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Can't buy me love

If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised.

Song of Songs 8:7 NASB

One day Jesus decided to pass the offering plate Himself.

The rich folks were so happy.

“Now He’ll see how important I am to His movement.
Wait till He sees how much I give.
This will ensure me a place on the board of directors.
Maybe if my offering is enough I can talk to Him about that “Eat my flesh” stuff He keeps talking about.
The tax deduction alone makes it worth giving into this ministry.”

But there was this one widow.

Homeless.
Dirty.
Bent over by years of lack.
She had sold everything she cared about years ago just to stay alive.
Her offering would not even pay for the postage for one His newsletters. For that matter, it wouldn’t even pay for the envelope.
She would not lift her head as she approached to give her gift.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on." - Luke 21:1-4 NASB

Yes—both rich and poor were putting money in the treasury, but for the rich, it was surplus not sacrifice. The widow put all she had in the box. God doesn’t want our money, He want our life.

Don’t get me wrong here. He’s not looking to make us hurt by sacrificing for His kingdom. That’s wrong thinking too. There are sections of the Church world who would have you believe unless God sees us inflicting pain on our selves, He will see to it that pain enters our life another way. This is just religion at it’s worst.

The Father wants the best for us, and the best is giving Him our full trust. This is the lesson of the widows meager offering—meager by measure—major in kingdom value. She gave her life into the hands of the Lord. She trusted the Lord for His care and provision.

benheadshot1I'm so glad you stopped by.

Don't be a stranger.

Ben

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But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? - Acts 3:12 NASB

There is a principal buried in the story of Peter and John healing the lame man, that speaks to much of Christian culture today. It’s one of the great misunderstandings in Christian thought.

as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk

Much of the Christian world today misunderstands this principle as applied to one discipline or another. As we speak, I’m trying to allow the Word to renew my mind and transform me in regard to a couple of these fallacies.

The confusion comes from Christians thinking that they can EARN the favor of the Lord by things they do. I’m not talking about obedience. Our obedience to the Lord in all things it the outward demonstration of our Love for Him.

Let me poke at three of these today.

Healing

Let’s start with healing. Peter and John make it very clear that the healing of this lame man at Jerusalem’s Gate Beautiful had nothing to do with their own power or piety. They do tell how He was healed:

And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. - Acts 3:16 NASB

Faith in the name of Jesus—faith given by Jesus brought this man gave perfect health.

Huge portions of the body of Christ attribute any healing miracles to the whims and sovereignty of a God who may or may not respond. Others put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of God’s man of faith and power.

This is not some demonstration of apostolic power. It’s not because these were special holy men. It’s not even because they said just the right words, or followed just the right formula. It was simply the result of faith in the Name of Jesus.

They did not EARN this ability. That’s the thing that is rumbling around in my spirit this morning. How much of our modern church thought revolves around us earning something from God.

Giving

We do it with our giving. The New Covenant church was generous, holding everything they had loosely, considering it not their own but the Lord’s, to do with as He saw fit. People like Barnabas  would sell property and use the proceeds to help those in need in the household of faith.

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. - Acts 4:36-37 NASB

Today, we are taught that the tithe earns us the right to some financial blessing. (I have to confess, it’s really hard to even write these words for me, as I have taught this for decades.) Tithing is an Old Testament principal, and it is sound, and still impacts your interactions with money in a positive way. I’m not saying you should stop tithing. What I am saying is that you can’t earn God’s blessing by giving.

We give out of the abundance of our appreciation for what the Lord has done for us. We give in obedience, when He puts in on our hearts to give. God blesses giving and generosity. Giving generously is a healthy lifestyle for a christian.

But in the Old Covenant the tithe belonged to the Lord. It was His and the rest was yours.

In the New Covenant the tithe still belongs to the Lord, along with everything else. You belong to the Lord, along with all you are and all you have. No longer is any of it yours. So when you give some of it away, you're not giving your stuff away, you're giving the Lord’s stuff away. So who’s the generous one now? Who gets the credit when you give to the poor? Is it your power or piety that brings prosperity?

No—its faith in the name of Jesus—faith given by Jesus—that bring everything you need into your life.

