and we get changed by the Spirit of God. Then our community gets changed by the Spirit of God. If we want revival, if we want renewal in our homes and our communities to be changed, then it starts with Abiding in Christ, letting Him produce fruit in us, and then letting that fruit out. We need to be radical in love for Jesus and be willing to live life in abandon.

Just a thought,

Mike


[1] Mere Christianity

[2] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/abortion-and-early-church/

Titus 1:10-16 – Falsehood and Faith

We have to remember with this section in Titus and the whole Bible that the things we read do not exist in isolation. Last week we looked at what a Christian leader, what the church should look like.

False Teachers / False Teaching 10-12

As God’s people, we need to be able to identify false teaching!

What did the false teachers teach in Paul and Titus’ day?

  • Adhering to the Jewish way of life
    • Dietary rules
      • Keep a kosher diet – no bacon
      Asceticism
      • Don’t touch certain things
      Observance of festivals
      • Sabbaths, new moons, Yom Kippur, Jubilee
    • Circumcised
      • Physical sign of the covenant

These were things you must do to be considered an Israelite. These were the commands from God to Moses to belong to the covenant people Israel. In the minds of the Jewish people teaching this there was no other way to be connected to the promises of God. Judaism was not contextual. The Gospel in its beauty, simplicity, and focus on the person of Christ is amazingly contextual. And that was true.

That was true until Jesus came and established the New Covenant (agreement) by His blood:

“Cancel[ling] the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Col 2:14

What was required is no longer required. Now what is required is faith in the Son of God!

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

If you do this, you are part of the New Covenant

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jeremiah 31:33-34

If anyone tells you that you need to do something more than believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to receive Him and be part of this New Agreement with God, then that is false, and they are teaching something false.

Now false teaching and false teachers is bad enough but these leaders in Crete were not just teaching false doctrine they were doing it for money. One is bad enough but the second makes it horrible. This is not something that is absent in our time. There are still those who teach false doctrine to make money. I will not name names, but we still have these people in our day and the antidote to false teaching is found in verses 13-14.

Silence false teachers so they will know the truth 13-14

As God’s people, we need to know the truth and why we speak the truth!

This is both silencing false teachers and proclaiming the truth. In doing this we follow God’s way of doing things. Read the prophets and you will find that God calls out falsehood to bring people back to truth. We silence, rebuke, and correct falsehood so those who believe it will know the truth. What does Scripture say?

“Rebuke them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith” Titus 1:13.

Any other motivation is wrong. We are calling people to repentance and reconciliation. We are to be reconciled to God and each other.

False teachers are not the enemy, false doctrine, false teaching, hypocrisy, and deceit these are the enemies. People who teach false teachings either by wrong motives or ignorance are to be instructed in righteousness so that they may know the truth. Do not make the person the enemy, but zealously combat falsehood and false teaching for the sake of truth and so that those who believe or think otherwise will know the truth for their good.

The motivation and the approach make all the difference. This requires a knowledge of truth and the way of righteousness.

Requires an understanding of the truth

To rebuke or silence false teachers requires that you have an understanding of the topic. It presupposes that you know how to handle the Word of God.

We have to remember 2 very important things when we read the book of Titus.

  1. Titus was written to Titus
  2. Titus was also written for us.

Titus was not a new believer or someone unfamiliar in the way of Righteousness. 2 Corinthians chapter 8 tells us that Titus had a history of working in difficult churches with bad or twisted doctrine. This was not his first rodeo. He knew how to rightly divide the Word of God.

How do we know the truth? We know the truth because we read the truth, and God’s word is true.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness 2 Tim 3:16

The Bible does not claim to be a helpful book, the Bible claims to be the Word of God given to us for revelation of who He is and what we need to know about Him.

We can rest in the fact that the Bible is reliable. We believe it because it is true and then we act in faith based on what it says.

How do we know the Bible is true? There are many ways. A few quick points.

  • When comparing manuscripts (copies) they have a 99.5% accuracy
  • There are over 20,000 New Testament manuscripts.
  • We have small manuscripts of the Gospel of John dated to about 100-150 AD
  • The Bible has been studied to show that it is an accurate record of what the original authors wrote.

This means we can trust that what we read is what was meant to be read!

“Faith is relying on what you have reason to believe is true and trustworthy. – JP Moreland.

Just an aside if you ever hear anyone saying, “oh the Bible was written at the Council of Nicaea.” That is 100% false. They did not talk about the Canon of Scripture at Nicaea, they debated Arianism

We need to know what the Bible says, believe what it says, and then teach what it says so that people will be sound in the faith! We must never shy away from the truth.

How does this Play Out?

There is truth, and Truth is important! We as God’s people must be students of truth. We must learn it to protect ourselves and others from falsehood.

  • There is truth
  • Truth is important
  • Truth leads to the way of life
  • Jesus is the way, truth, and the life.

