The Most Important Commandment!

-What Would You Ask God?

Several times, in my lifetime, I’ve found myself in a conversation with someone who made a statement that they intended to ask God about something when they saw Him someday! How about you? If you could ask God any question, what would it be? Well, in Mark’s Gospel, the writer says, that:  “One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?” Of all the 613 commands found in the Torah (Jewish Old Testament) which was THE most important? Wow! That’s a big question! Which command’s at the top of the list? Don’t wanna miss that one!

-The Answer To The Big Question!

This is the most important,” Jesus answered: “Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mark 12:28-30.  This is really a timely post as it seems the church, in general, is confused about “worship.” But, Jesus really clears things up, doesn’t He? He’s really saying that we have to love God with ALL of our being—ALL of our “heart” & our “soul” & our “mind” & our “strength.”

-Everyone Claims To Love God!

So, it’s impossible to love God until we know Him! But, we live in a day when everyone claims to love God! That may be a generalization; but, I’m absolutely stunned by the number of times that totally lost, unregenerate people—who have NO IDEA “Who” God is—still tell me they LOVE Him! I can believe them when they say they “love” pizza, for example, because they’ve tasted it! They’ve handled it! I can believe them when they say they “love” hunting because it’s something they’ve done! They take their dog & a friend! So, they’ve experienced it! But, you cannot possibly love God until you KNOW God! Until you’ve met Him & know Him well enough to explain WHY you love Him! Study Jesus’ words! That’s precisely what He’s saying!

-Love God Personally!

Jesus says we must love God PERSONALLY! Notice, from His response to the Scribes question, how Jesus uses 6 “personal” pronouns; and, every one of them is “possessive”—“The Lord OUR God”; “Love the Lord YOUR God”… ”with all YOUR HEART”… ”with all YOUR SOUL”… “with all YOUR MIND”… “with all YOUR STRENGTH.” THE most important commandment, in all of Scripture, is to have a personal, possessive love for God, Jesus says. And, you cannot love someone you don’t know! My wife & I have been married 35 years! But, I confess to you that there were 20 years during which time I did not love her! Not one bit of love did I have for her; and, the reason was that I didn’t know her! I hadn’t met her yet! Once I did, I grew to love her as I came to know her! That’s no different with God! We have to know Him personally before we can claim to love Him! We come to know His character—and, we know Him through Jesus & the Word!

 

Advertisements

Worshipers Are Thankful People!

Next Post August 8th

A Little Vacation Time!

-Give Thanks To Yahweh!

The Ark, of God’s covenant with Israel, was coming back to Jerusalem! King David, the newly installed King, made it a priority to lead Israel back to faithful worship of Yahweh! You might recall that the Ark had been captured, by the Philistines, while Saul was Israel’s King; and—though it had been returned to them after God broke out against them with plagues—it had been neglected under Saul’s leadership.  So, returning the Ark to Jerusalem was one of King David’s 1st orders. “On that day David decreed for the first time that thanks be given to the Lord by Asaph and his relatives: ‘Give thanks to Yahweh; call on His name’ David said, ‘proclaim His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him; sing praise to Him; tell about all His wonderful works!’’-1 Chronicles 16:7-9.

-Where Worship Begins!

God’s Holy Spirit inspired David to write that genuine worship begins with a thankful heart.  It’s his initial point! It’s impossible to worship God rightly if your heart is bitter and unthankful! The old preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, once wrote: “All the good that we enjoy comes from God. Recollect that! Alas, most men forget it. Rowland Hill used to say that worldlings were like the hogs under the oak, which eat the acorns, but never think of the oak from which they fell, nor lift up their heads to grunt out a thanksgiving. Yes, so it is. They munch the gift and murmur at the giver.”  True worshippers, of God, must quit taking God’s blessings for granted! Our faith will grow deeper & deeper the more we thank God for everything in life—the good with the bad!

-Worship God In Song!

And, then, David calls out the children, of Israel,  to worship God by singing praise to Him. Notice, it’s NOT a “suggestion”; but, rather it’s an imperative or a command. David doesn’t tell them to sing only if they’re good at it. He’s preaching to the congregation; and, he commands all of them to sing! The psalmist wrote, “make a joyful noise to the Lord”-Psalm 98:4.  It seems that God may actually take a bit more delight when the musically ungifted or unskilled, in the congregation, sing with all their heart, because they’re not doing it for the praise of men; but, for the genuine love of God.

-Worship Is Seeking God!

