Sep 21 2010

Out Live Your Life - Do Good Quietly (Chapter 9)

Chapters posted will be made available on the Lisa & Eric page for one week.  To purchase Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado, click here. All author royalties from the book will go towards building water wells in Uganda*

 

 

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

Chapter 9

Do Good, Quietly

Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it.

—Acts 5:1–2 (msg)

The couple sat at the kitchen table and stared at the fifteen-thousand-dollar check. The silence was a respite. The last half hour had been twelve rounds of verbal jabs and uppercuts. She blamed him for the idea. “You just had to give the money away.”

 

He snapped back, “You didn’t complain when everyone clapped for you at church, now did you?”

 

“Who would have thought that piece of dirt would bring this kind of price?”

 

Ananias hadn’t expected to get fifteen thousand dollars. Ten thousand at best. Eight thousand at least. But fifteen thousand for an undeveloped acre off a one-lane road south of Jerusalem? He had inherited the property from his Uncle Ernie, who had left this note with the will: “Hang on to the land, Andy. You never know. If the road expands from one lane to four, you’ve got a nest egg.”

 

So Ananias had taken the advice, locked the deed in a safe, and never thought about it until Sapphira, his wife, got wind of a generous deed done by Barnabas.

 

“He sold his beachfront condo and gave the money to the church.”

 

“You’re kidding. The condo in Jaffa?”

 

“That’s what I heard.”

 

“Whoa, that’s prime real estate.”

 

Ananias knew Barnabas from Rotary. Of course, everyone knew Barnabas.

 

The guy had more friends than the temple had priests. Ananias couldn’t help but notice the tone people used when discussing Barnabas’s gift. Respect. Appreciation. It would be nice to be thought of that way.

 

So he mentioned the acre to Sapphira. “We’re never going to build on it. I’m sure we can get eight thousand dollars. Let’s give the money to the church.”

 

“All of it?”

 

“Why not?”

 

They would have been better off just doing it, just keeping their mouths shut and giving the gift. They didn’t need to tell a soul. But Ananias never excelled at mouth management.

 

During the next Sunday’s worship service, the apostle Peter opened the floor for testimonials and prayer requests. Ananias popped up and took his place at the front.

 

“Sapphira and I’ve been blessed beyond words since coming here to the Jerusalem church. We want to say thank you. We are selling an acre, and we pledge to give every mite to the Widows’ Fund.”

 

The congregation, several thousand members strong, broke into applause. Ananias gestured for Sapphira to wave . . . she did. She stood and turned a full circle and blew a kiss toward Ananias. He returned the gesture and then saluted Peter. But Peter was not smiling. Ananias chose not to think much of it and stepped back to his seat. Later that night he called a real-estate agent and listed the property. He fell asleep with the thought of a foyer named after him.

 

Uncle Ernie’s hunch about road expansion was spot-on. Two land developers wanted the property. Neither winced at the ten-thousand-dollar price tag. By the time the bidding was finished, the couple had a check for fifteen thousand.

So they sat at their kitchen table in silence. Sapphira stirred her coffee.

 

“What if we tell them we sold the property for just ten thousand dollars?”

 

“What?”

 

“Who has to know?”

 

Ananias thought for a moment. “Yeah, we’ll just let everyone think we closed at ten thousand. That way we get credit for the gift and a little cash for something special.”

 

She smiled. “Like a five-thousand-dollar down payment on a Jaffa condo?”

 

“No harm in that.”

 

“No harm at all.”

 

And so on the following Sunday, Ananias stood in front of the church again.

 

He waved a check and announced, “We sold the property for ten thousand dollars!” and he placed the check in the offering basket. He basked in the applause, signaled for Sapphira to stand. She did.

 

They thought their cover-up was a success.

 

On Sunday afternoon the apostles called Ananias to a meeting.

 

“They surely want to thank us,” he told Sapphira as he tightened his necktie.

 

“Probably wondering if we’d be self-conscious at a recognition banquet.”

 

“I’d be okay with one,” she assured him.

 

He smiled and walked out the door, never thinking he wouldn’t return.

 

According to Luke the meeting lasted only long enough for Peter to ask four questions and render a single verdict.

 

Question 1: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” (Acts 5:3). So much for the cover-up. Luke’s phrase for keep back means “misappropriate.” The apostles sniffed out the couple’s scheme for what it was: financial fraud.

 

Question 2: “While it remained, was it not your own?” (v. 4). No one forced the couple to sell the property. They acted of their own accord and free will.

