Imitating our Generous God

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I love to bless my kids, and at times have been generous to a fault. Once we were in a local department store when my daughter was little and she said to her friend, “My Mommy never lets me get anything, but my Daddy gets me anything I want!” Translation: Mom teaches me self-restraint; Dad’s a soft touch.

My consolation is that my Heavenly Father is generous. He loves to lavish his children with blessings. He promises to bless us when we meditate on and obey his word, when we take refuge in him and when we trust him. But he also promises to bless us when we’re generous to the poor.

? blessed is he who is generous to the poor. Proverbs 14:21

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. Proverbs 19:17

God abounds in loving kindness. The gospel is the story of God’s generosity: He gave his Beloved Son, a fount of a thousand blessings, to enrich bankrupt sinners. The whole earth displays God’s lavish character. There are between 15,000 and 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide, almost 28,000 known kinds of fish, and approximately 40,000 species of spiders, most of whom are in my basement. God didn’t merely create red, yellow and blue – he created alizarine crimson and saffron and periwinkle. He’s profuse, bountiful, extravagant, and open-handed.

And when we?re generous it brings him delight because he sees his own liberality shining through us.

God repays us when we give freely, but he may not bless us in the way we expect. He may fill our souls with joy. He may open our children’s hearts to him or he may heal us. Hey, I’ll take these things. If you water others, God will water you, and when God waters, he drenches.

Believers should be the most generous people on earth. Give something to someone in need this week, then wait for God to surprise you. Check out Covenant Mercies at www.covenantmercies.org for a great place to start.

Blazing Highlight Reel

Have you read these posts?

What Have You Accomplished?

I like accomplishments. I like reading biographies of people who have accomplished great things. I enjoy sifting through news articles to find the ones about people who have done something amazing. The Guinness Book of World Records fascinates me. It amazes me to read about the man who typed the most books backward, or about the woman with the longest hair in the world…

God Humiliated Me By Choosing Me

My watch is precious to me. Okay, that sounded a bit too much like Gollum from ?The Lord of the Rings?. But it?s true, I really do need my watch. I like to know the precise hour and minute so that I can be on time for meetings. I like to know what day of the month it is, and I like to use the timer function for taking power naps. Without my watch I feel somewhat lost, which is why I went into semi-panic when I recently lost my watch…

The Man Who Wouldn’t Salute

The photo captured hundreds of ship workers in the act of saluting. But near the middle, and slightly off to the right, one man could be seen not saluting. This ?Man Who Would Not Salute? was Wolfgang?s father, standing there with his arms crossed in defiance of Hitler…

Motorcycle Underwear

I don?t realize my fatal mistake until one of my older, cooler teammates says, ?What?s on your underwear?? I play dumb, acting as if I don?t know what he?s talking about. Then he nails me. ?There?s motorcycles on your underwear! Hey guys check this out, Stephen?s wearing motorcycle underwear.? I try to play it off as funny but it doesn?t work. I?m embarrassed and my face burns with shame. Needless to say, I never wear the motorcycle underwear again…

My Love For Jesus Stinks

CandleIt’s time for a little heart-to-heart, Stephen to [insert your name, address, and credit card #] confession: my love for Jesus stinks. Honestly, that’s how it feels right now. For the past month-and-a-half my devotional times have stunk. I sit down to read my Bible, and within minutes I’m distracted. I’m thinking about March Madness (my bracket is a mess), about this blog, about projects at work, and about my little girl Charis, who I can hear stirring in her crib. I look up to the ceiling and I can actually see my prayers bouncing back at me. At least that’s what it feels like. It’s really frustrating. Can you relate to me?

But honestly, I’m not discouraged. Why? Because I see desire in my heart. I really do want to love Jesus. I really do want to treasure his word, and delight in prayer, and love the Lord with all my heart. And that brings me great comfort. Sure my love for Jesus stinks right now, but there’s a spark of love, and that’s not from me. Sparks come from God.

