GRACE GIVING – Part 3


2 Corinthians 8

In contrasting the attitudes and involvement in Giving to the poor Paul was pointing out to the Corinthian believers that the Macedonian’s were following the example of Jesus.  That meant, that the Corinthians were not.  That brought to the table the confession and declaration of Love for God and Paul asked them to demonstrate that love tangibly in Giving and fulfilling their commitment and promise.  Grace Giving is an Evidence of Love.  It shows our love for, the Lord, His servants, and those in need.  It is an expression of the heart and character of Jesus! 

The giving of the Macedonian believers was sacrificial.  (v.9).  In that way, they were ‘rich’, but Rich in Jesus not in the natural.  Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the Savior is rich in His person, possessions because He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He owns it all.  However, the Bible reveals that in spite of that position and condition, He “became” poor that we might be made rich!

I want to call your attention to the tense of the verb because it indicates that it is in His Incarnation, His birth at Bethlehem is what is being referred to. Jesus united Himself to mankind and took upon Himself a human body.  He left the Throne to become a servant.  He laid aside all His possessions so that He did not even have a place to lay His head.  His ultimate experience of poverty was when He was made sin for us on the Cross.  Hell is Eternal Spiritual Poverty, and on the Cross, Jesus became the poorest of the poor. 

Why did Jesus do that?  He did it so that we could become rich.  That suggests that before we came to Him, we were bankrupt.  But now, we share in all His riches.  We are now the Children of God and Heirs of God, Joint heirs with Jesus. (Romans 8:17).  With that in mind, how can we refuse to give to others?  He became poor to make us rich.  Can we not follow His example, as did the Macedonian churches, who out of their deep poverty abounded in liberality? 

  • Grace Giving Occurs When We Give Willingly.  (vv.10-22).

There is a difference between Promise and Performance.  The Corinthians boasted to Titus a year earlier, that they would share in the offering.  (v.6).  But they had not kept their promise.  In verses 10-12 we see the word “willingness” and that is the emphasis.  Grace Giving must come from the heart.

In my personal experience in Christian ministry, I have encountered many offering appeals.  I have listened to some of the most pathetic tales about unbelievable needs.  I have forced myself to laugh at old jokes which were supposed to make it easier for me to part with my money.  I have been scolded, shamed, and almost threatened if I did not give.  I have to confess that none of those approaches stirred me to give more than I had planned.  In fact, more than once, I gave less because I became disgusted with the worldly approaches employed.

It is needful that we be careful not to confuse ‘willing’ with ‘doing,’ because the two must go together.  If the ‘willing’ is sincere in doing the Will of God, there will be a corresponding ‘doing.’  Paul did not say that being ‘willing’ was a substitute for ‘doing.’  Quite the contrary. If our Giving is motivated by Grace, we will give willingly and not because we are forced to or expected to.

I want us to consider something that is often missed.  God see the ‘Heart Gift’ and not just the ‘Hand Gift.’  If the heart wanted to give more but was truly unable, God sees it and records it accordingly.  Whereas, if the hand gives more than the heart wants to give, God sees it and records it accordingly. Therefore, no matter how large the ‘Hand Gift’ is God records only what was in our hearts. 

Let me give this illustration and hopefully, it will resonate.  I heard of a man who was leaving on a business trip and his wife reminded him, before Church, that they needed some ‘extra money’ for household expenses.  Just before the offering, he slipped some money into her hand and she, thinking it was their weekly offering for the church, put it all in the offering plate.  It was the expense money for the week.

The man said, “Oh, well, we gave it all to the LORD and He keeps records.”  The pastor asked, “How much did you intend to give?”  The man gave him a number and the pastor said, “then that’s what God recorded because He saw the intent of the heart.”  God sees not just the portion but the proportion.  If we could have given more but did not, God sees it.  If we wanted to give more but could not, God sees it.  When we give “willingly”, according to what we have we are practicing Grace Giving.

  • Grace Giving Occurs When We Give by Faith.  (vv.13-24).

Grace Giving is an incredibly exciting adventure.  When we learn to give by Grace through Faith, we will experience some incredible blessings from the LORD.  We experience a liberation that can come in no other manner.  It frees us from being under the control of our possessions to controlling them.  We develop a new set of values and priorities.

We no longer measure our lives or other people based on money or possessions.  If money is the best test of success, then Jesus was an abject failure, because He gave all His away.  Grace Giving enriches us as we enrich others.  Grace giving enables us to be more like Jesus. 

The ultimate question becomes, “Have We Discovered the Thrill of Grace Giving?

God bless you on your new journey in Jesus and Grace.

