Jun 272013
 

Just like usMy daily bible readings have brought me to the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 & 19. Elijah suddenly appears out of nowhere in chapter 17 as he boldly addresses the king and declares “there will be no dew or rain until I say so”. Wow, that is impressive! He goes on being impressive: performing the miracle of the continually replenishing jars of oil and flour with the widow at Zarephath; then the “one man against 400 – altar stand-off” where he confidently challenges the prophets of Baal to see whose god is the best. He mocks their efforts as they get ever more desperate to prove a god who only exists in their imagination, and to compound it all pours jar after jar of water onto his sacrifice and confidently stands back as God shows up in full pyrotechnic glory.

Does this type of story ever make you feel insignificant? Elijah seems to be a member of a different species, perhaps a secret agent angel parachuted down by God to get the job done. Has God given up using imperfect men and women now, who blow it time after time? Actually, no. As the story unfolds we see that Elijah was a man just like we are (James 5:17).

We shouldn’t rejoice in his weakness, which can be quite a temptation, but should rejoice in the fact that God treats us all with amazing grace. We can, like Elijah, experience amazing times with God, enjoying His presence or when ministering for Him. God blesses us and we feel great. But what happens when, shortly after, fear takes hold or disappointment occurs?

Ahab and his wife Jezebel issue murderous threats and Elijah is suddenly running scared. He runs to the middle of the wilderness and asks God to kill him. What happens next should be a comfort to all of us who struggle with fear, depression, doubt and anxiety, or simply feelings of inadequacy. God provides food and water for Elijah, leads him in the right direction and then gently speaks to Him through a whisper which suggests real gentleness and care.

God wants to do the same with you. You may have reached rock bottom and the end of your abilities, but in that place of vulnerability God will prove to you His wonderful grace as you submit again to His will and allow yourself to be lifted up by Him.

 June 27, 2013  Posted by at 10:56 pm Grace, Sanctification 1 Response »
Jun 202013
 

Giving with graceIf you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I have been exploring the many aspects of ‘grace’. Grace is a doctrine which will totally transform us if we truly embrace it.

This week I am going to talk about “giving”. This is not a subject that is particularly embraced but it is one that can teach us plenty about grace.

No other chapters in the Bible use the word “grace” more often than Second Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. They are a great template for the grace of giving in the New Covenant. Have a read and then I will take the following 10 key points out of it (and part of chapter 9):

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-15)

(1) They gave themselves first to the Lord(v5)

The Macedonian churches knew their priorities. Giving yourself to God first includes what you do with your money. Does God come before your money?

(2) They gave joyfully(v2)

God loves a cheerful giver – “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

(3) Giving is in response to Christ’s giving(v9)

He gave first.

(4) Grace giving is voluntary

Paul said he was not commanding them. (v8)

(5) Give out of a sincere desire, motivated by love(v8)

Let God’s love and generosity to you be the motivating factor.

(6) Give willingly(v10)

(7) Give as much as you are able to(v3)

Not just as much as you are able, but God’s grace will even allow you to go beyond your ability.

(8) The goal is equality(v13)

If we have extra, share with those who lack.

(9) Grace giving increases more growth in all areas(2 Corinthians 9:8, 10, 11)

(10) Give so the gospel may spread

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” (2 Corinthians 9:13)

 June 20, 2013  Posted by at 10:18 pm Giving, Grace No Responses »
Jun 132013
 

MephiboshethI am currently following a bible reading plan which takes me through the whole bible in a year, reading a few chapters each day. Just recently I came to one of my favourite stories in the Old Testament and it is a wonderful picture of the grace that we have received.

The main part of the story is in 2 Samuel 9. I will briefly outline the situation:

King Saul has failed as Israel’s king and David has been chosen to take his place. Saul is jealous of David and is determined to kill him. He pursues him for a long time and even though David has two clear opportunities to kill Saul, he refuses to do it as he doesn’t want to touch God’s anointed king. David waits for God’s timing to receive his promised position as king. Saul’s son Jonathan is best friends with David and is fully committed to him, refusing to help his father in his pursuit.

Eventually David becomes king after Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle. Even though Saul was his enemy, David wants to show kindness to a member of Saul’s family, namely Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son, Saul’s grandson). Mephibosheth is summoned to the king’s palace.

Now Mephibosheth is crippled, being lame in both legs. He has to be carried everywhere and is totally dependant on others helping him. In an extraordinary act of grace, David gives him all of Saul’s property and states that he shall always eat at the king’s table.

Later on in the story we see that Ziba (Mephibosheth’s servant) spreads a false rumour about Mephibosheth to David, resulting in Ziba receiving a substantial part of his master’s estate. In 2 Samuel 19 we see Mephibosheth vindicated, but he never seeks revenge. He doesn’t care that half his estate has been handed over to Ziba. He is just happy that his king, David is back and he can share his meals with him again.

This is an amazing picture of what King Jesus has done for us. We were not able to help ourselves (spiritually crippled), we were in essence enemies of the king. But Jesus sought us out, determined to show kindness to us. King Jesus has now given us full access into His palace where we can enjoy food, shelter and protection for the rest of our lives (and into eternity).

Let us never lose the wonder of how far away from God we were (even further than Mephibosheth) and how now, through no effort of our own, we have been brought right into the king’s presence. Let’s be like Mephibosheth, who even though he lost material possessions, it really didn’t compare to the joy of spending time with his king.

 June 13, 2013  Posted by at 8:48 pm God's family, Grace, Salvation, The gospel 1 Response »
Jun 062013
 

scorpion and school tripsWhich of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I am currently hosting a Foundations course at my church and this week we talked about the whole subject of being filled with the Holy Spirit. We explored the fact that our Father in heaven wants to equip us for every task He has for us to do. As I was preparing for my talk I felt God speak to me out of my own family situation, so I thought I would share it with you.

My son Tom is currently on a school trip and even though he is only away for a few days our home is not the same without him. My wife has for some time now been making sure he would have everything needed for his trip. She prepared him a special wash bag with miniature toothpaste and toothbrush, travel shampoo, enough money and some new wellington boots, indeed everything he could possibly need. She was extremely thorough.

As I watched her prepare and lovingly pack everything for Tom, it came to mind that God knows everything we are going to face in life. He knows every detail of our day, not just the expected but the unexpected. If we can trust our own parents in their very limited way to provide for us, how much more can we trust our heavenly Father who will not leave us un-prepared.

God has provided the Holy Spirit to equip us and give us power for every task He has prepared for us to do. Let’s ask Him in faith knowing He will provide only good things for us.

 June 6, 2013  Posted by at 7:57 pm Holy Spirit No Responses »