Day 212: Hearing from God

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Friday, July 31st, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 29:1-36
Romans 14:1-23
Psalm 24:1-10
Proverbs 20:12
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1rRFeCx

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

And they gathered their brethren, sanctified themselves, and went according to the commandment of the king, at the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord. – 2 Chron 29:15

The proper chain of command is as follows: God speaks, the leader relays His instructions, and the people walk out His commands. Hezekiah knew that he would never rule well without first hearing from the Lord. So, he set his heart to enter into covenant with God (2 Chron 29:10). Then, he was faithful to everything God asked him to do.

Hezekiah was not a great king because he was more courageous than all the men before him. He was not a great king because he was wiser than any man to have ever lived. He was a great king because he listened to God. He acted on God’s word, and was blessed beyond measure as a result.

Your success at work will be a direct result of your ability to hear from God and relay His instructions. Your authority as a parent comes from God; your children will only listen to you if you receive instruction from heaven, and relay God’s message. Whatever you do will only yield fruits of increase if you listen to God first!

Whenever we do anything, we do well to listen to God first. When we act on His instructions through obedience to Jesus Christ, He will cause us to prosper!

Prayer:

Father, I am listening! Speak to me in my situation. Tell me everything I need to know to prosper. I want to grow and glorify Your Kingdom in every way possible. Help me to do it, in Jesus’ mighty name!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 211: God Is Love

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Thursday, July 30th, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 26:1-28:27
Romans 13:1-14
Psalm 23:1-6
Proverbs 20:11
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/UCpxki

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Rom 13:10

Love is not just an emotion. Love is a person. God is love (1 Jn 4:8).

There is a false notion circulating that if we simply try our best to love others, it will be enough for salvation to occur. We try and make love a god, and write our own prescription for heaven. The reality is that God has already been made love. Jesus Christ is love.

The greatest manifestation of love that can ever exist is to, “…lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). God’s love has been made manifest in Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law by loving us perfectly: by calling us friends, and laying His life down for us. Now, our joy is to go out and love others the same way.

Prayer:

Father, help me to love other people the way Jesus loves me. I want to lay down my life for others, and invite them into the Kingdom of God. Give me the courage, and the patience, to do both!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Overcoming Anxiety

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Overcoming Anxiety’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 7/26/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Ise0JX

This message is the first in a 3-week series: The Bible Cure for Stress & Anxiety. This week, we look at the reality that many of us deal with anxiety, and explore how to deal with it. Next week, we’ll discuss responding to bad news: what do you do with a less-than-desirable outcome, and how do you move forward? Finally, we’ll talk about dealing with crisis: making every turning point an opportunity for growth and development.

Anxiety Is Real

Anxiety is a real struggle for many people in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults. [1] The struggle with anxiety can have long-lasting effects, not only mentally and emotionally, but even physically. Did you know people with anxiety are three to five times more likely to end up in the doctor’s office than those who don’t struggle with anxiety? Unfortunately, physical symptoms often develop if we fail to deal with our anxiety.

Anxiety is not just something young people face because they lack life experience. Anxiety remains prevalent as we age; it’s not something that disappears or even dissipates over time as we physically mature. Dealing with a anxiety is a real, constant struggle for many people all over the world. So how does the Bible invite us to deal with it?

Too often in church, we take a one-and-done approach to problems in our life. We pray once for a miraculous breakthrough, and then expect all our problems to disappear. Now don’t hear me wrong. God is absolutely amazing. When Scripture says He made the waters of the Red Sea stand on end, I believe Him. He can do whatever He wants. But when it comes to anxiety, we need a more thorough approach. We need practical tools we can use whenever anxiety surfaces. Are you ready for them?

Before we start, I want to acknowledge that a certain level of anxiety is healthy. The bell curve of anxiety[2] indicates that moderate levels of anxiety result in peak performance. So, if we have no anxiety at all, it’s actually a bad thing. We can truly become “too relaxed,” and our performance can be negatively impacted. However, too much anxiety is just as bad. So today’s message is for those of us who deal with a level of anxiety that is unhealthy.

