How To Live The Blessed Life

How To Live The Blessed Life
Articles


Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another,
through worship, by the Word, to the world. Skip Heitzig: We have a great guest speaker
lined up for you—and that is, Bob Shank. After several years in the construction industry
Bob went on to found several ministries, including what’s called Priority Living, which serves
men and women in the marketplace; and the Master’s Program, a mentoring organization
for leaders. And I can just say he’s been a dear friend of mine and has mentored me
through some very difficult decisions in my life. He now speaks at churches, retreats,
leadership events across the country, and he also serves on several boards of directors,
including Samaritan’s Purse and here at Calvary Albuquerque. So would you please join me in
giving a warm welcome to Bob Shank. [applause] Bob Shank: Well, thank you. Thank you, Skip.
Thank you to you all and happy Father’s Day. [applause] It’s kind of fun; what’s wrong
with this picture? I’m thinking, Franklin is in Poland, not with his dad, and Skip’s
with Franklin, and I’m with Nathan, and I don’t know who’s with my kids. [laughter]
But, you know, Father’s Day is a really important day and I trust that it will be a good one
for you. My dad died 16 years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing him again. When I do, it’s
going to be great. A lot of the things that weren’t there in our relationship here will
be there. When I was growing up, we didn’t have words for a lot of the things that we
now have a clear picture about. Things like “dysfunctional” and “toxic,” that just didn’t
come up much back then. My dad died 16 years ago. My grandfather,
his father, died 90 years ago. Boy, do the math. My grandfather was born during Abraham
Lincoln’s presidency. Boy, back then Focus on the Family wasn’t on the radio every day.
They weren’t talking about how to be good fathers at church, and I’ve got to tell you
I came out of a family system where there were more divorces than there were people.
I didn’t get mine. I’ve been married for 43 years. So it just was an environment—[applause]
Applaud my wife. She’s not here to hear it. [laughter] But it was a family system that
had a lot of holes in it. And some of us today are going to be with fathers that were that
close to God’s model and thank God for them. Some of us don’t have dads with us, but we
may remember that dad didn’t take second to God. There was a long distance between the two
levels of performance. I’m so grateful that whatever we didn’t get in our family of origin,
God has for us in the family of God. What my earthly father didn’t deliver, my heavenly
Father has more than made up for. Is that a good thing? [applause] And here’s—let
me tell you how it affects the morning, and if the subject doesn’t sound interesting to
you, this is the time you can zone out, because I’ll tell you go where we’re going. One of
the things that I didn’t pick up in my family system, where I came from, was a quality that
God calls “generosity.” It just didn’t happen. I grew up in a family that just kind of lived
as if deficiency was the inescapable reality. And so who’s going to give if you don’t have,
right? And there was never a correlation between
“maybe we don’t have because we don’t give.” There was just a sense that “there’s a deficiency
here, so you better hang onto what you’ve got.” I’m so grateful that God’s invited us
into a family system headed by a heavenly Father and by his Son who have modeled generosity
for us, and have invited us into that relationship with them, so that we can be the people who
are known to our world as the most generous because our Father in heaven has set the model
before us. Now under the title of “How to Live the Blessed Life,” I want to think with
you about what God has always said about this quality that we want to focus on today. Moses
is writing in Deuteronomy, chapter 11. If you have a copy of Scriptures with you, you
can join me in Deuteronomy 11. We’re going there first, but we’re just coming
in the door through Deuteronomy. We’re going to end up in Second Corinthians, chapters
8 and 9 this morning. But coming in through the Deuteronomy door, Moses has been the father
figure for Israel now for 40 years. He took them out of Egypt. He has been leading them
through the wilderness of the journey on the way to the Promised Land. He’s about to hand
the baton to Joshua who will take them over the Jordan. And in that environment Moses
wants to make clear that all of what God wants for the people is within their grasp if they’ll
simply follow God’s directions. It’s amazing how many people come at the faith, look at
God, read his Word, and say, “What a restricted life!” and then they go on to fail on their
own. Yeah, thank you. [laughter] You know, the truth is when I get aware of
God’s directions in his counsel, I begin to discover that the God who created the world
and created us wants us to be able to live a blessed life where he’s participative on
a constant basis with us. And that though we live in a fallen world—and as Paul writes
in the Roman letter, “the creation groans awaiting the disclosure, the revealing of
the sons of God.” Though we live in this corrupted place, we can have the best blessed life possible
if we live by God’s direction. Well, instead of it being a burden, it becomes the pathway
to blessing. And Moses wanted to make sure that the people who are heading into the Promised
Land have that picture clearly in their minds. In Deuteronomy, chapter 11, he writes, “I’m
setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey commands
of the Lord your God that I’m giving you today; the curse, if you disobey the commands of
the Lord your God and turn from the way I command you today by following other gods,
which you have not known.” I’m so glad that God does not deal in shades of gray. I’m so
glad that the directions that we receive are not: “Well, a little bit of this way and a
little of that way,” but no real way to know for sure. Moses said, “You get to choose today
between the life of blessing or the life of a curse.” Now, what does that look like? Well,
if I was to portray that, I would paint it this way: God is in heaven and beyond our
touch and feel, but we’re in a relationship with him down here that becomes reciprocal. He has a role in my life; I have a role with
him. And his great intent is that the world that doesn’t know him would look at us and
see him in us. What does it mean when we can demonstrate what God looks like in ourselves?
