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God’s Financial Best

 

God’s Financial Best

Today’s Scripture: “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:11

The multitude of Bible verses that speak about money prove that God is very interested in our personal finances. Because this is such an essential element of our lives, He uses money to train us in stewardship, teach us self-control, and test our obedience to Him.

 

Perhaps the greatest area of the Lord’s testing involves our willingness to give. Old Testament law commanded financial contributions for upkeep of the temple and support of the Levitesserving there. And the New Testament tells believers to regularly set apart a portion of their income for kingdom work (I Corinthians 16:2).

 

However, fears and excuses sometimes keep us from faithfully carrying out this God-given responsibility. After all, giving away the money we need to pay our bills seems foolish. But the Lord promises overflowing blessings to those who obey Him in this matter. In fact, He invites us to test Him in this to see if He will prove faithful (Malachi 3:10).

 

By neglecting our responsibility to give to the Lord, we commit four sins. We express unbelief in His integrity and power, ingratitude for all He’s given us, and rebellion against His commands. And since the first part of our income belongs to Him, withholding it amounts to robbing God.

 

Don’t think that your financial situation will somehow prove too much for God and cause Him to break His promise. The trustworthiness of His Word depends on His character and omnipotence and is unaffected by your monetary challenges. Trust Him and give generously.

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The Soul’s Thirst For God


The Soul’s Thirst For God

Today’s Scripture: “My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and weary land, where no water is.”—Psalm 63:1.

THE LONGING of the soul for God only makes itself felt when all lesser delights and earthly joys are relegated to their right place. If you are not conscious of this soul-thirst it is because your heart is trying to satisfy itself from the world, and is engaged in digging wells that can hold no water. The woman rightly said to Jesus that she came all the way to draw water, because there was no alternative; but as soon as He satisfied her soul-thirst by opening the spring within her, she “left her waterpot.” Most of us are so occupied with business, pleasure-seeking, moneymaking, and trifles, that we have no time or care for God.

“My soul shall be satisfied” (Psalm 63:5). It takes very little and very much to satisfy the soul. Very little of this world. As our Lord said to Martha, only one thing is really needful. Yet very much, because anything less than God will not suffice; more, we cannot ask. To desire God is to have Him. To thirst for the water of life is to drink of it. Therefore our Lord says: “‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Let us not long for things and people which are not here with us. We may be in poverty and deprivation and loneliness, yet all things and all people are ours at this moment, because we have God. Why not, here and now, say: “I have God, and therefore I have all that is good in every one and every thing!” Why should the fish lament, which has the ocean to swim in?

“My soul followeth hard after Thee” (Psalm 63:8). God sometimes seems to withdraw from the soul, as the mother will release her hold of the baby who is learning to walk, so that it may be encouraged, without knowing it, to follow her as she retreats with outstretched hands. Did not Christ withdraw from the woman, inclining her to follow hard after Him (Matthew 15:21-28). So let us “follow on to know the Lord.”

As we close this portion, let us ask if we can truly repeat the first verse. Can we say of God: “Thou art my God”? He is ours, but we must seek Him. We must, so to speak, build the fences of our faith in an ever-enlarging enclosure of God, our Father and Portion. It is not enough for the emigrant to have what he calls “a claim.” He must open up the resources that lie buried in his piece of land. The diamonds of the Cape were first discovered through a child playing with a white stone, but they have been sought ever since.

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The Sufferings of His Broken Heart

The Sufferings of His Broken Heart

Today’s Scripture: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

Go with me for a moment to witness what was perhaps the foggiest night in history. The scene is very simple; you’ll recognize it quickly. A grove of twisted olive trees. Ground cluttered with large rocks. A low stone fence. A dark, dark night.

Now, look into the picture. Look closely through the shadowy foliage. See that person? See that solitary figure? What’s he doing? Flat on the ground. Face stained with dirt and tears. Fists pounding the hard earth. Eyes wide with a stupor of fear. Hair matted with salty sweat. Is that blood on his forehead?

That’s Jesus. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Maybe you’ve seen the classic portrait of Christ in the garden. Kneeling beside a big rock. Snow-white robe. Hands peacefully folded in prayer. A look of serenity on his face. Halo over his head. A spotlight from heaven illuminating his golden-brown hair.

