The Principles of Giving – Part 2

Today is part two of the principles of giving (part 1 is here) that was part of a teaching called God, You, Money that I did several years ago.

Recall the four principles:

  1. Readily
  2. Richly
  3. Revelation
  4. Response

Part two continues with seeing the four principles in both the Old and New Testaments. Then, having seen the four principles all throughout the Bible, we see all four principles in God’s offering of Jesus for us. In fact, all four principles are found in just one verse – John 3:16.

(Side note: I did not mention tithing one time regarding the principles of giving in the Bible.)

The Principles of Giving – Part 1

Several years ago I taught a series called GYM – God, You, Money. Today and tomorrow I am going to post the audio to the first two parts of that series.

Today, in the first part, we look at the first offering in the Bible, which is found in Genesis 4:2-7. In this offering, we find four principles of giving:

  1. Readily
  2. Richly
  3. Revelation
  4. Response

The first two principles relate to the giver, and the second two principles relate to the receiver.

In addition to those four principles, we find that there is a corollary to them:

Obedience is greater than sacrifice.

At the end of the first part, we begin to look at how the four principles and the corollary are applied throughout the Bible

Look for part two tomorrow.

Bible Study: Why? How? What? (Audio)

If, instead of reading this morning’s blog post, you would rather listen to last night’s teaching, then the audio is attached.

Bible Study: Why? How? What?

Bible Study: Why? How? What?

A couple of weeks ago, LaMarque, my good friend and pastor at Cincinnati Urban Ministry Outreach (CUMO), said he wanted to restart the church’s mid-week Bible Study and asked if I would lead it in 2017. At first, I hesitated. That seemed like a lot of work, having to come up with a new teaching every week. Then it dawned on me. I told LaMarque I would do it on one condition. The Bible study would really be a discipleship class.

By discipleship, I mean that I was not so much going to teach a lesson every week, but I would walk with the class through the Bible the way I have every day for the last six or seven years – reading through the Bible on a set schedule over a period of time. Doing this has been a tremendous blessing from the Lord for me. You can read about two real examples in this post and this post.

So, last night I facilitated the first class to prepare us for the journey ahead. The title of last night’s class was Bible Study: Why? How? What?

[At the end of this post, you will find a one page summary of last night’s teaching (it doesn’t include everything below because it’s a summary) and the Bible reading schedule for 2017.]

What is the word of God?

If I held up the Bible and asked you what it is, how many of you would at some point answer that it is the word of God? I think most of you would. But, is it? Are you sure?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” – John 1:1-2

Notice the personal pronoun. The Word of God is a person. So, the question is not “what is the word of God? but “who is the word of God?”

But, John 1 is not the only time the Bible talks about the Word of God in odd ways like this. Look at how the word is talked about in the following three scriptures from Acts:

  • “And the word of God continued to increase.” – Acts 6:7
  • “But the word of God increased and multiplied.” – Acts 12:24
  • “So the word of the Lord continued to increase.” – Acts 19:20

Can the Bible increase and multiply? What would that even mean? You can find plenty more unusual references to the word of God in Acts and the rest of the New Testament.

But, unusual references to the word are found not just in the New Testament. You can find them in the Old Testament too.

In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel was left with Eli, the high priest, to serve in the ministry as he was dedicated to the Lord by his mother. Because Eli’s sons had been misusing the offerings and Eli knew about it, God wanted to get a message of judgment to Eli through Samuel.

Verse 1 says, “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” Is this referring to the Bible? Does rare mean that it was hard to find a copy of what was written? Anyway, the Old Testament was, perhaps at best, only half written at that time.

So, the Lord begins to call out Samuel’s name, but Samuel kept running to Eli. Eli said I’m not calling you. Verse 7 says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” Why would the writer say that the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to Samuel in response to Samuel not knowing the voice that was calling him? A voice comes from a person not a book. Was Samuel hearing a voice from some writings of the Old Testament?

By the end of the chapter, Samuel has heard from the Lord and delivered the message to Eli. The chapter closes in verse 21, “And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.”

Now Samuel knows the Lord. Samuel knew him by the word of the Lord. Throughout 1 Samuel 3, the word of the Lord does not seem to be a book. Instead it seems to be a person like it says in John 1. Speaking of John 1…

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

The Word is a Son, in addition to being a person.

“In him was life.” – John 1:4

In this person, this son, is life. The Word of God is life, a person, a son.

By now, I think you know what I’m driving at. The Word of God is Jesus, not the Bible. In fact, the Bible repeatedly refers to itself as the scriptures, the law, or the law and the prophets not the word of God. I believe this is important because to put anything before God, before Jesus, is to make that thing an idol. To treat the Bible or the scriptures as the word of God is to make the book an idol. We are using it incorrectly, trying to make the Bible do what only Jesus can. I have worked hard to no longer call the Bible the word of God since the Word of God is Jesus’ name (see Revelation 19:13). It’s not easy at first.