We can read something like rebuking false teachers and some will shy away from that, and others will run to it because they like to fight. Either way, we must come at it from the right motivation. We must first have a desire to know the truth, to be students of truth, and then have a desire to share (in love) the truth of God.

This is not all there is because the Bible connects this idea of silencing false teachers with the right motivation and knowing the truth with a truth about us a people.

Your heart is revealed in your interpretation of life

To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled – Titus 1:15

As God’s people, we need to understand that our heart is revealed by the way we interpret life. If your heart is true and your desire is Christ, His righteousness, and His holiness, then that will be revealed by the way you interpret the world around you. If you have falsehood and deception, then that will come out too. You cannot hide what is in you.

Have you ever met someone who is always accusing someone of something? Usually, they are hiding something. The truth and guilt are trying to get out, so it comes out in perverse ways.

What is in you will come out and when it does it will either

  • set you free and lead to life
  • Come out as a perversion of the truth and keep you in bondage.
  • You choose.

The idea of being pure is of extreme importance. Jesus says that the pure in heart will see God. We need to be pure of heart to see Him because He is pure.

Your faith and works must match.

As God’s people, we need to understand that our faith and actions must match! In fact, your faith and your works will match because one informs the other.

They claim to know God, but they deny him through their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work. Titus 1:16

Just like your heart is revealed by your interpretation of life your faith is revealed by your works. The way you drive, the way you grocery shop, the way you interact with your spouse your kids, your boss, and your employees. If you claim to know God, then do your actions reflect that?

In the secret place, in the dark, is your faith showing?

Paul says to Titus that these false teachers claim to know God, but their actions disprove their claims. Our actions and our words must match.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? James 2:15-16 (NIV)

Remember we have talked about the fact that we are human beings and not human doings. Our doing comes out of our being and our being shows in our doing.

A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Luke 6:45

We cannot say one thing and then do something that is the opposite and expect everything to be ok. The truth will always come out. It always does.

Call to Action

We are to have the truth be real and alive in us just like Titus did before he went and called out falsehood in Crete.

We silence false teachers and false teaching because we know the truth. But that also means we silence the lies in our own life because the enemy has taught us.

  • You are not loved
  • You did too much
  • You cannot come back from that
  • No one likes you
  • You’re not pretty enough
  • You’re not smart enough
  • You’re not strong enough
  • You’re not enough

We rebuke the lies so that the truth will be known. Maybe today some of us need to stop looking around for false teachers and instead look at the lies we believe and tell ourselves to be silent and believe Jesus.

Just like we said with silencing false teachers; The motivation and the approach make all the difference.

Do not condemn yourself but instead tell yourself.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

Before we run around and look for a false teacher to silence first make sure you kill the lies you believe!

Just a thought,

Mike

Scripture and You

66 Books

About 35-40 authors 

Covering everything from Creation to Final Redemption

About 3 different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek)

Various professions from the writers: Shepherds, prophets, fishermen, and herdsmen.

A wide range of topics and genres. Prophecy, poetry, history, apocalyptic and more.

Depth that is almost beyond understanding. As St Augustine said, “the bible is shallow enough for a child to wade and deep enough for an elephant to swim.”

All with one central theme

He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Luke 24:44

The Word of God has brought down rulers and raised up the impoverished. It has been banned and celebrated. It is the most important book in human history but what do we do with it? 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to rightly divide the word of truth. 

Colossians 3:16 says “Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

I would answer the question of “what do we do with it” is this. We get into the Word of God, so the Word of God gets into us. The Word of God teaches us all about Christ and Salvation. It instructs us on righteousness and sanctification. It reveals truth and error. It is alive and it is active. The Word of God gives us access into the stream of God’s presence which is always there but sometimes hidden to us because God desires us to seek Him. If we want to encounter Jesus, if we want to put Jesus first, Scripture reading is an amazing way to enter the stream of God’s presence.

Why do we read it? 

Four brief reasons. 

  1. It is the Word of God. The Bible is everything we need to know regarding God and salvation.
    1. John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
    1. If we want to know God, if we want to know how to live a life that pleases Him, we must know what He has said?
  2. It is accurate and reliable. The Word of God has been studied, tested, and verified more than any other book in history.
    1. There are over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts cataloged, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages[i]
    1. Some of the oldest pieces date to about 125 AD.
  3. Because sometimes God is quiet when we pray and worship. But His Word, His record always speaks.
    1. In times of war, soldiers would write letters to their sweethearts. When they could not hear the voice of the one, they love they could go back and read what their beloved wrote. 
  4. Because it tells us who we are. The Bible, in addition to telling us what we need to know about God, and what we need to know about Jesus, tells us who we are.
    1. Outside of Christ you are lost and dead in your sins.In Christ, you are part of His body and live.
    1. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

We read the Word of God because it is everything we need to know about God, about us, and about the Messiah.

