Giving Myself Away

“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” Exodus 25:2

Contrary to the world’s conception of giving, the above is the biblical base for giving. The world’s conception of giving in the church is derived from people who falsely profess to be Christian and who reject teaching from the Bible for their own material gain.

The Apostle Paul affirms the Old Testament teaching in 2 Corinthians 8 in reference to the churches in Macedonia, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (v 3). The reason behind their willing giving is given by Paul, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (v 5).

Key here is that they first gave themselves to the Lord. This is where we may fall short and fail the test of faith by placing limitations on how much we will give to the Lord. In my first year of learning to walk with the Lord I came across the following and I believe it depicts accurately what Christian giving really is. It was written in the front cover of the Bible of teenager Elizabeth Alden Scott on August 3, 1925.

“My Covenant

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my desires, hopes and ambitions (whether they be fleshly or soulish), and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee, to be thine forever.

I hand over to thy keeping all of my friendships, my love. All the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart.

Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Work out thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.

‘To me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Philippians 1:21

Why don’t you reread her covenant and pause to speak with the Lord Jesus. Tell him whether you will accept or reject this covenant as your own. Your carefully and prayerfully considered response from your heart will be a defining moment for now and eternity.

Of course, having made such a covenant you can expect the Lord Jesus to take you on a path to test your heart as to the genuineness of your desire. Then He will lead you to fulfilment. As for anyone walking with Jesus life will be anything other than what is expected. As He did with Israel (Exodus 24+), the Lord will deal with our heart relationship with Him first, not our behaviour. Behaviour is shaped by our heart, never the other way around.

Elizabeth (Betty) Scott Stam and husband, John, missionaries with China Inland Mission, were murdered in China by Communist revolutionary soldiers on 8th December 1934 when she was just 28 years old. Her baby girl was rescued. For more of her life story click the link below.

Biography: Elisabeth (Betty) Alden Scott Stam

God’s Faithfulness

‘God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” Genesis 35:10

More than twenty years had passed since Jacob left his father and mother in fear for his life from his twin brother, Esau. In that time his experiences with his uncle, Laban, and his meeting with the Lord on the return journey prior to meeting Esau had made him a much changed man.

Before he left the promised land the Lord appeared to him at Bethel and affirmed that the covenant He had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob in all three aspects; land, descendants and a blessing to the nations (Genesis 28:13-14).

At a time when Jacob was unsettled in his relationship with Laban and began to fear him, the Lord called him back to his father, Isaac. Interestingly it was again fear that disposed Jacob to have a listening ear toward God. That remains a provocation for people to have an ear toward God still. At this time the Lord reminded Jacob of their previous meeting and Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:20-22; 31:13).

The incident at Shechem (Genesis 34) again stirred up fear in Jacob which apparently disposed him again to have an ear toward the Lord. By commanding Jacob to return to Bethel, the Lord was again reminding him of his vow (Genesis 35:1).

Jacob obeyed all that the Lord said and again the Lord affirmed that the covenant that he had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob and his descendants. The message to Jacob and to us is that God is faithful to His word no matter how circumstances may appear.

The seal of this affirmation came from the Lord in the new name given to Jacob. First mention of the change of name was given by the Lord after the night long encounter Jacob had with Him (Genesis 32:28) but it was not applied until Jacob had fully returned, built an altar to the Lord and removed all association with false gods. At this time the Lord now called him Israel (Genesis 35:10) and affirmed the three key aspects of the covenant made with Abraham. This name became the name for all Israel’s descendants and remains so to this day and forevermore.

The name means, “Prince with God” and that is what Israel is and shall always be (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-37). The very name, Israel, shouts the faithfulness of God to His word.

A Faithful Ambassador

“This is the twenty third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened” Jeremiah 25:3

There are probably many people who share the Gospel who identify with Jeremiah. For twenty three years he had been a prophet of the Lord faithfully passing on what the Lord had given him to speak yet the people of Jerusalem and Judah had taken no heed. The Lord retained a remnant in Israel so the rejection was not total but successive kings of Judah had turned the hearts of the people away from the Lord. There were many other voices proclaiming what was supposed to be the word of the Lord but they were liars who deceived the people by telling them what they wanted to hear rather than the truth (27:10, 14-16). The same tactic is employed by some today. They proclaim a false Gospel while claiming it is from the Lord.

Jeremiah seemed alone in proclaiming the true word of the Lord yet he refused to compromise to appease kings, priests, other prophets or even to save his life (26:8). He would rather be an offense to people than offend the Lord.

The world might judge him as being unsuccessful but the Lord judged him otherwise. Successful in ministering the word of God is not determined by whether hearers receive God’s word. Success is measured in whether one is faithful to the Lord’s word and calling.