GRACE GIVING – Part 2…


2 Corinthians 8

In considering the Grace of Giving or Grace Giving there is a key worthy of consideration.  When one experiences the Grace of God in their lives, they will not use difficult circumstances as an excuse for not giving.  The question is, “Are circumstances ever an encouragement to give?”  Maybe, but probably not as much as we would contend.

We need to keep in focus that God is God no matter what we face, and His program is not dependent upon the economy of the world or circumstances.  He is still in control and He still owns it all.

  • Grace Giving Occurs When We Give Enthusiastically.  (vv.3-4).

Let me pose an interesting question for you to consider.  “Is It Possible to Give Generously and Not Give Enthusiastically?”

I remember the story of a miserly member of a congregation who said, “The preacher tells us to give until it hurts, but for me, it hurts to think of giving.”  Another said in response to the pastor’s urging that it was better to give than receive, “If giving is better than getting, I don’t think I could stand it.  I enjoy getting so much.”  Attitude is a key factor.

The Macedonian Church needed no prompting or reminding, they were ‘more than willing’ to share in the offering.  Paul makes an astounding statement in verse 4 that they literally ‘begged’ to be allowed to participate.  That is incredible!  Their giving was voluntary and spontaneous.  It was of Grace not Pressure that they gave.  They gave because they wanted to and because they had experienced the Grace of God in their lives. 

Grace not only frees us from sin but frees us from ourselves.  The Grace of God will open the heart and then the hand.  Giving from a perspective of Grace is never cold and calculated but out of warmhearted jubilation. 

  • Grace Giving Occurs When We Give as Jesus Gave.  (vv.5-9).

The Bible makes it incredibly clear that Jesus is ‘always’ our preeminent example to follow in all things.  That includes service, suffering, and sacrifice. 

The Macedonians gave themselves to others as Jesus did. (v.5).  If we give ourselves to God, we will have no problem giving our substance to Him as well.  Likewise, if we give ourselves to God, we will also find joy in giving ourselves to others.  It is impossible to Love God and ignore the needs of our neighbor. 

The Macedonians gave through the motivation of Love.  (vv. 7-8).  That was a rebuke to the Church at Corinth.  The Church at Corinth was incredibly enriched with spiritual blessings and gifts. (1 Corinthians 1:4-5).  They had become so wrapped up in the Gifts of the Spirit they neglected the Grace of the Spirit.  Balance is vital and must be sought and maintained if we are to be healthy Christians.

The Macedonian Churches had an “abundance of deep poverty” (v.2), and yet they abounded in their liberality.  The Corinthian Church had an “abundance of spiritual gifts,” yet were lax in keeping their promise and sharing in the offering for the needy.  That is incredible!

I insist that we must never adopt the view or argument that our spiritual gifts are a substitute for generous giving.  Our gifts are just that, Gifts.  If we remember that truth it will help us and motivate us to give to others and not hide behind our ministry.  Paul made it incredibly clear to the Corinthian believers that he was not ordering them to give but appealing to them.  His contrasting of the attitude of the Macedonians to the Corinthians was to motivate, not coerce. 

We will look a little deeper in another devotional but will pause here.

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful Day of Grace in Jesus!

GRACE GIVING…


2 Corinthians 8

When we consider the 8th chapter of 2 Corinthians it is well to remember that one of the major efforts of Paul’s third missionary journey was to receive a Special Relief Offering for the poor Christians in Judea.  He had done that before as we see in Acts 11 and now the Holy Spirit is tugging at his heart to do so again.  I find it interesting that Paul would remember the forgotten beatitude, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” (Acts 20:35).

I believe that this extended far beyond materially assisting the poor in Judea and there were at least three additional desires in his heart.  He wanted this offering to strengthen the unity of the Church encouraging the Gentile congregations to participate along with the Jewish congregations.  He wanted this to provide evidence to the Jewish Christians that neither he nor the Gentile Christians were their enemies.  He hoped that the generosity of the Gentile believers would silence the jealousy of the Jewish believers.

That brings us to a problem and not a small one.  The Corinthians were not doing their part.  They had made promises but had failed to keep them.  In verse 10 we realize that an entire year had passed, and the offering was not complete.  What caused the delay?  It was the spiritual condition of the Church in Corinth.  Their spiritual temperature was at a dangerously low level.

I have observed in my fifty plus years of ministry that when a Church is not spiritual it is not generous.  I have also observed the same is true with individual believers.  But another cause was the Church in Corinth had been invaded by Judaizers, who typically siphoned off as much money as they could. 

