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

That They May Know

“Now after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” Revelation 11:11

God’s two witnesses will be a thorn in the side of those who oppose Christ for three-and-a-half years. Those who want to silence them will be consumed by fire (v 5). As part of their testimony God will give them power similar to that which He gave to Moses and Elijah. They will cause a drought for the whole time they testify, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (v 6). No wonder many will wish them dead and attempt to kill them – but the Lord will protect them. John records that those who oppose Christ will make war against the two witnesses and eventually kill them but not before they have finished their ministry (v 7). We can be comforted by this in that the Lord takes care of His people until their work is done.

It will seem a triumph when the two witnesses are finally killed. Television, newspaper and other media will give this first event full coverage. Social media will run amuck with celebration for a few days (v 10) until God raises them from the dead (v 11). Television and newspapers will not headline this second event, however. Heads of government will endeavour to shut down social media conversation just as they do now with any news that is unpalatable to them.

Why will the Lord allow the two faithful witnesses to experience such opposition and the pain of death?

A purpose for the plagues in Egypt through Moses was so “that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4). The same is true of this future event. Also it would appear that many Egyptians left their homeland with Israel in the Exodus (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). The Egyptians had seen the destruction of their false gods and the revelation of the one true God and been moved in heart (Exodus 12:36). Those who left with Israel presumably had chosen to follow the God of Israel much like Ruth did years later.

The death and resurrection of these two witnesses was a final testimony to Israel first and to all mankind that Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is the one true God and has power to raise up and give life to whom He will. While the majority will harden their hearts there will be many who will repent and humbly surrender to the Lord. The book of Revelation reveals that multitudes will be saved during this time even though it may cost their earthly lives (i.e. Revelation 12:11). They will have discovered and now know the truth about Jesus Christ.

Sharing Life Experiences

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” 1 John 1:3

John wrote this several decades after Pentecost and we notice that he writes that his fellowship with Jesus and the Father is still current. His desire is that all believers grow in appreciation the abiding presence of both the Father and Jesus Christ. In his Gospel John records Jesus’ words, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). We know that on trusting the Lord Jesus the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer but we may be less aware that the Father and the Son also want, not only to indwell, but also to make their home with us. That means living together as one sharing life’s experiences.

The nature of pride will attempt to divert us from personal intimacy with Jesus in a way that may appear spiritual but is not. It is possible that we may hide behind Bible knowledge, theological correctness or even ministry enthusiasm so that we appear spiritual but in fact have little if any intimacy with Jesus Christ. Bible knowledge, theological correctness and passion in ministry are very important but they are not an end in themselves.

When a young man is attracted to a young woman or a young woman attracted to a young man they would never be satisfied with just gaining knowledge about the other person. Knowing their likes and dislikes and other personal details may be helpful in the relationship but they are only a means to knowing the other person intimately, not the goal. An intimate relationship will require sharing time and experiences together and this will be the desire of their hearts.

I have known several Christians who are genuinely born of God and have a love for Jesus but when the conversation comes around to intimacy with Jesus they revert to Bible knowledge, doctrinal accuracy or ministry enthusiasm in an attempt to express their spirituality. These are the people to whom John has written this letter. No marriage would be at all satisfactory if the two parties never spent time together and shared life experiences. Neither will Christians be satisfied unless they are walking with Jesus, spending time and sharing life experiences with Him.

This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). This is only possible by spending time together and sharing experiences. We must resist the temptation to hide behind Bible knowledge, theological correctness or passionate ministry when we claim spirituality. They are not the measure. Abiding in (sharing our lives with) Christ is the measure (John 15:5).

“And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).

The Goodness of God

“Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

It isn’t unusual for people to justify their belief that there is no God based on the corruption they observe among people. The nature of bias is that we only see or hear what we want to see and hear. In the previous chapter Paul wrote that the invisible attributes of God are clearly revealed in His creation (1:19-20) and so people who choose not to believe Him have no valid excuse for not believing.

We see the sun rise or set for a few minutes each day and observe its beauty; but in reality God performs both sunrise and sunset 24/7. If we travelled west at the speed of the earth’s rotation we could have a perpetual sunrise or sunset. We may observe the beauty of a rose bud opening over a few hours but at any given time there are many roses and multitudes of other in full colourful bloom. We have stood in wonder and marvelled at a new baby but there are parents in awe and wonder at their new baby all around the world all the time. We live in a world that provides far more food than required for the current population. It is only man’s greed for wealth and power that prevents it being distributed to the people or allowing them to grow their own. Some people look at man’s corruption and blame God. Others look at the goodness of God and seek deliverance from the corruption of man.

The forbearance and longsuffering of God is that He holds back on the outpouring of His wrath against evil for a reason (Romans 3:25-26). Peter agrees with Paul when he writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The delay in judgment is not because God does not exist, but because He is showing His goodness in contrast to man’s corruption, so that all people may have a change of heart and come to Him.

Those who are biased toward sin look at the corruption of mankind and say there is no God. Those who are sick and tired of this corruption look at the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God and come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing.

For the former, Paul does not have good prospects. He writes, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are storing up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37) and John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Those who believe His word may come in absolute confidence of being received, forgiven and cleansed. Those who don’t believe His word will, because of the hardness of their own impenitent heart, choose to remain under God’s wrath.

His Voice

Jesus said to them, “have you never read in the Scriptures: …” Matthew 21:42

This is just one of six times in Matthew’s Gospel that he records Jesus making this statement. It is quite an extraordinary thing that Jesus would say this to the chief priests, scribes and elders (vv 15, 23) who would have known the Scriptures better than anyone else. They most certainly had read and studied the passages that Jesus quoted to them and may even have memorised them. Their problem was that they had not understood them as applying to Jesus. They did not want to recognise Jesus as Messiah no matter what the evidence from Scripture or from His words and deeds. They did not want to recognise His authority.

