Archive blog entries 04 2018

15th April 2018

Five Biblical Stewardship Principles:

It is important to bring our finances & lay them before God. In the Bible God also lays down many Stewardship principles which we need to recognise & seek to apply. I want to mention five: 1. God is faithful. One of the great biblical names was coined by the prophet Samuel in response to an amazing victory over Israel’s enemies; it is Ebenezer, & means ‘hitherto hath the Lord helped us’ (1 Sam 7:12). The great 19th Century missionary to China applied this to himself & his own situation. He knew that God had been faithful to him & was able to rest in God’s faithfulness in Christ. As a couple, God has been faithful to us over the years & has supplied everything we have needed. Jesus is our Lord & our Great High Priest, & He is intensely interested in our lives. He is committed to us by covenant & promise. God is on our side in Christ. His Spirit is committed to our salvation & to use us to bring glory to the Lord Jesus. Great is His faithfulness.

2. Give to God what He is Due. Our response to God’s faithfulness is to bring to Him the firstfruits of our income & our worship. By doing these two things we proclaim the lordship of Christ over our lives, our marriages, over that which we believe was ordained by God. Out of this devotion there is a desire to seek to discern the good stewardship principles contained in God’s Word, understand these, & apply them to our lives together & our finances. As we give to him, it opens the door to the supplies of grace, wisdom & peace we will need. You cannot out give God.

3. Seek first the things of God. This principle has come to mean a lot to my wife Joan & I. One of the references to it is in Proverbs 24:27, ‘Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field [church] & afterward build your house.’ This was a precept Joan & I unwittingly obeyed during our years of marriage & ministry. We cannot claim that we followed it, but one day as I was reading Proverbs it suddenly came very much alive to me & I understood it in the context of our service for Christ. I knew that God was speaking to me about why Joan & I had seen a new church built before we bought a house. The Spirit had orchestrated our lives without us knowing it so that we would be conformed to this particular Scriptural principle. It is based on seeking first the Kingdom of God & His righteousness, & everything else we need will be added to us ( Matt 6:33). How many think that ‘I will sort out my life, home, work etc & then will be free to concentrate on really following Jesus.’ I want to say that is not the Scriptural way. So often these other things become cares & worries which choke the flame of Christ within. Instead of wholeheartedly devoted & the flame of the Spirit burning brightly – the flame is barely visible. Hallelujah for the Spirit’s guidance of our lives, as a couple, even when we were not aware of the full meaning of this principle.

4. God is generous & gracious. I believe God is ready to add new blessings to former ones without any end or limitation. He gives according to His nature of love & grace - & not according to our nature which is fickle & ready only to love those who love us. He gives abundantly, generously, genuinely not only with an open hand, but from a full & overflowing heart (cf. James 1:5, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally & without reproach, & it will be given to him’).  This takes me to a personal example of this principle. ‘The Hundredfold’ was mentioned by Jesus in Mark 10:30 in the context of those who had left family & property for the sake of the ministry. In May 2013, I had just read of this in a book about Rees Howells, the great Welsh Prayer & Man of Faith. My mother then spoke it over my life in a phone call. It seems God wanted me to hear this principle. I pray that the Lord Jesus will teach us about this Kingdom Dynamic so that we may know it, understand its relevancy, & be able to apply it as He directs. Stepping out in response to God’s call in Christ may cost, but He does reward.
5. Yahweh Jireh: ‘the Lord will provide – for all coming need’ (Gen 22:14). In the future life in heaven, God will supply everything necessary, including food, warmth, fellowship & home. I know that the same God, who will provide these in heaven, also makes available to us His immeasurable, abundant grace now – after all Yahweh Jireh is one of His names. This grace of supplying all we will need is linked with the measure of faith dealt to each one by Him (cf. Romans 12:3). However, we also are without excuse & must extend ourselves into His purposes in order to attain to the God-given measure of provision. It is not automatically true that we will ever attain the measure of faith possible if we do not walk in step with His Spirit, in His power, seeking His will & to glorify the Lord Jesus – our Messiah. ‘But my God will supply all your need according to His glorious riches by Christ Jesus.’ Amen (Phillipians 4:19) – another of Joan’s & my special verses given to us before Bible college.
God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 


10th April 2018

 Giving to God:

One of the most precious opportunities in life is to give to God. Easter reminds us of how much Christ gave to us. As we open up our hearts to His love, in Christ, there is something about God’s love that radically alters our outlook on life. His love is generous & powerfully able to change us. As we embrace His love, experience it & allow it to do its work within, the love of Christ brings with it His holy & righteous nature, & His heart of compassion. It is a love that compels us to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us. The more we experience & understand His love, the more confusion, unbelief & doubt begin to be overcome - & peace, righteousness & joy in the Holy Spirit become more firmly established within. Therefore, we respond by wanting to give to God out of full hearts & lives.

We ourselves are an incredible treasure, not necessarily the wealth & money we have as some of us have very little of these in human terms, but our talents, gifts & time are beyond human valuation. In the world people are paid according to what society determines they are worth. A doctor or banker worth much more than a cleaner or care assistant. Society seeks to monetarise people’s relative value. However, in God’s Kingdom terms – faith & obedience to Christ are the currency of the spiritually mature. As a result, there is no difference between the value of our time, money or talents. In fact, at times when we give our money, in God’s eyes, we are giving less than if we had given Him our time or talents. This is such a different understanding than the world believes. There have been times I have robbed God because I gave my money when He was asking me to give Him my time. This is a terrible thought. However, I also know that giving 10% of my money to God is an important principle to support God’s work, His Kingdom advance, & His Church leaders. This is expected without neglecting the weightier of embracing His love, being filled with His Spirit & obeying Christ.