 

Question 3: “After it was sold, was it not in your own control?” (v. 4). At any point the couple could have changed their minds or altered their contribution. The sin was not in keeping a portion of the proceeds but in pretending they gave it all. They wanted the appearance of sacrifice without the sacrifice.

 

Question 4: “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?” (v. 4). This deceitful act was not an impulsive stumble but a calculated, premeditated swindle. Ananias had every intention of misleading the church. Did he not realize he was lying to God?

 

Peter made it clear with this verdict: “‘You have not lied to men but to God.’

 

Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last” (vv. 4–5).

 

The body of Ananias was wrapped and buried before Sapphira had any clue what had happened. When she came to meet with Peter, she expected a word of appreciation. Peter gave her a chance to come clean.

 

“Tell me whether you sold the land for so much” (v. 8).

(Come on, Sapphira, tell the truth. You’re in over your head. Just shoot straight, and you may live to tell about it.) She doesn’t.

 

“Yes, for so much.”

 

“How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out” (vv. 8–9).

 

As they carry Sapphira to join her husband in the cemetery, we shake our heads. Dare we wonder out loud what we’re wondering inside? Ask the question we all think? Since no one else will ask it, I will.

 

Was that really necessary?

 

Ananias and Sapphira deserved punishment, for sure. They deserved a stiff sentence. But the death sentence? Does the punishment fit the crime? What they did was bad, but was it that bad?

 

Let’s think about it. Exactly what did they do?

 

They used the church for self-promotion. They leveraged God’s family for personal gain. They attempted to turn a congregation into a personal stage across which they could strut.

 

God has a strong word for such behavior: hypocrisy. When Jesus used it, people ducked for cover. He lambasted the Pharisees with this blowtorch:

All their works they do to be seen by men . . . They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, “Rabbi, Rabbi.” . . . But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men . . . Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers . . . You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. (Matt. 23:5–7, 13–14, 25)

Jesus never spoke to anyone else with such intensity. But when he saw the religious hypocrite, he flipped on the spotlight and exposed every self-righteous mole and pimple. “They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men” (Matt. 6:5).

 

This is the working definition of hypocrisy: “to be seen by men.” The Greek word for hypocrite, hypokritēs, originally meant “actor.” First-century actors wore masks. A hypocrite, then, is one who puts on a mask, a false face.

 

Jesus did not say, “Do not do good works.” Nor did he instruct, “Do not let your works be seen.” We must do good works, and some works, such as benevolence or teaching, must be seen in order to have an impact. So let’s be clear. To do a good thing is a good thing. To do good to be seen is not. In fact, to do good to be seen is a serious offense. Here’s why.

 

Hypocrisy turns people away from God. When God-hungry souls walk into a congregation of wannabe superstars, what happens? When God seekers see singers strut like Las Vegas entertainers . . . When they hear the preacher—a man of slick words, dress, and hair—play to the crowd and exclude God . . .

 

When other attendees dress to be seen and make much to-do over their gifts and offerings . . . When people enter a church to see God yet can’t see God because of the church, don’t think for a second that God doesn’t react. “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding” (Matt. 6:1 msg).

 

Hypocrisy turns people against God. So God has a no-tolerance policy. Let the cold, lifeless bodies of the embezzling couple issue their intended warning. Let’s take hypocrisy as seriously as God does. How can we?

 

Expect no credit for good deeds. None. If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God.

 

Ask yourself this question: If no one knew of the good I do, would I still do it? If not, you’re doing it to be seen by people.

 

Give financial gifts in secret. Money stirs the phony within us. We like to be seen earning it. And we like to be seen giving it. So “when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:3 nlt).

 

Don’t fake spirituality. When you go to church, don’t select a seat just to be seen or sing just to be heard. If you raise your hands in worship, raise holy ones, not showy ones. When you talk, don’t doctor your vocabulary with trendy religious terms. Nothing nauseates more than a fake “Praise the Lord” or a shallow “Hallelujah” or an insincere “Glory be to God.”

 

Bottom line: don’t make a theater production out of your faith. “Watch me!

 

Watch me!” is a call used on the playground, not in God’s kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade.

 

Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God.

 

Heed the counsel of Christ: “First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matt. 23:26 nlt). Focus on the inside, and the outside will take care of itself. Lay your motives before God daily, hourly. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Ps. 139:2324 nlt).

 

Do good things. Just don’t do them to be noticed. You can be too good for your own good, you know.