We must desire to read the Word of God. In marriage is it about devotion or service? Is it about love or provision? Is it about fulfilling needs or providing affection? The truth is it is about all of that. The same action can be done with different motivations and that produces different results. I can do the dishes or clean the house, so my bride does not have to because I love her, and I know she has a lot going on. Or I clean the house because I want to show her, I do things and I do it better than her anyway. The result is the house is clean, but the true result is my love either feels appreciated and loved or insecure because I made her feel that I don’t like the way she cleans. We can read the Word of God out of duty or out of reverence and love.

So how do we read it? 

Understand there are 2 basic ways of reading Scripture for the believer. You can read the Bible for information, and I have. But we are talking about interacting with the text not writing a report about it.

Devotionally & Instructionally – Generally people fall into one of two camps when it comes to Scripture. They either fall too heavily into devotion and look at the Bible as a source of inspiration or they fall too heavily into instruction where the Bible is wisdom. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Devotionally

You can read the Bible devotionally which means you are devoting yourself to a time of prayer, transformation, receiving, correction, worship, healing, or communion with God. 

Instructionally 

Reading the Bible instructionally is to read the Bible with a different set of questions. It is to ask what I am supposed to know about this and what do I do with it? Devotion can and does often overlap. When we need help, when we are confused, when we are seeking wisdom from Jesus we turn to the Word of God and read. Sometimes to see what He has said and done in other situations. Either way the point is this; To make Jesus first by turning our attention and desires towards Him.

Romans 12:2 says

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

To read the Bible is to place yourself in the hands of God and say, “transform me, Lord.” To read the Bible devotionally or instructionally is to read with an attitude and heart of Shema! Shema is Hebrew for Listen, but it is more than listen it is Listen and Obey.

The idea comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

It is to say I might not like what I read, I might not agree with what I read, I might not fully understand what I read, but I am willing to be molded by you Lord.

Practical Tools

Whether Devotionally or Instructionally I think these are two great tools you can use. These tools are just that tools. There is no magic formula. We must remember that the focus, the goal is Christ. Union, submission, and fellowship with Him. When we as followers of the Messiah read the Word of God we are reading because we want to place Jesus First and see Him first. We want to be with Him and more like Him.

We read it together

As we mentioned we are part of the body so one thing we can do is read it together. We read and study the Bible together in community. In Christ, you are part of His body and live.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 1 Peter 2:9

Understand Hyperbolic Discounting.

The larger or further away the goal the harder it is to achieve it. 

If you have never read the Bible or barely read it the challenge of reading the entire thing straight through can be such a great challenge you may fail, then feel defeated, then stop reading. 

Break It Up

Instead, break it up. Read a smaller book, and break that book up into chapters. Read sections. The Bible was not written with chapters and verses so while each book or section might be a cohesive thought it was generally not broken up the way we have it today. So, take chunks if you need to. If you are good at reading, then read whole books at a time.

Diver Deeper

  1. You can learn what different genres there are.
  2. You can read it with a notebook to write things down.
  3. You can highlight and write in it?

Information that Drives Devotion and Instruction 

When we read the Bible, we have to understand a few things.

  • Not everything written was written to you
    • It might be written for your information, for your understanding, for you to know history, or for God’s character but it does not mean it was written for you to do something.
  • Some things are prescriptive and some things are descriptive
  • Not everything in the Bible that is a promise is a promise to you
    • Not everything is a promise

We need to understand a few things as best as we can. I have heard people tell me “I don’t need to know all that stuff; the Holy Spirit will teach me.” True enough but God also gave you a brain and I think He expects you to use it.

I want to give you two tools that are amazing and can take your Scripture reading that capture the essence of what it means to read instructionally and devotionally. They are different but once you have been doing them for a little while they begin to bleed together and create something new and beautiful.  

You can learn The basic Interpretive Journey (Duvall and Hays) which involves five steps:

  1. Step 1: Grasping the Text in Their Town
    1. Question: What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
  2. Step 2: Measuring the Width of the River to Cross
    1. Question: What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
  3. Step 3: Crossing the Principlizing Bridge
    1. Question: What is the theological principle in this text?
  4. Step 4: Consult the Biblical Map
    1. Question: How does our theological principle fit with the rest of the Bible?
  5. Step 5: Grasping the Text in Our Town
    1. Question: How should individual Christians today live out the theological principles?

Second is Lectio Divina:

This method of reading is quite different but very valuable. Christopher Jamison, former Abbot of Worth Abbey said of Scripture and reading this way ““the text is seen as a gift to be received, not a problem to be dissected….. let the text come to you” The goal is to interact with God through His Holy Word.

In school, I struggled with reading the Bible devotionally this way because all of my time was spent reading to write papers. Reading for instruction, learning the authors, dates, main points, and so on. I read because I was required to read and because I needed to be able to produce a result. This method throws that out the window and asks God to make the Bible come alive for you. To do this is to take it slow.