It is possible for us to put blinkers on at a superficial understanding of Scripture and become blind to a more complete comprehension that will give us a greater appreciation of what we are reading. How often does it happen that, having read a passage of Scripture many times over the years that we gain a greater appreciation of what is written? An oft repeated statement is, “I have read that many times but I never saw that before.” It isn’t that we misunderstood it before but that we now have a greater appreciation of what is written.

The reason Jesus frequently quotes the Scriptures and why Matthew records them is so that people might begin to make the comparison and connection of the Scriptures with Jesus. When they do, with honest and open hearts, the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth concerning Jesus.

If we are content with our early understanding of Scripture we will likely become like the scribes and chief priests and focus on outward religious performance rather than heart intimacy with Jesus. It is a trap awaiting any of us. Jesus is not a set of rules. He is a living Person with whom we may live every moment of every day. Jesus said, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He will make His home in our hearts. WOW!

The scribes, chief priests and the elders knew the Scriptures well but they did not recognise who Jesus is. As it was for them it is possible for us to understand a literal rendering of the Scriptures but not know the Lord Jesus. It is possible for us to know the Scriptures but not be intimate with Him. The answer to this situation is found in Jesus’ words to the church in Laodicea, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. It isn’t the one who hears the knock only but the ones who hears His voice that opens the door. What is the difference, you ask? The one who hears His voice recognises a familiar friend because of a previous intimate relationship; “they know His voice” (John 10:3-4).

Reconciliation and Restoration

“I will heal their backsliding,

I will love them freely,

for My anger has turned away from him”
Hosea 14:4

These words were very precious to me when a man I had never met shared them with me many years ago. I had been away from the Lord but the Lord had brought me back. In a way it was a picture of God’s love for Israel. In the book of Hosea we read of God’s severe chastisement of Israel and we might wonder how a God of love could inflict such severe pain. However, it is a reflection not only of God’s anger against sin and love for the sinner but also of the hardness of the human heart apart from Christ. I don’t believe God will chastise more than necessary. That people still do not respond reveals the hardness of their heart.

So often in the prophetic books of the Bible we read this same pattern; God’s severity on Israel for turning away from Him and His gentle love for them when they return. In all of the prophecies concerning Israel’s return there is certainty that the day will come. When God says, “I will,” He means He will perform it. If He can’t then He is not the God of creation.

There is no comfort in these words for unbelieving Israel but there is enormous encouragement to believing Israel, the “remnant”. God is still on track and on time in fulfilling His Covenant promises to Israel.

Likewise there is no comfort in these words for unbelieving Gentiles but to those who have trusted Jesus Christ there is great encouragement in our walk with Him. These words from the Lord to Israel reveal the love and compassion that God has for His people when they walk with Him. For a Christian who has strayed these words show the welcoming arms of God when they return.

In 14:1 & 2 God invites the one who has strayed to return to Him. In verses 2 & 3 we see the evidence of repentance and in verse four is God’s response. Reconciliation is complete.

Another verse that was shared with me by the same person at the same time follows on from this scenario and is recorded in Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” While this verse is written to Israel and has application upon their reconciliation it reveals the heart of God toward Christians who return to the Lord after straying. We may have wasted years in going our own way but God is able to turn that to His and our benefit.

God forbid that we should ever stray from walking with the Lord but if we do, or have, the revelation from these verses and many others is that He is waiting with loving arms for our return and repentance to reconcile us to Himself and reinstate us in fellowship. To read Jesus’ words on the subject read Luke 15:11-32.

Seduced by Pride

“The king was greatly displeased with himself” Daniel 6:14

There will be times when we are displeased with ourselves – but will we seek out the root cause of those words or actions that brought about that displeasure? It is a lot easier to blame someone else, or sulk and have a period of depression until it becomes a distant and faint memory.

King Darius had brought about the downfall of the Babylonian empire. He attributed this to his own might and military wisdom. He established a new leadership consisting of people from the nations that the king of Babylon had conquered. He also attributed this to his own political wisdom.

Daniel was given the highest position in this new order but others were jealous of him. Since they could find no legitimate fault to present to the king they devised a way of creating a case for Daniel’s death. They appealed to King Darius’ pride. Their flattery found its mark in a proud heart.

Daniel had “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (1:8) and he would not waver from worshipping the one true God even under threat of death. The other governors, by appealing to the king’s pride, manipulated him into signing a decree that he alone should be worshipped as if he were God for thirty days. Flattery turned the king’s head so that he did not look at the consequences of his action.

Daniel was not moved by the decree. He knew the one true God and, like his friends (chapter three), he would not be persuaded or seduced into worshipping other than the Lord.

If we allow pride to have a toehold we will be vulnerable to being deceived and manipulated by others. We do need to encourage one another, but we also need to be able to discern between genuine encouragement and flattery. We also need to guard our hearts that we don’t allow even genuine encouragement to feed pride.

At the time of his seduction King Darius was not aware that it was the Lord who gave him the victory and the wisdom in establishing his rule. The Lord’s plan was for Daniel to be in the lions’ den as a means to open the eyes of king Darius. The moment in time was right because King Darius “was greatly displeased with himself” and was in a place of humility and repentance. As much as he tried he could not undo what he had done and this brought on a sleepless night of anguish. He did not try and blame someone else although he had that opportunity. He had been seduced by the leaders he had appointed and he knew that he alone was responsible for the pride in his heart.

After Daniel was safely delivered King Darius wrote, “I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and steadfast forever” (6:26).

In this one event King Darius was saved eternally, Daniel was delivered and Israel preserved in exile in readiness for their return (9:2).