Fighting Anxious Thoughts

The most common way anxiety materializes is in our thought life. If you suffer from anxiety, you may be plagued by what are known as anticipatory thoughts. Typically they take the form of questions, and start with, “what if”:

  • What if I lose my job?
  • What if I can’t pay my rent?
  • What if the date I’m about to go on doesn’t go well, she doesn’t want a second date, and I never go out with another person for the rest of my life?

Our thoughts tend to spin rapidly out of control. The comforting reality is that almost none of our anticipatory thoughts actually become reality. However, that knowledge often isn’t enough to shut them down when they surface. So, how do we deal with them?

We have to kill anxious thoughts with confident speech. Too often, we try and fight thoughts with thoughts. It’s not going to work. The best way to fight anxious thoughts is to confidently proclaim – out loud – Scripture verses that declare a truth contrary to what our anxious thoughts would have us believe. We fight thoughts with words. Whenever Satan tries to plant thoughts that sow seeds of doubt instead of faith, responding audibly with Scripture is our secret weapon!

We see Jesus do this as the Holy Spirit leads Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. – Matt 4:1-11

When it comes to anxiety, the spiritual reality is often that Satan is whispering lies into our ear. God gave us His word to stand on, in full confidence, knowing that every promise He makes will come to pass. It is Satan’s job to do his best to unseat the confidence God gives us. If he does, the anxious spiral of anticipatory and self-defeating thoughts continues. But when we know how to break the cycle, we can continue forward with the full confidence God wants us to have.

We see several things in the passage above. First, even Satan knows Scripture! That has several implications. If Satan, our enemy, knows Scripture, how much more imperative is it that we’re armed with God’s word, so Satan can’t unseat us from a position of confidence with misinterpretation of Scripture? Satan came to Jesus several times and misapplied Scripture verses to try and entice Him to fall into sin. He does the same to us, doesn’t he? Knowing Scripture is one thing; applying it with love and accuracy is completely different!

Second, Satan always does his best to immediately call our identity into question. In verse 3, Satan starts his dialogue with Jesus by saying, “If you are the son of God…” Jesus knew He Is the Son of God! But Satan immediately tried to undermine the reality of who He Is. He will do the same with you, and with me. We must be prepared.

Third, when Satan came to Jesus spewing lies, Jesus responded 1) out loud, and 2) only with Scripture. Jesus didn’t try and fight Satan’s lies with thoughts. He didn’t try and win at Satan’s own game. He didn’t try and just ignore the enemy, hoping he would leave. He responded, out loud, with Scripture. If even the Son of God knew He had to stick to Scripture alone when responding to the enemy’s taunts, how much more do we!

When we repeat God’s word out loud, something very powerful takes place. All of heaven makes ready to provide the resources we need to stand on God’s promises over our lives. At the same time, all of hell is given proper notice that we know our identity in Jesus Christ! Scripture promises that, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (Phil 2:10). When we pray, out loud & in the name of Jesus, hell has to bow to God’s will!

If a thought gives you confidence in your identity in Christ, it is from God. If it calls into question who you are, and what you are capable of, it is not from Him. God is good; Satan is bad. It really is that simple.

The daily disciplines of prayer and Scripture reading are essential if we’re to be in a position to recognize what thoughts are from God, and what thoughts are not. Paul encouraged the church at Rome to focus on God in this way:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Rom 12:2

As we read God’s word, our minds are renewed. The input we take in directs our thought life. When we firmly ground ourselves in the things of heaven, God is the captain of our thought life. But without continual refreshing and renewal, the enemy has the foothold he needs.

Scripture never promises we will be immune to anxious thoughts. However, when we know how to fight thoughts with Scripture, we have a practical tool that can help when things seem beyond our control.

 

Receiving Rest

The source of your rest determines the source of your thoughts. If a good career and job title give you rest, then your thought life will suffer whenever your career is unstable. If respect from the people around you gives you rest, then anxious thoughts will surface in full force whenever you don’t feel like you’re in control. But when God gives you rest, your thought life will be healthy as long as you realize He is in full control.

Jesus wants to give us rest. He wants to give us peace in our thought life. Jesus invites us to an intimate exchange with Him:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matt 11:28-30

When we give the burdens of our thought life over to Jesus, He gives us rest in return. The Greek word for rest in verse 28 (above) is anapauo (Strong’s #373). To “rest” means to keep calm and quiet, while maintaining a patient expectation of what God is about to do.

