A Spirit Of Generosity

“I want you to know about (the church at Philippi’s) generosity… Even while suffering in severe trials and extreme poverty, their lives have overflowed with joy because of their amazing generosity. I personally witnessed their giving not simply giving what they could afford. But giving even beyond their human ability! No one told them to do it. It was due to their own generous hearts. In fact they begged and pleaded for the privilege of giving to serve God’s people. And they gave in a way we did not expect: They first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us. That is what pleases God!” 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

What exactly counts as generosity? Should generosity be the average Christian’s goal? Where is generosity at work in daily activities? How do we become generous? Answers to these questions might seem straightforward. Generosity is giving others something extra beyond what they are due. Ordinary Christians should be generous, relative to their means. 

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 is the famous passage about how God loves a cheerful giver. In verses 10-12 Paul says, “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.”

What Paul is saying is that the material gift also has spiritual implications. Being materially generous to the ministry of Paul was also being spiritually generous to those to whom Paul and his team were ministering. It is still the same today. Generosity really is the gift that keeps on giving. It is important that we not only be materially generous to the ministries God is leading you to give to, but also to be spiritually generous.  

Take a few minutes and take stock of your life. Specifically, document how much Christ has given you spiritually, how He has been gracious to you. Also take note of those who have been spiritually generous to you? How have they impacted your life? How has what they did encouraged you in your marriage or influenced the way you parent your kids? How have they helped you understand the gospel in deeper ways? Now consider how you could do some of the same things to bless others spiritually. Take what God is teaching you every day and share it with others.  

Yes, we should strive to be materially generous, But let’s also work on being spiritually generous with the wealth that God has given to us.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Do you tend to think in terms of spiritual generosity? Why or why not? 
  2. What are some steps we can take to be more spiritually generous? 

Worry About The Unknown

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:31-33.

We have all heard the term the “Christian walk.” It refers to an individual’s personal, spiritual journey. Many times we have false expectations of what the “Christian walk” should be like. As Paul tells us in Acts 20:22, “…I don’t know what awaits me.”  In other words, the Christian walk is really a journey into the unknown. We need to learn to be OK with that. We need to learn that God does what He does for reasons we can’t always see or understand. We need to learn to believe that God is good, even when the unknowns of life creep in. Paul tell us in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” 

That is a tough environment to be in. Talk to any business manager and they will tell you that it is very difficult to be successful when unknowns pop up and surprise you. Christians feel the same way about the unknowns in their walk with God. We want all the blanks filled in. All the gaps closed. All the details disclosed. And the why questions answered. But that’s not how life works. There will be questions for which there are no apparent answers. There will be unknowns.   

Without blanks, we would have no room for Him to write in His answers. Without gaps, there would be no way for Him to become the Way when there is no way. Without unanswered questions, there would be no way to show us that He is the answer. Our God is not fickle, forgetful or fragile in anyway. He does not make mistakes. He has a purpose for our gaps. He has a divine purpose behind all the blanks and the unanswered questions in our life. He wants us to have faith. 

What is most pressing in your life right now? Whatever that is, replace that worry with the truth of God’s love and power. We can trust that God will do as He says: “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7)  It is possible to experience God’s peace. When we learn to cast our cares on God and trust Him to handle them, faith replaces fear. Worry sees unknowns, but faith sees the God who can handle any unknown.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think that God does not give us all the details?
  2. Do you find comfort knowing that God is in the midst of your uncertainties?  Why?

Think On These Things

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8 

Is it impossible to stop thinking? Try to shut down your mind and you will soon realize that it is impossible to stop streaming thoughts through your mind. It won’t be long before your thoughts will be reminding you of the jobs you haven’t done, anxious thoughts about the future, fragments of memories, images of people you know, and portions of songs you’ve recently heard. The question is are we simply thinking without control of what we think? Are we simply a victim to outside forces, or can we control our thoughts?

There is a famous scene in Peter Pan where Peter is in the children’s bedroom; they have seen him fly, and they wish to fly too. They have tried it from the floor and they have tried it from the beds and the result is failure. “How do you do it?” John asked. And Peter answered: “You just think lovely, wonderful thoughts and they lift you up in the air.” The same is true for the believer. The only way to defeat evil thoughts is to think on different things.

The apostle Paul understood this principle. He gave us a list of things we should focus our time and energy thinking about: “fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.” (Philippians 4:8 GNT) The human mind is a wonderful creation of God … it cannot think of two things at the same time. So while you are thinking positive thoughts, you cannot be thinking negative thoughts. When you are thinking about things that are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely, you cannot think about those things that are false, dishonest, unjust, impure and ugly.

