Generosity (Not the Tithing Tax) For Christians

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop.  But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You must each decide in your heart how much to give.
And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.  “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.  Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.  And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
-2 Cor. 9:6-12 (NLT)

The Christian's story is the story that God has generously given salvation in Christ.  You became part of God's story of generosity.  The Gospel message is the good news about God's generosity: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son..." (John 3:16).  God is a giver and God is generous.  When we become God's children, through Christ, we take on God's nature, in Christ and also grow in generosity.  We become stewards of the life of God within us and actors and voices in God's story.

The Christian is an adopted child of God, in Christ.  We are now sons and daughters of God.  We are learning how to live in Christ, by his Spirit in our lives.  And the life we now live in Christ is a life of generosity in freedom, living in the kingdom of God.

We are by nature, now, givers.  We are in Christ, because God gave.  Giving and generosity is God's nature and now we've got his nature within us and now we are generous too.

"How does this work?", we might ask.  We are encouraged that giving will come back to us in blessings, in every dimension.  The word from Jesus is, "give and it shall be given" (Luke 6:38).  Simply stated, you can not out-give God.  Jesus has said that, when you give, God will always give back.

God's greatest generosity was in giving Christ for the sins of the world.  We are on that same mission; co-missioners.  We have become part of the generosity of God.  We are all working out (Phil. 2:12) this great salvation (Heb. 2:3) that we are experiencing and inviting others to get in on.

This is the context or basis from which the Christian has become and is growing in being a giver or generous person.  We are generous givers, because of the gospel.  It is an inside job.  Generosity comes from the heart, and it must, to be in sync with God.

The New Testament talks about and teaches a cultivation of giving and generosity.  He gave us all, and he wants us to be like him, and he is in us with his Spirit to do it.

The Old testament Tithe was never adopted by the New testament Church.  We are never given a percentage that we should give.  We are only told to be givers, or to cultivate the generosity of the life of Christ within us.  Just be who Christ is within you.  Be a Christian.  That is what the NT teaches.

God had Paul write down that we should each decide in our hearts how much to give and then give that much.  Some have called this practically, "pray and obey".  A situation to give to, presents itself, and we ask God in our hearts, "should I give to that and if so, how much", and guess what?  God will help us in our conscience, in our inner man, or in our hearts, to know what a good amount is.

If the amount seems like a stretch, perhaps God is stretching our faith and wants to remind us that, "whoever gives to the poor loans to God who will pay them back" (Prov. 19:17).  But when you have prayed and get an idea of how much to give, and if it is a stretch, you have exercised a measure of faith; and you are not reluctant.  Make sure you are giving cheerfully!

You cannot give reluctantly, or grudgingly, or with hesitation.  You have to give freely.  If you do not, then there will be no blessing from your giving.  You don't want to say, "I'm going to give till it hurts".  Giving must come from a cheerful heart that gives freely to bless others.

Harvey Nowland wrote:
If you help others with the right motivation, you’re going to be helped. When you refresh others, you will be refreshed.

Get it? You reap what you sow.
Don’t give simply for some tax advantage. Don’t give expecting the recipients to be grateful. Most will be extremely thankful, but some may not only be ungrateful, they might even resent those who give.

So, don’t give until it hurts. And, don’t give in order to be admired for your generosity. Give because giving reflects the loving and generous God who gave His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would have the opportunity to be blessed and to bless others by giving.

Remember, giving to God reminds us who He is, who we are and what our relationship should be to Him and those things that He allows us to manage in His name.

While there may be those who encourage us to give until it hurts, it seems that God really has a much better plan. God wants us to give because it’s the right thing to do. I think that it looks as though we should feel good, even joyful, about giving – if that’s what God wants us to do.

Please, please, don’t give until it hurts. Instead, give until you feel so good about giving that you might fall down laughing (all right, maybe not that happy). But, you get the idea, so let’s remember that “God loves a cheerful giver.”
In the NT, we are encouraged to give in proportion with our prosperity (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  In the NT, giving is completely voluntary.  Some have used the example of Abraham's one tenth gift to Melchizedek to say that tithing is what we should do, but that focus is wrong.  What we learn from Abraham's tithe in Gen 14, mentioned again in Hebrews 7; is that giving is voluntary.

Christians should give voluntarily to Christ, as Abraham did; not under law, but under grace.  If you have no generosity, or if you do not give, then it begs the question, "are you in Christ?"  The Spirit of Christ is the most generous force in the world today.

The generosity of God in Christ is the salvation and only hope for this world.  If you say you are in Christ, but are not generous, or do not give, and give regularly, as in a, "who you are and how you live", way; then maybe you need to get saved.

We have to take a look at our salvation if we are not generous or givers.  But the paradox is that it is a choice.  The NT is filled with a church learning generosity, learning not to live sinfully, learning Christlikeness.  We are learners too, disciples who are getting saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaved.  It is an event AND a process.  We are learning, being discipled by Jesus, to live in his generous life.
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For further study: 
Tithing After the Cross, by David A. Croteau 
Should Christians Tithe? by David Allan Black

I found the graphic above at - Twelve Resources For Christian Generosity, by Andrew Jones 

A New Wineskin For A New Season

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”

You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.
-Isaiah 43:19, Mark 2:22, John 4:35 (NLT)

I got the idea that God is going to do a new thing in our lives.  This new thing will require us to embrace new ways of functioning and the old way will not work.  He is doing this for the harvest.

The new thing that God is doing is totally different than what we are accustomed to God doing.  We need a new way of functioning, to participate in the new thing.  The old way of functioning will not work.  I believe that the new thing has to do with evangelism, mission, and God's kingdom activity, for the harvest.

