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Robert Hall: One Great Passion

Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14

“While the passion of some is to shine, of some to govern, and of others to accumulate, let one great passion alone influence our breasts, the passion which reason ratifies, which conscience approves, which Heaven inspires, that of being and doing good.”

Robert Hall (1764-1831), an English minister, in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 121.

In today’s Scripture, Paul reminds Titus to help the people learn to do good and engage in good deeds that productively meet the needs of those around them.

Likewise, Reverend Hall some two centuries ago, urged his English congregants and readers of his writings to similar productivity, regardless of their place in the community.

Every follower of Christ needs to learn to embrace “one great passion” which is “that of being and doing good.” Who we are in Christ, our ‘being’, should impact, our ‘doing’, around us.

Does this “one great passion” flood your soul? As this is a learned behavior, think about who you are in Christ, your ‘being’, and live out the good works God has prepared for you today, your ‘doing’.

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Michael Blue: Debt Mortgages Your Future

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

“The Bible doesn’t call debt a sin, but it does warn us about its many unintended consequences.

When I was a young lawyer, we moved to Austin, Texas, and bought a home not far from downtown. We could barely afford the home, but reasonably expected my income to steadily increase over time. Even if it didn’t, Austin was a great real estate market, so we believed we could always sell the home at any time and get our money out.

About three years after we bought the home, I became convicted that my job had become unsustainable for my family and faith. Around this same time, the real estate market in the United States crashed. We couldn’t sell our house. To make matters worse, I couldn’t quit my job because I couldn’t replace enough of my income in another job to still afford our mortgage. I was trapped. I literally owned a home that prevented me from taking a different job or going where I felt God leading me to go.

For three more years, we were unable to change anything. Eventually, the market recovered, we were able to sell our house and were finally freed to follow where God was leading. I learned a very important lesson along the way — debt always obligates me to something in the future before I know what the future holds.

By using debt, we are pre-committing our future selves to pay for our current wants and needs. Not only that, we are restricting our ability to be generous both now and in the future. We have reduced the amount of money that will be available in the future to meet unanticipated needs. In essence, debt says that our needs and wants today are worth more than anything the future brings.

Our decision about going into debt today is about a lot more than whether we can afford the payment. The decision is about whether we can afford to limit our futures. Debt always has future consequences; the trouble is that we can’t know what they will be.”

Michael Blue in Financial Hope: Find Freedom in your Finances through God’s Word (Marion, IN: Ron Blue Institute, 2019).

My dear friend, Michael Blue, sent me a copy of this book, and I read it on my flights this week. It’s a winner! Click the link above to order a copy today.

What I like most about it is that each chapter starts with a story, and then Michael takes you into the Scriptures so you can make the lesson part of your story.

When he shared his own story and about how debt mortgages the future, I thought about people I know who are slaves to debt. They are stuck. Know anyone like this?

The world pummels us with offers to live beyond our means and take on debt. Each time with Michael let’s respond, “No, I am content with what I have. I refuse to limit my future!”

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

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J. M. Holmes: Aggressive Activity

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

“The only satisfactory manifestations of religious character and life are associated with the reciprocal influences of spiritual experience and aggressive activity.”

J. M. Holmes in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 117.

Are you aggressive with regard to your spiritual life in Christ? With Holmes, I believe the only satisfactory manifestation of our faith is aggressive activity.

Some may balk at the ‘aggressive’ term, but we must all remember that James, the half-brother of Jesus Himself said we deceive ourselves if we are not hearers and doers of the Word.

Perhaps the word ‘aggressive’ throws you off? I get that, but consider this. Is there really any such thing as a passive response to Jesus Christ?

If you think so, I’ll let you explain that to Jesus. For those who aim to do what the Word says, act not passively, but rather, aggressively.

I have an important foundation meeting for GTP in Chattanooga today. Of course I pray it goes well. Why have this meeting? Why come all the way here?

I will engage with a foundation that wants to use the resources they steward to claim territory all over the planet for God’s kingdom. Now, that’s aggressive activity of the Christian generosity sort!

Go and give likewise!

