The Scarcity Problem

“The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, and King David was filled with joy?” – 1 Chronicles  29:9. 

Imagine that two people are walking down the street. They both need oxygen to survive. But there is no worry about running out of oxygen.  Oxygen is not scarce. In fact, it is abundant. But if those same two people are scuba diving and one tank malfunctions, that changes the equation completely, doesn’t it? Suddenly air becomes a precious commodity. It’s scarcity makes the two people wonder if there is enough for both of them.   

Many people operate through the lens of scarcity. They are afraid of having enough money to enable them to live as they desire. And more importantly, will they have the money to provide for their family? The Great Depression in 1929 and all the downturns since then, have contributed to this scarcity mentality. The scarcity mentality contributes to “what if” scenarios such as “what if I lose my job” or “what if I get a chronic illness?”  People worry about running out of time, resources, and money.

All that could be true from a cultural, worldview. But as Christians, we should not look at life from a purely physical vantage point. Several weeks ago we talked about Jesus feeding the 5,000. (Matthew 14:13-21) The disciples viewed life through the lens of scarcity. From a practical standpoint the resources at the disciples disposal was pretty scarce compared to the need:  “But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.” (Vs. 16-17)

A similar story is told in I Kings 17:7-16 where Elijah encounters the widow of Zarephath. She is about to run out of food, but because she submitted to Elijah’s request to feed him, her small amount of flour and olive oil never ran out.

If we view life through the lens of scarcity, we will always be fearful and anxious. We are human. We fail to remember what God has done and therefore what he is capable of doing presently. It is important to remind ourselves over and over how God has provided in the past.   

God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won’t let you outgive Him in any way. The questions for us are: Do we realize that He gave His only Son for us, that He wants us to test His generosity, that we can trust a giving God, and that we will reap a great harvest if we sow generously? I believe it. Do you?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you ever have a scarcity mindset?
  2. Americans are some of the wealthiest people in the world, but do you think Americans are generous with their wealth? Why or why not?
  3. What excuses do people sometimes make for not being more generous with their resources (time, money, and energy) toward others? What excuses have you made?

Is Giving Better Than Receiving?

“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:25.

Imagine for a second putting a group of people in a room and asking them to debate whether it is truly better to give than to receive. It would be a spirited debate. One group may well suggest that regardless of income, studies show that those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not. The other side would probably look confused and say, “the giver is happier than the getter…I don’t buy it.  Surely some mistake. That goes against all our intuitions and instincts.”

It is more blessed to give than to receive when we have the option of doing either. That is because God’s ultimate goal for all of us is that we be saved and then become increasingly more like Jesus. Giving should be a delight when we realize that in giving we are acting like Jesus. One of the things that we strive for in the Christian life is to be more like Jesus. We love the Lord Jesus Christ, we see His grace at work in our lives, we see areas where we’re growing — but we also see those areas where we fall short of being like Jesus. Those areas will always exist, but when we give, we are following His example. We get to emulate the Lord Jesus Christ. We get to act like Jesus. Jesus gave the greatest gift that’s ever been given: Himself.

Paul reminds us of that in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.”  When you give, you get to act like Jesus. Don’t take that for granted. I pray that we never underestimate the blessing of that, being able to be like the Savior through sacrificial giving. Because He who had everything gave everything, that we who had nothing might share everything with Him.

Giving in a right spirit is an act of worship. It is rendering Him a tribute of praise. It is saying. “You gave me everything and here is a small expression of my gratitude and praise for all your good gifts. It’s only a token, a sample of what I really feel, but you know the heart that lies behind it.” As David said: “What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?” (Psalms 116:12).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Agree or disagree and why?
  2. Do you believe that giving yourself to God is the most important step in learning to become more generous? Why or why not?
  3. List some of the available time, talents, treasure, and things that God has given you. In what way could you give more in those areas?
  4. What is the greatest benefit or insight you have gained from this week’s message?