The new way is the unexpected way.  We get very used to the expected, and the usual.  The greatest barrier for Christians, to walking with the living God, is our traditions.  The seven last words of a dying church are, "we've never done it that way before!"

Once we start functioning in the new thing and in the new way it requires, we will wonder why it did not come sooner, because it will seem more efficient and just easier.  But we will be thankful and a little embarrassed or humbled at how we got so frustrated at first, when the old way, old structure, kept not working with this new thing God is doing.  The new thing, the new wine, requires a new wineskin, a new structure, a new way.

I got the idea also that as soon as we step out and get our metaphorical new wineskins working, that God will show up in our lives with fortuitous provision.  The way that the kingdom works is that you get after you give or you receive after to move in faith.  After being frustrated, we will learn again to cast our nets a different way, at Jesus direction, and the catch will be more than we alone can handle (Luke 5 and John 21).

Some people have taken the words of the verse in Isaiah, "For I am about to do something new", and dumbed it down to three words - "a God thing", and made it sound like a novelty item.  God's new things are not like that.  God works in relationship with us.  It is a love relationship, not a "may the force be with you", relationship.

I also Got the idea that some of the people that God wants to save are people that we have either given up on, for various reasons, as too hard to get saved; or their sins or brokenness has been glossed over as not being sin, but just the way they are.

I got the idea that there are people who are nice people, but who are not saved and need to get saved, who have been told that they don't need to get saved.  But, the way to get these people saved is through the new wineskin.  The old one will not reach them.  They would love to know Jesus, if only we would use the ways and means of God, which are a new thing to us, or like a new wineskin; to reach them.

I got the idea that part of the way that the new thing, the new wineskin works, it that it is a different shape than what we are used to.  God has a shaping up for us, to be in shape, to bring the good news to the people he wants to reach at this time.  Jesus has the right shaped form, for himself to be in, for this time.  We need to be shaped into this new thing now, to participate in the kingdom of God, for the harvest.


Fear of The Lord

Then everyone will be afraid; they will proclaim the mighty acts of God and realize all the amazing things he does.
-Psalm 64:9

When God comes, being afraid is normal and actually good.  There is not much fear of God in general today.  More fear of God would be a very good thing.

When God comes, there is blessing for those who have prepared themselves to receive it, but also holy awe at God's majesty.  When God comes, it clarifies everything.  Sin is exposed and justice is wrought.

The fool says to themselves that God does not exist (Psalm 14:1, 53:1).  Other foolish ways are to create a god or gods that are not The One True God .  When the fool gets a revelation that God is real, they are jarred with fear.  "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30), would be the normal reaction.

When you realize God is real, you want to do the right thing, because God is love and God is holy, just, and true.  You are compelled to come into alignment with God. The life of walking with and before God, is a life of learning godliness.

Everyone being afraid, because of God's intervention, is a very good thing.  We do not celebrate when God brings down our enemy (Prov. 24:17-18).  The fear of God is amplified in us when our enemy is dealt a blow.

We are actually called to love our enemies, bless them, do good to them and pray for them (Matt. 5:44).  We are called to give our enemy food and drink (Prov. 25:21, Rom. 12:20).

God is never on your side (Josh. 5:13-15).  He is your God and your savior, but he is The King, The Sovereign.  To be his subject fills you with awe.

When God comes, when God moves, when God acts; you are filled with more awe, which is the fear of God.  You want to know God and please God.  You are humbled in his presence.

If Jesus appeared to you today, you might be afraid and want to run (Matt. 28:10, Luke 24:36-40).  In our minds, we might have a harmless, even effeminate, smiling hippie-in-sandals Jesus in our minds, who is far from the real person.  Jesus is kind, gentle, merciful, and compassionate; but also light and truth and very intense about you being in God's ways.  The Lion of Judah has teeth.

When we embrace humility and live in the awesome fear of the Lord, we say, "there but for the grace of God, go I", which means that anything good in me, is from God (1:Cor 15:10).  There is also a knowledge of the fear of the Lord ("fearful responsibility", (NLT), or "terror of the Lord", (KJV)), that compels us to live a transparent life pleasing to the Lord, while doing everything to bring others into God's Kingdom (2 Cor. 5:11).

If a person does not have much fear of God in their life, they probably do not know the living God and do not have wisdom (Prov. 1:7, 9:10; Psalm 111:10).


All Creatures of Our God and King

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let every created thing give praise to the Lord,
for he issued his command, and they came into being.
-Psalm 148:5

'All Creatures of Our God and King', is hymn, by William Draper, based on a canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi, called, 'Canticle of the Sun', written in 1255.  It is based on Psalm 148, which calls upon all creation to worship the Lord or Yahweh.

Francis was a rich young ruler, who forsook his family fortune to live in poverty and serve people.  He was never an ordained priest, but was a Friar.  Friars (the word means brother) are people to take vows to serve among the people.  Where monks turn inward, with silence, prayer, and study; while doing humble work together, friars turn outward and get among the hustle and bustle of people, physically touching lives.

Have you ever thought about the call for all creation to worship?  All of creation has a relationship to the creator.  The psalmist, and then Francis, picked up the idea of calling upon or exhorting all created things to worship God.  Francis emphasized animals, but in the Bible, all creation are worshipers.  The mountains and the hill sing and the trees clap their hands (Isa. 55:12).  The very last line of the last Psalm says, "Let everything that breathes sing praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!"

Since God's very existence compels worship, the compelling is so powerful, that it becomes natural to see everything as the congregation, worshiping.  Another aspect of why this is so, is because God created all living things, as well as the sun, moon, stars, and angels.  He created the air, clouds, land, and sea.  All of the creation owes its existence to God, who is worthy of praise.