David also tells the congregation, of Israel, to worship God by seeking Him— “…let the hearts of those who seek Yahweh rejoice,” he says, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always” 1 Chronicles 16:10.  It’s an act of worship to seek after God! In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that God “…is a rewarder of those who SEEK Him” (ch. 11:6). God actually REWARDS the worshipper who seeks Him! He hides Himself from those who seek Him for their own selfish interests; from, those, who want Him to be a genie in a bottle. But, to those who seek him so that they might know Him, He will be found! Do you seek Him? Do you pursue Him with greater passion than you pursue the fleeting interests of this world? Only than will you find Him! Seek Him as though He were the greatest treasure in life; because, HE IS!

 

How Must We Worship God?

-What Does Worship Look Like?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “worship”? What images does that word “worship” create for you? There are roughly 450 verses, in Scripture, that contain the word “worship” or “praise” in them. So, it’s a frequent Bible theme! Most often, it’s used as an appropriate outpouring response, of the human heart, toward Yahweh, who is worthy! At other times, it’s used negatively, by the writers of Scripture, because the worship & praise is directed at “idols” or “false gods” or “human kings”; or, some other created thing!

-Let’s Define Worship!

The dictionary definition for worship goes like this:  “worship is rendering honor and homage to God or to any object regarded as sacred; it is adoration, devotion & praise.” While true, that definition seems a little stale & sterile to me! It lacks the key element of a personal relationship! I much prefer this definition:  “worship is a redeemed heart, occupied with God, expressing itself in adoration & thanksgiving.” Much better! Or, what about this definition, by A.W. Tozer:  “True worship is to be so personally and hopelessly in love with God, that the idea of a transfer of affection never even remotely exists.” True worship is always about GOD! He is always the focus of true worship! He is the object of our worship! We are to “be occupied with Him.” We reverence, honor, and adore Him—NOT because of what He does for us; but, because of WHO He IS!

-True Worship Changes Us!

We worship the God who entered the world, He created, to save & redeem His people, who are lost in sin! And, here is the bottom line about worship—when our worship, of God, is true & genuine, our heart & our life will be CHANGED! True worship changes us! I would suggest that it begins in our head with knowledge of the “who”, “why’s” and “how’s” of worship! Then, our knowledge of worship makes it’s way to our heart; and, we know when it’s arrived, in our heart, because our hands quickly follow! It’s seen being lived out in the deeds & actions of a changed life! That’s what happens when genuine worship takes place! If we don’t worship God rightly, we become guilty of disobedience to His commands!

-God Commands Us To Worship!

God commands us to worship Him & no other! And, He’s instructed us what our worship ought to look like:  “I am the Lord your God…Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself…You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” Exodus 20:1-5; and, “Fear Yahweh your God, worship Him” Deut 6:13.  A clear picture, of the worship God accepts, is the story of Israel returning to a gathering of praise, around the Ark of God, under King David. In 1 Chronicles 16, David recites a Psalm, of worship & praise, directed at Yahweh! As the recently appointed king, of Israel, David made it a priority to lead Israel back to faithful worship of the LORD. This is what worship looks like—it doesn’t matter if it’s Israel in the O.T.; or, the church in the N.T. Read it again!

 

True Generosity Serves Others!

-It’s Not Just About Money!

We typically think of “generosity” in financial terms, don’t we? But, in God’s economy, generosity is shown in more than financial ways! In the book of Proverbs, the Spirit of God inspired King Solomon to include these words:  “A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water” Proverbs 11:25.  God intends for us to understand generosity as being about more than our finances! It’s not just about our money! According to this Proverb, God also measures generosity in the ways we serve others. He measures generosity by our willingness to minister & help others.

-Don’t Throw Money At It!

In the world, there’s a tendency to just throw money at a need. Rather than getting their hands dirty, the person who has the financial means would rather gift someone or an organization. Unfortunately, that same attitude can often be found in the church too! Many would rather “gift” it than get dirty through service or ministry to others! But, that’s NOT God’s economy! The Message paraphrases Proverbs 11:25 like this:  “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” God measures our generosity by our willingness to serve & by our willingness to enrich the lives of others by ministering to them. By offering something, Solomon says, as simple as a glass of water.

-It’s Being “Others Focused”!