Worship

Ok - this one really hurts my feelings. But even the idea that we some how earn the presence of the Lord in our worship services by the choice of songs we sing falls back into this works mentality of the Old Covenant.

Bro. Steve Bremner, missionary to Peru and blogger/podcaster had a conversation with Dr. Stephen Crosby about Dr. Crosby’s book, Praise, Worship and the Presence of God. The book debunks the idea that we can draw or drive off the presence of the Holy Spirit by the quantity or quality of our worship.

Again I hear Peter and John saying—do you think it is our power or piety that made this happen?

Oh, worship can set a mood; Worship can create an endorphin rush and generate feelings. But are feelings and sensations that come as a result of effective use of music the same thing as the manifest presence of God?

John 14 teaches us that God take us residence in those who love Him.

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." - John 14:23 NASB

Our praise and worship are a reaction to His presence in our lives. They’re an overflow of the fullness we have in Him.

I wonder if our lack of seeking Him in the secret place has added to our need for the feelings we get in corporate worship. Remember we’re talking relationship here.

Think about the intimacy shared between man and wife.

If I go with my wife to a public event, I don’t have to conjure a manifestation of her presence while we are in public. And frankly, though we enjoy one another’s company in public, our time together in private far overshadows the intimacy we can achieve in public.

As we abandon the secret place, we find ourselves longing to sense the presence of the Lover of our soul, and seek Him in the crowds. Not unlike the Song of Songs, when the maiden was alone in the locked chamber, she missed His touch, and went seeking Him in the streets.

I’ve gone longer than I intended, but I hope you hear my heart on this. All these things are good and part of the christian walk. The problem comes when we think we can earn God’s healing power, prosperity through tithing, or His presence through worship, is falling back to our pre-Christ ways. It’s a through back to religion where we earn our place with God.

God is a giver, and His gifts are free.

Have I stepped on your toes today?

Can you see areas in your walk with Christ where you are trying to earn His favor by your own power or piety?

benheadshot1Thanks for stopping by.

Shine!

Ben

Check out Steve's podcast here: Stevebremner.com

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My Christmas Gift

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here's a rebroadcast from a couple years ago that I think you will enjoy - Merry Christmas!

God is the ultimate giver. I was thinking about this, and wondered if I could catch God giving in every book of the Bible. Most of the books of the Bible have way more than one gift from God. This is a very – VERY – limited.

He Gave:

Genesis – a covering for sin - 3:21
Exodus - the law – 20:1-17
Leviticus – the scapegoat – 16:10
Numbers – a bronze serpent for healing – 21:9
Deuteronomy – Salvation and Victory – 33:29
Joshua – a leader, Captain of the Lord’s army – 5:15
Judges – a deliverer – 3:9,15
Ruth – a Kinsman Redeemer – 4:1
1 Samuel – a giant killer – 17 
2 Samuel – a shepherd king – 5:2
1 Kings – His presence dwelling in His temple – 9:3
2 Kings – Eyes to see into the spirit realm – 6:17
1 Chronicles – mighty men of valor - 11
2 Chronicles – His presence in the temple – 7:14
Ezra – Protection to temple builders - 6
Nehemiah – rebuilt walls – 6:15
Esther – a happy ending – 10:1-3
Job – double restoration – 42:10
Psalms – sins forgiven, diseases healed – 103:3
Proverbs – Wisdom – 8:1-31
Ecclesiastes – Time – 3:1-8
Song of Solomon – Romance – 8:7
Isaiah – The Messiah – 7:14, 9:6-7, 53
Jeremiah – a hope and a future – 29:11
Laminations – new mercy every morning – 3:23
Ezekiel – assignments as watchmen – 3 & 33
Daniel – miraculous signs and wonders – 4:2
Hosea – Love when we were unfaithful – 3:1
Joel – prophesies, dreams and visions – 2:23
Amos – His word to proclaim – 3:8
Obadiah – Deliverance – 1:17
Jonah – His enemies repentance – 3:10
Micah – a ruler from ancient times – 5:2
Nahum – a just punishment – 1:3
Habakkuk – a revelation for a set time – 2:3
Zephaniah –Justice – 3:5
Haggai – the fear of the Lord – 1:12
Zechariah – a fountain to cleanse us from our sin – 13:1
Malachi – the Sun of righteousness with healing – 4:2
Matthew – great rewards – 6:6
Mark – a King making His triumphal entry – 11:10
Luke – a Father to come home to – 15:24
John – His Only Begotten Son – 3:16
Acts – His Holy Spirit – 2:1-4
Romans – sonship – 8:15
1 Corinthians – The gifts of the Spirit – 12:1-11
2 Corinthians – Spiritual weapons – 10:3-6
Galatians – The Fruit of the Spirit 5:22-23
Ephesians – The full armor of God – 6:10-18
Philippians – righteousness through faith – 3:9
Collisions – redemption, forgiveness of sins – 1:14
1 Thessalonians – the Word of God – 2:13
2 Thessalonians – a share in Jesus’ glory – 2:14
1 Timothy – abundant grace – 1:14
2 Timothy – all scripture – 3:16
Titus – Salvation – 2:10
Philemon –every good thing – 1:6
Hebrews – access to the throne – 4:16
James  – every good and perfect gift – 1:17
1 Peter – pure spiritual milk – 2:2
2 Peter – all things that pertain to life and godliness – 1:3
1 John – forgiveness to those who confess 1:9
2 John – grace, mercy and peace – 1:3
3 John – prosperity and good health 1:2
Jude – prayer in the Holy Spirit – 1:20
Revelation – The Lamb of God – 1:6

