Faith-Promise

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand. – 1 Chronicles 29:14

King David, having collected the materials for the building of God’s Temple in Jerusalem, marveled at the number of contributions that had been received. As a leader, he was overwhelmed by the abundance, but equally awed by the God who supplied it. David understood that even though “people” had been used to provide, an omnipotent Creator had made the provision possible.

This is the essence of faith-promise giving (and why I have been an advocate of it for over three decades). When we give by faith upon the promise of God to fulfill it, we do not magnify our own generosity, but rather the provision of God. We do not generate the funds; we only agree to allow the funds God provides to flow through our hands to that which God has identified as something worthy of our support. Even when faith-promise gifts ever fell short of the amount we had thought necessary, we concluded that we should prayerfully reconsider our objectives, realizing that the Lord had completely funded what He desired to see us accomplish.

Live your life in such a way that the Lord Himself is behind every promise you make. “Lord, as you have or will ___________, then I will certainly ____________,” is a blessed way to give and also a sure way to grow in your partnership with others in ministry.

God judges what we give by what we keep. – George Mueller

The Debt

Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.” – Acts 21:39

Against counsel from close spiritual advisors (at the close of his third missionary journey), Paul returned to Jerusalem only to inadvertently start a riot in the Temple courtyard. In order to quell the riotous mob, Roman soldiers arrested the apostle to the Gentiles and tried to determine what could cause such a stir. Knowing full well that he was intending to give a defense of the gospel concerning Jesus the Messiah, Paul asked the captain of the guard if he could address the crowd. The outcome of his message was as expected, the mob went berserk.

In spite of opposition, Paul never turned down an opportunity to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. The apostle considered proclamation of the Gospel an “obligation.” Having been saved by Christ he was not ashamed to proclaim the death, entombment, and miraculous rise of the Savior, wherever or whenever he could. Reception of his message, though hoped for and expected, was never a requirement. Neither was his own survival.

We owe a similar debt to the same gospel that Paul preached and though we will never fully repay, we must obediently proclaim the message until the One who established it returns. Today is just another installment. Today, let us take what we have been given and pass it on to those who must receive it to be saved.

All around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grasp on the gospel, fumbling it, and in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether. – John Stott

The Temple of God

And now, YHWH, the God of Israel, let Your word that You promised Your servant David come true. “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” – 2 Chronicles 6:17-18

Solomon (and almost all those who came before him, except Adam and Eve) only knew of a transcendent God who rarely, if ever, drew near to His creation. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (our God, too) was to be revered and sometimes feared, but seemingly dwelt in unapproachable light. Only Moses was able to enter into YHWH’s presence (all Israel was forbidden to set foot on Mt. Sinai) and the high priest could only do so once each year.

This is what makes the psalms of David so enduring and endearing. David wrote of a personal love relationship between God and man, of a God who draws near, of the possibility of intimate contact with an infinite God. Yet, even David, “beloved of God,” did not get to experience an indwelling and abiding Holy Spirit that is the privilege of every single born again child of God. Though the heavens cannot contain our Lord, He actually came near and dwelt among us in the Person of Jesus, the Messiah.

King Solomon, at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, took one look at the magnificent structure he had commissioned and knew it was “much less” than the One for whom it was built. Today, if you belong to Christ and His church (the living temple of the living God), enter your world with the same humble understanding, but with one added insight. Greater is He that is within you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)!

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? – Paul, the Apostle (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Always in the Turning

When Solomon had finished the temple of YHWH and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of YHWH and in his own palace, YHWH appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among My people, if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:11-14

Oft quoted, the great “I AM,” responded to King Solomon’s prayer upon the completion of His temple, giving the conditions for the renewal and restoration of Israel (when they would inevitably fall into sin). Though in some ways generally applicable to God’s people (the church) today, they must not be read to imply that a geo-political nation could experience restoration just because God’s people were revived. A nation, such as the United States, cannot be revived (as it has no covenant relationship with God), but a church (and churches) can be, and need be. We must always understand the context in which God speaks, if we desire a healthy interpretation of His Word.