Jeremiah had to withstand the wrath of kings, accusations from religious leaders and stand face to face, in the presence of witnesses, with one who claimed to speak for the Lord but was a liar (28:1). He did this knowing that there was a strong movement among the false prophets to have him killed. He would not compromise the word of the Lord to save his life. His words to them were, “I am in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you” (26:14).

Like Daniel’s three friends, he knew that whether he lived or died he would not compromise the word of the Lord (Daniel 3:18). Like the apostle Paul he knew that, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

The church needs people who will proclaim God’s word as He gave it and not how people want to hear it. In the days of Jeremiah the false teachers were in the majority and they ridiculed, mocked and threatened Jeremiah. They deceived the people who then suffered the Lord’s chastisement. By rejecting the faithful word and believing a lie they set themselves against God.

A person may spend twenty three years as Christ’s faithful ambassador but whether they are successful or not is not in the numbers of people who respond and follow Christ. False teachers more readily gain a following because they speak what fallen people want to hear. The successful ambassador of Christ is the one who stands firm and faithful to Christ’s word even in the face of threats and persecution. The acclaim of people and numbers are no way to measure success. Faithfulness and obedience to Christ are the only measure and Jesus Christ alone is able to measure that.

Receptive to Correction

“Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you” 2 Samuel 7:3

The prophet Nathan was well aware of the way David became king of Israel. Samuel had anointed him as Saul’s successor years earlier and the Lord had preserved David through many and varied attacks on his life. It seemed that almost everyone was placing obstacles in the way of him becoming king. On occasions David seemed to act with prudence and wisdom and at other times he acted very much at a carnal level.

On this occasion, as on many others, David chose to inquire of the Lord so he expressed his desire to build a permanent structure, in which the Lord could dwell, to the prophet Nathan. He had built a great house for himself and he now saw the inequity of the Lord dwelling in a tent or tabernacle.

Nathan’s response to David was not unlike the way we might sometimes respond. Since the Lord had done much to get David to the throne of Israel it was obvious that the Lord was with him. Nathan assumed that because the Lord had demonstrably been with David that He was also with him in this desire. Without inquiring of the Lord he presumptuously told David, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” In this he misled David and would need to be corrected. The Lord would not allow David to build Him a house and Nathan had to go back to David with a correction to his previous consent.

Have there been times when we have given counsel or approved something on the basis that the Lord has blessed that person in the past rather than inquiring afresh of the Lord? Perhaps we have even presumed that because the Lord has been with us in the past that we can go ahead with our desire without inquiry.

Nathan was a faithful prophet who was later used of God in bringing David to repentance and confession of sin (chapter 12) but here he made an assumption without first inquiring of the Lord. It appears that he was not rebuked but corrected. Because he was humble before the Lord he was receptive to correction and to putting things right. Such a spirit became the Lord’s opportunity to reveal His plan and purpose regarding David’s Seed. The ensuing covenant is a huge part of our celebration each Christmas (vv 12-16).

It may well be prudent for us to evaluate our way and walk with Jesus to see if there is any need for us to be corrected in a similar way. A close and personal walk with Jesus is the only means of prevention for being presumptuous. But if we do make this mistake a humble heart and teachable spirit, like that of the prophet Nathan, will allow Jesus to correct us without rebuke.

Faithful Witness

“When that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the lord or the work which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

Each generation is born in sin and must come to faith in Christ or there will be a speedy turning away from knowing the Lord toward the world’s religions. This is evidenced in the book of Judges as well as in our modern world.

The attractions of the world’s religions are that they appeal to comfort, greed and pride (1 John 2:16). True Christianity often results in tribulation in this world and produces sacrifice and humility in the Christian as exemplified in Jesus Christ.

The experience of the church is not unlike the experience of Israel. Many parents are grieved because their children do not come to know the Lord and walk with Him. There may be several reasons why children do not choose to follow Jesus but in the verse quoted above the reason given is that the new generation did not know the history of God’s dealing with the nation. This is much more than just academic knowledge of history. It also includes acknowledging God’s hand in history.

In earlier years I attended churches where people regularly stood before the congregation and shared how they came to faith in Jesus Christ or some experience in their life where the Lord had intervened. This does not seem to be happening as often these days. So children may not hear of the ways in which the Lord has changed lives in earlier generations.

A biography or autobiography by someone not known personally are helpful but can only go so far. If our children have only known us as Christians we need to explain to them that it was not always so and share our spiritual path. A niece of mine was reluctant to accept that in my youth I was extremely selfish and self-centred because she has only known me as a Christian. From that point I was able to explain that it is Jesus Christ who is making a change in me. It helps her to understand why I follow Jesus.

