There once was an old farmer’s wife who died. Prior to dying she expressed a very odd request; she wanted to be buried with a dessert fork. Her pastor, who very much believed that “you can’t take it with you when you go,” questioned her thinking until he learned of the reason. She said that all through her life, being an expert baker of pies, tarts and puddings, she would always tell her quests, “the best is yet to come.” She wanted to be buried with a fork so her pastor could preach on the gift of eternal life Jesus had provided for her and that was available for all who’d repent and believe!
In the book of the prophet Joel there is a similar promise of better things:
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25).
Joel prophesied at a time when things were difficult for God’s people (before, or just after the Exile). He drew people’s attention that both past and present judgements (“the Day of the Lord”) were a result of the people’s sin. However, he called people to draw near to the God of mercy and repent, truly. Because of God’s faithfulness He would then reverse the curse of judgement and restore His presence and blessings (progressively, ultimately pointing to Jesus and lastly the future and final Day of the Lord).
What is beautiful in this message is that whatever your locusts have been, whatever hardship, disaster or trial has come upon you because of your sin, there is still hope. Whether you’ve never trusted in Jesus or you’ve grown cold to Him and wandered, there is hope that the best is yet to come. In Christ your life that was empty and purposeless can be filled and full of meaning. In Christ your finances that were self-oriented, under God’s principles, can be channelled and used for His glory (and your good). In Christ your relationship or marriage that is on rocky ground can be restored. In all these things, regardless of how much waste there has been and how irretrievable they may seem, through repentance and faith and looking to Jesus Joel’s promise can be true for you: in large part in this life, but in whole in the hereafter. Your best days can be before you. Whatever we face, may cling to this promise and look to the great Restorer in repentance and faith and be amazed at what He will do!.
Thanks to Digory for inspiring our first post to our evangelistic FAQ blog that can be found here. I have copied it here for all those who regularly read this blog. Please pray that the Lord would use this new blog on our website. If you have questions that you'd like an answer to that would help those considering Christ then please pass it along.
The other day, with the return of the snow, my son exclaimed to my wife, “God sent the deep, deep snow back!” She replied, “Yes, he did!” My son, who is always saying, “see it, see it,” if he has missed something (a horse and buggy on the road or a bird at the bird feeder), said to her, “You [meaning him] see Him [meaning God]?” Oh the profound things that come from the mouths of babes!
Many people don’t believe Christianity is true or come to doubt their faith by asking a similar type of question, “Why should I believe in God if I cannot see Him?”
This is a classic example of a statement or question pre-determining our response. Can or could we ever see God, was it His design? What might impinge this sight even if we could?
In multiple places the Bible affirms that God is spirit (Jn 4:24, “God is spirit”) and invisible (Col 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God.”). Even before sin entered the world and humanity fell from a favoured state with God (Gen 3), the sense from the opening chapters of Genesis is that God was spiritually present in the Garden (Gen 3:8).
Since the Fall, sin has separated us from God. The only way in which we can “see Him” is to be restored to fellowship with Him through the Gospel (faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, Mt 5:8-“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”). Then we shall see God spiritually and one day see Him physically. And it is precisely this Jesus who offers salvation who is the means by which we can physically see God.
Through Jesus, as God’s Son, we can see God the Father.
The Christmas story celebrates God the Son taking on human flesh, incarnating as Jesus, “to save His people from their sin.” Through Jesus, as God, we can see God. This is what Jesus said to His disciple Phillip in John 14:9, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Because God the Father and God the Son share one Divine essence, to see Jesus is to see the Father. (A very poor example is my likeness to my grandfather and father. Many people who have never met me but knew them have come up to me and said, “you must be Jack or Don’s grandson or son.” We share a genetic likeness). Now evidently, we cannot see Jesus today—He’s returned to heaven—however through Jesus’ witnesses, the Apostles, and through the record of God’s Word, we can “see” Jesus and believe (Jn 20:29, 30–31).
Jesus also told the story of a man who had a house, entrusted it to servants, and then went away on a long journey promising to come back (Mk 13:34). Jesus came and He is also returning to bring judgement upon the unbelievers and reward and blessing to his followers. Then we shall see God in Jesus. Then believers will see Him (“the lamb”) for eternity as He is with us in a new Creation (Rev 21:22).
In the meantime, we can know God through faith and repentance in Jesus and see God spiritually.
Real Christianity (1797) by William Wilberforce
This Christian classic is certainly among my top 10 favourite books beside the Bible and one that the Lord formatively used in my life. While written many years ago it is highly relevant for today.
Made more accessible by the paraphrase of Bob Beltz in 2006 (along with the release of the Song, “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone” and the movie about the abolitionist, Amazing Grace), this work is the best seller that helped end slavery in the British Empire.
Frustrated that the populace of a “Christian” nation wouldn’t support his appeals to end slavery, Wilberforce realized the reason, most were nominal. This can be seen in the historic and long title: A Practical View of the Prevailing System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity [emphasis added].
