Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

Heavenly Home

Maybe you think you have a long life in front of you.  Maybe there are many things you would like to accomplish.  There are still things I would like to accomplish.  James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’  But now you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”  Your life is even a vapor that appears for a little time.  You need to make your eternal destination secure rather than putting all of your energies for this life.

The older I get, the more I think of our eternal home with Jesus, God the Father, the holy angels, and the redeemed believers.  2 Corinthians 5:1-8 “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.  For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”  Your body is but the earthly house of your soul.  It is like a tent that you use for a short time.  You have experienced illness and health, hunger and food, pain and pleasure, the glory of a sunset and the smell of flowers, the love of family and the loss of loved ones.  One day, your body will be destroyed.  Whether because of illness or accident or the return of Jesus, the time for your physical body will end.  The good and the bad things that you experience in your physical body will be finished because you are mortal. 

The description of our habitation which is from heaven is wonderful.  Revelation 21:3-4 “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’”  All the negative things of this life will be over.  No more evilness; no more illness, or pain or sorrow.   Revelation 22:1-5 “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.  There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”  What a promise!  What a wonderful life to look forward to!

It is appropriate for you to desire to be absent from you physical body and to be clothed with your heavenly body and to be with the Lord.  Your heavenly house is so much better than what you have here.  Here you are burdened; there you will have no burdens.  Why hold on so tightly to this life when you can have eternal life?  Eternal life is a gift from God; you can’t earn it.  But it is conditional.  It is conditional on you fighting your good fight, on you finishing your race, and on you keeping your faith.  The apostle Paul described his situation near the end of his life.  2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  If you give up on your fight, if you give up on your race, or if you lose your faith, what promise do you have?

My encouragement to you is to eagerly desire to be present with your Lord and to receive your crown of righteousness.  Don’t give up the fight; don’t give up your race; don’t lose your faith.

Mediator

God is holy. He is distinct, separate, in a class by Himself.  He is righteous and pure and cannot lie.  But you and I are not like God.  Psalms 24:3-4 “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.”  But you and I are sinners.  Romans 3:10-18 “As it is written:  ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’  ‘Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit’; ‘The poison of asps is under their lips’; ‘whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” Since God is so holy, you need a mediator between you and God.  1 Timothy 2:5-6 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”  A mediator is one who intervenes between two persons who are at variance, with a view to reconcile them. 

Jesus is your mediator with God.  He is your perfect mediator, because He is the son of God and yet he lived His life upon this earth.  Hebrews 4:14-16 “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 7:23-25 “Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  But He (Jesus), because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

An intercessor is one who entreats on the behalf of another.  When you pray to God and confess your sin and weakness or you make a request of God, Jesus is your intercessor.  He entreats God on your behalf.  It is as if Jesus says to God “Here is one of your children.  He is confessing his sin and weakness.  His heart is humble before you.  Remember that I died on the cross and took his sins upon me that day.  Listen to his request and be merciful and gracious to his plea.” Romans 8:34 “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”  The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is also your intercessor.  Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  The Spirit who dwells within you knows your thoughts, knows your heart, and knows your needs.  He knows both what you need and how to present your request before God.

Jesus is also spoken about as your Advocate.  1 John 2:1-2 “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”  An advocate is one who speaks for you, who presents your case to gain a favorable outcome.  Jesus is your advocate.  He is also the propitiation for your sins.  Which means he is your atoning sacrifice, your substitute.  He paid the price for your sins and made peace for you with God.

Jesus is your mediator, your intercessor, your advocate and the propitiation for your sins. The Holy Spirit also intercedes for you.  What amazing help you have in approaching your Holy Heavenly Father!  “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16)

Do Not Lose Heart

Every one of us has trials in our life.  Some people have more trials than others and it is easy to compare yourself to someone else who doesn’t seem to have as much as you do.  The apostle Paul certainly suffered many trials; how would your trials compare to his?  2 Corinthians 11:24-27 “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  In spite of all this, the apostle Paul was able to write in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

It is important for you to have the proper perspective towards your trials.  Let us analyze the apostle Paul’s admonition here. “Therefore we do not lose heart.”  You could become discouraged and give up – but you don’t.  “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”  You physical body is getting older and perhaps suffering pain and illness.  That is the natural course of events; your body is slowly consumed by trials and afflictions and eventually you will die.  But your inward, spiritual self should be renewed every day.  By studying God’s word, fellowship with other faithful believers, and meaningful prayer with your Father in heaven, your spiritual life should grow stronger.  The physical should become less important while the spiritual should become more important.

