Archive for the “Sacrifice” Category

A few months ago our pastor preached about how we need to be “pickled” in the Lord –not just dipping a toe in the presence of the Lord, but being fully in it – spending long enough in it to be “pickled.”

Later in the day we went grocery shopping…and my husband had an unusual desire to buy…dill pickles! We bought them, only to find an unopened jar of them in the back of our fridge. Well, we opened this new jar and the pickles were gone in a week.

A few days later Phil and I were leading a Bible study and Phil started talking about pies. As he talked about pies to illustrate some point he was making, I began to think “pies. Yeah, that’d taste really good right now. We’ll have to buy a pie soon.” Well, we resisted the temptation to buy that pie, but God used it to make me aware of how strongly influenced I am by the suggestions and behaviors of others. Within a span of 4 days, hearing about pickles made us go out and buy a jar of pickles, and eat all of them and then hearing about pies made me crave pies.

And if it happens with pickles and pies, you know it can and does happen with other things. Being around people who complain a lot makes me more likely to complain. Being around people who are excited about and motivated to grow their business makes me likely to return to my office more enthusiastic than when I left it. Being around people who are eating a lot encourages me to eat more, while being around people who are being more careful about what they eat encourages me to be healthier in my eating habits. God is showing me how very suggestible I am. And I’m guessing you’re the same way.

Ephesians 5 has something to say about that:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
Ephesians 5:1 (NIV)

I’m to be an imitator of God, not those around me. It’s a good thing to be easily influenced if the One we’re looking to for influence is God.

Paul does end his sentence there. Let’s continue with verse 2:

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  
Ephesians 5:1-2(NIV)

“Live a life of love” Paul writes. OK. Sounds like a great ideal. My question is obvious – How? What does living a life of love look like?

Paul answers the question in the rest of the verse – the way we live a life of live is by imitating Christ – by pouring ourselves out as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. When we live a life of love, it will be a life that is both sweet smelling and sacrificial.

  • It will be attractive to others, it will enhance their lives in some way, it will add a sweetness to it – that’s the fragrant offering. It’s beautiful.
  • It will also be a sacrifice. It means dying to self. It means pouring ourselves out for others – often, others who won’t return that love or who don’t seem to deserve that love. But we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide who deserves our love. Christ didn’t say “go and make disciples of those who deserve it…” If He had, none of us would have become disciples because we didn’t deserve it. And I’m guessing it took someone along the line showing us God’s love when we weren’t very lovable for us to truly comprehend and embrace the Gospel. That love is beautiful to the receiver – the fragrant offering. That love is sacrificial, hard work, for the one pouring himself out.

“Behold the kindness and severity of God” Scripture says (Romans 11:22) and I see that in living a life of love – in the sweet fragrance to the receiver and the sacrifice to the giver. Now if you know Scripture, you know that I just misused that Scripture, because in context it’s talking about how very kind God is to those who believe and how very severe His judgment is on those who don’t believe.

But see it applying here as well. God tells us to pour ourselves out – to sacrifice our lives – so that others smell the fragrant offering it is. Behold, the severity and kindness of God.

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2  and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.    
Ephesians 5:1-2

We’re not only to be imitators of God, but we’re to become people that influence others to become imitators of God. We’ve already talked about how highly suggestible people are – you talk about pickles and pies and they (I) begin to crave them – we’ll let’s be such visible and strong imitators of God that we influence others, not to buy pickles and pies, but to become pursuers of God.

Ephesians 5 goes on with a long list of behaviors that should not characterize our lives…sexual immorality, any kind of impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking…behaviors that are an imitation of the world, not an imitation of God. Things that are not sweet smelling or sacrificial. But you know what? These behaviors come naturally to those who live in the world. Because we are highly suggestible people. So Paul continues in his letter…drop down to verse 15:

15Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

Live purposefully – be careful how you live – watch your influences and make decisions, don’t just follow the suggestions people put in your mind.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Ephesians 5:17

What is His will? That we live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18

Again, don’t let the world be your influencer, let God be your influencer. Be imitators of God, not the world.

19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:19 -20

Need encouragement in living that sacrificial life of love? Follow the advice in verses 19 and 20. Let what God is doing be so much in the forefront of your mind that you easily talk about His blessings with other believers. Keep your focus on Him by singing songs of praise and thanksgiving throughout the day.

