Categories
Bible Insights

We Need to Have a Spirit of Generosity

Examine Our Motives When We Give

Paul writes a succinct reminder to Jesus’s followers in Corinth. By extension it also applies to us. It’s about generosity. He says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Generosity produces blessing, whereas stinginess results in scarcity. In another letter Paul is more concise: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

So, we should give.

Why? Because the Bible says to.

How? Give with a willing spirit, not begrudgingly but happily (2 Corinthians 9:7).

What Should We Avoid?

Giving to get. Giving to others in order to earn a return on our investment is not generosity but selfishness. Yes, I know people who have given from their poverty and God repaid them one hundredfold. But the hundredfold blessing seldom came quickly and often involved sacrifice along the way.

When we give in order to get, we miss the point. God discerns our motives (Proverbs 16:2).

God says that that when we bless others, he will bless us even more. Click To Tweet

Blessed to Be a Blessing

God promised Father Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Or consider that “A generous man will prosper,” (Proverbs 11:25).

Full Circle Generosity

In the Old Testament God says he will bless us so we can bless others. In the New Testament he says when we bless others, he will bless us even more.

The point is, we need to give generously, but we best do so for the right reasons.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 7-9, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 9:6.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Be a Peacemaker

Do What You Can to Promote Peace

In Jesus’s best-known sermon, which we call the Sermon on the Mount, he proclaims that “Blessed are the peacemakers.” They’ll be known as God’s children (Matthew 5:9).

Though Jesus doesn’t explicitly command us to advocate for peace, he proclaims blessings on those who do. And the blessings are most significant. Peacemakers will be “called children of God.” The inference is that those who do not promote peace are not his children, or at least not known by others as his children.

In similar fashion, James writes that peacemakers will plant peace and then reap righteousness (James 3:18). Again, James doesn’t command that we be peacemakers. He merely says that a significant reward awaits those who are: righteousness; a great harvest of righteousness.

Here are some ideas of what we can do to be a peacemaker.

Guard What We Say

The first step to be a peacemaker is to avoid saying things that stir up dissension. James writes that if we can’t control what we say, our religion is worthless (James 1:26). Paul says that our speech should be gracious (Colossians 4:6) and to block unwholesome speech from our mouths (Ephesians 4:29).

There are many more verses, too, such as asking God to guard our mouth (Psalm 141:3), a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), and letting our speech be acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14), along with scores more.

Focus on Silence Not Speech

Just because we can say something, doesn’t mean we should. We often celebrate a right to speak, that is, freedom of speech. We live in a world where much of it abuses their speech.

Social media overflows with people who proclaim opinions as fact and vilify those who disagree with them. The more outrageous they are, the better. The more adamant their pronouncements, the more that like-minded people celebrate them—and the more that they hurt others.

News sources do the same thing.

Next consider reality TV. It seeks those with outrageous behavior. The more shocking they are, the more airtime they receive. The rest of the entertainment industry follows, pushing the envelope with what many view as offensive behavior, treating outlier perspectives as normal.

The result is a polarization of society.

As followers of Jesus, we should avoid promoting division whenever possible. The easiest way to do this is to not add to the fray, but to keep our mouth shut. We should listen first and then speak (James 1:19)

Jesus modeled silence, even when it seemed in his best interest to defend himself (Matthew 26:63).

We should guard what we say, exercise silence instead of freedom of speech, and speak the truth in love. Click To Tweet

Speak the Truth in Love

If we feel we must speak out about a subject, we should cover our speech in love (Ephesians 4:15) but only after first praying and seeking insight from the Holy Spirit. Too often—especially in the church and religious circles—people decry evil, but they do so in the most unloving way.

We judge, we condemn, and we withhold forgiveness. Instead, Jesus tells us to do the opposite (Luke 6:37). The world is watching, and they rightly dismiss us as a result.

Peacemaker Tips

Following these three ideas can move us closer to becoming a peacemaker. We should guard what we say, exercise silence instead of pursuing freedom of speech, and when we must talk to speak the truth in love.

If we all did this, our world would be a much better place. And our witness for Jesus would have much greater impact.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

The Rise and Fall of Lot

Lot Is Blessed When Abraham Is Near

When Abram went to the land God promised him, he took Lot with him even though he wasn’t supposed to. Abram had to deal with the consequences of his decision. Consider the rise and fall of Lot.

For Lot, there were consequences too. When he traveled with Abram, Lot prospered. He was a blessed man. Once they separated, however, things turned bad for Lot.

Without his uncle’s influence, Lot made some poor choices, eventually holed up in a cave. He was fearful, broke, and alone—except for his two daughters, but that’s another story.