  • Select a Scripture passage upon which to reflect. …
  • Read the passage — preferably out loud — two or three times. …
  • Meditate on the word or phrase that stood out to you. …
  • Respond to God who has been speaking to you. …
  • Still yourself and rest in the loving embrace of your Maker.[1]


Again, the main point of this endeavor is to seek God and enter into His presence. To place Jesus first in all we do and seek Him above all else.

Just a thought,

Mike


[1] https://www.pbrenewalcenter.org/blog/contemplative-prayer-the-five-steps-of-lectio-divina/


[i] Wikipedia

Sealing of the Holy Spirit, pt 2

Ephesians 1:13-14

In Him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

In the last post we started looking at these verses, today we will continue.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit is also part of the filling of the Holy Spirit. God gives us His Holy Spirit that we might be able to live the life we are called to live. As children of God, we are not left alone to figure this out. We are not left orphans but as Jesus promised another is here.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit empowers us and gives us the way to move forward as we follow God.

2 Peter 1:3 says,

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit gives us the power to continue to follow after God. God marks us as His own and then gives us what we need to follow Him. We have power as God’s children. We have authority as His marked ones. We have access to everything we need because of the sealing of the Holy Spirit.

This marking gives us security, marks us as authentically Gods, and gives us what we need to follow after God. This in total gives us identity. Our identity is found in our markedness. When we are marked by God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, labeled as God’s chosen ones we have an identity that is unchangeable. Just like in a museum we see things that belonged to people and look at them in awe, wonder, or amazement because they belonged to a specific person, we have value because we are sealed, marked, and chosen by God. It is not in our own strength, power, or wisdom but because we are marked by God.

Our identity is in our belonging to God. This means you do not have to strive, vie, or insist on value it belongs to you because you belong to God. You belong to the King. You are a son or daughter of the Most High!

All people have value as image-bearers of God but as sealed ones, we have an unchangeable identity.

Next, what does it mean to mean that the Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance? Because we are owned and marked by the Creator we have more coming to us. God sets His seal upon us because of Christ’s work on the cross and rising from the grave. There is more coming.

As amazing as it is to be sealed by the Holy Spirit and to be empowered to live the life God calls us to it is only a shadow of what is to come. We have an unchangeable identity and destiny. In this world, we have trouble and tribulation. We have sickness. We have issues, to say the least, but the Holy Spirit is a promise that more and better is to come. Paul writes here and says that the Holy Spirit is a down payment. The sealing is not the full measure of what is to come but a promise that greater is coming.

When we think about the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, the signs the wonders, the healings, the power that is displayed we should see a picture of what is to come. On this side of eternity, we have pain, but the gifts are in part meant to show what is to come. What is to come is perfection, completion, total restoration. We should seek the gifts but we seek them to build up the church! (! Cor 14:12

We have the gifts now because we live in a world that requires gifts. When Christ comes back, we do not need those things because everything will be made new. We need the right view of eschatology. That is a fancy theology word for the end times. Sometimes people think that the end will come, and God will destroy everything, but it is more of a restoration, a reconciliation, a recreation. God will make heaven on earth. It will all be new, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit is a promise that we are included in that.

I mentioned this earlier, but I want to close with this reminder:

The sealing of the Holy Spirit gives us the power to continue to follow after God. God marks us as His own and then gives us what we need to follow Him. We have power as God’s children. We have authority as His marked ones. We have access to everything we need because of the sealing of the Holy Spirit. And we have a promise of what is to come.

If you are here and you have never trusted in Christ and received the Gospel. If you have not repented, believed, and received then I beg you know do that. We will have some people upfront and if you need to do this come forward. If you need to have someone pray with you so you can walk in the sealing, you have come forward. If you need prayer for anything else, come forward now.

  [1] African Bible Commentary, 1428

Just a thought,

Mike

Sealing of the Holy Spirit, pt 1

Ephesians 1:13-14

In Him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

If you give me an opportunity to speak about the Holy Spirit, I am instantly a little giddy. But I am going to resist temptation and stay on point. This passage talks about the Holy Spirit and while His gifts and fruit are always a part of the conversation there are some large topics at play here.

I want to answer the question what does this passage have to do with me?

In short; God seals and marks us as His own and gives us the power to follow Him

Mystery is inherently part of the Christian faith and message. We can only explain so much and that is ok. It is ok to not have all the answers and it is ok to be left with questions. It is ok to only understand some things in part because the questions before us are God-sized questions. I struggle with this, but my wife has helped me tremendously.

In this passage, there are I believe there are some important things we can and should take away.

One question before us is this: Does God keep His people? You might have heard the phrase, “once saved always saved” or the classical doctrine “the perseverance of the saints.” But what does that mean?