Go thou and do likewise!

Be a giver this Christmas.

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Christ And The Rich Young Ruler - Heinrich Hofmann

 

We've been poking around in the story of the rich young ruler all week, and the question comes to mind:

Why didn’t Jesus simply ask this wealthy man to give what was prescribed by the law?

I mean, Jesus took him to the law when the man asked how to inherit eternal life. Why not just walk him through all the offerings required throughout the Jewish year. I am told if you look at it legalistically it comes to somewhere around a third of your income in the various tithes and required offerings.

This is the heart of the story, if the truth be told.

Jesus was not looking for him to keep the law. He was not looking to add a rich giver to his entourage. In fact, in the end we find that Jesus invited him to first become poor, and then follow Him.

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." - Matthew 19:21

This has been rolling around in my spirit all week, and I am sure I will be back to it again, but for today I have this short message.

God is not looking for a 10th of you – not a tenth of your income, not a half hour of you quiet time, not a segment of your social media, not one day a week.

Our Father wants all of you.

All your money.
All your time.
All your talent.
All your attention.

There – I said it. That’s the message of the rich young ruler.

Lord, help me to live fully abandon to your will and your way.

Nora and PapaThanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

If you have not read the "What Am I Lacking?" a first person account of this encounter, check it out - I think it will help.

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I don’t know how they do the offering or collection in your church. In mine we usually ask the Lord to receive our gifts and then the ushers come forward and the music plays. Sometimes a soloist sings, other times we worship, and once in a while we watch a video.

Imagine with me for a moment the Pastor standing up just as you were about to toss your envelope with your tidy tax deduction into the basket and said:

WAIT – STOP – HOLD EVERYTHING!

Nobody puts another penny in that basket until we fix what happened at the business meeting last week.

The Church will not accept another offering until reconciliation is obvious. End the factions or end the finances! You pick, but I can no longer allow you to pretend to give to God, when you can’t forgive your brothers and sisters.

That might shake it up a bit – you think?

God is more interested in your relationship with your brothers and sisters, than He is with your money. [Tweet This]

If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24 NASB)

Thanks for stopping by today.

Ben

Wallet photo credit: NCReedplayer via photo pin cc

Offering plate photo credit: k.landerholm via photo pin cc

Originally posted September 14th of 2012.

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Pascack Bible Church

For the next 47 days - from now till Easter, my home church is using a home grown prayer guide. For each day, a ministry leader in our body has written a meditation.

If you would like to join us, you can get a free copy here.

I wanted to share with you today's entry from my friend, Joe Battaglia on John 3:16-17.

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John 3:16,17 Joe Battaglia, Leadership Council 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. - John 3:16-17 NASB

John 3:16 may be the most familiar verse in the Bible. But, it’s not just about salvation or eternal life. If we stop there, we miss the additional significance of these verses. A more careful study reveals something deep about the nature of God and two areas of insight into the nature of His Love.