Living a life of love – being an imitator of God’s extravagant love and grace – will make you stand out in a world that is filled with hurting people. Allow your love to be the influence that others imitate.

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Yes, I’d like to be one who radically trusts God…but my lifestyle doesn’t always reflect that. I have read this blog from several times, and it’s become material for meditation in between readings.

The first habit – “They accept suffering” – is one that caught my attention. As a middle-class American, suffering isn’t high on the list of spiritual disciplines I practice…OK, it doesn’t even make my list. It makes my list of “things I’m trying to avoid.” What a radically different perspective these radical Christians had.

Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering.

Read more about this habit and the other six here.

The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God has identified several habits I need to improve on. How about you?

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartMake thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High…But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:14, 23 (NLT)

We’ve spent several weeks on the topic of giving thanks, and I hope you are all working on your thanksgiving muscle. Yet I would be remiss to leave the subject without recognizing that there are times when it’s difficult to give thanks.

There are times in our lives when our bodies, spirits and/or hearts are broken. There are times when we feel like God is very far away. At those times, it is difficult to give thanks. Yet still, the commands of Scripture remain that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s at times like this that we need the blessings that come with thanksgiving. Yet making those thanksgivings is a challenge. That’s when we truly learn to make thankfulness our sacrifice to God. It is a sacrifice because we do it out of obedience and out of a long history of knowing God’s goodness, even if we’re not able to feel that goodness at any given moment.

So I’ve gone to Scripture recently. Because I believe that if God tells me to “give thanks in all circumstances,” He will also teach me how to do so. I’ve looked up all the verses that say “give thanks” and believe I’ve found a secret in them – God’s secret about how to be thankful, even in those times when thankfulness seems hard.

There are 33 verses in the Bible that command us to “give thanks.” Those 33 verses identify 4 things that help us to be thankful. Two of those things are reasons to be thankful. The other two things are actions that help us to be thankful. So Scriptures gives us both reasons why we can be thankful and things we can do to help us to be thankful. We’re going to look at those 4 things.

Psalm 136, verses 1 through 3 give us the reasons to be thankful:

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3

The two reasons are right there in verse 1 — Because God is good and because His love endures forever.

“God’s love endures forever.” Almost half of the Scriptures that command us to “give thanks” tell us to do so because God’s love endures forever.

No matter what is happening to you today, no matter what your circumstances are you can know that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. He loves you with an everlasting love and His love endures forever. That word “forever” includes all circumstances and is for all times.

He loved you so much that He willingly sent His Son, Jesus Christ to live on earth as a man and then to die on the cross so that the penalty for your sins could be paid. Scripture says that we are all sinners; that we have all asserted our independence from God, gone our own way. The Bible calls that sin. And Scripture is clear that the penalty for sin is death. But the Gospel message is that God offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus chose to die in your place and in my place so that we can live for eternity with God. That’s how much God loves us. That’s how much He loves you.

My favorite verse in Scripture is found in Romans 5:8. It says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That’s a love that endures forever.

God’s love is the same yesterday, today and forever. It endures forever. And that’s something that you can be thankful for every day of your life. No matter what your circumstances are, no matter how people around you are treating you, no matter how cranky you feel, God still loves you.

When we turn our attention away from the things that have gone wrong in our world and instead think about or meditate on God’s love for us, God changes our perspective and enables us to be thankful.

The second reason Psalm 136:1 gives for giving thanks is a simple one: because God is good. When I think about how powerful God is, how He spoke the world into existence, how the winds and storm obey Him, I am very thankful that He is a good God.

God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. Listen to this:

6And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Exodus 34:6-7

That’s the goodness of God – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving sin. I can be thankful for a God that is so good.

Now those of you who know Scripture, know that I didn’t finish God’s description of himself. He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and he does forgive sin.

But the verse goes on to say that the does not leave the guilty unpunished. A good God cannot overlook sin, and we wouldn’t want him to. God’s goodness requires justice. That means that the price or penalty must be paid for our sins. But His goodness also provided a way for that justice to be served. He sent His own son to die for our sins so that we might share eternal life with Him. God has already told us that when he judges sin, the penalty for it will be death. But He’s also already paid that penalty through the death of Jesus. When we accept Jesus into our heart and make him Lord of our lives, God no longer sees our sin. He sees that Jesus has already paid the penalty for it. That’s something to be thankful for.