So, it is perfectly natural to look at part of the creation, and say to it, "praise the Lord!".  It is also wisdom and godly to care about the creation, as stewards, treating animals humanely, and the land respectfully.  God does care about how we treat animals (Prov. 12:10).  I know a little boy who was killing ants with the garden hose one day, for his entertainment, who was brought under conviction by God that his heart was in the wrong place.  I believe that God cares about the smallest creatures.


Sky Links, 6-20-14

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
God Calls You To Jump Off, When You Are Riding High, For A New Beginning 

Bill Yount wrote about, how stepping down from a ministry role when God says to, is like getting off the bull at a rodeo, after the eight seconds.  The dismount is going to hurt, but God will heal us; and staying on longer may be deadly.

Bill wrote:
In a vision, I was riding a rodeo bull. I knew in the Spirit that this bull represented my
favorite area of ministry. To my surprise, I had ridden “eight” seconds on the bull. I was given great honor and recognition by the crowd in the grandstands. The crowd was cheering and applauding what I had accomplished, and how my ministry had touched their lives.
But then something terrible happened–I couldn’t let go of the rope! My fingers somehow got stuck around the rope, and the bull that I had overcome began to throw me uncontrollably! I just could not let go (in rodeo terms this is called a “hang-up”). I must confess that I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to let go because of the thrill of the ride and the applause of the many people watching me and standing on their feet giving me a standing ovation.
Bill Yount: My ‘Eight’ Seconds Of Glory On A Rodeo Bull–A Word To A New Breed Of Champions!


Gifted Ministers Need To Be Jesus' Disciples

Worship leader Dave Foster wrote about how worship leaders need discipleship and character development.  God is after something deeper than mobilizing a gift in and through you.  God is also after more than you just learning to keep clean.

Dave wrote:
Over time, God has made it apparent to me that He was using the years of my life differently than I thought He would. He wanted me to learn to submit my hopes and aspirations to Him. He wanted me to be faithful in the small things. He wanted me to learn to follow and trust. He wanted me to become a worshiper who makes it to the finish line. God called me to abide with Him, recognize His voice and do as He says. He called me to be Jesus’ disciple with His character.
Dave Foster: You play Who You Are 


"What Would You Do if Money Was No Object?", is The Wrong Question

This question, although well intentioned is actually the wrong question.  The problem is that your thing might be totally selfish in that your wife or husband is not on board with it and it might not be good for your kids.

Andrew Hamilton wrote about this:
I think the question has the potential to imply that we are sole entities who function as
individuals and it doesn’t pay attention to the wider communal impact of our actions. If we genuinely value one another then we don’t simply ‘follow our dreams’ wherever that leads because we consider how it impacts others. 
True?
So I am pondering a better question. It needs to be one that doesn’t restrict dreaming and one that helps a person’s imagination fire up, but I wonder if the $ question is the wrong way to hit it?…
Andrew Hamilton: The Wrong Question 


The Renewing of Your Mind - Take Another Thought

Doug Addison wrote about, How To Transform Your Mind:
Did you know that it’s harder to keep asking yourself to not think a thought, but it is easier to give yourself something good to think about instead? It is actually hard to focus
on not doing something, but easier to focus on taking a positive action. When we grasp this, we are no longer struggling and beating ourselves up for thinking and doing things that are not good for us.
Renewing your mind and developing godly character involves more than trying to avoid sin or bad habits. If you continually focus on what you are not supposed to do, or on the negative thoughts and behaviors, then that is all you will be thinking about all the time. Eventually you will feel guilty for not being able to change. In the New Testament, Peter instructs us to set the focus of our minds on the positive things that are coming as opposed to negative thoughts.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13)
These are my notes on what, "take another thought", means:
If you are vexed with negative thoughts, take another thought. This is what I've heard Graham Cooke say. Take a bigger, more true, more positive thought... I'm thinking it's scripture-based, and send that thought down the path at the negative thoughts like a bowling ball down the lane at the pins.

I don't know what the consensus is in the psychological community, but what I've been told is that you cannot erase "bad" thoughts. You can only think new thoughts or restructure your thinking, so as to get a better perspective on negative thoughts, thereby diminishing or eliminating their power.
If you want to drill down deeper, on the issue of building new thought highways in your mind, I would highly recommend Arthur Burke's CD album of teaching and exercises, PTSD Restoring Dignity and Hope.  Check it out and order it here.

Carrying The Cross

Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew,Golgotha).
-John 19:17

Jesus paid the price for sin by himself.  He did it alone.  He never taught on how we can save our selves through being punished or doing good.  Jesus paid for all the sin of the world and died for it all, on the cross.  He carried the cross alone.

We who are Christ-followers or in-Christ, can not add to Jesus' work on the cross, where he paid for all sin.  If you are a Christian, if you have experienced conversion, to become a believer in Christ; you have received his forgiveness of sins, from his death.  You have also received his resurrection power, to live the Christian life.  Christians are in union with Christ, in his death and his resurrection.

You are now dead to sin and have life in God, all through Christ (Romans 6:11).  The sin has been dealt with.  We have to, or our job is to, reckon or consider ourselves dead to sin.  We need to realize and remember, or bring to mind, the fact that sin has been dealt with, already in Christ, whom we are now joined to.  We are now in Christ, who does not sin.

You are not guaranteed or promised an 'experience' of this, because we are saved by faith.  You are like Abraham (Rom. 4:3, Gal. 3:6).  God has done everything to save you, through Christ.  You just have to believe.