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F. W. Robertson: Deeds never die

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in My name the Father will give you. John 15:16

“Life passes; work is permanent. It is all going — fleeting and withering. Youth goes. Mind decays. That which is done remains. Through ages, through eternity, what you have done for God that, and only that, you are. Deeds never die.”

F. W. Robertson in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 119.

“Deeds never die.” They represent, in the words of Jesus, “fruit that will last.”

Our work with God produces fruit that lasts. Generosity fueled by the Spirit of God has eternal impact. In the words of General Maximus from the movie Gladiator, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” We need to remind ourselves of this often.

Today, my wife, Jenni, flies from Guatemala City to Houston to Denver. Long day of travel. She’s been teaching and leading retreats, doing deeds that will never die, in Guatemala. I am rejoicing with her, because I am confident there will be fruit that lasts.

I head to Tennessee today for a big meeting with a foundation tomorrow morning. Traveling from Denver to Chicago to Chattanooga is not glamorous, but it’s just as important as the meetings I will engage in tomorrow. Why must I remind myself of this?

Most of our deeds for Christ are mundane. I will invest maybe 42 hours of my life for a 2 hour meeting. Why do it? Why make the sacrifice? It produces fruit that lasts. If you ever wonder if your work matters, remember that if it is done for Christ, then yes, it matters.

It matters for eternity.

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François Fénelon: Charitable and Tender

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3

“Nothing will make us so charitable and tender to the faults of others as by self-examination thoroughly to know our own.”

François Fénelon (1651-1715) French archbishop and theologian in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 48.

Want to grow in generosity toward others who are thoroughly imperfect people? Undergo thorough self-examination. Since making a video of your day is probably not an option, pause at the end of each day to reflect on your interaction with others.

Were you patient, kind, generous, and merciful? Be the gracious behavior you want others to imitate. I have room for growth to be more “charitable and tender” toward others. You too? If you are too hard on others, it may be that you are too hard on yourself.

Thorough self-examination grows humility and empathy. When we realize the love and forgiveness we have in Christ, and the grace lavished on us when we were undeserving, we become more merciful and generous to others. God, make us charitable and tender.

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Alan Nichols: Christian Simplicity

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Timothy 6:8

“While some of us have been called to live among the poor, and others to open our homes to the needy, all of us are determined to develop a simpler lifestyle. We intend to reexamine our income and expenditure in order to manage on less and give away more. We lay down no rules or regulations, for either ourselves or others. Yet we resolve to renounce waste and oppose extravagance in personal living, clothing and housing, travel and church buildings. We also accept the distinction between necessities and luxuries, creative hobbies and empty status symbols, modesty and vanity, occasional celebrations and normal routine, and between the service of God and slavery to fashion. Where to draw the line requires conscientious thought and decision by us, together with members of our family. Those of us who belong to the West need the help of our Third World brothers and sisters in evaluating our standards of spending. Those of us who live in the Third World acknowledge that we too are exposed to the temptation to covetousness. So we need each other’s understanding, encouragement and prayers.”

Alan Nichols in “An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle” (Lausanne Occasional Paper 20).

To live with Christian simplicity requires us to do three things. Firstly, as Nichols notes, we must “reexamine our income and expenditure in order to manage on less and give away more.” As God blesses us, it’s easy to just spend more, and more, and more.

To reexamine our financial situation, we must keep track and then review it periodically. Sadly, we live in a time when few are keeping track. So here we must resolve to have a spending plan. That way we can actually see the revenues and the expenses.

Secondly, we must “renounce waste and oppose extravagance in personal living, clothing and housing, travel and church buildings.” This is where people need to see and hear our faith and generosity in action. This requires us to say “no” to waste and extravagance.

Once we are keeping track, then our faith can inform our decisions and position us to renounce waste and extravagance. Our decisions are not impulsive but informed by real numbers. We are prepared to give an account in real-time of our use of God’s resources.

Thirdly, we can benefit by re-evaluating “our standards of spending.” The money in the spending plan is not mine, but always God’s money. The more I travel and see so many who live on so little, it drives me to deeper levels of simplicity. Care to join me on the journey?

