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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Double your pace

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 2 Kings 2:9

“I have seen apostolic holiness revived within our church. I will say before the throne of God that I have seen as earnest and as true a godliness as Paul or Peter ever witnessed. I have seen such godly zeal, such holiness, such devotion to the Master’s business as Christ Himself would look upon with joy and satisfaction.

But there are others who never enter heartily into our projects of concern or unite with our gatherings of prayer. To them I say, “My dear brethren, if you are indeed with us, if you have fellowship with us and with the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, I beseech you to ask the Lord to make you more earnest than the most earnest of us have ever been.

If you have been slow either in generosity of your giving or in the earnestness of your pleading, ask the Lord that you may henceforth double your pace and do more in the time that remains for you in this life than anyone might dream possible.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) in The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life (Lynnwood: Emerald, 1993) 85-86.

Lent begins on 1 March 2017 this year. From that day, Ash Wednesday, there are 40 days (not counting the six feast day Sundays) leading up to Easter on 16 April 2017 (the seventh feast day Sunday). Why mention this?

Lent is the “Spring Training” of life when the Church dedicates time to focus on the core practices of the Sermon on the Mount: almsgiving (“When you give alms…” Matthew 6:2), prayer (“When you pray…” Matthew 6:5), and fasting (“When you give fast…” Matthew 6:16).

In our home, we don’t focus about how bad things are in the world. We ask God to make us part of the solution through our giving, prayers, and fasting. Care to join us? Want to see revival in the church? It starts with you and me.

Father in heaven, pour out a double portion of your Spirit so that we double our pace. Deepen our generosity in giving, our earnestness in prayer, and our humility in fasting this Lent. Help us retrain ourselves so that our lives reflect godly zeal and devotion. In your mercy, hear our prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Robert Murray McCheyne: In heaven all give

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

“The whole Bible shows that the angels are happy beings; far happier than we can conceive. (1) They are holy beings — ever doing God’s commandments. Now, holiness and happiness are inseparable. (2) They are in heaven —always in the smile of their Father. They “do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven;” they must be happy — no tear on their cheek, no sigh in their bosom. (3) They are represented as praising God — one crying to another, “Holy, holy, holy,” and singing, “Worthy is the Lamb.” Now, singing praises is a sign of mirth and gladness. “Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.”

Now, I want you to see that the happiness of these happy spirits consists in giving. They all give: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation?” Upon the earth, very few people give; most people like to receive money; to keep it, to lay it up in the bank, to see it becoming more and more. There are only a few people that give — these often not the richest; but in heaven all give. It is their greatest pleasure. Search every dwelling of every angel — you will not find one hoard among them all. They are all ministering spirits.”

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) in “More Blessed to Give Than to Receive” Sermon 82 on Acts 20:35 in The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, Vol. 2, Sermons (New York: Robert Carter, 1847) 477.

In this sermon on the only “traditional” saying of Jesus not recounted in the Gospels — “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 — McCheyne reminds us that giving is the greatest pleasure of the inhabitants of heaven. They are happy because they are doing what God made them to do.

What about you and me? Are we ministering givers that reflect the happiness of heaven? The angels of heaven exhibit the generosity of God. On this Lord’s day, let us contemplate what this means for those of us who claim our citizenship in heaven. As the Holy Spirit stirs within you, give like heaven!

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Alexander Whyte: Unsearchable riches

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:14

“Now, there is this magnificence about the world of prayer, that in it we work out not our own bare and naked and scarce salvation only, but our everlasting inheritance, incorruptible and undefinable, with all its unsearchable riches. Heaven and earth, time and eternity, creation and providence, grace and glory, are all laid up in Christ; and then Christ and all His unsearchable riches are laid open to prayer; and then it is said to every one of us — Choose you all what you will have, and command Me for it!”

Alexander Whyte (1836-1921) Scottish preacher in Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Sermons on Prayer (Vancouver: Regent, 1998) 9.

Think for just a moment with me today about how generous our God is. We come to him with nothing. We come to work out, as Whyte so eloquently put it, “our own bare and naked and scarce salvation.” Then notice what happens when our scarcity meets God’s abundance. His riches are unsearchable and available to us.

Think now of movies where treasure-seeking characters discover a huge chest of valuables. Their first tendency is to stuff their pockets and to devise plans to hoard it for themselves. That’s our bare and naked and scarce sin nature showing its ugly head.

If we want our lives to exhibit Christian generosity, try working our your salvation along these lines: Realize you have nothing, that you come to Christ with nothing, and that in Him have discovered unsearchable riches. What will you do? Don’t hide them for yourself. Share the riches with everyone you meet. Point them to Christ where the riches are found.

That is generosity! Sometimes our giving is spiritual treasures and other times it takes on material form. Always it flows from the humble realization that everything we possess — everything — was graciously given to us by our generous God who offers us the riches of His kingdom!

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Karl Barth: We can only receive

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

“We must not look upon prayer as a good work to be done, or as a pleasant and genteel exercise of piety. Prayer cannot become for us a means of producing something, of making a gift to God or ourselves. For we are in the position of a man who can only receive, who is obliged to speak to God because there is no one else to whom he can turn.”

