Generous Eyes

"If your Eye is generous, the whole of your body will be illumined." (Mtt 6:22 Moffat Translation)

I'm back from a fantastic week at Without Borders '06. There is so much I could say, but not enough time to say it! So I thought I'd first focus on one of the small details that really spoke to me. I received so much fantastic teaching, it would take weeks to summarise it all, but this one phrase has stuck with me and already become part of me.

Have generous eyes

Jesus himself said "It is more blessed to give than to receive." And we had plenty of teaching on the importance of giving and many opportunities to give.

What struck me afresh is that giving is not something we should do because it is good, or because it is a command, or because we will reap a reward, though all those things are true. We should be givers by nature, because God himself is a giver, and generously gives to us freely and continually. As we give generously on all occasions, we are not just fulfilling the command of God, but reflecting the very nature of God himself.

Keri exhorted us to have generous eyes. To look out for opportunities to be generous. This is the reason why God wants to prosper us, not so we can have a lot, but so that we will always have something to give. So we can be generous on every occasion and so become more like the ultimate giver - God himself.

Noralv also showed us from the scriptures how "Remembering the poor" is central to the gospel. The gospel of salvation and good news to the poor are synonymous in the scriptures, and wherever in the book of Acts you see the disciples caring for the poor you also see a great harvest of salvation.

Giving is not an ancillary activity to us reaching the world with the glory of God, it is an integral part of the means!

I'm learning again to view the world, my workplace, my neighbors, the man in the street, with God's generous eyes.


To Staffordshire.... and beyond!

This is me signing off for the week. See you all when I get back from Without Borders '06 - See Above and Beyond. If I don't see you there!


Indian Bloggers Blocked

Here's a recent posting from the Blogger news feed (Blogger Buzz)

It has been widely reported that Internet users across India are being blocked from accessing a number of blog hosting sites, including Blog*Spot. We are disappointed and a bit puzzled by these reports. We are also working to understand the situation, and are looking into what we can do to help resolve it.

A big thanks to the many bloggers in India and elsewhere who are investigating, reporting, and working to restore access.

It seems that the Indian government in their wisdom have decided that blogging web addresses such as blogspot.com and typepad.com should be blocked and many Indian ISPs have complied to the demand. So if you haven't heard from any of your Indian blogging friends in a while, this is probably why.

If you are in contact with any friends thus effected by other means a simple solution seems to be to install the Google Web Accelerator. This redirects all web trafic through the Google servers, and so bypasses the blockage. [They should probably disable the prefetching option unless they are on broadband. Right click accelerator icon in System Tray. Select "Preferences". Untick "Enable Prefetching". Click "Save Preferences" button.]

I recently got Anna Sacha back into blog-land this way. Welcome back Anna!


EEM Reader

Ephesians Every Month Reader
Current .NET Version: 1.0.0
(Microsoft Windows XP only)

Current Java Version: 1.00
Download (All platforms)

From time to time on this blog, I like to point out pieces of free software that I consider to be of use or interest to my readers. Some of you will know that I am a professional software developer myself, so this time the software is my own.

EEM Reader is designed to be a small lightweight application to help anyone who is interested in reading through Ephesians Every Month. It displays the text of the current daily reading in your choice of version. It will automatically update, and can be configured to pop up from the taskbar when a new reading is received. Just read the text and then minimise again - how much easier could it be?

The .NET version is for Microsoft Windows XP only (My apologies to all discerning OS users!). Requires .NET Framework 2.0. Written using SharpDevelop.

The Java version should work on any platform [I have only tested it on Windows and Linux]. It requires the Sun JRE (Java Runtime Environment)


18/07/06.NET Version 1.0.0
22/08/06Java Version 1.00-b22


Countdown to Bible Week

Only 5 days to go now until the 2006 Ministries Without Borders Bible Week: "See Above and Beyond." [SAAB for short? - I'm already driving the car! ;-)]

Jacqueline, Michael and I are really looking forward to it. It is going to be a significant time of fellowship, instruction, encounter, impartation and commissioning. We draw aside to meet with each other and the Lord, and to go out again, full of the Spirit, inspired with the apostolic vision, and equipped to work together to get the job done. Reflecting the glory of Jesus to our neighborhoods and to the ends of the earth.

See you there?