Paul faced a problem.  He knew it was going to be difficult to convince the Corinthian Church to participate because of their spiritual condition.  Therefore, he elevates his appeal to the highest possible spiritual level.  He teaches a truth that is too frequently forgotten, ignored, or not understood that Giving is an Act of Grace!

A careful examination of the teachings of Paul was that he used nine different words to refer to this offering, but one was used most frequently and that was Grace.  I believe that the Bible teaches that Giving is a ministry of grace and fellowship. (v.4).  It is a ministry that benefits others.  However, the motivation must come from the Grace of God in the heart.  I have experienced Grace Giving personally and congregational and it is a wonderful experience.  When believers truly embrace the reality that it is better to give than receive something powerful transpires.

That brings me to a question that is germane for our discussion.  “How Can We Know When We Are Practicing Grace Giving?”  The apostle Paul gives several pieces of evidence that occur when our giving is motivated by Grace.  I ask that you join me in considering them.

  • Grace Giving Occurs When We Give in Spite of Our Circumstances. (vv.1-2).

The churches that Paul used as examples were in Macedonia and they had experienced incredibly dire and severe difficulties but had given generously.

Consider the situation.  Paul says that the plight of those believers was more than facing affliction or difficulty.  He says that they had experienced a “great trial of affliction”.  They were in deep poverty, which means rock bottom destitution.  It is a term used to describe a beggar who has absolutely nothing and no hope of getting anything. 

Their situation may have been brought about by their Christian faith.  They may have lost their jobs, been excluded from trade guilds, and ostracized because of their faith.  The fact that they would have nothing to do with idols and idol-making could have and often was economically as well as socially, politically, and psychologically difficult.  Yet, they gave and gave according to their means and above their means.  They gave joyfully and liberally.  Imagine that, great affliction and deep poverty plus Grace equaled abundant joy and astounding liberality. 

There is a level of condition of Grace that enables a believer to fully trust God for everything and embrace His word and promises completely.  I want to delve a little deeper into this in the next devotional.

God bless you as you enjoy His wonderful Grace in all you do.

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION – Part 4


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

What was it about the Pharisees and their religion that induced the anger of our LORD?   That would demand that we consider what made the nation of Israel the ‘people of God’.  We know that God revealed Himself to them and His Presence was what made them special.  God gave them Himself.  Initially, God was the central focus, but the Pharisees elevated the Law to the center and God was no longer the center.  The Torah became more important than God.  That is revealed in their attitude and actions.

In the progression of this thought, they forgot that they were the People of God because of His presence and adopted the view that they were the People of God because they kept the rules.  In that process, they lost God in His Word.  That still happens today. 

They sank into a form of idolatry worshipping the Book, the Law, rather than the God of the Book.  The idea was, “if I can somehow keep the Law, I can get to God.”  That is a form of bondage that is incredibly destructive.  It demands an external show and is a rigid legalistic view.  When Jesus declared that He came to ‘fulfill’ the Law He did not mean what the Pharisees meant.  He got to the heart of the matter.

Let’s look at the Law and see if we can unearth the contrast of Jesus’ teaching and that of the Pharisees!    The Law says, “Thou shalt not kill.”  I contend that is not the Law but the wrapper that the Law comes in.  I believe that we must see what is behind the command.  The Law says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, etc.”  I believe those are all wrappers and ask, “What is underneath those commands?”

It is Love!  If I love you, I won’t seek to kill you, steal from you, cheat you, or covet what you have.  Love is the fulfillment of the Law!  Therefore, all the negatives “thou shalt not” are only the wrapping paper, not the law.  The Pharisees had taken the wrapper off the candy, discarded the candy, and were arguing about the wrapper.  It is incredible.  Love is the piece of chocolate in the middle, but they missed it and keep the wrapper.

For example, the Pharisee said, “Thou shalt not kill, but it is okay to hate those not of the Association.”  Jesus said, “No, boys you got it all wrong!”  He even identified that anger is the beginning of murder.  If you follow the Spirit of Religion embodied in the Pharisee’s brand of legalism you only have the command.  But if you have Love, you experience the transformation of your life. 

The Law says, “Don’t Kill.”  You may get within an inch of it and want to, but so long as you don’t do it, you are okay.  You have kept the commandment.  Love, on the other hand, says, “If I lose my temper, I must ask your forgiveness.”  Jesus came to get to the heart of the matter and the root of the problem.  He came to allow us to Live the Law of God not by following rigid rules and regulations but by having the Love of God in our hearts. 

Tragically, there are Christians living with a mindset that is incredibly near that of the Pharisees.  Some have lost God in the Word of God and that is sad.  The reality is if we are going to keep the Law, we need help and lots of it.