Karl Barth (1886-1968) in La prière, d’après les Catéchismes de la Réformation (Sténogrammes de
trois séminaires, adaptés par A. Roulin; Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 1949) 20, as recounted in Karl Barth on Prayer</em> by John A. Hardon, Theological Studies: 447-448.

The scene in today’s Scripture is striking. The Pharisee is self-righteous. That was me for many years. I thought I was giving 10% of “my” money back to God in addition to other acts of piety. Today, though pride often knocks at my door, I identify more with the broken sinner who cries, “Lord have mercy.” It’s how I finish many of my prayers.

What does this have to do with generosity? Only when we each come to the realization that we can only receive, do we lives become the humble conduits of God’s generosity. If we think we are the ones giving “our” money, we are like the Pharisee who just doesn’t get it. Remember, God doesn’t need our money, he wants our hearts!

If you are preaching or teaching on generosity, use biblical texts like tax collector (Mark 12:41-44) and the widow (Luke 18:9-14) to grow givers. In these passages, Jesus lifts up unnamed brothers and sisters who provide great role models for us and those we serve, as He sees their humble hearts and celebrates them.

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William Booth: Who holds back

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

“How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of Heaven! It is easier to make a hundred poor men sacrifice their lives than it is to induce one rich man to sacrifice his fortune, or even a portion of it, to a cause in which, in his half-hearted fashion, he seems to believe. When I look over the roll of men and women who have given up friends, parents, home prospects, and everything they possess…

I sometimes marvel how it is that they should be so eager to give up all, even life itself, in a cause which has not power enough in it to induce any reasonable number of wealthy men to give to it the mere superfluities and luxuries of their existence. From those to whom much is given much is expected; but, alas, alas, how little is realised! It is still the widow who casts her all into the Lord’s treasury — the wealthy deem it a preposterous suggestion…

I give what I have. If you give what you have the work will be done. If it is not done, and the dark river of wretchedness rolls on, as wide and deep as ever, the consequences will lie at the door of him who holds back.”

William Booth (1829-1912) in In Darkest England and The Way Out (London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1980) 279, 285.

Few Christian authors that I have ever read match the zeal of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. In this work, which I was unaware of, until just recently, he spells out the dark difficulties of England in the late 1800’s and how God’s people were positioned to make a difference. Seriously, you need only scan the table of contents of the digital copy of this book to see his plan.

I read various sections. Best I can summarize them: he sketched practical ideas to help offer “hand ups” and not “hand outs” to those in need, while addressing various forms of corruption that were destroying lives and communities. Booth reminded people that failure to engage when positioned to make a difference would leave them responsible. Doing nothing was not an option.

Booth was moved at how common people would give cheerfully and sacrificially, and yet those who had great wealth, seemed unwilling to exchange even superfluities and luxuries for participation in God’s work. Then in the conclusion of the manuscript I located this profound statement: “the consequences will lie at the door of him who holds back.”

It struck me. The world looks at our outward appearance in giving, but God looks at our hearts. The world celebrates how much we give, but God sees who holds back. The world blames others for the problems around us, but God has situated us, the Church, to share Christ, the solution. What should we do? Let us give to God’s work cheerfully and sacrificially, and hold nothing back!

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John Raleigh Mott: Effective instruction

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. Psalm 89:11

“Absolutely essential to insure gifts adequate in amount and prompted by the right spirit is effective instruction from the pulpit on the subject of Christian stewardship and the scriptural habits of giving, especially the habit of systematic and proportionate giving, and giving as unto the Lord and not as unto men.

Such instruction should be supplemented by the use of the most effective printed matter on the subject, and, above all, by actually inducing members of the church to adopt such principles. This latter, perhaps, can best be done by means of another most fruitful method, that of a personal canvass of the entire church membership, to enlist, if possible, some gift from each member.”

John Raleigh Mott in his classic work, The Decisive Hour of Christian Missions (New York: Young People’s Missionary Movement of the United States and Canada, 1910) 141.

John Mott was a catalyst for global missions a century ago. He offers practical insights for effective instruction linked to Christian stewardship and scriptural giving: preach on it, provide printed materials for the people you serve, and personally canvass the homes of church members so that everyone understands and is enlisted to participate. I could not agree more!

This wise counsel applies for every shepherd of a flock (pastor of a church) and every steward of a constituency (administrator of a ministry). Teach your people about biblical and proportionate giving, give them printed materials to help them grasp and apply the teaching, and personally visit them to encourage their participation in the gospel out of what they have.

Do this not because of what you want from them, but because of what you want for them. Tell them that when people don’t participate in God’s work, God does not miss out, people miss out. Remind them that every gift and every giver matter to God. Instruct them that everything belongs to God, and we are merely returning to Him in proportion to His provision.

And exhort them that God cares more about the condition of their hearts than the size of their gifts. He looks not at what we give, so much as what we don’t give and why. Teach these things because you care deeply that they not become slaves to money, but so that they make money their slave as faithful servants of God. Say this lovingly to everyone you serve.

