The Great Bounty of a Generous Man

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed”  (Proverbs 11:25).

blessing 2For the past several days we have focused on the subject of blessing, with specific attention to Lord’s desire to prosper us and thereby empower us to be a blessing to others. We have discussed and discovered many things, and in it all I trust that you have been enriched in every way.

This post will serve as the closing word on this topic – for now.

Rather than go on and on and on, let me leave you pondering the words of Jesus, for He said it in the simplest and most direct way possible — “Give, and it shall be given to you” (Luke 6:38).

It is one of the many remarkable features of following Jesus, that you cannot give without receiving back even more than you gave. The other side is also true — you cannot receive without giving. It’s a two-way street that we walk with the One Way Jesus.

Jesus is only going one way — but it is in every direction. He is building a kingdom, and has invited each of us to become a part of what He is doing. We become a part by giving whatever He has entrusted to us.

You cannot teach without being taught, and you cannot be taught without teaching others. You cannot lead without being a follower; and you cannot follow without being led. If you will look for opportunities to bless someone else, you yourself will be blessed.

Love, and you will be loved. Serve, and you will be served. Smile, and the world will smile with you. Sing, and folks will…..OK, they will probably ask you to keep that to yourself! At least for most of us, anyway.

So, instead of going through life as a taker, grabbing desperately at everything you can get your hands on, and then storing it up in secured bins of plenty — open the flood gates of generosity and start being a giver. The truth be told, you cannot live until you give.

Give your heart to Christ and He will fill it with love. Give your mind to Christ, and He will fill it with truth. Give your dreams to Christ, and He will fill them with heavenly vision and power. Give your hands to Christ, and He will fill them with service; labor that is filled with laughter and significance. Give your time to Christ, and will be redeem it; making you timely in every word and deed.

If you will walk with One Way Jesus on this Two Way Street, everything in and about your life will abound with multiplied blessing.

Solomon said, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25). I really like the way The Message puts it – “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” (Pro 11:24-25). It is the generous man who fully understands and deeply cherishes the words of the great old hymn –

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not; Thy compassions they fail not.
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be!
Great is Thy Faithfulness; GREAT is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see!
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulnes, Lord, unto me.

Take the Lord at His word and you will see that He is true and faithful– “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”

See you tomorrow as we embark on a new adventure of devotional treasure hunting in the Word of God.

The Widow of Zarephath

“Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (1Ki 17:9)

widow of zarephathKeep in mind we are talking about “the blessing given to Abraham.”  Earlier we discovered that when God speaks His blessing over your life, then all heaven and earth are mobilized in full compliance with the Divine decree – and you are blessed indeed!

God spoke it, ordained it, and confirms it by bringing to pass. It happened to Abraham, and yesterday we saw a stunning example of this in the life of Elijah the prophet, as dirty birds brought him two meals a day during an extended draught – because God ordained it to happen that way.

Today, we are going to see the great care God’s has for a Gentile widow in the city of Zarephath – and we will learn from her story that He cares for us the same way!

While Elijah waited each day for the ravens to bring him food, the Brook eventually dried up. When it did so God said, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (1Ki 17:9)

The word “commanded” is the same used when God ordained the ravens to feed Elijah. God has used the dirty birds to teach Elijah this great lesson: When the Lord ordains something to occur it will surely happen, no matter how absurd or unconventional it may appear.

Elijah went to Zarephath with a faith that would not be deterred by anything he saw or experienced; he knew God had made all the necessary arrangements for His word to come to pass.

Arriving at the city he met a widow gathering sticks to build a fire. How remarkable the timing in all of this. When we follow the Lord’s directions for our lives we will always find ourselves at the right place, the right time, and meeting the right people.

Elijah struck up a conversation with the woman. “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink,” he said. And she quickly responded in a free and serving manner. She could have been bitter and hardened, and snapped back, “Get it yourself!”

Had she done so, Elijah simply would have looked for another widow. Never forget that you are always being tested in one way or another, and your responses hold great consequence for what happens next.

As the story unfolds, the woman takes what little food she had left and baked a meal for Elijah. She undoubtedly thought it would be her last meal – but Elijah knew better, for the Lord had told him, “I have ordained a widow to sustain thee.”

Upon seeing her give so willingly, even at her own expense, Elijah pronounced this prophetic word over the widow – “For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ” (1Ki 17:14)

And it happened just as God had said. The widow sustained Elijah for almost three years; she also provided food for her extended family and friends during this most difficult time of prolonged draught.

