Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Take Him at His Word

1Peter 1:8-9 - ... Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Hallelujah! It's all about the Word, His Word. It's about Jesus, the Man and the Word.

Coming upon a local Christian television station the preacher, Dr. John Whitcomb, was talking about Jesus' ministry. He talked about certain people, those who followed Him and sought Him for His miracles of feeding the thousands with a loaf of bread and some fishes...and other miracles. They did not follow Him to hear Him speak but for the signs or what He could give them. They missed the message that He was the Bread of Life. Whitcomb said one fleeting statement (in my words): like many in the Church today, they want all the bells and whistles, the things they can see that tickle their senses, the programs, the music, the flashing lights...not so much the words of our Lord.

I think many churches today do this. People don't go just for a well preached sermon and the truth of God's Word. They come out of obligation, the belief that it will get them to heaven...or for the entertainment. We've become a people of needing to be entertained by things and not so much by just listening or reading. And many churches are providing such to keep the people entertained and returning. They opt for a soft, inoffensive message to keep the pews and coffers full. I encountered a women's event one time. As I entered the church the entire foyer was filled with tables with wares to be sold. Something went through me as if to say, is this what is needed to get women to a church event? Do we have to be lured with shopping first and not for the pure Word?

What about churches who will not bow to this entertainment? The difference is the people in those churches want to hear Jesus speak. They want to hear what they must do to be saved, be reminded of their sin and to be encouraged to continue to abide in the Lord. They want the truth and nothing but the truth.

Many churches preach soft messages, as the Bible says: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2Timothy 4:3-4)

Sadly, Jesus encountered a falling away just like many of the churches today. It has to do with wanting to hear (and see) what they want...or finding it difficult to understand or not wanting to hear what Jesus says:
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (John 6:53-58,60) And the result? From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:66)

There you go. Eating that bread and the Bread. The people came to Jesus because He provided them badly needed food. They missed the point of He being that which could give them life...the Bread or as the Samaritan woman at the well was told, the Living Water, which when drunk would remove the thirst forever. Except she got it!

Aren't we told that the Word of God brings life? Aren't we told that Jesus is the Word? Don't I constantly say that it's all about Him? Not about a religion but about a relationship with the Man, Jesus Christ.

This reminded me of what I wrote the other day about people believing or having their faith and trust in things they can see or hold in their hands...their stuff, which when others see is like a boost to their ego. What does the Word say? Remember Thomas, who doubted Jesus' resurrection? John 20:29 - Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And then Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We are called to take Jesus at His word. Simple, childlike faith. Come to Him for He is the Bread of life and the Living Water. It's both a simple concept and mysterious one. How do we do it? Take Him at His word. He is the Word. Take Him into your life. Give yourself to Him and trust and see what He can do.

Jesus, the Word:
Hebrews 4:12 - ...the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

He, the Word, is  all we need to be fulfilled in this life. Go for it. Take Him at His word and take Him. Period.

Matthew 24:35 - Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

God Never Changes

Ecclesiastes 1:2 - “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

Solomon, son of King David, was a wise man. Most of Solomon's life was lived in godliness. God granted him wisdom when he asked for it and because he asked only for wisdom, God granted him riches as well, which in the end was his downfall.

Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. This book was written as a reflection on the vanity of human life. It shows us how nothing is ever new but that all things have been done before. I began writing the other day about Psalm 100:5 - For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

There is, in my mind, a connection between that psalm and Ecclesiastes! As I began to write my post for the other day (I wanted to let it rest before editing) I was going to discuss how since God has created all things, everything seems to fall into its own routine...in the life of the earth and human life. Seasons of life on earth and seasons of human life. They never change...and God never changes. He's the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I guess I'm trying to say that because God never changes, His truth endures forever, that which has been done is what will be. Why the Bible is an excellent guide into seeing what has been done in the past has been repeated...and what the outcomes are.

So Solomon sought wisdom and came to the conclusion all is vanity, that which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). God never changes.