“For our light affliction.”  Paul described his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, quoted above.  He called the things he went through as “light affliction.”  He could do that because he put things into proper perspective.  What he went through, and what you and I go through is little compared to the promises of God.  Jesus saw it that way as well.  Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Since you know that eternal life with Jesus and God the Father awaits you, consider any trial that you go through in this life as “light affliction”.  Others may consider your trials as great, but with the proper perspective, you should consider them as light.

Your trials are “but for a moment”.  Your trials may seem like they will never end.  But compared to eternity, they are truly just for a moment.  James 4:14b “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  Since your trials are “but for a moment”, you can endure and remain faithful.  Others may consider your trials as long, but with the proper perspective, you should consider them as but for a moment.

Our trials are “working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.  The eternal glory that awaits you is far weightier and more valuable than anything in this life.  God allows you to go through trials to develop your character.  Romans 5:3-4 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  As you walk in the Spirit, you will develop the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  These characteristics only come when you walk in the Spirit and successfully persevere through trials.

“While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  You don’t see God the Father or Jesus Christ; you don’t see your heavenly home.  But you live your life in faith.  Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Trials are a test of your faith.  James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  God will test your faith through trials; He tests everyone’s faith because He wants to save those with genuine faith.  1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Are you going to give up when your faith is tried or are you going to trust in God and have genuine faith?

My encouragement to you is to not lose heart from your trials.  Gain the proper perspective that your trials are but light affliction, they are but for a moment, and they are working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  Walk in faith.

All Prayers

Your Father in heaven is a loving Father who wants to hear your prayers.  1 John 5:14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  There are few limitations on your prayers.  One limitation is that you ask according to His will.  Asking for your own pleasures is not according to His will.  James 4:2b-3 “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

There are all kinds of prayer that you can make.  The apostle Paul taught  Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

There are four types of prayer listed in 1 Timothy 2:1.  The first is supplication.  This is a humble request, perhaps for mercy or assistance in time of need.  It could include confession of your sins and request for forgiveness from God.  Remember the story that Jesus told about the two men that went up to the temple to pray in Luke 18:9-14.  The tax collector said “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”  Such a prayer of confession, repentance and request for mercy when you have sinned would be a prayer of supplication.  It is also a prayer that God wants to hear and has promised to forgive you.  1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   But in addition to a prayer requesting forgiveness, a prayer of supplication might be when you are experiencing tribulation and you plead with God for mercy or help in your time of trial.

The second type of prayer is simply “prayers”.  These would be requests for obtaining the good things, spiritual and temporal, which you need.  In the “Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:11-13 “Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” These requests are examples of “prayers”.  Another example is a request for wisdom.  James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  There are many requests you can make of God for your spiritual and temporal needs.

The third type of prayer is “intercessions”.  These are prayers on behalf of other people.  It is common to pray for others that are sick.  James 5:14-16 “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  But “intercessions” should not be limited to sickness.  You can pray for those going through tribulations.  You can pray for evangelists that proclaim the gospel.  Ephesians 6:19-20 “And (pray) for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”  You can pray for someone who is lost that their heart might be opened to the truth.  There are many intercessions you can make for others.

Finally, there is “giving of thanks”.  It is recorded multiple times in the Gospels that Jesus gave thanks for food.  Many people want to pray for blessings on the food.  The example we have from Jesus is that he gave thanks for the food.  But don’t limit your giving of thanks to just food.  1 Corinthians 15:57 “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”  God has given you so many physical and spiritual blessings.  You should always give thanks and praise God for all that He has done for you.

The apostle Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1 that all these kinds of prayers should be made for all men.  Your prayers should not be limited to yourself, to family, and to those in the church.  He goes on in verse 2 to give an example of praying for “kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.”  This extension of prayer to others besides yourself and your friends is made because you should be interested in other people.  Paul continues in verses 3 and 4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Since God wants all men to be saved, you should also want good things to happen to them and that they might be saved.