This widow, by acting with unselfish generosity, actually unleashed the blessings of the Lord upon her life. The thing which she held in her hand was but a small plug holding back the full flow of God’s generous abundance! What happened in the life of this unnamed widow in the Samaritan city of Zarephath gives us an astounding example of God’s capacity to bless us today – and His delight in so doing…if we will but open our hands.

Are you allowing your fear of financial uncertainty and future insecurity to cause you to hold on tightly to what is in your hand? Will you not follow the stellar example if this widow and let it go? Put your finances, your future, and your very life in God’s hands – for there is nothing too difficult for Him!

Dirty Birds Do Thy Bidding!

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) 

ravensThe wicked Queen Jezebel and her spineless husband Ahab sat comfortably on their pompous backsides in the Palace while all Israel suffered the increasing difficulties of a long draught, brought on by the word of the Lord spoken through the prophet Elijah.

God told Elijah to go and wait by the brook Cherith, where, according to the Lord, “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there” (1 Kings 17:4).

Elijah did as he was told – and so did the birds! “And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook”(1Ki 17:6). According to the Law, ravens were “unclean” – yet God used them in His service to His servant. And He stills does so to this day!

Is anything too hard for the Lord? Of course not! And, does He have the right to command birds, even dirty ones, to go against their nature in fulfilling His will? Absolutely.

Now, we do not know where the dirty birds got the twice daily supply of meat and bread to bring to Elijah, but it would not be stretching the matter to suppose that they pilfered it right out of the palace itself! Who else in a draught stricken land would have such supple supply of food but Jezebel and Ahab? How poetic it would if the Lord had the dirty birds take the food for Elijah right off the table of dirty Jezebel and stinky Ahab!

The Bible says that “the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Pro.13:22). Who are we to say that God can’t use dirty birds to take good things away from dirty people, and drop them into the hands of His obedient servants? He’s God; and nothing is too difficult for Him!

Here’s the point, and this sets us up for tomorrow’s devotion. God “commanded” the ravens to do this. The Hebrew word means “to decree it as something ordained; to set in order by making all the necessary arrangements for it to occur.”

God did this for Elijah at the Brook by having the dirty birds obey His will. He also did it for Father Abraham when He spoke His eulogy over Abraham’s life; unleashing upon him the blessings of heaven like a flood. And, as we will see tomorrow, He did it again for one of the least likely people in all of the Bible. We only know her as the Widow of Zarephath, but her story holds great promise for everyone who hears it today — including you!

It just may be that dirty birds are already on their way to your location! “Never more” will you doubt God’s faithfulness in a dry and faithless land.

Stay tuned….a breakthrough is on the way.

Three Indisputable Facts about God’s Blessings (Part 2 of 2)

“And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” (Gen 32:26)

Jacob wrestled with an Angel. And it seems that we ourselves do the same today. There is something in us that fights against what the Lord wants for us. The Lord’s heart is fully set upon our well-being; there is abundance of biblical text and life experience to validate this claim. That is an indisputable fact. But it is only one fact of three. Today. We will look at the other two.

Indisputable Fact #2 – Few of Us seem to Experience God’s blessings with any Consistency.

Judges BookHave you ever read the Book of Judges? It is one of the craziest books in all the Bible, filled with astounding evil and unexplainable nonsense. The writer offers this one editorial comment at least three times – “There was no King in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”(Judg 17:6).

And as you read through the book you discover a repeating pattern: 1) The people sin against God, 2) They fall into captivity at the hands of invaders and oppressors, 3) They cry out to God for deliverance, 4) God raises up a Deliverer and sets them free, 5) They live in the blessings of freedom – only to slowly drift over time right back into sin. And the whole thing happens all over again.

This Cycle occurs no less than seven times in the Book of the Judges!

Inasmuch as the things that happen in the old days were written for our instruction, I cannot help but wonder if many of us today are not repeating the same “Cycle of Frustration” depicted in their ancient testimony.

There is an ebb and flow to the measure of our consistency before the Lord, and this undoubtedly plays a part in the measure of blessings in our lives. Sometimes we are hot; sometimes cold — but more often than not, we are just lukewarm. We live with an inexplicable indifference to the things of God — except when we are facing some awful tragedy or serious setback in our lives. That’s when we turn up the volume and cry out to the Lord.