If it is not the word of god, then why do we study the bible?

It is really important to know why you are doing anything. It is especially important when it is something related to God. So, why do we study the Bible? There are two primary reasons.

  1. The Bible bears witness to Jesus, from whom we receive life.
  2. The Bible puts us back on track when our life with Jesus has gone off course.

First, the Bible bears witness to Jesus, from whom we receive eternal life.

In John 5, Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethsaida. Because of this act of healing on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Jesus and wanted to kill him. Jesus says this healing was his Father working and he is working too. Jesus equated himself with God, and the Jews wanted to kill him all the more.

Right then Jesus starts a long discourse in which he says that the Father raises the dead and gives life and that the Father has given this ability to the Son too. Towards the end of his soliloquy, Jesus says,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” – John 5:39-40

The Jews were going to the Bible, the scriptures, for eternal life. But, the Scriptures bear to witness to the person, the Son, the Word of God, that has eternal life. Jesus said you are going to a book for life, but I am standing right here in front of you, waiting to give you life, and you won’t even come to me. We can fall into the same trap today if we make the Bible the word of God, the source of eternal life.

We study the Bible because it points us to Jesus, who gives us life.

Second, the Bible puts us back on track when our life with Jesus has gone off course.

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All scripture is for:

  1. Teaching
  2. Reproof
  3. Correction
  4. Training

Are any of those things life? No, because the Bible does not give you life. Life comes from Jesus.

However, once we have received life from Jesus, each of those four things are to keep us in his life and to equip us to do works, bear fruit, from his life. As someone in the class said last night, the Bible is a training manual. Yes! And, this training manual was breathed out by God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, whom we are to be filled with so that we bear fruit.

If jesus is the word of god but we study the bible, then how should we study the bible?

I believe there are three key concepts for how we should study the Bible.

  1. Read the Bible in the language of Son.
  2. Jesus is our translator.
  3. The Holy Spirit is our teacher.

First, in order to read something and understand it, you need to know the language it is written in. But, I’m not talking about Hebrew and Greek, even English, here.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” – Hebrews 1:1-2

The Old Testament was written over a period of about 1,500 years. God spoke at many times. In the Old Testament, we have books of law, history, wisdom, psalms, and prophecy. Within those books, we have genealogies, short sayings, elaborate instructions for building a tabernacle, specific regulations on numerous types of offerings, a calendar of feasts, etc. God spoke in many ways.

But, today (these last days) God speaks “to us by his Son.” I italicized the word “his” because it is that way in many Bibles. When the Bible italicizes a word, that means the word is not in the original written language but was added by the translators for clarity (not all Bibles follow this convention though). So, the word “his” was added by the translators to the translation from Greek to English to help you understand what the author is saying. But does “his” do that?

Based on the entire context of Hebrews, I would argue it does not. In fact, I believe it actually disguises what the writer of Hebrews was really trying to say. Let’s remove the word “his.” Then the verse says that today God speaks “to us by Son.” The Greek word for “by” also means “in.” In this verse, it is translated both ways depending on which version you are reading. I prefer in. Therefore, today God speaks “to us in Son.”

What does it mean that God speaks “in Son”? Well…with what language am I writing to you? In English. So, to say that today God speaks in Son is the same as saying I am writing to you in English.

What is Hebrews 1:1-2 saying? Long ago God spoke at many times in many ways (different languages) but today God speaks in the language of Son. Therefore, when we read the Bible, we need to know it is written in the language of Son.

If the Bible was written in many “languages” but is now to be understood in the language of Son, then how are we to understand it? This brings us to our second key concept, Jesus is our translator.

In Luke 24, we find a story about two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus three days after Jesus was crucified. They have heard Jesus’ body is not in the tomb, but nobody has seen him yet. They are leaving Jerusalem dejected because Jesus said he would rise in three days. It didn’t happen. Now what are they going to do?

A stranger starts walking with them and asks them what they are talking about. So, the two disciples tell the stranger everything that has happened in Jerusalem. Upon hearing all these events, the stranger calls them foolish ones and asks why they are slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke about the Christ suffering. The disciples did not know it, but this stranger was Jesus.

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:27

Jesus interpreted the Bible to these two disciples. Why do you need an interpreter? When you need to translate something from one language to another. His interpretation revealed where he was throughout all the scriptures. God used to speak in many languages but today he speaks in Son. God has gone from one language to another. The new language is Son, and we need the Son, Jesus, to interpret that language for us. And, of course Jesus can do this because he is the Word of God.