The Continuance of the Apostles

It was he [the ascended Christ] who gave some to be apostles (Eph 4:11)

It would be interesting to know how many of my readers don't believe in modern-day Apostles. However, in much of the church the received wisdom is that the ministry of Apostles died out with the original twelve. There is some difference of opinion as to how Matthias (who the eleven appointed to replace Judas) and Paul fit in to this picture. Some maintain that the eleven jumped the gun and that Paul was God's chosen replacement for Judas, others that Paul was an exception, a one off addition - one "abnormally born" into apostleship.

To many who hold this view the idea of finding a modern day Apostle is as shocking as finding a living dinosaur, or it is viewed with deep suspicion as something cultish.

However well established such received wisdom may be, one must ask the question - is it Biblical?

If Paul was the only Apostle who was, or ever would be, appointed by the ascended Christ, why doesn't Eph 4:11 read, "It was he who gave one to be an apostle"? Or, even clearer, since it was Paul himself who was writing it, "It was he who gave me as an apostle." Examining the context of Ephesians 4:11 closely you will see that Paul clearly implies a plurality of apostolic ministry appointed by the ascended Christ.

The New Testament itself also bears testimony to the plurality of the ascension-ministry apostles. Although Paul is the best known apostle appointed by the ascended Christ, he is not the only one. Barnabas is referred to as an Apostle, and so is James the Lord's brother (Ac 14:14, Ga 1:19). Neither of these men where among the original twelve.

So if the apostolic ministry extended, as the Bible clearly teaches, beyond the original twelve, then the automatic assumption that this ministry terminated circa AD100, with the death of John, is no longer justified. We must look for another cessation criteria. We don't have to look far, Ephesians 4:13 gives the same criteria for all the ascension ministries: "Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

This also silences the second biggest objection to modern day apostles, for Eph 4:14 does not say, "Until the Canon of scripture is complete", but "Until the church reaches maturity!" Despite what some assert most strongly, and incorrectly, the continuance of apostles does not necessitate an open Canon. Although apostolic approval was used as a litmus test for inclusion in the New Testament Canon of scripture by the church councils, this does not mean that the role of an apostle is integrally entwined with the writing of Scripture! There were scriptures written by those who were not apostles, and apostles who wrote no scripture. The establishing of the ascension ministry of the apostle, and the completion of the canon of scripture are two independent events in the purpose of God that just happened to overlap for the first century. If the purpose of an apostle was revealed to be the writing of scripture, we would be correct in assuming the need for them had passed, but since the New Testament teaches they are necessary to bring the church to maturity and to a full measure of the fullness of Christ, then they are most certainly still needed today!

This last point is critical, for Christ himself was and still is an Apostle (Heb 3:1): for he was sent (root meaning of apostle) from the Father. And he chose the twelve that he might send them out too. In fact he stated, "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." The Apostle, like all the other ascension ministries, therefore, has a measure of Christ's own gift to impart to the church (Eph 4:7). Without apostles the ministry gift of Christ is incomplete, and so will be the image of Christ that is formed in the Church. This is why it is vital that all these gifts including apostles remain until Christ is formed in the church in all fullness and maturity. [See Aspects of Christ]

One of the criteria for Christ's second coming is that the Bride has made herself ready (Rev 9:17). This will not - can not - happen without the ministry of apostles. This is Paul's own apostolic teaching as laid out in the fourth chapter of Ephesians.


Wonderfully Made

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Ps 139:13-14 ESV)

I believe in miracles. Our God is a God who still intervenes in this world with clarity of voice and supernatural power. But I was deeply moved last week by a very "natural" miracle.

Jacqueline and I went for a scan to see our unborn baby. As the nurse pointed out all the tiny bones in its spine, the chambers of its tiny heart, and its other bones and organs, and after each close up said, "That's all fine," my heart swelled with praise to God. What a miracle! Who else but God could make something so tiny and so perfect?

We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made! Each human life is a walking miracle!


Holiness = Usefulness

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (1Ti 2:20-21 ESV)

It is by grace that we have been saved, and by grace that we can stand before God. It is the work of Christ, not our own good works that gives us a clean conscience and a right standing before God. Without that grace we would be nothing. But we know that although we were not saved by good works, we are saved for good works. That is God did not just save us to get us into heaven, but he saved us to become part of his great eternal plan and purpose for the world. We were saved for the same purpose for which Adam was created — to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with men and women in the image of God who exercise his rule on his behalf — and so fulfil the Lord's prayer, that his kingdom may come — his will done on earth as it is in heaven.