My encouragement to you is to have a full prayer life.  Ephesians 6:18 “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”  You should pray always; in other words, pray on all occasions.  You should pray with “all prayer”; this means pray all kinds of prayers as we have just studied (supplication, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks).

Comfort

When tribulations come upon you, it is natural for you to become troubled in your spirit.  Maybe you are suffering persecution for your faith.  Maybe you have lost someone very special in your life.  Maybe you have suffered some tragedy.  Or maybe it is just an accumulation of many trials and disappointments in your life.  Wouldn’t it be great to have someone to come along side of you and assure you that everything will be all right and comfort you in your tribulations?  You and I have that someone, and it is God the Father.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  God is the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort. 

You can feel comforted when you realize that you are not alone; there is someone else who walks beside you in your time of trial – someone who sees everything that is happening, understands what you are going through, and cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”  The hurt will not last forever; the Father will make sure that eventually all will work out for your good.  That is the kind of God that we have; the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

There is another kind of comfort from God.  In the 5th chapter of 1 Corinthians we find that the church in Corinth was tolerating a man who had his father’s wife.  The apostle Paul was very critical of them for their tolerance of sexual immorality and told them to discipline the man by not keeping company with him.  In 2 Corinthians, we find that Paul’s criticism and instruction had an impact upon the Corinthians.  They repented of their sin and demonstrated Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:8-11).  The sexually immoral man also repented and was sorrowful for his sin (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).  So the apostle Paul starts off the book of 2 Corinthians by telling them that our God is a Father of mercies and God of all comfort.  He is merciful and forgiving of their sin and He is now there to comfort them.  In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the story of the man who had two sons.  The younger son took his inheritance and wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  When all was spent, he found himself hungry and in need.  He determined to go back to his father, confess his sin, and ask to be made a hired servant.  But the father had compassion, ran to meet him, and welcomed him home.  He made a feast to celebrate his son’s return.  He had mercy on his son and then sought to comfort him because he had repented and returned.  The lesson we learn from the Corinthian church and from the story of the prodigal son is that God is a Father of mercies and God of all comfort.  If you have sinned and departed from God, return and discover that He is a Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Regardless of what happens to you here, you can be comforted by the promise of eternal life.  Jesus said in John 14:1-3 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”   You can be comforted about those who precede you in death.  1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

When others suffer trials, you should be there to support them.  Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  When you successfully come through a trial, you can realize that God was with you and He used the trial to build your character.  Romans 5:3-5 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  From your experience, you can comfort others in the trials that they experience.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”  

My encouragement to you is to seek comfort from the Father.  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”

Honor And Glory To God

What a wonderful God we serve!  Consider the following given by the Apostle Paul to Timothy.  1 Timothy 1:17 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

First, consider that He is King.  That means that He is supreme.  David wrote this description:  1 Chronicles 16:23-27 “Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.  Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.  For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.  Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and gladness are in His place.”  Also Psalms 95:1-3 “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!  Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods.”

Next, He is eternal.  When Moses met God at the burning bush, he was told to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.  Moses asked the name of God.  Exodus 3:14 “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’’”  This is a most wonderful name of God.  It tells us that He has always existed and will always exist.  No one but God can make that claim.  Psalms 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”  We should praise and glorify Him because He is eternal and has created all things.  Revelation 4:9-11 “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:  ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.’”

Next, He is immortal.  That means he cannot decay or die; it is akin to Him being eternal.  1 Timothy 6:15b-16 “He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.”

Next, He is invisible.  Maybe you wish that you could see God, but you cannot.  But you can understand about Him by what He has made.  Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”  We are told that we live within Him.  Acts 17:24-28 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’”

The word “wise” was added by some of the translators in 1 Timothy 1:17 – it is not in the original text.  Even so, God is wise.  Romans 16:27 “To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”  1 Corinthians 1:25 “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”  The wisdom of man is nothing compared to God’s wisdom.

There are many other attributes of our God that I will not address here.  But since God is so wonderful, you should give Him honor.  That means that you should give Him respect, reverence, awe, and devotion.  You should fully appreciate who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do.  Psalm 66:2-4 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.  Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.  All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.”

No only should you give honor to God, but you should give God glory, that is, you should praise and worship Him.  1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  At the birth of Jesus the angels said in Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  Romans 11:36 “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”  Jude 25 “To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.  Amen.”