I wrote earlier that Scripture identifies 4 things that help us to be thankful. The first two are reasons we have to be thankful: Because God’s love endures forever, and because He is good. Scripture also gives us two actions or assignments that help us to be thankful.

The first one is found in Psalm 100, verses 4:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

“Give thanks to God and praise His name.” We are to praise God. It’s pretty hard to praise God without developing a thankful heart. It’s hard to praise him and stay in a bad mood. Even when circumstances are difficult around us, we can choose to praise God. When we do that, we soon find that our spirits rise and we’re no longer looking at the difficulties around us, but at the goodness of God. Even when things seem to be at their worst, there are things we can praise God for.

We can praise Him for his goodness and for his never-ending love. We can praise him for his mercy and for sending Jesus. We can praise him for his presence in our lives. We can praise him for the wonders of His creation. We can praise him for giving us His Word to read. We can praise him for the peace and comfort He gives us.

The second action I see tied to giving thanks is related to praise. We can find it in 1 Chronicles 16:8-9:

8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
1 Chronicles 16:8-9

Scripture tells to “Tell of God’s wonderful acts.” When it’s hard to be thankful, remembering the good things God has done and telling others about them changes our perspective and produces a thankful heart in us. Do you know God as your savior? Tell others about Him! Has he blessed your life? Tell others about it. We looked at the first three verses Psalm 136 earlier. If you are struggling to give thanks, I encourage you to read the entire psalm. It doesn’t tell us to proclaim the mighty deeds of God, it simply does it. Here are just a few of the things the psalm says to give thanks for:

Give thanks…

to him who alone does great wonders, (v4)
who by his understanding made the heavens, (v5)
who spread out the earth upon the waters, (v6)
who made the great lights — the sun to govern the day, the moon and stars to govern the night; (v7-9)
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder (v13)
to him who led his people through the desert, (v16)
to the One who remembered us in our low estate (v23)
and freed us from our enemies, (v24)
and who gives food to every creature. (v25)

The Psalmist is proclaiming the deeds of God. If you were to write your own psalm, how would it read? Mine would read something like this:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.
He saved me when I was running from Him
He set my feet on a solid rock, He removed my need for striving
He blessed me with a wonderful husband
He leads me in adventures of ministry, He gives me joy in serving Him
He forgives my sins
He teaches me the mysteries of life with Him
He restores my soul and He will give me the crown of life

I challenge you, the next time it’s hard for you make thanksgiving your sacrifice, write your own Psalm 136. You will find that God’s goodness will overwhelm your heart; that His goodness is bigger and better than everything that is pulling you down. Your circumstances may not change, but your heart and your spirit will.

You’ve all heard of Hellen Keller. She was born in 1880 unable to hear or see. The circumstances of her life were pretty bad. Yet she found things to thank God for every day. Listen to this quote from her:

“For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to—a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”

If you know Jesus Christ as your savior, you can say that same prayer. “Thank you, God, for giving me knowledge of Your works. Thank you for bringing to my darkness the lamp of faith. Thank you, Lord, beyond measure, for the promise of eternal life with you.”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can do that now. If you have never said “Yes” to God, you are headed toward an eternity without Him – an eternity in hell, separated from God’s goodness and love. But that’s not what God wants. He loves you, and His love endures forever. He has made a way for you to spend forever with Him in heaven. That way is by asking Him to forgive your sins and to be Lord of your life. It’s His deepest desire for you.

You might pray a prayer something like this one:

Father in heaven, thank you for making a way for me to spend eternity with you. Forgive me, Lord for going my own way. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross as payment for my sins. Lord Jesus, come into my life. Teach me what it means to live my life for you. And Father, thank you for the promise of spending eternity in heaven with you. Thank you that you are good and that your love endures forever. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen

If you’ve prayed that prayer, you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. You have more to be thankful thank you ever have before.

When you find yourself in times where thanksgiving is hard, make it your sacrifice to the Lord. Turn to Him, remember His goodness, and give thanks.

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Last week I shared some of the lessons God’s been teaching me while learning a new sport. Last week’s lessons were primarily lessons in humility and discipline. The lessons I learned weren’t all personal ones, however. Learning a new sport – that is an activity that I essentially had no familiarity with prior to eight months ago – provided a great reminder about the process of learning something new – and our walk with the Lord should always be a process of learning something new.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that becoming a more mature Christian simply happens – either by coming to know Christ or by knowing Him for a longer period of time. While the Lord is gracious, especially with new Christians, nothing is farther from the truth. If it were true, Paul wouldn’t impress upon us to “finish the race” – it would happen automatically.