God is able to keep what He owns. I cannot tell how you many times as a pastor, preacher, and leader people have asked me if once saved always saved is true. I get random messages from people I have not spoken to in years asking me this, and I always reply the same way. The right question is can God keep you? My answer is, you could not save yourself so you cannot keep yourself. This I believe allows for God to remain in control and you to still have your part. I believe the Bible teaches there are two parts although they are not equal. God seals us with the Holy Spirit and keeps us.

This passage teaches us that first that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and second that the Holy Spirit is a down payment for what comes next.

What is the sealing that is spoken of in this passage? Well to start with there are many nuances in this idea that I will try to look at as best as possible. What does it mean to be sealed by the Holy Spirit? First, we must understand that this sealing is for those who have heard the Gospel and believed. This is an important distinction because the sealing applies only to those who have heard and believed. No assurance is guaranteed outside of those conditions.

There is salvation in no other name than Jesus. As Paul says in Romans 10:9

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord, “and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Peter in Acts 2:38 says that we must repent and then we can receive the Holy Spirit. To receive the message of the Gospel is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of our sins.

John in his Gospel (1:12) says,

“But to all who did receive Him, 

He gave them the right to be children of God, 

to those who believe in His name,”

The formula (if I may) is to repent, believe, receive. There is nothing else. Repent, believe, receive. That is, it. It is as simple as simple can be because we as humans tend to overcomplicate and exacerbate everything so God has made it as simple as can be.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit is only available to those who have heard the Gospel and received it. Once that occurs, the very moment it happens, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are marked as God’s and we join the worldwide body of Christ. We are in a moment saved and sealed as God’s people.

In the ancient world, they fully understood the idea of sealing because it was a common practice. Things, letters, and correspondence were sent on long journeys. Once they reached their destination people would look and see if the seal was still intact. If it was then the one who received the item or letter would know this was from the person who sent it. It was a mark of authenticity. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a mark of authenticity.

It was also a mark of security. Depending on who sent the item you would not dear break the seal because they might have your head (quite literally). If the person sending the sealed item was of power, then you know the sealed item was protected. The seal meant it carried the security of the person sending it.

The Igbo people in Nigeria seal a visitor with a chalk mark on their wrist and this tells the whole community that this person “is to enjoy the privileges and protection of the community.”[1] A seal is a mark of authenticity and security. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a permanent mark on a person that they belong to God and are entitled to the privilege and protection of God.

Paul writing in Romans 8:38-39 expounds on this idea and says:

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Once we are marked as God’s people we are under the protection of God. We are His and we can always call on that sealing.

As an American, you are protected by the American Government. If you are overseas somewhere and people are chasing, you. You can run to the American consulate and be granted access. Once there you are on American soil and the enemy who is chasing you cannot enter. They are outside the protection and security of the place you ran to for safety because you are sealed as one who can enter. Nothing can change that.

So, what is the sealing of the Holy Spirit, it is you being marked as God’s person! You are marked as one who is authentically and securely protected by God. God is able to keep His own. 

To be continued.

Commissioning, Instruction, and Mission

Luke chapter 10 has the sending of the 70 or 72. There is debate as to whether it was 70 or 72 because some older manuscripts have one or the other. The table of nations in Genesis 10 records 70 nations. There is also 70 people who go to Egypt with Jacob in Genesis 46:27. 70 in the Bible is a number of completion. This has given rise to two interpretational theories. Some scholars suggest that Jesus sent 70 and others say that 72 is the correct number because it is a reference to the Table of Nations and to you and I. This interpretation leads to a symbolic idea that Jesus is saying everyone is included in the sending. This means you and I as well. We could spend more time here but the important thing for either number is that Jesus sent. I prefer the 72 and say this suggests we are, in a very real sense included in the mission. Not the exact mission but the broader mission as we will see below.

The 72 go out with purpose and intentionality. They have marching orders. They are called to a mission. Jesus sent them out. Just like in the calling of the Disciples it is Jesus who calls and Jesus who sends. The job of the disciple is to respond to the call of the Master. The disciples did not create this mission on their own, but they were sent. They were commissioned for a specific mission. But what is the mission they were sent on?

First, we can break this passage and sending into three parts. The first is the commissioning which we just looked at. The second is the instructions. In verses 2-6 we see the instructions Jesus gives the new missionaries. We see the plan of how they are to go out.

The first instruction is to pray. Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers or workers are few. There is a great need in the world. In my area of New Orleans, there are nearly one million people. Most of them have no religious affiliation, attend no church, have no relationship with Christ, and have no eternal hope. In many other places around the globe, this is a common theme. People are lost and feed their lostness. They have an emptiness and they feed that emptiness. I think it was Pastor John Mark Comer who said people are looking for a savior in the culture, we just have to see it (paraphrased). People are looking to be saved so they turn to all sorts of things. Sports, sex, drugs, money, public service, helping the poor, good deeds, and so on. I recently spoke with a young man who was living in a gym in Mobile Alabama. He thought he could find help in Austin so he took the little money he had and flew to Austin where he knew no one just because he thought he could find help there. I met two young men one night in Knoxville that were recently homeless. They had everything they could carry and needed a ride so they could catch the public transportation. One of them told me “If we can just get to the KAT, we will be ok.” He was not only desperate but certain this was their salvation from the situation. People are looking for salvation. This is what Jesus means by the harvest is plentiful.