The Pharisee never asked, “How can I keep the Law?”  Rather he asked, “How shall I not break it?”  There is a difference.  To keep the Law, I Love my neighbor.  To not break it, I erect fences.  Their idea was, here is the command and it must be obeyed, and God help the person if they ever get close to it, because if you do you will break it for sure.  Therefore, we must put up enough fences to keep everyone from getting close enough to break the law. 

The Commandment to “Keep the Sabbath Day Holy” is a point we need to consider.  God gave it for rest and to enjoy.  He said, “Stay home today, have family time, rest, and enjoy the day.”  The Pharisee’s view was, “How shall I not break the law?”  I can’t work on the Sabbath.  What does that involve?  Well, plowing would be work, right?  But what is plowing?  If I drag a chair across the dirt floor and the legs divide the dust am I now technically, plowing?  That is a Fence they erected.  If I look in the mirror and notice a gray hair and pluck it out that equates to work and is taboo.  When the disciples took the ear of corn on the Sabbath the Pharisees wanted to crucify Jesus and them.  They Broke the Rules and were harvesting and grinding corn.  It was rules, rules, rules, and love was a million miles away.

The heart of the matter is the Spirit of Religion is all about the Rules and the Gospel is about Love!  If I love you and have the love of God in my heart, I will keep God’s commandments but not necessarily man’s rules and regulations.  Religious spirits are mean and drive away whereas love draws to us.  Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw to Me.” 

Reject the Spirit of Religion and allow the Holy Spirit to strip away your Fences and seek to be filled with the Love of God and in that, you will discover the Life that Jesus came to bring, and it will be Abundant!

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION – Part 3


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

The rise of the Spirit of Religion and the Pharisees was developed through their adopting a Religious Method to Keep the Law.  They produced Fences.  What I mean by that is they developed rules and regulations that were designed to keep a person from getting near enough to the Law to break it.  They produced fences upon fences religiously. 

In that, there is a clear problem.  Over time, they ‘forgot’ what the command was and became enamored with the fence.  They ‘forgot’ that the fences were man-made and began to call them the Word of God or The Law.  It became incredibly complicated and they erected massive structures of man-made traditions.  They moved from being persecuted to highly respected and many held them in awe. 

It was impossible to not realize they were present.  That was the whole idea.  At the time of Jesus’ ministry, there were only about 6,000 of them but they seemed Omnipresent.  You could not miss them.  They were their blue robes and had their box on their forehead (phylactery).  They placed a verse inside the box. They had a box tied around their waist and wore long prayer shawls.  You could not miss them!  Their outward visibility was for show and they sought to be noticed and sought to impose their religious views on everyone.

By the time of Jesus, they had become national heroes.  It is commendable to believe that the Word of God “IS” the Word of God.  They were fanatical students of the Scriptures and sought to observe and obey every Law of the Old Testament Mosaic Law.  They loved to obey!  They would even take the commands meant for the priests and seek to keep them.  They demanded that everyone be educated in the scriptures and tithed on ‘everything’.  They also were eagerly awaiting the Coming Messiah. 

Therefore, there is much to commend them for.  Yet, Jesus said, “You are a bunch of snakes!  You are clean outwardly but inside; you are yesterday’s food rotting in the pot. You are dirty corrupt pots.”  Now, the LORD has my attention.  He is challenging the accepted religion of His day and questioning their motives and actions. 

I suggest that when we understand ‘why’ the Pharisees are there it has the potential of blowing the lid off our religious theology.  It has the potential to change our lives completely and bring us to a new freedom we never dreamed existed.

The Love that Jesus lived and that flowed out through Him can only be understood when contrasted to the brittle, rigid, formalism, and legalism of the religion of the Pharisees.  It is only when we see what man has polluted that we can see what Jesus came to do.  It is shocking to a religious legalist.  It is in Jesus that Incarnate Love is dropped into the midst of the religion of the Pharisees. They are polar opposites and in direct conflict.  The two cannot live harmoniously.  One must be destroyed.

If Jesus had come and said, “I am come that you might have abundant life” without having the religion of the Pharisees to contrast that to, we would miss the power of the freedom He brings.  He came and said, “I am the polar opposite of that!”  If He had not had the Pharisees to contrast what He was bringing, we might think that He was simply bringing another religious system.  We still try to relegate the Abundant Life of Jesus and His Incredible Grace to a religious system.  We keep trying to live, in many ways, as Pharisees.