Now, I’m no artist, but I can tell you one thing. The man who painted that picture didn’t use the gospel of Mark as a pattern. Look what Mark wrote about that painful night, he used phrases like these: “Horror and dismay came over him.” “My heart is ready to break with grief.” “He went a little forward and threw himself on the ground.”

Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:3 NASB) We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.


We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

The writer of Hebrews would later pen, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.” (Hebrews 5:7 NIV)

My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.

The next time the fog finds you, you might do well to remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think that no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to him pleading among the twisted trees.

The next time you are called to suffer, pay attention. It may be the closest you’ll ever get to God. Watch closely. It could very well be that the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one.

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A Psalm Of Gratitude

A Psalm Of Gratitude

Today’s Scripture: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all His benefits.”—Psalm 103:2.

THE PSALMIST is fond of addressing the soul, as though to arouse it from lethargy. Within is a whole choice of minstrels, let them all awake! All that is within should be attuned to God and His praise. Let us not repine for the past, or strain after the future. We often forget the rare benefits of the present moment, because we suppose that there is something more absolutely satisfying ahead. Here and now God is forgiving, healing, redeeming, crowning, satisfying, and executing righteous acts. Live in the present! Live in God, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever! It is enough. The past records of God’s dealings with His people are an incentive to faith. What He was, He is. He is a fountain brimming to the full with pitying love, which flows over in mercy and forgiveness.

There are four comparisons and contrasts in Psalm 103:10-18. “As the heaven….As the east….As a Father….As for man.” The ancients thought that the sky was solid, a kind of blue ceiling. What an immensity of new meaning we can read in the words: “‘As the heaven is high above the earth.” There is an infinity of distance above us, but not more infinite than God’s mercy. To the Eastern mind, east and west were the points at which the sun appeared to rise on earth’s surface, “pillowing his chin on the orient wave,” and drawing the curtains of the night. For us the telescope reveals the almost inconceivable distance of the earth from the sun, but this is the distance to which God has removed our transgressions. A father’s pity for his weak and tiny offspring is very touching. The strongest plea with God is that of helpless weakness! The Son of God was made in the likeness of man, and “He knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are dust.”

The last contrast was in our Lord’s mind when He pointed to the flowers at His feet (Matthew 6:30). Generations of flowers bloom and die in the broad expanse of nature–so frail, so beautiful, so transient. The generations of mankind are not more permanent. But the mercy of the Lord dates from everlasting and endures for ever.

The Psalmist’s voice is heard, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” We are reminded of the conductor of a vast orchestra and choir, whose trained ear missed the note of the piccolo. So God will miss your voice if you refrain from His praise.

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Lighting the Fire Again

Lighting the Fire Again

Today’s Scripture: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.’” Matthew 22:36-38

Let’s continue looking at the Lord’s warning to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). The Ephesians are a model of cooled-down faith. Their fervor is gone, though they’re still going through the motions of serving God and even defending the faith.

Christ’s warning to the Ephesians extends to modern-day believers whose hearts have grown cold. He looks at distracted and complacent Christians who are laboring for every reason but the right one, and He cries out, “What I want is not your empty service; I want you!”

The heart cools gradually as a person gives higher priority to other relationships and activities than to the Lord. Our enemy Satan has subtly shaped how the word “idol” is perceived. He’s limited the definition to false gods. The truth is, anything that distracts from God qualifies as an idol. For example, the god of this age is sports. So many believers know more about stats than Scripture and show more passion in the stands than in a worship service.

Returning to a life of passionate service for God begins with repentance. We must assume responsibility for drifting away from our first love. Then, we’re to put Jesus Christ back on the throne of our heart and reconnect with Him through regular prayer and Bible meditation.

God desires an intimate relationship with every believer. So let me ask you a question: Are you excited about Jesus? Our best and purest devotion will be to whatever or whomever we prioritize above all else. If that is not Jesus, repent and let Him rekindle the flame of your first love.

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The Priority of Relationship

The Priority of Relationship

Today’s Scripture: “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” Revelation 2:2

Ephesus was the home of a tremendous ministry. Despite harsh persecution, the church planted by Paul endured opposition, spread the gospel, and was quick to challenge false prophets. But 30 years after the apostle left, John’s revelation included a stern warning for those believers.

