Monday, August 7, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - August 7, 2017

Today's Reading:

2 Corinthians 9

2 Kings 22:1-23:35

Nahum 3

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

In this day and age and economic environment, the idea of parting with any of our "hard earned" funds may seem financially unwise and out of the question. Does God really expect us to give of our limited resources, when we are barely making ends meet as it is? And what if it's worse than that? What if we are financially sinking deeper and deeper into debt? Surely God cannot expect us to give during such times of hardship! Right?

Actually, in Heaven's economics 9/10 goes farther than 10/10! Giving is part of Yahweh's Plan for each of us. And the more we give, the more blessing Heaven is able to bestow. 2 Corinthians 9 contains a couple of verses on the blessing of giving:
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
Our giving is not to be done only after we find economic abundance. Rather, we are to give first, as this is the platform from which Yahweh blesses us with abundance! And failing to return our tithes unto Yahweh is so great an offense in His Eyes, that He calls it robbery!
Malachi 3:8-12  "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith Yahweh of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith Yahweh of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith Yahweh of hosts."  
 But Paul's reference to giving in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 isn't really about tithes. We are to tithe 10% of our increase. This is an unquestionable amount (Hebrews 7:1-2). In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, we find a blessing in giving according to whatever we "purpose in our hearts". Since tithes are a set amount, this concept doesn't involve tithe, rather it is about freewill offerings, which are gifts given at our own discretion, in addition to the tithes we regularly pay. 

Human economics just don't work in the Kingdom of Heaven. And oddly, with Heaven's system, the more you give, the more you receive! As we "cast our bread upon the waters" it returns to us many times over. We discover the amazing principle voiced by Paul, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."

I was very inspired by the true story of a Christian missionary, whom I will call John. I was actually blessed to hear John tell this story himself, so I heard it first hand. 

John was a visionary missionary. He had felt the call of Yahweh to work in South America. A lay minister, he had no funding or church support. He just went out on a limb, prayed for whatever he was impressed that Yahweh wanted done - and he did it. Many times the work took John far beyond his own limited resources. Yet, time and again, Yahweh miraculously provided. After many years of this, the lay ministry which was growing under John's leadership encompassed orphanages, mission stations, clinics, and even radio and television stations. Amazingly, for this one man who cast his small amount of bread upon the water, the funds to operate this growing Kingdom work was always sufficient. In fact, John's operation was always "in the black".

Noticing this with growing amazement, the leadership of the denomination, of which John was a member, contacted him for financial help. The denomination had a hospital down in South America, nearby to John's network of mission stations. But, unlike John's clinics and facilities, the denominational hospital was financially sinking. It was operating more and more in the red with each passing month. By the time the hospital administrator contacted John for help, the hospital was threatened with shutting down entirely.

"John, will you please come and look over our books and operation. You seem to be able to keep your missions in the black and I would really like your financial advice," the hospital administrator implored.

Seeing the great need, John did indeed go to visit the hospital, praying that Yahweh would show him the reason the hospital was failing.

The administrator held nothing back. He gave John a full tour of the hospital facility and showed him all the financial records. He gave John details on the hospital accounts and programs.

After seeing it all, John sat down privately with the hospital administrator. "I believe I have found the key to turn this hospital around."

"Wonderful!" the administrator was thrilled, "what do we need to do?"

"You need to give away more free stuff. You know, free programs for the community, free health services..."

"What?!" the administrator was incredulous, "Free stuff? Haven't you been listening? We are financially failing! We can't afford what we have and you are suggesting we give away services for free?!" 

At this, John explained Heaven's economics to the amazed administrator. "You just can't out-give God. And the more you give, the more He is free to out-pour upon you."

The dubious administrator was inspired enough, both at the Scriptural principles backing John's advice, and at the powerful testimony of John's own financials success in ministry. He tried it. And - of course - it worked!

What about you? How great a blessing do you desire from your Heavenly Father? "With what measure you mete, it shall be measured unto you again." And "he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."

Let's seek the full measure of blessing which our Heavenly Father desires to out-pour upon us! Give to the Father's Cause today. And in whatever measure you give, it will be returned unto you. There can be no better investment!

Daily Bible Reading - August 6, 2017

Today's Reading:

2 Corinthians 8

2 Kings 20-21

Nahum 2

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

In 2 Kings 20-21 we find the story of king Hezekiah and his illness. This story contains some interesting concepts - with even a hidden warning - about prayer. 

In our prior reading, we find king Hezekiah facing a threat. He takes the threatening letter, spreads it out before Yahweh and prays for deliverance from that threat. Yahweh does indeed deliver Israel. In his prayer, Hezekiah doesn't focus on the needs of Israel - rather he focuses upon the Name and Reputation of Yahweh, which will be harmed if the intended threat is carried out. Clearly from the concerns he expresses in this prayer, Hezekiah is a God-centered man who has a living prayer life! We may look at Hezekiah's prayer and find key ingredients, which we also may use to strengthen our own prayer lives.

In today's reading portion, we find Hezekiah praying again. And again his prayer is effective. But this time, instead of Hezekiah showing us what to do, he demonstrates what not to do! For on this occasion, we find that Hezekiah's answered prayer brings about his spiritual ruin! Let's start at the beginning.

Hezekiah became very sick. He had developed some kind of a boil and was laying in his bed, growing worse by the hour. Because Hezekiah was a godly king, his first response was to turn to Yahweh. This is good! This should always be our first response in any situation.

When the prophet came, he informed Hezekiah of Yahweh's Word: Hezekiah needed to set his house in order, because he was going to die from this illness. Now, this is where we have to pay special attention...  God told Hezekiah that he would die! Thus, the Word of God had already been given on the matter.

Hezekiah is disheartened at the news, to say the least. He turns towards the wall and cries, praying for Yahweh to heal him. Hezekiah reminds Yahweh that he has been the faithful servant of Heaven. And Yahweh hears his prayer and heals the stricken king.

At first, it looks like another example of effective prayer. But upon closer look - as we carefully note the outcome - one must question whether this prayer request should have been made.

After Hezekiah is healed - in answer to his prayer - he receives a Babylonian envoy. Only the king, who was formerly so God-centered, did not give the Babylonian emissaries a Yahweh-centered tour. As he showed them his kingdom and treasury, his focus is similar to Nebuchadnezzar's. He doesn't say the words outright, but his attitude is taking personal credit for all the wonders of Israel. It's as if he said to the visitors, "Is not this great Israel that I have built?"

What happened to this God-centered king?! How did he go from being so humble and dependent upon Yahweh to being such a self-important, cocky braggart? 

The point of change seems to be his miraculous healing...  Had Hezekiah died of his illness, just as Yahweh first said would happen, one thinks that maybe his integrity would have been preserved. But, by requesting healing, he lived long enough to outlive his relationship with Yahweh! Talk about Tragedy!

This outcome brings a sober moment of pause to me, as an aspiring prayer warrior. Does it not to you? Is it possible to pray for something - and receive it - when that "blessing" we seek will ultimately be just enough rope from which to hang ourselves? Sobering thought!

Like the concluding words in the hymn "Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded": "Oh let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee!"

Reading the story of Hezekiah has had a notable effect on my prayer life. Whereas I often used to spell out for Yahweh how I thought a situation should go, I now pause and ask Him more ardently that His Will would be done - in the earth of my life and situation - as it is in Heaven.

What are you praying for today? Is there a job for which you are applying? Instead of asking Yahweh to give you that job, why not try asking Him to open or close the doors, as He sees fit? In so doing, you may truly rest in peace about the situation. For the safest place for any of us to be is fully in the Will of God. And may we never depart from it - even in our prayer lives!