First, love gives. For God so loved the world, He gave. In order to best express itself, love must give. Love is not love if it’s self-contained. Jesus warns us that hoarding things for ourselves is not just selfish, it’s so unlike God. If we seek to become more like Him, we must give. And when we give of ourselves, we parallel the actions of God the Father who also gave of Himself because His nature demanded it. God loved His creation to such a degree that He was willing to sacrifice a part of Himself to reclaim it.

Second, love saves. Godly love implicitly reveals that there’s a value to saving something. The degree of how much we are willing to give or sacrifice underscores the importance we attach to the object of that salvation. To that end, God relinquished His Son, an almost unfathomable thought, which indicates the degree of love He had for the world. And for me. And for you.

God’s love gives and saves. Ours should do similarly. Only then can we become visible expressions of the invisible God.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. - Colossians 1:15 NASB

===

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping in!

Ben

Of Spoon and Shovel
Of Spoons and Shovels

For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2 NASB)

This is one of the four things Jesus talks about in the sermon on the mount that is reciprocal. This means that judgment, like mercy, forgiveness and money, come to you using your unit of measure for spreading it.

If you hand out judgment with a teaspoon, judgment comes back you by by the teaspoon, but if you spread it out front loader, you better build a bigger barn for all the judgment that is coming your way.

Here is the thing about judgment. It is in fact important for us to be discerning, and to be willing to halt the progress of sin in our lives and in the lives of those we love. But there is a very important HOW TO we must get.

Jesus lays it out in verse 12

Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 NASB)

This must become our personal MO (TV cop lingo – modus operandi – method of operation)

So when doling out mercy, forgiveness, when being generous with your money – take out the old shovel, but when it comes to judging others, you might want to get your implement from the silverware drawer.

BenThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

My Christmas Gift

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGod is the ultimate giver. I was thinking about this, and wondered if I could catch God giving in every book of the Bible. Most of the books of the Bible have way more than one gift from God. This is a very – VERY – limited.

He Gave:

Genesis – a covering for sin - 3:21
Exodus - the law – 20:1-17
Leviticus – the scapegoat – 16:10
Numbers – a bronze serpent for healing – 21:9
Deuteronomy – Salvation and Victory – 33:29
Joshua – a leader, Captain of the Lord’s army – 5:15
Judges – a deliverer – 3:9,15
Ruth – a Kinsman Redeemer – 4:1
1 Samuel – a giant killer – 17 
2 Samuel – a shepherd king – 5:2
1 Kings – His presence dwelling in His temple – 9:3
2 Kings – Eyes to see into the spirit realm – 6:17
1 Chronicles – mighty men of valor - 11
2 Chronicles – His presence in the temple – 7:14
Ezra – Protection to temple builders - 6
Nehemiah – rebuilt walls – 6:15
Esther – a happy ending – 10:1-3
Job – double restoration – 42:10
Psalms – sins forgiven, diseases healed – 103:3
Proverbs – Wisdom – 8:1-31
Ecclesiastes – Time – 3:1-8
Song of Solomon – Romance – 8:7
Isaiah – The Messiah – 7:14, 9:6-7, 53
Jeremiah – a hope and a future – 29:11
Laminations – new mercy every morning – 3:23
Ezekiel – assignments as watchmen – 3 & 33
Daniel – miraculous signs and wonders – 4:2
Hosea – Love when we were unfaithful – 3:1
Joel – prophesies, dreams and visions – 2:23
Amos – His word to proclaim – 3:8
Obadiah – Deliverance – 1:17
Jonah – His enemies repentance – 3:10
Micah – a ruler from ancient times – 5:2
Nahum – a just punishment – 1:3
Habakkuk – a revelation for a set time – 2:3
Zephaniah –Justice – 3:5
Haggai – the fear of the Lord – 1:12
Zechariah – a fountain to cleanse us from our sin – 13:1
Malachi – the Sun of righteousness with healing – 4:2
Matthew – great rewards – 6:6
Mark – a King making His triumphal entry – 11:10
Luke – a Father to come home to – 15:24
John – His Only Begotten Son – 3:16
Acts – His Holy Spirit – 2:1-4
Romans – sonship – 8:15
1 Corinthians – The gifts of the Spirit – 12:1-11
2 Corinthians – Spiritual weapons – 10:3-6
Galatians – The Fruit of the Spirit 5:22-23
Ephesians – The full armor of God – 6:10-18
Philippians – righteousness through faith – 3:9
Collisions – redemption, forgiveness of sins – 1:14
1 Thessalonians – the Word of God – 2:13
2 Thessalonians – a share in Jesus’ glory – 2:14
1 Timothy – abundant grace – 1:14
2 Timothy – all scripture – 3:16
Titus – Salvation – 2:10
Philemon –every good thing – 1:6
Hebrews – access to the throne – 4:16
James  – every good and perfect gift – 1:17
1 Peter – pure spiritual milk – 2:2
2 Peter – all things that pertain to life and godliness – 1:3
1 John – forgiveness to those who confess 1:9
2 John – grace, mercy and peace – 1:3
3 John – prosperity and good health 1:2
Jude – prayer in the Holy Spirit – 1:20
Revelation – The Lamb of God – 1:6

Go thou and do likewise!

Be a giver this Christmas.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 NASB)

Who we serve is actually a matter of trust. We place our trust in God when we give our lives to Him, and live according to His desire.

When we choose to run after money, it demonstrates that this is where our heart is.

I know – this is territory we have already covered for the most part, but stick with me here because today I want to kick it up a notch.

When we trust anything in our lives other than God, it creates strongholds. Stongholds keep us from moving forward with God.

Strongholds are a matter of trust. Consider:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV)

Strongholds are the things that pretend to be bigger than God – they exalt themselves above what we know to be true in God. [Tweet This] They say I am more trustworthy that this God you are worshipping.

Once mammon has gained your trust, it creates a fortress in your life, teaching you that you cannot rely on God for your provision or protection, you must rely on your bank account. This is all part of the deceitfulness of riches.

Again today, I call you to attack the spirit of mammon this very day. Give something away. Generosity is the antidote for this particular demon, and will chip away at this stronghold.

You can win this war, but you must see it, and join it. Don’t let the false security money brings lul you to sleep.

Thanks so much for reading today.

I hope this helps.

Ben

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 NASB)

What in the world is Mammon? Some translations just use money, and I guess that works, but there is more to it than just dollars and cents. My understanding is that this Greek word “mamōnas” actually starts out as an Aramaic word Mammon, coming from something close to “Amen” with a meaning of steadfast or stable – trustworthy.

The idea here is that Mammon is not just money, but the personification of a monetary system demanding your allegiance.

Perhaps an easier way for us to grasp it would be that Mammon is the spirit behind a system that trusts money.

Money is a necessary part of life on earth, and is amoral in itself. Mammon is not amoral, but requires your faith and service.

It is interesting to me that Jesus never warns of anything else positioning itself as our master. Jesus tell us more than once – you cannot serve God and Mammon, but never says, you cannot serve God and food, or God and sports – not even God and sex. All that is true by the way, but these gods don’t hold a candle to the mighty dollar.

So what are some tells of Mammon worship?

  • Greed – the sin of the rich mammon worshipper
  • Envy – the sin of the poor mammon worshipper
  • Anxiety – the sin of the middle class mammon worshipper
  • Hording  - the sin of the old mammon worshipper
  • Materialism – the sin of the young mammon worshipper
  • Fear – the sin of all the mammon worshippers

Since mammon is a matter of spirit, not possession, the rich and poor alike fall prey to this wicked controlling spirit. The rich may be miserly, while the poor may be plagued with self-pity or worry. In the middle class it may take the form of entitlement.

The good news!

There is an antidote to the spirit of mammon, generosity! Kris Vallotton says when you sense a spiritual attack trying to draw you toward some evil end, just do the opposite. So when you sense a need to hold tight to your money – break the spirit of mammon by giving something away.

You say – but Brother Ben, I am broke! How can I be generous? Well look around. You may not have money, but you have something! If nothing else you have 24 hours every day that you get to spend. Could you give some of that away?

Be generous with everything you have. Jesus says “freely you have received, freely give.

Break free today!

Tell me how it goes.

Ben

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