God's plan all along was for all generations to seek Him and believe, trust and have faith in Him. He has not changed. Sadly, man wants to believe in himself before God. Sadly, also, that is nothing new under the sun! His desire will remain the same till the Lord returns.

So, it is vain to think we can live our lives without knowing God. It is vain to think our lives are fine without any thought or obedience to Him. That, as Ecclesiastes tells us:
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11) Later he says, He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Oh my. So what is life all about if all we desire, all pleasures of our labors is not at all profitable in the end? And neither has it been for anyone in life? What is all this? What do we do?

Ecclesiastes continues by telling us that we should enjoy what we have, enjoy our life...but not without first knowing and believing that God has given us all we have. And if He has given it, it can be taken away...why it is important to know He is our greatest reward, not all we achieve or store up in the world.

I know, you can't put a finger on what is most valuable that He has to give. You can't hold it in your hand or look at it to admire it. Well, we are told that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Maybe that's why many do not trust the Lord. They want what they can hold, see, smell, taste. God wants us to trust Him, not self.

If one is willing to give himself over to Him, there is a true presence, contentment, peace and joy. It cannot be explained. It's a spiritual knowing. Minds discern and eyes see things differently. Hearts long not for the things of the world but the things of God. All the stuff one has might be seen as part of those things eyes desired, the pleasures of labor...which when one has received those desires one is quickly dissatisfied with and something new must replace it. A perpetual grasping for the wind??? God gives good things. Wouldn't it be better to receive His good things instead?

Solomon goes on to reveal more of God's truths (Ecclesiastes 3)...to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the heaven. You know the old song...a time to live and a time to die...a time to plant and a time to reap... Plus, He has made everything beautiful in its time. Oh, those seasons, those lives I was about to write about. Those things God, who never changes, has created.

I know that whatever God has done or does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to nor taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past. (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15)

This book reminds us all that God gives and takes away. He brings us into this world, like He does the seasons. They come, they go. The sun rises and sets, as does the moon. He controls all things. We can conclude that wisdom was is good thing...God's wisdom the best...and we should be thankful for what we have and acknowledge God in the process. Enjoy what we have but realize it's not all about our stuff, which can still leave us unsatisfied...and which God can take away. Be of proper mind to let it go if necessary.

There will always be rich and poor, oppressed and blessed. Our fates are equal. We die taking nothing with us. But where we end up after death is what is important. Rich and poor, oppressed and blessed can all be assured of their end if they look to God now. As Solomon says, 4:9-10: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. If we have the Lord with us, we have that One who will lift us up.

Everything is still always about God. Start with Him, gain His wisdom, receive the good things He has to offer. Proverb 21:21 states He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor. See, it is attainable...in God's way, the best way.

Receive His gift of salvation...now...because life can be taken away in a moment's notice...and what good does it do to strive for so much without acknowledging Him? We long to live longer to enjoy more when God knows the actual number of our days...so we should be right with God before it's too late.

Besides the greatest gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we can receive His wisdom. Through both of these we will know what is beneficial. Nothing of God is a mistake or disappointment. Trust Him with our lives and with all He gives us. Solomon figured it all out for us. His words were written for our understanding and guidance. It all begins and ends with God. In Genesis He created the world; in Revelation He destroys all wickedness and returns to reign in peace and holiness.

He has shown us what He desires. He has shown us that wisdom is greater than stuff. He has shown those who seek wisdom what is important...it's all about Him. Seek Him and all "real" life may be yours, in difficult times or good. It is His miracle worked out in us.

All throughout this book Solomon shows us, like he does in his proverbs, the difference between the wise man and the fool, the one who seeks God and the one who does not believe that God provides all the answers. God gives and takes away; He is the Judge of our sin; He determines where we go on our last day. Jesus also told us not to worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25-34)...these words of wisdom are understood by true believers.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 - Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Religion or Relationship?

Job 36:22 - "Behold, God is exalted by His power; who teaches like Him?"