Some may have read what I have written and ask, “What is wrong with the Pharisees?”  They seem like good people who wanted to live for God.  What was it about them that induced the anger of God?  I leave you with a thought that we will touch on in the next devotional, Jesus said, “I am not come to destroy the Law (Torah), but to fulfill it.”  The Pharisee said the same thing but meant, “I am going to obey every detail by rigid observance.”  He sought to earn favor with God and be worthy of God’s favor and that is the heart of Legalism!

Until next time, may the LORD be with you and guide you to Truth and Freedom!

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION – Part 2


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

In considering the development of the Spirit of Religion and the Pharisees we see that in their pursuit of spiritual perfection and rightness they produced what is called the ‘Great Separation.’  That is important because they sought to ‘separate’ themselves from the heathen nations surrounding them.  They identified themselves as ‘God’s Separated People.’  That was commendable but, over time, they grew lax and their enthusiasm for the scriptures and truth waned.

That brought about the rise of a group within the nation, the Hassidons (pious ones).  It was loosely translated ‘saints’.  They separated themselves and declared, “We will return to the devotion of God with a whole heart.”  They were a group within the group and that progression is important to note.

Psalms 119 was written by a member of that sect and in it, you find key words such as, ‘Law, Testimony, and Statute.”  The Torah was their focus.  They loved the Word of God.  They were so committed that when Greek thought and philosophy tried to invade Jerusalem saying, “All this Torah stuff is old fashioned, let’s get with modern thinking,” they resisted.  They said, “No, we stand firm in our commitment to the Law of God.”  They were persecuted, laughed at, despised, ridiculed, called old fashioned, and were the brunt of jokes.  It was not easy being a Hassidic Jew.

Then, time marched on and we saw the first Hitler, Antiochus come on the scene.  In the year 135 BC there was a split within the group.  Some of them gravitated to politics and others to rededication to the Word of God.  That group was given the moniker, “Separatists” and thus we have the Pharisees, (a separated one) coming into view.

This is where the Spirit of Religion that Jesus was so totally other than was birthed and began its ascent to prominence and power.  This group became fanatical and sought to keep every jot and tittle of the law down to the most minute of details.  They called themselves “The Association”.  In that they were saying, we have associated ourselves with the Word of God.  We have associated ourselves with those who Love God’s Word.  We have separated ourselves from all who are not like us.  That is dangerous!  They were moving from being a group of devoted followers of God’s Word into fanaticism, being narrow and totally exclusionary.  Does that sound remotely familiar in today’s’ world?

One of the significant problems in this mindset is they not only separated themselves from the world but from brother and sister Jews as well.  They were saying to those Jews, “You are not good (holy) enough for us.  We are the Association!”  To become a member of that sect you had to be initiated and it took from 30 days to a year of intense examination, evaluation, and training. 

They saw themselves as ‘the godly’ among ‘the ungodly.’  They believed that because of their Law Keeping that they and only they were the ‘True People of God.’  They believed that everyone else was phony.  They would greet each other, “Shalom Neighbor.”  Remember the scriptural directive “love your neighbor as yourself?”  To the members of the Association, they believed that what God really meant was, “Love all the members of the Association.”  They evolved to believe that it was okay to hate everyone else and that only those in their sect were True Neighbors.

That is a dangerous and deadly condition.  It is serious.  They were focused on Law, Law, Law, Law, and more Law.  However, they realized in their hearts and lives that keeping the Law as difficult, if not impossible.  So, they began to seek how they could keep the Law.  That’s where they produced their Religious Methods and the Spirit of Religion rose to prominence.  That is what we will talk about in the next devotional.

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION…


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

I hope the title is not too problematic for anyone.  It is simply a vehicle to allow us to discuss the Pharisees and the bondage of religious legalism.  The more I study the New Testament and the ministry of our LORD, the more I become convinced that if you took the Pharisees out of the gospels you would create an incredible void.  Much of the valuable teaching of Jesus came through His interactions with that group of religious legalists. 

Much of what Jesus said and did, He said and did in contrast to what the Pharisees said and did.  Much of the truth that He brought to us comes through His confrontations with them.  I have observed that our LORD would, at times, bait them in order to expose their false views and teach much-needed truths to bring liberty.  He, unashamedly, went out of His way to upset them seeking to bring them and the hearers to Freedom.  It was not mean spirited, but for the purpose of redemption but bait them He did.

In Galatians 4:4 we are informed that when Jesus was born it was in the ‘fullness of time.’  That is incredibly important.  Jesus could not be born at just any time.  It was in the exact moment of nations coming together.  It was exactly at the right time.  It was when languages had developed, and all dovetailed together.  It was in the Fullness of Time!

