Hide and Seek

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

“You can’t see me!”

When small children play “hide and seek,” they sometimes believe they’re hiding just by covering their eyes. If they can’t see you, they assume you can’t see them.

God knows us completely . . . and loves us just as much.

Naïve as that may seem to adults, we sometimes do something similar with God. When we find ourselves desiring to do something we know is wrong, our tendency may be to shut God out as we willfully go our own way.

The prophet Ezekiel discovered this truth in the vision God gave him for his people, exiled in Babylon. The Lord told him, “Have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us’” (Ezek. 8:12).

But God misses nothing, and Ezekiel’s vision was proof of it. Yet even though they had sinned, God offered His repentant people hope through a new promise: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (36:26).

For us, God met the brokenness and rebellion of sin with His tender mercy at the cross, paying the ultimate penalty for it. Through Jesus Christ, God not only offers us a new beginning, but He also works within us to change our hearts as we follow Him. How good is God! When we were lost and hiding in our sinfulness, God drew near through Jesus, who “came to seek and to save” us (Luke 19:10; Rom. 5:8).

Thank You for Your kindness to me, Lord. Help me to seek You and follow You faithfully today.

God knows us completely . . . and loves us just as much.

By James Banks

The Believer’s Conduct

1 Peter 1:1-9

Peter wrote his first letter to build up readers in their Christian walk. That purpose still applies today. Let’s take a look at some of the key points in today’s passage.

Our life is to be based on the atoning work of Jesus Christ, who died to redeem us from bondage to sin. His precious blood paid in full the cost of all our transgressions—past, present, and future (Eph. 1:7). Upon acceptance of the Lord’s sacrificial death on our behalf, we experience a second birth and become spiritually alive (John 3:3).

At that moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. His presence is proof of our new position in Christ, as well as a guarantee of our future inheritance and our place in heaven. As God’s children, we’re commanded to live a life of holiness, marked by a deep reverence for the Lord.

Our desire for holy living comes from knowing our Father’s character, understanding what it cost for us to be saved, and recognizing we will face a future judgment. Though we won’t face condemnation, we will one day stand before our Lord so He can assess our work and determine our heavenly rewards (Rom. 8:1; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). He will examine our inner feelings as well as our outward behavior. Acts of obedience will be rewarded; times of rebellion will not. In other words, our attitudes and choices really do matter, both in this life and in the future.

Take time regularly to ponder these truths. Use them to increase your desire to follow God, to make changes in your conduct, and to be His faithful, obedient servant.

Jesus Christ, Our Hope

“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Timothy 1:18-19)

Paul had been entrusted with the gospel of Jesus Christ by Christ Himself (vv. 1, 12-16), and he did not take this fact lightly when it was time to pass on the job of guarding and propagating the truth to others.

In our text, following his praise to God for giving him such a function, Paul now “charges” Timothy to follow in his footsteps. The word “commit” finds usage in banking vocabulary and implies a deposit of something of great value. Timothy was to continue to teach the valuable, life-changing truth of the gospel in love (v. 5) while guarding the flock against the teaching of false teachers (v. 3).

Paul had not found such a responsibility to be easy. In our text he reminds Timothy of this fact, encouraging him to “war a good warfare.” Note the two weapons of Timothy’s warfare mentioned here. First, faith, which, while not specified, certainly implies faith in God and Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and faith that this cause is just and right. Second, a good conscience, yielding a life and ministry free from both controlling sin and the guilt of that sin. Such a conscience comes from a lifestyle brought into submission to God’s Word. In fact, this couplet—faith and a good conscience—is said to be “the end of the commandment” (v. 5), along with love.

Some (v. 19) had abandoned these vital weapons to the “shipwreck” of their own faith and the faith of their followers. Nevertheless, such weapons, properly used, are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). JDM

How long halt ye between two opinions

1 Kings 18:20-29

1 Kings 18:20

The whole band of eight hundred and fifty priests, in all their gaudy attire, gathered upon the mountains brow to confront the one lone prophet of the living God.

1 Kings 18:21

In silent awe the crowd listened to the one undaunted man of God, as he offered them the great choice of God or Baal, and proposed by one grand test to prove which was truly God.