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Faustina Kowalska: Generosity beyond understanding

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

“Now a gray, ordinary day has begun…but God’s great grace has remained in my soul. I feel I am all God’s; I feel I am His child, I feel I am wholly God’s property. I experience this in a way that can be physically sensed. I am completely at peace about everything…I am continuously united with Him. It seems to me as though Jesus could not be happy without me, nor could I, without Him. Although I understand that, being God, He is happy in Himself and has absolutely no need of any creature, still, His goodness compels Him to give Himself to the creature, and with a generosity which is beyond understanding.”

Helena Kowalska, known widely as Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) and as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, in Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul (Stockbridge: Marian Press, 2005) 89.

My friend and fellow monk, Randy Kipp, introduced me to Kowalska. In reading excerpts of her diary on this Valentine’s day, I was moved by the intimacy of this entry. Though the day was ordinary and gray, God’s grace filled Kowalska with peace. How profound God’s goodness compels Him to give Himself to you and me!

As you express your love to those around you on this special day, pause to tell Jesus how much you love Him and how happy and special He makes you feel. Though His generosity is beyond understanding, thank Him specifically for His grace, His peace, and for helping you grasp a small part of His unfathomable love for you.

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Józef Andrasz: Sow happiness

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

“Act in such a way that all those who come in contact with you will go away joyful. Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God; give then, generously to others. They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy, even if they have no more than touched the hem of your garment. Keep well in mind the words I am telling you right now.”

Józef Andrasz (1891-1963) was the spiritual advisor to many, including Faustina Kowalska, known widely as the Apostle of Divine Mercy. Here she quotes Andrasz in Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul (Stockbridge: Marian Press, 2005) 28.

Don’t miss the biblical expression Andrasz recounts. Remember the sick woman who believed that if she only touched the cloak of Jesus in the crowds of people she could be healed (cf. Luke 8:42b-48; Matthew 9:20-22)? Not only did Jesus report that her faith healed her, we see that even a brief contact with our Lord can change a person’s life. Andrasz rightly reminds us that we can have a similar impact on those around us.

If we start each day by receiving from God, we can then, as ambassadors of His love and kindness, go forth joyfully and give generously. Often we start each week with many plans and things to do, but let us not forget that we can bless others in the most brief meetings: at a checkout counter, on a sidewalk, or in a passing conversation. “Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God.”

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Jeanne Guyon: Giving the present to God

Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5

“It is here that true abandonment and consecration to God should commence, by our being deeply convinced that all which happens to us moment by moment is the will of God, and therefore all that is necessary to us. This conviction will render us contented with everything, and will make us see the commonest events in God…

Practically it should be a continual loss of our own will in the will of God, a renunciation of all natural inclinations, however good they may appear, in order that we may be left free to choose only as God chooses: we should be indifferent to all things, whether temporal or spiritual, for the body or the soul; leaving the past in forgetfulness, the future to providence, and giving the present to God; contented with the present moment, which brings with it God’s eternal will for us; attributing nothing which happens to us to the creature, but seeing all things in God, and regarding them as coming infallibly from His hand, with the exception only of our own sin.

Leave yourselves, then, to be guided by God as He will, whether as regards the inner or the outward life.”

Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717) in “Abandonment to God” chapter 5 of A Short Method of Prayer (London: Sampson Low, 1875) 14-15.

On this Lord’s day, let us trust the “future to providence” while “giving the present to God” as people who are “contented with the present moment.” No one cares about us more than the LORD does! We can commit our way to Him and entrust ourselves to Him.

Many people are committed to the plan they have for their lives, their work, and their future. Others have found that abandonment to God brings peace and clarity. Afresh today, rather than strain to make life work, let us give our present and future to our generous God.

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Oswald Chambers: Labor and Pray

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

“Wherever the providence of God may dump us down, in a slum, in a shop, in the desert, we have to labor along the line of His direction. Never allow this thought — “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly can be of no use where you are not! Wherever He has engineered your circumstances, pray . . . the prayer that looks so futile is the thing God heeds more than anything else. Jesus says — “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Think what an astonishment it will be when the veil is lifted, to find the number of souls that have been reaped for Jesus because our disposition had made Him Master, and we were in the habit of taking our orders from Him.”

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) in “The Key to the Missionary Problem” in So I Send You: The Secret of the Burning Heart in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 2000) 1325.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of laboring at Denver Seminary where I shot the header photo. My work there was rewarding; however, often we find ourselves working in difficult and undesirable circumstances.

All the time we must grasp the fact that God has placed us right where He wants us. Right in that place we must labor. Should we need anything, we must pray. Our role in God’s generous design is to labor and pray. When we do this, He gets all the glory, as He works through us to accomplish purposes we often can’t see.

Rather than try to control the outcomes of our service, let’s wait until we get to the kingdom to see the results. I think all those who make Him Master will be pleasantly surprised. Our most generous act today may simply be to labor and pray faithfully right where God has placed us.

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