Keep track of your spending. Make conscious decisions to say “no” to waste and extravagance so you can say “yes” to generosity that brings glory to God. And let the Third World teach you that you really don’t need all the things the First World says you need.

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William M. Punshon: Indissoluble Bond

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

“God has taught in the Scriptures the lesson of a universal brotherhood, and man must not gainsay the teaching. Shivering in the ice-bound or scorching in the tropical regions; in the lap of luxury or in the wild hardihood of the primeval forest; belting the globe in a tired search for rest, or quieting through life in the heart of ancestral woods; gathering all the decencies around him like a garment, or battling in fierce raid of crime against a world which has disowned him, there is an inner humanness which binds me to that man by a primitive and indissoluble bond. He is my brother, and I cannot dissever the relationship. He is my brother, and I cannot release myself from the obligation to do him good.”

William M. Punshon in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 41.

The world says to do good to those that are ‘deserving’ of our aid. God’s design is that we do good to all people and adds that our giving should start among those who believe.

Think about it.

We model God’s love before a watching world by how we care for each other and how we honor the indissoluble bond we have with all humanity. God wants us to do good to all.

Do you?

Most of us, if we are honest, tend to give to the things we care about instead of the things God cares about. Make it a point to help a person in need. Honor the indissoluble bond.

Love your neighbor.

God sees and will likely move someone to aid you next time you are in crisis as you have aided others. The measure you give to others is the same measure that will be used for you.

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Josiah Gilbert Holland: Can you not take the hint?

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality. 2 Corinthians 8:14

“What do you think God gave you more wealth than is required to satisfy your rational wants for, when you look around and see how many are in absolute need of that which you do not need? Can you not take the hint?”

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881) American novelist and poet recounted in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 27.

As I travel the world, the more I realize how blessed I am, both spiritually and materially. It inspires me to use what I have to aid those with less than enough. The goal, as Paul put it, is equality.

God cares that everyone has enough and instructs those with more than enough to share. I remember times in my life when others came to my aid. People shared scholarships or helped pay medical bills.

How are you doing at this time? Do you have more than enough? If so, with Holland I ask, “Can you not take the hint?” With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Share generously.

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Laurence Sterne: Enjoy the Benefit

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

“So quickly sometimes has the wheel turned round, that many a man has lived to enjoy the benefit of that charity which his own piety projected.”

Laurence Sterne in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 26.

Often we do good and it seems like there is no impact. In the middle of all that, it’s easy to grow weary. Sometimes we get to see a harvest. Those days, though maybe few and far between, remind us that lasting good can come from our efforts.

Sterne reminds us that sometimes we get to enjoy the benefit of our piety (or our commitment to godliness). That’s my prayer for for each reader today and for my wife, Jenni, today as she ministers in on her seventh trip to Guatemala.

Father, we don’t serve you for the harvest, but it sure is encouraging when we get to enjoy the benefit of our efforts. Cause our generosity to bear much fruit by your Holy Spirit. Hear this prayer in your mercy in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Josiah Gilbert Holland: Heartily and Understandingly

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 2 Corinthians 9:10-12

“Every man who becomes heartily and understandingly a channel of divine beneficence is enriched through every league of his life. Perennial satisfaction springs around and within him with perennial verdure. Flowers of gratitude and gladness bloom along his pathway, and the melodies gurgle of the blessings he bears is echoed back by the melodious waves of the recipient stream.”

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881) American novelist and poet recounted in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 26.

Holland paints a rich picture of the generous person and the impact he or she has as a conduit of divine blessings. Most graphic to me are his words that describe this giver: heartily and understandingly.

To give “heartily and understandingly” is to realize that our purpose on earth is not to serve ourself but to serve God and others. We fulfill that purpose by being a channel of blessing wherever we go.

The result is “perennial satisfaction” for those who choose this pathway. What a vivid term, especially linked to flowers. This means that perpetual sprouts and blooms happen as a result of generous living.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that enrichment for generosity comes to those who see themselves as sowers of God’s blessings. We only figure it out as we live it out. And through this service God is praised.

Father, make channels of blessing. Empower us to serve heartily and understandingly (and especially work through my wife, Jenni, as she serves in Guatemala this week). In your mercy, hear this humble prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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