Reminded of a Promise

I am reminded of a promise that Jesus talked about in Matthew chapter six.

Matthew 6:3-4 (NLT)
3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

The promise here is that there are rewards for giving. The apostle Paul eludes to this promise as well when he addressed the Philippian believers in Philippians chapter four.

Philippians 4:10-17 (NLT)
10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.
11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.
12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.
15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.
16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.
17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.

The Old Testament reminds of this promise as well as I read the story of the widow women who received a blessing for her generosity and sacrifice.

1 Kings 17:16 (KJV)
16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the [jar] of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

I have always wondered about that little barrel of meal and jar of oil. Did the widow women awake the next morning to find her jar of oil overflowing and her barrel of meal too heavy to lift? The wording we find in the scripture seems to indicate that there was always just enough for the day. That each morning she would awake to find just enough flour and oil for one more days provision.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t provide in abundance! There are several instances in scripture when God provides above and beyond the need of the moment. Take for example the provision of Jesus to the four thousand plus folks in Mathew chapter fifteen.

Matthew 15:36-38 (KJV)
36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.

So God can provide in abundance, but it has been my life experience that He has always provided for my needs one day at a time.

God first made His promise of provision real to me during Christmas time in 1995. I was attending a staff Christmas party with the ministry that I was working for and it was the custom for the ministry to give us gifts each year. This particular year, one of the gifts we were to receive was a piece of frame scripture. There were hundreds of us at the party and dozens of different scriptures had been wrapped and placed randomly on a table for us to walk by and select a gift. I had no idea what scripture had been packaged in the gift I selected, but there was no question that God did, and He put His answer to my prayers in my hand.

You see, this particular Christmas was not like any other one I had ever experienced. Leading up to that party I had been praying a wrestling for months with the biggest decision of my life. I believed that God wanted me to propose to Mary Ann, but I had nothing, no house, no money, and no job. To my logical mind, it was the most ridiculous proposition imaginable! How was I going to provide for a wife without those things. I had worked in ministry for my entire life to that point, and as is often the case, I had sacrificed the pursuit of material things. It just didn’t make sense that I felt a strong leading from God to make this huge, life changing decision without the means to follow through.

Then I opened my gift.

Philippians 4:18-20 (NLT)
18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.
19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

Several weeks later I proposed to Mary Ann and she agreed to marry me. I still had no money, no job, and no roof to put over her head. But we had a promise, and that was enough. Before the week as out, God had provided all three things in miraculous ways. For years I had given of myself for God’s Kingdom and He rewarded me for my sacrifice.

I have a silly little deal with God that I often joke about with friends. Being brought up in the Southern Baptist Church, the lottery was always one of those taboos, right up there with fast women and liquor! Only the deacons of the church were allowed to play the lottery.

One day as I was driving to work, I saw the big Mega Millions sign and said to God, “God, if you ever let the lottery get to $333 million, that will be my sign from You that You want me to play and that You intend for me to win.” I figure that if God gives me $333 million dollars, I can probably make the world a little bit better place to live. I have come up with all kinds of plans to use the money to advance the Kingdom of God! And I am sure it wouldn’t hurt to have some nice things for my wife too.

In those moments when I begin to dream about the day when that lottery billboard reaches the magic number 333, the reality of the life God has given me often sets in. The truth is that $333 million dollars would not even begin to make me as rich a man as I am today.  When I think back over the last 13 years since God made that promise in Philippians 4:19 personal to me, I quickly realize how rich I truly am. I learn to say with Paul, At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me…”

Whether God supplies your needs day by day or in abundance, the promise is still the same. As we give of ourselves, sharing what we have been given with others, God promises to meet our needs according to His glorious riches.

Addendum: Only weeks after writing this article, the magic lottery number appeared on the lottery billboard. Though it was total out of character for me, I decided to play the lottery as I had been saying I would. It would be a wildly fun story to tell if I had won, but alias, God has chosen to continue provided just enough for each day. I am glad that our God has a sense of humor.

The Word of God

Psalm 12:6-7 (KJV)
The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. [7] Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

I. The History of The Word

• The word “Bible” simply means books.

• The Bible was originally made up of books written in three languages; Hebrew, Aramic, and Koine Greek.