Having said all that, we (as church members) must also understand the key to restoration and renewal (corporate and individual). It is always in the “turning.” We must turn from sin and self and renew our trust in Christ alone. Politics and political leaders cannot save, neither can their parties. We will do almost anything it seems to get what God has promised, but repent; however, only repentance can open the door for God’s blessings to flow.

So, when the heavens are shut, the land is devoured, or a plague invades our lives, then it is always a good practice to humble ourselves, seek the Lord, turn from wickedness, and pray. Revival is for those who know Christ already, as is the condition for it, repentance.

Believe me, no matter what we say with our lips, we will never begin to pant after God until we repent of the self-sufficiency that has made its home deep within our hearts. – Selwyn Hughes

An Informed Zeal

Desire without knowledge is not good — how much more will hasty feet miss the way! – Proverbs 19:2

It is good to be zealous (passionate), but only if that zeal is rooted in and emerges out of biblical truth. For example, no one is more zealous than an Islamic Jihadist, but look at the destruction he or she produces. Paul the Apostle, who was first Saul the Pharisee, was zealous for the Law of God and it led him to persecute Jesus’ church and stand aside as Stephen was martyred. He desired truth, but did not possess the Spirit of Truth until the Savior personally intervened on the road to Damascus.

I once heard an evangelist say that he might be wrong, but he was never in doubt. It is possible for well-meaning believers and Christian leaders to adopt unyielding attitudes on issues that have no biblical root. To put it another way, it is entirely possible to be passionately wrong and lead others in the same direction.

Like the sailor who must constantly check his bearings to ensure he reaches port, we must all continuously align ourselves with God’s truth in order that we might consistently reach our goal of glorifying Him alone. Be zealous, inform that zeal with God’s Word, and you won’t miss His “way.”

Zeal without knowledge is like a mettled horse without eyes, or like a sword in a madman’s hand; and there is no knowledge where there is not the Word: for if they reject the Word of the Lord, and act not by that, “What wisdom is in them?” says the prophet (Jer. 8:9; Isa. 8:20). – John Bunyan

The Air that We Breathe

After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Judah with him abandoned the law of YHWH. – 2 Chronicles 12:1

Rehoboam was the arrogant son of a foolish father (Solomon). When, as the king of Judah, he sensed that he needed God’s protection, King Rehoboam was a picture of obedience to divine law. Yet, once his power base had been established, his service to God was abandoned. Like many political leaders, Rehoboam “ran” on one platform, but “ruled” from another.

In similar fashion, how often have we relied upon God in a crisis, only to pursue our own independent goals when that crisis passed? Do we see our relationship to God as something to be accessed in an emergency (like oxygen for those who struggle to breathe on their own) or instead do we see the Lord as essential to life as the air that we inhale very moment of every day.

Financial strength, physical health, or even peace can be an enemy of God’s presence if we are not diligent in cultivating a daily walk with the Savior. History proves that the trials and tribulations of life seem most effective in driving us to seek God’s presence and while this may be true, we must also work continuously to develop spiritual “habits” that maintain our intimacy with the Lord. If we learn to seek the Savior when the need is not so urgent, we will find the strength to endure when it is.

Christ wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim. – C.S. Lewis

Wholehearted

Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. – 2 Chronicles 15:17

What an epitaph! Of all the statements one could place on his or her tombstone, this would have to be the greatest. To have it be said that you never quit in the face of difficulty, never compromised under pressure, never recanted in the face of persecution, never cut moral corners to achieve your aims, never bent the truth to make a point, never gave your “half” when your “whole” was needed, never pretended to be something you’re not. That is integrity.

Yet, when it was within his power to consolidate the worship of YHWH, to outlaw and forbid idolatry, Asa stopped short. Perhaps, Jewish culture had degraded to the point where, as king, he could not proscribe a remedy that required individual assent (see yesterday’s post). It is also likely that political unity required corporate compromise and acceptance of some actions and attitudes that were not harmful (at least, on the surface).

We can only observe what God has seen fit to record. It seems that King Asa was, like David, a man after God’s own heart. May I be so committed. Lord, make me wholehearted.