It is true, even in the spiritual realm, that you cannot export something you do not possess. Before we can be an effective part of the Kingdom advance in the world, the Kingdom must first take hold of our own lives. We must submit ourselves to God's rule before we have the authority to bring that rule to others. So we have a genuine part to play in our own sanctification as we co-operate with the Holy Spirit's work in our life. To make us more holy — to make us more like Jesus. As we advance in this process we become vessels of honour that are useful to the master. There are no short-cuts. The grace of God is no excuse for treading water. Our holiness determines our usefulness in God's household.

We often think of holiness as a negative thing — boring prudish self-righteous behaviour, or as something unobtainable — like the awesome unapproachable holiness of God himself. But the holiness that God seeks is neither negative nor unobtainable. This verse gives us a clue for the kind of holiness God is seeking. For there were holy vessels in the tabernacle - articles of silver and gold. These objects were holy, not because of any intrinsic moral virtue, but because they only had one use: they only served the purpose of God.

It is as we consciously change our priorities and remember that we are no longer our own, we live for Jesus, and make decisions in line with that, choosing to serve him first rather than pursuing our own interests that we become holy in this way. A devoted people, belonging exclusively for God. No-one misses out by living such a life, for though it involves sacrifice and a laying down of our own desires, not only to we become more fulfilled by being used more by God for the purpose we were created, but God fulfils his promise that those who seek first his kingdom will have all these other needs met.

In Daniel 2, before the rock representing the Kingdom could grow and fill the earth, it first had to smash and totally destroy all that stood opposed to it. God's Kingdom will never come as just an appendage to our own way of life. To be Lord, he must be Lord of all. In bringing the Kingdom to ourselves, we become those whom God will be pleased to choose to bring his Kingdom advance in the earth.


The Creator's Wisdom

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding...By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; (Pr 3:13,19)

Mankind generally takes it for granted that he can understand the Universe that he is a part of. But if you think about it for a moment why should that be? Is it inevitable that our minds are advanced enough compared to the complexity of the Universe? Is it not possible to postulate that our minds could have been a little bit simpler, or the Universe a little bit more complex? Water beetles have no knowledge of surface tension, nor do birds have any understanding of aerodynamics. Yet man is able not only to ponder the Universe but to grasp and explain its workings.

Such understanding comes not just from a study of the Creation, but as a gift from the Creator. He allows man to find the same wisdom with which he fashioned the Cosmos. How Ironic therefore that some would try to use this knowledge of Creation (Science) as an argument to disprove the Creator. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Scientific knowledge can no more disprove God, than a knowledge of Windows can disprove Microsoft. None of the greatest scientific minds ever thought this way; Newton, Einstein, Maxwell - all had a deep reverence for the God behind the knowledge they advanced.

Yet to all knowledge there is a limit. When God set man in the garden he gave him everything except the fruit of one tree; the knowledge from that fruit was off limits. There are limits too to what Science can explain. Many scientists hate to admit this, but it is true. God has granted us knowledge into his Universe, but he has still set limits. The most important aspects of truth are not discovered through the investigation of man, but by revelation from God. Sinful man however is never content to take God at his word and in arrogance reaches out for that forbidden fruit, seeking the knowledge that is beyond his grasp - this is where Science becomes idolatry.

True science enhances our appreciation for God's handiwork. False science sets itself up in the place of God.


Trust and Honour

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Pr 3:5-10)

It is a blessing to give to the Lord. We are blessed by giving (Ac 20:35), and we are blessed as a result of giving (2Co 9:6). God himself delights in our giving (2Co 9:7).

Many people know the beginning of this passage of Proverbs 3, but not many quote it through to the context of honouring the Lord as a result of our trust. To truly honour the Lord with our finances we have to give in a way that requires an engagement of trust, and is not just a token amount from our abundance that can easily be justified by our own understanding. Without faith it is impossible to please God. The kind of giving that really stirs the Father's heart is the kind that comes from faith, that goes beyond what we can easily spare and that genuinely costs us something. I'm not talking about giving irresponsibly, but giving in a way that honours God when we compare what we give to him with what we spend on other things.

Those who keep up to date with the recent comments on this blog will have seen the resurgence in the discussion on tithing. Although not explicitly mentioned, these verses illustrate the principle of tithing. It's not a matter of legalism, but of honour. We honour the Lord in love by giving him the first tenth, even though we could easily give in other ways by leaning on our own understanding. In doing so we trust in his promise of abundant provision.

I seek to honour God with my wealth: by bringing my tithe, giving him the firstfruits of my income that is already his, and by giving to him beyond the tithe in a way that is respectful compared to other things I could spend my money on.

[I also seek to honour the Lord in the way I deal with those who disagree with me on these issues.]