• The entire Bible was written over a 1500 year span.

• The Bible contains 66 books written by over 40 different authors.

• The Bible contains 1189 chapters and over 31,00 verses.

• Discuss the Translation Timeline (including the “Alexandrian & Byzantine”)

– First through Fourth Centuries = Dedicated & Hungry Followers (ALEX)
– Fourth Century and Following = Professional scribes (BYZ)

• John Wycliff’s hand-written manuscripts were the first complete Bibles in the English language (1380’s). Wycliff (or Wycliffe), an Oxford theologian translated out of the fourth century Latin Vulgate, as the Greek and Hebrew languages of the Old and New Testaments were inaccessible to him. Curiously, he was also the inventor of bifocal eyeglasses. Wycliff spent many of his years writing and teaching against the practices and dogmas of the Roman Church which he believed to be contrary to the Holy Scriptures. Though he died a nonviolent death, the Pope was so infuriated by his teachings that 44 years after Wycliff had died, he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!

• Gutenburg invented the printing press in the 1450’s, and the first book to ever be printed was the Bible (in Latin). With the onset of the Reformation in the early 1500’s, the first printings of the Bible in the English language were produced illegally and at great personal risk of those involved.

• William Tyndale gave us the first Official English translation of the Bible in 1525 A.D.

For which he gave his life…

“At last, after much reasoning, when no reason would serve, although he deserved no death, he was condemned by virtue of the emperor’s decree, made in the assembly at Augsburg. Brought forth to the place of execution, he was tied to the stake, strangled by the hangman, and afterwards consumed with fire, at the town of Vilvorde, A.D. 1536; crying at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice, “Lord! open the king of England’s eyes.”

Such was the power of his doctrine, and the sincerity of his life, that during the time of his imprisonment (which endured a year and a half), he converted, it is said, his keeper, the keeper’s daughter, and others of his household.”
Foxes Book of Martyrs

• A Look at the Early Translations – John 3:16 (Slides)

• From then until now….

II. The Word of God Accord to the Bible

• What the Bible is…

-Read from “Word of God” List
– The Bible is God’s communication with us.
– The Bible is the guide book by which we are to live our lives.
– The Bible is our account of God’s work in lives of humanity.
– The Bible is our account of the ultimate sacrifice that was paid for our sins.
– The Bible is the story of Jesus, the one who gave himself for us, and whom we should be striving to be like.

• What the Bible is not…

– It is not a magic book
– It is not a quick fix book
– It is not always easy to accept

III. Learning to Trust the Word

• If the Bible is going to be our guide book. If we are going to read and understand the message that it has for us, then we have got to learn to trust it!

• How many translations are there today?

– 50+ modern English Translations
– 2,200 modern Language Translations
– 4,609 Language Translations to go (6,809 Distinct Languages)

• “Because there are over 14,000 manuscript copies of the New Testament we can absolutely be confident of its accuracy. With this large number of manuscripts, comparing manuscripts easily reveals any place where a scribe has made an error or where there is a variation. There are approximately 150,000 variations in the manuscripts we have today. However, these variations represent only 10,000 places in the New Testament (if the same word was misspelled in 3,000 manuscripts, that is counted as 3,000 variations.) Of these 10,000 places, all but 400 are questions of spelling in accord with accepted usage, grammatical construction, or order of words. Of the remaining variations, only 50 are of significance (such as two manuscripts leaving out Acts 2:37). But of these 50, not one alters even one article of faith which cannot be abundantly sustained by other undoubted passages.”

“There are some manuscripts that date as early as 130 AD, very close to the completion of the New Testament. These manuscripts are nearly identical to those dating 900 years later, thus verifying the accuracy of the scribes.”

“Besides this, Jesus promised that His words would not pass away. (Mat 24:35) .. ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.’”

It all comes down to an issue of faith. Do I believe that God will “preserve [His Word] from this generation for ever”? The fact of the matter is that the Word of God must be translated into 6,809 languages before Jesus is going to come back. I don’t believe that Jesus will return until every man, woman, and child has hade the opportunity to respond to the Word of God.

“So which version of the Bible should I read?”

The one that speaks to you best!

My Testimony