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Jeremiah Burroughs: Discontented spirits

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

“Oh, the temptations that men of discontented spirits are subject to! The Devil loves to fish in troubled waters. That is our proverb about men and women, their disposition is to fish in troubled waters, they say it is good fishing in troubled waters. This is the maxim of the Devil, he loves to fish in troubled waters; where he sees the spirits of men and women troubled and vexed, there the Devil comes. He says, ‘There is good fishing for me’, when he sees men and women go up and down discontented, and he can get them alone, then he comes with his temptations: ‘Will you suffer such a thing?’ he says, ‘take this shift, this indirect way, do you not see how poor you are, others are well off, you do not know what to do for the winter, to provide fuel and get bread for you and your children’, and so he tempts them to unlawful courses. This is the special disorder that the Devil fastens upon, when he gets men and women to give their souls to him…”

Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) in The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust) 76.

I liked this post because the illustration related to fishing. The devil aims to make us discontented people. Is that you? Be not troubled or vexed. You have everything you need in God.

This post also reveals a profound truth linked to contentment and generosity. We will never reflect Christian generosity if we do not resolve in our minds that we have everything we need in God.

The GTP team finished good meetings with ECFA and walked the mall in in Washington D.C. together yesterday evening. Today we will enjoy the Museum of the Bible before heading to Denver tomorrow.

We rejoice that God is with us and that He has given us this margin for team-building and to make memories together. Each day we will give thanks for His blessings lest we be tempted to be discontented.

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Dallas Willard: Admire and emulate

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:2-3

“Obedience, with the life of discipline it requires, both leads to and, then, issues from the pervasive inner transformation of the heart and soul. The abiding condition of the disciple becomes one of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faith to the brim, meekness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22; compare 2 Peter 1:2–11). And the love is genuine to our deepest core. These are called the “fruit of the Spirit” because they are not direct effects of our efforts but are brought about in us as we admire and emulate Jesus and do whatever is necessary to learn how to obey Him.”

Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (New York: HarperCollins, 1998) 368.

As the GTP begins to bond with each other on the DC leg of our trip, my focus is keeping Christ at the center and challenging everyone “to do whatever is necessary to learn how to obey Him.”

How do we get there? In short, we admire and emulate Jesus.

Why? As the Apostle Peter put it, in Jesus we have everything we need for a godly life that reflects His glory and goodness (or generosity). But His teachings are counterintuitive: we don’t figure them out until we live them out.

That’s where Willard’s ‘pervasive inner transformation’ comes into play. The teachings of Jesus take us on a formational journey, which transforms us into people of love who exhibit generosity, among other great traits.

Where’s a good starting point? Read a Gospel. Pick one: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Admire and emulate Jesus. Watch His movements and interaction with people. Wonder at His parables.

Most importantly, listen closely to His pointed teaching. “Do whatever is necessary to learn how to obey Him.” He came to give us life and help others grasp it. See what happens in and through you as you do.

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Jeanne Guyon: Filled to Overflowing

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

“When you have entered into this deeper realm of experience with Jesus Christ, what should be your response to circumstance, to outward events? Simply remain faithful in this state. Rest quietly before the Lord. Let this simple, quiet rest in Him always be your preparation for everything. You must keep this in mind: Your only purpose is to be filled to overflowing with the divine presence of Jesus Christ and, deep within you, to be prepared to receive from Him anything that He chooses to bestow upon you.”

Jeanne Guyon in “Abundance” chapter 13 of Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ (Sargent: Seedsowers, 1975) 68.

As the GTP team starts our journey together at the ECFA offices today in Winchester, VA, we must see ourselves as empty cups whose purpose is to be “filled to overflowing” with Jesus. Only then will we be able to minister from a place of abundance.

The same is true for anyone who desires to live generously. Because our ‘being’ precedes our ‘doing’ we must abide in Christ so that we produce much fruit. We see this later in John’s Gospel in this pointed teaching from Jesus on abiding and abundance.

Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples. John 15:4-8

Let us show ourselves to be disciples of Jesus by resting and abiding in Him. Only then will our generous giving and service flow from His abundant power at work through us. Whether He supplies much or little, we resolve to remain faithful.

