Money and material things can be a terrible temptation - unless faith has established a very strong commitment to integrity and a solid desire to accept ONLY what God provides in a righteous way.
Abram made it clear to the king of Sodom that his offer to “take the goods for yourself” was not acceptable to him (Genesis 14:21). Abram did not need to be enriched by anyone in this world. Notice in the following statement how Abram points to where his resources come from.
“But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’” (14:22–23). Can we say the same?
It is a challenge for us to honestly examine where we expect gifts to come from. It is so sad to watch prominent individuals build ministries that revolve around money, yet Abram, a man of faith, would not allow anyone to enrich him with even a “a thread or a sandal strap or anything” that would cause the world to take credit for what God had given him. (See James 1:16-17).
There are times in this ministry that require us to share our gratitude to those who pray for us, those who support us, and those who are genuinely interested in what God is doing around the world. In recent blogs we shared the wonder of God’s work in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Zambia, Africa. Now we bring good news regarding Kenya.
Near the end of May we completed the translation and format of God’s Plan for His Disciples into Kiswahili. The training resource sparked a growing interest to train pastors and church leaders with our next book, God’s Plan for His Church. We learned last week that they arranged training for the first week of July. That meant we only had four days to format this book and prepare it for printing by the middle of this week. With the Lord’s help it was finished and sent off to our contact in Kenya today.
It is hard for us in America to grasp the spiritual hunger for God’s Word and truth that we see in countries like this. They remind me again of the Berean church who “received the Word with all eagerness” (Acts 17:11). We use no gimmicks, arm twisting, or pleading to get persons to study Scripture. It has been the Holy Spirit working ahead of us to inspire this hunger in those we serve.
Will you pray with us that this same passionate desire will happen right here in America?
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Part of developing authentic character is continually allowing God to cleanse our hearts. Having favor with God (blessed) comes from inviting Him to examine our motives that reside in the inner person so that any impurities can be quickly removed. They are usually hidden from the eyes of other people, but never from the eyes of God.
David was a man who invited God to take inventory of his inner being. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24).
The “searching” David wanted God to do was like exploratory surgery. If God were to find some hidden sin or character flaw, David gave God permission to remove it. The “try me” part of this process was allowing God to put him through a divine test and David was not placing any limits on what God might do to examine his life. David’s goal was to be led in a way that was eternal.
Are we that open to God’s examination? Do we want a pure heart enough that we are willing for God to put us in His MRI or CT Scan machine?
“Authentic ministry is not for the fainthearted or the phony. There is no promise of a life of ease and fame and all the trappings of corporate perks with open-ended accounts and kid-glove treatment. Some who minister in many parts of the world, the drill in downright harsh. It would include persecution, imprisonment, intense mistreatment, torture, even death. Put bluntly, authentic ministry often has a jagged edge.” (A Man of Grace and Grit - Paul, Charles R. Swindoll, Thomas Nelson, 2002, page 137.
Paul was a man of authentic character and endured more than most. “Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).
Our challenge is making sure we are not phonies which takes away from being effective in ministry - the Lord’s work. How are you doing?
After posting the blog yesterday about causing “little ones…to sin (stumble),” I began to think about how we treat other adults in the body of Christ. While Paul was addressing issues that were a carry over from Jewish law such as eating certain foods, he made a general statement that we must pay attention to.
“Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13). We might pass over this as something that is not common in the Church, but I would disagree. If we were to take the time to analyze how often we make some personal or church habit or tradition an “absolute” that we require of others when Scripture does not, we would be shocked.
Consideration for the spiritual growth and maturity of believers is an “absolute” which means that we do not insist on our liberty or way of doing things IF that particular thing or way of doing it would hinder, discourage or “stumble” a brother or sister.
Thirty times in Paul’s letters he uses some form of the phase “build up” in reference to others in the Church. This exhortation is not intended to in any way weaken the “truth” in God’s Word, but present truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) with the goal of maturing together.
Much of our casual attitude toward sin in ourselves and others is because we have not considered sin from God’s point of view. The Bible is full of examples of how God deals with sin and those who commit it, but there is one example Jesus gives that makes His feelings very clear.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin (stumble), it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). The two factors in this example are, a child and one who believes in Jesus.
