Giving and Taking

Psalm 37: 21

The wicked borrows and does not pay back but the righteous is gracious and gives.

Do you know what it is called if you borrow and fail to pay back? It is called stealing. Yep! That’s what it is. Now why would any of us intentionally steal from one another? An absolute and complete lack of understanding and faith is why. If you understand God and who you are in Him, then you have no reason to withhold payment from those to whom it is due or not to give generously to others. Only those who are looking to their own hands to prosper themselves would make such a huge mistake. You are stealing meat from your own house.

For those of you who are gracious and giving, you have the love of God in you. That love expresses itself in your kindness and generosity. And God can most certainly work with that. He is gracious to multiply your seed so that you “always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9: 8). You are his precious gift to us because you and He together can express His goodness to every good work. He can keep prospering you and wants to, in fact, so that you can keep blessing others with your generosity.

It is God who multiplies and those who understand that do not withhold their seed. They are willing and generous givers. They know whom they serve and long to be like Him in thought and deed. You are a blessing to all of us and I celebrate you today. May God richly bless your giving!

Carried by Love

Psalm 68 : 5 – 6          Passion Translation

To the fatherless he is a father. To the widow he is a champion friend. To the lonely he gives a family. To the prisoners he leads into prosperity until they sing for joy. This is our Holy God in his Holy Place! But for the rebels there is heartache and despair.

We saw yesterday that God is the perfect parent. Notice that the first three sentences have to do with family relationships. I think that is significant. Families provide individuals with much, so God stands ready to repair and restore family relationships and to be the person each of us needs whether a parent, brother, sister or spouse.

One version says that He is the defender of widows. Women didn’t have any standing of their own. They were either under the protection of their father or their husband. When a husband died, the powerless widow could easily become destitute and a target for those who prey on the weak. In fact, many had to turn to prostitution as the only means for generating income. It was rough, but God saw their plight those many years ago and He sees the challenges today. He is the champion of the widow, her defender, so if a person takes on the widow, he is taking on God. God stands in the shoes of the widow to protect her and her children.

Also, there are no lonely in Christ. He has ways to provide a family, beginning with Himself. He knows that humans need social contact and He does not want any of us to feel lonely.

The most interesting part, though, is His response to prisoners. What kind of prisoners do you think God has in mind here. I don’t think this is the conventional use of the word. The King James refers to the prisoners as those bound in chains. Looking in the Strong’s Concordance causes one to come away with the notion that these are people who are bound or who are being held against their will. God’s grace and compassion absolutely extends to people who are incarcerated as a result of their actions, but this verse seems to convey an image of those being held against their will or restrained. In that regard one might think in broader terms as in any person who is bound by anything or anyone. It might refer to someone who is imprisoned in an unhealthy relationship, maybe by marriage or maybe familial. Others are held captive by their past. Really, there are many ways we are shackled but the key is that God is here to set you free. But that is not all. He wants to shower you with prosperity until you sing for joy. That is so over the top and when God talks about prosperity He means everything in life is flowing with goodness and abundance. Sure, it means money, but it includes everything else too. God has an interesting reaction to setting the captives free. It is not enough for Him just to purchase their freedom. He wants to make up for everything that has been stolen from them as well. That is a good Father.

I am reminded of the words from Isaiah 40: 11, “In His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom.” That is the picture of our loving Father. He wants to gather you up in His arms and carry you next to His chest where no harm can befall you. No matter how you have been hurt in the past, God is here, now, to restore and heal you.

Give and Get

Proverb 3: 9 – 10

Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow.

We have all heard that we are supposed to give into the Lord’s work. Few seem to know why though. Nationally, only 10% of people tithe. So clearly, as a people, we are not giving regularly to the Lord. Part of the reason, I believe, is because so few understand the why of it all. People think that some preacher or church or maybe even God himself is trying to get something from them. It is just the opposite though. God is trying to get something to you.

God works by multiplying seed. He takes what you sow and multiplies it so that you reap thirty, sixty or a hundred-fold more than you sowed. His kingdom operates by the law of sowing and reaping. So, God wants you to give from your wealth and from the first of all your produce so that he can fill your barns, so that you will have all you need and then some. Bless the Lord and allow Him to multiply your gift back to you thirty, sixty or a hundred-fold.

Getting Happy

Psalm 37: 18 – 19

The Lord knows the days of the blameless; and their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil; and in the days of famine they will have abundance.

Hey, let’s get happy today! There is so much blessing in these two little verses that it wants to bust out all over the place.

In this thirty-seventh psalm, David contrasts the wicked and the righteous. The righteous are those who are no more perfect than anyone else but rather their hope is in the Lord as is their trust. They are looking to God while the wicked are contriving and scheming in their own brilliance and in the world system. How brilliant can they be, really, if they eschew the guidance of the Lord. Well, anyway, we get a look at the blessings we can expect to enjoy in this earth but we are also told that the blessing will continue beyond this mortal life.