Imagine how the words of Revelation 2 must have struck the Ephesians when they read them. After complimenting their service to the gospel, Christ said, “But I have this against you . . .” That phrase was no doubt extremely disconcerting. The Lord warned them that they had left their first love. In other words, all of their work was being done with wrong motives.

Christ called the Ephesians to remember their love for Him and their delight in His salvation. Service is no substitute for an intimate relationship, but modern believers continue to fall into this subtle trap. The commendable things that we do count for nothing unless they stem from a vibrant personal connection with God. Our work can’t be effective or fruitful unless He is in it.

In fact, God is more interested in you and your personal relationship with Him than in a thousand lifetimes of good works. He desires to be the satisfaction and delight of His children so that their service is a result of loving devotion.

There are plenty of wrong reasons to labor for the kingdom. However, God is satisfied only with service motivated by love for Him. He wants those with selfish intentions to return to their first love. In that way, hearts and minds can be renewed, and service to the Lord will be more fruitful.

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God’s Deliverance

God’s Deliverance

Today’s Scripture: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”—Matthew 6:13.

OUR LORD couples His own prayer with ours when He says, pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We remember that He was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, that He might be tempted, and that “in all points” He was tempted like as we are, though in His case there was no sin. It is wonderful to know that by some marvelous oneness of nature the Son of God Himself pursued the dreaded track of temptation.

And while we have this moral nature which links us, upon the one hand, to the eternal Christ, our Captain, who has gone through the same ordeal, we are also linked to every other man, woman, and child the world over. For, though we might suppose that there were such diversities of life that some might be secure of an immunity from temptation, yet a closer inspection of our common lot reveals the fact that it is inevitable to us all.

Temptation creeps into the sick-chamber equally as into the heyday of our health. It finds its way into the seclusion of the student even as it dogs the steps of the man of the world doing his business. It comes to the minister, with its tendency to elation or despondency, as well as to the criminal; to the poor as well as to the rich. There is no life, however guarded, that is not exposed to the blast and sirocco of temptation. Therefore we utter this prayer as one—“as.”

But let us take heart! Remember it is the Father to whom this prayer is addressed. He made us, and knows just what we can stand; He loves us, and His tender succour is always by our side. He draws near, saying, “I am with you in this dark valley, and am able to make you stand; I would not have brought you here had I not counted the cost. I am able to be a very present help in this time of trouble. I have carried others through this ordeal, and I can carry you; only keep near my side; look away from the tempter to my face; cease to trust yourself and depend absolutely upon Me, and I, who brought you to this testing-place, will lead you out. Be of good cheer! See, there awaits you the crown which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to each soldier who has stood true to Him in the hour of trial, and you could not get that if you did not bear this. It is because I want you to win that I am giving you the chance of this hard fight.”

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God’s Forgiveness

 

God’s Forgiveness

Today’s Scripture: ” And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us..”—Luke 11:4.

FORGIVENESS Is the exclusive prerogative of Christianity. The schools of ancient morality had four cardinal virtues–justice in human relations; prudence in the direction of affairs; fortitude in bearing trouble or sorrow; temperance or self-restraint. But they knew nothing of mercy or forgiveness, which is not natural to the human heart. Forgiveness is an exotic, which Christ brought with Him from Heaven. As long as He abode on earth, He forgave, and He left it as an injunction and example that His people were to forgive even as they had been forgiven.

 

Our Lord does not mean that God’s forgiveness is measured by our own, or that our forgiveness is the cause of God’s. Neither of these is the true rendering of this clause; but that God cannot forgive an unforgiving spirit. The only sure index that our contrition and penitence are genuine is that we forgive those who have wronged us. If we do not forgive, it proves that we have never attained that true position of soul before God in which He is able to forgive.

 

How is it with you? Do you forgive? Or are there men and women that you obstinately refuse to forgive? If there are, it shows that your own soul is not right before God; your love to God is gauged by your love to men; your relationship to God is indicated by your relationship to your fellows. The man who does not love the brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. Discover where you are to-day. If there is anyone in your life that you refuse to pray for and forgive, know that your heart is wrong with God.