Taking these two factors in reverse order, we see that a child who believes in Jesus is divine property. Causing them to sin is tampering with God’s children. Children do not have the spiritual maturity or experience to resist sin as an older more mature Christian would have. This places a heavy responsibility on others to keep temptations out of their sight. Such temptations are many and we adults need to be very careful and watchful.
The other factor is that they are children, “little ones.” Only Jesus truly knows how vulnerable they are. They were always safe in His presence and His touch was one of blessing - never harm. His warning comes to all who have anything to do with children to treat them with extra special care.
I wish this message was heeded by parents and everyone in churches, schools, and any organization that have any influence in the lives of “little ones!” When the disciples rebuked people for bringing children to Him, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (19:14).
The Lord took me to 2 Samuel 12 as I have wrestled with current issues. David sinned grievously against the Lord, Bathsheba, Uriah her husband, and all of Israel as their leader. Uriah is dead and Bathsheba is violated and in deep lament over the loss of her husband. Is there any hope for David?
God had His skilled prophet in Nathan who comes to David with an illustration that speaks directly to David’s shepherd heart. As a young man, David knew what it meant to protect his father’s defenseless sheep, even from a lion and bear. Stealing a “little ewe lamb” from a poor man brought David to the point of anger against the man who did this.
In essence, David spelled out his own conviction and sentence. “Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity”” (2 Samuel 12:5–6).
Nathan had skillfully drawn David into the trap that forced him to examine his own conscience and actions; “You are the man!” Notice the quality of David’s confession; “I have sinned against the Lord” (13). The depth of this confession and repentance brought a swift response; “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” That is complete and full forgiveness.
While I desire to have this kind of skill in spiritual care for others, I first want to have a tender heart toward the Lord, willing to receive His rebuke quickly. How about you?
Events of the last few days have caused me to think a little more deeply about where our motives are generated and how they become sinful actions that seriously harm ourselves and others.
It was not long after the Church was born that it faced unexpected challenges. One of those times was in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira lied about a piece of property they sold. Money was not the issue or problem. Peter gets to the core of the issue quickly; “Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your hearts?” (4).
The meaning of the word “contrived” is “to make up one’s mind or to engage in the process of making a decision.” The process completely leaves out any appeal to the Holy Spirit for direction or confirmation. It avoids searching the Scriptures for principles that would guide decisions.
Paul does not deny having a struggle doing what is God-honoring in Romans 7:13-25, but there was a powerful pull in his heart to do what was right. “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (7:22). We must ask ourselves, ‘do we have a personal commitment in our heart to “delight in the law of God”? If not, we will “contrive” plans that hide truth, deceive others and lie to God.
Remember the inner pain that David had because of his sin? “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away…Your hand was heavy upon me” (Psalm 32:3-4). If you feel the weight of God’s hand on you because of unconfessed sin, bring it out into the open quickly, repent and receive forgiveness.
There are moments in our walk with the Lord when we are forced to examine our motives and inner being. David comes to mind as a man who faced this question more than once. The first question I thought of is in Psalm 24 and relates to how we approach God and whether we can.
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully” (Psalm 24:3–4). Here it is not just what is going on inside us, but the things we do.
This raises another question as to whether we are honest with our self-examination. By nature, we are very self-protective which hinders us from being open and honest about our failures and weaknesses. When the conviction of the Holy Spirit is allowed to pry open our heart, we come to a point, as David did, and ask God to work.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). There is a refreshing transformation that takes place. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit” (51:12). Honesty and openness gives God the opportunity to change those features in us that need correcting so our joy is not from human effort but God’s presence.
Some things cross my path that make me stop and think more carefully about what is happening. People wonder why they are not able to effectuate change in others when they are trying to force that change through human means and not by bringing the Holy Spirit into the situation. The results are sadness, frustration, disappointment, and stagnation.
These thoughts drove me to John 7:37-39. “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
I want us to focus our attention on three things:
No more dryness. No more fruitless striving. No more frustration over no result from our work, but we watch the Spirit doing the work and join Him through His power and methods.
Link To Our Old Blog: