Month: October 2013
Christians are no longer reluctant to talk about sex. They love to delve into the intricacies of politics. Religion as a phenomenon, they are happy to discuss–as long as it is kept at arm’s length.
So why is it that even committed followers of Christ get queasy when the subject of giving comes up? Because we have been overly sensitized to cultural accusations that all the church wants is their money, we usually avoid the topic. And because as many as half of most congregations contribute little or nothing, the subject always makes a significant portion of our friends very uncomfortable!
Well, for the next four Sundays at Providence, we want to walk through a biblical perspective on giving. There is no budget crunch going on…no building fund to promote…no special projects needing financial support. So this is a great time to step back and look at the topic without any particular pressure linked to some issue we are facing as a church.
The title of the series is…
I realize that by posting this information, there will be some who will thank me for the warning and make plans to be somewhere else for the next four Sundays! But, no joke…this is not a taboo topic! Jesus teaches more about it than just about any other subject because He wanted everyone to understand that “Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”
So come…bring something to take notes on…begin to pray now that God would open your eyes to see what He has in store for you personally…plan at some point over the next month to take some time to discover what God wants you to do with what His Word says on this important matter!
The essence of the series is simple–God’s plan for managing His gifts to us will always lead to joyful living and financial freedom. See you Sunday at Providence…and if you cannot get there for all four sermons, be sure to watch the ones you miss on line.
One of the most frustrating things I can think of is being expected to do something without having the necessary skills, equipment, or opportunities to do the job. Nothing can create as much stress and tension in our lives than knowing that we are inadequate in some way for the task before us.
Anxiety and tension develop when we begin to assume responsibility for matters which were never intended to be left up to us. When Paul instructed the Philippians not to worry about anything, he knew their natural inclination was to become anxious in the face of difficulty. The Lord’s exhortation to them and to us today, is to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Nothing we can do will alleviate the inadequacies in our spiritual lives. Jesus Himself said that “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” The greatest mystery for most of us is why we have ever thought that we have sufficient resources to accomplish what is possible only through Christ.
Until we learn to wait on the Lord, we will forever be running ahead of Him and finding ourselves continually befuddled by the messes we make of the simplest tasks He give us. David wrote in Psalm 62 some words of great encouragement for those of us who seem to live in a constant state of turmoil: “My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken” (62:1·2).
The problem arises for me when I am challenged by some problem which is obviously beyond my ability. In my zeal to be available to the Lord, I jump right in and try to solve things myself without waiting to see what He needs to do in me to prepare me for the work to be done.
Then, when I fail I become discouraged and frustrated, convinced that I have blown the opportunity to honor Christ. To be honest, I am often more concerned about how I appear in the eyes of those who witnessed the failure than with my testimony for Christ. Such discouragement leads to anxiety the next time an opportunity to serve arises and I make myself a little less available than before fearing that I may fail again.
If this cycle is not broken, we can become paralyzed in our service to the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to learn to put each situation into the hands of the Lord as it comes to us–and to do that without bothering to figure out how to resolve it ourselves first.
In Psalm 62:8, David goes on to say, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”
As we pour out our hearts to Him, we will leave nothing in them to produce the kind of frustration each of us has known in those “trying times” of our lives. Then we will find that He alone is perfectly sufficient for all things. Whatever He brings to us, we can address with confidence and great assurance knowing that He will be “my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken” (62:6).
After a week teaching at Emanuel Univ in Oradea, Romania, we are now in Lutsk, Ukraine to begin a series of meetings with church leaders here. We flew out of Budapest this morning to Lviv and then drove the remaining 4 hours here. We have the honor of being with a great friend, Zygmunt Karel from Poland. Our host for the week is a Ukrainian pastor and his family who have overwhelmed us with kindness and hospitality. Can’t wait to get started in our meetings to learn from the ministry leaders here.
Over the years of our lives in Christ, cycles tend to emerge as we go up and down in the level of our willingness to trust the Lord. The difficulty of maintaining a constant faith is linked directly to our understanding and affirmation of the very nature of God.
Although we believe what the Bible says about Him, on any given day we may find that certain aspects of His character seem to us to be distant from our experience. While we wholeheartedly agree that Jesus Christ healed the blind man and raised Lazarus from death, we cannot grasp that power as operable in our lives to heal our hearts and meet our needs.
Therein lies a problem that must be overcome if we hope to establish constancy in our trust in Christ. The transfer from head to heart results in increased confidence in God’s faithfulness regardless of the visible circumstances challenging us.
Instead of looking for reasons which could encourage us to greater boldness of belief, more often we look for excuses to relieve the Lord of His promised faithfulness to all of His people in every generation. We are likely to read of miracles in Scripture and wonder why God’s power was uniquely released in that situation. But, why should we not presume to think He will work in our day in the same way? Is He not the same yesterday, today, and forever?
Granted, the Lord does not always do things the same way because He is creative and a God of wondrous variation and abundance! Nonetheless, He is not different in character and will still bring His might to bear in our circumstances in order to accomplish His will and glorify His name.
Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (6:10). When we face the difficult choices and know that the way we are called to follow will prove to be filled with obstacles, we know that this promise of strength can be real for us.
As long as He is the Lord, as long as He makes “the strength of His might” available to His children, we can truly be strong and do everything He sets before us. Whenever we confront the impossible, we can take heart and grow in excitement for in just such times will the glory of Christ become most evident.
The greater the obstacles confronting the body of Christ, the greater the opportunity for us to be encouraged that we will see the powerful hand of the Lord. Long periods of waiting sometimes precede the intervention of the Almighty God on our behalf in order that His powerful solution cannot be confused with man’s feeble efforts.
William Gurnall, the great Puritan pastor and author, said, “He lays the scene of his providence, so that when he hath done it may be said, Almighty power was here…yea, he suffers a contrary power many times to arise, in that very juncture of time, when he intends mercy to his people, that he may rear up the more magnificent pillar of remembrance to his own power.”
So when we see the way blocked, we are compelled to rely on the Almighty power of the strength of His might. All may look its darkest and then out pours the power of His might to the glory of His name.
Can you think of how often He has done just this in His word, in this church, in your life and mine? Therefore, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Great days of praise are ahead!
From an unknown source:
“Someone with a purpose and a plan will go a hundred miles on one road, but someone without either will go one mile on a hundred roads.”
Lesson to be learned? Find God’s purpose in life and seek His plan for how to see it through!