Simply this: when people look as us, they see attributes of God. He calls that “godly.”
What does it mean to be godly? We are people who have understood his expectations. He’s
made them clear. In an understandable form in the Scriptures he has said, “Here’s the
life I want for you.” And when I come to understand what God says, my response, if I’m godly,
is that of obedience. What God has made clear I will say yes to. And when I live the life
of obedience, God’s response is blessing. Does God want to bless my life? Well, everything
that I read from his pen in the Scriptures, the answer is yes. God wants my life to demonstrate the participation
of heaven. How do I unleash that? By obedience to what he’s made clear. You know, that’s
a concept, that’s an overarching principle, but it takes on very clear portrayal when
I understand that the God who designed this relationship also designed the world we live
in. You may remember this from fourth grade science. [laughter] It’s called the water
cycle and it presumes that there’s all the water we need in the system to meet all of
our needs. How does the cycle work? Well, first of all, there’s water that in a body
form, it’s lakes or ponds or the ocean. And the surface of the water is the place where
the cycle picks up. What happens when you have water that’s open? Well, the possibility
of evaporation. You know, if you’re in a highly humid environment
where the air is holding all the water that it can, no evaporation takes place. The drier
the environment, the more the surface releases water through evaporation into the atmosphere.
And when it does, it collects in clouds and becomes in condensation the next step in the
process. And then those clouds move in over the mountains, and the clouds form over the
peaks, and the storms begin, and precipitation now occurs. I’m describing something that
I only know because I read about it, because I live in California where we have no water
cycle. [laughter] But with the precipitation the snow comes, the rain falls, the water
then replenishes the brooks, the streams, the rivers. It flows down into the lakes and
into the ocean and evaporation continues. You know, you can shut the system down anytime
you want to, but when the system works the way God intended, it replenishes. It’s interesting
that that takes on a fairly dark tone when those who don’t trust that obedience is affordable.
Here’s God’s directions, and their response is not obedience, but rather disobedience.
Boy, when the ungodly disobey . . . What do I need to do to be ungodly? Simply this: knowing
what God says to do, I choose not to do it. What happens in my relationship with God when
having been shared with the specifics of what he wants in me, what happens when I say no?
Well, God responds in the way that he promised he would; and that is, he withholds the blessing.
When we hear “curse,” we think voodoo dolls and poked with pins and crazy stuff. Do you know when the Scriptures talk about
a curse, it simply means that the blessing God wanted to provide is being withheld. And
when the blessing that God wanted to provide is withheld, God calls that a curse, living
without what God had originally intended. That while that’s a principle, Paul wanted
to make it clear that it’s a practice, that my life can either be demonstrating this amazing
water cycle that is a picture of what the Creator intended, or I can be living a parched
earth life, a life that says, “If you have water, cover it up.” This morning’s Albuquerque
Journal front page of the local section reports an article that was published this last month
in Science Magazine by a scientist from the University of New Mexico in conjunction with
a scientist from Northwestern University. Here’s what they found through some amazing—it
was from a South American volcano and some minerals that were spit up from 400 miles
below the surface in a volcanic eruption. You know what they discovered? The conditions
under which they are able to calculate, that there is water 400 miles below the surface
of the earth. And here’s what the article says: “They presume it’s possible that it’s
two to three times the amount of water that’s in our oceans, that 400 miles below that barren
surface is more water than the oceans contain.” That’s the picture of the life that says,
“Sure, I’ve got water, but I can’t let it loose. I’ve got to push it down where it can
be protected, because if I let it out, I’ll never get it back.” And the ungodly says,
“It’s mine, it’s not the system’s. God doesn’t get it back, because I need it for me.” And when that happens, I’m the one who suffers
the shortfall. We can argue that it’s about being generous with God, and that’s an accurate
portrayal, but Moses is going to talk about being generous with God in a completely different
context when we talks about the tithe. When he comes to Deuteronomy, chapter 15, he’s
talking about it as it involves our interpersonal relationships. Having addressed the issue
of what I do with God to meet my responsibility with him and through his faith system, the
church, he comes to personal relationship and says, “If anyone is poor among your fellow
Israelites, in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be
hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather be openhanded and freely lend them whatever
they need.” “Give generously to them and do so without
a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work
and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore
I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in
your land.” He didn’t say go looking for trouble, and go get rid of money as fast as you can
get it. No. What he said is you will always be around people who are part of your faith
community, and when you are and when you see them in need, you have a decision to make.