Why Should I Serve In The Kids Ministry?

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” – Mark. 10:13-16.

Many of you have at one time or another probably asked yourself this question: “Why should I serve in the Kid’s ministry?” Without generalizing, most people don’t serve in children’s ministry because it’s a stepping stone to something else, because it’s not really. You probably don’t serve in Kid’s ministry because it’s a ministry that is for everyone, because it isn’t. And you probably would not volunteer in the children’s ministry because you want to be a babysitter.

You should serve in the Kid’s ministry because you get to teach kids the Bible and be a part of making disciples. Children are born with an innate sense of wonder and faith that is real and authentic. As teachers and leaders our role is to provide a foundation of experiences on which children build a life of learning and growth toward a mature and vital faith.

You should serve in the Kid’s ministry because there are few ministry opportunities that allow you to impact the future in such a direct way. When you love and teach kids on Sunday, you are also influencing generations to come. These children will one day become parents and church leaders themselves. If you want to change the world long-term, then you should serve in Kid’s ministry.

You should serve in the Kid’s ministry because it’s been proven that most people who will come to Christ do so when they are young. The childhood years are the years of greatest opportunity for the Gospel.  And you should serve in the Kid’s ministry because while other avenues of church service may be beyond your abilities; you may never sing a solo or preach a sermon in church. Serving in the Kid’s ministry is open to almost all Christians. If you love God and His children, then there are many different ways for you to become a contributor.

Can you think of anything greater than having a child come walk up to you and say, “Thank you for teaching God’s Word to us.”

That, friends, is why you should serve in children’s ministry.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why should you serve in the Kid’s ministry?   
  2. Why is teaching God’s ways to our children so important?
  3. Pray about serving in the Kid’s ministry this week.

Opportunity Knocking

“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” – Galatians 6:10.

You have probably heard the name Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker was a management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation. He once said that “Progress is obtained only by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. When you solve problems, all you do is guarantee a return to normalcy.” Now before you stop reading, let me say this: problem-solving is important, even crucial, but it is not always progress, it is usually returning us to here we started before we had the problem. Real progress usually comes from coupling opportunity with initiative.

I have never met anyway who did not miss at least one opportunity. The most common reason for missing opportunities is because we are overly cautious, or risk adverse and prefer a wait and see attitude. We choose to be a spectator. The problem with remaining on the sidelines is you cannot take advantage of the opportunities God gives you. We have the power to make a difference in other’s lives– it’s just a matter of getting off the sidelines and getting involved.

 In 2 Chronicles 15 we read the story of King Asa.  2 Chronicles 15:17 says, “Although the pagan shrines were not removed from Israel, Asa’s heart remained completely faithful throughout his life.” That is a very rare and difficult compliment to achieve from the Bible – yet Asa achieved it. But right in the next chapter we can see that Asa made some wrong decisions. 2 Chronicles 16:7 says “At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, “Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the LORD your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram.”  The back story is that King Asa defeated a much bigger army with the help of God, but rather than go to God again when another problem arose, he turned to the king of Aram for help. Simply said, he “missed his chance.” He missed an opportunity.

Opportunities do not wait around for the overly cautious nor the slow to move. They must be seized. Opportunities are being presented to you on a daily basis. You will either seize them or you will let them slip by.  Many times the reason we let them slip by is because we are not interested in them. It’s work. “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.” (1 Corinthians 16:9) The Amplified Bible says it this way, “For a wide door of opportunity for effectual service has opened to me there; one great and promising and many adversaries.”

Don’t let the fear of falling short deter you from trying. You will make mistakes. You will mess up. You may have to admit defeat. Keep going. Use them as opportunities to discover what doesn’t work, but always persevere. Because despite the risks and messiness of it all, my hope is we become fearless and dare to take the plunge, even when it means risking failure. Philippians 4:13 reminds us: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you define opportunity? 
  2. Was there a time when you felt that God wanted you to act and you failed to do so? How do you feel today about that lost opportunity? Did God use someone else to do His work?
  3. What are some of the promises of God that you can trust as you embrace the opportunities that God gives you? 