Continuing in the Book of Job, his three friends having spoken wise yet accusatory words to him, Elihu speaks the words above. They are true. But job already knows this. It's almost as if these guys are trying to show how smart they are. Attached to this scripture was a devotion of sorts from Oswald Chambers, a Baptist evangelist and teacher. His writings are widely acclaimed. His wisdom quite keen. I didn't want to do anything to add to his words which so aptly speak for themselves:

The Essence of Christianity - There is always a tendency to produce an absolute authority; we accept the authority of the church, or of the Bible, or of a creed, and often refuse to do anymore thinking on the matter; and in so doing we ignore the essential nature of Christianity which is based on a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, and works on the basis of our responsibility. On the ground of the Redemption I am saved and God puts His Holy Spirit into me; then He expects me to react on the basis of that relationship. I can evade it by dumping my responsibility onto a church, or a book or a creed, forgetting what Jesus said: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." The only way to understand the Scriptures is not to accept them blindly, but to read them in the light of a personal relationship to Jesus Christ…. A scientist can explain the universe in which commonsense people live, but the scientific explanation is not first; life is first. The same with theology; theology is the systematizing of the intellectual expression of life from God; it is a mighty thing, but it is second, not first. Quoted from: Baffled to Fight Better. 

Just as I have pointed out repeatedly. It's not about our religion, our church or the beliefs of that church or the pastor or priest, or any other office within the church. It's about a relationship with Jesus Christ. All we are called to do is receive Christ. We cannot work for His forgiveness for our sins but we must first admit we are sin-filled and in need of redemption. And Jesus...Jesus...is the only way toward that redemption. HIS work on the cross was accomplished 2,000 years ago. He died for you and me.

Our church, our clergyman, the beliefs of or in them are not the starting point. It starts with Jesus. Oh, to hear about Him one might have to step inside a church (that preaches the absolute truth). But coming to Christ can be done by responding to a call within your spirit, a song whose lyrics so speak to your spirit, a message preached on the radio or a person' swords spoken on a street corner (or

When we come to Christ He gives us the desire and ability to know Him more when we read His Word and hear HIM speak to us through the Scriptures. If we rely solely on a man in robes or suit or even jeans and a tee shirt standing squarely in a pulpit we may be hearing only his words. They may be accurate, they may not. In the last two churches I have and am attending the pastors have all said not to just believe what they say, but check the scriptures ourselves. They all agree we are to not place them in the highest authority...Jesus is the highly exalted one. Be sure what they say is accurate...and call them on inaccuracies if there are. Man can fail, God cannot.

No matter what religion, it should not come before Christ. As Chambers states, we must be willing to come to Him, put Him first, not second.

He is also called our Mediator...between God and man. If we pray to anyone else we are putting Him second. Not one other person is greater than He. He alone has the power to save. He only died on the cross for our sins. His Father brought Him into this world for that reason...no one else. It's why He calls us to seek Him first. In Jeremiah 23 we are asked: “Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord, “And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord. And then Psalm 139 says this: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? Hallelujah to our God who knows all, who wishes us to commune with Him. What an honor...when He died on that cross the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom to allow each of us access to Him.

Pastors, priests, ministers, all followers of the Lord, must adhere to this: He must increase, I must 
decrease (John 3:30). Often when I think about that scripture or pray that for myself I catch myself  saying I must decrease that He may increase. NO. He comes first. There's a reason we are called lowly worms in scripture. And why He is highly exalted, seated at the right hand of the Father. Because. Just because. He is God. No one else can compare. No one. Not one. He alone is worthy of all honor, praise and glory.

Psalm 99:1-3,5,9 - The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name—He is holy. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool— He is holy. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tastes Like More

Matthew 10:15 - Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.

A few days ago I was part of a women's retreat with some of the ladies from our church, young moms to grammies. As with most women it was a nonstop gab fest! We call it fellowship. And fellowship we did...in teaching sessions or at breakfast or dinner or like five of us who just had to go out to satisfy the craving we all surprisingly at the same time for a hot dog! Tee hee. We fellowshipped. Discussion for young and old on the importance of prayer...for the young moms over their children to grow up in the love of and to continue in their love and service to Christ to the older for persistence and patience in prayer for the salvation of family, friends, neighbors.