For me the take away from all this is that we can truly adjust a lot in our own lives simply by changing our focus. Focusing on the positive in all situations strengthens our belief which leads to increased faith. On the flip side, when we focus on negative things it weakens our belief, or gets us believing stuff that isn’t true. And that not only erodes our faith, it actually will increase fear in our lives.

Fortunately God has given us control over that by putting a choice in front of us. All we have to do is decide what we are choosing to focus on? 

Jeremiah 33:3 ESV says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways is Philippians 4:8 a reality for you? What would you have to give up to start thinking more consistently with Philippians 4:8?
  2. Is it possible to change without first changing your thinking?

Be Thankful

“There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!” ― Psalm 43:4

We are approximately 130 days from Thanksgiving 2019. For hundreds of years, Americans have been giving thanks for the blessings of the preceding year. But for Christians, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. The regular practice of gratitude is a staple in scriptures: (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Most verses go on to list reasons why we should thank Him, such as “His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 136:3), “He is good” (Psalm 118:29), and “His faithfulness continues to each generation.” (Psalm 100:5).  

Today, ingratitude and thanklessness are far too common. It is easy to be thankful when things are going well. But not as easy when you suffer an unforeseen illness, lose a job, or the relationship you have been working on for months just continues to sour. Such circumstances can be tremendously difficult. But even so, we all have much to be thankful for. Just ask Paul. 

The footstep he hears in the prison corridor could be the guards coming to take him to his execution. His daily habitat was a dark, damp, cramped prison cell. His bed was the stone floor. The irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs were his daily companion. If ever a person had a right to complain, it was Paul, languishing in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, he was full of praise and thanksgiving.

Imagine if we could emulate Paul by giving thanks no matter the circumstances. What if rather than waiting for Thanksgiving or other special occasions to be thankful, gratitude and thanksgiving was a daily reality.  We don’t have to look far to find countless things to be grateful for. Perhaps we take many things for granted, like the air we breathe or even life itself. Being thankful for our family and friends is natural, but is our gratitude visible?

The Holy Spirit is the substance of it, the source of it, and the strength of being thankful. We are to be filled with the Spirit, and we are to be giving thanks. And that’s the only way we can do it. In Colossians, Paul urges Christians to “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2) He reminds us to “always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:12-15)

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Is being thankful really our choice? Can we actually decide that we will be thankful people? Where has being thankful ranked on your list of required Christian qualities up until now? 

Talk To Me

“You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” –  2 Peter 3:17–18.  

We can talk to God anywhere, anytime. God wants to talk to us. That may be surprising for some. For many, God seems like a distant father, tolerating us but not really interested in our lives. Believe it or not, quite the opposite is true. God wants to be a part of every detail and wants us to know who He really is. But it takes faith. It takes coming to grips with the invisible presence of our all-present God. God is probably not going to light a shrub on fire in our front yards to get our attention as He did through Moses and the burning bush. Yet, because of Jesus, we can still experience His presence in real terms. 

The important thing is that we’re giving our attention to God – and that we’re talking to Him. This doesn’t need to be out loud, either; of course, God knows our every thought and intention. But it shouldn’t be a “chore” – it needs to be real, authentic and truthful. By talking to God, we’re reminding ourselves that no matter what is going on in our lives – no matter how difficult it might be or what struggles we are going through – the most important thing in our life is our relationship with God. We need to nurture our relationship with Him. After all, when you have a relationship with someone, you want to hear from them regularly. The same goes for God. He wants to hear from us. Psalm 34:15 perfectly sums up the importance of why we need to talk to God: “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; His ears are open to their cries for help.”

Moses, David, Job, Jesus and many more figures from the Bible all expressed their anger, confusion, and dismay to God. “At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46) Then there is Job 10:1-4: “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain. I will say to God, ‘Don’t simply condemn me—tell me the charge you are bringing against me. What do you gain by oppressing me? Why do you reject me, the work of your own hands, while smiling on the schemes of the wicked? Are your eyes like those of a human? Do you see things only as people see them?” The Bible repeatedly shows faith-filled people engaged in frank, direct cries to God’s face.  

The Bible tells us time and time again of the importance of speaking to God. And we also know He is always listening, and answers all our prayers in His own way (even if His answer is sometimes “no” or “not quite yet”). That does not mean that you should talk to God just as you would to a very respected friend. Don’t worry about using any special form of words. Just talk openly, honestly, and sincerely from your heart. (This is what “prayer” is supposed to be.)

Whatever may be going on in your life today, know this: God loves you. He will be in control if you let Him. Speak to Him and then listen for His voice. Expect Him to take over the circumstances and know with great assuredness in your heart that He is going to meet your needs. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What are the benefits of talking to God about everything?  
  2. What can you do this week to think about God more often?


 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7. 