I don’t think my experience was unique. Two things characterized my life as a new Christian: I loved studying His Word and spiritually I was growing at breakneck speed. Of course those two things were related, but both were also a function of God’s tremendous grace that is available to new believers. For many people, me included, spiritual lessons come easy in those early days.

While this is wonderful – wonderful! – it builds an expectation that spiritual growth just sort of happens automatically. After all, it didn’t feel like I was trying very hard and God was enabling me to grow andpractices o was consistently the worst shooter on the range on any given day to being able to consistently hit the target, usually within a couple of inches of where I’m aiming – for you non-shooters, that’s not bad, not bad at all. I went from being a lousy shot to being a pretty fair one. I’m not winning any awards, but I’m not doing badly either.

The  disciplines and that allowed me to improve as a shooter are the same disciplines and practices that will help me grow spiritually.

Why do I care about becoming spiritually mature? Two reasons:It pleases God and it benefits me. I like to think I’m motivated purely by the former. The truth is that the latter is important to me, too. Know what? God knows that! That’s why He’s taken the time to explain those reasons to me as well. The more I become like Christ (which is another way of saying becoming spiritually mature), the more I will live a blessed life. I will have more peace and contentment. I will walk into every situation with the presence of God as my constant companion. I will not be shaken by the circumstances of this world. What a great way to live! And of course it’s an even better way to die.

But I digress. Let’s look at the practices that helped me improve as a shooter.

Study: Shooting a gun accurately requires a whole lot more than picking it up, pointing it and pulling the trigger. Over the past six months I have spent a fair amount of time learning about what those other things are. I read. I watched videos. I read some more. I talked to people. I received formal and informal instruction from experts. I learned about types of guns, gun safety, gun handling, loading, cleaning, and of course shooting.

Paul urged Timothy to “study” to show that he is “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, NRSV) If we don’t study God’s Word, we will not learn how to properly use it. It will not be a weapon available to us when the enemy attacks. That means you and I must spend time studying Scripture. Not just reading it devotionally, but studying it. Take notes during your pastor’s sermons. Join a small group that studies the Bible (not just books about the Bible). Study it on your own. Just study!

Apply what I learned: That manifested itself in three ways –

  1. I had to do things I’d never done before
  2. I had to do things differently than I ever had before
  3. I had to do things that just didn’t feel right

You can imagine that each of those things made me uncomfortable, but if I hadn’t endured the discomfort — worked through it – I would never have progressed. The same is true in our spiritual life. When we learn about practices in the Bible that are new to use, we need to try them. Maybe you’ve never fasted before – give it a try. Maybe you’ve never prayed with your arms raised – it’s Scriptural, so give it a try. It will feel unnatural – it won’t feel “right” – but try it. Then try it again. And again. Because it doesn’t feel right the first or the second or the third time. But eventually it clicks and it’s very right. Maybe you don’t like to pray in public. Get over it! Quit thinking about yourself and think about  the heart of God. Then pray.

Open yourself up to being obedient to serving and worshiping God in new ways. You will be uncomfortable. It won’t feel right at first. But there are facets of God to be discovered in those new patterns. Don’t miss them because youre unwilling to be uncomfortable.

Practice. Then practice more. Phil and I have taken many basic ballroom dance classes. One of our early instructors used to tell our class over and over again that we needed to practice each step a thousand times. Our next instructor was a very sweet older man. He would get a bit lost in his love for the dance and he’d encourage us to practice our dance steps as we walked down the street. Then he would demonstrate the practice. Phil and I were never quite ready to be that bold (aka, look that foolish) in public, but the point is both instructors agreed that the only way to learn the dance steps were to do the over and over and over again.

Getting something right doesn’t mean you’ve learned it. It means you’re somewhere between lucky and experiencing your “aha” moment – that point at which what you’re learning makes sense. To actually learn it you must do it correctly over and over again until doing it right is more natural than doing it wrong. Doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about target shooting or serving God.

