Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Do You See It?

Leviticus 1:9 - ... And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.
The Old Testament is so full of rich accounts...pictures of New Testament truths.

Take the above partial verse. That one sentence is repeated similarly several times times in several of the first chapters of Leviticus. Our pastor talked about it in a recent sermon. 

I've written before about Old Testament sacrifices. About how every person needed to offer certain sacrifices daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. But none of these sacrifices could ever take their sin fully away. It's why they needed to be repeated. Countless numbers of animals and birds were sacrificed. All were rituals to sacrifice for their sin. But...nothing ever took their sin completely away. It was only a ritual.

Some churches still require rituals. Rituals which imitate the ongoing rituals of the Old Testament. But...Jesus came and became the once for all sacrifice. Through His death, His blood, He abolished the sin of anyone...who comes into relationship with Him. Religion or denomination can't absolve our sins. Only Jesus. It's a mystery how this is, but it comes with complete faith in His atoning sacrifice.

When we come into the true knowledge of God and receive Him and acknowledge this great sacrifice He made to save our sorry souls, these Old Testament actions and words make a lot more sense. They definitely were written for this purpose. Our God is so amazing.

When we come into relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, we sacrifice ourselves also. We give up our old lives for a new one in and through Him. The sacrifices we make to learn of His ways and believe in His truths become a sweet aroma of sacrifice unto the Lord. This new life begins to revolve around Him. Do you see it? A sweet aroma because we have given ourselves to Him. A sweet aroma... 

The sacrifice Jesus made for us was the ultimate sacrifice. He died for our sins that all we would have to do is believe that He is.  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬)

He begins to purge us of our old ways. Sometimes it's fast, often it's a life-long process. But God is always doing a work in us. Many times this purging comes in the form of trials. These trials help us in patience, more wisdom IF we seek God in the midst of these trials. Purging is like a fire in our lives. If we are faithful to trust the Lord and continue to praise and worship Him, this is also a sweet aroma. 

I don't know if any of this makes sense. If you are a believer reading this, it will. Praise God. If it doesn't, seek God and ask for His wisdom to understand it. He is always willing to show the way to His wisdom and knowledge and the way of truth. He loves all mankind, even the worst of sinners. But there comes a time when He must make a judgment decision. If one does not come to the saving knowledge and personal sacrifice unto the Lord, He cannot and will not allow entrance into heaven. It's a hard word, but it is the truth.

Romans‬ ‭10:9-11‬ ‭- ...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Every Good Gift

James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

I thank God for the life He has given me and especially for the opportunity to go deeper in life with Him because of Him. Life is not just about all the things we deem so important in the physical. That stuff is not important in the grand scheme of things. (Remember, you can't take it with you, or ...we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. - 1Timothy‬ ‭6:7)‬ ‭What's important is knowing Him. All the luxuries, the material things, the food, the drink, the cars...none of this matters in the light of eternity. 

When one has Jesus he has it all. How can I express this any more clearly? Jesus, what He brings to a person, and the life He offers us is the greatest thing. When we meet Him and begin to really know Him He shows us things that are greater than we could ever imagine. He offers, through His Word and through His Spirit...which He gives us when we receive Him...open doors to wisdom and understanding and knowledge we could never have believed existed. We are so narrow in our thinking without Christ. Really, we are. 

King Solomon asked God for one thing and that was wisdom. Because he did God gave it freely and so much more. He wrote all the Proverbs, the book of wisdom. He shared this wisdom with the rest of us. Later in life, though, he let the love of at least 1,000 unbelieving women cause him to stray. This is what happens when we look to the things of this world to satisfy over the things of God. Of course, before we know God we don't know any better...

Before Christ it's all about ourselves. No thought to the Lord. Imagine what it might be like to view everything through the eyes of God! A friend and I get together about once a month. Everything we see in the news we see through the eyes of God. We can't help it. We know just enough about Him and His Word to know that He is putting the pieces together in this puzzle of life. 