So you’re a worrier. For some of us, worry is more like a hobby, while others are professional worriers. Some of us are yesterday worriers, while others are someday worriers, while still others are everyday worriers. We know it does little if any good. In fact, we would agree that it is a waste of time. We also know we need to do something different or worry will make itself right at home and become a regular part of our lives And worry not only has physical consequences, but it also has spiritual ones as well. In the end, worry won’t stretch our savings account or keep cancer or job loss at bay and get us accepted into the college of our choice.

Telling yourself not to worry is easy; eliminating worry is much more difficult. Jesus offers help for worriers in Matthew 6:25-34. Worry is futile. To that end Jesus offers a simple test: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  No. In fact, worry will most likely subtract hours from it instead. Worry has no productive value. Worry is an indicator of our level of faith and trust in God. Whenever we choose to worry about something, we are in effect saying, “I’m not sure God will do anything about my situation.”

Once we identify worry as a lack of trust, then we can turn it over to God. Trust is the essential ingredient in an authentic relationship with Jesus. God gave us a formula in His Word to help us stop the worry: 

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7) 

The very next verse tells us how to stop the worrying, so we can experience that kind of peace that comes through praying about everything: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8) 

As we focus on God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s ability to control all that you cannot, there is no room in your mind for fear or worry. All we need to do is to trust God. He can control all you think you must and all you are convinced you can’t. And He knows exactly what He’s doing in your life. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. When have you experienced the greatest worry in your life? How did you deal with it?
  2. How have you learned to give your worry to God? 

I’m Afraid

“O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me…they are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting to harm me. They come together to spy on me— watching my every step, eager to kill me.” ― Psalm 56:1-2. 5-6.  

When a group of Christians were asked the question. “What is your biggest obstacle today to giving your whole life to God”, the answers were interesting. Some of the answers included: what if I fail, maybe I didn’t hear God correctly, and maybe I am not good enough spiritually to name a few. In other words, people were afraid. And why not. To follow God in this life there’s a lot of sacrifices to be made. Following Jesus doesn’t mean staying in your comfort zone. Following Jesus means getting out of the boat and walking on water towards Jesus while you’re scared, with Jesus saying “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” (Matthew 14:27). And when we see the wind and get scared and start to sink, Jesus will be right there to catch us.

David wrote Psalm 56 when he was seized by the Philistines while running from Saul’s army. David thought he might find refuge there if the Philistines had forgotten who he was. But he was not that lucky as 1 Samuel 2:11 points out: “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing, ‘Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
So they seized him. So here is David, running for his life from an army of soldiers, only to run to another dangerous enemy.  He lived each day wondering if today might be the day someone would kill him. David could face horrifying trials because he knew where to turn in horrifying trials. Psalm 56:3-4 says, “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” 

He begins by saying, “But when I am afraid . . . ” He acknowledges that the danger, the trial, the fear is real. “I am afraid for the moment, but I know where to turn when I am afraid. And when I cast my fears on Him, He casts away all my fears.”  

We have a choice about how to handle our fear. We can let it paralyze us, or we can surrender what we cannot control to God and decide to move forward in faith—counting on the certainty that no matter what happens, God loves us. In Romans 8:38, the apostle Paul writes, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love”

Nothing could be better than a good, wise Father who loves us so much that He’s working behind the scenes on our behalf, even in the midst of our fears. If that’s the case, then we really do have nothing to fear.

– Psalm 71:5-8 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you sometimes feel afraid in your walk with God?  
  2. What can we do this week to ease that fear?

Willpower Is Not Enough

“Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (GNT)

Willpower sure sounds like a great thing. Most people need willpower and struggle with it at the same time. We start every year with well-intentioned resolutions for improving our lives. But within a few weeks, our ability to stick to those plans has all but waned. The New Year’s resolutions are replaced by other changes we want to make in our lives. These new changes will require a different approach and concentrated willpower. Willpower is real and able to make a difference, but it is a finite commodity. God is the energy driver in your life. God says He will give you the power you need, no matter what you’re facing 

Paul starts off verse 7 in the 2 Corinthians passage by telling us that we are clay pots/jars. We are delicate and fragile. Some of us may be cracked or patched over. Some of us may have a little paint chipped off. Some of us may feel like we are barely holding together. All of us know that life brings unexpected trials. In the midst of those trials, there is little we can do on our own, and the amount of willpower we have will not change that. Fortunately, there is a power that lives inside of us that only comes from God. Yes, we are clay jars—broken, fragile, a little cracked, or patched over. But, we have a power available to us that cannot be contained. Even in our fragile state, we can make a difference, not because of our willpower or anything we have to offer, but because of everything that Jesus is. This is one of the most important and most difficult lessons we must learn; how to find strength in the strength of God.   

How many times have you heard sermons about the “heroes of the faith” – people like David, Jeremiah, Moses, and Paul? It’s easy to look at the great figures of the Bible and think, “Wow, they understand something about God that I don’t.” It is not what they know as much as it was that they were able to tap into God’s strength and do extraordinary things.

I constantly hear stories of the amazing things that people are doing to further the kingdom of God. Their testimonies are present-day examples of living through God’s strength. Are those people an anomaly? I don’t think so. I believe each of us can find God’s strength the same way in our own life?

Discussion Questions:

  1. How often do you depend on willpower? 
  2. Jesus functioned through the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Agree or disagree? How can we function this week in the same way.

I Have Arrived

“There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!” ― Psalm 43:4

Our goal every day should be to know Jesus a little better than we did the day before. But then life happens, and we have trouble staying focused in an age of unprecedented distraction. Our desire to get closer to God bogs down a little and then a little more. Then one day you realize that the closer you get the farther away you seem to be. Somewhere along the line, you had settled for where you are rather than where you should be in your relationship with God. You feel stuck. And your lack of progress makes you wonder if you have arrived at the zenith of your spiritual development; if this is as good as it gets.

C.S. Lewis said, “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.” When you have taken the relationship with God as far as you can take it, you have arrived at the point that you turn the relationship over to Him. Remember what you can’t do, He can. God never created a finish line this side of heaven. Thus we are an ongoing project. And like most projects, there will be times we stumble and even fail: to the point where we start to second guess how we can go.  

The Gospel is simple: Jesus died for our sins, was buried in a tomb, and came back to life three days later. If our love for Jesus and our relationship with Him isn’t based on the reality of these events, following Jesus can become a matter of routine. If that is the case we need to change the routine. I think sometimes we can forget that it takes an everyday effort and an everyday surrender. We have to consciously make a choice to choose Him every chance we get. We have to consciously make time with Him our priority and center the rest of our days around Him.

As Christians do we arrive? Is there a time when all of our hard work and efforts will pay off?  The answer is no. We are still a work in progress and will be until we meet Jesus face to face. The life God uniquely designed for us to live and for which our hearts yearn cannot be achieved by our own efforts, no matter how disciplined we may be. In fact, our desperate huffing and puffing to please God, scrambling to win His favor and attempts to fix myself accomplish little. Fortunately, desiring to follow Jesus isn’t about being complete and perfect; it’s about doing my best and trusting God to finish what He began. Its about living with His grace daily, remembering what matters most, getting to know Jesus better, figuring out where we need to grow, and focusing on the future.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Have you ever felt that you have arrived, that your relationship with God was about as good as it gets? 
  2. What can we do this week to keep our relationship with God from becoming routine, or going through the motions? 

Growing In Christ

“You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing.  Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” –  2 Peter 3:17–18.  

In business, continuous improvement is the best tool for future growth. The external environments of businesses change constantly, so leaders must continually improve to remain successful and competitive. That basic tenet is true in every area of life. Success isn’t achieved by staying idle; you’ve got to adapt and overcome challenges around you. What about spiritual growth? The Bible says our Lord Jesus “kept increasing in wisdom” and the “and the grace of God was upon Him.”  (Luke 2:52, 40 AMP) Shoudn’t we?

True stability in the Christian life comes not from planting two feet and standing still, but from putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.  The term Christian should be synonymous with growth. Growth is really all about improving your relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible relates God to a father, bridegroom, husband, friend. We often make a relationship with God more complicated than it needs to be. If you look at the best relationships you have it is usually because you care about one another, you spend time together, and you value what the other has to say. The same things hold true for a relationship with God. The challenge is how does one improve his or her relationship with God? People are often unsure how to respond. The promises of grace suggest one answer; the experiences of life often suggest another. In the confusion, we often do the one thing we can’t do: nothing.  

There are multiple approaches to improving your relationship with God, but I want to address one for the sake of this devotional. Successful people work on one thing at a time  That one thing is communication. 

Communication will help grow your relationship with our heavenly Father. Yes, it would be nice if God used email, or Twitter or even a text to communicate with us. But even though we can’t use our typical methods, we can communicate with God and God with us. Start with devotional time with God in the morning, In the same kind of way when we pray more often, there is a knowledge that God hears us and will answer according to His perfect plan. Then there is reading His word. The Bible remains the best device we have to communicate with God. Much of the Bible is about communion with God explaining ways God relates or “communicates” to us and how we respond or “communicate with Him.”  

If you feel that you need to improve your communication with God, just start talking to Him. Tell Him about your day, your adventures and your concerns.  Ask Him to make you better at communication.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Are you content with your spiritual growth? Where would you like it to be? What needs to change to get it where you want it to be? 
  2. What can you do this week to improve your communication with God?