Resting in the Lord isn’t wasted time. Resting isn’t passive; it’s active. Resting is time of patient expectation and anticipation of everything God is willing & able to do in your circumstance; and it is this time of patient expectation that builds faith!

When Jesus promises to take our yoke, and give us His, what is He saying? A yoke was a harness employed by farmers that allowed two oxen to share a burden. Both animals would be hooked up to the harness, and they would share the burden of pulling the plow. But Jesus doesn’t just offer to share our yoke. He promises to take it from us completely!

When we give our burdens to Jesus, and allow Him to give us His rest, it means we no longer have to do any of the heavy lifting! As New Testament Christians, we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit. We can have full confidence that He is the one who strengthens us, and equips us to do everything God is calling us to do!

All our strength should come from God:

I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. – Ps 18:1-3

We don’t have to try to do the things He calls us to do. We simply have to step out in obedience and do them, knowing that His Holy Spirit works through us as we go.

Giving Jesus Full Control

A release from anxiety is only possible when we give Jesus full control of our thought life. Whenever the disciples came to Jesus with anxiety, He chided them for a lack of faith, and invited them to take on the calm confidence He displayed. He assured them He possessed all the resources they could ever need. He reminded them He Is God.

We see this illustrated beautifully in Mark’s Gospel account as the disciples crossed through stormy waters with Jesus:

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Mark 4:35-38

The disciples weren’t expecting choppy waters. Everything was going great! Their ministry was flourishing, and people were giving their lives to Jesus every single day. But then it happened: all of a sudden, they found themselves in a situation where they lost control.

The wind and waves were raging, and it looked like God didn’t care! The disciples ran to Jesus, full of anxiety and uncertainty. “Do you not care that we are perishing?” (v 38) We find ourselves in this position all the time. Just when things are looking good, something out of our control happens and life takes an unexpected turn. We cry out to God, wondering if He’s lost His touch. Doesn’t He care that I’m in the fight of my life? Does He even care about me anymore at all?!

The disciples were missing the point. They thought they needed to wake Jesus up – to alert Him to what was going on around them – as if He wasn’t well aware. Jesus simply reminded them of the reality that nobody is dying when Jesus is on board.

When Jesus is Lord of your life, He is in control. Whatever happens, He’s got it covered. As the disciples panicked, Jesus was calm and relaxed. He didn’t need to worry about the wind and the waves, because He had complete authority over the things which scared the disciples the most:

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:38-41

Jesus rebuked the disciples’ circumstances. Then, He rebuked His disciples. He reminded them that, when He is around, they had nothing to fear. The disciples saw Jesus flex His muscle. The wind and the waves stopped. They immediately lost their fear of the world, and started fearing God instead.

Most of us embrace the half-truth that we should live without fear. But the truth is, all of us fear something. God is not trying to get us to live fearlessly; He is asking us to fear Him, instead of anything else. What you fear is what you worship. You have a choice: will you fear what makes you afraid, or will you fear God?

A healthy fear of God is one of reverence and awe. It develops as we recognize the same strength Jesus displayed in the boat with His disciples. God is capable of anything. He owns all the power in the universe. That should make us respect Him. An unhealthy fear of God comes from a lack of confidence in our position as sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ. But a healthy, Biblical fear of God comes from full confidence that God is capable of all things.

When we fear God, we will never have to fear anything else: ever again! A fear of God shouldn’t paralyze us; it should empower us to go out and act with boldness, knowing that He is on our side!

Jesus Christ wants your burdens. He is ready & willing to take full control of whatever you’re going through, here and now. Say yes. Allow Him to release you from all anxiety as you pass your burdens off to Him.

Giving Jesus our burdens means we stop trying to solve our own problems, knowing that He is only one capable of solving them anyway. Giving Him our anxiety also means that we stop trying to earn God’s love, because Jesus has already earned it for us.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



[1] http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

[2] http://www.nlight.com/Success/Study/4perform.html

Day 210: Total Makeover

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 24:1-25:28
Romans 12:1-21
Psalm 22:19-31
Proverbs 20:8-10
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1qpGEiZ

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

– Rom 12:2

When Scripture tells us to be transformed, God does not simply imply a slight tweak to our behavior. His desire for us is complete and total metamorphosis: absolute & perfect change from the inside out. When we give our lives to Christ, we are new creations. Everything about us is changed because our hearts are restored to perfect working order.