God is orchestrating people and events to bring about His will. There's no way we can even guess all the whys and hows. If we know Jesus and understand this we can trust Him for the future and ours. Without Him one can't do this. 

For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; (Proverbs‬ ‭2:6‬)
How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. (‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:16‬)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ‭‭(James‬ ‭1:5‬)

In the world we want to achieve but most likely do not find total satisfaction. We must achieve more...and more...and more. We're always striving for the next big thing. We search for the next big "whatever" that is most important to us. What is that thing to you? 

I have a nice phone and a good camera. My thing is photos. I take them daily. It's like I always want to capture the next moment. What for? I admit, they don't satisfy. I've bemoaned the fact that they just exist on the computer with no place to go. And when I die, they will get pitched. I know this. And I'm okay with this. 

One thing I never want to let go of is more understanding of God's Word. Being in His Word brings contentment. It miraculously does something...it settles my spirit. I will feel I've been listening to Him speak. He imparts something new or just reminds me of His promises, admonishes me. We can never get enough of His Word. It can always bring fresh understanding even after having read something many times. How can that be?? Because He is. His wisdom is endless and new and fresh. 

I'm thankful for any wisdom, knowledge and understanding God will give. Do I fully understand all the things of God? Of course not. He gives as we have need of it. But we have to start somewhere and that place is surrendering to God. It's letting go of all our ideas of what life is about and what is important to us and seeking those things He has for us. Seeking Him is what truly is important. What He has to offer is so much greater. It's life giving and it lasts, unless we decide we no longer want it.

Will you join me in receiving wisdom for the first time or further wisdom from the Lord God Almighty. He has so much more, lasting and satisfying things to give. One is assurance of eternal life in Christ. Next time something on the news angers, frustrates, saddens or frightens you, think about wanting to see it through the eyes of God. Your perspective will change. I guarantee it. 

James 3:17 - But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

An Old Book Revealing An Old Truth

Matthew 16:24 - Jesus said to His disciples..."Follow Me."

Found this from 2010. Time to pick up the book yet again! 

I have a book I decided to pick up and start reading...again. I started a year ago but put it aside for some reason. It's called 
Devotee and a Darling: or the Difference Between Them by Becca Middleton Samson. A name you do not recognize? Probably not. The book I have was my grandmother's and inside the cover it says, Emma Pries, Christmas 1900! So, one hundred and seventeen years ago...

Each chapter begins with a spiritual quote...flowery words from days gone by. But they are just as meaningful today. Words of love. Words of promise. Words that show us Jesus' unfailing bidding that we follow Him. Words that define the changes that take place within our souls when we heed His call. Words that describe the inability to express a life in Christ! 

Quote #1Self is the only prison that can ever bind the soul; Love is the only angel who can bid the gates unroll; and when He comes to call thee, arise and follow fast; His way may lie through darkness, but it leads to life at last. - Henry Van Dyke 

From what I gather, the book is about one young woman's growth into maturity and her life's journal and letters she writes to friends and receives from them. It's about her spiritual development through troubling times...and where she gets her strength. A short review of the book online told me it was about a teenage girl whose life is a bit pushed to the limit within her family and how she begins to realize where she's been wrong and how she overcomes, perhaps through her sudden realization that God's love encompasses so many things. How in the power of His love we have strength.

On page two we already see the evidence of a book where Jesus is going to permeate the pages and incorporate Himself into this woman's way of life! The walls (of her bedroom) were covered with pictures of religious subjects; over the disordered bed hung an almanac displaying a pious verse and the Bible text for the day; a brown placard with a white What Would Jesus Do? was fastened to the top of the looking-glass, and among a tangle of brushes, combs, and the various bottles and pots of the dressing table, stood an array of illuminated cards and pictures, all of the same religious description...

Fannie is to begin a new journey in her life as she has heard the preaching of a new minister in town. He has talked about the theme of the Bible and life as being love. God's love for man and man's love for God. She was enthralled by the words he spoke: ...if one would think of God as love, and love only, and would cultivate the habit of looking at the world through this transforming medium, that soon we could see nothing else but love, even in what we are in the habit of calling calamities.