Does God Really Need Our Help?

“These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?” – Job 26:14. 

Does God need our help? In a word, no. We can’t even begin to comprehend the power of God. We have an omnipotent God. He has the ability and power to do anything. God’s power is unlimited.

The Bible says that the faith of any believer should not be founded in religious reasoning, but on the power of God: “And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)  God does not need us, yet the Bible has numerous stories of how ordinary people participated in His purposes. In fact, God went to amazing lengths to include people in His purposes.

God rarely did anything by Himself. It would have been much easier for God to do everything on His own. Instead, he involved people in almost everything He did. God regularly turned spectators into participants. God did not afford people the luxury of sitting back and watching God do stuff. The Bible is full of examples.

Right from the start, God put Adam in the Garden of Eden and gave him a job: naming the animals. (Genesis 2:19) God could have named the animals Himself. But He chose to give Adam that assignment. When God wanted to get His people out of Egypt, He drafted Moses at the burning bush to pry the people away from Pharaoh. Moses dug his heels in and resisted taking on such a risky project. God persisted until Moses became a participant.  Why didn’t God simply give Goliath a heart attack? It would have been easier. But instead, God sent David into the valley to kill him with a slingshot. When Jesus wanted to start churches, He knocked Saul of Tarsus off his high horse on his way to Damascus and shaped Paul into a church-planting machine.

The list is endless. All through the Bible, God relentlessly involved people. He turned them from spectators into participants. God can use us if we choose to move from the sidelines into the game. It is simply being open to what God wants us to do. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think God chose to involve people rather than simply doing everything Himself?
  2. Why do you think God designed for us to serve and give rather than simply consume?
  3. What is the biggest challenge in moving from a spectator to a participant?
  4. What can you do this week to get involved in the local church?

Why Does The Church Exist?

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Matthew 28:18–20.

Why does the Church exist? It’s a simple question, but do we know the answer? There are lots of good reasons, but for us at Northstar, it boils down to one idea — to see one more life touched, saved and transformed by the grace of God.   

C.S. Lewis had to this to say in Mere Christianity: “It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, buildings, missions, holding services … the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.”

But how do we ensure we will continue to draw people to Christ and make them “little Christs?” It is easy to default to the idea that making “little Christs” is the role of the church. But as I said in this week’s message, we are the church.  A church is a congregation of people united together in the love of Christ and devoted to His mission. We aren’t an audience every Sunday. Our responsibilities did not end the day we were saved. Each of us are an essential part of the church, and each of us have a job to do. We each have responsibilities.

First, each of us have a responsibility to serve God through His church. God created the church, and He owns it. The church is the body of Christ. As His body, we are responsible for being good stewards of His body. Second, we have a responsibility to obey Christ and be His hands and feet in our world. Our neighbors cannot see our faith, but they can see our works. They can’t see our love for God, but they can see whether God is glorified in our lives.

If Lewis is right that “the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs,” that has to be the sole focus of our journey and the mission of Northstar. We can have the best intentions, but without the involvement of church members and regular attenders, we will never achieve our mission. 

That is why the church exists.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why do you think the church exists? How do I fit into the church? What do I contribute?
  2. What does it mean to make little Christs?
  3. Pray for Northstar that we will make “little Christs” each week?

A Mission To Make A Difference

“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” – Hebrews 13:16

The gospel is about life and transformation. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are transformed and have the power to transform the world in which we live. The amazing mystery of God is that He has chosen to fulfill His plan through His Church –  ordinary people who can do extraordinary things through the power of God. “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

God is looking for people who will make a difference in His kingdom. He is not looking for those who have wealth, He is not looking for those who have dynamic personalities, He is not looking for people with great social backgrounds. God is looking for people who He can use. He is looking for people that want to make a contribution.

To make a contribution means we cannot simply be spectators. The gospel of Jesus Christ should inspire us to take action, to get involved. I don’t think God ever intended the pews or chairs in church to be padded. Our lives should consist of a whole lot of action verbs like go, speak, pray, etc. But too often we leave things to God. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  God did not design us to be static or paralyzed.

In Luke 22:39-46, Jesus is spending hours in prayer. Something terrible was going to happen. Jesus knew it. In fact this is His final act, before He is arrested, tried, and put to death. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine….He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:42,44)  Soon the Son of God walked the rocky road to Calvary.

Jesus so loved the world that He did something. He made Himself nothing for us. He obeyed His Father and He went to the cross. It was no easy task. He was beaten and broken. He was crucified. This was the single greatest contribution in the history of the world. But what if Jesus prayed about going to the cross, but never went? What if churches opted to meet every Sunday, but never to take the gospel outside the walls? What if nobody volunteered to serve at church? What if parents only prayed their children would follow the Lord, but you never did anything to train them? 

Nothing much happens in any walk of life until somebody gets involved, until somebody makes a contribution.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define getting involved? How do you define making contributions to the Kingdom?
  2. How much time do you typically invest in serving the church on a weekly/monthly basis?
  3. What area is God pushing you to serve in the church? 

Is Your Faith Big Enough To Share With Others?

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” – 1 Peter 3:15.

The phrase, “sharing your faith” can bring up all kinds of emotions. It might trigger excitement and gratitude or nervousness and anxiety. We sometime have it in our minds that sharing our faith requires public speaking and extensive Biblical knowledge. And people are concerned that if they couple public speaking with Biblical knowledge, inevitably awkward conversations are going to occur. Sharing your faith may require you to step out of your comfort zones and yes, it may end up being awkward. But let me remind you of a few things to keep in mind as you consider when or how to share your faith with others.    

First, we need to remember it is only through the power of God that people are saved. It simply doesn’t happen through human effort or ability or knowledge. The bottom line is this: if people are not responding the way we want, we are not responsible, God is. That should help take some of the pressure off when we are concerned we are not saying the right things or when we don’t have enough Biblical knowledge.

Success in evangelism is measured not in the outcome, but in your obedience to the command of Christ. The story of Jesus and the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30 is an example of this point. The young man approached Jesus, interested in hearing about how to get to heaven. You would think that any encounter with Jesus, the Son of God, would have been a sure-fire conversion. This was not the case. After Jesus told him the cost of discipleship, the Bible says, “when the young man heard this, he went away sad.” If Jesus was rejected, we can be as well. But that does not mean it was a waste of time. You could be planting the seeds that God could water and grow in the future.

God will be with you. After He gave the Great Commission to go and make disciples in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus did not leave His disciples alone but said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (v. 20). Going out on your own can be a frightening thing, but that is never the experience of the Christian. Christ promises to always be with you.

Finally, trust God. The journey this person is on will have twists and turns you and I could never imagine. God will bring the right people at the right time. For now, we are privileged to be one person on that journey, telling our story and pointing our friend or relative or even acquaintance to the God who died for them.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the obstacles to sharing our faith with others?
  2. What are the risks as you see them? What are the benefits?
  3. In this devotional I said it is not about the outcome, but about obeying God. Agree or disagree and why?
  4. Is there someone this week we need to share our faith with?

Is Your Faith Big Enough To Take Risks?

“ And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6.

Most people who are followers of Jesus will exercise two levels of faith at one time or another. One level is to be inactive and wait patiently for the Lord to move. This level of faith involves believing that God will bring about a solution apart from any effort on our end. It is predicated on being still and waiting for God to act. The second level of faith is being proactive and assertive. We take the initiative to find the answer to a need. And by moving forward, we force ourselves to a dependence on the Lord that wouldn’t be possible if we merely sat still.

In verse 6, the writer of Hebrews says it is impossible to please God without faith. Now most people do not start with great faith. Most people start their Christian journey still in the batter’s box in their Home Run Life. Faith is a work in process. It is fine to start with the little things. The goal is to move around the bases and grow our faith.     

Every Christian’s life is marked by windows of opportunity that demand that you take a radical step of faith in order to follow Christ and fulfill His purposes for your life.  And what makes that step radical is that it always involves significant risk. But listen carefully, where there is no risk, there is no faith. We find so many impressive stories in the Bible of individuals who took great risks. Moses returns to his home to deliver God’s people.  Can you imagine the risk that he felt?  The last time he was in Egypt he had killed someone. David fights a giant that others refuse to face. There were hundreds of other people in the army that looked at that giant about 9 foot tall and they said, “Hmm, yes he’s sure insulting God’s name and character and I wish someone would do something about it.” But not a single person stepped up to the plate and took the risk of his life. Esther confronts evil in the highest position of authority. The last queen had a bad day and she was gone. Still Esther risks her life to save her people.

So when does God want us to operate at level one faith and when at level two? If we are facing a seemingly insurmountable problem–a situation that we believe we are powerless to influence–we should be still and wait on the Lord. But there will also be times when action is required, where we may be asked to take bold steps, and yes, to take some risks. Faith is simply doing what God tells you to do whether you feel like it or not, and in fact, especially when you don’t feel like it, regardless of the circumstances because He said it and His Word is true. 

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think God asks us to take risks? What do we learn about ourselves, and how do we grow by taking risks?
  2. What are the obstacles to stepping out of our zones of comfort and taking risks?
  3. As you’ve taken risks of faith, did God’s path seem impractical, at first? In what ways?
  4. What are some of the promises of God that you can trust as you take risks?

Is Your Faith Big Enough To Trust God For Your Needs?

“And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” – Matthew 6:30. 

I think it is safe to say that everyone has a story, everyone has a struggle, and everyone has needs. There will be times in every one of our lives when we will experience a need of some type. Perhaps that need will be material in nature, or it may be emotional and, at other times, needs of a physical nature will arise. Or we may have spiritual needs.

The natural reaction is for us to try to meet our own needs because we live in a very self-sufficient world. But when we have the ability and the power to help ourselves, then we do not really have a need, do we? But what happens when we can’t meet the need? When we have exhausted every resource and we are left with the reality that this is beyond us, what then?

The answer to getting the needs of life met comes from Jesus Himself. His answer was this, “And Jesus answering saith unto them, “Have faith in God.” Mark 11:22-24 says: “Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”   

In 1 Kings 17 we read the story of Elijah and the widow. Imagine how Elijah felt when his brook dried up and the ravens quit bringing food. So in 1 Kings 17:8-9, “the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”  That didn’t seem like much of a solution. Widows were poor, and had enough trouble feeding themselves, let alone feeding others. But, Elijah knew that God knew more about taking care of prophets than Elijah did and he just went. If we sit around and worry about what’s happening in our life and trying to figure out what God is doing, we will go crazy. We can’t understand God and we can’t figure Him out. Isaiah 55:9 reminds us of that: ”For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”  

In 1 Kings 17:14, Elijah gives the widow woman an 11 word promise, “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says…”  In other words the widow had the promise of God to back up her faith. And so do we today. David in Psalm 37:25 says, “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” If God said that He would look after your need, then you can have trust in Him to meet those needs, protect you, rescue you, be with you, answer you, satisfy you, and give you eternal life. 

What else do we need?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is the whole idea of what we want and what God gives us difficult for you to comprehend? Why?
  2. It is important to base our faith on the promises of the Bible rather than on our own feelings, needs and wants. Why is that so important?
  3. Read Philippians 4:9. What does God supplying all your needs mean to you? 
  4. What can we do this week to better trust God to meet our needs?