When Scripture describes that God can renew our mind, God is not just talking about a spring cleaning, or a new coat of paint. To “renew” is the Greek anakainosis (Strong’s #342), which is a gut renovation: a total makeover!

Let’s not settle for baby steps. God wants so much more for you. He invites you to be transformed. He invites you to receive a total renovation in your thought life. Don’t settle until you have received His best for you! In one instant, God can accomplish more in you than you ever thought was possible.

Prayer:

Father, I’m ready for a total makeover. Renew my mind so I can think like Christ. Transform my life so people can see Jesus in me. Thank You for immediate, immaculate change!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 209: Getting At The Root

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Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21
Romans 11:13-36
Psalm 22:1-18
Proverbs 20:7
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1tTNX50

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. – Rom 11:16

The firstfruit is a seed; something we sow as a deposit to guarantee the condition of everything that follows. When worship is our firstfruit – when we live our lives in a posture of worship – everything we think, say, and do will be a reflection of God’s heart.

God is not after behavior modification; He cares about heart transformation. He cares about the motivation behind our actions. When the motivation for the way we live our lives is to honor God, our lives will become a reflection of His glory.

Our firstfruits don’t have to be huge; they just have to be of good quality. Our roots don’t have to be deep right off the bat; they just have to be ready to grow. When we honor God with our intentions, His Holy Spirit will flow through everything that follows.

Prayer:

Father, I give you my whole heart. I want everything I think, say, and do to be motivated by my love for You! You freely gave Your Son to die for my sins; I freely give my life to You in return.

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 208: Do It For God

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Monday, July 27th, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 19:1-20:37
Romans 10:14-11:12
Psalm 21:1-13
Proverbs 20:4-6
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1oxsoGR

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. – 2 Chron 19:6

Jehoshaphat was a righteous king. He traveled all throughout Judah and brought the people back to God (2 Chron 19:3). He reminded the people that they were God’s inheritance: His holy possession. Jehoshaphat knew that in order for the people to learn about God, he had to put judges in place: wise men who discerned the practical application of God’s will.

When Jehoshaphat appointed judges, he made one thing clear: God was their boss. As they worked, they were not working for man, but for the Lord. When we work for man, we will struggle to find fulfillment in anything we do; but when we work for God, we will freely find fulfillment in everything we do!

Any task, no matter how menial, is glorious when done for God! Any job, no matter how routine, is infinitely consequential when performed for God.

So, what do you do for a living? Do it for God. Be the best you can be: not for the approval of men, but for the fulfillment that comes with knowing that your life is an offering for your Father in heaven!

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. – Col 3:23-24

Prayer:

Lord, I know that I work every day for Your glory. I know that every conversation I will have today is for Your glory. Every thing I do, I do for You! Thank You for the privilege of being Your willing servant, in Jesus’ name!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 207: Heart and Mouth

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Sunday, July 26th, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34
Romans 9:25-10:13
Psalm 20:1-9
Proverbs 20:2-3
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1rK6mlf

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. – Rom 10:10

God is after two things: our hearts and our mouths. In the verse above, Paul reassures the church at Rome that every man and woman who 1) confesses Jesus with his or her mouth, and 2) believes that He was raised from the dead, will receive salvation as a gift.

God requires us to yield our hearts and mouths to Him. He needs our hearts because He calls us to love like Jesus loves. He calls us to be moved with compassion, just as Jesus was. He calls us to a higher standard: to love others as He has loved us (John 13:34). The same way Jesus laid down His life for us, we are supposed to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. We can’t do that unless God purifies our hearts.

God needs our mouths because anyone who has not heard the Gospel cannot heed His message. We must speak it out for others to hear. Jesus gave us a commandment to preach the Gospel all over the world (Mk 16:15-18). In fact, He promised He would not come back until the Gospel has been preached in every corner of the globe (Mk 13:10). So, what are we waiting for? Salvation was up to Him; the preaching is up to us!

Confess Jesus with your mouth, and believe He Is God in your heart. You will be saved. What’s more, God will sanctify your heart and mouth so you can go out and share the Good News wherever you go!