The fact is the Lord wants to bless us, and to have us live a consistent life that honors Him and blesses others. But we waffle. And this brings me to the third fact. 

Indisputable Fact #2 – The Breakdown in Blessing is on Our Side – Not the Lord’s

Paul wrote a personal and piercing word of loving rebuke to the Corinthians. “Oh, my dear Corinthians friends,” he said, “I have told you all my feelings; I love you with all my heart! Any coldness still between us is not because of any lack of love on my part, but because your love is too small and does not reach out ton me and draw me in.” (2 Corinthians 6:11,12 The Living Bible).

I cannot but wonder if the Lord Himself might being saying these words to me sometimes. One thing is certain – if I am not walking in the blessing of the Lord, it is NOT a reflection of Him….but of ME. The breakdown is on my side…not His.

Beginning tomorrow I will show you five ways we can make sure that no breakdown occurs between you and the Lord! These next lessons will provide valuable insight to help you prosper in accordance with God’s purpose for your life!

Three Indisputable Facts about God’s Blessings (Part 1 of 2)

“And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” (Gen 32:26)

Jacob Wrestling AngelPerhaps no one better than Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, more clearly illustrates for us the three indisputable facts about God’s blessings over our lives. And just as we so often can see something of ourselves in Jacob’s story, so also will we find in today’s posting the insight from God’s Word to help us move onward and upward into all the blessings God has purposed for us.

Indisputable Fact #1 – The Lord’s Heart is Fully set upon our Well-being.

Listen to His own words, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer 29:11). And in Isaiah He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9)

God does not think about us in the way we think about ourselves; His thoughts are higher, truer, kinder, and far greater. John writes, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3Jn 1:2). Surely God feels no less for us today!

How could we ever doubt this? Aren’t we told that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son? And why did He do this? So that we might have eternal life. Jesus later clarified that by saying, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly”(John 10:10). The Greek word means “above the common.”

And listen to the case Paul the Apostle makes – “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Yes, the fact is indisputable –  the Lord’s heart is fully set upon our well-being. But this is only one of three indisputable facts. We will look at the other two tomorrow.

The Five Principles of Prosperity (Part 5 of 5)

“So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.” (Gen 26:25)

Did you notice the word “there” – it occurs three times in this short verse. We began this five-part study by looking at the importance of being in the right place; the place where God wants you to be. Then we talked about patterns, purity, and perseverance. We now come to our final principle.

"Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

“Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

#5 – The Principle of Priorities

THERE – in the place God wants you to be, with you being and doing what He wants you to do, and staying true to it no matter what sort of opposition comes – THERE – like Isaac of old,  you will find yourself doing three things of great importance.

Isaac built an altar, he pitched his tent, and he dug a well. This speaks of the priority he placed upon God, Home, and Livelihood – in that order. How often in our world do we first find a job, then a house, and only then a place to worship? That is precisely backwards.

One would suppose we might have placed this matter of priorities at the front of the list, rather than here at the end. After all, we are talking about “priorities” aren’t we? Indeed we are – but that is precisely why we place this matter at the end – for it is in our prosperity that we need to make sure we keep our priorities in order.

“If riches increase, set not your heart upon them” the Bible warns us (Psalm 62:10). Earlier Moses warned the Israelites to beware, “Lest when you have eaten and are full….your heart be lifted up and you forget the Lord your God”(Deut.8:12-14).

In the New Testament Paul says, “Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage” (1Ti 6:17 The Message).

The “deceitfulness of riches” can easily turn an unguarded man or woman’s heart away from right priorities with great subtlety; reordering their world with compromise to a new set of cleverly rearranged values. Do not let this happen to you!

Build your altar at the place where God blesses you, and worship Him alone – first and always. Then make sure your home is where this altar abides; that God’s presence and blessing are in your house. And then, only then, dig your wells – that is to say, seek to flourish in the work of your hands and the prosperity that God brings to your labors.

Once these five matters (which we have discussed in five separate posts) are set in order before the Lord – you will find indeed the blessing of the Lord abounding in your life, and through you to many others.

The Five Principles of Prosperity (Part 4 of 5)

“For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.” (Gen 26:14)

The Bible makes it clear in no uncertain terms that the upright will be blessed. “Wealth and riches will be in his house,” the Psalmist tells us, “and his righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:3).