The first time you pray publicly you might blunder your way through it. That’s OK. God isn’t judging you badly – he’s proud that you’re trying. Trust me – the person you know who prays beautifully in publicly – hey didn’t start out sounding like that and God doesn’t honor them or their prayers more than he honors you or your prayers.

Make time for it! To study, try new things and practice takes time. And time doesn’t materialize on its own. Phil and I had a weekly range date – Thursdays during lunch. Previously Thursdays had been our day to go out to lunch together. We had to give up those dates for our new dates. We also tried to fit another range date in many weeks. It meant not doing something else. To read in the evening we had to watch less TV. Growing spiritually means we have to make time commitments for God. When will you set aside time to study His Word? When will you set aside time to pray? When will you set aside time to serve Him in whatever area He’s called you?

There is payoff, friends. You will grow in Him. You will draw closer to Him. You will become more like Him. Those are very good things. Worth far more than gold or rubies. Worth more than the pearl of great price.

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One of Jesus’ primary teaching tools was asking questions. In Mark chapter 8, he asks the disciples this question:

5“How many loaves of bread do you have?” [Jesus] asked.
Mark 8:5

It’s a simple question, and with that question, Jesus is redirecting the disciples’ attention away from the enormity of the need. He’s saying “don’t look at the need, look at me!”

It’s the story of Jesus feeding the four thousand men, along with unnumbered women and children, with only seven loaves and two fish. Jesus first brings the need to the attention of his disciples by calling them together and saying:

2“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
Mark 8:2-3 (NIV)

Their response isn’t their finest moment:

“How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?”
Mark 8:5 (NLT)

I hear it as “Are you crazy? How in the world are we…?” And since I know the end of the story, it occurs to me that any time I have that reaction, there ought to be a check in my spirit…because God is setting me up for a miracle! Instead of “I can’t possibly…” or “Are you crazy? How can I…?” I want to be the person that shouts “Yeehaw! A miracle’s about to happen!” OK, not so cowboy, but you get the idea.

I’m not that person yet, but the Holy Spirit & I are working on it. We’re getting closer.

The apostles looked at the crowd and said “we can’t possibly feed these people.” Jesus didn’t look at the crowd, He looked at the resources, knowing that when the resources were fully given to God, God would multiply them to meet the need.

Picture it, 32AD: Four thousand men, in addition to the women and children, were in need of food. The apostles had seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Looks to me like recipe for a personal meltdown!

But God…He gently took the disciples by the hand (metaphorically), turned them from the crowed to look into His face, and redirected their thinking from “How are we supposed to…” to “take a deep breath and look at me. Now tell me, what do you have?” No meltdown. Instead a miracle!

I’m going to go back to that, but first I want to ask my own questions. Update the picture: Think about what you’d like to do for God. Go ahead. Pause here for a minute or two here and answer the question: What would you like to do for God? OK, now answer this question: what are your four thousand people? In other words, what is keeping you from accomplishing it. Is it lack of money? Lack of time? Lack of energy?

Jesus wants to uncomplicated things. He simply asks “what do you have?” Quit looking at all the reasons you can’t do what you’d like to do for God. Start telling God what have and ask what you should do with it. He’ll give instructions, and you’ll be on your way to being part of a miracle.

When we give it to Him, God takes what we have in our hands and He uses it to bless others.

That’s the original covenant of the Old Testament – that Abraham would be a blessing to many nations,
and the awesome privilege and responsibility of the New Testament
“go ye into all the world…”

So God wants to take my resources and your resources and use them not to meet the needs of just our families, but to reach out to others. But if we look at the opportunities, at the enormity of the needs, we become paralyzed because our resources seem so puny. That’s when Jesus asks the simple question “what’s that in your hand?” “What do you have?”

Let’s look at that question a bit more: “What do you have?” We don’t know how Jesus actually asked the question, but one method of studying a verse or phrase in the Bible is to work our way through it by emphasizing each word individually. I found that approach to be instructive in this case:

WHAT do you have? – Tell the Lord. Answer the question. In Resting at the River’s Edge we’ve just started the book of Jeremiah. In this book God is regularly asking Jeremiah “what do you see?” And then a prophetic message comes to him after describing to God what he sees. I’ve found that often God doesn’t begin to give me ideas for serving Him until I’ve started describing the situation to Him.

What DO you have? – This encourages us to look at our resources, not just the need. The apostles were stuck looking at the need and it was so great it paralyzed them. Jesus redirected them by saying, “OK, so you can’t go buy food for everyone, what DO you have.” If we look at the need we become discouraged. If we look at the need, it crushes our faith and we don’t take the first step.