Is your heart responsive to them or not? Will you be hardhearted or will you be generous?
It’s interesting when you look at the contrast of the synonyms and the antonyms. What’s the
opposite of generous? Simply, to be stingy. You know, I’ve just never gone to any birthday
party or any celebration of a person where the friends get up and they say, “Man, we
were looking forward to coming to the party and honoring our friend, because everybody
knows he’s a real stingy guy.” You know, stingy is just not real magnetic when it comes to
relationships. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that or not. But have you ever gone out to
dinner with people who say, “Let’s put it on one check”? Well, you know, it seems like
the person who’s generous always ends up with the check; have you noticed that? And the
people who are stingy say, “Well, I didn’t eat the bread,” or “I didn’t think she served
us very well.” Well, you know, stingy is not necessarily a compelling character quality. This is a great picture of the Old Testament
plan, but does it fall off in Old Testament times? Is it no longer a part of our practical
faith experience? The apostle Paul is going to argue that making generosity part of our
New Testament, Christian experience is the natural evolution. Second Corinthians, chapters
8 and 9, we’re going to land first in chapter 9, but we need the context. Paul had founded
the church in Corinth when he came there after Athens back in Acts, chapter 18. He had spent
a year or two there, got the church started, and when they were up and running, it was
time for him to move on. He left there to go to Ephesus, but he writes back to the church
in Corinth three times; two of them become part of the New Testament Scriptures. And in those letters back, he wants to continue
to encourage and develop the maturing faith of these Christians that are in Corinth. And
he’s writing to them on the occasion of a deep financial need that is current and tragic
for the believers who are still back in Jerusalem. They’re having a significant financial hardship
and the churches that are in Asia Minor have gotten word about their need and collections
are being taken up for them. These Corinthians perhaps are functioning in a generous way
with one another, but Paul wanted them to remember that they were part of a larger whole,
that the body of Christ is more than just the people that they saw in their worship
experience on Sunday morning, and so to them he writes in Second Corinthians, chapter 9. Here’s the way he lead off the passage as
we look at it this morning in verse 6. He said, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly
will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Paul
said, “Here’s a principle that all of us should know,” as it is portrayed in a farming context.
Now these people were not all farmers. Corinth was a cosmopolitan city. It had a lot of people
that were pretty far from the farming roots they may have come from, but it was a picture
that everybody could understand, because if you weren’t a farmer, you lived benefiting
from the work of a farmer. And so the farm-to-table was a much shorter distance back then than
it is today. Paul said, “Let me portray it from a context
that we could all understand. If you’re a farmer, and you say, ‘I want to have an abundant
harvest this year’ “—If that’s what you want to have in the autumn, what do you do
in the spring? Here’s what Paul argues: “If you want to have a big harvest, don’t go out
in the spring and say, ‘You know, the future’s uncertain. There’s no real way to guarantee
a big harvest this fall. So what we’re going to do is be very stingy in our planting. Where
we would normally put out a lot of seed, we’re going to only put out a little seed, because
you can’t count on the fact that God’s going to show up with the rain. So here’s what we
need: a little bit of seed, and then we want God to perform some miracle of multiplying
the seed, so that we get a huge harvest. But we’re not going to take any chances.’ ” Paul said that’s bad farming, “If you sow
sparingly, you’ll reap sparingly. If you want an abundant harvest, you’re going to have
to go out and throw caution to the wind and plant like there’s no tomorrow.” Why? “Because
the God of heaven will bring the rain that will make your crop come in.” He wants them
to see a principle that you could miss in you’re not careful: Selfless generosity is
a strategy that returns the favor. Selfless generosity is a strategy that returns a favor.