Furthermore, when we do give money, time or talents we are giving to Him – usually in the context of the local Church He places us in. This giving does not lessen us, no, it enriches us. We are enriched precisely because the more we give the more we receive of His love, grace & power within. How many Christians are stuck living in the backwaters of faith & spirituality because they have not entered fully into His love, & the joy & vibrancy that comes with giving to God. I firmly believe that many are living a second-hand experience of Christ precisely because their hearts, pockets & time are not submitted to His Lordship. In Christ, we are no longer our own, we have been bought with a price – the blood of Jesus. We are designed to be generous of spirit because that is who He is. We are called to honour Him with our money, time & talents. By giving these we are rising above small-mindedness & paltry faith into a new realm of faith, belief & power in the Spirit.

When we find the liberty, freedom & victory of giving generously to God's work, the thought of only 10% of our income going to God seems almost too small a weekly or monthly amount to give. We begin to seek out opportunities to experience the power & joy we receive as we give. Becoming intentional about giving is a wonderful way of overcoming our fear that what we give to God’s work we lose. What we pray in the Lord’s prayer, ‘give us this day our daily bread,’ opens a door into a clearer understanding that, as our Creator & Sustainer, He provides life itself & that which is necessary to sustain our lives. I would encourage you to seriously consider if 'you can afford NOT to give to God?' As we consistently give of our money, time & talents, we may not become wealthy in worldly terms, but we will in spiritual & godly terms. In giving freely & openly to the cause of Christ, we practice the love of Christ. A wonderful life...
God Bless
Pastor Leslie


 

2nd April 2018

Living the Life of Faith 3:

As I have been writing these blog articles, I have reflected on the nature of faith, its source & how it can make such a difference to the quality of not only our spiritual lives, but also in all of our lives. Applying our faith & living it out is not only confined to what we consider as overtly Christian things such as prayer, Bible reading & Church. The true life of faith defines who we really are. Living the life of faith really gains strength when we deliberately & consciously choose to submit to the Lordship of Christ & seek to live out the impact of those encounters with Christ through the Spirit in our Monday to Saturdaylives. It includes praying quietly & keeping up our communion with God in the workplace, office, recreational space, home & out in the community; & living a Spirit-filled life which produces life-giving water which can satisfy the inner, soul longing of the thirsty, the lost & the faithless.

Faith in the public square is seen as a dangerous thing by many secularly minded people. In fact, there are many who adhere to the New Atheist authors with their bold, confident, loud & concerted opposition to the Gospel of Christ in the public arena. These authors, such as Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens, are outraged by what they see as the terrible effects of mass religion on the global scene. They deny the supernatural & the possibility of a divine being, make faith out to be an irrational, blind trust without evidence, & argue that there is a universal moral standard which does need religious morals. Dawkins even goes as far to say that faith is an evil in his book, ‘The God Delusion.’ There are many wonderful Christian responses to these authors & it worth reading some of what they write disproving the works of New Atheism; these include Timothy Keller, ‘The Reason for God;’ Alister & Joanna Collicutt McGrath, ‘The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine;’ & WL Craig, ed. ‘God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible.’

It is not only in our character development that faith is supremely important, but also in the breaking in of the Kingdom of God. At the heart of the advance of God’s Kingdom is our faith. We often limit our faith & deliberately choose not to consider the relation between it & the biblical records of the supernatural intervention of God revealing His nature & purposes; & sometimes in response to the faith of His community. It is not necessarily the case that we deny the supernatural, but that the supernatural can happen in or through our lives. It is easy to affirm that Christ still saves, still grants the gifts of His peace, joy & love, makes available the needed provision of grace for any eventuality from which we can draw the grace we need through prayer & the practice of the Christian Disciplines. However, when we are faced with a great need, either our own or someone else’s – then it is much harder. Do I believe in divine healing – do I believe in the supernatural element of the gifts of the Spirit. Am I willing to engage with God, His word & wrestle with the chasm between my faith in the supernatural & the authority & power said to be available to me through the Spirit & because of Christ’s heavenly ministry?

Living the life of faith requires a profound revelation of the nature of God, of the veracity of the promises of God in Christ, & the power & authority of the Spirit. Only a truly Spirit-filled & empowered life can raise me to that place of engaging with God on God’s terms. Until that point, I more often than not engage with God on my terms limiting Him in the process & portraying a weak & impoverished spirituality. Only in Christ, & for Christ’s glory can such a Higher Life, as Hudson Taylor called such a life of faith, be seen, never mind lived. Taylor had a life changing revelation of something he thought he already knew & had experienced, oneness with Christ. He gained a deeper spiritual insight which had a radical & life changing impact upon him. The Holy Spirit often increasingly gives us clearer insight into the truths we already know. May He grant us a new revelation & insight into His power & willingness to inspire & empower our faith, & lives of faith, into a new vibrant life changing & Christ-honouring supernaturally charged person. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Happy Easter
Pastor Leslie


 


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