Jesus doesn’t blow out sparks of love. That’s sweet news to this smoldering heart. Matthew 12:20 says:

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench…

Right now it feels like my love for Jesus is nothing more than a smoldering wick. Jesus is the one who breathes new flame into a smoldering wick. He was the one who lit the flame of love in my heart, and he’s the one who will keep it alive. Sweet news for faint-hearted folks like me.

So here’s my prayer: Jesus set my heart aflame with love for You! I want to love you with all my heart, but right now I’m cold. Change me, cleanse me, and renew me. Renew again the joy of my salvation. Thank you that you promise to do this.

Help me out here. What encouragement do you have for me? What encourages you when your love for Jesus is nothing more than a smoldering wick?

Fan Your Love For Jesus Into A Flame

Questions, questions, questions. Everybody asks me questions.

Airport security people ask me questions: “Has your luggage been in your possession since leaving home?” “Have you been approached by anyone to carry a package?” “Did you pack your bags?” You don?t want to try to be funny with airport people. You don?t want to say, ?No, actually they were packed by a stranger I met at the gun shop yesterday.? They probably won?t be laughing as they?re cuffing you.

Game shows ask me questions. ?Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?,? ?So You Want to be a Millionaire,? and more. I?d like to see one called ?Are You Nerdier than a Home-Schooler?? Hey, back off home school people, I?m just kidding ? Stephen was home schooled and look at him. On second thought, don?t.

?Jeopardy? actually gives the answers and contestants have to supply the questions. For example the “Answer” might be: “The French military leader who met his final defeat at Waterloo on June 18, 1815.” And we all know the Question: ?Who is Napoleon Dynamite??

After his resurrection, Jesus asked Peter the most piercing question in the world: ?Do you love me??

Before Jesus was crucified, proud Peter swore he?d never deny Christ, then disowned him three times. So after he rose, Jesus asked Peter three times, ?Do you love me?? He didn?t ask Peter if he was a good person, or if he believed in God or did good things. He asked Peter if he loved him.

Do you love Jesus? This is the most important question in the world. I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately.

My love for Jesus falls far short of what I?d desire. It grieves me to think about how weak and pitiful my love for Jesus is. But I’m so glad that Jesus doesn’t quench even a smoldering wick. If there is one true spark of love for him he can fan it into a flame. And if we’re concerned about our poor love for Christ, that’s a good thing, for unbelievers don?t love him at all and aren?t even bothered by it. It?s a mark of a believer to desire to love Jesus more.

How can we cultivate love for Jesus? Here are a few thoughts:

Think on the cross. Think of what it cost Jesus to bring you to God. He underwent infinite humiliation in becoming human. He withstood Satan?s worst temptations. He accepted rejection, mocking, scourging, and crucifixion. He drank the cup of God?s fury against sin for you. How can we not love Jesus for all he endured for us?

Think on all Jesus has done for you. He?s rescued you from your sins, cleansed you with his blood, and brought you to God. He?s had mercy on you, revealed himself to you, given eternal life to you.

Think of all Jesus continues to do for you.
He intercedes for you, blesses you, bears with you, encourages you, protects you, speaks to you, answers your prayers, helps you, fills you with joy. We have so many reasons to love him.

Finally, pray, and ask Jesus to fill you with love for him. He loves to answer this prayer.

How about you? How do you seek to cultivate and fan into flame your love for Jesus?

Josh Harris Asks If You Date The Church

In this hilarious and insightful illustration, Joshua Harris asks if we date the local church or are married to the local church. Click play to listen to the illustration.

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Click here to download the clip. This illustration came from an outstanding sermon on commitment to the local church. Click here to download the entire sermon.

Having A Baby Changes Everything

Charis 2

I’ve always been pro-life. When I was little my parents explained to me what it meant that a political candidate was pro-choice, and instructed me that as Christians we should be pro-life. So I rooted for the original George Bush, and when it came time for me to cast my vote, I voted for the current George Bush.