When someone says, “How can you afford to be so generous?” It’s because the harvest
hasn’t come in yet. And the harvest is God’s blessing. You know, some have argued that
the way you really do that is to send a check to some media ministry somewhere and the prosperity
gospel guarantees that you’ll get money back to put down on a sports car. [laughter] That’s not what God said. God’s promise was
that our intimacy with other people, our engagement with their needs, our awareness of their critical
needs at any moment opens our heart of compassion or closes a heart that doesn’t reflect God’s.
It’s a strategy that opens the doors of heaven toward us in the future. He continues in the
next verse, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not
reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” You know, sometimes what
we do in the body of Christ is defined by our spiritual gifts. And if you don’t have
the gift for it, Peter argues, Frist Peter, chapter 4, “As each one received a special
gift from God, employ that gift in serving.” So some folks have a great gift with kids
and they are in the children’s arena this morning in Sunday school, so that we can be
in here. Are you thankful for them today? [applause]
You are if you’re a parent. Every time they do the study of the things that Americans
fear, the number seven fear, the last survey I saw, the seventh fear on the list is death.
The number one fear among Americans: public speaking. Boy, isn’t it a great thing that
if God didn’t give you that gift, you don’t have to do it? Now, I would argue that I’ve
been in some places where I’ve seen some people who didn’t have the gift who were trying.
You say, “I’m there right now.” [laughter] But, you know, the truth is you don’t have
to live your fear, you can live with the confidence that if there’s a ministry involved that is
gift specific, God’s given you the gift that you need to do it. Now, let me just come to the place of generosity.
Is generosity something that is only to be practiced by a few who have a specific gift?
Here’s the word of the apostle Paul: “Each of you should give.” “Each of you should give.”
He doesn’t say, “If there’s a spiritual gift of generosity in you, then listen up. If that’s
not your gift, you don’t have to worry about it.” No. He says “each of us” are participative
in the process, because all of us have the heart that qualifies us for this exercise.
And it’s not about giving from our head, it’s not about a calculation that says, “This percentage
of what I have should be made available to people with needs.” No. He says, “As each
of you has purposed in your heart,” because the generosity that we have comes as a direct
reflection of the heart of God, not the calculation of a spreadsheet. Why? Because as Paul paints it: God expects
us to be generous, of course, but he leaves the details to us. This is not a place where
I look at what somebody else does, and say, “I’ll just go along with them.” It’s a place
where the heart of God reflected in my heart is reflected toward the generosity I get to
mirror, because the God who is generous is becoming known through me. He continues with
this amazing statement: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things
at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’
“One of the things we’ve sort of given up in our modern Sunday morning lives is something
that in the old days we called “responsive reading.” It’s where we sort of read along in unison.
Sometimes those are moments that we need to recapture, because there are some things that
we hear that we need to hear ourselves saying, so that we archive them as memories that are
even deeper than they would be if we just heard them and didn’t say them. And the first
half of that screen, friends, I want you to say it with me, because if this truth becomes
embraced in your belief system, it will change your life. We’re going to stop before it says,
“As it is written.” Would you read it with me: “And God is able to bless you abundantly,
so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every
good work.” Now, what’s this all founded on? It’s founded on God being able. Is that a
proposition you’d vote for? Is that a statement of fact that you would affirm? Now let me take God’s ability and put it into
personal terms as Paul does: “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that”—think
about this again—“so that in all things at all times, you’ll have all that you need,
so that you can be generous.” Do you find many holes in that argument? Are there places
where God will not show up? Are there moments where your generosity will put you into hardship
for yourself? Friends, I’ve never had anybody come in to my counseling space—for 35 years
I’ve been working with people in the context of our shared faith. I’ve never had anybody
come and say, “I’m in deep trouble. I was too generous.” It just doesn’t happen. Why?
