Archive | June, 2014

6 Critical Moments in Giving History

June 9, 2014

Comments Off on 6 Critical Moments in Giving History

The Death of Ananias - 1515 - Raphael (1483–1520)

The Death of Ananias – 1515 – Raphael (1483–1520)

Ananias and Sapphira “overstated” their contribution. (Acts 5:1-6)

There they were, on the edge of doing something good and right, and they let their ego get bigger than their heart.

Look what Solomon says about that:

The Lord hates sacrifices brought by evil people,
particularly when they offer them for the wrong reasons. – Proverbs 21:27 NCV

The bible talks a lot about our money and our giving. More than most other subjects even. He wanted us to be good givers – givers that think nothing of the rewards.

Here are the critical moments of some famous giving in the Bible. Think about what must have been on their heart as you check the verses:

Poor examples:

  • The Rich Young Ruler: Mark 10:18-22
  • Judas: John 12:3-6
  • Ananias and Sapphira: Acts 5:1-2

Good Examples:

  • Barnabas: Acts 4:36-37
  • The Poor Widow: Mark 12:41-44
  • David: 2 Samuel 24:24

David may have made the most stinging statement of all – The gist of it is “It’s not a sacrifice if I didn’t make a sacrifice.”

In the end, will your giving really count?

Continue reading...

How to Really Please the Lord

June 6, 2014

Comments Off on How to Really Please the Lord

Just leaving a Bible out in view can be enough to get a Bible study started.

Just leaving a Bible out in view can be enough to get a Bible study started.

When people live so that they please the Lord,
even their enemies will make peace with them. – Proverbs 16:7 NCV

Moral boundaries are being erased at every turn. It isn’t hard to find someone willing to make fun of those that believe in God. “Alternative” lifestyles are being accepted as normal. Many worry about admitting their belief in God in the “wrong setting.”

You have the ability to make the opposite happen. Living in a way that promotes God is powerful:

  • Insist that those around you not use “four-letter-words” and see how quickly they respect your wishes.
  • Leave a Bible in the open and see how many supportive comments and questions you get.
  • Decline to attend meetings or events that conflict with church, Bible study or related activities and tell them why. I’ve had regular meeting dates changed this way.

When you are willing to stand firm on your belief of God and live accordingly, you will find others quite willing to respect you for it and will often become receptive to learning more. The key is to know why you shouldn’t be ashamed (Romans 1:16-17).

One final thought … Did you know that there is a way to get Christ to mention your name to the Father? Look at Matthew 10:32-33.

Continue reading...

They that Mourn

June 5, 2014

Comments Off on They that Mourn

The Sermon On the Mount - 1877 - Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890)

The Sermon On the Mount – 1877 – Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4 ESV

This beatitude is one I’ve been asked about a number of times over the years. It means literally, “Happy are those who are grieving.”

This sounds like a contradiction, but God has never made it a secret that Christians will sometimes have to grieve. He has instructed us to make the best of it because it is all part of his plan.

What are the ways that this could possibly be true?

  • Hard times mature our patience (Romans 5:3-4) – We need to go through the challenges of life to be able to appreciate life.
  • It grows the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11) – If we did not fall on hard times, we would soon forget how much we need God.
  • Godly sorrow will lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) – Being those that grieve about sin helps us find our way back to God.

Jesus’ promise of comfort in troubling times is certainly a precious gift. Mourning is an emotion that can cause us to act on some serious matters:

  • Christians should mourn the sinful world
  • We mourn our own sins
  • We mourn the family and friends who are lost

You see, only those convinced of the sinfulness of sin will ever be sorrowful for their separation from God and seek a remedy – much like one who is not sick does not seek out a physician. The Great Physician says “Come Unto Me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Continue reading...

Why We Need the Church

June 4, 2014

Comments Off on Why We Need the Church

Would others in the congregation notice if your pew was empty?

Would others in the congregation notice if your pew was empty?

Do you like knowing there is someone you can call when you have need?


Do you feel like there is no one you can call when you have a need?

In my article Why We Stick to a Plan, I mentioned the church as part of the framework that can provide for the kinds of support we need. Acts 2:42-47 is an excellent demonstration of what I was talking about.

The group of new Christians found themselves at a place where they wanted to stay and keep learning but weren’t financially prepared. As far as we can tell, no one even blinked when asked to help provide for everyone.

Our situation today is probably not that dire, but there are still needs among Christians that the church membership could easily help with. Two things have to happen for that to work:

  1. The members need to know about it
  2. The individuals need to be known by the group

Too many members fail to connect with the church. Often, even when they do connect, they never really let others know what they need.

Too many congregations fail to connect with the individuals. Often, when there is someone in need, it fails to notice because it keeps moving forward like a machine.