He then summarizes just how blessed the upright will be: 1) they will have light in darkness, 2) they will be gracious and generous, 3) they will guide their affairs with discretion, 4) they will never be shaken, 5) they will not be afraid of evil tidings, 6)  they will be exalted in honor, and 7) the wicked will be really, really upset about all of this. (read Psalm 112 and see it for yourself).

God’s blessings are not without opposition. This fact brings us to the fourth principle of prosperity.

#4 – The Principle of Perseverance

isaac digs a wellIn Isaac’s story we learn that the envious Philistines decided to sabotage Isaac’s blessings by “stopping up the wells” which had been dug in the time of Abraham. And the king himself said, “”Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”(vs.16).

Isaac moved to another part of Gerar (the land where God told him to say) and dug some more wells. The herdsmen of the Philistines contended with him over water rights, and they plugged up his wells again. So, Isaac dug another well, and they plugged that one, too. So, Isaac dug another well – and, yes, they plugged that one also.

That’s when perseverance kicked in. Isaac dug another, and another, and another, and another – until he simply outlasted the resolve of the Philistines who were trying to stop him.

You cannot keep a good man down!

The Bible says, “And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” (Gen 26:22)

After this prolonged battle with those who sought his ruin, Isaac went to Beersheba. And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”(vs.24).

Sometimes you have to “hang in there like a hair in a biscuit in a cheap restaurant!” Perseverance in a righteous cause will always outlast the wicked; they will be ashamed and defeated, while you will be blessed and honored.

Tomorrow we will look at what may, in the final sense, be the most important principle of them all.

The Five Principles of Prosperity (Part 3 of 5)

“Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.” (Gen 26:12)

600-02828562We saw yesterday that Isaac lied about Rebekah being his wife. He was fearful of what the men of that place would do to him, and he was unbelieving in God’s faithfulness to protect and defend him. Fear and unbelief will always cause us to do really stupid things.

Nevertheless, the Lord did protect him – and also exposed his lie to the king.

“What is this you have done to us,” Abimelech asked, “One of the people might lightly have lain with thy wife, and thou would have brought guilt upon us!” (Gen 26:10). Isaac came clean before the king, and the Lord blessed him. And this brings us to our third principle of prosperity.

#3 – The Principle of Purity

Notice our verse for today begins with the word “THEN.” It’s a word of timing, pointing to a specific moment. It comes right after Isaac uncovered his error. Once Isaac brought his sin into the light, THEN he sowed in the land and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.” (Gen 26:12). The timing here is highly instructive.

The Bible says, “he who conceals his sin will not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes them shall obtain mercy”(Proverbs 28:13).

So long as Isaac lived in the impurity of his deceit, he could not prosper – even though it was God’s will for him to do so. However, once he brought it into the light, and all things were set right — THEN great blessing was released upon him from heaven. Might not the same be said of you and me?

Is it possible that some impure attitude, some error in judgement, some fear buried in our heart, or some practice wrapped in deceit is the one thing that is causing all the power of Heaven to stand back in reserve, holding on to the full blessings of God that are certainly determined to be poured forth upon us? And isn’t it wondrous beyond belief that if we would but humble ourselves and confess our sin to the Lord, He would see and hear — and we would obtain mercy!

And He would release the blessings we so earnestly believe we shall see.

Isaac’s purity in this matter unleashed prosperity into his life. Great prosperity! And the increase upon Isaac was obviously aided by Divine assistance – his crops yielded “a hundredfold, and the Lord blessed him. The following verses tell us — “And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.” (Gen 26:12-14)

What great and immeasurable blessings are being held back in our world today because we live in fear and unbelief; and practice deceit?

O Lord, have mercy upon us! Bring us to the light and make right what we have made wrong. Let Your goodness prevail as you bring prosperity to our lives! And strengthen us to stand faithful and true in the face of that which would threaten to deny us Your great blessings.

Tomorrow we will look at the fourth principle of prosperity, and there discover the indispensible importance of perseverance.

The Five Principles of Prosperity (Part 2 of 5)

“After Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech looked out a window and saw Isaac hugging and kissing Rebekah.” (Gen 26:8)

Isaac and RebekahThe Lord told Isaac to dwell in the land, promising him that he would be blessed there. But, as the story unfolds we find that Isaac in NOT being blessed – even though he is exactly where the Lord told him to be. So what’s the problem? As we look more closely we discover our second principle of prosperity.

