A New Testament Perspective on Giving

Money is often an uncomfortable topic to talk about in the church. Immediately, people begin to think filthy lucre because of the unfortunate rise of prosperity gospel teachings and ministers who try to trick persons out of their money for personal gain. Yet, the New Testament speaks about giving more than any other topic. Giving is the way of God. His love towards us was demonstrated in His giving of His special Son. Love for each other is expressed in our giving. As a body, we were challenged on our commitment to giving from 2 Corinthians 9:1-10. We learned that giving begins at the level of our attitude. It must be:
1. Willing
2. Generous
3. Cheerful
4. Planned
5. Sustained

Day 1

Good morning, family. Let us reflect together:

“I have shown you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Paul sought to teach by example how other believers ought to act towards those in need (the weak). This teaching of Jesus, passed on by Oral traditions. The admonition to “Remember” suggests that this saying had been prominent in the Apostles’ teaching but it also indicates the importance for believers to be consistent in their response to giving.

Those who give are blessed, not because of the rewards they will receive for giving or becauae they are in a superior position but because there is a pure and godlike Joy in giving. The foundation on which this saying rests is that giving is the result of LOVE and SELF-SACRIFICE.

Where the heart is full of deep, real love, and that love expresses itself by the cheerful act of giving, there is a sense of blessedness. The highest joy and noblest use of our possessions is found in blessing others.

 

 

Day 2

Good morning, Family. As we continue our reflection, we answer THE question, “Why should I give?”

Merely “throwing ” your money in an offering plate out of compulsion or grudgingly is NOT giving in God’s eyes. The type of giving that pleases God is willing and cheerful and generous.

*1.We must give because we have received from God*, having considered that *”all generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from THE Father of lights, With whom there is no variation or THE slighest hint of change”* (James 1:17).

*2 We must give because it glorifies God*: God’s glory is THE overaching concern of every believer. *”Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your OBEDIENCE to your confession in THE Gospel of Christ and THE generosity of your sharing With them and With everyone”* (2Cor. 9:13). Our heart must be concerned With the things of God, for where our heart. is, there our treasures will be.

Like every other spiritual discipline, giving is an important aspect if we are to walk worthy of our calling and to be used by God for His glory! Do you truly want to be used by God, or will you turn away in sorrow like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 16-22?

 

Day 3

Good morning, family. Let us deeply consider the following: “One the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping With your income, *saving it up*, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1Cor. 16:2. NIV).
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 NIV).

We sometimes struggle with the question of how much to give. Giving, in the first place is an act of Faith in God to supply your needs.

Paul is consistent in his writing to Corinth that giving is a matter of the heart and must pre-planned & systematic. Each of the verses indicate that giving requires advance planning and must not be done on impulse or under pressure to do so. In response to God’s grace, each household should determine the amount/percentage God wants them to give each month (not the legalistic 10%. ) and then follow through on this. We should not wait for the offering plate to be passing down the aisle and the think, “Oh, let me drop something in.”

So, how do you arrive at a percentage/amount?? *PRAY* about it!!! If you hear God says 10% that is perhaps you or the voice of tradition screaming in your head. God can be leading to give more so be open to hear as you consider how he has blessed you and you trust Him to meet your other needs.

 

Day 4

Good morning, family.
With all the bills that we have to pay and all the responsibilities that creep up on us how do I still give? In 2 Cor. 8:2-3, we learn that sometimes, giving is sacrificial. The church was giving *”beyond their ability”* or giving having need themselves but trusting God to supply their needs.

But perhaps the question of concern we must have is, “do I just take up my money and give everyone who asks?” It is not right to deprive your family of necessities to give to others (1Timothy 5:8) but we dp have a duty to the poor and to the work of the ministry, as scripture teaches.
We are to help meet the physical needs of food, shelter, clothes, etc. of others, first to those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10) and then help others who may have genuine need; like that indigent woman or man in your community. That is why as a church, we have a love basket that we ask week after week that members carry s non perishable item so that we supply those in need.

But we are also are expected to give to the work of the ministry (Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). After you’ve taken care of family, this is next in line on your list of priority. However, be careful of the ministry you give to. Any ministry that is worth its salt will be ensuring that the needy in its midst are taken Care of.
The next time you are called upon to give consider these things.

 

Mini-stars or Ministers?