However, one thing had to wait and that was the development of World Religion.  What I mean by that is a religion born of the world, the devil, and self.  That religion used the Inspired Word of God as its foundation.  It used it wrong, but it used it.  This religion was not Islam, Buddhism, or any of the myriad of other religions.  No, it had the Word of God as its foundation and yet it was spawned from hell.

At the coming of Jesus, it had risen to its fullness.  There was never a time when religion was as strong as then.  Jesus came and ‘confronted’ that religion.  He had to so that we could know what the Gospel IS NOT.  Thus, I contend that Jesus could not be born until the Pharisees had risen to their zenith.  It was in that ‘fullness of time’ that He came on the scene and ripped away the mask of religion and said, “I have not come to give you this (the religion of the Pharisees), but this (the Gospel and Grace).”  That is an incredible contrast and a problem we still face today in many circles.

In order to grasp what Jesus did, we must define the Pharisees.   Who were they?  I want to be fair in my discussion.  The word Pharisee has come to mean hypocrite and that is unfortunate.  Originally it identified a person of great sincerity and faith.

I ask that you take a walk through history with me and consider the progression of the religion of the Pharisees.  Let’s go back 600 years before the birth of Jesus and we see Israel in captivity.  They were in bondage because they had turned to idols and forsaken God and His directives.  Their disobedience and rejection of Him had brought about the severe judgment of God and they lived in slavery to Babylon.

It was in that time of captivity they picked up their copy of the Law, the Torah (Pentateuch).  That was their Bible.  They began reading and discovered they were cursed because of Idolatry.  In that revelation and realization, they repented and turned back to God and devoted themselves to studying the scriptures.  It is at this time that we discover the scribe Ezra and his incredible guidance for Israel.

At the time of their return to the land under Cyrus the Persian, they devoted themselves to the Scrolls of the Law and realized that in God’s Words was their hope of life and liberty.  They understood that every command must be obeyed and there could be no more idolatry.  They were incredibly sincere and dedicated to truth.  In that intense desire for Truth, they began to insert the Laws of Man to enable them to keep the Laws of God. 

I have only scratched the surface and hopefully not been too focused, on the minute but we will take this another step in the next devotional but until then, set your heart to seeking first the LORD and pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  We will consider the benefits of their devotion and the dangers that evolved.

God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!

IMAGINATION AND THE BELIEVER – Part 3


Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…”  NASB

Let me ask this question to allow us to continue considering the subject of Imagination and the understanding that it is the Gift of God for us to use for good.  “Why does God hate an evil imagination?”  If God created us with the ability to use our imaginations, and He did what is it about it that makes Him hate its misuse? 

Our Imagination or the ability to imagine is directly connected to the purpose for which we were originally created.  God said, “Let us make man in Our Image…”  God created an “Image” and as a result that is reflective of the Life and Power of God in us.  Our Imagination is a reflection of who we are, and we are supposed to be “Images of God.”

I have talked to inventors and read accounts of people who achieved incredible scientific and technological advancements.  I always found it incredibly interesting that most of the time they described ‘seeing’ before ‘doing.’  They would see the machine or whatever it was and how it operated before they designed or built anything.  It was first in their Imagination then became a creation.

Imagination is one of the powerful tools God uses to enable us to ‘see’ what He is doing and desires.  With the picture in our minds, we are emboldened and encouraged as well as enabled to bring it into reality.  When our Imaginations are under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit, they are invaluable tools for use in the Kingdom of God.  If they become directed by the lust of the flesh they come into direct conflict with the principles and purposes of the Kingdom and must be rejected and even repented of.

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden and the Fall of man.  I contend that the devil did not attempt to force Eve to disobey God.  What he did was maneuver her into Thinking about disobeying.  How did he do that?  By Suggestions.  He suggested there were benefits that God was wrongly keeping from her and she had not been given the full truth.  He helped her create thoughts that produced images of having what the devil suggested.

Think about the process.  She changed how she viewed the tree and its fruit.  It looked good but, the fruit had not changed, it was exactly the same as before, but in her mind, it looked Good.  The fruit and reality had not changed only Eve’s thoughts had.

That brings me to a reality that I have addressed many times regarding our Thoughts or Thought Life.  I have had people insist that we are only responsible for what we do with our thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.  I contend that every thought must be brought into immediate captivity to Jesus.  We are responsible for our Thought Lives or Thought Processes. 

The Psalmist addressed this in Psalms 139:23-24 when he cried out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”  Paul spoke to it in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 

It is a spiritual process and results in spiritual progress.  It is important and vital that we renounce the idea that as a believer we are unable to control what we think.  We cannot prevent the devil from offering suggestions, but we do not have to allow them to come into our minds.  He delivers a package and we do not have to sign for it.  Reject it and set your mind on Christ and things above.

Remember in Matthew 9:4 it says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”  The Scribes and Pharisees would hear Jesus forgiving people and the thought that was conjured in their minds was, ‘This is Blasphemy.’  Jesus held them accountable for their thoughts as well as their words.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  Then in Philippians 2:5, we find the powerful and needed injunction, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”   The mind of Jesus was Pure and so must ours be.

We are instructed to meditate on the Word in Joshua 1:8 and the promise was if we did and observed the directives, we would have Good Success.  God has given us authority over all the power of the devil and our own thoughts.  We can decide, with the help of the Holy Spirit and in harmony with the Word of God, what we think.  We do not have to accept thoughts that are contrary and inconsistent with God’s Word and Covenant.

Romans 8:7 warns that the carnal mind is the enemy of God.  God tells us to Rejoice in Him Always.  The carnal mind says, “When I feel like it.”  God instructs us, when wronged, to go to the person and discuss the matter with them for reconciliation and redemption.  The carnal mind says, “No, I’ll tell everyone I can what they did and get my ounce of flesh in revenge.”  God tells us to be Thankful in all things and at all times.  The carnal mind says, “If I don’t get exactly what I want, I will not express gratitude.”  God tells us to Fear Not.  The carnal mind says, “But something bad might happen.”  God tells us to resist Covetousness.  The carnal mind says, “How can I keep from wanting what I do not have, and others have?”

I ask the LORD to help each of us bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Jesus and allow the Gift of Imagination to propel us into the next level or dimensions of His purposes for us. 

Have a Great Day in Jesus!

IMAGINATION AND THE BELIEVER – Part 2


Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…”  NASB

Let’s continue considering the Gift of Imagination and learn to use it God’s way for good.  I refuse to allow the devil to steal a Gift of God from me because it is abused and misused by other religions or Christians.  He promised to ‘guide us into all truth’ and that is my objective and desire.

I ask you to consider the statement of Jesus in John 5:19 when He said that He never did anything that He did not first see the Father doing.  Then think about the situation where Peter’s mouth was about to get him in trouble regarding taxes and obedience to civil law.  Jesus ‘saw’ the fish with a coin in its mouth and when Peter caught the fish it was exactly as Jesus had seen and declared it.  Jesus ‘saw‘ the pots of water becoming wine at the wedding feast and when the attendants followed his directive, the water became wine.  He ‘saw’ the loaves and fish being multiplied to feed the multitude and when the disciples served the people there was enough and abundance leftover just as Jesus had seen and said. 

Some will contend that I’m pressing that beyond measure, but I believe Jesus saw it done and it was done.  Katherine Kuhlman would often declare that she ‘saw’ something, then describe it, and people were healed.  How did she see it?  I believe it was through the Holy Spirit. 

I believe that as our ability to SEE becomes linked with God’s power to CREATE that we experience miracles.  We ‘see’ what God is doing and as we embrace what we ‘see’ He moves through the Power of the Holy Spirit and creates it or brings it into our reality.

The Bible reveals God’s attitude regarding imagination.  It is God’s expressed desire that every believer is free of thoughts that bring harm and hurt sin and corruption.  He wants us to be able to bring every thought captive and into obedience to Jesus Christ.  If a thought produces anxiety, distress, or depression it is not a wholesome thought and needs to be rejected. 

It would be easy to allow our imaginations to become rogue and trust them more than God’s Spirit or Word.  That would be a terrible error.  Our imagination must always be closely guarded by the Holy Spirit.  It is important that we continually submit and subject our imaginations to Him and allow the Word of God to guide us in all things.  Imagination is never to be for manipulation. 

An Old Testament passage that is powerfully revealing is Genesis 6:5, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and every Imagination of the Thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  The corrupted imagination caused the destruction of the race in the Flood of Noah.  In Genesis 8:21 we read, “The Imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  Unregenerate imaginations are destructive and lead us away from God and His purposes.  Call to mind the Tower of Babel and the confusion of the languages of man.  God said in Genesis 11:6, “Now nothing will be restrained from them which they have Imagined to do.”  Then in Deuteronomy 31:21, we discover, “Many evils and thoughts have befallen them…for I know their Imagination.”