It can be easy to get caught up in your own world and your activities and your duties and all of the things that occupy your life.  But my encouragement to you is to appreciate the God you serve and give Him honor and glory in your heart, with your mouth, and with your life.

Cheerful Giver

The Jewish people were required to give a tenth or tithe of their income.  Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.”  The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time were so zealous that they gave a tithe of the herbs that grew in their gardens.  Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”

If the requirement for tithing were carried over to us today and if you grew corn or rice in your field, you would be required to give a tenth of your crop to the Lord.  If you caught a fish, a tenth would go to the Lord.  If you slaughtered an animal, a tenth would go to the Lord.  From any wage or salary you received, a tenth would go to the Lord.  Thankfully, the tithing requirement has not been laid upon Christians today.  Instead, your giving should be from your heart as you purpose.  2 Corinthians 9:6-7 “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”  If you give sparingly, you will reap sparingly; if you give bountifully you will reap bountifully the blessings from God.  He loves you for being a cheerful giver.  Are you a cheerful giver?  Do you give bountifully?

Jesus loved you so much that he freely gave His life for you.  1 John 3:16-18 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  Your giving should be out of love.  Since Jesus loves you so much and gave His life for you, you should love your brother as well.  If you see your brother in need but shut up your heart from helping him, you do not have love for your brother or for God.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  I remember one time, years ago, when I was with a young man who was my co-worker.  We came upon an opportunity to help someone in need.  I don’t remember the details of the need, but I do remember I was reluctant to spend my money to help the one in need and I told my co-worker so.  His attitude was totally different.  He stated that it was a joy to be given the opportunity to help someone.  I realized that my attitude was wrong and my co-worker’s attitude was right.  You should take joy in being able to make a difference in someone else’s life by helping them.  We all want to make a difference with our lives rather than accomplish nothing.  Helping someone else in need is a way of making a difference.  God has blessed you in your life, and you should be happy to pass blessings on to others.  “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

Look at the attitude of the churches in Macedonia.  2 Corinthians 8:1-6 “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:  that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.  For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.  And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”  What an attitude these churches had!  They were poor, but they were liberal in their giving.  They gave beyond their ability and pleaded with Paul to accept the gift to help the other believers.  They had joy in their giving.

My encouragement to you is to take joy in giving to others who are in need.  God loves a cheerful giver.  Acts 20:35 “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Giving

In the early church, there was a prophesy that there would be a severe famine over the land.  As a result, the disciples decided to provide help for the brethren living in Judea (Acts 11:28-29).  The apostle Paul gave instruction to the Corinthian and Galatian churches concerning their giving for this cause.  1 Corinthians 16:1-2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”  The original language of this scripture implies that the laying aside and storing up was to be done by each individual.  The intent was that each week they should set something aside so that when the apostle came, he would be able to receive the gift for the brethren in Judea.  From this, we have our example for weekly laying aside.

Giving is very important for the faithful Christian.  Jesus gave the following description of the judgement.  Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’  Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’  Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  In this description of the judgement, the difference between those who received eternal life and those who were cursed and received everlasting punishment was their giving and their service.  Those who were blessed had given food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, hospitality to the stranger, clothes to the naked and time to the sick and those in prison.  The cursed had not given of their resources or their time. 

In the description of the judgement given above, notice that those who gave did so personally to the one they saw in need.  It is good to join with others in giving for a common need such as giving to your local church.  Paul took what he received from the Corinthians to the brethren in Judea.  The Israelites had a treasury to which the people gave (Mark 12:41).  Judas had the money bag for Jesus and His disciples (John 12:6).  But your gifts to a common treasury should not keep you from being willing and able to give personally to an individual as you see the need.  The good Samaritan saw the need of the one who had been robbed and beaten on the road and in love he gave help and paid for the necessary expenses (Luke 10:30-35).

Certainly, there are limitations in giving.  You should not give to the neglect of your family.  1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  You would not want to give if the need was not valid.  You would not want to give if you knew that the receiver was going to misuse the gift such as to support his illegal drug habit.  In spite of such limitations, be a giving person.  God wants you to give and share with the blessings He gives you.  Hebrews 13:16 “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

If you are rich, you should be willing to share what you have.  1 Timothy 6:17-19 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  If you are poor, you should also be willing to give, even if your gift is small.  Mark 12:41-44 “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.  Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.  So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’”

My encouragement to you is to be a giving person.  This pleases God.