It was good, uplifting discussion, even in times when we just talked about everyday issues. We laughed, we cried, we rejoiced, we prayed. Time flew. Rest hours were shorter than normal for most, I'm guessing. And giggles erupted in the wee hours when there was stereo snoring! (Six to a suite.) The meals put together were done with love. The joy of our Lord was there ministering to each of us. I was taking it in and hopefully dishing out, although it was a perfect time for me to get to knowing a little more by listening to my new church family. As one young mom said to me one evening, "I hope we have made you feel welcome." Brings tears to my eyes even now.

Surrounded by like minded Christians, a person tends to find out how similar one's thoughts are to others...doubts, fears, anxieties which seem so prevalent in one's life seem a little less so when you know the hearts of others. One such thing happened to me. And the excitable and encouraging words from one woman allowed me to realize I'm not so different! I love this woman for sharing without her even realizing I needed to hear her words!

I'll share. I have from time to time wondered how much I really love the Lord. We are told to love the Lord with all our heart and all our mind. Well, what if you never had proper training on how to love? You didn't experience real love growing up, there were no hugs, no words to let you know. How do you know if you are giving the Lord all the love due Him?

As I listened to this woman share some things about herself I recognized the same thoughts that she's had that I have. I'm not so unusual, nor alone. And why should I even think I am? While I just now contemplated what she said, the thought about coming as a little child came to mind.

Coming to Christ takes no more than childlike faith. Put away the deep thoughts about how this is achieved. It happens at God's right time when we just believe. When children are small don't they just believe whatever is said to them? They trust their mommy and daddy, providing they are good parents. (As a small child I know I was loved; that changed over the years because sadly my parents' lives changed.) Young children haven't grown so intellectual as to weigh all the issues. That comes later. This is what Jesus wants...that we just come to Him as little children, trust in Him, believe in Him. Faith so small, like a mustard seed. And then He will give you the knowledge and wisdom. Although like I said in my last blog...we still only know the "mere edges" of God.

So, I was pondering the conversation and thinking it isn't so difficult to receive Christ. When it happened to me it came in an instant, without reservation as if someone had filled me with a perfect conviction that this was what I needed and I was going to go for it without any thought to what others would think. And Someone did. This was for ME! And I was going for it, now. No thoughts about whether it was the right thing to do or not. I didn't realize it then, but My spirit knew it was right because God filled me with His Spirit then and there. I was at a place in my life when I was an "easy, fillable target." And receive I did.

I came as a little child, full of excitement and a bit of wonder at it all, which has grown over the years. The questions still arise: How is it that I should be sought out by God? Why was I chosen to see things in such a different light? Why should MY ears hear or eyes see or spirit discern things that others do not? What makes ME so special? This woman said she has had these uplifting yet humbling thoughts too. We both relished the idea that God chose us. And this is not haughtiness or arrogance. Here is the explanation in a song.

The only answer we had is that God knew our hearts, our longings to know Him more, our desires to go deeper in relationship with Him. I don't want just a little, I want more. There's a phrase I use when I'm eating something that really tastes good: It tastes like more. Well, we are told to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). One little taste of His Word, His love, His compassion, even His judgment, and it "tastes like more."

Well, I still haven't gotten to the answer as to how we know we love the Lord. If we love Him we are obedient to His commands, first of which is loving Him above all other things. This same woman once before asked me if something/anything didn't happen that I so longed for would I still follow the Lord. I said yes...because He is the strength I need to get through this life. He is the first and the last, beginning and the end.

If we can just turn away and not continue in our walk with Him, or if we can go a day without a thought or acknowledgment of Him or thankfulness for Him and to Him, we don't love Him with all our heart. While it's not supposed to be about feelings, we are often prone to be caught up in them. I believe we don't need to know intricate details of how all this happens. Just come as that little child. Don't doubt, don't ask questions, just come. Isn't that the very first act of obedience, after all? It's yet another trust issue. He who has called us out of the darkness and into His glorious light has seen our hearts if we have responded to that call. If we have shown that we do not want to be conformed to
this world but desire to be transformed by the renewing of our minds by His Word to prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God in our lives (Romans 12:2), we are showing our love for Him.