He continued: Love banishes sin...disarms temptations...cancels duty...solves the whole problem of the Christian life...just open the heart and let it enter, as one opens a window and lets in the sunlight. Okay, get it? Jesus is love and He is the light of the world, just open your hearts to Him and let His sun (Son) shine in. 

Quote #2(don't worry, I'm not adding them all!): I have sometimes had in my sleep strange perceptions of a vivid spiritual life near to and with Christ and multitudes of holy ones, and the joy of it is like no other joy--it cannot be told in the language of the world. What I have done, I know with absolute certainty, yet it is so unlike and above anything we conceive of in this world that it is difficult to put it into words. - Harriet Beecher Stowe

Oh, tell it Harriet! I know exactly what she means. Words cannot express the spiritual things, the mysteries, of God. Only when you allow yourself to take Him into your life will you truly understand. (Determined to read about Harriet's life now, too.)

Just imagine...the story of Jesus is timeless. Whether 117 years ago or 2,000 years ago...or today. The words might be phrased differently today, but the story is still the same. It's always been about the love of God. It's always been about this God who created and put order into this world. And how He is so willing to forgive us of our sins if we would just seek Him to do that. It's too bad we have it all backwards today. 

The minister in the story continues: Love is the only key that fits the lock of that wondrous door which leads into the land of milk and honey. And that precious key each one of us holds in his hand--even the tiniest child... Possess love and you possess God. Possess God and you possess love.

This man's words awakened her, filled her soul with joy. She described it as like awakening from a long, deep, dreamless sleep, like one whose blind eyes have suddenly begun to see. Her heart was ablaze and she felt dazed, bewildered, overwhelmed and mysteriously happy. 

My, my, my. Sounds like she has fallen in love...with Jesus. These are the symptoms one feels when Jesus steps off the page of the Bible and into your heart. When He becomes real to you and not just words from a book. Fannie makes the comment: Can I be the same girl who but a few short weeks ago thought of nothing but worldly pleasures and fine dresses! She claims now that the only thing that interests her is her little church that she has now joined. 

Perhaps Becca Middleton Samson was speaking of her own life... Is this speaking to yours?

Quote #3Thou didst call, and shout, and didst burst through my deafness. Thou didst flash, and shine, and scatter my blindness. Thou didst breathe forth odors, and with every breath I draw I pant for Thee. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I yearn for Thy peace. - St. Augustine

How our lives can be changed. That's what Jesus does. There is nothing to fear. It's a marvelous inward transformation. Peace abounds...even when you are struck, like Fannie was, with people who did not share her enthusiasm but instead were troublesome, as she said. I believe the book will show how God works out the troubles in her life. Just like we all are worked on all our lives.

It's what the Holy Spirit does in us. He prunes, He burns up, He sifts us until we are molded into His marvelous image. It's a lifelong process and I'm anxious to see how Fannie makes out in the end. There might be some heavy words within this book just for me...and to think my "Gramma S" once read this same book. My thanks go out to whoever gave her this little treasure 117 years ago.

More from Harriet....

Quote #4: The inconceivable loveliness of Christ! It seems that about Him there is a sphere where the enthusiasm of love is the calm habit of the soul; that without words, without the necessity of demonstrations of affection, heart beats to heart, soul answers soul, we respond to the Infinite Love, and we feel His answer in us, and there is no need of words. - Harriet Beecher Stowe

1John 5:11-12 - And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Kindness of God

2Samuel 9:7 - And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly."

An old drafted blog post from June, 2010! 

I'm thinking about what I wrote about last week regarding Brokenness to Restoration. It ties in with the sermon Pastor Paul Hanson talked about on the Kindness of God on Sunday. Biblical stories have more than just the literal meaning. They are timeless and that is why they are there...for us to learn from and relate to. God is all over the pages and in the midst of every detail. It never gets boring!

