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Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 2And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. 3For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

4Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

(Jonah 2:1-4)

He could hear the waves crashing behind him, sweeping the water up the sand, never quite coming close to his feet. The whale lay there half in and half out of the water, its life running out of it with every last wheezing breath. Jonah was alone on the beach. He was alive, but more than that, God had heard him down in the whale’s belly and had brought him forth into the daylight that he had almost despaired of seeing again.

But here he was, standing alone on the beach on dry land, next to this great dying body of a fish that had committed suicide to bring him here. God had delivered him so completely that he hadn’t even gotten his feet wet. And now it was time for the mission that he had run away from not even a week ago.

Jonah is not a classic example of gratitude. Jonah cared more about himself than the salvation of 120,000 people. He went ahead and prophesied to the Ninevites as he was commanded to do, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was actually more grateful for a tree that gave him shade than the great deliverance God had done for him.

Why is that? As a young Christian, I was taught that if you had a thankful heart, you would never backslide, and I have seen the truth of that over the years, but how does one develop a thankful heart?

I don’t believe gratitude comes from circumstances or things that have happened to you as much as it does from a thankful heart that has already been planted within you. Gratitude is more the blossoming of an attitude you already have rather than the genesis of a new one.  And I believe it is tied to charity.

One of the six principles of revival that I preach about is that the gospel is not about you; it is about others. This is the central message of the Cross; it is the essence of who and what Christ was. Charity is the essential element, not only to entering into a vibrant and deep walk in God, but to seeing the power of God work in your life. Charity is Jesus Christ working in you.

You would think that gratitude would be about what happens to us rather than to others, but the seeds of gratitude cannot find a place to grow in the stony rock of a cold heart. They can only find purchase in the cultivated soil of a heart that is not only thankful, but is softened with that thing about charity that turns our focus to others, dismisses our own situation, and rejoices in what God has done for all.

Gratitude is tied to the Cross.

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Charity never faileth …” (1 Cor. 13: 4-8)

 

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The book of Proverbs has an amazing ability to adjust to whatever message you need to hear on any given day. If you need encouragement, it will support you; if you need correction, it will reprove you; if you need wisdom, it will show you what you need to do to get it. You can read the same chapters over and over again, and they will speak differently to you each time, morphing into whatever you need at the moment.

Sometimes, it’s as if the whole chapter has joined together in a conspiracy against you to drive home the day’s message. Today was like that.

I was first pricked with, “a man of knowledge increaseth strength”. Okay, I get it – I need to read more Bible. If I want to fight battles, win victories, or overcome struggles, I need to read more of the Word of God. When you forget your reading and prayer, you can forget your power in God.

Okay, so now I have been reproved – I have to read more. But that also tells me that something is coming up that I will need that strength for. Maybe a battle or maybe a mission; either way, its obvious that He is reminding me that there is something that I have to do and I cannot do it on my own.

Then a little more down the chapter, I came to, “if thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small”. I remember this one well. A few years ago, the Lord used this one to convict me about going to Africa on a particular trip. (“Okay, okay! I’m going!”). But that proverb was only setting me up for the next verse, and this one really got me.

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Is that our default attitude when we are not being pushed or convicted? Do we maintain our status quo with, “I love everybody, and I sure hope they all figure it out and get to Heaven somehow”? We know there are multitudes starving, not only for food and physical needs, but more importantly, for spiritual needs. Amos tells us in chapter 8 that God would send a famine for hearing the Word of God and men would travel everywhere seeking it but would not be able to find it. As chilling as that may sound, do we answer that challenge by questioning what we can do? Or perhaps more like what we are required to do? Or worse, what the absolute minimum is that we can get away with?

Water seeks its own level. So do we. Left alone, we have a tendency to slip into complacency and rest when it concerns others outside our immediate circle. In other words, we become lukewarm.

And then the chapter conspired against me one more time to finalize it all at the end:

“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

So shall thy poverty come as one that travels; and thy want as an armed man.”
(Proverbs 24: 30-34)

I get it. Life is a test. It is not about us and what we can get for ourselves by padding our own nest and keeping as much as we can, but rather, it is about seeing how much we can do for others with what God has allowed us to have. If we gave it all away, somehow I feel that our bucket would never be empty.