As we read the earlier books in the Bible regarding Israel’s departure from Egypt and arrival in Canaan we observe many events and practices designed to teach and remind the people of how they made that journey. How will the next generation in our churches come to faith if they do not hear the testimony of previous generations? Yes, we share the Gospel of Christ with them but our own personal testimony will give great weight and help make it personal.

Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:5). It is a church family responsibility and privilege to share testimony to the next generation, confirming the parents’ testimony, so that they may choose to follow Jesus. The faithful witness of parents and other Christians, of both the Gospel and personal testimony, will go a long way in helping a child choose Christ.

Exercise Faith Daily

“If you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:20).

We can never say that we do not have enough faith. Everyone expresses faith a thousand times each day. When we sit in a chair we express faith in the chair; when we eat food or have a drink we have faith that it will satiate a need without poisoning us. We turn on a tap having faith it will produce water and we flip a light switch in faith that it will bring light. In these and thousands of other daily activities we act in faith. In every case whether we get what we expect or not does not depend on the amount of faith. It is found in whether we are willing to act on what we know to be true.

No matter the need, even the smallest amount of faith is sufficient – because it is entirely the reliability of the object of faith that matters. Is the object of our faith trustworthy? The object of faith for the Christian is always Jesus Christ. It is He who does the impossible, not our faith. Our part is not in having much faith, but being willing to step out in faith trusting Him to act in accordance with His word. Vance Havner writes, “There is no real faith until it gets into the will and we undertake the very thing we know we cannot do, but undertake it in the name of and at the command of another.”

Faith will grow as it is exercised. Years of turning on a tap has given us great faith that we will get water when we turn it on. As we live and abide with Jesus exercising our faith in Him daily it will grow to the extent that we exercise it. However, we must never forget that even the smallest amount of faith placed in a reliable and trustworthy object will be rewarded equally as will the greatest amount of faith.

While the amount of faith does not affect the outcome it can affect our enjoyment of the journey. A person with little faith in a plane will have an anxious flight but a person with great faith will have a much more enjoyable flight. Both will arrive at the same destination and at the same time.

The reward for acting in faith is greater faith and hence a more enjoyable experience in the future. This is true in all aspects of life and especially in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that the one who comes to God, even out of little faith, will be rewarded with greater faith, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Without some faith that God exists a person will not come to God but when they do they will discover that their faith is placed in One worthy of it. The consequence of that will be stronger faith.

You wish you had greater faith in God? Then exercise that which you have.

Seeking F.A.T. Christians

“… because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words …” 2 Chronicles 34:27

In our part of the world many people have become fat from the pleasures of this world. For the Christian, to be spiritually fat can be a good thing if we utilise the following acronym: F.A.T. God is seeking F.A.T. Christians: Christians who are Faithful, Available and Teachable.

 

Faithful: A key aspect of the Divine Nature is faithfulness. If God is not faithful to His word then we have nothing in which to trust. Those who are His people will also be faithful. Paul writes, “It is required of stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Jesus spoke a lot about faithfulness of His people in Matthew 24 and 25. Instructing Timothy in regard to the fulfilment of the Great Commission Paul writes, “The things you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

A faithful person is one who knows the truth from God’s word and then lives it out and passes it on. To know the truth is not enough as we see in the parable in Matthew 25:14-30. The reward for faithfulness is to be given more responsibility. Jesus said, “Well done good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21).

 

Available: To be available to Jesus means that He is the priority over everything in our lives. In Luke 9:59-62 we read that a man wanted to take care of his father until he died before following Jesus. Another wanted to delay by returning to his family. In both these cases the men had a priority over following Jesus. There delaying tactics may have resulted in them never following Jesus.

Jesus does not need advisors but much of our prayer would seem to be along that line. We ask that He physically heal this person, provide funds for another and relational healing for yet another. While we do pose these as requests outwardly, it is possible that inwardly we are actually advising Him how to run His church. It may be that many of us are available to Jesus but only in an advisory capacity. To be available to Jesus means that when He calls we come, when He sends, we go (James 2:20).

 

Teachable: A person who is teachable is always a humble person. Only the proud are unteachable. To be teachable does not mean that one should be gullible or without discernment. Quite the contrary (Acts 17:11).

Jesus (Matthew 28:20) and Paul (2 Timothy 2:2) both exhort those who are teachers to seek out people who are teachable. The reason is that they will then pass it on to future generations. It is a waste of time and effort to try and teach and disciple a person who is neither humble nor teachable.

A teachable person is also responsive to the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:12; John 14:26). The Holy Spirit resists the proud and unteachable (James 4:6). Let us be humble and teachable students of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful, available and teachable.