Lights, camera action. I look around and what I see is an insatiable appetite for notoreity. Reality TV abounds because people are searching for that big break, when their names would go up in lights so that the world can see them and adore them and sing their praises. Sadly, this is not just a worldly phenomenon but something that has crept into the church: celebrity ministers who want the choicest seats, best parking spots, special brand of water, lily white towels to wipe off the sweat generated from throwing themselves into fits of the ecstatic, while dishing out 5% scripture and 95% self-aggrandizement and people who give their service for the purpose of being noticed.

But this phenomenon is not new. Jesus contended with same among the scribes and Pharisees. In Mark 12 Jesus’ denunciation of the conduct of the teachers of the Law brings to an end Mark’s recording of His public ministry and indicates His final break with the Jewish religious authorities, who were the celebrities of the day.

“38 In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places,39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,” (Mark 12:39-39 – NASB).

Jesus kept warning people to watch out for those teachers of the Law who sought praise from men and abused their privileges. Many believed that by virtue of their position, they deserved to be noticed and adequately rewarded. Everyone had to know that they were great men of God. But this went against Jesus’ often teaching (in the Gospels) about greatness. That greatness was not about titles and positions and material acquisitions. Rather, it flowed out of a genuine devotion to God that was demonstrated in willing service to others. Here are the characteristics of those (celebrity) teachers of the Law, who became mini-stars instead of ministers:
  (a) Liked to dress and go around in long flowing linen robes with fringes often worn by priests, law teachers and Levites so that people will know who they are;  (b) Those teachers of the Law loved to be recognized and greeted in the market places with formal titles like Rabbi, master, father by the common people who respected them highly. They want you to recognize their power and place of privilege. It is no longer about the mission and the message but it becomes about the man; (c) They liked to have the most important seats in the synagogue, those reserved for dignitaries, situated in front of the chest containing the sacred scrolls of scripture and facing the whole congregation; (d) They love to have the places of honour at the banquets and special events at which they get to sit next to the hosts and receive preferential treatment. It is no longer considering the next person or regarding others more highly than ourselves (Phil 2:1-3).

We, today, must judge our own motive and ask ourselves, do I serve to be noticed or do I serve out of love for God and gratitude for what He has done?

PERSEVERING IN FAITH: GLEANINGS FROM SERMON BY PASTOR BARRY HALL, JR.

We (Ekklesia Bible Fellowship) recently celebrated our fourth (4th) anniversary as a local assembly in Jamaica. Ours, have been a journey of F.A.I. T. H (Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him). Our journey has not always been easy though. As a new church plant, we have had our teething pains – moments when we questioned ourselves and worried about what was going to happen next. Yet, we persevered because we know the God we serve is bigger than any of our circumstance and the vision that He had given us, He is able to make pro-vision for.

On the occasion marking our fourth anniversary, under the theme: “Persevering in Faith: Impacting the Future”, our senior pastor, Barry Hall Jr., challenged a filled to capacity hall to persevere and finish well.

Hebrews 12:1-2

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The context of the letter to the Hebrews is one where the Jewish Christians were facing intense persecution for having “abandoned’ Judaism and believing on the Gospel of Jesus. Many found themselves abandoned by their families, homeless and destitute and the temptation was to return to the comforts and privileges that Judaism afforded them. It is against this backdrop that the entire book of Hebrews is written – to help them to realize the superiority of (their faith in) Jesus and why this new covenant in Him was better than the former.

In chapter 11, the writer to the Hebrews spends the time outlining many stalwarts of the faith; some who held on to the promise, many who were sawn in two, martyred in coliseums – all dying, holding on to the promise. They never gave up. They kept running. They kept striving. They are the ones who make up the cloud of witnesses spoken of in verse one of chapter twelve.

Paul likens this faith walk as a race and he says as we prepare ourselves to run this race we must:

  1. Throw off everything that hinders and the sins that so easily entangle us. If we look at athletes running in a race, as they make their way to the tracks, they are in full track suits. But as they prepare to out under starters’ orders, they remove those suits, removing that which will hold them back and slow them down. Sin slows down the walk of the believer. The sad thing is that many believers find reasons to explain away their sin. “Oh, it is a struggle”, “The devil, made me do it.” The truth is, we sin because we want to. We have developed an appetite for it. But through Christ, we have been set free from sin’s power and penalty. We must now choose to walk in this liberty that we now have by fully submitting ourselves to God’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and walking in obedience to His Word. God has already given us the ability to walk in righteousness (2 Peter 1:3).
  2. Run this race with patience: sticking with the writer’s analogy of athletics. An athlete puts his body through rigorous training in order to compete and finish well. It is often, a painful experience. Interestingly, the Greek word used for race, ‘agon’, is the word from which we get ‘agony’. This walk of faith will sometimes be arduous but we cannot give up. That is why we must run it with patience. Those who are now witnesses, who are not simply spectators but persons who ran before us, ran right up to the end under real persecution but they never gave up. We must never give up either. It will be hard but keep running.
  3. Keep your eyes on Jesus as you run: Don’t be distracted by whatever is happening around you. Keep your eyes on Jesus. And when you consider what He, Himself, endured just for you and considered a joy to have endured such, it should motivate you to keep running. A cross was before Him but for Him it did not merely represent shame and torture. It represented purpose.