Upon receiving this translation and realizing that it was Jesus translating the scriptures for them, the hearts of the two disciples burned within them. Later Jesus did the same thing with the other disciples. Luke 24:45 says, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” When Jesus translates the Bible in the language of Son for you it is as if the heavens are opened up and you receive new revelation to understand the Bible.

Even though he is our translator, we do not have the resurrected Jesus physically here with us. Therefore, the third key concept for how we study the Bible is the Holy Spirit is our teacher.

Just before he died, Jesus told the disciples it was better for them that he go away because then the Helper would come.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:26

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide [see 2 Timothy 3:16-17] you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify [see John 5:39-40] me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” – John 16:13-15

The Holy Spirit is our teacher. He guides and bears witness to Jesus. He leads us to eternal life.

given all that, what are we going to do to study the bible?

We are going to read through Bible in one year using a daily reading plan. Each week when we get together we will discuss the scriptures assigned for that week. God willing, each week we will see Jesus revealed in the scriptures we read. Following are seven principles for what we are going to do to study the Bible.

  1. We will read through the Bible in one year using a daily reading plan. This means we will read three to four chapters a day. It should take you about 15-25 minutes to do the reading.
  2. Set your mind to do this. Having had many false starts in daily Bible reading earlier in my walk with Jesus, I know how important it is to firmly set your mind to do this. You need a made up mind. You can do it!
  3. Start your day with prayer and the Bible reading. Jesus regularly got alone with the Father early in the morning. The Bible says to “call on the name of the Lord.” So, do that. Audibly. Call out the name Jesus until your heart and mind are fixed on him. Also, I have found the morning is the best time to do the reading because it gets my day started right. I get up, pray, make a cup of coffee, and read the Bible, expecting to hear from Jesus. And, I often receive a word from Jesus that I will need later that day (see my two examples above).
  4. Before reading, specifically ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to you in what you are about to read. Remember, Jesus is our interpreter and the Holy Spirit is our teacher. We need their help for the scriptures to bear witness and point us to Jesus, who is eternal life.
  5. Read the Bible like you would a good novel. I don’t mean that the Bible isn’t real or true. But, the Bible is God’s revelation of his son to us. And, God chose to reveal Jesus to us in a series of stories at many different times and in many different ways. But, those stories share a common language. These stories share similar patterns, themes, and symbols. Reading the Bible like a novel will help you identify these. Reading the Bible over and over and over again will make them even more identifiable.
  6. Be patient in your reading. There are going to be passages that make absolutely no sense. There are going to be passages that seem really boring. Don’t skip them! Keep plodding along and let the difficult parts slowly penetrate your heart. Often, these passages contain the deepest truths and insights into Jesus.
  7. Distractions and interruptions will happen. From personal experience, I guarantee this will happen. Initially, you will get sleepy, even if you are reading first thing in the morning. You might get a phone call. Your kids might get sick. You might get sick. Anything and everything will try to get in your way and keep you from reading the Bible. The devil doesn’t want you to do this because it will change your life. So, no matter what happens – PRESS ON! If you miss a day, then double up the next day. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

the goal

We are not reading the Bible for head knowledge, as an intellectual pursuit. Nor are we reading the Bible because it is an item on a check list. We don’t do it, check it off, and say I don’t ever need to do that again. Nor is this some religious obligation we perform because we are supposed to. Reading the Bible is an act of faith.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6

The goal is that our lives would be transformed. This is about setting our minds on Jesus so that he can renew them. This is a life-long effort until the Lord calls us back home.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2.

I look forward to you joining in this endeavor!

What Book Could You Read Over and Over?

In our company newsletter, we have a section where you can get to know new employees. We ask them a series of questions that reveal something about themselves. One of the questions is the title of this post.

I enjoy reading the answers. And, every time I read the answers I think about how I would answer the question. My answer would be short, but my explanation would be rather lengthy.

So, what book could I read over and over? The Bible.

In fact, it is the only book that I have ever read more than once. Cover-to-cover, I think I have read through the Bible at least 10 times now.

That is not to say I haven’t read other good books. I have read a lot of good books, and there have been a few that I planned to read again (Les Miserable being the most likely). But, it never happens. I think the reason is because I already know the plot. There’s no suspense. The element of surprise is gone. The first read is fresh, new, alive, exciting. The second is not.

So, how is it that I have spent the last six or seven years reading the Bible all the way through over and over? And, why is it that I will start again “in the beginning” on January 1?

Because every time I sit down to read the Bible I find some thought, some idea, some insight that is fresh, new, alive, exciting. But, these are not just random thoughts, random ideas, random insights. These are moments of inspiration and revelation from the Holy Spirit regarding my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And, since Jesus is alive, each new revelation of old words, words I’ve read numerous times, brings life to my spirit, my mind, and my body.