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Richard Sibbes: Spiritual sins

But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:12-14

“We should judge ourselves before God, for those things that the world cannot know, for spiritual sins: as the motions of pride, of worldliness, of revenge, of security, unthankfulness, and such like unkindness towards God, and in general, our barrenness in all good duties, that we owe to God and men. Such sins the world cannot see; yet these should humble our hearts; for when we do not make conscience of spiritual sins, God may soon give us up to some open abominations, that stain and publicly disgrace our holy profession.”

Richard Sibbes in Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations, #191 (London: J. Buckland, 1875) 69.

When we hear of “great transgressions” as the psalmist put it, they result from not dealing with spiritual sins in our lives. And nothing can hinder our generosity like spiritual sins.

How do pride, worldliness, revenge, security, unthankfulness, and unkindness toward God surface in your life? On this Lord’s day, ask God to help you examine your life and discern your errors.

Why mention this? As my team comes together, we will be talking a lot about prayer, fasting, and confession. I believe these are keys for helping unlock challenges greater than ourselves.

The work of Global Trust Partners seeks to train God’s workers in faithful administration which aims to counteract corruption to increasing generous participation in God’s work globally.

In many parts of the world, it’s as if the church is in captivity and not positioned to flourish. We can’t help those people if we ourselves are not right with God. We must first examine ourselves.

Again, what about you? What do you find as you examine your heart? Ask God to help you remove any spiritual sins that could bring dishonor to His name or hinder your generous service.

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Augustine of Hippo: Grow in your capacity to receive

Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to Him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8

“She never stopped pleading, and he did out of weariness what he wouldn’t do out of kindness. Thus, by way of contrast He has urged us in this parable to ask…He is urging us to ask, seeing that it annoys Him if we don’t ask. But when He is sometimes rather slow in giving, He is upping the value of His gifts, not refusing them. Things long desired are obtained with greater pleasure if they are given at once, they lose their value. Ask, seek, insist. By asking and seeking you grow in your capacity to receive. God is keeping for you what He doesn’t wish to give you straightaway, so that you for your part may learn to have a great desire for great things.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in Sermon 61 in Essential Sermons, translated by Edmund Hill, edited by Daniel Doyle (New York: New City Press, 2007) 99.

What does it mean to grow in our capacity to receive? It means to ask God for what we need and not be afraid to seek and insist in bringing our requests with patience and perseverance. This goes against our human tendencies.

Here’s how it often goes. We ask. We don’t receive. Instead of waiting and persisting we sort things on our own. We follow the ways of the world related to provision. Jesus explicitly tells us today to ask, to depend on God’s kindness, and to persist in asking.

When we need things, a good rule of thumb vertically (up and down) is to pray and ask God for what we think we need until He answers. Simultaneously, let us horizontally invite others to join us so that when God answers He receives all the glory.

Would you pray for my Global Trust Partners team? Tomorrow we convene in Washington D.C. for 3 days at ECFA and then fly to Colorado to retreat for 7 days. Pray that God blesses us with deep spiritual, strategic, and social time together. Pray for unity and clarity as we launch GTP together for God’s glory. Thanks.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: This petition is a test

Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11

“Give us this day our daily bread.” As long as the disciples are on earth, they should not be ashamed to pray for their bodily needs. He who created men on earth will keep and preserve their bodies. It is not God’s will that His creation should be despised. The disciples are told to ask for bread not only for themselves but for all men on the earth, for all men are their brethren. The disciples realize that while it is a fruit of the earth, bread really comes down from above as the gift of God alone. That is why they have to ask for it before they take it. And since it is the bread of God, it is new every day. They do not ask to lay up a store for the future, but are satisfied with what God gives them day by day. Through that bread their lives are spared a little longer, that they may enjoy life in fellowship with Jesus, praising and thanking him for his loving-kindness. This petition is a test of their faith, for it shows whether they believe that all things work together for good to them that love God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) in Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1959) 185-186.

I hope you enjoy the new header photo. I was blessed to catch and release 10 brook trout on a 5-mile hike to Beaver Brook yesterday with Jenni. I marvel at God’s creativity in their colorful markings.

Most people know the Lord’s prayer. Few grasp the gravity of Bonhoeffer’s point. This petition really is a test. Will we trust in the loving-kindness of God to look after us each and every day or is our confidence in ourselves?

Anew and afresh I challenge you to read today’s Scripture in the context of the instructions of Jesus. But this time, read it from this perspective. Notice the themes of reverence and dependence on God coupled with forgiveness of debt and sin.

