Christianity 201

August 18, 2017

Expecting a Minimal Response from God

I’ve mentioned before that the only devotional I actually subscribe to is Breakfast of Champions, from the ministry Great Big Life. The devotionals are now being credited to both Andy and Gina Elmes. Here’s one from about a week ago:

Are you expecting abundance from God, or just enough?

Do you know today, Champion, that your God is a God of abundance? And all of His plans and intentions toward you are always plans and intentions of abundance, not ‘just enough’.

Here are some verses to think on today; they all reveal to us God’s abundant intentions towards us for different areas of our lives.

1. The measurement of His saving grace (unmerited favour)

Romans 5:17 (NKJV)
For if by the one man’s offence death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Notice that it is abundance, not ‘just enough’. It’s when you understand this truth, and also that you have been made perfectly righteous through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, that you will reign in life as promised!

2. His provision in our lives – again, notice it does not say ‘just enough’!

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

  • All grace (not some)
  • All sufficiency (not some)
  • All things (not some)

3. The quality of new life He has for us in Christ.

John 10:10 (NKJV)
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (in abundance).

4. The giving of His Spirit, to transform us into all we are called to be.

Titus 3:5-6 (NKJV)
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Good news: His ability matches His intentions. God is not just wanting to do abundantly for us in these areas of life and so many more, He is able too! He is the God who is able to and wants to do abundantly in your life, so start expecting abundance. Sadly, some of those damaging doctrines of religion made by men have left us all for too long expecting nothing or very little from God. It’s time to bring our thinking into alignment with His word and truth – God wants to do abundantly for you so make room in your life for it!

Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.

Stop expecting a bit, Champion, and start thanking Him for abundance!


Learn more about the UK ministry Great Big Life. Click this link to have it delivered to your inbox each weekday.

May 20, 2016

Giving With All You Have

ESV Acts 20:34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.

Today it was my intention to introduce the ministry of Mustard Seed Associates and the website Godspace, but at the last minute I discovered we had shared their ministry with you previously, back in June, 2012. Click the title below to read this at source, and then take some time to look around the blog.

Alms….and legs, feet, hands and eyes

Christian generosityBy Rowan Wyatt

Acts 20: 34-36

As you walk through the shopping area in the center of Tunbridge Wells, on any given day, you run the gauntlet of being pounced on and harangued for money, often quite aggressively, by people who are being paid by charities to sign you up for direct debits for their already very rich charities. You can always tell the charities that can’t afford to pay people to hassle you for money, as the volunteers collecting are patiently waiting, greeting each clinking of coins with a grateful smile, whereas the paid collectors hassle and are aggressive, and don’t care about the charity.

When Keren and I were hit by some financial hardship recently we were determined to continue, as much as we could, to give our money to the charities and organizations we support. We had to cut funding to some, and as we sank deeper into hardship we had to cut even more. I have never felt more upset than I did then, to write to people and say “I can’t give anymore”. We have a girl, Mekdes, that we sponsor in Ethiopia through Compassion UK. We have supported her for many years and we decided that no matter what we would always ensure we could pay for her, I am pleased to say we have never once failed to provide our sponsorship money for her.

Giving is a gift that God has given us. Some may scratch their heads at that, how can us giving our money away be a gift from God. But it is and it’s not just a simple act of contrition to make you feel better about yourself, it is a real way of blessing people and being blessed in the process. I can’t get to Ethiopia to see Mekdes but I know that thanks to our small act of giving each month, she receives clothing, food and education. It is a way of touching someone’s soul, connecting with love, not because you have to, or it’s the right thing to do but because LOVE has moved you to do it. It is a gift to us to know that thanks to our giving Mekdes has a better chance in life, and with the thousands of others who also sponsor children through Compassion, others get that blessing too.

Giving is not just an offering to help those in need it is also an offering to God. It is pleasing to God, he wants us to give and finds joy and love in that act, He delights in us when we give gladly. Look at Mark 12: 41-44 to see Jesus’ viewpoint. The large sums being offered didn’t interest him, he was only concerned with the heart of the giver, the poor widow who had naught to give but gave anyway, with a willing and joyful heart. Because she loved God, and through that act God blessed her, what a precious gift.

The title of this article may seem a bit flippant, but I really mean it. Give with your all, your whole body and soul. If you don’t have finance to give, then give in kind with your time. Physically serve, use your hands and feet, helping people or working for free doing some part-time admin. All is a gift from your heart which blesses others and yourself.