Israel's first appointed king was Saul. Pastor Paul talked about David's relationship with Saul's son Jonathan. The two were like brothers and would have died for each other. Saul started out as a godly king, but sometime during his reign he turned away from God and soured in His eyes. God even regretted choosing him. David was in the meantime anointed (not yet appointed) by God to become king. Saul sought to kill David out of jealousy over David's fighting abilities. Saul's son Jonathan, however, chose to help David. 

Normally the throne stayed within a family, passed down from father to son or grandson. In this case, Jonathan had a son, Mephibosheth. Unfortunately this son had been dropped as a baby, probably by accident, in the process becoming lame in both feet. He lived in another city in the care of a servant. He would have been the only child left to take over as king in Saul's family, but because of his handicap, it could not happen. Those were the rules!

Saul and all his sons, including Jonathan, died in battle. Before David considered assuming the role as king he inquired as to any other sons in Saul's family to be successor. He was reminded of Mephibosheth. Pastor Paul talked about the meaning of Mephibosheth's name, 
one who destroys idols and dispels shame. He could have been a great, godly king. Because of this accident he was unable to become that person. His entire life was lived out without the ability to become who he should have.

It was suggested that every one of us has been "dropped" as it were at some time in our lives. Not physically, but emotionally. He listed many ways: abuse, abandonment, teased, criticized, demeaned. Even if it was not purposely done, it has had some affect on all of us, like Mephibosheth.  The word drop used in the context above in the Hebrew language means to fall, failure, fall short. Interesting. 

Then to top it off, Mephibosheth went to live in "Lo Debar" which means "no word, no counsel, no direction." Anyone who has been dropped, or fallen short, has found themselves in this same dry place where we have received no direction, no counsel. We can feel insecure about who we should be.

So when David found out about Jonathan's death he had his men search for Mephibosheth and had him brought to him. Of course Mephibosheth didn't know why he was being summoned. For all he knew he was to be killed. Little did he realize that he was being sent back home to become restored. David took in Mephibosheth and promised that he would restore to you all the lands of your father Saul and you shall eat at my table regularly. He took him in and treated him as his own son. 

David is a type of Jesus. We all at some time in our life, and we cannot deny this, have been disappointed and discouraged. It may have shaped who we are or who we wanted to become. We have all been crippled in some way. It may have shaped our personality, to either shrink back or put on a front to mask what we feel inside. Often people don't have a clue that there is this crippling in our spirit. Think of Mephibosheth. He was not who he could have been because of his disability. We all have some disability. 

David took Mephibosheth in and restored him. Jesus wants to take us all in to restore us to that relationship with our Father in heaven. He wants us to come home. He wants to show us his kindness and love that brings this restoration. The relationship between David and Mephibosheth is like the relationship between God and us, if we choose this avenue in life. Praise God that we have this option set before us!

All God desires is for all people to be restored. Many do not know the real meaning of life and go with the flow as the world goes. It's like the blind leading the blind. Following Jesus opens us up to the truth and we see this world for what it is--lost in personal gains and personal desires. When God is left out of the equation, a person can be forever blind and lost, crippled like Mephibosheth, always falling short, even if it isn't recognized or we argue that this just isn't true. Our lives are not complete without God's guidance. We can never be all He created us to be without His wisdom and knowledge, His truth, residing within us.

When David said, I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father, he was speaking as Jesus does today, I, Jesus, will surely show you kindness for the sake of your Father (in heaven). And like David, Jesus would say, Do not fear. Do not fear what others will say if you choose to follow Him. It's a totally different road, a narrow road, that few travel. He will restore what was rightfully ours in the first place, that thing or those things someone took away from us, that God created in us at conception.

There was a personal note to end the sermon. One for our own church and one which could easily be for the Church in general. If someone has left and wishes to return, who are we to refuse to let them come back? If they left feeling like they'd been "dropped," or left with an attitude issue, and want to return to once again, it is our obligation to open our hearts up to them, allow them to be restored. All God desires is restoration.....

Joel 2:25 - So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust...