Needed: A generous heart! A heart like His!

A generous heartI am convinced that one of the key indicators of a transformed heart through new birth is generosity as worship.  Not simply generosity, mind you, but generosity as an act of stewardship and worship.  (There are individuals who are generous and aren’t “born again” – it’s their natural inclination or trained response… fortunate people!)

Money and possessions are a big deal!  The natural, unredeemed, response to money and possessions is idolatry – the tendency is to worship them!  Humankind, left to themselves, will tend to do one of two things:  Either envy others because of a lack of money and possessions; or be eaten up with greed and materialism with an insatiable desire for more and more.  In either case the issue is idolatry – money and possessions have become a “god!”

I just finished reading a wonderful exhortation and tribute to some wonderful, generous Christians in II Corinthians 8 & 9!  (Take it from me, those two chapters are worth reading and reflecting upon!)  First of all, Apostle Paul applauds the believers in “the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part… they gave according to their means and beyond their means of their own free will… giving themselves first of all to the Lord.”  Wow!  What a wonderful testimony to transformation through the gospel!  What authentic generosity! (II Corinthians 8:1-5)

Then Paul exhorts the believers in Corinth, “See that you excel in this act of grace also!” (verse 7)

He uses Jesus as the model – the prime example of selfless generosity:  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” (verse 9)  From heaven’s glory and wealth to earth to ultimately give Himself on the cross for our sins!  What selfless giving!

Tragically, we are sometimes inclined to get a little self-occupied and a bit proud over the size of our gifts and the extent of the sacrifices we have made.  Apostle Paul fixes that problem with his final words in chapter 9…  Think you’ve given a lot?  Think you’ve made a lot of sacrifices?  “Thanks be to God for His INEXPRESSIBLE GIFT!  Next to His giving, yours and mine is meager and paltry!

Here’s my prayer… Oh Lord, may I guard my heart!  Transform me, so I always have a generous heart like Yours!  I never want my giving to be “reluctant or under compulsion” for I know, “You love a cheerful giver!” (II Corinthians 9:7)

It may seem incredible… even impossible, but keep praying! He’s God!

Jeremiah 33[3Can’t you see it? Two boys showing off their athletic prowess on the playground… One boy says, “Watch this!” And he throws a baseball hard and it goes a very long way. The other boy, not to be outdone, says, “That’s nothing, watch this!” And he does a backward flip, landing on his feet, that leaves the other boy feeling a bit intimidated. “Well what about this? the first boy responds… and so it continues one boy trying to outdo another!

But when God acts, He does things thought absolutely impossible! …Things considered incredible by any measurement! …Things beyond our imagination! He can, you know! And he does them in answer to prayer! Nothing is too hard for Him!

In ancient Israel, Judah is facing 70 long years of exile in Babylon! Because of the persistent sin and rebellion of God’s people – because they refused to respond obediently to God’s prophets – Jerusalem will be destroyed, the temple razed, and the nation taken as prisoners to Babylon – not just for a few short years – 70 long years! The pride of their nation would become just an ugly pile of rubble! Their freedom gone! Hope evaporating into thin air!

And Jeremiah, the prophet, speaks for God from prison: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth – the Lord who formed it to established it – the LORD is His name!” Jeremiah’s appeal is to God’s incredible creative power! The God who spoke the world – the universe – into existence! The God who not only created it – but sustains it! (Check out Colossians 1 16-17 on that issue!)

Then Jeremiah issues God’s invitation and challenge… “Call to Me and I will answer you [i.e. pray and I’ll answer!] and will show you great and hidden things that you have not known [things that will blow your mind – things you consider incredible… even impossible!].”

And here’s the incredible thing God promised…

“I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it. Thus says the LORD: ‘In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD: “ ‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.” (From Jeremiah 33:2-3, 5-11)

Wow! And He can do it! It may seem impossible! …It may seem incredible! But He can do it! His challenge? “Call to me and I will answer you!” Hey, it pays to pray! I’m going to keep praying for impossible situations and circumstances… For healing, for deliverance, for restoration in the lives of those I love! He’s God…He can do it!

Been thinking about it all day… “His grace is sufficient!”

Grace upon Grace John 1{16Just a reminder… “Grace” is not simply “unmerited favor” (i.e. what we get from God that we don’t deserve)… It is God’s divine enablement, provision, and resources to be what He wants us to be and do what he wants us to do.
 
In fact, Apostle John gave us a beautiful summary of the Christian life…. “From His FULLNESS we have all received one grace on top of another” (or “grace upon grace”)!
 
It is living in and with God’s complete divine adequacy and provision… “one blessing on top of another”! What a way to live – Oh Lord, help us to grasp it… “Your grace is sufficient!”
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