But having a baby has changed everything for me. Before Charis was born, I was pro-life in my head. Now I’m pro-life in my heart. It wasn’t until after Charis was born that I understood what abortion really meant.

I look at my baby girl and my heart is filled with incredible affection for her. It’s hard for me to believe that I could love a little person so much, especially one who poops and pukes like Charis, but I do. I love feeling her little hand grasp mine, and seeing her smile up at me from her crib. I love the “what-are-you-feeding-me?” look that comes across her face when Jen feeds her sweet potatoes. It makes me smile when I see her sucking on her feet like Popsicles. I deeply love Charis. She is precious.

The thought of Charis, or any other baby, being aborted grieves me. I need to be clear. I don’t hate abortionists or people that have abortions. In the glorious gospel there is power to forgive every sin, including abortion. And my heart is just as wicked as the heart of any person that has performed or had an abortion. If you’re reading this and you’ve had an abortion, God can (and wants to) completely forgive you, because he killed his son.

But the thought of millions of babies dying every year deeply saddens my heart. When I hold Charis, and kiss her velvety head, and then think about abortion, my heart sinks. I feel that I should do something, must do something. I can’t sit idly by while so many babies die.

So what should I do? What should we do as Christians? Above all else, we should pray. Let’s pray to our sovereign, almighty, compassionate God, and ask him to bring the practice of abortion to a decisive end. Let’s pray that whoever is elected as president this year would work to bring abortion to an end. Let’s pray that God would raise up men and women like William Wilberforce to labor tirelessly on behalf of the unborn. And let’s pray for those who perform abortions and have abortions. Let’s pray that they would come to know the wonderful, cleansing, saving grace of God.

Today, pray that God would bring abortion to an end. When you think of your kids, or grandkids, or nieces, or nephews, let that remind you to pray. Let’s ask God to do mighty things!


Charis

Free Scripture Song

In the past we’ve given away a number of free scripture songs to help you grow in memorizing scripture. Today we’re doing it again. Free food for you iPod to help you grow in your knowledge of scripture. Does it get any better?

Click here to download the free scripture song. Today’s vere is 1 John 3:2-3.

In case you’ve missed the others, you can get them here.

Have You Heard His Voice?

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Jesus surprised Mary Magdalene. She was looking for him, but he actually found her.

She followed him since he first cast 7 demons out of her. In love and gratitude, she and some other women Jesus healed accompanied him and supported him out of their own purses. They followed him to Jerusalem when it became dangerous for him and his disciples to be there. And when all the disciples fled, Mary Magdalene stayed by Jesus till the end, standing by the cross with his mother and two other women. She lingered until they unfastened his body from the cross and then shadowed them to the tomb and watched where they laid him.

Now it’s early Sunday morning and Jesus has been dead since Friday afternoon. Mary Magdalene and some other women make their way in the dark to the tomb. They find it empty and Mary runs back to tell Peter and John, who go inside, see the grave clothes folded up, scratch their heads in wonder and return to Jerusalem. Mary remains behind weeping. As horrific as the events of Friday had been, now adding insult to injury, someone has stolen Jesus? body. As she?s weeping, she peers into the tomb and sees two angels, who ask her why she?s crying. She?s so overcome by grief, she isn?t even startled by beings who are normally terrifying. She just wants to know where Jesus? body is. Then she turns around and sees someone she presumes is the property caretaker. He too asks her why she?s weeping and whom she?s seeking. She begs this stranger to tell her where the body is. She even offers to single-handedly carry the corpse somewhere to anoint it for burial. Then the stranger speaks again.

Jesus said to her, ?Mary.? She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ?Rabboni!? (which means Teacher) (Jn 20:16).

Jesus says her name, ?Mary.? She?s heard that voice before. Something in the way he says her name causes her to instantly recognize its Jesus. What tenderness is in his voice. What love.