#2 – The Principle of Patterns

This is one of the more remarkable stories in the Bible, and it shows the undeniable influence a father has upon his children. While in the land of Gerar, Isaac was afraid that the men there would kill him to get his beautiful wife, Rebekah. So he lied, claiming that Rebekah was his sister.

Where do you suppose he got this idea? A glance back in the pages of Scripture show that Isaac’s father, Abraham, did exactly the same thing – TWICE! And one of times was at this very place, when Abimelech was King! (see Gen.12:10-13 and Gen.20:1-5).

There’s an old adage that goes, “Like father, like son.” Isaac was repeating the wrong patterns he learned from his father; patterns that limited him from being who God wanted him to be, and from experiencing the blessings God wanted him for him. Is it possible that you may be doing the same thing?

And why did Isaac do this? It was because of fear and unbelief. The Bible says, “The fear of man brings a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25). Isaac, by his own admission, was afraid of what the men of that place might do to him in order to have Rebekah. He fear of men over-ruled his faith in God; he did not trust the Lord to protect him. Just like his father.

“A father’s influence in his children’s lives is powerful and inevitable, whether for good or for bad.” (Released From the Prison My Father Built, pg.23)

Isaac lied about Rebekah, and as a result “he had been there a long time” without experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing upon him. Maybe you are “in the right place” but not yet experiencing God’s blessings. Could it be that you, like Isaac, are repeating the wrong patterns you picked up from others – patterns that limit you to a life that is less than what God wants for you, and actually work against the blessing of the Lord in your life?

The first two principles of prosperity we learn from Isaac are 1) you’ve got to be in the right place, and 2) you cannot default to repeating wrong patterns of behavior through fear and unbelief. 

As we will see tomorrow in Principle #3, Isaac turned things around and the windows of heaven opened upon him in full measure. Maybe, just maybe — the same is about to happen for you!

The Five Principles of Prosperity (Part 1 of 5)

“Stay in this place…and I will bless you” (Genesis 26:3) 

abraham blesses isaac

A note to those who find this to be your first visit to my blog  ~ you are walking in during a movie that is already playing. No problem; welcome! You might want to backtrack for a moment to get caught up with the unfolding plot. Begin at January 1, 2013 – that was the first post in this ongoing series about how God wants to bless us with financial stability during these turbulent times.

And now, to my regular readers, back to the movie:  

We have been looking at “the blessing given to Abraham” by God; the eulogy which God spoke over the man’s life, and the results of that blessing upon him, and his descendants. I thought it would be good, therefore, that we take a close look at Isaac, Abraham’s promised son. Surely, if the blessing of Abraham truly passes on to his descendants, then we would see the blessing in Isaac’s life, just as it was in his father.

But, suprisingly, we do not; at least, not initially. There were some unresolved issues in Isaac that actually blocked the blessing of the Lord from coming fully upon him. And until he faced these issues and came into alignment with God’s will regarding them – he himself would not be blessed; even though he was the direct descendant of Father Abraham himself.

The point here is that you cannot ride on the coat-tails of others when it comes to inheriting the blessings of the Kingdom. Though God wanted Isaac to be blessed, just as his father had been, there were five principle issues that Isaac had to personally deal with in order for the blessing to come. I call these the Five Principles of Prosperity (i.e., breaking through to God’s higherst and best for our lives).

I maintain that these same five principles apply to us today.

#1 – The Principle of Place

 The Lord said to Isaac, “Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you” ( Gen 26:3). There is a place where the Lord wants you to dwell. Many people flit about like bees in a garden, gathering bits of pollen here and there, but never experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing – nor the peace that comes with it.

Though we are pilgrims, we are not nomads. We have a place assigned to us by our Lord. “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Act 17:26)

God’s blessing for Isaac were preconditioned upon him dwelling in the specific land where God had placed him.

To illustrate this further, consider Jeremiah. “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house,” the Lord told him, “and there I will cause thee to hear my words.” (Jer 18:2).  And remember Elijah, whom God sent to stay by the brook Cherith, “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there” (1 Kings 17:4). And yet one more. The King invited the beloved Shulamite to the garden vineyards, saying, “there will I give thee my loves” (Song 7:12).

In each of these the PLACE is important. Had they gone to any other place but that which was appointed – they would be on their own. Are you in the PLACE where the Lord wants you to be? The place the Lord has called “THERE”….that’s where God’s blessings await you!

That’s the first matter you must face before the fullness of His blessings can be poured forth upon your life. Tomorrow we will look at the second principle of prosperity.