Sometimes things may go good for us just because of who we hang out with. Click To Tweet

Sometimes things may go good for us just because of who we hang out with. But once we leave their umbrella of favor our positive outcomes can evaporate.

That’s why the company we keep is so important. And that explains the rise and fall of Lot.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 18-20, and today’s post is on Genesis 19:16-17, 30.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Blessed to be a Blessing

God Blesses Us So That We Can Be a Blessing to Others

God wants to bless us. He loves us and wants to give us his best. This idea of blessing occurs throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, God often ties his blessings to the people’s obedience and to the attitudes of their hearts. Yet, the first time we encounter this word in the Bible, it’s God’s unconditional promise to bless Abraham. He does this prior to Abraham doing anything to demonstrate his obedience to God’s commands or his faith.

God blessed Abraham for Abraham’s sake, but there’s more. Through Abraham, God promised to bless all the people on the earth through him (Genesis 12:2-3). In short, God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others.

But this doesn’t just apply to Abraham. The word bless occurs hundreds of times in the Old and New Testaments. It’s a reoccurring theme. More specifically, the phrase bless you occurs fifty times. Furthermore, the idea of blessing other people shows up four dozen times, and blessing nations shows up another fifteen.

God expects us to be a blessing to others. We should view God’s provisions to us from this perspective. He blesses us—he prospers us—so that we can be a blessing to others. Here are some ways we can do this:

Donate Money

For many people, when they consider the idea of blessing others, they think of money. Providing financially for others is an ideal way to be a blessing to them. We can use the money God has blessed us with to give to organizations whose mission aligns with our passions. We can also give money directly to people in need.

In both cases, however, we must be good stewards of God’s financial blessings to us so that they will have the best kingdom impact.

Share Possessions

We can also be a blessing to others when we share our possessions. When we have things we don’t need, we shouldn’t throw them away. Instead, we should give them away.

We can give directly to individuals in need or to organizations, who will in turn give them away or sell them to raise money for their cause.

Yet let’s move our thinking beyond our castoffs. We can also give possessions that we still use, that still have value to us, to others. If someone has more need of it than we do, then maybe we need to give it to them.

In these ways, we can be a blessing to others.

Give Time

Aside from material items, consider our time. We can give our time to help others. This can occur by volunteering for various organizations focused on helping others. It can also occur directly by helping a neighbor who could use some assistance.

And lest anyone complains that “I don’t have enough time,” let me remind you that we all have 24 hours in each day. We choose how to use that time. Why not choose to give some of it away?

Mentor Others

A specific way to be a blessing to others with our time is to do one-on-one mentoring. In this way we invest ourselves in them, helping them to have a better life, be it physically, spiritually, emotionally, or all three.

Pray for Others

A final option—the most important one—is something that everyone can do. We can all pray for others. And we can start today, right now.

God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others. Click To Tweet

Blessed to Be a Blessing

In both large and small ways, God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Why It’s Important that We Prosper

Prosperity Is Not a Bad Word, and We Must Start Embracing It as Good

A popular pastime today is to decry prosperity as an evil that plagues the world. These folks think that all people who prosper are greedy and selfish—though some are. They advocate taking from those who have and give to those who have not. In truth, these people aren’t interested in helping the poor as much as they are envious that others have more than they do.

They miss the point that God wants us to prosper.

The Bible has much to say about prosper and prosperity. We often think of prosper in terms of money, but it also applies to other areas of our life. Our family can prosper. We can prosper by enjoying good health. And we can prosper in intangible ways when we lead a God-honoring life.

Consider some of what the Bible says about the idea of prospering:

  • God plans to prosper his people and not harm them, plans to give them hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • God told Jacob to go back home and he would prosper (Genesis 32:9).
  • Obey God that we may live long and prosper (Deuteronomy 5:33).
  • Walk in obedience with God and do all he says so that you will prosper in everything you do and everywhere you go (1 Kings 2:3).
  • A person who gives generously will prosper (Proverbs 11:25).
  • Those who trust in God will prosper (Proverbs 28:25).
  • You will prosper more, and then you will know that I am your Lord (Ezekiel 36:11).
  • God made his people prosper while they were in Egypt (Acts 13:17).

Some of these verses apply to individuals, while other passages have a broader audience, but the point we can glean from all these verses—and many others in the Bible—is that God loves us. And he wants us to prosper.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

But many people desiring prosperity, miss the point of why. They think their prosperity is for their benefit and theirs alone. Taken to an extreme we end up with a prosperity gospel and a prosperity theology. Don’t go there.