Jesus Christ has bought us with His blood, but, alas, He has not had His money’s worth! He paid for all, and He has had but a fragment of our energy, time, and earnings. By an act of consecration, let us ask Him to forgive the robbery of the past, and let us profess our desire to be henceforth utterly and only for Him – His slaves, owning no master other than Himself. – F.B. Meyer

Permission First

Ahab king of Israel asked Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me against Ramoth Gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will join you in the war.” But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of YHWH.” – 2 Chronicles 18:3-4

Ahab was the evil king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was the godly king of Judah, yet he aligned himself with Ahab through the marriage of their children. When Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to join him in the battle against the Arameans, Jehoshaphat first said, “Yes,” but then requested an opportunity to hear from God. The consequences were disastrous.

How often have we determined a direction in life or ministry, then asked God what to do, or worse, asked Him to bless a decision we had already made? Why would we expect the Lord to affirm a choice we made without His counsel? As I am typing these words, I realize how truly qualified I am to speak on this subject!

In life, we sometimes say it is better to act and then ask for permission, but not so with God. We should always inquire of Him before we give an answer or determine a direction. Otherwise we may incur difficult and sometimes disastrous consequences. Pray first, read His Word (though not looking for support of your decision), seek the counsel of God’s people (His church), and (if you have the time) wait for clarity. If the decision honors God’s wisdom and exercises faith and trust in His provision, then move ahead and give Him the glory.

A saying I heard years ago, “It doesn’t matter what you do. Just do something, even if it’s wrong!” That’s the most stupid counsel I’ve ever heard. Never do what’s wrong! Do nothing until it’s right. Then do it with all your might. That’s wise counsel. – Chuck Swindoll

Tear Down the High Places

The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their ancestors. – 2 Chronicles 20:33

The nation of Judah experienced a spiritual awakening and renewal under King Jehoshaphat’s reign, but the revival only went as far as the king’s extended influence. In those places where he had personal control over structures, idols, and leaders, a general cleansing occurred; however, his influence ended just short of the hearts of his people.

The “high places” were private shrines that existed in obscure locations throughout the land. The only way they would ever be removed was if the people themselves pulled them down, and the only way that could ever happen was if the people themselves, not just a single leader, determined in their hearts to worship and honor God. Corporate renewal required individual repentance.

While reformation of a nation may begin in the heart of a leader, thorough transformation will not occur until the people themselves awaken and submit themselves to the Lord. Since it is impossible for a person who has no relationship with God to be “renewed,” then such an event and action must begin with the people of God, Christ’s church. Which brings us to the inevitable question, “Do we desire God to the extent that we are willing to seek Him first in our own hearts at such an all-encompassing depth that our churches are transformed and therein possess the power to influence a nation?” There can be no renewal until there is individual revival.

It is time to tear down the “high places.”

It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street. – Benjamin Franklin (on the effects of George Whitefield’s preaching in 1730 Philadelphia)

A Dangerous Self-Sufficiency

But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to YHWH his God, and entered the temple of YHWH to burn incense on the altar of incense. – 2 Chronicles 26:16

Paul once wrote that God’s strength was perfected (or made complete) in his (Paul’s) own weakness. In other words, Paul’s inadequacies, failings, and human frailty created the necessary space for God’s strength to be revealed in all its glory. Those whom Paul sought to reach for the Messiah, could clearly see the Savior because they saw less of the Apostle.

Uzziah was an effective king of Israel, but began to believe in his own abilities apart from God’s presence and power. As Uzziah grew strong, he also grew arrogant, and it led him to act in ways that clearly revealed an ignorance of his own limitations. For the sake of a nation, Uzziah’s course had to be corrected and he was struck with a debilitating “flesh thorn” of his own to bring him back in line.

Self-sufficiency is very “Western” (and human), but when it comes to God’s service, it is also very dangerous. Truly, no man or woman is an island. We must be very wary of the attitude that creeps in during times of prosperity that says, “Look how strong I am.” Such an attitude in the heart of a Christ-follower demands a correction and, be assured, one is coming.

To put it kindly, we must either cultivate a humble spirit or have the Lord place one (abruptly) upon us.

Every now and again, Our Lord lets us see what we would be like if it were not for Himself; it is a justification of what He said – “Without Me you can do nothing.” – Oswald Chambers