This Thanksgiving season, I want to stop for a moment and thank God, not just for what I have, but for the opportunity He has given us to give.

It’s what God did for us.

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

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“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.” Acts 3:2.3

What a surprise this guy ended up getting!

This guy had been lame all his life and knew the best place to set himself up to get a few shekels out somebody was as they were entering church. He had a regular spot there, and everybody knew who he was, so he must have been doing okay for himself – maybe not great, but at least he knew how to work the crowd.

Then along come Peter and John.  The only problem was that they were broke.

This guy had no idea what was coming.  He didn’t even know enough to ask for healing, never mind expect one. He was just trying to scrape together enough pennies to eat.  But God healed him anyway.  I think that was pretty cool.

But the thing that has always stood out to me was how amazed everyone was at this healing. Wasn’t it just a few months ago that all Israel was buzzing with all the miracles that Jesus had done?  So why were they so surprised?  Did they not believe the stories they had heard?

Or maybe they didn’t want to believe them.

You see, if they believed in those miracles, then Jesus had to be the Messiah, and if that was true, that means they killed the Son of God, and if THAT was true, they were in a hell of a lot of trouble!  It would be a whole lot easier to just turn off the switch, ignore the stories, and make believe it never happened.

After all, where was Jesus now?  Dead gods never impress anybody, miracles or no miracles, and Jesus was dead (wasn’t He?).

It’s the same today.  Yeah, we remember the stories about the Brush Arbor revivals, the Faith Healers like Aimee Semple McPherson, Katherine Khulman, Smith Wigglesworth, and so many others, but where are they today?  They’re all dead!  When is the last time you saw the blind to see, lame to walk, and deaf to hear?  Been a while, has it?

We pray, we “speak the word of faith into existence” (like that’s really supposed to do something), we make a profession of faith in God’s healing power … and then, as soon as we’re done praying, we make an appointment with the doctor.

We don’t believe it anymore because we have not seen a flowing of the miraculous working power of God in years. There’s a reason why that is — we’re not hungry enough.  Until we become desperate, we will remain in the belly of the apostate slump that the church is in.  As long as we’re satisfied with our complacency, and are not cut to the heart for what we are missing in God, then we will sit right there waiting for a revival that will never come, because God will not set His seal of approval on an apostate church that doesn’t care.

Want to know how to get God to move?  Simple. God hears desperate prayer, and He feeds desperate hunger –we’re just not desperate enough. The blueprint for revival is in chapter 2 of the Book of Joel. (No, I’m not going to quote it. If you won’t read it yourself, then what difference would it make?)

Ask any fisherman – you can take your very best rod and reel with the most expensive bait out to the ol’ fishing hole, position yourself perfectly and fish there all day long … but if the fish ain’t hungry, they ain’t taking the bait.

And we ain’t hungry.

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“And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.”  (Zech. 11:10)

Of all things beautiful, nothing has any beauty other than what God has created in it. Flowers bloom in such incredibly gracious designs and gorgeous colors that it makes you wonder at the limitless imagination of the Creator. Sunrises and sunsets amaze us each and every time we see them, regardless of how many times we have viewed their display. How is our heart, mind and soul able to translate different wavelengths of light into that kind of a feeling?

And that’s just the beauty you can see visually. What about the beauty of music? The mathematical symmetry of vibrations set against an orchestra can send your soul soaring. Or the beauty of a loving touch. Or love itself, that emotion that has kept poets working for centuries trying to capture its essence with words.

Beauty is God-given, and as such can only be described in its own terms while it is expressed in so many ways. I imagine you might say that is it is the highest achievement of God’s creation – that, and the ability He has given us to be able to perceive it.

As God’s highest expression of love, Beauty took form of a Savior who came to earth solely for us. There was nothing here that He came to enjoy or experience other than this one purpose – to save us from sin. Paul said in 1Corinthians Chapter 13 that Charity does not seek her own, but bears all things and endures all things for others. Jesus was Charity incarnate, and He was broken for us.

When this grand scheme of things is over, we will look back on this life and finally realize how much God gave to call us unto Himself. His most wonderful creation, Beauty, was broken on the Cross so that we could have eternal redemption.

There is no greater love.

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