Who do you give to? Follow your heart, let God speak to you. Ask him where you can direct your help and allow him to guide you in what charities/organizations you should donate your money or time to. There are charities that I wouldn’t give a penny to and others I wish I could give more to. It isn’t possible to help all of them, no matter how hard you try, so follow your heart. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. A few days ago I was out and I saw a homeless girl, huddled with her dog in a doorway. I can’t put her up or give her a home. I can’t give her a job or an income but what I could do was remember that poor widow and give what I had to give. I didn’t look to see what I gave, I just gave all the cash I had, patted the dog and walked on. God used me to bless that girl and blessed me at the same time.

You often hear nowadays of compassion fatigue. I don’t think people are tired of being compassionate or giving money to charity, I do feel they are tired of the aggressive tactics being used in the streets, or seeing the managers of these charities driving around in very expensive company cars and living in big houses on large salaries, all paid for by the donors. Look at who you give to and pray about it. Let God guide you and when he makes it clear, give joyfully and as abundantly as you can, just as God has.

 

For starters please take your time to look at these few wonderful organizations. Thank you.

 

Compassion UK Compassion UK

Compassion USA Compassion International

Compassion Canada Compassion Canada

 

August 7, 2014

Even in the Wilderness, God Provides

Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.
 Psalm 37:25 NLT

Today we look at a few pages from Futureville: Discovering Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow by author Syke Jethani (Thomas Nelson, paperback). The book uses the 1939 New York World’s Fair as an object lesson giving us a glimpse of God’s world for tomorrow.

Futureville - Skye JethaniIn contrast to the gated kingdoms of the world driven by the fear of scarcity, the kingdom of God is marked by the faith of abundance. Its gates are never shut.  When the Lord led his people out of Egypt into the wilderness the people feared not having enough food and water, but each day God provided what they needed.  Quail fell over the camp every evening for meat, and bread from heaven covered the ground every morning.  God’s people always had enough.  Those who tried to hoard the manna discovered that whatever they kept from the previous day rotted overnight.  Unlike the kings of the world who are driven by fear to hoard and acquire, the Lord was teaching his people the truth that control is an illusion, and rather than seeking control they were to surrender in faith and trust in his abundant provision each day.  Faith rather than fear marks his kingdom.

We see this quality of Futureville in Jesus’ ministry.  On numerous occasions those gathered to hear him did not have enough to eat. Giving thanks to God, Jesus took a few fish and loaves of bread and fed thousands.  Not only was there always enough, but the disciples managed to gather an abundance of leftovers.  These miraculous feedings were signs that the kingdom of God had arrived, that scarcity would be no more, and that Futureville had broken into the world with Jesus.  The gate to the garden of abundance has been opened again.

Centuries earlier Isaiah had prophesied that abundance would accompany the Messiah’s coming:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
(Isaiah 55:1)

John echoes Isaiah’s words when concluding his description of the garden city: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

The message of Scripture is unwavering – with God there is always enough.  Where he reigns we never have to fear scarcity.  We do not have to retreat in fear behind a locked gate or scramble to get as much as we can before the market tumbles.  In his kingdom of abundance the gates are never shut; bubbles never form or burst…    (pp 159-161)

 

For only $1.99 per month, you can wake up to a morning devotion with Skye Jethani on your smart phone.  Click here for details.

To read my review of the book at Thinking Out Loud, click here.

April 2, 2013

In God’s Kingdom There Is No Scarcity

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This 2011 post appeared at RealMealMinistries.org under the title A Table of Abundance.

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Don’t miss the power of this familiar story. Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes is one of his best-known miracles. To some it sounds too far fetched to be credible in any literal way. To others it is too familiar to listen to again carefully. But in its audacity we will find an abundance and a potent message.

In God’s Kingdom there is no scarcity. There is no need for force or violence. There is no effort required. We simply come to dine at a table set up in an oasis in the wilderness of our life’s journey. We don’t even have to serve ourselves. The Risen Jesus comes to serve us the real meal that we’ve desired all of our lives. All that we must do is come hungry and eat to our heart’s fill. As we walk from this table, we are invited to return and bring others with us. There will always be enough for us all.

Do you believe this? Or are you caught up in the scarcity of the world around you? As our world continues to meander forward waiting for the end of the seeming never-ending economic difficulties, we have grown accustomed to belt-tightening and living with less. Real estate markets continue to teeter. Families struggle. Jobs are tough to find. Workers toil harder for less. More and more people fear that the future will not be better than the past. It is a temptation to believe that scarcity defines our lives. This would be a mistake. Let us engage Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 with fresh eyes and find renewed hope.