It’s that same principle, that Jesus taught,  of being “others focused.” Unfortunately, it’s typical, in our American church culture, to look for a church that serves “me”! To look for a church that serves “my kids”! That’s the mindset of a “consumer,” isn’t it? And, it’s a way of thinking that is foreign to Scripture & to the church, in other parts of the world, where they look for a place with needs so they can serve! Faith’s way of serving is to look for needs and meet them! Faith’s way of serving actually prays that God’s Spirit will open eyes to those needs & open hearts to actually meet them! As with your finances, don’t “calculate’ how God might move others to serve you if you serve them! That’s serving out of GREED! And, just like God will not bless a greedy giver financially, He’ll not bless a greedy server either! He gave to us in love & we must give the same!

-Serve Recklessly!

The principle, in Scripture, is kind of like this—just serve & minister to the needs of others with reckless abandon! By faith, believe that God will keep His Word! Believe that, whether it’s by sacrificial giving or service, that God is going to reward you.  You might be rewarded in this life! Or, your reward might be received in heaven! At the same time, though we know the reward is coming, don’t give to get!  Just be generous, in faith, that God will take care of you! When we give, from a generous heart, it truly costs you nothing! You lose nothing in the exchange! You gain! You get richer the more you give! It’s counter cultural! Jesus said: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life BECAUSE OF ME will FIND IT

How To Measure Generosity!

I’ve Left For Some Vacation Time!        Next Post June 13!

-I’m Naturally Selfish!

I confess to you that I’m not naturally a very generous man. I mean, by that, that I’m prone to be selfish! It is almost never my 1st inclination to give financially to meet a need. I have to be prompted by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. His Spirit prods me to commit a generous “act”; but, constant generosity just doesn’t flow instinctively from me. It’s not one of my gifts! So, I’ve had to ask the Lord to plant generous thoughts in my heart.

-Not The $100 Bill!

I remember one time, during a worship service, that I felt the Lord elbow me to give the bill in my wallet to whatever ministry was participating in our service. When I opened my wallet I saw that it contained a $100 bill—now, I want you to know that’s not a regular thing with me—but, that day I had a $100 bill; and, in front of it a $20 bill. “Lord, certainly you mean for me to give that $20 bill, right?” But, I felt a very distinct impression that He wanted me to give the $100 bill; so, reluctantly, I did!

-I’ve Never Missed What I Gave!

Through the years I’ve felt similarly pressed to give, sometimes more & sometimes less. But, here’s my testimony—I’ve never missed what I’ve given! It has always been absorbed by God’s abundant generosity; so, I’ve always had enough! Here’s what I hope to get across to you in this post—when you give, from a generous heart, it costs you nothing! In other words, you won’t lose what you give away! But, the person who hoards & selfishly holds onto his money, when the offering plate is passed, tends toward poverty! That person lives with the constant struggle to make ends meet. “One person gives freely, yet gains more; another withholds what is right, only to become poor. A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water” Proverbs 11:24-25. To paraphrase, using The Message, “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” God measures our generosity by our sacrifice! That doesn’t make sense to the unbelieving world. The world says, “If I want to have more, I have to KEEP more.” But, that’s not true in God’s economy—”If I want to have more, I have to give it away!”

-You Can’t Outgive God!

There’s a principle here that says you can’t out give God! Now be careful here! Don’t draw an unbiblical conclusion like those who twist Scripture & preach a “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel.” God is NOT an investment broker! Don’t expect to put a $100 bill in the offering plate & get $1000 back. Giving that way is not generosity, it’s GREED! The God who knows our heart also knows the motives behind our giving! He measure our generosity by what we sacrifice to give; and, it’s not a sacrifice when we expect to get something back! No, it’s the world of the generous that gets “larger” and “larger.” It might be extra cash in your pocket; but, probably not! Like God extending the life of the Israelites robes & sandals to last 40 years in the wilderness, He may bless us with the extended life of our appliances & vehicles & health!

 

God Loves Generosity!

-He Loves The Cheerful Giver!

In fact, to quote the words of the Apostle Paul, to the Church of Corinth, accurately, “…God loves a cheerful giver…” 2 Corinthians 9:7.  God is generous! He gives us everything we “need” the Scripture says; and, an awful lot of our “wants” also! He is a good God! And, His expectation is that we would become more and more generous as we are sanctified & made a new creation in the image of His generous Son, Jesus!

-There Are Expectations!

And, He has those expectations, of us, with good reason—He has given us His Holy Spirit to indwell us & change us! That means we can give “in the flesh”—giving sparingly or reluctantly! Or, we can give “in the Spirit”—to give willingly & generously & cheerfully as a work of the Spirit in our life! Generous giving is the supernatural work of God’s indwelling Spirit! That “in the flesh” attitude comes from a belief that God is a TAKER rather than a GIVER!