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:9-15

As it concludes, we see the evidence for Bonhoeffer’s point. How we live shows if we believe this. Disciples will appear as people of reverence and dependence on God who forgive debts and sins. And if we don’t live this out, our lack of obedience actually seals our own unforgiveness!

This post aims to sober readers to the gravity of choosing reverence and dependence in God’s loving-kindness and having a right relationship to money and people. Those that choose independence, evidenced by how they handle money and relate to people, fail the test and forfeit the free gift of forgiveness. Don’t let that be you.

This petition is test. Will you pass?

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Andrew Murray: Preparation for greater things

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23

“After some months of prayer and waiting on God, a house was rented, with room for thirty children, and in course of time three more, containing in all 120 children. The work was carried on it this way for ten years, the supplies for the needs of the orphans being asked and received of God alone. It was often a time of sore need and much prayer, but a trial of faith more precious than of gold was found unto praise and honour and glory of God.

The Lord was preparing His servant for greater things. By His providence and His Holy Spirit, Mr. Muller was led to desire, and to wait upon God till he received from Him, the sure promise of £15,000 for a Home to contain 300 children. This first Home was opened in 1849. In 1858, a second and third Home, for 950 more orphans, was opened, costing £35,000. And in 1869 and 1870, a fourth and a fifth Home, for 850 more, at an expense of £50,000, making the total number of the orphans 2,100.

In addition to this work, God has given him almost as much as for the building of the Orphan Homes, and the maintenance of the orphans, for other work, the support of schools and missions, Bible and tract circulation. In all he has received from God, to be spent in His work, during these fifty years, more than one million pounds sterling.

How little he knew, let us carefully notice, that when he gave up his little salary of £35 a year in obedience to the leading of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, what God was preparing to give him as the reward of obedience and faith; and how wonderfully the word was to be fulfilled to him: ‘Thou hast been faithful over few things; I will set thee over many things.’

Andrew Murray in “George Muller, and the Secret of His Power in Prayer” in With Christ in the School of Prayer: Thoughts on Our Training for the Ministry of Intercession (London: James Nisbet, 1887) 260.

Today marks 27 years of marriage for Jenni and me. What a blessing! We have set aside the day to be together. Good coffee, a hike, some fly fishing, and we plan to eat out later. Thanks God for all you have taught us about You and each other and the blessing of life in Christ together.

All we have experienced is “preparation for greater things” as Murray put it. It seems like every year God stretches me and then Jenni is there to support me or vice versa. One of my favorite rhythms is our twice daily walks on which we often pray together lifting up requests for others and ourselves.

The further we get on this spiritual journey called life in Christ, the more we realize that the growth happens in the waiting. That’s when we are tempted to act on our own. We must wait and trust in providence, that’s God’s provision for us. Only when we wait and trust do we grow.

Muller inspires us afresh to pray and wait and trust God with another year. To depend on God to guide us through two weddings (Sammy and Emily on 26 October 2019 and Sophie and Peter on 20 January 2020), the launching of Global Trust Partners, and so many other commitments.

We resolve to chart this course until we each hear the words, “Well done!” We will sacrifice everything so that our lives may be a generous offering. On the way we will experience moments of “sore need” but the trials of faith are only preparation for greater things. Please join us on this way.

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Greater Eagerness

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. Psalm 19:10

“Bible truth is enriching to the soul in the highest degree; the metaphor is one which gathers force as it is brought out; — gold — fine gold — much fine gold; it is good, better, best, and therefore it is not only to be desired with a miser’s avidity, but with more than that. As spiritual treasure is more noble than mere material wealth, so should it be desired and sought after with greater eagerness. Men speak of solid gold, but what is so solid as solid truth? For love of gold pleasure is forsworn, ease renounced, and life endangered; shall we not be ready to do as much for love of truth?”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon in Treasury of David, his commentary on Psalms 19:10.

If spiritual treasure is worth more than material wealth, we must have greater eagerness in pursuing it. Think about how this relates to our generosity. Solid truth, as Spurgeon describes it, is free. It’s what everyone needs and can be enjoyed and shared in abundance.

So, why do so few seek it? Most prefer ease and pleasure, which ironically, puts life in danger. Gold gives the opposite effect that it promises. It cannot sustain, save, or satisfy. Though most chase it as though it can. Any impact it has is not solid but temporary or fleeting.