 

 

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

(Matthew 6:3–4 niv)

Lord, you hate hypocrisy. It turns others away from you. Blunt my natural inclination to seek personal recognition for whatever good things you allow me to do. I don’t want to be a phony, but neither do I want to be a glory hound. Fill me with your Spirit, and teach me to follow his example in gladly giving all glory to your Son. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   The Acts 5 story of Ananias and Sapphira is an intense one. The consequences of their early church conspiracy were grave—literally. However, Max asks, “Was that really necessary?” What do you think?

 

2.   How does the church regard such offenses today?

 

3.   Have you seen examples of hypocrisy in the church that have adversely affected its reputation? What specific changes can Christians make to counter a general reputation for hypocrisy?

 

4.   In Matthew 23, Jesus levels accusations against the Pharisees and scribes, or teachers of the law. List these seven indictments on a separate sheet of paper. How would you describe Jesus’ tone in this passage? What common threads do you see in the list?

 

5.   How will you live differently after reading Matthew 23, Acts 5, and this chapter of Outlive Your Life?

Ideas for Action

  “Expect no credit for good deeds.” Think of someone you know who is in need. What tangible thing could you do for that person this week—in secret? Identify a person who has made a significant impact on your life. Send a letter thanking that individual for all he or she has done, but be sure the letter cannot be traced back to you.

 

  “Don’t fake spirituality.” Search the Scriptures to see what indicates false spirituality and what indicates authentic spirituality. Spend time in prayer, asking God to show you any area in which your spirituality is weak.

Sep 17 2010

Out Live Your Life - Persecution: Prepare for It; Resist It (Chapter 8)

*Chapters posted will be made available on the Lisa & Eric page for one week.  To purchase Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado, click here. All author royalties from the book will go towards building water wells in Uganda*

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

 

Chapter 8

Persecution: Prepare for It; Resist It

The priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them.

—Acts 4:1

To hear Max's take on this chapter, Click Here

 

 

 

You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it. Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

(2 Timothy 3:11–12 nlt)

 

Father, you warn us that persecution is coming. Not to alarm us but to prepare us for what’s ahead—that we might endure and persevere. That these hard experiences would glorify you and benefit us. For that to happen, Lord, I need a reorientation of perspective and a change of focus. Help me see the world through your eyes by focusing on your son, remembering what he accomplished on the cross despite the persecution heaped on him. Whatever persecution I might suffer, Lord, let it bring you honor—and use it to help other followers of Jesus who will face their own persecution. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.

Questions for Discussion

1.   How do you feel when you hear stories about heroic martyrs such as Necati or stories about horrible persecution around the world? In what ways does it put your own difficulties into perspective?

 

2.   In societies with religious freedom, we may not experience persecution, but we may experience spiritual opposition from critics, accusers, family members, professors, classmates, co-workers, and others in our daily lives. As you read that list, does it remind you of a situation that led you to silence your beliefs?

 

3.   How do you think Peter felt in John 18:15–18, 25–27? Have you ever failed to speak out in the face of pressure or persecution? On the other hand, when have you been like Peter before his accusers in Acts 4:5–13—ready to speak the truth boldly in the face of pressure or persecution?

 

4.   What habits have you developed in order to spend time with Jesus so you can linger long and often in his presence? How could such habits help others realize you have been with him?

 

5.   In what ways should spiritual disciplines develop boldness in a believer?

Ideas for Action

 Pray for the persecuted church. Become more knowledgeable about church freedom in a country you already have a connection with, and pray for the believers there to be strong in their faith. Stay current on the news about the church in that country.

 

 Rally your church to pray for persecuted believers by setting up a special prayer vigil or by participating in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Consider buying a large world map for your home or church and having family or church members write prayers on Post-it notes and place them on the appropriate country.

“Reprinted by permission.  Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference by Max Lucado, 2010, copyright date, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee.  All rights reserved.”

Sep 16 2010

Out Live Your Life - See the Need; Touch the Hurt (Chapter 7)

 *Chapters posted will be made available on the Lisa & Eric page for one week.  To purchase Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado, click here. All author royalties from the book will go towards building water wells in Uganda*

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

Chapter 7

 

 

See the Need; Touch the Hurt

Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye . . . He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up.