Imagination is God’s Gift, but as in all the gifts, it can be abused and misused.  God has not been silent on the misuse of this gift.  He said in Proverbs 6:16 that there are six things God hates and seven that are an abomination to Him.  What are those?  In verse 18 one of the chief things is “a heart that devises wicked Imaginations.”  In Jeremiah 23:17 God declared through the prophet, “They say unto every one that walks after the Imagination of his own heart: no evil shall come upon you.”  Imagination can lead you into error and cause you to suffer the judgment of God.  It is a Gift to be used for God’s purposes and good not to satisfy the flesh.

The prophet Jeremiah warned in Jeremiah 23:24, “Can any hide himself in the secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the Lord.  Do not I fill heaven and earth.”  We must never forget the Omnipresence, Omniscience, and Omnipotence of God.  He knows all, sees all, and is in all places.

I do not want you to fear using your Imagination, but I want us to always be conscious of the need to keep it under the guidance and directive of the Holy Spirit and in harmony with the Word of God.

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

IMAGINATION AND THE BELIEVER…


Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…”  NASB

I want to address something in the next few devotionals that always has a cloud of suspicion hovering over it and is often thrown out because of the misuse and abuse by Eastern Mysticism and the New Agers.  What am I talking about?  The Imagination.  I can hear some whispering, “Be careful, you may drift into error.”  I am always cognizant of that potential and always seek the Face of my Heavenly Father and the help of the Holy Spirit to guide me to Truth through the Word of God.

Imagination falls into the same class as meditation because it is practiced by various Eastern religions.  I ask, “Why should the Christian community be bereft of a blessing God has granted because of the perversion of the devil?”  We should never allow the existence of counterfeit or error to prevent us from seeking the blessing, benefit, and truth of God’s provisions.  If we do that, we will become ‘fort holders’ who are hiding and awaiting the return of our Lord, living in fear and hoping to just hold one somehow.  I won’t live that way because that is not God’s way.

There is incredible power in the mind of man.  God put it there and the documented facts are, we use so little of it.  Sometimes, it seems we use none of it, but that is another story.  The human mind and especially the mind of the believer is like a computer.  Every thought that we think flows through the mind.  Every image that we create in our minds is indelibly inscribed on the cells of our brains.  There is unleashed and untapped power and potential that I desire to tap into and would like to lead others into that realm so we can see God’s Kingdom Come and His Will done on Earth and in us powerfully and consistently.

If you were to recall some of the thoughts and images that you created in your mind, in times past they are vivid and real.  I can recall some experiences and thoughts from decades ago and they are alive as though they were happening now.  I can feel the feelings and have the sensations that I had then.  That is the power of the mind and imagination.  It can be good or terribly bad depending on how it is used and who is guiding us through the corridors of the mind and our memory banks.

Webster’s dictionary defines Imagination – “The act of creating mental images of what has never been actually experienced.”  That is interesting.  It goes far beyond memory into creativity which can remain fantasy or become reality depending on how we utilize those images and thoughts. 

I believe God considers the ability to “Imagine” a good thing and a gift.  In fact, I would argue that it is one of our most valued assets and is incredibly powerful.  I can sit at my desk and imagine a beautiful lake or stream with shimmering water on the surface.  I can see the beautiful trees and flowers along the shoreline.  If I close my eyes, I can see it as vividly as if I were standing there.  It is powerful!

I am not an artist and have very little artistic ability when it comes to painting pictures or drawing but, in my mind, I can produce a picture Rembrandt would be envious of.  Why is that possible?  Where does that ability come from?  Is that gift or ability wrong or right, good or evil?  That’s what I want us to consider.

We are created in the Image and Likeness of God.  We are, according to scripture, a special treasure to Him.  He created us with more talent and ability than we have tapped into or even imagine possible.  That’s why Jesus could say, that with God all things are possible and then declare that all things are possible to those who believe.  In that sense, we can create! 

Have you ever day-dreamed?  Has your imagination taken you off the beaten path and if you allowed it to continue would have led you into a dangerous or difficult situation?  When I was in school and would become bored my mind would wander and it caused difficulties from time to time.  One teacher said, “Roy, you are a million miles away, come back to class.”  I wasn’t that far away but I was in another place and another time and it was invigorating.

I contend that God values the gifts, talents, and abilities He has placed in us more than we do.  He created the power and ability in us not only to imagine it but to design and created more things than we imagined.  Not only in physical structures and tools, but in ministry, business, relationships, and life. 

Imagination is an exciting subject to me and the Gospel Song, “I Can Only Imagine” reminds us of the beauty that awaits, and although we do not see it in the natural, we can see it in the mind through the revelations of the Holy Spirit.  Allow God to release the Gift of Imagination in you and use it for His Glory. 

God bless you as you enjoy this day!