-A Giver Or A Taker?

If we believe that God is a TAKER, we’ll also give sparingly & reluctantly! We’ll see His requirements of a tithe & offering as taking away something that’s “MINE”; or, something “I’ve WORKED for.” But if, in our heart, we see God as a GIVER we’ll see all our financial blessings as coming from God; not, from ourselves! Our financial decisions ultimately reveal what we think about God! God is a GIVER! That is His nature! He gave life to Adam & Eve. He gave them a beautiful garden home! He gave them a choice! And, when they made the wrong choice & sinned against Him, He gave His Son—because, “God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son…” So, He gave the world a 2nd chance at redemption through Jesus & the Cross!

-He Gives So We Can Give!

And, as followers of Jesus, He gives to us so we can be a blessing; and, give to others! This is an amazing truth from God’s Word! Whether you’re rich, by the world’s standards; or, poor like the widow who gave her mite, God has given us our stuff to make givers out of us. That’s exactly what Paul told the Church of Corinth: “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance [or: make every grace abound to you], so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8. Get that? God gives us what we have so we can be generous!

-It’s All His Anyway!

He gives us enough, so, that if we manage it rightly, we’ll have what we need to be GIVERS! Now, the implication is that if we say we don’t have enough to give, that we’re mismanaging what He’s given us! Or, God’s Word is incorrect! Paul actually expands on this in v.10— “…the One (GOD) who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” In other words, God gives on BOTH sides of our giving! He gives us “seed” before we give; and, He multiplies it & provides a harvest for all the righteous deeds we can do in regard to giving! That’s God’s promise! He gives all of us what we need to BE GIVERS! Though, in His Sovereignty He may give more to some than to others; so, that they can give MORE! But, we’ve all been GIVEN to GIVE! That brings God glory!

 

Don’t Give Out Of Extortion!

-Give It As A Gift!

When I was a Bible College student, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to give a “tithe” or an “offering”, in church, because I was paying my tuition to a “Christian” college! So, I thought, that was like just as good as giving it to my church! Apparently NOT! I remember needing some repair work done on my car—and, it was a sizeable amount! I remember sensing a Holy Spirit “inspired” thought like God telling me, “I WILL get your offering even if I have to TAKE it through an auto repair!

-Taken By Coercion!

In Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, he made an interesting statement, “Therefore I considered it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance the generous gift you promised, so that it will be ready as a gift and not as an extortion” 2 Corinthians 9:5.  That’s an interesting choice of words! Paul’s like saying, “Don’t MAKE me TAKE that from you”; or, “Don’t MAKE me EXTORT it…or, take it by COERCION.” Literally, he’s saying, “Don’t make me STEAL it from you.” That’s NOT how you give an offering to the Lord! That’s NOT how you give to the work of the Gospel! That’s NOT how you give to needy people! “Don’t give,” Paul says, “ONLY because your FORCED to give.” God won’t bless your gift if He has to EXTORT it from you!

-Sow Generously! Reap Generously!

In the next verse, Paul continues, “Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.  Don’t give “sparingly.” So, what exactly does that word mean? We don’t use the word “sparingly” very often. We’re more familiar with the word “spare.” If someone begs you to spare their life, they mean, “Let me keep it! Don’t take it from me!” If a coach tells his team, “Spare no effort” he means, “Don’t hold back any of your effort! Give ALL your effort!” In Romans 8:32 it says, “God did not even SPARE His own Son, but offered Him up for us all.” That means that God didn’t hold Him back! He didn’t keep Jesus for himself! He SHARED Him with us! So, if we give “sparingly” it means, in our heart, that we want to HOLD BACK! We don’t want to SHARE!

-How “Not” To Give!

When we give “sparingly”, we’re not thinking about how much we can GIVE; but, about how much we can KEEP & HOLD onto! In the next verse, Paul tells the Corinthian believers not to give “reluctantly”—“Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7. Some translations use the word “GRUDGINGLY”—don’t give your offering with a “grudge.” Don’t hold it against God like He’s asking too much from us! If we’re not careful, it’s easy to harbor a bitter spirit against God about His giving requirements! However, that’s acting like an “OWNER”—which we are NOT! We’re a “steward” or a “manager” of a portion of God’s estate! It’s all His! Nothing belongs to us—”You brought nothing into this world & you can’t take anything out” 1 Tim 6:7.