Appreciate God’s Love

When the apostle Paul was a young man, his name was Saul.  When Stephen was stoned, Saul was there.  Acts 7:57-58 “Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”  Acts 8:1-3 “Now Saul was consenting to his (Stephen’s) death.  At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”  Acts 9:1-2 “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” On his way to Damascus, Saul met Jesus and his life was changed.  Because of what he had done in his early life, he felt that he was the chief of sinners.  1 Timothy 1:12-15 “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.  And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  The apostle Paul appreciated how sinful he had been in persecuting Christians and working against the cause of Christ.  He called himself a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man.  The turnaround in his life was very dramatic.  Instead of fighting against Christ, he became one of the most zealous preachers of the gospel.

One time, Jesus was in the house of a Pharisee named Simon.  A woman came in with a flask of fragrant oil and began to wash the feet of Jesus, kiss his feet, and anoint them with the fragrant oil.  Luke 7:39-47 “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’  So he said, ‘Teacher, say it.’  ‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’  Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’  And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’  Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.  You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.  Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’”

Paul (Saul) and the woman in the house with Jesus both appreciated that they were great sinners.  When they were forgiven of their sins, they loved Jesus very much and showed their love with their actions.

God loves you very much.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Romans 5:7-8 “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Do you love him in return?  1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”  The first and great commandment is to love God.  Matthew 22:37b-38 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.” 

Love is a powerful motivator.  When a man loves a woman, it motivates him to do almost anything for her because of his love.  When you truly love God, it will motivate you to live your life for Him.  Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  Love for God should motivate you to obey His commandments, to resist temptation and sin, and to serve Him with your life.

Do you love God as you should – with all your heart, soul and mind?  Maybe you don’t love Him as much as you should because you don’t appreciate the evilness of your sin before Him.  “To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”  Maybe you don’t love Him as you should because you don’t appreciate the gift He has giving you.  He has given you the gift of His son Jesus so that you will receive the forgiveness of your sins, you will be saved, and you will receive everlasting life.

My encouragement to you is to appreciate what God has done for you and give Him the love He deserves.  The faithful saying that is worthy of all acceptance is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  He came to save you.

Steadfast and Immovable

Some things in life are constantly changing.  The waves on the sea or the tide at the beach come and go.  The branches of a tree in the wind blow back and forth.  Some things are constant and show no signs of movement such as a large rock or a mountain.  You, as a faithful believer, should be like the large rock in that you are immovable in your faith, your stand on the sure teachings of the word, your purity of life, and your trust in the Lord.  Regardless of the winds that may blow, you are steadfast.  1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  Let us consider the three elements of this admonition: being steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

You can probably remember someone you know that was once a faithful Christian but has since left the faith.  How could they lose their faith?  Without faith in Jesus, what else is there to hope for?  There was one time that Jesus gave a hard teaching.  John 6:66-69 “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’  But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”  Jesus has the words of eternal life.  Without your faith in Jesus, you have nothing.  Abraham is our great example of faith.  Romans 4:20-22 “He (Abraham) did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.  And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” Be like Abraham.  Don’t waver but strengthen your faith.  Be steadfast and immovable.  1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

One of the areas where you should be firm is in your stand on what the Bible teaches on matters of salvation and of righteousness.  Ephesians 4:14 “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”  As I study the Bible, I am constantly learning; I hope you are learning as well.  But when a false teaching blows by, you should recognize it for what it is, reject it, and stand for the truth.  The apostle Paul taught in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”  

Another area where you should be firm is in the righteous life you seek to lead.  We all face temptations.  But don’t give up your salvation for the pleasures of sin.  2 Peter 3:17-18a “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Esau, the brother of Jacob, sold his inheritance for some bread and stew.  Hebrews 12:16-17 “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”  Don’t sell your salvation for the pleasures of sin.  Be steadfast and immovable.

In addition to being steadfast and immovable, you should be abounding in the work of the Lord.  Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  You were saved by grace through faith, but you were created in Christ Jesus for good works.  I encourage you to abound in the work of the Lord.

What is the result of being steadfast and immovable and abounding in the work of the Lord?  You receive all that is promised by God.  Your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  Hebrews 6:10-12 “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

The encouragement I give to you is that you be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.