Because of this, we need to pray for workers. It is a command from Christ to pray for them. We must have more men and women who are willing to work the harvest. Too many are lost to the enemy. Too many walk around unknowing. Too many suffer needlessly. A great English preacher Charles Spurgeon said “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” We must pray for workers. We must pray. I was able to share the Gospel with the people in these stories but how many more countless stories like this exist without someone to share the Good News that sin, and death have been defeated by Christ on the cross and His empty grave?

The second instruction is to stay focused and be wise. The 72 and us are to be wise in a difficult and hard world. The task of carrying the Gospel requires wisdom and carefulness. Many are ok with you being a Christian as long as you stay lukewarm. The moment you begin to proclaim the Gospel you become an enemy to the world. This does not mean you need to be difficult. We must always be careful to ensure we are walking like our Lord, in grace and truth. One of the hardest things we can do is to be careful not to mix ourselves with the Gospel. If someone rejects the Gospel make sure they are rejecting it and not your presentation of it. The only way to do this is to be wise and stay prayerful.

In verse 4 Jesus tells the 72 and us to not worry about possessions or what we need. God will provide what is needed for the journey. We must stay focused and preserve. We are called to the mission not to worry about everything along the way. Faith is paramount!

The third instruction is to be on the lookout for a person of peace. A person of peace is someone God has primed for the Gospel. Someone who is ready and can take you in. In our Western world, this often means someone of influence who receives the Gospel and can then carry it to others you would not have the ability to reach. I know many persons of peace. I have seen what happens when a person of peace receives the Gospel. I have seen churches nearly double in size because one of these people receives the Gospel with joy. We should all be looking for and praying for a person of peace. It is a marvelous thing to behold. When you encounter a person of peace stay with them. Invest in them. Pour into them. Disciple them. Stick with them.

Some will reject you and the Gospel. This is sad but it will happen. When it does, don’t worry as long as you are presenting it with grace and truth you have done what you need to.

Next, we move on to the mission itself. Up to this point, we have looked at the commissioning and the instructions. Now we see the mission they were called to. We have alluded to it but to be clear it is to heal the sick and proclaim the Gospel. Healing the sick is something that can only be done by the filling, equipping, and power of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we have within us on our own to do. The Holy Spirit is the one who does the healing, we are merely the tools He uses. Here we must deal with a difficult topic. The disciples were sent out to heal and I am saying that we are called to a similar mission. But we do not all have the gift of healing, so what do we do?

I have prayed for the gift of healing for years and it is not a gift a see active in my life. I desire the gift to glorify God and yet it is not active. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 that not all have all the gifts. He says a little further up that “the Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as he wills.” So, what am I do to do what are you to do? The first thing is that we are to pray for the gifts needed for the work God calls us to. There is a saying “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” I cannot control the call of God or the gifting of God, but I can submit to the call, pray for the needed gifts, and welcome the Spirit in my life. I am commanded to respond to the call.

Maybe it is better if we ask who are the sick Jesus sent the disciples to and who are the sick in our day. First, there is the physically sick. There are many especially in our world who are sick from cancer, COVID, and many other illnesses. Some have mental disorders. Some have missing limbs, bad eyes, and so on. One article I read said there are roughly 10,000 diseases in the world, and while many are rare that is still a large number. Add in everything else that can cause a person to be sick or weak and we get the picture. When the disciples returned they said that even the devils responded to Jesus’ name. What we see then is that everything was subject to Jesus’ name and the disciples went out doing the work of God by the power of Jesus name.

So how do we go out and heal the sick if we do not all have the power of healing? In the same way, the disciples went out. They went out working in the name of Jesus! Maybe this means healing the sick maybe it is praying for those who need freedom in their minds, maybe casting off years of generational curses, maybe discernment. Whatever it is do it in Jesus name and let the Spirit work through you in the situation you are in.

Second, we have that Jesus commanded them to tell that the Kingdom of God is at hand. What is the kingdom of God? It is the rule and reign of God. Could there be a more Gospel-centric message? Jesus is the king and what we are to proclaim is the Kingdom of God. Jesus ruling and reigning. When we submit to Christ, we make Him Lord over everything. Part of the call of the Christian is to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to make it a reality. This is not a political kingdom but to allow the truth of God to permeate our lives. When we are called into the kingdom, we are called to be ambassadors of that kingdom here on earth (2 Cor 5:20). 