Make it a point to gather solid truth daily and sow it into the hearts of those around you. This may be the most generous thing you can do because most are, sadly, aiming for ease and pleasure, which leaves them lacking and lost.

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Jean-Pierre de Caussade: Console yourself by confidence in God alone

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

“I wanted to remain all my life in Toulouse but now I have accepted a new assignment which goes against everything I would want. I saw the hand of Providence and was able to leave the place which I loved with a liberty of spirit that astonished me.

When I arrived at my new assignment there were untold business meetings, with the bishop, the parliament and the King’s lieutenant – all sorts of grand people. Providence gives me a confidence and even a peace in the midst of a thousand cares (which I thought would overwhelm me). Peace comes because God has made my soul impervious to fear. After doing my best, I leave all to Him.

God is a good Father and, from personal experience, I know that He causes all to prosper for His children. Since He has already done so much, will He now forget us? I wait for success with confidence and peace. I accept what happens just to keep pace with His Providence. How can we, poor ignorant creatures, judge Him?

God will keep us at peace even amid the world’s greatest disasters. We will be tranquil in proportion to our abandonment. When abandonment is neglected, no peace or rest is possible. Do not judge anyone harshly. This will preserve your peace. Console yourself by confidence in God alone.”

Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751) in Abandonment to Divine Providence (Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library) 2.

Special thanks to my friend and Daily Meditations reader, Micah Kohls, for reminding me of the value of this classic book, which I read a few years back when ‘providence’ was my word for the year. When I re-read the first few pages of it yesterday, this post came into view. Perhaps you can relate to it? I know I can.

Anytime we start a new responsibility, such as my new role as President / CEO of Global Trust Partners (GTP), we have many cares and concerns, and the workload and duties can seem overwhelming. What must we do in such situations? There is a way forward that reflects God’s kindness: “Console yourself by confidence in God alone.”

Recently I had a great need arise for GTP that was far greater than anything I could sort. I resolved to breathe in the peace of Christ, and breathe out any fears and worries. I calmly stated my need to the Father and asked Him to help sort it. Rather than share the details, suffice it to say that He sorted it in three days in an unimaginable way.

I had to surrender the struggle of trying to make it happen myself and abandon myself to His provision and care. It was a great exchange. I gave up worry and fear and received peace and, eventually, provision. What about you? Living generously happens only when we learn to trust in Providence. Start by giving Him your cares and concerns.

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Dallas Willard: Fly right-side up

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Hebrews 3:4

“You cannot call upon Jesus Christ or upon God and not be heard. You live in their house, their ecos (Heb. 3:4). We usually call it simply “the universe.” But they fully occupy it. It is their place, their “kingdom,” where through their kindness and sacrificial love we can make our present life an eternal life. Only as we understand this, is the way open for a true ecology of human existence, for only then are we dealing with what the human habitation truly is. And the God who hears is also one who speaks. He has spoken and is still speaking. Humanity remains His project, not its own, and His initiatives are always at work among us. He certainly “gives us space,” as we say, and this is essential. But He continues to speak in ways that serious inquirers can hear if they will. We need not, as earlier described, stagger onward in darkness concerning what is truly good and really right. We need not fly upside down. There is a right-side up, and we can find it.—But we don’t have to. We are free. For now.”

Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (New York: HarperCollins, 1998) 32-33.

What a generous God we serve. He reigns and fully occupies every corner of the universe. He hears all and speaks to people in reply. Yes, He also gives us space to live, give, serve, and love according to His design, or not.

When we attune to Him and follow His pattern for generous living, we gain and others are blessed. When we don’t, we lose and others lose. As Willard rightly notes, for now we are free to fly as we wish. Are you flying right-side up?

There’s a way that seems right to man, but it leads to death. The way of Jesus leads to life. Today I want to remind you of the biggest reason to live according to God’s generous design. We have the kindness and sacrificial love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with us.

Notice how God’s kindness relates to generosity. We are the builder’s primary project on the planet. And His kindness and love backs everything He desires for us to do. He wants us to count on Him to live out His design. He will care for us as we fly right-side up.

Someday we will all have to live this way in the eternal kingdom. But we must not wait until then to grasp life in all its fullness. We can start soaring now. And I am praying for Jenni as she soars to California this morning to spend three days with her parents to serve and encourage them.

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