These overreaches miss the basic biblical truth that God wants us to prosper. He wants to bless us. But why?

God doesn’t bless us with success and wealth so that we can live extravagant self-centered lives. He blesses us not for ourselves but for the sake of others.

God loves us and wants us to prosper. Click To Tweet

God told Abraham, “I will bless you and you will in turn bless others” (Genesis 12:2). This means that God’s blessings are not for us to consume or to squander in conspicuous living.

Our blessings are to share with others. As God is generous with us, may we be as generous toward others.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Pursue a God-Honoring Contentment

Discern When to Be Satisfied with What You Have and When to Yearn for More

Though some of our world live in an environment of true need, most people have their daily needs met. Yet they aren’t satisfied with having their basic requirements covered. They want more. And the more that most people have, the more they want.

These people live with a materialistic outlook. They’re never satisfied with what they have. They always crave for more. This is the reality today in developed countries around the world. Regardless of what these people have, they’re not satisfied. Whatever they have isn’t enough; they’re always yearning for more, grasping for what they don’t have.

Material Contentment

Instead of always seeking for more, we should strive to be content with what we have. God has blessed us with material provisions. We should thank him for his gifts and not seek more. We must learn to be content with what we have.

In fact, an unrestrained drive to accumulate more money and more possessions emerges as a disrespect for God. It’s a slap in his face, effectively saying that what he’s given isn’t enough.

We must stop this. We must learn to enjoy what we have and be thankful for it. All we need is to have the basics of life covered. Everything else is a bonus.

With God’s help, we can learn to be content with what we have: the size of our bank account, our home, our car, our clothes, our possessions, the money in our pocket, and on and on.

Most people today live beyond their means. They’re one paycheck away from disaster. And a few people live at their means. This is a better perspective. My goal, however, is to live beneath my means, which gives me more opportunity to bless others.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals to make our life better. But it does mean we need to keep our ambitions in check. In the Bible, James gives us some commonsense advice to do this, crouching our plans with a caveat “If it’s the Lord’s will . . . ” (James 4:15).

Too many people are coasting their way toward heaven. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Contentment

There’s another element of commitment however, that we must address. It’s not our physical comforts, but our spiritual situation. We must never be content with that.

Yet most people are satisfied with their spiritual condition and their standing with God. Too many people are coasting their way toward heaven. And it’s sad for what they’re missing.

As for me, this is one area where I want more. When it comes to my relationship with God, what I have is not enough. I crave a deeper connection, greater supernatural insight, and a spiritual reality that I’ve so far just read about.

Conclusion

Each time I asked God for contentment with his tangible blessings—to protect me from a materialistic mindset—I’m quick to add a clarification. I also request from the Almighty that I’ll always desire more on a spiritual level. And that he will provide it.

May we be materially content and spiritually hungry.

Take a moment now, and thank God for what he’s given you.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

How Content Are You with God’s Blessings?

The Bible Tells Us to Live a Life of Contentment

Though some people in our world struggle to have the basic requirements for life, many others enjoy an existence that meets all their needs and beyond. This is a given for many people in most developed nations. They don’t need to seek God for their daily bread; they already have plenty to eat. Instead, they seek more. These materialistic people never have enough; they are not content. They continually strive to expand what they have. Metaphorically, they’re building bigger barns (see Luke 12:16-21).

Thankful or Dissatisfied?

Though there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve our situation in life, we must make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons—God-honoring reasons. If God has supplied our needs and we still aren’t content, isn’t this an insult to God and his generosity?

If we aren’t satisfied with God’s provisions, doesn’t this suggest that we don’t appreciate his blessings? Though most of us would be quick to say we’re thankful for God’s gifts, our actions and attitudes often suggest the opposite.

Scripture Calls Us to Be Content

In the Bible, Paul shares about his life. He says he’s learned to be content in every situation. Not only is this during times of plenty but also when he’s hungry or living in want. He does this through God’s strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Not only does Paul provide this example of contentment, but he also encourages Timothy and others (including us) to be content with what they have. He even goes as far as to connect contentment with godliness. (1 Timothy 6:6-9).

A final passage to consider comes from the writer of Hebrews who tells his audience to avoid materialism (the love of money) and be content—that is, satisfied—with what we have. This is because God is with us always and will never forget us (Hebrews 13:15).

We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Contentment?

These verses about contentment address our physical situation, our material needs: food, clothing, and shelter. But what about our spiritual situation? Should we be content with that too?

