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God is Faithful

When life takes a turn for the worse, often it’s hard to make sense of it all. And even more difficult is the fact that it’s at that point that we typically lose sight of who God is and what He’s up to.

Sometimes life is just a mess. Not always because we messed it up, although that happens too, but because things have just taken a turn for the worse and that’s it. That’s where we find ourselves. I don’t care who you are, how super-spiritual you might be, how other people might look at you and think, “Boy that one there, they have it all together with God, don’t they?”

Sometimes life is just a crock! That’s it. Nothing you can do about it. You believed in God for good, but all you can see around you is devastation.

I love the old song that goes like this:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end,
They’re new every morning, new every morning
Great is your faithfulness O Lord
Great is your faithfulness.

Do you know it? It’s an awesome song. It comes straight out of Lamentations 3:22-24. The writer was looking around, just after Jerusalem has been destroyed and razed to the ground by the Babylonians. God’s city was gone. God’s chosen people had gone. The devastation was complete. The loss and pain in his heart was incalculable. And in the middle of all that, he writes, because deep, deep down he knows, that:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end,
They’re new every morning, new every morning
Great is your faithfulness O Lord
Great is your faithfulness.

That is always true. It never, ever, ever changes, despite all the evidence you may see to the contrary.

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

Don’t Stress, Cry Out to God

What do you do when you come to a Scripture that you know really well? Do you dwell on it to see if God has something new to say to you today, or do you skate over the surface and move on?

You may have heard me tell this story before, but stick with me because I want to come at it from a slightly different angle. A few years ago, I was sitting in a small group Bible study with a bunch of earnest, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians.

We were looking at that Scripture:

Philippians 4:6,7 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Great. So we discussed it, prodded and poked it, and we were about to move on when the Bible study leader summarised with the discussion: “Well that’s good, but we’re all still going to worry, aren’t we?”

At that point, I couldn’t help myself, so I shouted out NO! They all stared at me, waiting for an explanation.

It seems to me that when we come to one of these Scriptures, many of us know all too well that we just want to skate on past over the surface, without digging deeper.

What it actually says is that if, instead of worrying … in fact, if we took the time that we would have spent worrying and used it instead to pour our problems out to God with a grateful heart, He promises to guard our hearts and minds with a peace in Christ that, from a human perspective, just doesn’t make sense.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

Don’t Give Up

When you put someone under pressure, that’s when you truly discover what that person is made of. That’s when you truly discover what’s going on in their hearts. That’s when God truly discovers whether our faith in Him is real … or not.

One of the biggest temptations for you and me when we’re suffering is to rebel and to start behaving badly. To give up on the goodness that we’ve learned from God over all those years and just go our own way. Somehow, we have this distorted ledger in our heads that goes something like this:

Well, God’s certainly not blessing me at the moment, so why not get out there and enjoy myself? Blow God!! What do I have to lose?!

Of course, in the cold, hard light of day that’s a stupid line of reasoning, because we know that behaving badly eventually is just going to make things worse.

Galatians 6:7-10 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (NRSV)

God is a God of seasons. Look at how regularly they roll around – spring, summer, autumn, winter. Year after year. Seed time and harvest. Season after season.

And here’s the thing: if we don’t grow weary of doing what is right, if we don’t give up, we will reap the harvest that’s waiting for us. When? Well, at harvest time, of course!

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

Suffering is Part of the Plan

Think back to the last time that you suffered physically, mentally, emotionally or even spiritually. And right in the middle of that, right when it was happening, could you see what God was up to, or not? Did there seem to be a point to it, or not?

None of us enjoys suffering. I certainly don’t, and I’m pretty sure that you don’t either. But suffering is a normal part of life and God tells us that when we suffer, we should consider it nothing but … pure joy!!

Come on! Is that bizarre or what!? Well, let’s take a look:

James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (NRSV)

It seems that God’s amazing plan is that as we face trials of every kind, as we suffer through those, He will strengthen our faith. That’s one of the main reasons for suffering; to build up endurance in your faith, just as an athlete does through constantly pushing his or her body beyond its limits in training.

