"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Raising The Standard: Generosity Is Giving A Gift That Is Cherished By The Receiver And The Giver

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. God so loved ... that he gave ..." ~ John 15:13; 3:16
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." ~ Matthew 6:19
If a man in a blue uniform stood in an intersection directing traffic, you would know he was a policeman. If a man walked from house to house in your neighborhood with letters in his hand, you would know he was a mailman. If you were asked to describe the truest "uniform" of genuine religion, what would that be? See John 13:35 and James 1:27.
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." ~ John 13:35 (New American Standard Bible)
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." ~ James 1:27 (New International Version)
From The Pages Of Scripture:
God has assumed a special care and protection for the fatherless and the widow. Anyone who gives to their needs is not only doing a special work for god but will receive a special reward from Him. The apostle James said that the truest sign of genuine religion is giving to the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and maintaining personal purity in every contact with the world (James 1:27). One woman in Scripture exemplified this mark of true Christianity by devoting herself to meeting the needs of widows. The gifts she gave represented that which she cherished the most and became lasting investments which produced greater dividends than she could have imagined. A creaking ship edged toward the harbor as its billowing sails were drawn in. Men dashed about the deck. A plank was lowered, and soon precious cargo was being carried off the ship onto the dock. The seacoast city bustled with new activity. Curious shoppers studied merchandise from faraway places. Among the busy inhabitants was one who had a deep concern that many in this influential city would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This dedicated Christian is not known for an ability to speak to crowds or to perform miraculous deeds, but what this person did resulted in the salvation of many in that town. This Christian quietly demonstrated what the apostle James later described as the truest evidence of genuine religion. One day this Christian became deathly ill. News of the sickness spread quickly. then came the tragic report of death. The body was washed and laid in an upstairs room. It was then that the deep love of others for all that this one had done became evident. Many gathered together and wept. Meanwhile, two men from that group left the city. In a nearby town they found one of the twelve apostles and urged him to come without delay. As the three men returned to that room, the apostle heard sobs and weeping. When he entered many widows showed him coats and garments which their friend had made and given to them. Those in the room were asked to leave. Then the apostle knelt and prayed, turned to to the body, and called her by name. Immediately her eyes opened, and she sat up. The apostle then gave her his hand, lifted her up and presented Dorcas alive to all the widows and friends who returned to the room. Now there were tears of joy and excitement. News of this miracle spread throughout the city and many believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a significant footnote to this account. The apostle who raised Dorcas from the dead was Peter. Until that time he had preached only to the Jews, but Dorcas lived in Joppa, a seaport city inhabited by both Jews and Gentiles. While he was there, Peter received the vision that God wanted him to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentile world as well. His example for doing so was Dorcas whose generosity was directed toward and cherished by both Jews and Gentiles. (From Acts 9:36-42)
How Was Dorcas An Instrument Of The Lord In Giving?
The Lord has promised to help and guide all of His children, but His promises of special provision are more often directed to widows than any other group of people. The only other category that rivals them for special favor is the fatherless, often associated with them. Moses wrote concerning the Lord, "He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and the widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment." (Deuteronomy 10:18) The Lord curses those who mistreat her. "Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless and widow." (Psalm 146:9) But how does the Lord in reality help the widow? He uses dedicated and willing disciples like Dorcas who are obedient to the promptings of His Spirit. Dorcas was an instrument of the Lord in fulfilling His special promises.
Why Was Dorcas So Deeply Loved By Those Who Had Received And Cherished Her Gifts?
When Peter came to the chamber where Dorcas lay dead, "all the widows stood by him weeping." (Acts 9:39) Why were these women so deeply grieved? The first reason is found in the substance of Dorcas' charity. She had made them coats and garments. In other words, Dorcas gave these poor people what they needed most. So often our charity is based upon giving what we ourselves do not need, rather than what others do need. The second reason is found in the way she supplied her gifts. She made with her own hands the clothes that she lovingly gave. Her gifts were costly in time and labor. Most people are ready to give money, but few are willing to actually take the time and effort to "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction." (James 1:27) Dorcas totally committed herself to these needy people and became personally involved with them. It is no wonder that she was so greatly mourned after her death.
Why Did Many People Believe In Christ After Dorcas' Resurrection?