Prayer:

Father, I give you my heart and my mouth. Purify my heart; remove from it anything that is not of You. Bless my mouth; I pray that every word I utter would glorify You! I am Your willing servant. Send me!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 206: He Could Have Been Healed

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Saturday, July 25th, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 14:1-16:14
Romans 9:1-24
Psalm 19:1-14
Proverbs 20:1
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1tab4uA

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. So Asa rested with his fathers… – 2 Chron 16:12-13

Asa died because he would not trust in God for his healing. He sought physicians instead of God. It didn’t have to be that way. In 2 Kings 20, Hezekiah “…was sick and near death” (2 Kings 20:1). Yet he “…turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord” (2 Kings 20:2). Because of Hezekiah’s humble reliance on God for complete healing, God extended his life by fifteen years! Asa would not cry out to God for healing, so he died.

I have no problem with doctors. I have seen God use doctors to assist in miraculous recoveries. Even better, doctors can confirm miracles with scientific evidence, so all the world will know and see the glory of God. This passage does not caution against going to the doctor; it cautions against holding a physician’s opinion above God’s word.

When we rely on medicine and forsake God, we will perish. But when we seek God first, we will be healed!

Prayer:

Father, whenever I am in need of healing, help me to seek You first. You are Jehovah Rapha: the God Who Heals! Healing is not just something You do; it’s who You are! Thank You for healing all diseases, in Jesus’ name.

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 205: The World’s Best Intercessor

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Friday, July 24th, 2015
CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 11:1-13:22
Romans 8:26-39
Psalm 18:37-50
Proverbs 19:27-29
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/UuwNP8

Commentary from Pastor Mike White:

It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. – Rom 8:34

When you really need prayer, whom do you call? Do you hop on the phone with your mom and dad? Do you make an appointment to come in and meet with your pastor? All of those are great options; but God offers us an even better prayer warrior.

Bring your prayer requests straight to Jesus. Jesus Christ, God’s Only Son, sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us! Who better to communicate our wants and needs to God the Father than His Only Son! If Jesus is praying for you, whom else do you need on your side? If the Son of Man sits on His throne and whispers all your wants, needs and desires into God’s ear, isn’t that enough?

Today is going to be a great day. Why? Because you have Jesus Christ praying for you. If Jesus is for you, nobody who comes against you stands a chance.

Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. – Rom 8:27

Prayer:

Father, thank You that Jesus always takes prayer requests. When I need help, remind me to go straight to the Source!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Royal Generosity

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Royal Generosity’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 7/19/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1IpvpoD

Material and Spiritual

Your approach to giving will determine the extent to which you are financially blessed in your life. Do you cringe when it’s time for the offering? Or do you give with joy? Do you give your tithe to God out of ritual? Or do you give to God with passion, knowing that your gift is the invitation God needs to bless you and satisfy all your needs?

Too often, we see giving the wrong way. When we give to others, we think giving is just to satisfy the material need of the recipient. We think we’re simply meeting the perceived need in front of us. When we give to the church, we think we’re giving just to keep the lights on. But giving should be so much more than that!

When we give – either to an individual, or to the church – we are giving to God. Scripture says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Prov 19:17). Whenever we give alms, we’re actually not giving at all; we’re lending. We’re not just giving to meet a perceived, physical need right in front of us. It’s so much more than that.

Whenever we give our tithes to the local church, we’re actually not giving at all; we’re investing in God’s kingdom. We’re not giving to the pastors or the staff; we’re making an offering directly to God. And Scripture promises that when we invest wisely in this way, we will reap a harvest.

My wife and I attended a concert recently for a well-known Christian worship group. At one point towards the end of the concert, they took up an offering. A young man in front of me turned to his friend, and said, “I’m not going to give. It looks like they have plenty of money! Why do they need more?” This is how a lot of us feel when the offering buckets come around in church.

But thinking along these lines is completely missing the point. Remember, an offering is not a bill. Giving is so much more than just meeting a required, external need in front of us; it’s about meeting an internal, spiritual need within us. God created us with a desire to worship Him. Giving our tithes and offerings to Him is one of the ways we fulfill that desire.