So far, my record for bad days in my life is that I’ve survived every one of them just fine. That’s a one hundred percent survival rate, and there have been some shockers in that lot, I have to tell you.

As I look back on them, I can see how the Lord carried me through, how He cared and provided for me, how He grew me and moulded me and how He’s used every one of those bad days for good in my life.

Isn’t it amazing how the trials and suffering mature us so that, more and more, we’ll be complete and lacking in nothing?

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

Your Own Personal Wilderness Tour

Don’t you just hate it when you’ve had some great mountain top victory or success in your life and then, without warning, bang! –something bad happens and you find yourself, in an instant, wandering, lost, down in the valley? It happens that way so often, doesn’t it?

People pay a lot of money for eco wilderness tours these days, and yet as Christians, God takes us on wilderness tours free of charge on a regular basis.

Why does He do that? I mean, can’t our lives just go along on a nice, even keel for ever and ever, amen?

Funny thing, but when Jesus was baptised, as He came out of the water, the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove and a voice spoke from heaven, saying “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. Did that happen at your baptism? Nope, me either.

And yet the very next thing that God did with His precious Son was … well, let’s take a look:

Mark 1:10-13 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the sky torn open. The Spirit came down on him like a dove. A voice came from heaven and said, “You are my Son, the one I love. I am very pleased with you.” Then the Spirit sent Jesus into the desert alone. He was there for 40 days, being tempted by Satan. During this time he was out among the wild animals. Then angels came and helped him.

In original Greek language in which that was written, it says quite literally, that God threw His Son out into the wilderness to be tempted, to starve, to suffer.

So God didn’t even spare His own Son, and yet when He was finished, He came out of the wilderness “filled with the Holy Spirit”. It’s just how God does things. Get used to it.

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

Note to Self

I’m a numbers guy, so let me ask you, on a scale of zero to ten, how generous are you when it comes to giving to God’s work and indeed to those in need? Zero is stingy. Ten is very generous. Where do you sit on that scale?

I’ll be honest with you. When I first became a Christian, I found it hard to give generously to support God’s work.

Now, I’m a double maths major at university, so it wasn’t hard for me to figure out. The more I gave to God’s work, the less I’d have for yours truly, numero uno … ME!

But, you see, that simplistic thinking simply doesn’t work in God’s economy because, when it comes to God’s blessing, the world’s formulas don’t work. They’re completely irrelevant.

As God graciously led me through the transformation from being stingy with my money to becoming more generous (a work of God that remains in progress), I discovered to my complete surprise that the blessings of God began to flow in so many different ways, in so many different areas of my life, that I simply couldn’t contain them. It turns out that giving to God is not a zero-sum game. Anything but! Here’s how Jesus put it:

Luke 6:38 Give to others, and you will receive. You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands—more than you can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.

I’d heard people say it so many times – you can’t out-give God – that I became sick of it. But as I’ve discovered it in my own experience, every time it just blows my socks off.

Note to self: you cannot out-give God!

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

A Heart to Give

It’s amazing how touchy people become when they’re approached to support God’s work. Given all that God’s given us, it’s rather an odd reaction, but a not too uncommon one, I can tell you.

I received a rather blunt letter recently and here, in a nutshell, is what the man wrote:

How dare you ask me to support your ministry?! Don’t you trust God? If God wants you to be in ministry, let Him provide for it!

Now on the surface of it, that sounds pretty fair – until you realise that ninety-nine percent of the time, God funds His work through His people.

You’ll find the first “fundraiser” in the Bible, in Genesis Chapter 25. God commanded Moses to build a dwelling place for Him amongst His people; the “tabernacle”. Great, so how do you fund it?

Exodus 25:1,2 The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me. (NRSV)

So what? Is God poor? Did He really need their gold, silver, purple cloth and the rest of it, to build the tabernacle? Was He sweating on whether His people would come up with the goods, this God who had, after all, created the whole universe in seven days?