What do YOU have? – Jesus asks us to use our resources. We have to give them before he can multiply them. When we hold on to our resources, there is no miracle of multiplication of those resources.

What do you HAVE? – This is an interesting emphasis. At first glance, I wanted to answer that it’s very much like “DO” – what DO you have? OK, I have this, this and this. Then God asks again “what do you HAVE?” In other words, take another look – what do those things put together make. Perhaps bread and fish make a meal. It’s the synergy part of the sentence. It’s the whole thing being greater than the sum of its individual parts.

It’s also the point where we step back, perhaps acknowledge – Lord, we got nothing…so we stare a little longer (hopefully praying while we stare at what we have) and God’s miracle begins to become apparent. OK, I get it! It’s not just bread and fish, it’s a meal. And perhaps it’s not just bread but it becomes the bread of Life as we give it in Jesus’ name. This could be good… Let’s have the people sit down and start feeding them and see what happens!

And what happens is God’s miracle because we’ve looked away from despair, given our resources to the awesome ministry He’s given us and voila! it’s time for His miracle!

Jesus is a master at asking simple questions. We tend to complicate life by moving to the complex when the simple will suffice. Jesus asks “what do you have?” When life crowds in and your need seems to overshadow your resources, Jesus asks: “what do you have?” We would do well to learn from the Master.

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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.”
2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

If you’re Resting at the River’s Edge with us, you read this story late last week.

  • David sins
  • God gives David his choice of judgments
  • David chooses three days of plague
  • Near the end of the third day, God instructs David “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” (2 Samuel 24:18)
  • When David arrives, Araunah makes him an offer: “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” (2 Samuel 24:22-23)
  • David’s response ought to give us all pause:

“No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
(2 Samuel 24:24)

David was King and Araunah was happy to give him his land and everything he needed for the offering. But David was making an offering and a sacrifice to his King. Taking the free gift from Araunah would not have been much of an offering/sacrifice from David. It is to David’s great credit that he didn’t take the easy way out here.

Matthew Henry’s English is a bit dated, he hits the nail on the head. In his Commentary on the Old Testament, he says this about the passage:

Note, Those know not what religion is whose chief care it is to make it cheap and easy to themselves, and who are best pleased with that which costs them least pains or money. What have we our substance for but to honour God with it? and how can it be better bestowed?
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 24:24

Or put in modern English, he’s saying something like this:

Those whose primary goal is making things as cheap and easy on themselves as possible aren’t seeking God with all their hearts. What is the purpose of all we have, if not to honor God? Can there be a better use for our possessions, energy and time but to use them to serve Him?

I was convicted by David’s statement and doubly challenged by Matthew Henry’s. I wonder – am I serving God sacrificially? Do my offerings cost me something or is He getting the leftovers? Is He getting service in my spare time and with my spare energy and money?

Let’s look at some examples.

Tithing: If giving 10% is easy – if your income is such that you can easily live on 90% – would God be honored by you giving more? And is there any better thing you can do with the “more” than give it to God?

Ministry/Service: Have you said “yes” to so many opportunities to serve that perhaps your service is costing you time, but you have no effort or “overflow” to minister out of? Or maybe it’s not so many opportunities to serve that takes your time, but all the other activities in your life. Is God getting the dregs, last minute, jump in the car and go, then wing it when you get there service? If so, I would contend that your service isn’t costing you what it ought. Maybe you need to be involved in less activities, and perhaps even less ministry activities, so that your offerings of service are complete offerings of all that you are.

Time with God: Is your time with God filled with constant distractions of this world, shortened by earthly demands, and less consistent than your other commitments? The enemy is a master at distracting us during our quiet time, and I’m not here to bring condemnation about it. But there are distractions that are brought on by the enemy and there are distractions that come up simply because of our own lack of discipline or planning. I’m talking about the latter here. My time with God ought to cost me something – it ought to be a sacrifice of all I am to focus on Him. Sadly, often it is not.

This is not a word meant to bring condemnation, but it is a word that is meant to encourage you and me to do better. I want my offerings to the Lord to have value – that means they must cost me something – because that’s how we value things here on earth – and if it’s not of value to me, I haven’t given an appropriate offering to God.