The advent of the prosperity and name-it-and claim it teachings have distracted believers from the understanding the value of suffering and the need for believers to endure it. Athletes endure whatever pain they must to win a reward that will fade. But we run and endure for one of far great value. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” So run the race that is set before. Run and finish well. Persevere in faith.

How Do I get to know God: Tracing God Through His Word

DAY 1

Good morning Family lets reflect on :  Knowledge of God from 2 Peter1:2

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”

Renowned African American  educator, Burghardt DuBois was convinced that he could change the plight of black Americans if the truth of their condition was known, so he made careful scientific investigations and  presented his thesis. But several years after his presentation nothing happened. Remorsefully he came to the conclusion that ‘the availability of truth does not mean it will be appropriated’.

The church, today, spends much of its time claiming  all manner of things from  God as if we are entitled and  should have them.   Peter’s desire was that grace -God’s activity towards man to enable him; and peace – shalom- completeness, wholeness, prosperity, blessings and victory; be multiplied! But this was not wishful thinking as Peter instructed them how it could be accomplished which is by the knowledge of God.The  Greek word for knowledge has the preposition attached which means ‘towards’, ‘in the direction of’. So a knowledge that is always moving in the direction of that which it seeks to know. As our  knowlege of God and Jesus Christ increases  grace and peace  are multiplied to us. The better we know Them the more we experience grace and peace. The only way  we can gain this knowledge is by a  careful and purposeful study of God’s word .  So  lets us forget the  naming and  claiming and  start studying the word of God and appropriating it to our lives.

DAY 2

Good morning Family, today we reflect on the purpose of  having a knowledge of God.

2Peter1:3 tells us “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything  pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us”

How can finite man come to knowledge of an infinite God? Zophar long ago asked, “Can you by searching find out the  deep things of  God?” (Job 11:7) It was not left up to man to discover the  things concerning God but He revealed them in His word. And in knowing the word we find authority (power ) to live godly .

Chuck Swindoll listed the following six reasons why it is important to pursue knowledge of the Scriptures:

  1. Knowledge gives substance to faith.
  2. Knowledge stabilizes us during times of testing.
  3. Knowledge enables us to handle the Word of God accurately.
  4. Knowledge equips us to detect and confront error.
  5. Knowledge makes us confident and consistent in our walk with God.
  6. Knowledge filters out our fears and superstitions.

Godly living is not dependent on the binding of  spirits or invocation of supernatural power but on complete obedience to the revelation of the knowledge of God’s word.   Knowledge of God  produces godliness in us. Let us seek to gain knowledge of God through the study of His word.

DAY 3

Good morning Family,  today’s  encouragement  ‘Be faithful to grow in the knowledge of God.

As Peter concludes his epistle on false teachers that had infiltrated the Church the  charge is   “Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:17-18

We live in an age where scant regard is given to the discovery of the truth of scripture. Worst even there is complete disregard both of the hearers and the preachers of the impending judgment given by Peter for those who would perverse the word. The Apostle  implores the church to be watchful and resist those who twist the word leading people astray. Peter says excuses will not stand if you  fail because he has given a warning  about  these persons and  of the consequences   to those who lead and also  follow.  He commands  against complacency and  exhorts his readers to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

If we are not rooted and grounded in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ  which comes from a purposeful  study and application  of scripture    it will be easy to be swept off our feet and  loose our spiritual balance by the false teachings which swamp our culture. Lets remain faithful to growing in the knowledge of God.

DAY 4

Good morning, Family.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and  the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 1:17-18 KJV

Paul is praying that God would give believers a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the true knowledge of Him. What becomes clear is that to know these important truths requires God to reveal them. In Eph 4.18 he describes our previous state as , ” darkened in  understanding, excluded from the life of God because of ignorance “. Sin blinds the minds of unbelievers rendering them incapable of first, understanding the truth of the gospel and second the truths of God. It necessitates God to open blinded eyes to believe in Jesus as Saviour (2 Cor. 4:4,6). Our finite minds have to be enlightened by the Spirit of God to understand the deeper truths of His word.

