Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Spirit of Generosity

The characteristic of the generosity of Christ is an awesome thing to behold—Christ is the visible evidence of the generosity of God. Love and generosity walk hand in hand throughout the scriptures. God’s Word opens with the story of Creation—a world created for and entrusted to humanity. John 3:16, the foundation of our faith, tells us “God so loved…He gave.” Thankfully, God’s generosity flows unmerited--in Hosea we read, “I will heal their backsliding, and I will love them freely…” The generosity of God is His character: nothing we do makes God love us more or give us more. He always loves us perfectly and gives to us all we need. His call is constant and the scriptures close with an invitation for us to drink freely at the river of life. The generosity of God flows eternally and transforms our character when we receive it!

Abundance is a truth woven throughout scriptures! God does all things well and abundantly. Christ came that we might have abundant life. Jesus told His disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” So what have we received; what can we give? Exploring the treasures God has given requires all of scripture and the touch of the Spirit.  Our souls rejoice excitedly with even a glimpse of His gifts! The obvious gift to begin with is the redemption of our souls. Though we all have chosen to go our own way, the love of God paid the price to restore us to Him! He has loved us wholly as we have trampled His gifts. Forgiveness, grace and mercy flavor the redemption concept. What treasures those are to share in a hurting world!

Simply considering the sweet impact upon our world through forgiveness, grace and mercy is a breath-taking thought. Imagine ill-timed words and actions covered by a love that forgives the hurt caused! Consider the blessing of giving "Grace:” the beautiful taste of God's Spirit: love, joy, peace, a willingness to suffer, kindness, gentleness and mercy offered to another! Do you know anyone who needs peace today—confidence in God’s love and power? Or perhaps someone who is drowning in the darkness of this world who needs you to sit in the mess with them giving a gentle touch of love? Giving mercy--seeing and meeting a need rather than condemning and punishing would bear precious seed. This world is abundant in need; what need can you meet today by sharing the blessings of Jesus you have received? Some miraculous things precede the command of Christ that we are to give freely: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.” When we share Jesus—when we share what we have received—His Spirit is freed to work in and transform more lives…what a privilege to embrace.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Faith Revealed

They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.
Psalms 125:1

The exercise of faith is the common experience of every believer. Life simply does not unfold in orderly, manageable ways over long periods. Zany zigzag patterns weave through every life. Unexpected events lurch into every path. Life in a world broken by sin requires faith. Faith provides stability to life that helps others see the glory of God.

Scripture is a treasure chest of faith examples. Mary’s words after learning she—an unmarried woman—was to give birth to the Savior are not the words of fearful woman focused on the likely condemnation of many. ‘Behold the bond slave of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” Words of faith in the midst of potentially dangerous circumstances reveal a heart held fast by faith.

Job’s heart-wrenching commitment, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” unveil a man whose security was outside the natural realm. His confident faith remains a beacon for any under assault.

Christ’s words to Pilate, “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given you above,” reveal a spirit trusting in the plans of God. Faith overcomes all evil to fulfill divine purposes.

Each of our lives provides opportunities to exercise faith and display the glory of God. God weaves our challenges into His transformation design. Each exercise of faith moves us closer to the transformation goal: likeness to the incomparably beautiful image of Christ. Perhaps no greater examples of faith—and revelations of Christ—can be found in our world today than in the persecuted church. Every day around the world, believers are hassled, attacked and sometimes killed because they live their faith in Jesus Christ. Giving glory to Him is valued above all. Our prayers on their behalf reach across the miles to provide spiritual strength to them. Contemplating their example magnifies our faith and strengthens us. A spirit of faith grows and unifies the body of Christ as it displays the glory of God.

No less glorious is the way small exercises of faith transform our view of God. Every act of obedient faith allows us to see a larger glimpse of the glory of God. Whether our need for faith stems from a health crisis, financial struggles, broken relationships, losses or some other struggle, trusting in the goodness and power of God brings blessing to others and us. Faith is the evidence of what is NOT seen; we must let faith rise above all that we do see. God cares about the details of every life. He delights in our expressions of confidence in Him and blesses exercises of faith in amazing ways!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Spirit of Faith

There is an aspect of Christ’s character, which is so intrinsically Him, we seldom stop to gaze upon its individual beauty. The character of Christ exemplifies a spirit of faith. Indeed, as 2 Timothy 3:13 says, He is faithful simply because He cannot deny Himself. Yet the faith of Christ is of critical importance. In fact, it is the faith of Christ through which all spiritual blessings flow to humanity. Gazing on the fruit of Christ’s faith is a joyful endeavor.

Personal faith is also of utmost importance—and like the disciples and the father of the ill child, we should ask that our faith be increased. Faith is a gift we receive—part of the blessings Christ secured for us with His faith. We receive those blessings by exercising our faith in Him. The greater our faith, the more Christ’s work is appreciated and revealed!

We catch an early glimpse of Christ’s faith in His confidence in the divine plan of redemption. His faith propelled Him to exchange the glories of heaven for the dark turbulence of the fallen creation. Christ’s trust in the Father—the essence of trust—empowered Him to be unshaken from The Plan: God Himself would be born a baby—that He might die for His unfaithful creation. The entire purpose of His earthly life embraced suffering and sacrifice because of Jesus’ confident trust in the Godhead’s power and love. That faith was the foundation of His life and it is that faith which provides eternal, abundant life to those who believe.

The life of Christ evidences faith in every moment recorded. Complete reliance on the Father’s plan, power and purpose embodied the miracles and ministry of Jesus. From the Divine choice of an unwed teen mother to the cruel horror of crucifixion, Jesus obediently submitted to the sovereignty of the Father. It is that absolute trust which is the spirit of faith we are to emulate in our hearts.

Thankfully, the Father entrusted the “big” parts of His redemption plan to Jesus. While the majority of modern translations replace the phrase “faith of Christ” with “faith in Christ,” the KJV rendition offers a perspective that blesses me! In both Romans 3:22 and Philippians 3:9, we see that Believers receive the righteousness of God based on the faith of Christ. What a courage builder it is to recognize that God’s view of me rests upon the solidness of Jesus, not my sometimes-wobbly faith! Reading Galatians 2 (verses 16 & 20), I rejoice that my justification—that judicial acquittal which gives me life—is founded upon the faithfulness of Jesus. In fact, reading on into Chapter 3 (verse 22), I find that every promise of God is delivered by Jesus’ faith!

The unshakeable faith of Jesus is the believer’s confidence and example. The ‘little foxes’ of life are conquered by faith…as we exercise our faith, it grows. Faith is the propellant of action that fulfills the purposes of God. Let us rejoice in the foundation provided by Christ’s faith and march forward under His victory banner.