Lord, forgive me when I have taken You for granted! Help me to change. Help me to love you more, and to demonstrate that love by giving honestly of my time, money, talents, energy, and love to You.

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From my last blog:

1Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 “There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

1 Samuel 2, V1-2:

The first two verses of a ten verse song of worship and praise! After giving Samuel to the Lord, “then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord.’” Wow!

OK – I know I wrote this two days ago. But I woke up this morning and what shouted in my brain was that Hannah prayed after giving her son to the Lord!

There is no record of a song of praise when Hannah became pregnant after being barren so many years. There is no record of her rejoicing when God gave her the desire of her heart. I don’t doubt that she did praise God when she became pregnant with Samuel, but I find it significant that we have no record in Scripture of that. Instead, what we have a record of is her ten-verse song of praise when she gives her son back to the Lord. That’s the nice way of saying it. The earthly reality is that she was giving her son, the one she had longed for, to someone else to raise – someone who had raised two sons who were acting wickedly before the Lord. From this point on, Hannah would see her son only once a year. And She praised God – she said “There is no one holy like the Lord, here is no one besides you, there is no Rock like our God.”

What an amazing perspective she had!

  • She praised God that He had given her a son – instead of being angry that she had been given a son for such a short time.
  • She praised God that He had enabled her to give Him an offering – instead of being angry that He accepted her offering.
  • She praised God by faith for the future sons He would give her – instead of despairing that she may never have another son to hold in her arms.
  • She praised God because He is sovereign – He is the God of all Gods and He is victorious over all.

Throughout this story of Hannah’s desire for a child, her promise to God that she would give her child back to Him, her making good on that promise and rejoicing while doing so has challenged me. I’ve reached an age when my parents’ generation is dying. Grieving is hard. And as the deaths pile up, it’s easy for there to be a drag on my spirit. I remember something my mother-in-law said as she lived into her eighties – that she knew more people who were dead than living. Hannah’s son wasn’t dead, but she was sacrificing the life she would have had with her son – that life was essentially dying as she gave Samuel to the Lord. And she sang her heart out in praise.

I am challenged that I hold too tightly to things of this world and I don’t trust (rest in) God’s sovereignty enough. Singing that praise doesn’t always come easily to me. Perhaps it didn’t come easily to Hannah, but there’s no indication of that.

Lord, Thank You for the people you’ve put in my life, whether for a short time or a long time. Help me to release all of them to You and rejoice at Your great power and goodness.

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Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Peter gave his first sermon on the day of Pentecost. As often happens when I listen to sermons on Sunday mornings, one sentence arrested me:

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Acts 2:36

“Both Lord and Christ”
Not just Lord, and not just Christ, but both Lord and Christ. What’s the difference? I turned to my trusted Greek dictionaries. The word translated “Lord” means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master.”* God has made Jesus Lord – the One to whom all things belong; the One to whom all people belong, whether they accept His ownership of them or not.

Fact: The Sovereign God of the Universe had made Jesus the Owner of all created things.

Paul picked up Peter’s theme in Philippians:

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

The truth is we belong to Jesus. He is our Master, our Owner, the One to whom we will one day bow our knee. The choice we face is – will we accept His ownership and bow our knee today? Will that bowed knee represent our will – that is, will it mean that we have bowed our will to His will? Hmmm. I think bowing the knee is much easier than bowing the will, but they ought to be one and the same. Brian Doerksen sings a song “Today” that captures this theme: “Today I choose to follow You. Today I choose to give my ‘Yes’ to You.”

God has already made Jesus Lord; let’s not wait until some other day to accept that ownership. God made Jesus your Lord. Will you accept His Lordship?

God made Jesus both “Lord and Christ.” The word “Christ” literally means “anointed” and is the name given to the Messiah, the Son of God.* We see this in John 1:

[Andrew] found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).
John 1:41

The word “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew word (the language of the Old Testament); the word “Christ” is the Greek word (the language of the New Testament). Both refer to Jesus. Who was the Messiah? He was the long awaited Savior. One of the values of reading the Old Testament is that it lays the foundation that the Israelites were looking and longing for the promised Savior to come. Christ, the Messiah, is the fulfillment of that promise and that great anticipation. He is the One who would save them and will save us from ourselves – our sinful nature – and throw open the doors to a vibrant relationship and intimacy with God.