No matter where our congregations are on the spectrum of possibilities, we can call look to the first church group in Acts 2 as an example of what extremes we should be willing to go to for each other.

Question: What is something you need to contribute to help your group be that kind of church?

Continue reading...

“Witnessing” for Christ

June 3, 2014

Comments Off on “Witnessing” for Christ

“… and you will be my witnesses…” – Acts 1:8

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles - ~1310 - Duccio (1260–1318)

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles – ~1310 – Duccio (1260–1318)

Acts 1:8 is one of the verses that have been turned into something more than was intended. Even among those that misuse it, they are inconsistent with what it means.

“Witnessing” in the worldly sense is an act of telling others what Christ has done for the “witness.” Through this testimonial, one is supposed to hear it and come to believe in Christ. Stories of single mothers surviving poverty or an alcoholic overcoming the drink move others emotionally. Who doesn’t love a good story?

This is not building faith. This is attracting followers with a carrot.

“If you just believe, good things will happen like they did for me!” – Witness

The problem is the Scriptures do not teach this!

Faith comes from hearing the word of God – Romans 10:17

Those who are out “witnessing” presume to put themselves in place of God’s word. Why would we be told to go “witness” when the Spirit says that faith comes from His word?

A properly grounded Christian is one that comes to believe in Christ through God’s word. This is also the only way he can know what to do next!

We are sent to teach the Gospel

Our responsibility is to teach the Gospel to others. (Mark 16:15, 2 Timothy 2:2 etc.) Nowhere does it tell us to go out witnessing.

The noise level and emotional pitch of the “witnessing” approach covers up the Gospel as it was taught by the Apostles. It is dishonest to build people up with emotional responses and then fail to teach them what the Bible says.

It is not about us

Okay, well it is a little bit, but the Gospel is about how we get to participate in the salvation of Christ. It is not about our physical fortunes.

While God does offer blessings and strength to get through our earthly lives, these things are not the focus of the Gospel. When those witnesses have people “coming to Christ” to cure their ills, they have set them up with false hope and not a properly sustaining faith in Christ.

They have set them up to believe something other than what the Scriptures teach.

They have become false teachers

Search the Scriptures

Acts 1:8 is the recorded instructions to the Apostles. They were the actual witnesses of Christ. We should read that as “they saw his life, death, burial, and resurrection.” They were now to take their eye-witness accounts and the things Christ taught them directly to the world.

Just like the Bereans, (Acts 17:11) our task is to find out what the Scriptures say on a matter. False ideas leak into the church when we forget to do that. When we hear a “new” idea, we should apply due diligence to test it (1 Thessalonians 5:21) before we accept it…

…and most importantly before we teach it!

Continue reading...

Why We Stick to a Plan

June 2, 2014

1 Comment

Good Structures, successful projects and profitable business all have solid plans behind them. Why shouldn't the Lord's Kingdom?

Good Structures, successful projects and profitable business all have solid plans behind them. Why shouldn’t the Lord’s Kingdom?

May was a month of special circumstances for me.

Our daughter was married, we changed churches and we took a mini vacation. The toll these things took on the daily routine I follow was more than I expected. Of all the things it has affected, my Bible study and writing flow is what concerns me most.

I really enjoy starting my day with my daily Bible reading. I consider writing this blog to be a part of that daily devotional and it has become important to the organizing and understanding what I read each day. So why is it so difficult to maintain the routine after it gets interrupted?

I’m sure there is some “sciency” explanation for it, but it helps me see the wisdom of God for some of the things he put in place for us. He made sure we have the framework in place to be successful in our salvation. What’s more, he did it so we are not mindless followers, but his loving children.

He gave us the church

Imagine how difficult it would be to remain devoted without a group of like-minded brethren! The emotional and physical support it provides us is key to a godly lifestyle.

He gave us regular opportunities to worship

The accountability a regular worship service provides us should not be undervalued. Yes, we grow to love the worship service and the edification it gives us. Let’s face it, we need the elders and members looking after each other to help us stay consistent, don’t we?

He gave us his word

We know from the Gospel of John that Jesus was the word in the flesh. We know the word of God reveals to us everything we need to know about him. We know the word fills us with hope for what we have in store for tomorrow. The more we read the word, the more we grow from it.

Give in to the routine

So many are concerned when things get too routine. The world has made being “in a rut” out to be something bad. Not only is that wrong thinking, there are no examples of anything successful that occurred because of random actions.

No businesses, no people, no projects are successful without a plan that follows a proven formula.

When the formula changes, you get something different.

Think about that the next time you complain about “the same ol’ same ol’!”


Continue reading...