This prayer of Paul includes an intellectual grasp of the Scriptures. We cannot obey what we do not understand. It engages our emotions to desire relationship. This brings us  into a greater submission to His will and conformity with His purpose . When we know  His plans, (the hope of His calling and glory of His inheritance  we become strengthened in the inner-man and will live victoriously as believers .

Psalm 19:7 reminds us that the Law (Word) of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making the “simple” wise. The Word of God makes us wise and formidable against false teaching.

DAY 5

Good morning Family. Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesians 3:18-19 “may be able to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

These verses express the heart of Paul  for his fellow believers to understand the fullness,  vastness and completeness of  Christ’s  love . The Apostle  prays  because only by Divine intervention can our finite minds comprehend the great love that Christ’s gives. Such love  surpasses human  knowledge.

John McAuthur does a good contrast; human love lasts until it is offended. Christ love lasts despite every offense. Human  love is  for what it can get. Christ love is  for what it can give.

Paul knows that when the child of God grasps the magnitude of this truth it will  result in deep gratitude, manifested  in a life  yielded to the will and purpose of Christ born out of a deep sense of obligation. The book of Romans describe it as a living sacrifice which is our reasonable response to His love demonstrated through  His mercies and grace. Being filled with all the  fullness of God that is  being under God’s complete control and emptied of self.

These are critical elements for victorious Christian life.

Paul’s prayer, then, is that we live victorious Christian lives  fitting of our calling.

CHRIST ENDING THE LAW or FULFILLING THE LAW? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

“For truly I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18; NAS).

What did Jesus mean when he spoke these words? Is it that Christians are expected to keep all the rigid Old Testament laws or is it that He (Jesus) will accomplish the law so that we are no longer required to do so? This may be one of the most difficult problems to reconcile in Christian doctrine. It has grave implications for our soteriology and the practice of Christianity. On the one hand, Christ is supposedly reinforcing the Law and its functions while on the other hand, Paul is purporting that Christ has brought an end to the law (Romans 10:4), cancelling its requirements by death on the cross (Colossians 2:14).

Firstly, in one’s attempts to bring reconciliation to these seemingly contradictory passages, it must be taken for granted that all of scripture is God breathed and therefore inerrant; without error or contradictions and that God’s revelation (His Word) is consistent with whom He is. Consequently, there is no contradiction that appears between what Jesus explained about the fulfillment of the law and what Paul explains in more lucid terms. Jesus Christ has ended the requirements of the law which was meant to bring justification.

Understanding the Law

Additionally, to further engage the argument, it must be understood by all, what is meant by ‘The law’. According to Fee and Stuart (2003, 164), the term Law has multiple connotations when it is used in scripture. One such connotation is that law in the plural form may refer to those more than six hundred specific commandments that the Israelites were expected to follow as a sign of their loyalty to God. In the singular, however, the law can refer to the Pentateuch, i.e. from Genesis to Deuteronomy. It may even refer to, what some writers in the New Testament refer theologically to, the entire Old Testament religious system. Conner (1980, 193) in his book, The Foundations of Christian Doctrine: A Practical Guide to Christian Belief, speaks of a concept of divine law, which he says God gave as a standard of righteousness for all to follow. He goes on to say that without the law there would be no order and everything would be chaos.

However, one must understand that the law is a paradigm. It is hardly a complete list of all the things that one could or should do to please God. The law presents, rather, examples of what it means to be loyal to God by, as Conner puts it, following His standards. The law was mean to lead men to faith in God; it was a guide to salvation. Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia puts it this way, “Therefore, the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24; NAS). This is why nowhere in the Old Testament is it suggested that anyone was saved by keeping the Law. Rather, the Law was a special gift to Israel, to differentiate them from their pagan neighbours in moral and spiritual conduct but it could not justify them.  Again, Paul alludes to this in Galatians 2:16 “…a man is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no one will be justified. In other words, we have been vindicated of any charge of sin as it relates to our failure to keep the Law (Ryrie, 1995) because of what Christ has done. This is what is meant by Christ has put an end to the Law.

Christ has ended the Law

Wilkinson and Boa (1983, 395) in their commentary on the book of Galatians, describe the theme and purpose of the book as a corrective teaching on justification by faith apart from works of the Law to counteract the  teachings of Jewish legalists who were influencing the believers to trade their freedom in Christ for bondage of the Law. They went further to show how Paul’s discourse in chapters five and six were written to show that liberty from the law does not mean lawlessness as his opponents might have opined. The believer does not need the law to make him righteous he is declared righteous by his faith because Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law, thus, ending it.

Moreover, for us to fully understand what is meant by Christ bringing an end to the law, therefore, justifying us through faith (and not the Law), we will have to understand the concept of justification. The teaching of Romans 3:24 that justification is given or imputed to us, or as we may put it simply, “given a mek up” so that we can be considered righteous before God is a teaching that resonates throughout the teachings of Paul. Paul continually makes the point that this is not a position in Christ that is earned through legalism but one that is accessed by faith. And this faith itself is not of the conscience of man but find its origin in God (Romans 12:3b). Further to, the anonymous writer to the Hebrews, or Pricilla (some scholars have suggested) refusing to reveal her identity, says in 9:12-14 presents Jesus acting as the propitiation or sacrificial lamb, satisfying the penalty for sin, which makes it possible for us to receive righteousness without having to pay or work for it. The righteousness that is revealed is from God not our efforts because again we all stand guilty before God Romans 3:10-18, 23. Speaking of God’s sovereignty in salvation, Paul supports this notion again in Romans 9:16.

According to Wilkinson and Boa, from Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul builds a case for the condemnation of all people, by God. He shows that Jews and Gentiles seek to be in right standing (be justified) by using relative standards not realizing that God’s requirement is absolute perfection. Paul knows, posit Wilkinson and Boa, that the bad news (condemnation) must be understood before the good news (justification) can be appreciated. The passage on justification picks up on man’s need for God’s provision, since man is unable of attaining this perfection on his own. The first 11 verses (Romans 3:21-31) of the discourse reveal that in Christ, God is both Judge and Saviour. The Lord is not unjust when he declares that sinners are in right standing with him because He bases this pronouncement upon the death of Christ on their behalf.

Furthermore, Warren W Wiersbe (1989), in explaining justification as seen in the passage begins by alluding to God’s nature. He says that God is absolute in what He is in Himself and relative in how He relates to men. One of His absolute attributes is love and when he relates that love to us, it becomes mercy and grace. In His mercy God does not give us as we deserve and in His grace, He gives us what we do not deserve. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand God can make us right before Him even if we do not deserve that pronouncement. The Greek word translated freely, can also be translated without cause as seen in John 15:25. We are justified without cause. In other words, there is no cause in us that merit the salvation of God. Justification is being put in right relationship with God by God himself. It finds its origin with God is independent of any human effort. Justification guarantees us peace with God because God’s demand for justice was satisfied in Christ’s death.

In this regard, as we grapple with the notion that Christ is the end of the law, it may augur well for us to think of the liberty that He wrought for us through His death and not necessarily about thoughts of lawlessness. Because even with the law, as Paul asserts, sin increased; there was lawlessness (Romans 5:20). As we encounter Christ in Galatians, we need to understand that He ended the Law in that He freed the believer from bondage to the Law (legalism) and to sin (license) and has placed him or her in a position of liberty (Wilkinson and Boa, 1983; 396).

Conclusion

What, then, did Jesus mean by His statement in Matthew 5:18? According to Ryrie Study Bible (1995) Jesus might have been making reference to the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament. In the preceding verse Jesus said that he came to fulfil the Law not institute lawlessness and so one gets the Understanding that Jesus was making reference to His purpose in coming and the accomplishment of the cross; pointing to what Paul says in Romans 10:4, that by His death on the Cross, Christ ended our adherence to the Law to be declared righteous. Our righteousness is now dependent on faith in Christ just as Abraham’s was before the Law.

Reference List

Conner, Kevin J. The Foundations of Christian Doctrine: A Practical Guide to Christian Belief; BT Publishing, Portland, Oregon, USA. 1980.

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart: How to Read the Bible for all its Worth. Zondervan Publishing Company; Grand Rapid, Michigan, USA. 2003.

Wiersbe, Warren: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Chariot Victor Publishing, Colorado Springs, Colorado; USA. 1989.

Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa: Talk Through the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 1983.

Through God’s Eyes: Resisting the Temptation of Condemning Others!!!