Perhaps you have never experienced the Bible this way. Perhaps you have never read it all the way through. Perhaps you have read the Bible cover to cover but only out of some sort of obligation so the experience was dull, boring, forced.

If one of the above statements is you, and even if one of them is not, then I would like to invite on the journey through the Bible with me in 2017.

Check back tomorrow to see what the journey entails.

The Word of God – It’s Not the Bible

Speaking of Jesus, Revelation 19:13 says, “…and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.”

And, Revelation 20:4 says, “Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God.”

According to Revelation 19:13, The Word of God is the name of Jesus. The Word of God is not only the name of Jesus but Jesus himself. (It’s not the Bible.) John 1 tells us this.

But, in Revelation 20:4 we see Jesus and the word of God listed separately as if they are two different things. On the one hand they are, but in reality they are not.

(Notice how in the first verse above it is written “Word of God” and in the second verse it is written “word of God” as if they are different things. We must be able to look beyond the ideas and influence of the translators and seek to know the truth from the Holy Spirit.)

One, the Word of God, is heavenly, spiritual. The other, Jesus, is earthly, natural. They are the same being but seen from different perspectives in two different realms or spheres.

The Word of God always was. He is God and was with God in the beginning. He is heavenly and spiritual. Everything that was made was made by and through the Word of God. We see the Word of God acting throughout the Old Testament as the angel of the Lord and the word of the Lord. When you read those phrases in the Old Testament, think of them as Jesus and see how the sense of what is happening changes.

But, the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us and we saw the glory of God. While the Word of God was active throughout history, he “appeared” or was “manifested” or was “made visible” in Jesus. All the fullness of God dwelt bodily in this one man Jesus. Jesus was born of a woman. He was a man just like one of us. He was earthly and natural.

The Word of God and Jesus are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. This is how John saw the souls of those who were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, their affirmation that they heard, saw, and touched this man, and for the Word of God, their belief that this man they dwelt with was God. These souls were beheaded because they believed the two – Jesus and the Word of God – were one and the same.

It’s actually a small thing to believe that some book, some writings, are the word of God, a record of what God has spoken to us. Thousands upon thousands have believed that throughout history. Even those who wouldn’t come to Jesus for life believed that.

But, it’s an extremely radical, life changing, world changing thing to believe that the Word of God is Jesus and Jesus is the Word of God. That God became a man and that there was a man who was God.

Is vs. In – It Makes All the Difference

“He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – Colossians 1:15 (see also Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and Hebrews 1:3)

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” – Genesis 1:26 (see also Genesis 1:27, 5:1, 9:6, and James 3:9)

IS and IN.

Every word in the Bible is important. Sometimes a two-letter word makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes we are so used to using words, particularly small words, that we really don’t stop to think about what they mean.

Do you know what “in” means? How about “is”? Could you give me an actual definition? Have you considered the important difference between them in the sentences above?

God made man “in” his image. Let’s look at what “in” means.

  1. used as a function word to indicate inclusion, location, or position within limits
  2. used as a function word to indicate means, medium, instrumentality
  3. used as a function word to indicate limitation, qualification, or circumstance
  4. used as a function word to indicate purpose
  5. used as a function word to indicate the larger member of a ratio

Each definition of “in” says something about our creation. God located or bounded our creation “in” the image of God (#1). We were made to function in this specific way. God made us “in” the image of God to be his instruments, to display his invisible nature in a visible world (#2). God limited or qualified our creation to be “in” his image (#3). When God made us “in” his image he was declaring our purpose (#4). By making us “in” his image, God was showing that we were the smaller member between man and God (#5 and i.e., the ratio is man/God or man:God).

We were made “in” the image of God. But, Jesus Christ “is” the image of the invisible God. To see the stark reality of this difference, let’s look at what “is” means.

  1. to equal in meaning: have the same connotation as
  2. to have identity with
  3. to constitute the same class as
  4. to have a specified qualification or characterization
  5. to belong to the class of

Jesus is equal in meaning to God (1a). He is God. Jesus is the identity of God (1b). If we have seen Jesus, then we have seen the Father. Jesus is the same class as God (1c). Jesus has all the same attributes as God although he was willing to lay them aside to become a man. Jesus is specifically qualified (1d). He was without sin and therefore qualified to die for us to save us. Jesus is of God (1e). In the beginning, Jesus “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

We were made “in” the image of God. But, Jesus “is” the image of God. Are you seeing the difference?

This is why Paul writes that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are being changed from “in” the image to the image itself.

 

This is why Paul writes, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

 

This is why Paul writes, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

 

From “IN” to “IS”.

 

From in the image of God to the same image as Jesus Christ.

 

In effect, the difference between those two little words is the entire story of the Bible.