When it comes to God and living a life that honors him, we should never be content. We should always desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. God doesn’t want us to coast our way into heaven. When we say yes to following Jesus, he wants us to go all in and live every day for him. We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

A New Year’s Blessing for You

May This Year Be Your Best Year Yet

As we move from one year to the next, may we put behind us the challenges, fear, and uncertainty of the past year and move into the new one with expectation.

Here is my New Year’s blessing for you:

  • May God keep you physically safe, emotionally healthy, and spiritually vibrant.
  • May God provide for you in abundance.
  • May God grant you favor in all that you do and with the people you meet.
  • May God grow your relationships with others, strengthening the good ones and shoring up the challenging ones.
  • May God draw you into a fuller, deeper, more meaningful worship of him. May you do so in Spirit and in truth.
  • May God lead you to those who are hurting and in need of help. May he show you what to do and give you the wisdom and ability to do it.
  • May God speak to you through Holy Spirit insight and endow you with Holy Spirit power.
  • May God give you strength to do what he calls you to do.
  • May God empower you to advance his kingdom.
  • May God speak to you as you read and study his Word. May you hear him when he speaks to you through his Holy Spirit.
  • May God bless you indeed!
  • May this new year be your best year ever.

May it be so.

Receive this New Year’s blessing in confidence, through faith.

Thank you, Father for your provisions. Thank you, Jesus for healing and saving us. Thank you, Holy Spirit for living in us and guiding us. Thank you for giving us another year of life and for the potential it represents.

May we honor you and worship you by making the most of what you have provided for us. May we celebrate you in this new year you have given us in all that we do, say, and think.

Amen.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Why Does God Sometimes Withhold His Blessings from Us?

We Must Put God First Before Worrying about Ourselves

In the short book of Haggai, the prophet has a message for the people and an application for us today. God, through Haggai, chastises his people. They live in nice homes, while God’s home—the temple—sits in shambles.

It isn’t that God wants us to build great monuments for him as much as he wants us to put him first. It’s an issue about our priorities.

God has attempted to get his people’s attention for years, but they miss it. “Consider your situation,” God says. Then he reels off a list of realities for them:

  • Each year you plant much but harvest little.
  • You eat but are never full.
  • You drink but are still thirsty.
  • You put on clothes but remain cold.
  • You earn money, but it doesn’t last until your next paycheck.

“Contemplate this,” he says. God wants his people to put him first and think about their own needs second. When they do this, he will give them plenty.

Specifically, God wants them to rebuild his temple. Though we could assume this means he wants us to embark on a building project for our church—making it our number one priority—this misses the modern-day application.

Remember, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament, so the need for a physical temple ended because we became his temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and 1 Peter 2:4-5).

God wanted his people to put him first and think about their own needs second. Click To Tweet

It May Be About Our Priorities

Instead, we can receive this Old Testament prophecy as a call to put Jesus first. That’s an easy enough lesson for us.

However, it gets a bit dicey when we dig into this. Based on the lesson from Haggai, we can assume that if things aren’t going our way and we aren’t receiving God’s blessings, it’s because we have our priorities out of whack, and we aren’t putting him first in all that we do.

Though sometimes this may be the case, other times we may struggle and suffer because God is using our circumstances to grow us into the person he wants us to become. In this situation, we may very well have our priorities correct and, for a season, still not enjoy his blessing.

If we feel we aren’t receiving God’s blessings, it’s up to us to determine why. Do we need to reorder our priorities, or do we need to allow him to grow himself in us, preparing us for the future?

May we wisely discern the reason why.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Haggai 1-2, and today’s post is on Haggai 1:2-11.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

From Haggai: Lessons about Priority

Discover More About Haggai

In the short book of Haggai, the central theme is that God’s house (the temple) needs to be rebuilt. It lay in ruins. But the people have not done so because they are focused on their own houses and comfort.

As far as God is concerned, their priorities are wrong. They’re putting themselves first and not concerned about him.

Three times God points this out, asking them to consider the quality of their lives. Things aren’t going well for them. Their efforts fail to produce the results they want, their plans don’t work out the way they expect, and they lack what they need.

After Haggai delivers God’s message to the leaders and the people, their response is to rebuild the temple. Then God promises to bless them.

When their priorities were wrong, things went wrong. When their priorities became right, God’s blessings resulted.

Although the conclusion isn’t absolute, it’s worth considering that when things are going wrong, it might be because our priorities are misaligned with God’s will for our lives and his desire for how we act.

Instead of blaming God when our lives are dissappointing, we might do better to blame ourselves, and then work to fix our priorities. It starts by putting God first.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Haggai 1-2, and today’s post is on Haggai 1:2-4.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.