He knew he couldn’t change the direction of his country until the Lord had changed its heart:
"But fruitless will be all attempts to sustain, much more to revive, the fainting cause of morals unless you can in some degree restore the prevalence of Evangelical Christianity. It is in morals as in physics; unless a source of practical principles be elevated, it will be vain to attempt to make them flow on a high level in their future course… By all, therefore, who are studious of their country’s welfare…every effort should be used to revive the Christianity of our better days."
This is a helpful reminder for those Christians who still think the political process can deliver Canada—it cannot, only the Gospel can!
By his work Real Christianity, example, network and involvement in the Evangelical Revival, Wilberforce was a powerful figure in shaping a nation for Christ, a legacy still felt in many respects today.
Though Canada is a post-Christian nation, the problem of nominal Christianity persists. This book will help you recognize what nominal Christianity is as you contrast it with real Christianity.
“His [Jesus’] winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mt 3:12; c.f. Lk 3:17)
When I was younger I worked for an organic farmer for several years who still used many traditional Ontario farming practices, including the fanning mill. Taking grain from the grainery of the old hip roof barn I insert pails of raw grain directly into the mill. A combination of the fanning and shaking would separate the chaff from the grain. The chaff was good for, well, nothing; and the grain, free from defect or blemish, would be used to plant in the fields. This Victorian invention mechanized the age old practice that Jesus describes in our verse, whereby the grain was threshed (beaten to loosen the grain) and then winnowed by tossing the grain-husk-stem mix into the air. The breeze would carry away the unwanted materials and the grain would fall to the threshing floor to be collected, used or consumed. The chaff would be burned.
Now this verse has an eschatological edge to it (end times), however, there is a sense in which it has more universal application today: the Lord is often busy about winnowing the visible Church, separating real and nominal Christians, the former to His glory and the latter to their derision.
As we’ve been seeing in C2C, at certain times in history seismic events overturn established orders and reveal the true state of things, human hearts.
For many years the wheat and chaff in the visible church have been allowed to remain together in Ontario churches. Many people looked like respectable Christians, that is until the winnowing fork was set to them, the pressure produced by recent seismic shifts and events that revealed on what side of the line they really stood:
We are living in changing times and the pressures of these changes are highly revelatory as to the hearts of visible Christians. This is burdensome, yet there is hope, hope that the church, purged, pruned and winnowed may be the faithful remnant that will then shine forth all the brighter in the darkness.
*We recently had a series of financial workshops and a preacher who spoke on generosity. This blog is meant to complement/supplement that weekend.
The 5 G's of the Gospel:
God created all things very good;
Guilt entered the world as man sinned and death reigned;
Grace was the only way salvation could now come about, and it did as God unfolded His great plan of salvation;
Gratitude is the response of the believer who has been saved through faith in Jesus Christ;
Glory is where the believer is destined for and living for God’s glory his new desire.
The Gospel is central to every Christian belief. What then does the Gospel speak into the important subject of the stewardship of mammon (i.e. money and possessions), including giving?
God: In the beginning men and women we entirely dependent upon God and they knew it. Adam and Eve’s response was one of worship and enjoyment. God had blessed them with so much and they honoured Him for it.
As soon as sin entered the world our pride desired riches and possessions for ourselves. No longer did we see them as a gift but something we were due. Greed entered into our existence. Generosity was a thing of the past. Now one of the idols we would serve was mammon: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mt 6:24). (Jesus said more on the subject of mammon than any other subject).
In addition we even began to rob God what was His due (Mal 3:8), the tithe or 10%; not simply a command given to God’s people but a universal moral obligation (see Abraham [pre-Law], Heb 7:2, 4); a worshipful expression of dependence upon and thanks to God for daily bread. God has given us everything we have. It is a small ask to give 10% back to him and be allowed to keep 90%!
In God’s grace, He began to train His people on the virtue of giving as a spiritual discipline to cultivate humility, built trust and engendered gratitude. The tithe supported the worship of the Lord, the discipleship of His people, and even care for the poor. Three things stand out under the Old Covenant:
When we come to know God by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ we become a grateful and transformed people. We’re grateful in that we stood underneath a debt we could never afford and He removed it and pardoned us. We’re transformed in that what was once a offence and a drudgery because of pride (giving) is now by His Spirit it is a delight because we love to obey our King. We love to be generous. We love to give God His due and not rob Him.
Grateful we’re destined for glory we want to glorify the Lord and one way in which we can do that is by giving our tithes and offerings. Imagine what more could be done to ensure others made it to glory if every able Christian tithed. O how strong the Church would be, spiritually as a fruit of giving and in provision for her mission as a result of giving if we would all bring the full tithe into the storehouse.
It is a sad reality mammon is not addressed more, perhaps because of the impression of Protestant televangelists or the sale of Catholic indulgences from the Middle Ages. The truth is Jesus spoke on money and so we need to understand what the Bible says about it and its spiritual importance. I’m not looking to get rich—I seek to lead by example—but I do want God’s Kingdom to grow and an important, though neglected part of that is to tithe and give generously.
[Read More: Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle]
 There may be times when intolerable debt, health, unemployment, etc, may prevent or limit our ability to give. However, what can you give, what plan do you have so that you might give fully? The story of the Widow’s Offering is helpful to those who give out of their want and not their plenty (Mk 12:41).
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.