As my friend told me, she asked the Lord to show her how much she loved Him and He did...through Scripture. Why it's important to be in the Word...and paying special attention, listening to Him speak, asking for the answers to specific questions. Jesus also said we must first be converted, then come as a child. That conversion is that turning from darkness to light. From wrong to right. From "don't need Jesus" to needing Him. That's obedience too. Surrendering to God's authority.

I have questioned but believe I have known all along. The enemy will drive us nuts trying to undermine the good God has done. He wants seeds of doubt. Let's not let up on tasting and seeing the Lord is good and obeying His commands. Let us cry out in our spirits, "It tastes like more." The more we surrender, the easier it gets...and the more we love the Lord.

I will end with a scripture near and dear to my heart and one which was brought up in a teaching at this retreat. It was a scripture that was quoted at the end of the sermon the day I received Christ. It helps to show what loving the Lord is.

Micah 6:8 - He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lessons from Job

Job1:1- There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

I've been wanting to write about the accounts of Job. There is a lot to take in. And I'm not finished yet! God allowed satan to tempt Job to see if he would lose faith in God...tempt and torment only but not take his life. Job lost just about everything he had, livestock, sons, daughters and servants, and illness overtook him. He was a righteous man and these things happened to him. What did he do? Tore his robe, shaved his head (customs for grieving), fell to the ground and WORSHIPED.

In time his wife told him to curse God and die! His friends throughout the book told him he must have sinned and he should humble himself before God and ask for forgiveness. But Job knew he had done no wrong. Instead he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:21-22)

Why do bad things happen to good people? The easy answer is because. Because God will allow it. Part of it is to see what we are truly made of. Will we, like Job, worship Him? Will we stand firm in our faith and trust in Him? Often it seems the better people have more trials than the bad.

Repeatedly Job points out to his friends that God has allowed these trials in his life. Despite his righteousness, Job still moans about all he's going through and asks questions as to why but I don't think he expects an answer. He really already knows. Don't you think the severity of a trial might affect anyone's  ability to think clearly for a time? He asks his friends, Who can question what God does? He does what He desires. His friends continue to falsely accuse Job. Job continues to rebuke them (miserable comforters are you all!) while heartfelt cries and worship go out to God. He is a man in pain yet a man who will not shake his fist in the face of God though He has worn Job out (Job 16:7).  After all the words of torment he proclaims: For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God... (Job 19:25-26).  Praise God!

He reminds his so-called friends, and perhaps himself: God removes, overturns, shakes. He commands, seals off, spreads out and treads...on nature and the elements. He does great things past finding out. With Him are wisdom, strength and prudence...if He breaks down, imprisons, withholds, sends out, leads and overthrows, He can reverse them. He deprives and takes away, pours out contempt, uncovers, brings, makes and destroys, yet enlarges and guides. He bruises but binds up; He wounds but His hands make whole; He delivers and redeems. He raises up the humble and brings down the haughty (various scriptures throughout Job). Yet Job declared: Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him (Job 13:15).

He questions his friends on what they have done to help, save or counsel others. Can they do it better than God? It's foolishness to think we can help God out in any way, He is the one with all the power. Listen to this: He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. He binds up the water in His thick clouds, yet the clouds are not broken under it. He covers the face of His throne, and spreads His cloud over it. He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at His rebuke. He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm. By His Spirit He adorned the heavens... (Job 26:7-13) All throughout Job he proclaims amidst his torment the power and goodness and rights of God as our Authority.

Job ends with this powerful statement: Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?” (Job 26:14)

Oh, that we would better understand this power. If we could even sense the "mere edges" of His ways. Oh, that when trials come we would have the determination of Job to not accuse or question our God. That we would first find strength in the Lord to overcome the difficulties. That we would trust Him in all things.