Giving Is Worship to God

Giving our tithes and offerings to God is just as valid a form of worship as raising our hands and singing out to Him. It’s just as necessary a form of obedience as the disciplines of Bible study and prayer.

The writer of Hebrews explains that we’re not just giving to the local pastor, or the local church; we’re giving directly to God:

Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.  – Heb 7:8-10

When Abraham tithed to Melchizedek – the priest of the Most High God – he knew he wasn’t simply giving away ten percent of what he had to another man. He was investing ten percent into God’s kingdom.

We don’t give because the church needs it; we give because our hearts need it. Do you ever open your Bible because the pages need to be turned? No; you read God’s Word because it’s the way you transform your mind (Rom 12:2). Do you ever pray because you think God needs to hear you? No; you pray because communication with a loving Father is what give you joy and life! In the same way, we don’t give because God needs our money; He created the earth, and owns everything in it. We give because it’s a sacrifice to God.

CityLight is a tithing church. When our new members sign their membership covenant, the expectation to tithe is clearly outlined. One of the reasons we, as leadership, have no problem whatsoever asking people to tithe, is we have experienced the benefits of tithing in our own lives.

My wife and I have always given more than ten percent. Last year, our giving to the church was equal to about 17% of our net income. But this year, God asked us to step it up even more. I remember driving to work one day, and telling God He has my whole heart. “I want more of You,” I said, “at any cost.” Then I asked God a dangerous question: what does “more at any cost” look like to me?

I heard an answer immediately. “Twenty percent.” It was not what I wanted to hear. We had just had a son, and my wife had made the decision to stay home and take care of him instead of working full-time. We had a mountain of expenses piling up, and I needed all the extra wiggle room I could afford. And God wanted to take even more!

But I immediately said yes. God values obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22). If He tells me to do something, I want to do it. Bowing the knee to God’s instruction doesn’t restrict our freedom; it actually increases it. When God knows we are willing to do whatever He asks, He’s going to start asking even more. The more we hear from Him, the more we know how to go out and live according to our design; and when we live according to His design for us, we experience true freedom.

Since the day we started giving twenty percent of our net income to God, we have been amazingly blessed. We haven’t paid full price for a single piece of clothing for our son. God has sent people to bless us with steak dinners and movie nights. Because we were willing to demonstrate God has our whole hearts, He has increased our expectations for what He is willing to provide. We are dreaming with Him for increase, with full confidence that more is on the way.

Who Owns Your Heart?

When we give, we prove to God that He has our heart. Did you know that our giving is actually a reflection of our heart condition?

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” – Mk 12:41-44

Jesus sat opposite the local house of worship and watched. But He didn’t watch how much people gave; He watched how people gave! He wasn’t impressed by the value of the coins they offered. He was much more concerned with the motivation for their actions: were they giving out of duty, or out of desire? Were they giving because they had to, or were they giving because they get to?

The poor widow didn’t give much. A quadrans makes up 1/64 of a full days’ wages. In today’s terms, she probably gave around $2.00. But Jesus knew she was giving everything she had. She was giving Him her whole heart; and that was exactly what He was after!

Everything you have came from God. He has freely given, and blessed you with material increase. When we give, we are simply giving back a portion of everything He has already given us. We’re proving to God that we can be good stewards over everything He has given us. And as we do, we invite Him to make us stewards over so much more!

Do you remember the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30)? A wealthy ruler gave his goods to his servants. The servant who refused to invest because of fear was punished. But the servants who acted confidently, and invested wisely, were well rewarded! What better investment is there than sowing back into God’s Kingdom?

Sowing Seed

Our harvest will be determined by the 1) type and 2) quantity of seed we sow. If a farmer plants apple seed, he expects an apple tree. In other words, you need to plant a financial seed to reap a financial harvest. I’ve met too many people who refuse to give God their wallets, and then wonder why their wallet is shrinking. If God doesn’t own something, it will atrophy; but when He takes possession, it will thrive.

If a farmer plants a lot of seed, he expects a big harvest. The tithe literally means ten percent. Yes, that is a lot of money. If it didn’t hurt a little bit, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. When we tithe, faith is required, because giving is supernatural. We build our faith for finances by liberally sowing, by faith, into God’s Kingdom. Scripture gives us the tithe as a set amount because it’s what we need to invest to expect a harvest!

If you don’t have the money to tithe, tithe anyway. Several years back, we did a “tithing challenge” at our church. Leadership invited every single member of the church to “try” (test according to Mal 3:10) God’s promise for our finances. If anyone who signed up to tithe for 90 days didn’t notice a tangible increase in their finances, we invited them to ask for his money back: no questions asked! And guess what? After 90 days, not a single person asked for his money back. Every single participant had seen a tangible increase in his financial life. God’s Word works!

God’s word invites us to understand the principle of sowing and reaping:

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. – 2 Cor 9: 6-8, 10, 11

God’s Kingdom is counter-intuitive. If we need financial breakthrough, we should give more; not less. We must sow to reap, and we must sow the kind of seed we want to reap!

At CityLight, we pray that every single person will receive the revelation that we can – and should – give from a place of absolute joy in our hearts. We invite anyone who can’t give that way to hold on to their gifts until they can. God loves a cheerful giver. When we sow from a place of joy, we will reap in a place of joy!

Whenever we have a guest minister at our church, I bless his or her socks off. Why? Because Scripture says, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matt 10:41). When I bless a prophet, with no strings attached, I know what kind of seed I’m sowing. The best way I can increase the gifting on my life is by investing – liberally – into people God has already made gifted!

A Reflection of Our Royalty

Giving is a reflection of our royalty. No passage illustrates this better than the story of the queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon.

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. Then she said to the king: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great quantity, and precious stones. There never again came such abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

- 1 Kings 10:1-10

The queen of Sheba came to Solomon for the same reason we come to God: to ask Him the hardest questions we can think of! No matter what she asked, Solomon had an answer. His wisdom far exceeded her highest expectations. And this is the outcome God promises us when we come to Him with the toughest questions imaginable.

The queen of Sheba was so overwhelmed by the royalty and magnificence of Solomon’s kingdom that the only reaction she could think of was to give! She didn’t give because Solomon needed something; she gave because she needed to give. Through Solomon, God was establishing a Kingdom nobody else could build. The queen knew it, and did everything she could to sow into it!

And guess what? The queen of Sheba received a reward for her giving. Because she sowed, she also reaped:

Now King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, besides what Solomon had given her according to the royal generosity. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants. – 1 Kings 10:13

King Solomon blessed the queen of Sheba according to the royal generosity. He didn’t bless her because she was needy; he blessed her because she was a queen. And do you know what Scripture says about you?

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light… – 1 Pet 2:9

You are royalty! God invites us to enjoy the same exchange with Him that the queen of Sheba enjoyed with King Solomon! When we bless God because He is King, He will bless us because we are His royal cabinet!

Our giving is a reflection of our status. Scripture tells us we are royalty; but not everyone believes it. Are you giving like royalty? If you’re not freely giving to a God who has freely given everything into your hand, then do you really understand the position God has given us as royal priests?

There is a story of Alexander, the Emperor of Macedonia, giving to a beggar on the road:

The emperor was walking along a highway with his entourage. All of a sudden, a beggar seated at the side of the road cried out for alms. “Please, spare me whatever you can!”

The emperor’s scribe looked at the beggar in disgust. But Alexander the Great turned and gave him his attention. He looked the man in the eyes. Then he said to his scribe, “Give him two gold coins.” The scribe was astonished at the amount the emperor had instructed him to give. He gave the beggar the coins out of his money bag, but then returned the to the emperor, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

“Why?” he asked. “Why did you give him gold coins? Surely copper coins would have adequately met the beggar’s need!”

Alexander responded in royal fashion. “Copper coins suit the beggar’s need. But only gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”

God wants us to understand that we are royalty. When that reality permeates every part of who we are, it will no longer be a struggle to give; giving will become a privilege and a pleasure.

God is the God of abundance. When Jesus fed the multitudes with 5 loaves and 2 fish, there was more than enough to go around. There were leftovers! There was supernatural abundance. When Jesus told Peter to reposition his net and throw it to the other side of the boat, there were so many fish that the net almost broke! God isn’t interested in barely there, or just enough; He is the God who supplies above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20-21)!

God desires to bless us because we are His sons and daughters. We are royalty! Now let’s start acting like it.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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