 

Do the first thing, begin to pray for them, and say: “Forgive us–that one who has hurt me, that man who has wronged me; he needs forgiveness, but I need it equally. We are both in the wrong. I might have made it easier for him to do right than I have done.” Second, ask for the opportunity to meet him. Third, claim that when you meet, there may be in you the royalty of God’s grace, that you may bear yourself with that rare, gracious love which covers the multitude of sins. Be willing that through your lips God’s pitying mercy may pass forth in words of human kindness and tenderness.

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God’s Provision

God’s Provision

Today’s Scripture: “Give us this day our daily bread.”—Matthew 6:11.

IF YOU want daily bread, and would pray for it aright, you must ask as a child; and you must put first, before your own satisfaction, the Hallowing of God’s Name, and the doing of His Will. Implicitly you suggest that if He gives you bread, you will use the strength it gives for His service.

Let us ever think of God as the bountiful and generous Giver. Too often He has been described as hard and austere, and as a result, men dread God, and only think of Him when they have done wrong. But we should describe Him as the All-Giver, who gives all things to all with the most royal generosity. He gives sunbeams and dewdrops, showers and rainbows, grace and glory, His beloved Son and His Spirit, human love and friendship, the daily spreading of our table, the provision of all that we need for life and godliness. Whether we wake or sleep, whether we are evil or good, whether we are pleasing to Him or not; to those who forget and blaspheme Him equally as to the saints and martyrs of the Church, God gives with both hands, pressed down and running over. We cannot buy, we do not merit, we cannot claim, but we may rely on Him to give. God is Love; and Love cannot refrain from giving, or it ceases to be Love.

Yet how low God stoops! He is so great, that His greatness is unsearchable. He dwells in the high and lofty place. His sun is ninety-seven millions of miles away from our earth; He has filled the heavens with countless constellations, for each of which He has a name. He puts the Himalaya into a scale, and the islands are as dust in His balances; but Jesus has taught us to say, “Our Father, give us bread!” When we get troubled about the immensity of heaven and the distances of the universe, let us come back to the discourse, of which this prayer is part, and which tells us that the great God thinks about the clothing of the lilies, the down on a butterfly’s wings, the food of the young lions in the forest, the store of acorns that squirrels accumulate for their provision. It is wonderful to remember that from the first days of man’s sojourn on earth, our Father has been laying up stores for us. Though we may be among the youngest children of Time, we come to a table as richly plenished and provided as those who first tasted of His bounty. “Fear not, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give.”

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God’s Will

God's Will

Today’s Scripture: “Thy Will be done, as in heaven, so on
earth.”—Matthew 6:10.

MANY PEOPLE shrink from God’s will. They think that it always means pain, or sorrow, or bereavement. They always feel melancholy when you speak of doing the Will of God. Alas! how the devil has libeled God. The will of God is the will of a Father. It is the Fatherhood of God going out in action. “It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.”

If only
the will of God were done on earth, as it is done in heaven, there would be
peace between the nations, and love and happiness in all our homes. Love would
cement the union of all men in a city of blessedness. The fact of the world’s
present condition is no argument against the beneficence and blessedness of the
will of God. It is because men will not do the will of God that things are as
they are!

In our own
life we shall never be really right or happy until we have got to the point of
saying: “I delight to do Thy will, O my God.” We may not begin there.
The first step is to choose it, then we shall come to accept it lovingly and
thankfully; but, finally, we shall rejoice and delight in it. If you cannot say
“Thy Will be done,” say: “I am willing to be made willing that
Thy Will should be done.” If your will is like a bit of rough and rugged
iron, tell God that you are willing for it to be plunged into the furnace of
His love, so that all which is unyielding and obdurate may pass away before the
ardent heat of the Divine Fire. Depend on it that He will not fail, nor be
discouraged with the long process that may be required; and that He will not be
rough or violent. He will stay His east wind. He will keep His hand on the
pulse, that He may be aware of the least symptom that the ordeal is too strong.

At first there may be a twinge of pain, as when a dislocated limb is pressed back into its proper position, but afterwards there is the blessed restoration of healthy vigour. You will only lose what you would gladly give up if you know as much as God does of what promotes soul-health. “Whosoever,” said our Lord, “will do the Will of my Father, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” “In His Will is our peace.”