Though, like Job, we will go through painful, tormenting times and He might seem indifferent, know that He is still there. Our God, His Son and His Holy Spirit are available to all who truly want them. This statement is for unbelievers and believers alike: Seek and you will find. Ask and it will be given to you, if you ask all according to His will. Here I mean asking and seeking for Him. He's searching for those who have yet to give their lives over to Him. If you seek Him He will make Himself known.

Although we may not know all about Him, probably have more questions than before, it is wonderful knowing that One with such power has all the answers, loves us with an everlasting love and has given us fine examples in His Word, like in Job. Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge. (Proverbs 23:12). The Bible has all the answers to life's questions.

Romans 11:33 - Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cut Off

Psalm 94:20-23 - Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood. But the Lord has been my defense, and my God the rock of my refuge. He has brought on them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; the Lord our God shall cut them off.
Many are not happy with what's going on in our government. Both parties are at times corrupt and each party blames the other for what they perceive as truth. Each believes their party is right, the other wrong. 

Just so you know where I stand, I am a conservative. I'm not a Republican. When I vote I vote based on godly principles. If there was a good candidate from the Tea Party and he/she had a good chance to win, I'd vote that party. There was a time in my life I was liberal. I was a tree hugger, all for women's rights, abortion and gay rights. I listened to the wrong voices.

When I came to Christ the voices were clearly, as I could see, against God's will, His principles. I had turned around completely by the very words of truth. Of course this would, for the most part, be totally wrong thinking to others. So where does God fit in all this?  He knows evil when He sees it and where it exists someday He will cut off those who commit evil, even those who are disobedient to Him. 
Both parties devise evil. Ideals are divided. Abortion, gay rights, women's rights, ecological rights...all these things are considered OUR rights and God's will is dashed. But there is no gray area in God's word. If He says these things are an abomination, they are. We cannot choose to think God is such a loving God that He would never mean what the ultra-conservative Christians believe. We cannot change His mind. He is right. It's His right to be right. If we believe we must yield to authority, why do so many rebel against God's? Or maybe that's the issue in the first place, hey? Why bow to any authority but MY OWN? What I selfishly believe is my own truth. I have no room for God's conviction. It's my way or the highway and that's that. Is this why God is despised by so many? 

They gather together against the life of the righteous... All want their own agenda, a few still look at it through God's eyes, like our founding fathers. Of course some are mixed in their opinions. Just like some are still hanging on to the beliefs of our forefathers, there is a remnant of believers who are holding on to the things of God. They see the world shattering before their eyes and are waiting on the Lord. Waiting for His judgment upon those who rebel against Him. Waiting for His return to end all this nonsense. It's sad to see so many eyes and ears blind and deaf to His Word and His truths. 
As long as I stay strong in Christ He WILL be my defense and rock of refuge. He knows, He sees. Don't believe He's way out there someplace not aware of all that goes on. His eye is on everything; He still controls all things. If He keeps an eye on a sparrow, knows the number of hairs on our heads, knows the number of our days, He's the God who is all in all. He has given man to his own desires because of disobedience and these desires will fail him in the end. Some have chosen to follow those desires while others have chosen to follow Him. God will win the final battle. He knows who is on His side. Those whose lives He has saved, whose minds and hearts have been on Him, will survive.  
As the psalmist has said, He will cut those off who have devised wickedness and brought their own iniquity upon themselves. Do not be deceived. He knows. 
But there is always time to change. Our God is a sucker for repentance! He will change His heart toward anyone who changes theirs, who choose to know Him and are willing to follow and learn of Him. He sent His Son Jesus for all such people...and we start out in the same wretched place at birth. We are all wretched without Christ. We will actually be wretched till Christ returns but if we have received Christ His blood covers those sins so that God the Father does not see them. Oh, He still knows but He sees us through His Son's holiness. All He sees is Jesus. It's one of those things difficult in our simple minds we really cannot fully understand. It's what is meant by being IN Christ. 