1 Kings 18:22

Numbers are no test of right; but brave is he who dares to hold the truth, where thousands love the lie.

1 Kings 18:23-24

 

“As when a wave

That rears itself, a wall of polished glass

For leagues along the shore, and hangs in air

Falls with one deafening crash, so rose the shout

 

Of answering acclamation from the crowd.

White-faced, with restless lips and anxious eyes

Baal’s prophets heard, their hundreds cowed and mute

Before one man. They dared not, in mere shame

 

Decline the challenge.”

 

1 Kings 18:25

He knew their cunning, and that by sleight of hand they would cheat if they could; hence he said, suggestively, “but put no fire under.”

1 Kings 18:26

They multiplied their litanies and genuflections; they exhausted their whole round of performances, but the sun-god lent them not a spark of his fires.

1 Kings 18:27

Idolatry deserves contempt. The irony of Elijah was holy, though bitter as gall. How would Elijah laugh now at the Papists with their god of bread; and the Ritualists with their magical sacraments. His scorn would be unbounded as ours may well be; only as followers of Jesus we mix pity with our indignation.

1 Kings 18:28

How much torture is there in false religion: our God takes no pleasure in the miseries of his children. Hair-shirts, lacerated backs, and skeletons macerated with fasting, are fit worship for a demon god; but the blessed God loves them not.

1 Kings 18:29

 

“They writhed and tore

In ecstasies of grief and rage. At last

They hung their heads in mute despair, and looked

Upon the ground.”

 

Baal could do nothing: our next reading will show us what Jehovah did.

 

The God we serve maintains his throne

Above the clouds, beyond the skies;

Through all the earth his will is done;

He knows our groans, he hears our cries.

 

But the vain idols men adore

Are senseless shapes of stone or wood;

At best a mass of glittering ore,

A silver saint, or golden god.

 

Shine forth in all thy dreadful name!

Why should a Papist’s haughty tongue

Insult us, and to bring us shame,

Set up the gods dethroned so long?

 

Those Who Minister Out of Their Abundance

Luke 8:2, 3

When our ministry purchased a large facility in the city of Moscow, we had one year pay off the entire building, or it would revert to the hands of the seller. We had paid a very large deposit, and by faith we were believing to completely pay off the balance on time so we wouldn’t lose our total investment.

The deadline for paying off the balance approached. The Moscow church and our ministry partners had given generously, but we still lacked what we needed to finish retiring the debt on the building.

It was exactly at this time that God spoke to a pastor of a large church in the United States and told him, “You have a lot of money in your church bank account right now, and Rick Renner and his ministry are believing for the finances to pay off their building. What good is your money in this account when they need it in Moscow? If you’ll give what I tell you to give, I’ll multiply it to you more times than you can ever begin to imagine.”

In obedience to the Lord, this pastor met with his board of directors, who unanimously voted to give a gift of $700,000 for the Moscow Good News Church building. They had no idea that this was the exact balance owed on the building. The pastor purchased a plane ticket and was soon on his way to Moscow. The following Sunday, he stood on the platform in our auditorium and said, “The Lord has sent me here to give you a $700,000 check for your new church facility!” Then he handed us the check, not knowing that he was handing the exact amount needed to completely pay off the balance on the building.

What words could ever be sufficient to express how grateful we were to this pastor and his church for this phenomenal act of generosity? And how can we ever appropriately thank all the partners who have sowed their finances for so many years into the work of our ministry?

My wife and I and our team may be the ones who are doing the actual work on the front lines of the ministry, but we can only do that work because of the resources entrusted to us by faithful partners. When we all stand before Jesus to be rewarded for what we have done for Him in this life, our partners will be as richly rewarded as those of us who worked on the front lines, for they financially empowered us to do the job!

You see, even though my wife and our team are anointed to lead this work, there would be no television outreach if we had no partners to pay for it. There would be no church-planting, church-strengthening organization if there was no financial support to underwrite the costs involved in this work. There would be no missions support for pastors and evangelists in these less fortunate nations if there were no people who designated monies for this special purpose. Although we are called and anointed to lead this thrilling work, others must be just as called and anointed to support it with their finances. That is why I say that all of us are truly working together to see God’s purposes for this ministry accomplished.