Not at all. In fact, it’s a ridiculous proposition when you think about it. So why then, did God command Moses to go to the people, to raise the support? Because He wanted their hearts and He knew that their hearts were attached to their possessions. How do we know that?

Here it is again: From all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me. You see, for God, it’s all about your heart.

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

Your Heart and Your Wallet

To be perfectly honest with you, Jesus said some odd things. Really, from our human perspective they often appear completely 180 degrees the wrong way round.

Jesus said the strangest things. Try this one on for size:

Matthew 6:19-21 Don’t save treasures for yourselves here on earth. Moths and rust will destroy them. And thieves can break into your house and steal them. Instead, save your treasures in heaven, where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your treasure is.

Let’s translate that into modern parlance: where your wallet is, or where your purse is, there your heart will also be. Okay, so I’ve brought it into the 21st century somewhat, but you get the drift.

Now, when you read that and you think about it for just a moment, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that He has that round the wrong way. Surely the money follows your heart, right? That would make sense.

But that’s not what Jesus said. He turned it around and said that your heart follows your wallet. They’re connected. So keep spending on your own self-gratification, keep stashing it all away for a comfortable retirement, and just guess where your heart’s going to end up.

So, what’s the answer? Well He gives it to us in the very same breath. Start living your life sacrificially, with the aim of storing up treasures in heaven. In other words, get focused on serving God and other people.

Do that and two things happen. First, obviously, you end up with treasures in heaven. But second, not quite so obviously, the power that money has over you is broken.

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

God Isn’t Interested in How Much You Give

So today I want to turn the spotlight on our giving – on how we give to support God’s Word of winning lost souls for Christ. But oddly enough, what we discover is that God isn’t at all interested in how much we give. It’s something else entirely that gets him excited!

I had an elderly woman write to me recently to say this:

I’m so sorry that I can’t give much to support your ministry. I’m only an elderly pensioner and I don’t have much to live on.

Now, I can’t respond to every letter I receive, but this one I just had to respond to personally. So I wrote to remind her of what Jesus said about the poor widow who dropped her two small copper coins in the offering plate (alongside the wealthy folk who obviously gave a lot more).

Luke 21:1-4 Jesus looked up and saw some rich people putting their gifts to God into the Temple collection box. Then he saw a poor widow put two small copper coins into the box. He said, “This poor widow gave only two small coins. But the truth is, she gave more than all those rich people. They have plenty, and they gave only what they did not need. This woman is very poor, but she gave all she had to live on.”

So, Jesus gets all excited, but not, as you’d imagine, by the large amounts that the wealthy people gave. I mean they gave ten times, a hundred times more than the widow. But that’s not what He focused on.

It turns out that Jesus isn’t interested one little bit in how much we give. After all, He’s blessed each one of us with different things. What He’s really interested in is how much it costs us.

So, if you want to get Jesus excited, then when you give, give sacrificially.

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

Generosity Was Always God’s Idea

We love to be around generous people, you and I. We really do. But let’s put the shoe on the other foot just for a moment and ask ourselves, “How generous are we?”

Let me ask this: what was the very last act of creation? What was the very last thing that God did on the sixth day, before He rested on the seventh day to enjoy all that He’d created?

Most people would answer that the last act of creation was to create Adam and Eve, to create humanity – God’s crowning achievement. And if that’s your answer too, then sorry to disappoint you but it’s the wrong answer.

God did one more thing before He was finished. God did one other thing, before He rested. Do you know what it was?

Genesis 1:27-28 So God created humans in his own image. He created them to be like himself. He created them male and female. God blessed them and said to them, “Have many children. Fill the earth and take control of it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the air. Rule over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

What was that one last thing that He did before He rested? He gave all of creation away. He gave it to Adam and Eve, to you and me. He blessed them and us with all that He had made.

These days, people seem to be in it for themselves, whatever “it” happens to be. Generosity seems to be an old-fashioned concept. Well, in a sense it is a very old concept. The first act of generosity happened precisely six days after the beginning of time. It was God’s idea.

How generous are you?

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

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