This is the call Jesus gave to the 72, this is the call Jesus gives to us. We are called to heal the sick and announce the kingdom. To call people to repentance. To announce that Jesus has come, and freedom has come with Him. The Bible says where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Freedom in Jesus name! Freedom from sickness, freedom from sexual sin, freedom from addiction, freedom from past pain, freedom from whatever holds you in bondage! Freedom has come. You are free in Jesus name. 

Just A thought,

Mike

New Word and New Year

It’s time for a new year so it’s time for a new word. If you are new to this idea the word of the year was something I was introduced to about a decade or so ago. The idea is that resolutions can be easy to accomplish or easy to fail at. Also, unless you are really good at crafting it then it probably only applies to one or two areas of your life. A word however can be far-reaching.

Last year my word was “willing”, and it was a good year to be willing. I wanted to be willing to do bigger things for God, willing to go deeper, be more obedient, or whatever else God wanted to do in and through me. I wanted to be willing to take chances in my relationships with my wife, daughter, friends, and so on. I wanted to be willing to try new things. Willing was good but if I am honest willing played to my strengths. I am naturally looking for a change and a little crazy. It is not a hard thing for me to be willing. It is not a bad thing to play to your strengths because they need work too. If we put all our energy into our weaknesses, then our strengths can start to wane. For this new year, the new and exciting 2022 I desire to stretch myself.

My word for this year is not a strength but a weakness. This year I will be intentional. I am naturally pretty good at reacting. I am pretty good at responding to something and getting things done. I am a doer. I am a mover and a shaker. I am not nearly as intentional as I would like. So, this year will be the year of intentionality.

I want to be intentional in my time with God, my wife, my daughter, my boys, my friends, my quiet time. At the end of the year, I want to be a more intentional person.

Jesus is a great example when we think about intentionality. In Luke 9:51 it says that Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem, but some translations add a little spice and say He was steadfast (KJV), resolute (BSB), fixed (LSV), either way, you slice it Jesus was determined and intentional, He was going to Jerusalem to take His cross and die for the sins of the world.

In Mark 10:13-16, Jesus is blessing children. The disciples in their grand wisdom try and stop this but Jesus was intentionally doing what He wanted so he became indignant. We could go on and on, but the point is Jesus was intentional about everything He did. There is also the thing about being conformed into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29) so it is not just a word but an attempt to be more like the Lord I love.

I would highly encourage you to pick a word. Find something that can fit into as many areas of life as possible and then go after it. An example would be healthy. Healthy while usually thought of in terms of physical can mean healthy relationships and a healthy view of God. You are only limited by your imagination and prayer life. So, find a word, and explore the possibilities.

Just a thought,

Mike

Looking out for Others

For me and a lot of you, life gets busy. Between work, family, gym, hobbies, or whatever else you are into life is busy. We wake up and hit the ground running. I read one article that said the average American sleeps eight hours and has five hours of leisure time a day. I am not sure who these people are but good for them (I guess). I and a lot of you are probably not average. We are taxed to the max. I am chugging a Cotton Candy Bang at Nine AM as I write this.

I read another article that said the average American spends $164.55 a day. This total is from everything to housing, gas, groceries, masks (let’s be honest COVID is costly), coffee, and more. I am not complaining I am just pointing out that we spend a lot of time, money, and energy every day on things we need and have to do. This is fine, and I have no major issues with this (maybe I do). What I am reminded of today is Philippians 2:4 which says, “Everyone should look out not only for his own interest but also the interest of others.”

Because we are so busy and must spend so much money to live in this great country of ours, we can easily forget to look out not only for our own interest but also the interest of others. We need to pay attention to the things we need to do. We have to go to work, pay bills, pick the kids up from school, etc. We even need that leisure time we all keep hearing about. These things must get done and that is ok but we have to remember that other people are doing it too and I think that is how we remember to look out for others.  

If we remember that other people are also doing the same thing we are, if others are striving for the same things we are, if we remember that other people are annoyed with the check line length then we can remember to look out for their interest as well. When we keep people as a priority, we can look out for them.

I ride a motorcycle and I love the bumper stickers that say lookout for motorcycles. What I love even more is when people look out for my motorcycle. The idea is nice, but I much prefer the action of people looking out for me. When can notice people and that is great but if we do not act on that then we are not really doing anything. So how do we make people a priority and look out for their interests as well as our own?

I think really it is a culmination of a lot of little things. Saying hi to the cashier, smiling at someone, letting someone merge into traffic, letting someone with one item go in front of you at the store, not yelling at other drivers, and so on. If in the little things, we slow down and look out for the people around us then we start to do something amazing. We have to be intentional because by nature we are selfish. Human nature prioritizes self-preservation and self-focus. That is just one of a thousand reasons we need Jesus to save and sanctify us. And looking out for the interest of others is part of the sanctification process, the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in us conforming us to the image of Christ. That is why right after Paul writes this he jumps into Christ’s humility and exaltation. It is part of a larger process.