—Acts 3:4, 7 (msg)

Click Here to listen to what Max has to say on this chapter

 

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

(Mark 6:34 niv)

Gracious Lord, in the Bible you are called “the One who sees me,” and I know that your eyes are always upon me to guide and protect and bless and correct. You have given me eyes too. Grant me the power to use them to truly see. Help me see those you put in my path—really see them, with all their hurts, their desires, their longings, their needs, their joys, and their challenges. As you open my eyes, prompt me to open wide my arms to offer whatever help and encouragement I have to give. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   “Human hurt is not easy on the eye.” Tell of a time you encountered suffering that was painful to observe. Describe a time you were hurting and someone made you think he or she really saw you.

 

2.   What does it communicate to people in need, especially those who are not beautiful, when you look directly at them, in their eyes?

 

3.   Take note of each meaningful touch you find in the following miracles of Jesus: Matthew 9:20–22; Mark 1:40–45; Mark 7:32–35; Luke 8:51–55; Luke 13:11–13; John 9:1–7. Did Jesus need to touch people to heal them? Why do you think some form of touch was part of each healing?

 

4.   Peter and John gave more than the money the crippled beggar asked for in Acts 3. What resources do you have—beyond money—that you could give to people in need?

 

5.   For Peter and John the strategy of kind eyes meeting desperate ones and strong hands helping weak ones unleashed a miracle of God. How could you live out this strategy?

Ideas for Action

 Take time this week to look people in their eyes. When you talk to someone you know is needy, maintain eye contact with him or her much longer than you normally would. Reflect on how this helps you really see people’s needs in a new way. It will have greater impact if you keep a journal or write a summary at the end of the week, describing how this experiment affected your perspective.

 

 This week, go out of your way to visit a person in need. When someone you know is in the hospital, visit that person to show you care. Go to a nursing home this week to extend a compassionate touch to others. Start by shaking people’s hands or giving them an appropriate hug. Ask if you can pray for them, and lay a hand on their shoulders (you could even pray silently if you feel more comfortable doing so). As you head home, reflect on how meaningful the visit was. Also, consider how you feel after these visits, compared to how you felt on the way there.

“Reprinted by permission.  Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference by Max Lucado, 2010, copyright date, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee.  All rights reserved.”

Sep 15 2010

Out Live Your Life - Open Your Door; Open Your Heart (Chapter 6)

*Chapters posted will be made available on the Lisa & Eric page for one week.  To purchase Out Live Your Life, click here. All author royalties from the book will go towards building water wells in Uganda

 

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

 

 

Chapter 6

Open Your Door; Open Your Heart

They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.

—Acts 2:46 (ncv)

Click here, to listen to what Max has to say on this chapter.

 

Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

(1 Peter 4:9–10 nlt)

 

Heavenly Father, every breath is a gift from your hand. Even so, I confess that sometimes my own hand remains tightly closed when I encounter the needs of others. Please open both my hand and my heart that I might learn to open my door to others. As you help me open my heart and hand, O Lord, I ask that you also prompt me to open my life to those who need a taste of your love and bounty. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

 

Questions for Discussion 

      1.   Do you know someone who is a great example of hospitality? What makes that person seem hospitable?

2.   How are you currently using your home as a tool in helping others? How could you make your kitchen, your backyard, your living room, or even your dorm room into a place of intentional hospitality?

 

3.   What keeps you from inviting others into your home? How could you remove those barriers? In what ways do you too often listen to the “Martha Stewart voice” and miss the point of hospitality?

 

4.   Read each of the following passages about hospitality: Acts 16:15, 34; Acts 21:8; Acts 28:2, 7; Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 5:10; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9–10; and 3 John 1:8. How should we view hospitality in light of these verses?

 

5.   Name some people you would like to invite into your home soon. Set a time in the next two weeks to open your door to one or more of these people.

Ideas for Action

  Start a routine of hospitality in your life so it is always happening. Designate one meal a week as your “hospitality meal,” and always plan to have people over. For example, you could invite friends every week to watch a ball game—an open invitation to enjoy your hospitality and your television. Or prepare a pot of soup every Saturday night. Set up a hospitality station on your front porch or in your driveway, and serve bowls of friendship to your neighbors.

 

 Intentionally include others at your special family events. Invite a single person over for Christmas Eve dinner. Have a family in need join you for Thanksgiving, or take the turkey and have the meal in their home. On Mother’s Day celebrate some of the older women in church who never had children or whose children are far away. Keep an eye on individuals who sit alone or have yet to make friends in your church, and invite them over for a meal (even if you get take-out food on the way home).

 “Reprinted by permission.  Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference by Max Lucado, 2010, copyright date, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee.  All rights reserved.”