Resisting the urge to judge and condemn others it not as easy as we may think. There is this innate need to be superior. Superiority is dehumanizing and anti-Christ because it denies the image of God in others. The bible is replete with narratives and verses that instruct us on how we must esteem others as we live in community. Yes!!! It will take a renewing of the mind for us to begin to see others THROUGH GOD’S EYES.

1 Samuel chapters 11 to 16 gives an account of how David was chosen as king over Israel. Perhaps the most instructive verse of the unfolding of this interesting saga (which today could easily become a poignant Hollywood story that chronicles a life from obscurity to prominence) is found in chapter 16, verse 7: “…The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

The Lord told Samuel to go anoint another king. This time the Lord said, “For I have selected a king for myself” (16:1). Before, a king was selected by the people (1 Sam. 8:5). Samuel, when he arrived at Jessie’s house and looked at his son Eliab thought, “Surely, this must be the one1” No doubt, he must have been tall, and handsome and fair. Even God’s prophet was fooled by appearances. But God reminded him that what qualified a wo/man for His work were not outward appearances but the state of his/her heart. Amazingly, even Jesse, the father of the future king, never thought of David, for he was not called with the other sons to walk before Samuel. Surely, God must have been out of His mind to have thought of this little boy who by the standards of other had been disqualified. But David went on to be the greatest king in the history of Israel.

In the New Testament, Luke 15:1-17, Jesus tells a scintillating parable about lost things! Jesus was doing what was normative for him to do – outreach – and there were those who were upset with what He was doing and with whom he associated. “This man sits with sinners,” they said among themselves. But Jesus began to confound their self-righteousness and condemnation with those parables (Lost sheep, lost coin, lost son). Jesus first drew on their common understanding of a shepherd’s responsibility and practice of pursuing a lost sheep even into treacherous paths.

Just in case they didn’t understand, Jesus told another story about a woman who had ten silver coins (possibly a day’s wage or a symbol of her betrothal). So when any of those ten coins is lost, there will be a great desire to find it and a feeling of great loss if she loses any. Clearly, the point of Jesus’ parable about lost things (a sheep that had lost its direction; and a coin that had appeared to have lost its worth) is that they are all valuable and of worth to the person who lost them. Every ‘sinner’ is considered a lost child of God and God places TREMENDOUS value on them (being lost does not diminish their value; only their use) that he would stop at nothing to find/rescue them from their “lostness”. Finding them makes God happy according to Luke 15:7.

Jesus proceeded to tell the story of the obstinate and ungrateful son who wished his father dead and abandoned their relationship. Despite his actions, upon his return, his father ran out to meet his son and accepted him. A real demonstration of LOVE! Interestingly, this son expected to be treated as a servant. Instead, the father restored him fully. Again, there was rejoicing over the lost. This, again, Jesus said to explain the love of the Father and to clarify His situation with those whom the Jews considered sinners/lost.

Do we place the same value as our Heavenly Father places on the lost? Is the urge to condemn difficult to resist? Too often as a church, we respond in callousness to people who have fallen; we remember and categorize people according their sin. We see no value in the lost and that is why we have no desire to be where they are and to reach out to them. Reaching out to the lost requires diligence; effort; love and value for them. Do we see value in even the vilest of sinners?

It will take a special kind of re-socializing/re-orientation for us to begin to estimate fairly those around us who may not believe and practice like we do if we are going to engage them and bring about transformation. Paul calls this re-orientation a ‘renewing of the mind’ in Romans 12:2. Remember, a change in others begins with a change in YOU!!!

WORTH REPEATING

PSALM 114

The psalm looks back to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. This is one of the mighty feats of God, proving to all the world that He, The Lord, is God. Miriam broke out dancing and with song declared, “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord amongst gods?”

The personification of the hills and the waters with the exhortation of the earth to tremble before the Lord because of His might in commanding nature is a challenge for man to do the same. The enemies of Israel heard of the might of God and they trembled. Remember Rahab’s claim in the book of Joshua? This mighty act of God was passed on through generations. It was worth repeating.

Sometimes we are guilty of failing to tell of the excellent greatness of our God. We fail to share it with our children. And we fail to tell it to others. The might; the greatness, the love and kindness of our God are all worth telling but not only telling; they are worth repeating at every opportunity. Are you repeating?

  1. What has God done for you in the past?
  2. Have you ever told anyone about it?
  3. Are you gonna let nature tell of His greatness in your stead?
  4. Wouldn’t you like for others to hear and know of who God means to you and what He’s done?

By: Pastor Barry Hall

Senior Pastor (Ekklesia Bible Fellowship)