Because God is able, so that all things all times, all that you need, so that you’re generosity
will never be at your expense, but it will be from your heart. You know, the point there is powerful: Generous
giving happens by faith; if God doesn’t come through, you’re through. The best things we
ever do are done in faith. Would you agree with that? Be careful, don’t answer yet. To
do it faith means it makes no human sense. To do it in faith means that for a period
of time, until God shows up, you are at risk. Why? Because God says, “Here’s the way it’s
going to work: my commands are out, will you obey or not? If you obey, then I will bless
you.” You know what I love saying? “God, you go first.” [laughter] And God says, “I already
did. His name is Jesus. Next.” You see, God’s waiting on me to trigger the next step in
the cycle: no evaporation, no condensation; no condensation, no precipitation; no precipitation,
no replenishment of the water. Next move is mine. Generous giving always places you at risk
until God does his next part. Can you trust him? Paul finishes with this powerful statement
in God’s promise: “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also
supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and
through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” You will be enriched
in a few ways so that you can be generous sometimes”—no. See, Paul said there’s never
a time when your desire to be generous needs to be suppressed, because if you feel—let
me just tell you where I came from. Bob, in his natural form, is as stingy as you can
find. That’s me! I’m stingy. And I’m at a meeting of Stingies Anonymous. Hi, I’m Bob.
Hi, Bob. Yeah, we’ve all got the problem. Why? Because
we were born into a deficient environment with no God, and then we met God and he became
the sufficiency in our lives. And when he became our sufficiency, our needs were then
met. Is that a good deal? It’s a phenomenal deal! And now I can afford to be generous.
Why? I’m connected with a God who blesses to restore my generosity. When does he do
that, every third Sunday? No. Whenever my generosity comes from a heart of compassion,
because that’s how God’s generosity flows. You know, what I find from that is: Generosity
isn’t an occasional exception; it’s continuing excitement. I just don’t find people who say,
“Oh, man, it’s really lousy, I’m being generous all over the place. It just doesn’t feel good.”
Really? There’s nothing that makes you feel better than to be the one through whom God
is meeting need. It’s not a new idea. In fact, Paul is just
echoing what was said by the psalmist in Psalm 37: “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but
the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he
curses will be destroyed.” There’s a future reality, it’s between inheriting the land
or finding that what you gave yourself to is going to be destroyed. The contrast is
huge. And the righteous are people who are characterized by God’s blessing. It’s so delightful
that the picture here is that we get to participate in God’s water cycle. But if they push it
down, cover it over, say, “I’ve got to protect the water that I’ve got. If it evaporates,
I’m out of business,” that’s the next step toward destruction. So what do we do? Well,
we avoid the curse. What do we do is Paul’s admonition that, “What
we want you to know”—and this is back to chapter 9 of Second Corinthians, down around
verse 12. “We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty
welled up in rich generosity. I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and then
beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege
of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. I’m not commanding you, but I want to test
the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor,
so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Friends, the principle that this leaves me
with is unmistakable: The measure of my generosity to God determines the measure of his blessing
to me. There’s an amazing invitation that God puts on the table for us, and that’s to
participate in practice with what he says demonstrates the heart of God in us. For me
to say, “I am the child of the Most High God. He is my Father. I honor him every day, not
just on Father’s Day.” God says, “I’m looking for it. I’m waiting for it. Your obedience
to what I’ve made clear becomes the opportunity to prove your godliness. I want you to be
like me, so that people will see in you who I am.” Who is God? God is the one who says
about his Son, “He, though he was rich, became poor, so that through his poverty we could
become rich.” What did it cost Jesus? Everything. Here’s
the question: Did he get it back? And the answer is yes. He’s seated this morning at
the right hand of his Father in heaven enjoying all that he ever had, restored to him after
he made himself poor for us. Are you glad for the poverty of Jesus? [applause] It’s
the basis upon which his generosity has made us rich. Father, we are your sons and daughters,
we are here today celebrating Father’s Day with our heavenly Father. We’ll do that with
our earthly dads, we’ll all have a part to play in this day in some fashion. But, God,
thank you for the character that you’ve planted in our lives, the amazing ability to be identified
with the God who is so generous that he took that which was most precious, his Son, and
gave him up for us. How could we ever make the case to be stingy,
when we are housing the Spirit of the generous, gracious God who is predisposed to give to
need and wants to do that through us? Father, as a gift back to you, we give you our obedience
today, we express our generosity, we recognize that you deserve that and more, and in return
you will bless us to keep the cycle going. We’re living in a world of great deficiency,
people who need far more than they have. Would you allow them to meet you through us as we
model that quality in our lives today, in Jesus’ strong name I pray, amen. Closing: What binds us together is devotion
to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to
proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ. For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque
and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.

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