"And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord." (Acts 9:42) Such a miracle would naturally excite attention, but why belief in Christ? The reason they believed in Christ was because they were familiar with Dorcas' godly behavior and benevolence. They knew that Dorcas claimed to be a disciple of the Lord. When Peter, the spokesman for the entire movement, was able to restore her life, this confirmed two things. First, it was possible for a person to be raised from the dead. If Peter was able to raise Dorcas, then certainly the Lord Jesus, whom Peter served, was able to be raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is, of course, the basis for our belief in Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Second, the identification of Dorcas with this movement confirmed that this was of God. Someone so kind and generous would not be of the Devil. These two things provided the evidence necessary for many to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Illustrated In The World Of Nature: The unsociable bannertail kangaroo rat is neither a kangaroo nor a rat. It is a close relative of the pocket mouse. But its appearance and the fact that it is one of the "jumping-est" creatures among all small mammals make its name appropriate. It is a native of the semi-dry regions of North America, making its home in the sandy soil where there is sparse vegetation. This rodent does not hibernate and, unlike some desert creatures, does not sleep away the hot, mid-summer periods either. It is very clean and spends much time washing itself and taking dust baths. The bannertail has a white stripe across its flanks making it one of the most handsome of all kangaroo rats. It has a low annual birthrate and a life expectancy of approximately two years.
How Does The Kangaroo Rat Illustrate The Need To Give?
Slipping though a cover of darkness, the strange creature scurried about in search of food. No other animal quite resembled it. This furry little ball with its large head, long tail, and big, black eyes was a sight to behold. By using its tail and large, powerful legs to scamper about the desert floor, it hopped from place to place, chucking its cheeks full of food. Any variety of vegetation was quickly stuffed into these fur-lined pouches and taken back to the burrow for storage. The kangaroo rat had quite a system. It gathered dry seeds and separated them according to type and size. It harvested edible leaves by cutting them into bite-size pieces. Rather than taking them immediately down to its burrow where they might spoil and decompose, the industrious kangaroo rat dug shallow pits and placed them inside. The buried items would dry in the hot desert sun. Later it returned to take the dried morsels to its larder. The creature used every opportunity to gather supplies for its storehouse. It accumulated huge mounds of seeds and leaves. There was so much food that it had to dig and construct new chambers continually in order to house the harvest. It had gathered more supplies than it could ever feasibly use. But in spite of this, it went out without fail night after night from dusk until dawn. It stopped only when danger or an intruded threatened. Having little use for visiting relatives, it would impudently inform them of its feelings about fee loaders by stomping its feet to create a thumping sound that told the visitor, "Keep out and stay away!" One evening as it busily arrange produce in the burrow, it heard a noise. It stopped to listen. The noise sounded like little grinders going to work. Upon investigation, it realized that one of its cousins had come to pay a visit. It was a little Merriam kangaroo rat --- smaller than the bannertail. This little rodent wasn't as industrious as its bigger cousin, but it was awfully friendly. It had stopped by to pick up a few kernels and socialize with its neighbor. The bannertail was in no mood for this. It angrily raced over and with a powerful leap kicked the little rat, forcing it into a corner. Kick after kick was inflicted on its body. Soon the little creature lay still, lifeless. The bannertail had killed it. It killed the visitor because its nature was to hoard everything. The kangaroo rat had no ability or willingness to give even from its overflowing, abundant harvest. The bannertail's lack of generosity did not permit it to share with the little Merriam. This hoarding action is typical of the species. It will quickly fight over food, grunting and growling all the while it tries to kick and defeat its opponent. It is not only selfish but totally unsociable. Put two of these in a cage and one will invariably be killed. During mating season they barely tolerate each other. Even then it is not long before one rat builds a partition in the burrow to separate the two. Because the kangaroo rat, or dipo, is such a shy and seclusive nocturnal creature, it is not easily seen in the wild. Despite its faults, it is a very interesting rodent, uniquely constructed and well suited to live in its desert country home.
Spiritual References To The Kangaroo Rat
The kangaroo rat is neither a kangaroo nor a rat. It is more closely related to the harvest mouse. As such it is included in the list of unclean, creeping things in Leviticus 11:29. There are two characteristics of this kangaroo rat which are contrary to godly character --- selfishness and unfriendliness. In the world of the kangaroo rat, as in the world of man, these two negative traits tent to go hand in hand. The kangaroo rat is a hoarder, storing up or burying every bit of food it can get. It does not share what it has but instead will attack any visitor. The consequence of a similar tendency in human nature is described in Ecclesiastes 5:13. "There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereover to their hurt." Riches attract friends and selfishness repels them. Those who would have genuine friends must follow the counsel of Proverbs 18:24. "A man who hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother."

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