How exciting is that? The blessing God is pouring out for you is forever! It is only going to get bigger and better as time goes on. The part about the time of evil and the days of famine describe how the blessing works in the earth. There is no evil, no famine in heaven. You have not only a promise, but a statement about what you should expect. We should not shutter as we face evil times. We just lean in on God knowing He has already prepared a haven for us so that we will not be ashamed or forsaken. The wicked will make plans for prosperity and power but their own schemes will be the source of their destruction. Meanwhile, the children of the King will look to their Father and He will be their fortress and their strong right hand. He will provide for them so that they shall not be ashamed. They will not be humiliated by poverty. Instead, they will sing the praises of the Father who shows them grace, love and abundance in all things.

When the world suffers violence or famine, the children look to their Father and actually prosper. In 2008 while many people sang songs of woe, those whose trust was in the Lord took steps forward. Your life is not at the mercy of the world or even its economic systems. The children of God have always prospered in the time of famine when they trusted Him and listened to His counsel. We are just as vulnerable if we listen to the 5:00 news and try to glean wisdom there. If, however, we will turn to the Lord and seek His counsel we shall be safe and secure in all ways.

Let the Lord speak to you today about how He wishes to lead you. Today could well be the day you enter a new level of relationship with the Father. He has big things to show you as He leads you into all goodness and blessing.

In Hot Pursuit

Proverb 21: 21            NIV

He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Yesterday we saw from verses 17 and 18 of Proverb 21 that the pursuit of pleasure leads to poverty. Today we are fortunate to get to see the other side of the coin. If we wish to have abundant life, prosperity and honor then we must pursue righteousness.

Now, before we fall on our faces, let us review our thinking on righteousness. Many of us were trained in the notion that righteousness equates to good works. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, that kind of “righteousness” is repugnant to God. It is a rancid odor in His nostrils. Righteousness, in a word, is Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 reads, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This means that Jesus, who is and was the righteousness of God, traded his righteousness for our sin. He became our sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. Therefore, our pursuit of Jesus, is necessarily a pursuit of righteousness.

There is an interesting passage about this very topic from the Apostle Paul. “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9: 30 – 32). The stumbling stone was Jesus. I find this passage amazing. The Israelites, the chosen ones, who pursued righteousness through their works failed while the Gentiles who by faith sought Jesus attained righteousness. Wow!

Shall we, though, take it one step further? The verse for today also says that those who pursue love find life, prosperity and honor. This one is really easy, isn’t it. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4: 8). Yeah, you don’t need a theology degree in order to knock this one out of the park. God is love. Therefore, if one pursues God, then that is a pursuit of love and thus the result is life, prosperity and honor. 1 Corinthians 14: 1 says “Pursue love . . ..” It really is that simple.

So, what is the conclusion of all this? Our happiness, prosperity, peace, joy, well-being, life, and honor are found in the pursuit of the Father and the Son, merely in the pursuit. It is not in the tracking down or even in the finding. Your Father and God does the revealing. Your only part is to pursue. “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him” (1 Chronicles 28: 9).

A Full Life

3 John 2

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
This passage of scripture portrays the image of a victorious Christian. This is the picture of who we are all destined to be because of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. First of all, our souls are to prosper. That encompasses our emotional life, social life, and our intellectual life. It is the transformation of the human soul through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is best thought of as the intangibles. It is all of the things that make a life full. It is part of what Jesus meant when he said that he came into the world to give us abundant life (John 10: 10).

As we allow the Holy Spirit to work within our spirits, setting us free from every sort of bondage, we are supposed to also evidence physical well-being and financial prosperity. You see, to God and to Jesus, it is a package deal. We are supposed to have it all, not just one little portion. You are supposed to be well in your body and well in your finances. Your soul is supposed to be healed from any emotional scars and you are to be free. Jesus said that he was anointed to set the captives free (Luke 4: 18). So, his ministry and his word do free us from our former bondage so that we might live in abundance of every sort and pass that blessing on to others. 

It starts in your spirit and manifests in every part of your life. Do not let the devil steal any part of it from you because Jesus came to set you free.

No Cause for Stumbling

Psalm 73: 2 – 5, 12

But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling; my steps had almost slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant, as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death; and their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; nor are they plagued like mankind. 12 Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth.

I suppose most dedicated Christians have almost stumbled over this stone at some time or another. You dedicate yourself and your life to the Lord and you fully expect that you will fare well in your service to Him. The next thing you know, you look around you and it seems the heathen are succeeding while the Christians are suffering.  

Well, don’t lose hope if that is where you are now. It is only an appearance. When you read this passage in its entirety, you see that the wicked get the fruit of the seed they have planted. The good news is that you will reap the fruit of your good seed as well. While it looks for a while like the good guys are losing, it is just an illusion. The universe produces fruit after its own kind. You cannot sow broccoli and get tomatoes. Galatians 6: 7 reads, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” The wicked will fall and you will succeed if you do not faint. Do not envy their success because it is short lived and laden with sorrow and pitfalls. Do not stumble over the apparent success of the unbelieving. God is faithful. Hang in there.