God desires our devotion. He loves us but He's not going to compromise either. If we choose not to be seekers of God He will abandon us. We will be eternally separated from Him. Do not be deceived into thinking everyone will or has gone to heaven. If they sought not the Lord, even on their deathbed, they are not there. The Bible describes a place for them and it's not pretty. We cannot be prayed for by others to be admitted into heaven. We must receive Christ, on our own. Christ alone. You and Jesus. No one else. You must have that encounter with Him that you know is real. Then you will avoid being cut off by God. 
After I read that first scripture, meditated on it and wrote my thoughts, I finished my day's reading. I will use that scripture to end today. I love how this happens...where one part of a day's reading says just about the same thing in a different book. It's called confirmation, not coincidence. Praise the Lord! We who stand for good and are on the Lord's side will receive goodness. Those who oppose Him....read for yourself.

Romans 11:22 - Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wheat, Tares/Lies, Truth

Matthew 13:30 - Let both [the wheat and the tares] grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."

I read an article a Facebook friend posted recently about Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the largest church in the country having over 10,000 people. Must be a good church then, huh? Free spirited, no cross, no religious symbols, rock concert type setting, with flashing lights on the ceiling. "And we cheer and we shout and there's joy."

This was a good article in that a discerning person could see how Osteen, often by his own words, believes it's supposed to be all about HIM teaching US what WE can do to get what WE want now. Where's God in any of that? God's Word should be preached, not Osteen's. Christ did not die so we could have all we want on this earth today. Yes, He gives us the blessing of a lifetime, that being eternal life in Him. But satan does what he does best. He lies and one of his best is that God wants us to have all the material wealth here and now, all prosperity and health, all good things; that's what life is all about. Satan tempted Eve, he continues to tempt anyone willing to listen today.

Matthew 6:20-21 tells us not to store up treasures on earth that can be destroyed but to store up treasures in heaven; where our hearts are, so is our treasure. The greatest treasure is securing our eternal life, through Christ...alone. If God isn't the focal point in our lives with all else following, our hearts and treasures are in the wrong place. It's all about Christ. It's about receiving HIM into our lives and living devoted to Him. It's about knowing the truth...that, yes, God loves us unconditionally, but if one rejects that love, which rejection is considered...no not considered...IS...rebellion and sin, one rejects God and there are consequences, which is eternal death.

Funny, after Jesus talked about hearts and treasures He talked about false prophets and teachers...that's Osteen...teaching falsehoods whether knowingly or in ignorance. We do not know his motive, whether for his own riches, telling the people what they want to hear, or out of blindness himself to the truth of God's Word. But his preachings are lies.

Just this past Monday, as an aside, we discussed true love in women's Bible study. A point made was how we reject God from outright disobedience to His commands to lack of tolerance within our homes, even unkind thoughts. We all fall short, but it's by God's grace He picks us back up daily to start over if we are truly repentant at the time we recognize our failing. We have a patient Father. Search my heart, purify my heart, O God. Then after writing this, this one brief part of a series on truth from our pastor was in my email. Doesn't all sound like our whole life will be wondrous blessings, does it?

Christ died for all mankind, but only a few will actually receive His free gift of salvation. Matthew 7:13-14 - “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." I don't believe many in Osteen's megachurch will find the road leading to life if they do not wake up to the truth. At the end of their lives they may find they lived for the wrong purpose...and did not store up treasures in heaven, but treasures of and in the world.

The biggest misconception, and we see it everywhere in the world, is that we live for the here and now, eat, drink and be merry, take what we can get, or spend countless hours working hard for it and not give any thought to God. Do we bless ourselves with what we have made of or for ourselves (our stuff) or does He bless us with what He gives us (truth and life)?

We read one part above from the parable about the wheat and the tares. The wheat represents those who are in Christ, the tares, those who are not. They are both sown in a field which represents the world. In this world we are either a wheat or a tare. We live and grow together. A day of judgment will come to each of us when we must account for our lives. On that day the wheat will be separated from the tares. The tares will be gathered and burned, the wheat will survive. If you read the last part of the scripture above it says, "but gather the wheat into my barn." If we are of Christ He will gather us to Himself. If we are not we are burned. Sounds a bit like heaven or hell.

