Christianity 201

January 24, 2016

Ministry out of the Overflow

Luke 6:45b

The inner self overflows with words that are spoken. (CEB)

The things people say come from inside them. (GNT)

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (GW)

Matthew 12:34b

For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (NLT)

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (NRSV)

I’ve felt that I covered this theme before, but when I went to find it here, I couldn’t locate it. It’s a theme that turns up just about every week in my conversations with people about sharing their faith and passion for Christ, His church, the Bible, and so many other aspects of Christian living. That’s probably why I felt it was recorded here.

This week at Willow Creek, Bill Hybels shared several verses of scripture that are key for him and teaching pastor Steve Carter. Steve’s verse is Jeremiah 20:9

But if I say, “I will not mention his word
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.

Eugene Peterson renders this in The Message:

But if I say, “Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!” The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in. I can’t do it any longer!

The NIV Study Bible notes that this one verse indicates two seemingly contradictory inclinations: a prophetic reluctance that is overcome by a divine compulsion.

Amos 3:8b reiterates this:

The Eternal Lord has been heard; His prophets can’t help but prophesy. (The Voice)

We see this also in Acts 4:20

As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (NIV)

And Paul reiterates this in 1 Cor. 9:16

Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!

I like the CEB on this:

…I’m in trouble if I don’t preach the gospel.

Many years ago I attended a church where it was common for people to stand up and give messages (prophecy, teaching, knowledge, wisdom, etc.) spontaneously. As a person who is always thinking, always pondering the scriptures, I once asked a friend, “How do you know that this is something you’re supposed to stand up and speak out loud to everyone?”

He — and notice it was a guy not a woman — said, “It’s like you’re pregnant with it. It has to come out. It has to be delivered. It has to be shared.”

Later, I began to hear people speak about ministry which comes out of the overflow of the heart. There is simply so much contained inside that it spills outside.

This reminded me of another analogy — this one I might have used before — of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. If you open the top of a can of soda pop, you can look inside and say that it’s filled. The contents fill the entire can. There is no room for any more.

But what it means to be filled changes if you put your thumb over the opening and then shake up the contents. What was filled spills out. It overflows.

So it is with our verbal proclamation. Whether evangelism, encouragement, or even rebuke, it has to come from somewhere. There needs to have been some point where content was poured into our lives. But then, when shaken, the contents overflow.

Matthew Henry says of the Amos passage:

They [the prophets] are so full of those things themselves, so well assured concerning them, and so much affected with them, that they cannot but speak of them; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak.

Their prophetic reluctance is overcome…

…And Bill Hybels’ own similar verse of scripture? 1 Cor. 15:58, with which we close today:

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (NIV)

 

January 23, 2016

Your Money Leads; Your Heart Follows

Today we pay a return visit to the blog Feeding the Soul which is part of an English and Spanish organization, BBG Ministry. The title below — click to read at source — may seem a bit hardline, but the analogy below is one I hadn’t considered before.

God wants your heart. Therefore, he demands your money.

Jesus gives us these simple instructions concerning money and possessions:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

He commands us not to store up money here on Earth, but instead to invest that money into heaven—into the Kingdom of God. Why is it so important to put your money into the Kingdom? Jesus explains:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

It is impossible to overlook the importance of that verse. Wherever your treasure is, that determines where your heart will be. Your money leads; your heart follows. Knowing this, Jesus commands us to put our money into eternal things. Why? So that our heart will be into eternal things.

Jesus on Money and WealthFor example, say you invest money into a company’s stock. Previously, you didn’t really care about that company, and you didn’t bother to read news articles about them. Now, however, you’re scouring the newspaper for any articles that even remotely relate to that company, you check their stock price daily, and you religiously read their earnings reports. What caused such a change? Your money went into the company and with it your heart.

This principle—where your money goes, your heart follows—is illustrated very well in Mark 10:17-22, which records the story of a rich young man who came to Jesus asking how to be saved. He had done everything right and followed all the laws and commandments, but, according to Jesus, there was “one thing” he lacked:

“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

The man had great wealth, but really his wealth had him—it owned and controlled him. Jesus wanted the man’s heart, and so Jesus demanded his money. Jesus knew that the man could never follow Him if his heart was more attached to his possessions than to God.

The man’s face fell, and he went away sad because his heart was too attached to his possessions. His money was invested in his own possessions, and therefore his heart was invested in his own possessions. However, Jesus wanted to break that bondage, so he commanded the man to give away all of his possessions to others. By giving his money to help the poor and the needy, Jesus knew that the man’s heart would be transformed into serving others, and in so doing he would come identify with and follow Christ.

Do you want your heart to be full of love for others? Give to them, and bless them with your money. Then your heart will follow.

If you want a heart for God, invest your money in building the Kingdom of God. Then your heart will follow. If you want a heart for the poor and the needy of the world, use your money to fight global poverty and hunger. Then your heart will follow. If you want a heart for global missions, support missionaries in Africa, Asia, and the rest of the world. Then your heart will follow. Wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be.

December 10, 2015

Seeing Ourselves Through God’s Eyes

Two years ago I wrote that the Christian blogosphere is often dominated by American writers, so I was excited to mix things up and introduce you to Enoch Anti from Ghana. Today I returned to a recent post at his blog, Truth Publication. You can encourage him by clicking the title below to read this at source:

Eye is the Lamp - Michael NoyesSeeing Through The Lenses Of The Bible

I recently visited an optician for a routine check-up. As I sat to read the vision test chart, the poor state of my eyesight became evident. The diagnosis: nearsightedness. The solution: corrective lenses. So now I wear glasses.

Drawing an analogy, the Word of God is like corrective lens. It aids the believer with an accurate view of life and of themselves. The Word of God delineates the worldview of the believer and of humanity. It is in the Bible we are made conscious of our depravity. In the Bible we appreciate we have offended and continue to offend a Holy God. Humanity, without faith in Christ, is sinful and alienated from God; dead in sin. In the Bible we are told what we have done wrong and what we need to do to restore our relationship with a Holy God (Genesis 3, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 1:12-13, 3:16,Romans 3:23).

The whole theme of the Bible is about God’s plan to restore fallen sinners unto Himself. Under the lenses of the Bible, we see well: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”(Psalm 119:105). In an age of self-obsession and numerous self-help strategies, which only deals with the superficial, the Word of God comes as the only trustworthy source of diagnosis of our fallen human condition. Hebrews 4:12-13 gives a proper description of the ability of God’s word to reveal our true self to us.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

When I was growing up, I knew of only the x-ray machine as the only machine that can “look” into the human body. There might have been more. But in my small world, it was the x-ray machine. Today, medical science with sophisticated machines can pick up any ailment hidden anywhere in the body. Apart from medical sciences, there are other equally sophisticated scanning devices in other fields that can pick their targets even through opaque objects.

We are advancing in technology and knowledge. However, these advancements have limitations. You can’t use an MRI scan to detect the sicknesses of our spiritual being. In Jeremiah 17:9, God through the prophet, testifies about the condition of the human heart. This is not referring to the organ that pumps blood and sustains our physical life. He is talking about the state of our whole being. He says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” No machine, notwithstanding of degree of sophistication can detect the evil and wickedness wedged in our hearts. Only God’s word can. Not leaving us in utter despair of our state, at the very place where God describes the depravity of our hearts, He went on to further tell us, what He alone can do.

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.(Jer 17:10).

That is humbling. The dispositions of our hearts are laid bare before Him. Nowhere to run for cover.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.(Ps 139:1-6).

The Psalmist here awes about God’s omniscience: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Nothing, not even our own self can do an accurate diagnosis of the state of our hearts than God can. Through His word, He meticulously searches and reveals the true state of our hearts. Like corrective lenses, the Word leads us in the path of righteousness (Psalm 23:3). God’s Word convicts us, it reproofs, corrects, and trains us in righteousness (2Tim 3:16). God through His Word renews and transform us (Rom 12:1-2). He washes and sanctifies us by His word (John 17:17). Jesus said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”(Matthew 4:4).

The Word of God is a lens that will not distort our worldview if faithfully studied, applied and obeyed.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you(Ps. 119:11).


I thought today’s graphic would fit, but I was hoping for the verse, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” done as an eye chart! If anyone is graphic arts inclined and wants to do one, we’ll post it.