God has made Jesus to be our Owner and our Savior. Both Lord and Christ. Not just our Owner. Not just our Savior. Both. As Owner, He can do with us as He pleases. As Savior, He is compassionate and strong. As an Owner, He could determine us to be worthless and throw us away. As Savior, He doesn’t have that option – we are of tremendous worth to Him and He desires the very best for each of us.

“Whom You Crucified”
I wasn’t there, but yes, I crucified Christ. It was my sin that required the death of a perfect sacrifice. If you all had lived perfect lives, Christ would have been crucified for my sin. It is Christ’s perfect sacrifice that pays the debt required by my wrongdoing. He is my Savior. His sacrifice saves me from eternal damnation and opens the doors to eternal life. Wow.

Sin is messy business, as I blogged about several days ago. As the Israelites were required to slaughter a lamb or bull to pay for their sins, Christ was the lamb slaughtered as payment for my sins. His sacrifice wipes my slate clean. His blood cleanses my soul. Again I say: Wow.

“God has made…”
It was God who elevated Jesus to the position of Lord and Christ. It wasn’t me, you, my pastor or your pastor, or even the Pope who made Jesus Lord and Christ. It wasn’t anyone who has ever lived on this earth who made Jesus Lord and Christ. It was the One who created the earth and all things in and on it. It was God, the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who made Jesus both Lord and Christ.

“Brothers, what shall we do?”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:37

After Peter’s declaration that God had made Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ, the crowd had one response: “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter’s response was one we need to be reminded of from time to time:

38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Acts 2:38-39

Repent! Literally, “think differently!”** Bring your thinking into line with God’s Word. Come into agreement with Him that you have sinned, that sin requires a price and that Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, paid that price.

Be baptized – be cleansed of your sins. It’s interesting that the word “baptized” also means to be “overwhelmed.”** Be overwhelmed with the goodness of God. Be overwhelmed with His presence. Be overwhelmed to the point of giving Him complete control.

Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – the One who comforts, reveals God and empowers believers to live the life God wants us to live.

This promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off – don’t believe it’s not for you. It is. If there is even the tiniest thing in you that whispers “yeah, but this isn’t for you, you’re not good enough” – that thing has a name – satan and he is a liar. He is the father of lies and there is no good in him. Choose to believe God. Repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What will you do?

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:37

I pray that your heart has been quickened as well. God has made Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. What will you do about it? Will you make Him Lord – Owner – of your life? Will you recognize Him as your Savior? Will you repent and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. I pray that today you are overwhelmed with God’s grace, the Savior’s cleansing power and the revelation and peace of the Holy Spirit.

*From Thayer’s Greek Definitions from Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1999,, Inc.

**From Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries by James Strong, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc.

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21Aaron waved the breasts and the right thigh [of the sacrificed animals] before the LORD as a wave offering, as Moses commanded.

22Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.

23Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.
Leviticus 9:21-24

Wave offerings – I think we charismatics sometimes think that when we are waving our arms over our heads, we’re giving the Lord a wave offering. Do we realize that what constituted a wave offering in the Old Testament was the waving of the slaughtered animal sacrifice. In this case, the wave offering was immediately followed by the Lord bringing down fire and consuming the offering. When we wave our arms, are we willing to identify with the slaughtered animals and are we ready for the Lord to consume us with His purifying fire? (In other words, are we willing to change those things that are displeasing to the Lord? The first question is much easier to answer “yes” to than the second.)

I did a quick check of all the references to wave offerings in the Bible. Looking at all the references to wave offerings, I found that they were used in the following instances:

  • Wave offerings of gold and bronze that were given to the Lord was then hammered into pieces to be used in the Tabernacle
  • Wave offerings of sacrificed animals were burned on the altar
  • Wave offerings of pieces of the sacrificed animals were given to the Levites as food to be consumed
  • Wave offerings of bread, cake and wafer were burned on the altar

It seems that if the offering was not consumed by fire that it was totally consumed – used in its entirety as food or to make elements of the Tabernacle. In no case was any of the wave offering given back to the one making the offering.

So, the next time you wave your arms in worship, think about the wave offerings in the Old Testament – how they were totally consumed by the Lord. Perhaps you might think about the one in this passage of Leviticus – how Aaron offered it to the Lord and then the fire of the Lord came down and consumed the offering. Then shout for joy and fall on your face down in worship. Hallelujah!

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