Give it all

James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; “for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

Some have so much and give so little of it. Some have so little, yet give it all.

Guided by the eye or turned by the bridle

James 1:26 says that a man’s religion is useless unless he bridles his tongue. Religion is here defined as the ceremonial and external aspects of religion. However, the bridle is not God’s preferred way.

Psalm 32:8-9 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near yet.

The horse and mule are very good workers. They handle heavy burdens and get much done. But when the master wants to direct them in a certain way, he has to pull on the bridle so they know what to do. They cannot be guided by the eye for they are undiscerning and unresponsive to that.   And so the master remains out of their sight, utilizing the only method they will respond to – the pull of the reins from behind them. This is a picture of the religious man. He is busy with many spiritual looking things. He is such a hard worker, getting so much done. But for the master to get his attention and change his direction, he must be turned by the bridle.   He is much too busy to stop and wait to be guided by the eye. The spiritual man however, is busied with this one thing – gazing upon the master, not moving until he perceives that the master is directing him. Although this man may seem to be slothful when his activities are set alongside the feverish pace of the religious man, the things he does, having been uniquely directed by the master’s desire, are highly profitable.

You get to choose if you will be guided by the eye or turned by the bridle.

Don’t wait until it’s too late

I have a friend whose best friend was murdered this week.  She was only 48. My friend’s sorrow is compounded by the feeling that she left things unsaid and undone.  I’ve been thinking about that and I’m sure that if I happened to lose someone close to me unexpectedly, I would have the same response.  It makes me want to do things differently.  I was reminded about something I shared on here a few years ago.  It seems applicable now:

Several years ago I met a homeless man named Ricky. I see him almost every weekend on Third Street and he always comes over to chat. He has come to church with me several times and whenever he meets somebody that he thinks I can help, he will call me. It has been an unexpected friendship. One Friday night a couple of months ago I saw Ricky on Third Street and as usual he came over to visit for a while. And just out of the blue he began to share some kind words about how our friendship had affected his life. I didn’t really know what to say in response so I just stood there for a few moments in silence. He said “when people die, their friends and family will have flowers sent to the funeral home. The flowers will be laid on top of their grave but that person will never experience any enjoyment from those flowers. I wanted to give you a flower now.”

I think about these words often….and about how easy it is to leave things unsaid, sometimes until it is too late to say them. Don’t wait…..give out some flowers today.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God. (1 John 4:7)

We don’t understand the whole plan

Matthew 17:22-23 Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.

To their minds it would have seemed better for Jesus to stay among them. So many were being healed and set free. The truths of the kingdom were being preached to hungry souls. Twenty or thirty more years of this kind of ministry from Jesus would have made such a difference in Israel and the surrounding regions. The thought of Him being taken away was exceedingly grievous to them and seemed like the dashing of their hopes and dreams for the kingship of Jesus. But they didn’t understand that the plan of God was far more than Jesus reigning over a nation — He was to reign over ALL the nations and that could only be accomplished through his death and resurrection. The power to preach and bring healing and deliverance was to be an indwelling reality in multitudes who could take this blessing to the farthest corners of the earth, but the Spirit of God couldn’t come and abide where the blood had not cleansed. Had they understood at that time the scope of what was about to be accomplished, their sorrow would have been overshadowed by hope.

In the same way, we find ourselves in places of discouragement when our life isn’t going as expected. The plans we had for life, family and ministry didn’t go as planned and we look upon our lives as though all that remains is to sorrowfully endure until it’s time to go to heaven. But what if your greatest disappointment is just the precursor to your greatest opportunity? What if today’s rejection ushers you into a greater walk with God, the fruits of which affect the lives of those around you? What if today’s sorrow is about to be swallowed up in tomorrow’s overpowering joy?

The plan of God almost inevitably involves suffering. But it doesn’t end there. His plan is bigger and better than you have even imagined. Today, let your sorrow be overwhelmed by hope.


You have saved our lives

Genesis 47:23-25 Then Joseph said to the people, “Indeed I have bought you and your land this day for Pharaoh. Look, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. “And it shall come to pass in the harvest that you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh. Four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and for your food, for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” So they said, “You have saved our lives; let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.”

The people of Egypt were well into the seven year famine and had already given all they possessed to buy food from Pharaoh. Left with nothing else, they sold their land and themselves to him as well that they might have food to sustain them through the remainder of the famine. They are given seed to sow in the land and they are allowed to work the land and keep 4/5th of the produce. Pharaoh required 1/5th for himself. And they were happy to give it, acknowledging “you have saved our lives”. They didn’t grumble over the 1/5 that they had to give to Pharaoh. If he hadn’t intervened in their lives they would have 0/5ths.

It reminds me of this passage in the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

Just like Joseph, the Lord gives seed to the sower and bread for food. And that seed, which He multiplies, is that we may be a people of liberality, generously giving of the increase that God provides, because He has saved our lives.

Must we consider our giving an obligation that we perform grudgingly lest the Lord be angry and our 9/10ths be cursed? Do we really believe God is honored when we give out of fear of what He will do to us if we don’t give? Oh beloved, our very lives and souls have been saved from a fate worse than famine. Let us be the servants of God, acknowledging in the liberality of our giving that all we have indeed is His.

The Prepared Heart

2 Chronicles 12:14 And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD.

Prepare (H3559) – to establish, make firm, make ready, set up, to fix, provide for, to direct toward, arrange

The prepared heart is our defense against entropy. If our heart is not fixed and made firm and directed towards seeking the Lord and our life is not ordered and arranged to make this a priority, it will not happen.

Every morning when I get up I take my thyroid medicine. I know that it provides something that I don’t naturally produce enough of, it is for the benefit of my health, and I have experienced the downgrade in my overall well-being when I don’t take it for a period of time.  I have it in a prominent place on my kitchen table and I have a routine that I follow.  I have learned the importance of making sure that I do this every day by the consequences I experience when I don’t.

I have learned this in my spiritual life as well.

If the heart isn’t fixed to seek the Lord, the Lord will not be sought. Ten thousand things an hour will scream for urgent attention, the tasks of the day will demand our focusing upon them, and the fatigue of our body will cry out for the pillow…thus days, weeks, and years go by spent in pursuits that have no eternal consequence.

The heart must be made firm, determined, that Jesus has preeminence in the life AND in the time, for this will need to be defended frequently from the cares of this life that will attempt to encroach upon it.

Is it possible that the heart is not made firm in these things because the benefit (and the absolute spiritual necessity) isn’t realized?  Oh God, help us to see how much we need You!