I could write an entire book about the miraculous provision we have seen God supply for our ministry over the years. But when I stand back and review the times God has come through in miraculous ways to empower us financially, one thing is clear: His supernatural provision has primarily been delivered through the hands of men.

This is the principal way God provides financial support for the work of the ministry. He uses people—those who work very hard at their jobs, who earn a living at their profession, who believe Him for promotions and bonuses, and who love Him so much that they consecrate a certain portion of their income or assets for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

God also used people to supply money for the expenses of Jesus’ ministry, although money to pay taxes was once miraculously provided through the mouth of a fish (see Matthew 17:27). In Luke 8:2 and 3, we find that Jesus had ministry partners who gave of their own substance to support His ministry while He was on the earth. Those verses say, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”

Notice that Luke 8:3 says that these women “… ministered unto him of their substance.” The word “ministered” is the Greek word diakoneo. As noted earlier (see August 21), the word diakoneo comes from the Greek word diakonos, the Greek word for a servant whose primary responsibility is to serve food and wait on tables. It presents a picture of a waiter or waitress who painstakingly attends to the needs, wishes, and desires of his or her client. It was these servants’ supreme task to professionally please clients; therefore, the servants served honorably, pleasurably, and in a fashion that made the people they waited on feel as if they were nobility.

Luke uses this word to picture the attitude of the women who served Jesus by financially giving to Jesus’ ministry. These women believed it was their God-given assignment to painstakingly attend to the needs, wishes, and desires of Jesus. Their supreme task was to provide what He and His disciples needed to fulfill their ministry without hindrance. Furthermore, the tense used in the original Greek indisputably means that these women did this task consistently and regularly, in other words, they habitually donated money to Jesus’ ministry. They were faithful partners on whom Jesus could rely.

The verse goes on to say that these women ministered unto Him of their “substance.” The word “substance” is the Greek word huparchontos, which is the word for goods, possessions, or property. The word huparchontos would only be used to describe individuals of great wealth who possessed large fortunes or enormous assets. This lets us know that these were wealthy women.

The King James Version says these women “… ministered unto him of their substance.” But in Greek, it actually says out of their substance. This implies that these very wealthy women may have donated funds out of the income they earned on properties they owned.

But precisely who were these wealthy women who supported Jesus’ ministry? Let’s look very carefully at Luke 8:2, 3 to see what we can find out about these women whom God used to financially support Jesus’ ministry.

1. ‘Certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities’

First, Luke 8:2 tells us about “… certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities….” This was an unnamed group of women whom Jesus had healed from various sicknesses or delivered from demonic powers. Afterward, these women supported His ministry with their financial substance.

Notice that this verse says these women “… had been healed of evil spirits….” The word “healed” is the Greek word therapeuo, an old Greek word from which we get the work therapy. This carries the idea of repeated actions, such as a patient who visits a physician over and over until the desired cure is obtained. This seems to suggest that these women had been so severely demonized that although they were helped when they first came to Jesus, they had to keep coming back again and again until, finally, they were completely freed. It may have been Jesus’ constant, tender, compassionate attention that caused them to have such grateful hearts, producing in these women a firm commitment to support His ministry with their finances.

The verse also says that they were healed of “infirmities.” The word “infirmities” is the Greek word astheneia, which emphatically depicts physical frailties, weaknesses, sicknesses, or a state of ill health. The word “healed” (therapeuo) is applied both to the women’s deliverance from demonic spirits and to their freedom from illnesses. Just as the Greek suggests frequent visits were made to Jesus before they were finally and completely delivered from demon powers, it also implies that these women made recurring visits to Jesus before they found total relief from their physical maladies. The use of this word therapeuo lets us know, then, that it can sometimes take time before a healing is completely manifested in a person’s life.

No wonder these women were such avid financial partners with Jesus’ ministry! It was through His compassionate touch that they were set free from demons and restored to full health!

It is simply a fact that the best partners in the world are those whose lives have been changed by one’s ministry. These women are vivid examples of people with grateful hearts who want to do what they can financially so the ministry that helped them can reach out and touch others’ lives as well.

2. ‘Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils’

After mentioning the first unnamed group of female supporters, Luke now gives the first recognizable name in this group of women. He says in verse 2, “… Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.”

Many tales have been told about Mary Magdalene working in the prostitution business before she met Jesus. However, there isn’t a single New Testament source that records Mary Magdalene as a former prostitute. One thing is clear, though: She was possessed with an entire infestation of demons before Jesus touched her life. Both Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9 affirm that she had been delivered of seven demons.

When Luke tells us of Mary, he identifies her as one “… out of whom went seven devils.” The Greek word for the phrase “out of whom went” is exerchomai, a compound of the word ex, meaning out, as to make an exit, and the word erchomai, meaning to go. But when these are compounded together, forming the word exerchomai, it takes on the meaning to go out, to drive out, or even to escape.

The word exerchomai implies that these demons may have been so entrenched in Mary that Jesus had to literally drive them out of her. It is possible that when these seven spirits left her body, they literally fled in order to escape the fierce pressure Jesus was exercising on them. Once they were gone, Mary was freed.

The Bible has no concrete record of Mary’s deliverance from these seven demons. However, it does let us know she was so thankful for what Jesus had done for her that she remained committed to Him to the very end of His ministry. Mary was present at the crucifixion (John 19:25). After the crucifixion when Jesus’ body was being prepared for burial, Mary was among those who prepared His body for burial (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55). She was among the first to see the empty tomb (John 20:1), and she was the first to see Jesus after His resurrection (John 20:13-17). Finally, she was the first to preach that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead (John 20:18).

Evidently Mary Magdalene was also a wealthy woman who used her money to financially support Jesus’ ministry, for she is listed in Luke 8:2, 3 along with the other well-to-do women who gave out of their assets to support Jesus’ ministry.

3. ‘Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward’

As Luke continues to name the affluent women who financially supported Jesus’ ministry, he tells us next of “… Joanna, the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward…” (v. 3).

Luke gives us very important insight into this Joanna by informing us that she was the wife of Chuza, who was the “steward” of Herod. The word “steward” is the Greek word epitropos. This word signifies a person who has been entrusted with the guardianship or supervision of another person’s belongings. This was no low-level servant; rather, Chuza was a high-level dignitary who had authority to make decisions on behalf of Herod in regard to his personal fortunes. One of the rare uses of this word in the Greek Old Testament Septuagint is where it is used to describe Joseph’s oversight of Potiphar’s household.

The fact that Chuza held such a prominent position in Herod’s household tells us that he was highly educated and was accustomed to managing massive sums of money. As the chief manager of Herod’s personal fortune, Chuza served as the king’s chief adviser regarding his personal financial matters. No doubt, a man in this position had many opportunities to increase his own personal wealth as well, for he lived in the atmosphere of affluence and had many high-ranking political connections as Herod’s steward. Some have speculated that Chuza may have been the nobleman of John 4:46-53 whose son was healed by Jesus.

Chuza’s wife was Joanna—a woman whose life had been dramatically touched, affected, and changed by Jesus. If Chuza was the nobleman of John 4:46-53, as some suggest, it is easy to imagine how grateful Joanna would have been to Jesus for saving her child from death. Certainly a person so impacted would want to use her fortune to make sure others could receive the same touch of God.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how Joanna made her first connection with Jesus, but it apparently changed her life. After that encounter, she saw it as part of her responsibility to give of her personal substance to financially support Jesus’ ministry. Joanna was also with Mary Magdalene and the other women who visited and discovered the empty tomb after Jesus’ resurrection (see Luke 24:10), which lets us know that she was faithful to Jesus to the very end.

4. ‘Susanna, and many others’

This is the only reference to Susanna in the New Testament, and we know nothing more of her, except that she ministered to Jesus out of her substance. This implies that she was another wealthy woman who used her personal resources to support Jesus’ ministry.