There are also two other experiences of death and resurrection, in the Christian life.  We also must carry our own crosses.  Jesus commands his disciples, to take up our own crosses and die to our selves, daily.  This command is not optional.  Christians that try to live the life while not taking up there crosses fail to walk in Christ.

Your sins were dealt with once and forever and we receive forgiveness for them and enter in to the Christian life.  We repented on our way in and repentance is also the way on (Isa. 30:15).  We now take up our own crosses and crucify out selves daily.  Our death to self means life in Jesus.

When we are in discipleship with Jesus, he teaches us how to live through his life, while we put our selfish life to death.  If we are not in a discipleship relationship with him, then we might keep going back to a life ruled by our selves.  Eventually, we might come under conviction and feel like we need to get saved again.  So, we repent and feel clean again.  We feel saved again.  But, if we do not take up our own cross, alone (you have to do it, volitionally); your self life starts taking over and the sick cycle continues.

We can be addicted to feeling pleasure and we want to trade the pleasure of sin for the pleasure of walking with God.  But our crosses, and being crucified, does not feel good to our flesh or to our selfish, pleasure-seeking nature.  But Jesus says to do it.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, famously wrote that, "when Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die."

If we do not take up our own cross, which brings death to our own selfishness, then we are stuck trying to walk with God, in our own self-life that needs to die but has not.  We end up wearing diapers, crying to be fed, and needing to have our diapers changed and getting our rears cleaned very often and just wanting to sleep or be held.  That is not God's plan for the Christian's whole life, but it is perfectly normal for babes.

There is no Christianity without the cross, his cross once and for all; the work done there brought to bear today.  And Christianity does not work without us taking up our own crosses.

You believe or have faith in Jesus' finished work on his cross, but you have to 'do it', in you self, to put your self-life to death.  If you do not take up your cross, then you are living out something other than the Christian life or life in Christ.

If a group of people meet as a Church, but do not believe in Jesus work on the cross for their salvation, what do we call those people?  Are they Christian?  Also, if a person who says they are a Christian and they do believe Jesus paid the price for their salvation, on the cross; but they live a life, without taking up their own cross, what do we call them, or what are they?




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For further study:  Bonheoffer: The Cost of Discipleship, Stott, The Cross of Christ

Sick Cycle Carousel by Lifehouse

A Spoon Full of Sugar Helps The Medicine Go Down

  • A soft, gentle, sensitive, kind, or mild, 
  • answer, response, or reply 
  • turns away, deflects, quiets, defuses, soothes, turns back 
  • anger, wrath, or fury.

  • Gentle, kind, wholesome, or soothing speech, or words 
  • are or is, a tree of life (heal and help, cause life and health); 
  • a deceitful tongue, cutting words, dishonest talk, perverseness therein, immoderate, wild words, griping, or tongue undisciplined 
  • crushes the spirit, wounds and maims, breaks the spirit, is a breach or breaking of the spirit, brings discouragement, or can break hearts.
-Proverbs 15:1&4 (ESV, NIV, NLT, CEB, NJHB, CEV, MSG, CJHB, ASV, JPS, NAB. AAT, Taylor, Knox)

How To Speak

Have you ever said something that made it worse?  Have you ever said something that was true, but it was not received well, as in, saying the right thing, but the wrong way?  Have you ever done a, 'tit-for-tat', and felt empty afterwards?

We generally have a, 'failure to communicate', when we anger or hurt others with our words.  The Bible has a lot to say about how we talk to one another.  We generally tend to talk too much and listen too little and we all need to grow in how we use words.

Part of life is confrontation.  When you notice bright red and blue lights flashing on top of the car behind you, you are being confronted by an authority, and it is a bad feeling for most people.  Confronting someone, especially someone you love, does not have to be like that.

Caring Enough To Confront:  Care-fronting

Confrontation should be a normal part of relationships that does not devastate them.  There is a kind, gentle, and nurturing way to confront.  David Augsberger calls it care-fronting, as in caring enough to confront.  David writes about a healthy way to care enough about the relationship and the other person, and mediate through differences.

The wrong ways of doing conflict are avoidance or destructiveness.  There is a better way.  That is what Augsberger calls, to care enough to confront.  Consider reading that book.  I highly recommend it!

We

It is a given that if people do anything together, there will eventually be conflict, disagreement, or misunderstanding.  There is a song, that says, "there ain't no good guys, there ain't bad guys.  There's just you and me and we both disagree."  We have a disagreement between us.  That's the issue.  To frame it in, "you are bad, I am good", is not helpful.  It is a we thing.  We have a disagreement.

I love the analogy or picture of the fact that if you point or wag a pointing finger at someone in judgement, you have three fingers pointing back at you.  We want to be humble in how we deal with others, in grace and love.

Careful

So this all comes back to the wisdom, reflected in the scriptures above, to be careful how you speak; when you disagree, confront, or speak discipline.  Discipline means learning, a disciple is a learner, and disciplinary action is a learning experience, ultimately from the Lord, that sometimes comes through people.

Life Giving Conversation

There is a way to speak a word of disagreement, confrontation, or rebuke; that has life in it.  The title of this post might imply that I am talking about 'sugar coating' the bad news, that you might need to tell someone.  'Sugar coating', to me, implies deception and confusion.  'Sugar coating', is when you coat something you don't want with something you do, and get a nasty surprise.

Sweeten Your Speech

Adding sugar, to me, means to speak kindly, humbly, and gently.  The sugar, or healing life of Christ, permeates your words and the way to say them.  The non-verbal portion is actually a very large part of the message you transmit.  Christ and his grace, kindness, gentleness, and humility; is healing and life giving.  The bad news from him, is delivered in a way that offers truth and life in a way of no compromise, but also as an invitation to deeper relationship.

We need to add sugar to our conversations, as in grace, kindness, and humility; when we disagree or when another is fuming or upset about something, even upset with us personally.  How can I edify you or build you up when there is a problem between us?  The Spirit wants to teach us the Jesus way of doing conflict, of responding to it and of confronting, if need be.

The Goal is Christ

Jesus is not confrontation avoidant, but he also is not trying to fix people or shame them.  He wants to save people, transform them, renew, and revive them.  These are different from fixing and shaming.  Jesus was not and is not codependent.  Codependency is controlling and enabling, which is not Jesus' way.

The goal for all of us is Christ, and Christ is Lord of us all, while we are brothers and sisters.  The main thing for me, is Christ.  Christ gives me love for you, where you are at.

We want to have the heart that Daniel had.  When he gave the king the interpretation of a dream of judgement, Daniel was filled with compassion and said, "my lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies, and its meaning to your adversaries" (Daniel 4:19).  Then Daniel, went on to deliver the hard word of disciplinary action from God, to Nebuchadnezzar, that also contained hope and prophetic counsel (Daniel 4:20-7).

Out of our hearts, our mouths speak.  Christ is transforming our lives, from the inside, out.  My words, even when there is conflict or disagreement or confrontation, will be sweetened (not sugar coated) by the presence of Jesus Christ in my life.  I think that is good news and gives hope to the anticipation of any challenging conversation.




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CEB=Common English Bible, NJHB=New Jerusalem Holy Bible, CEV=Complimentary English Version, MSG=The Message, CJHB=Complete Jewish Holy Bible, JPS=Jewish Publication Society, AAT=An American Translation (Smith & Goodspeed), Taylor=The Living Bible, Knox=R. Knox

Daddy, I Want Down

And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
-Luke 3:22

"Daddy, I want down; daddy, I want down", was a chant I would say over and over, when I was a little boy, until my daddy heard me, and lifted me out of bed. My bed was tall and had a ladder in the back, to get up and down; but I preferred by dad's arms, and seeing his face.

My dad told me that the best day of his life was the day I was born.

My dad came to every single one of my games and all the performances, when I was in shows.

My dad joined Indian Guides with me and took me on camping trips.

My dad volunteered to be a my camp counselor. He let me put all the other boys to sleep, as I shared about a popular science fiction book, in the dark. My dad was kind to some boys who had a hard time at camp and never shamed them.

My dad and I went to the movies together many times.

My dad was often the smartest person in the room, but he never played that card.

My dad knew how to make popcorn and hot tea. That's what we would eat, when my mom had a night out with her friends.

My dad loved cars. He had a Jaguar, four Porsche's, and many others. He, of course, taught me to drive and have a passion for fun cars.

My dad never taught a Bible class, that I know of, but he had a set of reference books, and multiple translation Bibles at his bedside.

Even though we were conservative evangelicals, my dad was curious about and enjoyed teachers from other streams.

My dad traveled to many places. His favorite, judging by his excitement upon return, was Turkey.

He loved architecture.

I got a bit estranged from my dad, while I was in college. God moved in my life, in a personal revival, after college. My first Sunday, at the church that I was a part of for about 12 years, was Father's Day. I received a revelation of Father for those next 12 years.

It was ironic that the one time my dad came and sat in on a church meeting with me, the Malachi scripture, "I will turn the hearts of the the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers" (Mal. 4:6), was preached.

When my dad moved to Hawaii, he chose the same brand of church that I had been attending.

When my dad wrote us, sharing that the cancer had returned, it was the saddest thing I've read in my whole life.

My dad had a personal intercessor during the last year of his life. She shared with us, that God told her that my dad was, "His boy". Father was revealing his fatherhood to my dad at the end of his life here.

I met my wife on my dad's birthday, the year after he died.

Oh yes, I miss my dad and think about him often.

I love you, daddy!

The Life of Running Towards Jesus

Therefore, having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,

and throwing off everything that hinders us and especially the sin that so easily entangles us,

let us keep running with endurance the race set before us,

looking off to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
-Hebrews 12:1-2 (ISV)

The Christian life is an endurance race, like a marathon.  Surrounding us, are witnesses of the ages; people who have walked in faith before us.  In our sight, is Jesus, who is our life, our goal, our way; our everything.  He is the prize we look to every day.

The goal of the Christian life is Christ.  The goal of the Christian life is learning to trust God.  Jesus is the goal.

When you see Jesus, you want to stop sinning, you want to let sin go and not pick it up.  Have you seen him?  When you see Jesus, you give up everything and follow him.

When you see him, you gladly give up anything and everything. Seeing him changes me and changes the way I do life and treat other people.  He is the king of my life and I am his subject.  I begin acting like he does - loving, kind, merciful, compassionate, and patient.

Sin and sinful ways become distasteful and unappealing to us when we see Jesus.  Why would I want to do anything that would get in the way of my seeing Jesus?

From the day that Hebrews was written, up to today, we have needed to be reminded that sin and sinfulness needs to be dealt with in our lives.  We each have the responsibility to deal with sin in our lives.  We must take the action to get rid of it.  We have to do it.  We can not be victims or blame others.

Sins entangle our running of the race that is set before us.  We need to get rid of things that trip us up in our journey in Christ.  If it impedes us, as we run towards Jesus, we must throw it off or strip it off of us, so that we are free the run towards him.

There is an entangling aspect of sin that ruins the Christian's life.  Let it go, lay it aside, throw it off, strip it off.  Just stop, cut your losses, don't negotiate, and walk away from it.

One thing that we do not want to have at the end of our lives is regret.  We only get one chance at life.  Sin distracts us, hinders us, pollutes us, and slows down our walk towards Christ.

When tempted to sin, don't pick it up.  You can learn to say, "no thanks".  The Spirit of God empowers each believer to control their selves (Gal. 5:22-3).

Sin weighs a person down.  Repentance is the message Kingdom of God (Matt. 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15), and repentance is not an event, but a lifestyle (Isaiah 30:15).  Do not be ashamed to repent a thousand times (1 John 1:9).

Jesus is the goal we are heading to every day.  Jesus is our teacher and example.  Jesus is our companion along the way.

Jesus did not float through his life on earth, but he relied on God, and trusted in God.  He suffered in life here (Heb. 2:18),  and he is completely familiar with the human experience of temptation (Heb. 4:15).

We can fool ourselves into thinking we are good Christians, while holding onto sin that weighs us down and trips us up.  Two wrong ways for the Christian are first, believing that only Jesus was holy and since we don't want to be 'legalists' and are under grace, we don't really need to look at personal sin.  The second wrong way is to say that stopping sinning and and getting our flesh under control is what the Christian life is all about.  The thinking is that, when we are being good, we can serve God and live the life.  But, God wants communion with sons and daughters, who will carry Jesus into a broken world.

I believe that we are all about a person, Jesus Christ, and learning from him and trusting him, and letting him live out his life, in our lives; I believe that is what the Christian life is all about.  We persevere, we suffer, we go through trials, we trust, we love; and we even take up our crosses and die, because we have seen Jesus.  Have you seen him?


In Prayer Continuously

Pray continually.
-1 Thess. 5:17 (NIV/CEB)

When you keep praying for something that has not happened, your soul or flesh does not like it.  We want microwave prayers.  But our spirit is alright with praying and not seeing tangible answers.

God is faithful and true.  

God is a covenant God.  God can do things on his own, but he chooses to partner with people, to get things done on earth.  If people choose not to partner with God, then some things that God wants simply will not happen (Ezek. 22:23).

Do you know what Jesus is doing and has been doing, since he ascended to heaven?  He is interceding (Heb. 7:25).  Have you ever wondered what he is praying about for you?  We need to get in with what Jesus is already praying for us.

Praying continually means abiding in Christ (John 15:7).  What are his words and what are his prayers in this situation?  What we want is to be abiding in Christ, in union with him, so that we are the will of God.  Christ's words, through us.

The Christian by definition, is an intercessor.  You, who are in Christ, are the go-between, from God's power, to a broken world.

It is a deception to believe that intercession is only for the few.  I am convinced that it is a, "many are called but few are chosen", type of thing, where we are all called to prayer, but only a few take up the calling and run with it.

Those of us who do not pray much are not loved less by God, but we are selling our selves short and are missing out.  Praying is part of being a Christ-follower, part of discipleship.  Being a praying person is the Jesus way.

Prayer is words.  Prayer is also an attitude or focus, that is in our thoughts, minds, or hearts.  Prayers are requests and calls for help.  Prayer is also conversation with God.  Prayer is taking everything to God.

If you only pray when in crisis, then praying continually is something to grow into.  You can do it, because if you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit, who will teach you.  Pray, "Lord, teach me to pray."

Persevering prayer that never gives up, is a good thing, but what if we get closer and closer to God, until we are in his arms?  If we relate to God as loving Father, then our prayer life will reflect this.

When we are dealt a challenging situation, we will immediately cast our cares on him or draw life from him.  When tempted to react, we will instead pray.  We are training our selves to be in an attitude of prayer.  When the thing happens, we are already being prayerful.  That's the Jesus life that we want to live.

It is hard to find a Bible verse about unanswered prayer.  Jesus taught that all prayer is answered (Matt. 7:8, Luke 11:10).  God's answers are often different that what we expect, but are better.  We might be getting answers that we don't expect, because we are not in union with Christ.

When we pray, we are feeding the life of God in us.  Bringing everything to the Lord in prayer, is the way of opening the door to God, of our lives.

When we pray continuously, we are continually being transformed into Christlikeness.  God wants us to partner with him, to bring his rule and reign into the earth.  When we do this, we get to have God's heart for a situation or persons, while he makes us more like Jesus Christ; and that is pretty much the goal of the Christian life.


Time and Eternity

The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord.  And so it is with people.
-Isaiah 40:7 (NLT)

God is eternal.  Everything on earth is temporal.  It is all fading.  Temporal things are useful for serving the eternal purposes of God, but they are not the focal point.

We live in time.  God, who stands outside of time, enters time, to help us.  God does not leave us to suffer in time.  

When God comes, intervenes, or interacts with us; he is catalytic in that he brings and provokes change.  The things of the world grow dim, as we behold him.  People repent or refuse to repent.  There is no hiding sin or pretending when God comes because he is light and truth.

When we are enamored with or stuck on temporal things, we need an adjustment.  Perhaps we need cleansing.  We need an eternal perspective.  Jesus taught his first disciples to pray, "thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven."  

We are on our way to heaven.  We want to take others with us.  And we want to leave behind a legacy of heaven mindedness within our children.

We need to put our faith on and in God and the Word.  We need to learn to trust in and look to God and his eternal word, for affirmation.  The important thing is to prepare ourselves to have the glory of God at the center of our lives.

He is glorious.  We will experience God's glory and glorify God, if we live in his presence.  We need to turn our eyes off people and onto God, then back onto people.  In other words, get heaven's perspective, God's perspective; for people.

If we live a life before God's face, with his breath on and in our lives; we will live as Jesus lived.  We will put God first, before our selves and others.  We will have God's holiness working out our sanctification, or straightening out our lives to look more like Jesus.

We will not be judgmental, as in condemning without mercy, towards other people who are still walking in crookedness, but invite them to change their lives and receive God's love, that is the only hope for their change.

When we live in the breath of The Eternal One, we will have no time for, nor desire of, religious games of pretending, but live a life before God, having God's heart, and living out Jesus Christ's mission to save people for eternity.





Sky Links, 6-4-14

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
“Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master.  Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!
-Matthew 10:24-5 (NLT)

The real Jesus is either hated or loved.  J.D. Greear wrote:
One of the ironies of our current culture is that most people today find Jesus rather boring. Most people don’t mind Jesus, but they don’t really love him or hate him either. This proves that which proves they haven’t actually met him.
No one in the Bible was ever bored with Jesus. The real Jesus was polarizing; people either loved him or hated him. The more attractive he grew to some, the more loathsome he grew to others. Certain people thronged to him, while others plotted his death.
Are we really letting Jesus take the lead in our families? Parents, are you teaching your kids to obey Jesus more than you? The Christian world is filled with parents who don’t want their kids to obey God and go on the mission field. And if they must defy you to obey God, then that’s what Jesus is asking. But do we really want our kids to obey God in spite of us?
 J. D. Greear, 4 Questions When Jesus Confronts Us.


Contract or Covenant?

Sometimes we treat God like we are in a contractual relationship where we expect things and we do strange things when we feel like we have been bad.  Christian marriage and being a Christian are both covenantal relationships based on love..  The dysfunctional dynamic of treating your spouse or God like a contractor (like a person that you are in a contract with)  is the topic that the guys at Family Room Media did a great podcast about:
Ever notice how we treat the Bible as a contract between God and us? "Now God, we do this, and you promise to do that...." Sound familiar? Who's ever read about prayer and faith in Bible passages and came away silently disappointed when it appears that God didn't honor his part of the deal? You might want to listen to this conversation.
It is the "Contract or Covenant? April 22, 2014", podcast, posted here.  A great concept to grasp!  Covenant.



Overt (mass) or Organic (personal) Evangelism

Gene Redlin wrote a piece titled, Is Overt Evangelism God's Plan?
I am becoming aware of our lack of understanding of what true evangelism is. What it

takes to reach those looking for an answer... As Peter did... "What must we do to be saved"? In fact if you consider much of the book of Acts you see very little overt evangelism. Most of it was organic. One to one.


Christians Live By The Grace of God

I heard a message by Aaron Budjen, titled The Grace of God.  I love this message and I noticed that Aaron has other messages on grace that you can find on youtube.  Here is a long quote.  Aaron said:
For the most part, people believe that the Christian life is a life of getting your flesh under control.  You are to live a life of reducing as much sin as possible:  That, that's the way we are to live.  We are to live in such a way that we say "no" to ungodliness, we say "no" to unrighteousness, and people believe that the way this is going to be accomplished is by following a set of rules, laws, or principles for daily life, so that a person can live in a certain way, so that they can have some degree of confidence that they will not sin.  That's what the Christian life is, to most of the people I have personally encountered.  They believe the goal of the Christian life is to stop sinning.  The goal of the Christian life is to get your flesh under control, and when you accomplish this, you will have achieved the goal of becoming a better person, conformed more to the image of Christ Jesus.  You can then say that you are a great Christian.

But, I do not believe that this is the goal of the Christian life.  I do not believe, at all, that the goal of the Christian life is to figure out some way to get your flesh under control.  I do believe that a person should expect to experience a change, a transformation, within their being, to the extent that there will be a noticeable reduction of sin in their lives.  I do believe that.  I just don't believe that it is the goal.  I believe that is the side-effect, but not the goal.  
This is something that sets me apart from the most people, unfortunately, because the Christian world is consumed with sin, trying get the flesh under control, and consumed with trying to get people to stop sinning.  One of the reasons why, is because there is also a sincere belief that people have, that there is no way that God is going to have a personal relationship with an individual, until they get their flesh under control.  In addition to that, there are many people who believe that there is no way he is going to bless a person, until they get their flesh under control; or that he will intervene in their lives in a positive way, until they get their flesh under control; that there is no way that they can understand who their God is, until they get their flesh under control....
...I believe that the goal of the Christian life is really about learning to trust our God.  Trust him, as in, believe what he has already said, believe in what he has already accomplished.  
You know, when a person starts their Christian life,  on the basis of law; by default, what they are saying is that God still holds their sins against them.  That's what they believe.  Now of course, the Gospel has nothing to do with that.  
The Gospel has to do with the fact that our sins have been forgiven, and he doesn't hold our sins against us anymore, so where do people get this idea that he still holds our sin against us, that he still relates to us on the basis of our sin?  They get it from each other...  But, it does contradict what they will also say about the Gospel...  This becomes difficult, especially for new believers.
But, if he doesn't hold our sin against us any more, then there is no law that he holds against us an more, or that he utilizes in order to condemn us, judges us, or to determine whether he is going to bless us, or not; or whether he is going to participate in our lives or not.  
He set us free from the law, so that we could walk in a newness of life, based on trusting in what he has accomplished; trusting and believing in his forgiveness.  
Now, there are two ways to go with this.  One way of course, is to just simply rejoice and say, "well then, let's just go out and sin, and indulge our flesh!".  And certainly, there are people who do that, I understand that.  But, that's not the only response that a person can have.  
There is another way to view this.  Now that we've been set free, we can now be loved by our God.  We can now be accepted by our God.  We can now trust in and rest in the grace of God.  
I have confronted and asked many pastors and church leaders, "how do we disciple new believers in Christ Jesus?", ...and to summarize the answers, the answer most often given, is that we should teach them how to be holy... teach them about good an evil; in other words, we need to get their flesh under control.  That's what people believe.  That's what people hear.  
So, when I suggest that we are not to be led by the law, but we are to be led by the grace of God, people will be very concerned.  They are very concerned when I mention that, because they say things like, "well then, what is going to keep people from sinning?"  Well, of course, nothing kept people from sinning to begin with, that doesn't help either.  
But people will say, "you are giving people a licence to sin or the right to sin: the ability to sin without regard to the consequences they might experience.  Well, of course people are going to experience consequences for sin, and they don't need God's intervention for that.  But, that does not have to be the response.  While many people will respond that way, I understand that, to me, that is not an excuse, not to continue to tell the truth.  
The truth is that this provides us with another way of life and I believe that we should continue to tell the truth about the forgiveness of sins, freedom from the law; knowing full well, that there are many people that will use it as an excuse to indulge their flesh.  In my opinion, it is worth it, when you consider the few, who will follow through, with what the Lord has now provided in the light of that truth.  What he has provided is an opportunity to be loved by him, accepted by him, in a way that he never could, unless he no longer held our sins against us.  

The whole message is here.  A huge mistake that has been taught to Christians today is that we are still under the law.  The great fear is that if we are not under the the law, or some of the law; that we will go wild as libertines and sin like crazy, saying, "it's grace!"  Some people will do that and freedom allows that.  We are free to sin, but sin is still sin.

He set us free from sin and from living under law, so that we can walk with him and let Christ live through us.  We are set free from the law, but we are now under and in Christ, who is above the law and who's standards for right living are higher than the law, and only he, in our lives can fulfill.

Aaron Budjen answers the charge and question of Antinomianism here.



Why We Homeschool

Nicole Mc Ghee wrote:
My homeschooling adventure with my sons is far less about the curriculum I choose and
infinitely more about the relationship I have with them.
D. Kevin Brown, wrote down these four points from Todd Wilson's keynote address at the NC Homeschool Conference:
#1 Home is the best place on earth.
#2 Parents are the best teachers of their children.
#3 Each child is a masterpiece and
#4 Relationships with our kids come first.
My notes:

  • Relationship.  
  • God, through Christ, by the Spirit; to us.  
  • Relationship with each other.  
  • Relationship with our children.  
  • Home.  
  • Each child is designed by God uniquely.  
  • Partnering, in relationship with God, to let God's design for your child bloom.


Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.
-1 Thess. 5:11, 1 Cor. 14:26, Eph. 4:29, Col. 3:21 & 4:6

The ministry of discouragement is not a ministry of the church.  We are called to encourage each other.  We want to build up and not tear down.  

Our words should always be calling each other higher.  Urging and cheering on are part of encouraging.  Gracious words accentuate the positive.  

We want to help people where they are going in the right direction.  We want to celebrate even the smallest victories.  Encouragement means to build someone up.  "I affirm you", we're saying.

People will become aggravated when we tease them or try to control them.  People will be discouraged if we talk at them, or down to them.  People want to be spoken to from beside them, from where they are.  

Think about Jesus sitting next to the woman at the well (John 4).  He sat beside her and he talked to her about her brokenness, matter-of-factly, and corrected her theological misconceptions, gently.  He was with her, by her side; and he spoke to her.  

Prophetic people can be harsh with their words, because they see things in black and white sometimes and they envision where people should be and are not.  Prophetic people and intercessors both have to watch for bitterness, as they perceive where God wants the people, but see the people resisting.  Prophets and intercessors are stewards of the grace (1 Peter 4:10) of insight into God's direction, and have the responsibility to stand in the gap (Ezek. 22:30).

Having insight, does not give us the right to be judgmental or harsh with people.  We may be frustrated and grieved.  When we speak, we must speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), for example, we might say, "I am disappointed with you", or "I am frustrated with you", or "I am so grieved"....  "because I love you".

The love is the key.  The most eloquent, even true, words are an irritating sound, when there is not rooted in authentic love (1 Cor. 13:1-2).   Jesus style, the Christ way, is to speak in love.  We need to be growing in the christlikeness of speaking with love.  The way in is the way on.  Jesus saves and Jesus makes you like him, if you will walk with him.

The church needs fathers (1 Cor. 4:15), who suffer labor pains as Christ is formed in his church (Gal. 4:19).  Teaching is good, but fathering is indispensable.  Fathers train and mentor.  Fathers are patient and kind.  Fathers model a life of love and ministry.  Fathers laugh and cry with you.  Fathers care enough to confront.  Fathers never give up on people who stray.  Fathers want to see you make it on your own.  Fathers love children and babies.  Fathers are encouraging in that they show us how to be courageous in a hard life.  Fathers teach us how to be fathers.

It is interesting that Paul describes the prophecy gift as primarily for the upbuilding, edifying, or encouraging of the church (1 Cor. 14:3).  The prophetic person needs to learn how to use their gift to build up people and encourage them.  We can call people up higher to what we see, in an encouraging way.  After all, the only way that we will get there is grace, so why not talk with grace about getting to a place that only God's grace can take us to?

When we re-calibrate our prophetic ministries to be primarily for strengthening, encouraging, and comforting (1 Cor. 14:3); then we will realize that the prophetically gifted people are the ones that God will primarily use to speak in church gatherings.



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The picture above is from Joseph Dubose.