How incredible, amazing, and unbelievable is the joy that floods her heart. A moment before, she?d been looking for a corpse, and now the one she?d sought is alive and standing right beside her. She cries out ?Rabboni!? My Teacher!

The Bible says that before we begin seeking Jesus, he is seeking us.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.? (LK 19.10)

You did not choose me, but I chose you? (JN 15.16)

Philip Ryken tells the story of a mother who loses her child in an amusement park. She?s frantically searching for him everywhere, calling out his name, heart in her throat. Twenty minutes later she finds him on a park bench next to an old man. He looks up and says to her, ?Hi Mommy, you were lost.?

We may think we were searching for Jesus, but he was the one seeking us. We were the sheep who strayed and he was the shepherd who called us, disentangled us from the thicket, lifted us on his shoulders and brought us home.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (JN10.27)

Mary was one of Jesus? sheep. He called her name and she heard his voice. If you are a believer, it is because Jesus called your name and you heard his voice. Do you remember when you first began to hear his voice? Why not take a moment to praise him for seeking and saving you.

The Meaning of My Dreams

DreamsI’ve never been into interpreting my dreams. That’s because most of the time they are sheer nonsense – a sequence of confused and bizarre images. First I’m riding bareback on small pony, which actually turns out to be my scooter. I turn to my left and see that my dad is on a scooter next to me, and he’s wearing a sleeveless leather vest and leather chaps. The next thing I know I’m on a walk with my wife, and we’re being chased by wild pigeons with unusually large talons. We run, but the faster we run the slower we move. It’s like we’re in quicksand. The birds begin to attack and…I wake up. You get the point. My dreams are usually a bunch of nonsense, not worthy of a second thought.

Perhaps I should give some of my dreams a second thought. Listen to these words by Ed Welch from the book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest:

Do you have any fear and anxiety dreams?…The content can be silly and inscrutable, but listen for the emotional tone of your dreams. What do they feel like? Being pursued? Missing deadlines? Spinning endless plates? Being exposed and embarrassed? Keep track of them and in the course of a week you will hear them speak: “I am afraid,” “I am anxious,” “I’m feeling pressure.”

Welch’s words struck a chord with me. I do have fear and anxiety dreams. On a semi-regular basis I have a dream that it’s Sunday morning and I’m supposed to lead worship. Church starts in ten minutes and I’m not even close to being ready. I don’t have songs picked out. I don’t know how I’m going to encourage the church. The band hasn’t even had a chance to practice. Things are spinning hopelessly out of my control, and it’s looking like Sunday morning is going to be a disaster. I usually wake up with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

What does this dream say about me? Is it just my imagination running wild, or does it really say something about the state of my soul?

This dream does in fact say something about the sinful cravings of my heart. It points to my self-sufficiency and desire for the approval of others. The truth is, there are some Sunday mornings where I really do feel anxious about how things will go. I want the band to play well, and I want to share some profound scriptural truth with the congregation that causes them to fall on their faces and cry ‘Holy!’. When things don’t go well in practice before church, I get anxious. I try to pull the band together by sheer determination. I try to exhort the church with extra energy, as if my words can create genuine worship in people. Instead of relying on God to meet his people during worship, I rely on myself to play well and lead well. Instead of caring solely about the glory of God, I want people to think that I’m an incredible worship leader. My Sunday morning dream helps me see what is truly going on in my heart on a real Sunday morning.

This is new stuff for me. I need to give some more thought to my self-sufficiency and anxiety. But I’m grateful for Ed Welch, and grateful to God that he wants to set me free from fear. Just so I’m clear, I don’t think we should analyze every single dream we have, digging deep into our psyche to discover our hidden desires. But I know that I struggle with anxiety and self-sufficiency on a regular basis, and so I at least want to give some thought to dreams that fit this category.

What do your dreams say about you? Do you have any dreams that reveal fears, cravings, or worries?