These little actions start to build into something larger, they start to accumulate in you. If we do ten little random things a day for other people to look out for them it might not make a huge difference in those ten people, but it does make a huge difference in you.

At some time or another many of us have thought about what we do if we won the lottery. Maybe we think about the charities we would give to, the family and friends we would help, the cars we would buy (let’s be honest). We think about what we would do with all that money, but what can we do with the time we have today? What can we do with the money we have in our wallets? It is great to dream but it is better to act. We have the opportunity every day to do something for someone, to look out for the interest of someone else but it starts with making people a priority.

Here is what I propose as you go through your day today notice someone else who is going through their day and imagine what it would be like if someone made you a priority at that moment. How would it change your day, hour, or ten minutes if someone looked out for your interest and then try to do that thing? If you do this it might help them but it will definitely help you become more like Christ as you walk out your faith.

Just a thought,

Mike

Sowing and Reaping – Six Month Challenge

Video Version can be found here

I think in general we all want something more or different out of life. It might not be huge changes or monumental differences but there is probably some change you want in your life. There is a good chance that somethings in your life need to change. I am not talking about things you just need to learn to be content with, I am talking about when things need to change. Serious things like losing weight, saving money, getting a good job, building healthy relationships, and so on. Important things in life that you should want to be changed. Because we can all have areas and things that need to change, I want to give you two tools from the Bible that will help you do this but first a word about time.

Time is going to move forward whether we like it or not. Time moves regardless of personal desire or preference. Time moves forward. I am going to say something that right now does not sound profound or all that clever but in six months it will be six months from now. I know what you are thinking “well duh.” But think about that for a second, what if six months ago you decided to make a change. What if six months ago you decided you wanted to lose weight? By now you might have hit your target. What if six months ago you decided you wanted a better relationship with your spouse? By now you would have a better relationship. What if six months ago you decided you wanted to be in a better job? Chances are by now; you would have that job. Six months is going to go by whether we like it or not. But what does six months have to do with changing your life?

We think about changing our lives but what if instead, we thought about changing the next six months? What if instead of focusing on something so monumental as changing our life we thought about being in a different place in six months? Would that help? Would that make a difference? Would it do anything? I say yes, yes it would because six months is manageable, and six months is attainable. Six months is something we can see. Six months is something that can grow. I am going to give you two tools from the Bible that can help you change the next six months. Also, I should note that these two things are really two pieces of the same tool.

The first is that you reap what you sow (Gal 6:7). This is sometimes thought about in a negative sense. You find yourself in trouble and someone says “well, you reap what you sow.” They mean you got what you deserve, and this is partially true. Sometimes this is used when talking about finances. We talk about sowing and reaping in church and we are talking about giving and receiving. This is also partially true. However, the bigger principle is that you get out what you put in. If you sow (plant) corn you get corn. The thing is sowing (planting) takes time. You don’t just plant some corn and boom you get a harvest. Corn takes between 60 and 100 days to grow so you need to plant, water, and wait. You need to plant, nourish the thing planted, and wait.

If we pick weight loss for example, then we need to do things now that will help us achieve our goal later. The weight loss is the goal or the fruit, but the planting is what we do beforehand. we change our eating habits, we exercise, we do what it takes now to see the fruit later. If we want a better relationship with our child or children in six months, we need to start planting different things now to reap better things later. We will get in what we put out. If you keep eating Oreos (I love Oreos) you get an Oreo body. If you keep ignoring your children, you get children who don’t want to spend time with you. You get out what you put in. Change what you put in the ground now and you will get something different in six months.

The second tool is that things reproduce after their own kind (Gen 1:11). God has designed the world that things reproduce after their own kind. Again, corn kernels make corn stocks. Humans reproduce and make little humans (babies). Dogs make dogs. Peace makes peace. Laughter makes laughter. Things reproduce after their own kind. So not only do we get out what we put in but what we get out reproduces and makes more of the same. If we make changes now to see different results in six months, then in six months we have something new that will reproduce after its own kind. The small seeds we plant now to make changes start to compound and reproduce after their own kind.

If we decided that in six months, we want a better job and we planted the seed for a better job (change in work ethics, determination, applying, studying) then we not only end up with a better job we are different as a person with different habits, motivations, and goals. Those things reproduce after their own kind and a new system has been created that creates other changes as well. If you want a better relationship with your kids and you put in the work to make that happen then your kids will more than likely also have a better relationship with their kids. Things will reproduce after their own kind but first, we must plant the right seed.

This can all happen in six months. Whether we like it or not six months is going to go by. In six months from today, it will be September 8th, 2021. It does not matter if you want it to be something different you don’t get a choice. What we do get to decide is what will be different in six months. What will be different for a lifetime after that?

Just a thought,

Mike