We are told to beware of the false teachers. If we are not hearing all the truth in our churches, we are missing out on the greatest gift of all, eternal life. If we are not being told the hard words to turn away from our sin and turn to Christ, we are not hearing the whole truth. Some don't want to hear those words...like those who attend Osteen's church. We can be quoted scripture, told stories, be encouraged that if we put our minds to it, we can accomplish "whatever," but if sin is not blatantly exposed and discussed with the only solution being Jesus Christ, we are in the wrong place. Joel Osteen tells about how we can live our lives successfully today and fails to point to Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, and our Father in Heaven. He is no more than a secular motivational speaker who occasionally throws in a scripture.

If we repent of our sins, receive Christ, allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, God will give us the desires of our heart, which will be His desires for us because He knows what's best for each of us. He gives generously, although it may not always come in ways we think. My spiritual blessing is the most important. My spiritual and eternal life are more important than anything else. Praise God for that. I was asked one time if a particular thing never happened in my life, would I still follow Christ? My answer was absolutely. I couldn't imagine living without Christ. He's my strength in all trials. He's all I need.

I still claim to not be perfect. Perfection in Christ is an ongoing process and it is only arrived at when we die and are with our Savior. We are not to lose heart. I'm thankful I know the truth, which has set me free. I'm thankful these hard words were preached to me. I'm thankful for a discerning spirit. I'm thankful for being able to share this knowledge.

Galatians 6:8 - For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

With or Without

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

As we creep along through the Book of Romans in Sunday school, the discussion led us to this subject. God has created each of us as individuals, each with unique talents and gifts. He had a plan for this, as He always does.

If God's plan is for unity, one part of that plan is that each of us, as individuals, fit together to make unity. Look at any object and how it is designed. It may have moving parts, it may not, but it will have a variety of pieces put together by various other pieces. When they all come together and it works properly it is complete. If there is a part missing it probably won't work.

So in regard to the Church (in general) God refers to it as a body...and Christ is the head of the Church...or should be. In a church, however, where Christ is the head, where it's all about Him and less about what man makes his church, there is unity. This is only attained when we humble ourselves and not think of ourselves as greater than the next person and allow Christ to be the head.

We each have a separate role in the church. As Jon discussed we are not all called to be pastors or deacons, or any other official within a church. Some are called into lesser roles. But all are necessary, like parts of a physical body. There are many parts (or members) but one body (or church). 1Corinthians explains this: If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? (1Corinthians 12:15-19)

We must accept our individuality in life and within the Church. But there is more to this. If we are a part of a body then we must be part of that body in order for it to function. This ties in with something I wrote earlier about not forsaking the assembly. If we have a function, whether it is a great role or not, we should be part of the church, not just for the body's benefit but for our own. We are as necessary to them as we are from them.

This is where not thinking of ourselves as greater comes in. Thinking of ourselves as greater is a sin. It is pride. If we believe we can do without, aren't we saying we think we are better?

Not all churches are perfect, but we need the Church. We need the fellowship. It is part of God's plan. We cannot do without the body. God created Eve for the sake of Adam because it was not right for man to be alone. I believe He created believers and the Church for the same reason. There will always be flaws within some churches because man's nature is involved, but that's why we are needed...to temper some, build up others, encourage yet more, and admonish when necessary...and receive the same from others. We are not called to travel this life without the assistance of other believers. He has always planned life to be a group effort.

I can spend time with the Lord, as we are called to do, on my own, but there is something sweet about being with others doing the same worship. Just being in their presence is encouraging and uplifting. I feel "home." I believe it's the presence of God, glad to see His children in one accord and being who they are meant to be as the parts of the body of the Church. If a church doesn't have this, it's time to look for another one.

Romans 12 continues: For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them... (Romans 12:4-6) There are other scriptures that show us the importance of coming together. We pray for each other, we grow in the company of others. And Jesus was the prime example of what we are to do.

Luke 4:16 - So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.