A People Looking For Abundance

Our text finds Jesus in the company of a great multitude. The crowds have gathered precisely because in Jesus they have experienced something alien to their normal existence—powerful signs from God and authoritative teaching that offers more than the typical fare received from the religious leadership of the day. In Jesus they recognize one in whom they can find a real meal of substance and true sustenance for the journey of life. Later in the Gospel, Jesus will say, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The gospels consistently present Jesus as the One sent from God for those who are desperate for that which only God can grant. Already in John’s Gospel, Jesus has transformed the life of a Samaritan woman and a healed man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Following on the heels of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, these actions served as signs to the dawn of a new era of God’s work in the world. In response, the crowds gather around Jesus hoping to see the abundance of God’s salvation. They will not be disappointed. Significantly, the time to celebrate Passover was near. God’s people would be remembering God’s mighty deliverance of his people from Egypt. This action was the decisive saving event in the Old Testament. The Exodus demonstrated God’s love, mercy, and power. In Jesus’ day God’s people celebrated the Passover in remembrance of the original Exodus and in the hope and anticipation that God would again act to bring renewed hope, peace, justice, and good in the present. The stage is set. In this season of anticipation and remembrance, Jesus stands ready to reveal a new outpouring of God’s salvation.

But our text reveals much more than Jesus’ readiness to perform a sign during a key season. It also demonstrates his willingness. Close to 5000 people have followed Jesus to a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. They have gathered in expectation of more signs. But Jesus is going to do more than merely heal the sick among them. He was to touch personally each life before him. There has been no request for food but Jesus demonstrates God’s care for all and the truth that God knows what we need before we even ask. Just as God fed the Israelites in the Wilderness after they had been delivered from Egypt now Jesus stands poised to offer not simply bread for the day but bread for all eternity to those who have gathered.

Expanding the Imagination of His Closest Followers
After seeing the large crowd Jesus calls together his closest followers. He inquires about purchasing bread for them to eat. Our text calls this a test. As usual, the disciples are clueless and experience an epic fail. Philip comments that a half year’s pay wouldn’t be enough. Andrew, probably with sarcasm, observes a small boy with five loaves and a couple of fish and adds wryly, “But what are they among so many people?”

This cuts to the root of the problem. Jesus sees and offers possibility but too often his followers are blind to all but scarcity. Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.” The disciples have already witnessed Jesus turning water to wine. They watched him cleanse the temple. They heard him reveal truth to Nicodemus. They observed him transforming the Samaritan woman from a confused person with a compromised life to a transformed witness to God’s truth. They had just seen him heal a man who had lived in bondage to an illness for 38 years.

Let’s ponder some even deeper truths revealed in John’s Gospel: Jesus has come to make God known. He has come to offer abundant life. He has come to show the way to the Father. If these mysteries are within our grasp through the mission of Jesus, how can the feeding of a multitude present any real problem?

This story invites us to expand our ability to trust and rely on God for answers to the biggest struggles in our lives. His first disciples ultimately learned this truth and gave their energies and talents to proclaim the good news to the known world of their day.

A Theology of Enough
Five loaves and two fish may have seemed only enough to feed a small boy. But Jesus knew differently. In the hands of the Son of God, these rations would be plenty for all. Jesus performs a miracle in order to proclaim the abundance that is found in God.

Many of us know Psalm 23 from its frequent use. Reflect on some of its lines: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…my cup overflows…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of our life….” In feeding the 5000, Jesus tangibly demonstrates the truth of these words. Jesus embodies all that it means for God to act as a shepherd. Jesus has the crowd sit down in the grass. Jesus himself takes the food, gives thanks to God, and distributes the meal personally to each person.

Jesus offers the crowd no mere snack. It is a feast. Each receives as much as each one desires. All ate until their appetites were satisfied. But there is more. Jesus didn’t merely feed 5000 with a few loaves of bread and fish. He has enough for the world. He is the true bread of life. Later in John 6, he will exclaim, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” The disciples gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers. This number represents the totality of God’s children. As there were twelve tribes of God’s people, there are twelve baskets of food. With God, there is always an abundance. God’s working of a miracle for one group of people in no way limits God’s ability to touch others. There is enough!

In response, the crowd recognizes Jesus as a prophet who has come into the world. Indeed he is and so much more. As the bread of life, he will give his own life and be raised anew in order to offer us an even greater abundance—a transformed life and reality.

A Warning to the Crowds
Our text ends with a warning. We cannot force the hand of God. The response of the crowds to the abundant feast was to attempt to make Jesus king by force. Violence and human scheming are not the pathways to abundance. Let’s be clear: abundance is the will of God. But it cannot be taken—it can only be received. It cannot be hoarded—it must be shared. It cannot be purchased—it is free. There is no scarcity in God’s kingdom—there is always plenty.

The abundance offered by Jesus is the answer, but it begs us to ask this question: How hungry are we? Jesus offers us a feast. There is enough. Come and eat to your fill. Once we’ve eaten let us go forth into the world, live the abundant life that Jesus empowers us to embrace and embody, and serve as witnesses to God’s goodness.