Susanna is listed with “many others” who supported the ministry of Jesus. The word “many” is from the Greek word polus, which means very many and speaks of a great quantity. So in addition to these women whom Luke specifically names, there were also many others who supported Jesus faithfully with their personal finances. These were givers who considered it their responsibility, their service, and their assignment to make sure the needs of Jesus’ growing ministry were financially supplied.

We rightly focus on Jesus and the great works He did while on earth. But think of the reward that is laid up in Heaven for Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and all the others who gave of their substance so that those life-changing meetings could take place! Today these individuals are experiencing rich rewards because they gave of their personal income to help advance the ministry of Jesus. They were His ministry partners—and in Heaven, they share in the rewards for the results reaped by Jesus’ ministry.

If your life has been touched and changed by a specific ministry, it is right for you to desire to give to that ministry to show your gratefulness and to make sure others receive the same touch you received. So when God calls you to be a ministry partner, never forget that what you do is vitally important. The gifts you give from your personal income and assets can make an eternal difference in other people’s lives.

Please don’t let it bother you if your name is never put on a building or if people never know that you were a big giver to a ministry. Instead, rejoice that you are among the “many others” who gave to Jesus’ ministry but were not mentioned by name. Most importantly, never forget that Jesus knows who you are and what you have done and that an eternal reward is awaiting you!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve You with my income and assets. I only want to give more and more with each passing year. Please give me wisdom to know how to increase my personal wealth so I can become an even bigger giver to the Kingdom of God. It isn’t important to me that other people know what I’ve done, for I know that You see the seed I’ve sown and will reward me for what I have done. Help me to never use funds designated for Your work on anything else, Lord, but rather to make the advancement of Your Kingdom the highest priority in my life.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I am a significant giver to the Kingdom of God. God’s Word promises financial blessings to His children. Since I am God’s child, I have a right to be financially blessed. From the financial resources that God entrusts to me, I purpose to be a major giver and a source of great blessing to the work of the ministry. Souls are waiting to hear the Gospel message, and I am going to use the resources God gives me to make sure the life-changing message of Jesus Christ reaches as many people as possible!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Is it a desire of your heart to be a big giver to the work of God? What ministry has God used to touch your life so dramatically that you want to serve that ministry with your finances?
  2. What ministry or ministries do you support with your finances right now? Can you write down five reasons why you sow into these particular ministries?
  3. Are you satisfied in your heart that you are giving to these ministries as often as God desires you to give? Or is it time for you to believe God for the financial ability to rise to a whole new level of giving?

 

Hellish Marriage

Sam and Jean had a hellish marriage.

 

With a history of promiscuity, personal insecurities, etc., etc., both brought excess baggage into the relationship that contributed toward constant conflict. Both however, had recently become followers of Christ and were committed to living out their marriage vows His way.

 

That was twenty years ago. Today I was on the phone with Sam as he mused over the fact that he and Jean had become “best friends.

 

It seems to me there are several reasons for this remarkable transformation:

 

1. Both were willing to humble themselves and seek out competent and godly counsel to help them identify and root out the origins of their problems: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” (Proverbs 11:14)

 

2. Both were committed to spiritual growth: Consistent times of prayerful meditation upon God’s Word: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Jos. 1:8)

 

3. Both surrounded themselves with godly people to whom they chose to be accountable; people from whom they gained supportive strength: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) (See 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11; Hebrews 12:12-15)

 

4. Both were committed to persevering through their problems. In their minds divorce was never an option. Thus, they chose to face, rather than deny or ignore the critical issues: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) (See Romans 5:3 ; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 3:8-11)

 

Over the years, I have met few couples who did not face daunting challenges in their marriage. I have come to believe that marital success or failure is determined not by the size of the problems, but by whether or not the couple is willing to face and deal with the problematic issues, whatever the pain, whatever the cost.

 

Living as we do in a crybaby “if it feels good do it” society where marriage vows often read, “as long as we both shall love,” instead of “till death do us part,” we need to comprehend the fact that God hates divorce, and only granted it because of people’s hardness of heart. (Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:2-9)

 

QUESTION: Are you demonstrating your commitment to your marriage by taking whatever steps are biblical and necessary to resolve the difficult issues that inevitably could destroy it? If not, why not?

 

 

%d bloggers like this: