Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bring Your First Fruits

Deuteronomy 26:2,10-11 - shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. ...and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me. Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God. So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you and your house...

You never know what you will see when you read scripture but you can know you will see something that touches your spirit, is a reminder or even something new. The same scripture read year after year can actually bring new revelation each time it is read. This is how amazing God's Word is. 

So, I'm reading the above scriptures early the other morning and wondering about all the old and sometimes seemingly questionable Old Testament laws. We don't have many of these laws anymore, at least not in the same form.

But these verses above popped out. They were like precursors to God's command for us today to seek Him early in the morning. Give Him your first moments, your first thoughts, your first praise. Bring Him your first you can rejoice in every good thing He has given you. 

There really isn't much more to add to this. Although I'm sure I'll find something! Starting out a day with the Lord can bring order to your day. It can settle an unsettled spirit. It can bring clarity of mind, encouragement, admonishment. It sets the course of the day.

If you have been saved by this Almighty God and you are thankful for His grace and mercy on your life, don't forget it. Thank Him daily for it. He has taken you out of the old sinful life and planted you in a new land which He has given you.

If you have not met this Almighty God, He's always available and always willing to meet with you. You don't need to be a drug addict, alcoholic, into pornography or a murderer, thief or deceiver. I never considered myself one of these (although later realized in a way I may have been some). I was angry, unhappy and at my wit's end. I needed help and He reached out and I took hold of His hand.

When one is grateful that no psychologist or therapist, self-help book, organized meeting or pills has been necessary to change an attitude or way of life, we should be willing to meet for a time each day with the One who has made the changes. I did some of those once. Now my self-help book is the Word of God. It truly is a comfort to my soul.

Psalm 63:1 - O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Do I Do?

Matthew 22:37-39 - Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

We are asked to love our God first and foremost...and then love our neighbor. How do we do this? Who is our neighbor? God loves us unconditionally, which will never change. We are called to be like Christ and that includes loving others.

So what do I do? How do I do it? What outlet has God built into me that will allow me to be like Him? How can I be His heart to love, His hands to heal, His feet to carry His word, His eyes to see, His words to speak? I'm sure we all have some form of compassion within us. But do we reach out farther or do we turn a blind eye?

What do I do? We are asked to pray as individuals and for ourselves corporately. There is a need in this world, but even more closely, a need in our own community. What can we do? What can I do?

To become more like Christ we must undergo a transformation. The butterfly and the cocoon is an example. The butterfly goes through a transformation, a metamorphosis, where it once was a not so beautiful creature, but it morphs into this creature of beauty.

See more in this...a caterpillar is lowly, crawls around in it's little world on earth, barely seen. Then by nature it encapsulates itself in this cocoon, a sort confinement, a place like we may find ourselves at some point in our lives that we desire to be free from. This caterpillar is then transformed within that cocoon. To become free it must struggle to release itself but the struggle is well worth it. Out emerges this beautiful butterfly and isn't it amazing how we associate freedom with flight!

What do I do? Having to do something requires change. It requires prayer and faith. Maybe a lot of faith because we don't see what is taking place.

We are called to reach out to the lost. We are called to be disciples. We are called to love God first then our neighbor. Our neighbor is anyone. Remember the story of the woman at the well? Jesus reached out to this Samaritan woman, one Jews did not normally associate with. Recall the story of the good we see the reverse. A Samaritan reaching out to a person he also did not normally associate with, a Jew. The barriers were down. As they should be.

We need to be willing to let go of preconceived ideas, attitudes, and pride to reach out to help someone in need. Are we willing to step down from our seemingly lofty places? Of course we must have wisdom in all circumstances and maintain a certain amount of caution that we are not in harm's way. But if you see a person in need of food and their appearance is unsettling, are you willing to step out of your little world to help them? Are you willing to help even someone as close as your own neighbor in need?

To do what He wants us to in this world means humbling ourselves. Jesus came in humility in every aspect...birth, life and death. He came not to be served but to serve. Think about it...did He stop serving? He healed, He taught, He guided, He had compassion on all people. He spent three years roaming the countryside receiving both rejection and acceptance. He had no home to call His own but I'm certain He thought a lot about His Kingdom in heaven. He knew the eternal destiny of all was in His hands and only through Him could they be saved. This was why He came to this earth. He came to seek and save the lost. He asks us to do the same.

C.S. Lewis said: "There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal [one subject to death]. You have either known an immortal horror or an immortal eternal splendor." We all have an eternal destiny and this is what I believe he was talking about. We have a choice to make today. Whichever way we go it's for eternity. The important choice should be Jesus Christ for eternal life or we will be that immortal horror!

Gentility and humility should be our standard. If this is what Jesus did, so should we. That means being humble. Only a humble heart can take that step to help one who is needy.

In order to know what we are to do we need to know the One who created us. Then we need to seek His guidance. He's involved in our lives so we should be involved in His...with our hearts, hands, feet, eyes and mouths. We should love our neighbor, seek those who are lost, no matter who they are, no matter if they reject our words or actions.

Matthew 5:43-47 - You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you... For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rock or a Hard Place?

Acts 4:11-12 - This is the "stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone." Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

I wrote the other day, as many other days, about the only way to reconciliation with God being (through) Jesus. He is also called the Door. My thoughts continue.

When we are in a dilemma and anxieties hit and we feel we are between a rock and a hard place, what do we do, where do we turn?

The message in the Church should always be: for a multitude of issues, and sins, seek first the kingdom of God. There are no multiple ways. He provides all we need: guidance, wisdom, peace, protection. Buddha can't do it, a pastor or priest can't do it, nor a rabbi; no astrologer or palm reader or spirit guide or self-help book or psychologist. There is only one way. Jesus. He can be the Rock in the midst of a hard place.

Do we ask Him daily for His wisdom, guidance and peace in all situations? Why not? If He is the way, truth and life, why wouldn't we? By the power of His Holy Spirit we can know His eye is on us, His sparrows. He will never leave nor forsake those who seek Him first. 

He will guide and give wisdom to those who seek Him through His Word and through conversing (praying) with Him. He will listen if He knows we are truly seeking.

He knows those who actively seek Him. He opens eyes, minds and hearts to them. If you knew someone who wanted nothing to do with you, did not appreciate you or pay attention to you or respect you, wouldn't you choose to shake them off? In a way, that's what God might do. He still knows everything about you and knows what you're up to, but until you pay mind to Him, He might back away and leave you to your own devices.

If, however, that person suddenly, humbly, changes their mind about you, maybe because they finally see a need to believe and trust in you and seek your guidance, wouldn't you give them a second chance? Just what God does. 

A rock and a hard place. The Rock and a hard place. The Rock is strong, solid. When you need security, He's the Rock to stand on.

2Samuel 22:2-4 - And he said: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Peace or Division?

John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

I was thinking about the division in our country or the world, for that matter. There can be division in anything. When two people do not see 
eye to eye there's division. Especially in politics! 

Then I got to thinking about what Jesus said: Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (Luke 12:51-53)

He is our Prince of Peace, however. The division comes when one believes in Him and another does not. When one's life revolves around Him, one's does not. When I want to talk about the things of God and cannot, to me there is division. We want to talk about those things that are important to us. How hard it is when talk of God just don't happen! 

So this takes me a little deeper, on a subject that also brings division, has some in an uproar. The Church is even divided on this. Go figure. There can be no "one accord" even in her. There are many doctrines, but only one Lord. 

Some day the absolute truth will be known by all people. That absolute truth is starts in the very first scripture above. It's a well-known scripture. Many think they believe it. Many really do not...and that brings division. 

If Jesus says He is the way, truth and life, He is. No one or anything else is. Period. That brings division when others decide that God is a loving God and would not send anyone to hell. I believed it too. That is so far from the truth.

God is holy. He cannot be in the presence of unholiness. That is why Jesus said He is the way, truth and life. To get into God's presence, receive His grace and mercy, we must go through Christ. No other way than by His own Son. Not just by mentally agreeing He is, but knowing in heart, soul and mind. It's that simple. A simple, but sometimes hard to digest, truth. Your goodness will not do it, neither your generosity, kindness, or love alone. Our goodness is as filthy rags. But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6) But through Christ...we are made whole (hah, no division). 

So there is division. And in the end there will be division as well. We will either be ushered into the kingdom of heaven or cast into the lake of fire. It may seem like a very unkind  thing for God to do but if you read His Word you will understand that knowing Him and obeying Him brings better results. 

So why did Jesus say He did not come to bring peace but division? Because some would find it hard to believe there is only one way, and that He was it. So clearly seen with all the denominations and beliefs to choose from.  Those who understand and believe this and adhere to His truth will find peace. The division: peace and turmoil; light and dark; good and evil. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, remember, but life in and through Christ changes that. 

Romans 5:1-2 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In Him Is Light

John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Science would say there was a big bang and the universe was created. If one believes in God and in His Word, one knows the truth and knows this to be a lie.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis‬ ‭1:1-2‬)

When I once again read the opening passage I also realized, again, the wealth of information here. In the beginning...the Word. Broken record here... The Word was. The Word has always been. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews‬ ‭13:8‬) 

This is all Bible Basics 101.

Jesus Christ is one with the Father, therefore He always was, always is and will always be. He was in the beginning, is here now and will always be. (And as Genesis 1:2 shows, the Holy Spirit was in the beginning too. We see the Trinity right from the very beginning of time and the Word.) 

The Word is God, Jesus, and the Word of God in His book. To believe in Christ is to believe the Word. If one doesn't believe everything in His Word is true, one doesn't truly believe in Christ. Truly believe...not just know who He is. Huge difference. If one only wants to hear the Word spoken through someone else, one is missing God speaking directly to them. God speaking! A novel concept. Through a Book. Who would have thought? 

Then there is the life issue. God brought life to this universe through His creation. He also brought light into the world. Then He brought life into the world and man. And eventually He brought the Light of the world, Jesus, for the eternal life of man. 

And darkness did not comprehend...does not still comprehend. Darkness will never comprehend. Oh, I believe the devil knows but his pride and jealousy will not allow him to submit. No Light in one's life means living in darkness. I was there; I didn't care. It's the way many are for a time until the Light makes Himself known. Then, poof, out of the darkness and into the light. And the Word now is in our lives. Yet some still will not submit. 

I chose life one day. I didn't just tell self I would, but the Spirit of God nudged me and it happened. I was in the right place at the right time in the right frame of need of help. I was told Jesus could help. I was ready for His the only one who could. 

I had not expected to write such a convoluted blog! Even I had to read it a few times. Just being honest here...

Luke‬ ‭1:78-79‬ ‭- Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mining God's Word

Psalm 119:162‬ - I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.

Oh, what a marvelous study in Sunday school. Jon, our teacher, or more like a guide since there is so much excellent interaction among many other spirit-filled Bible believers, used the phrase above as we were concluding the study. It was a good word. 

We are in 1Timothy. While we were discussing the love of money being the root of all evil, we delved into what is truly important...the knowledge of Christ. How He fulfills all our desires; He is the greatest treasure. If we have Him, we have it all. It's not about the money we have or the importance of who we are in this world, but again, who we are in Christ.

In talking with a friend this morning, who was not in the study, she added to all these thoughts: we get from God what we seek. If we seek little, we will get a little. If we seek a lot, He offers more. As believers we will all get crowns. Some may get more; some may get silver, some gold or any other forms of crown. It all depends on how much we seek Him. 

Conversely, there will be no crowns, no kingdom of Heaven, for those who do not seek God at all. Oh, I could go in another direction there. I won't.

As this friend and I talked she told me what happened to her this very morning, and as was the very subject of pastor's sermon yesterday. God revealed a new truth to her that she said should couldn't believe she'd never seen...and it made so much sense to me, as if I'd known it already. This is what God does to those who seek. He reveals Himself more and more. Some will talk about it, some keep it to themselves, some write! 

He has so much He wants to share with all of us. He wants to see us become excited. I shared with her how there are times when my heart feels like it will burst just reading one verse. One verse can bring tears of sadness or joy also. He is an amazing God. Why one would not want to delve deeper...mine His Word, as Jon said, is a mystery...yet I was there myself one time. 

As Pastor suggested yesterday,  many times once one has been touched by God and knows without a doubt of this, they find it hard to pull away. We can stray sometimes, but I know for a fact there is a God who draws us back. I know for a fact that things seem to spiral out of control when we allow ourselves out of His presence...and it is we who allow the distance. 

To me there is nothing more exciting than to talk with others who share the love of Christ. Other conversations can be good and fun, but there's an excitement in sharing Christ, sharing His treasures. 

Sometimes you needn't dig deep to find a treasure. Other times you might question the meaning of scripture and He might take you deeper into it, to a place I sometimes refer to as in between the lines of scripture. It's an incredible place to be, this mining for treasure and having the Lord bring the richness.

I loved the phrase used in Sunday school yesterday...mining God's Word. Nothing can compare to the treasure of the Word of God. Not any of the riches in this world. Not fame. Not achievements. Nothing. God's Word shows who God is. It shows His love AND His justice. It shows who we were AND who we can become. It shows how He made a way when man fell to draw men back to Him. Because He loves us so much He sacrificed His Son and His Son, Jesus, became the ONLY way back to the Father. Jesus gladly chose to be the sacrifice for each of THOSE who call on His name. He beckons. Will you call...

Psalm ‭119:161‬ ‭- Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Drive Out the Inhabitants

Numbers 33:55-56 - But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.

After their exodus from Egypt, God recounted to Moses the journey of Israel through the wilderness, and here above, specific instructions for the conquering of the land which He had given them. By God's order they were to drive out all inhabitants. 

It occurred to me in reading this, it's like our salvation. When we receive Christ we are to cast out all those things in our lives that are no longer necessary or are hindrances to our walk with the Lord...irritants, as it were, things that no longer add any worthwhile meaning to our lives.

This is not an immediate thing. It takes the rest of our life to be purged and cleansed by God. But we must be willing to heed His direction. He will show us what needs to be removed. It might be alcohol, drugs, pornography. It might be activities that consume us. It might be friendships which could hinder our walk with the Lord. One of the things God commanded on more than one occasion was that inhabitants be removed...that God's people maintain their proper place in this new land/life.

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants...[they] shall be irritants...I will do to you as I thought to do to them.

He has given some people new lives. Just because we know who God or Jesus is doesn't mean we are saved. Just because we were baptized as infants means we are saved. Just because we claim we go to church doesn't mean we are saved. We are saved only through the power of God in our lives. A moment in time when we know without a doubt God has entered take us out of our old, sinful lifestyles, into this new life in Christ. 

We have an enemy in this world who, like God, is unseen but equally as active. Difference, of course, is bad vs. good, death vs. life. The enemy in the scripture above was of flesh and bone, but our enemy today is the evil spiritual kind. This enemy will do all he can to draw a believer away from the truth, from God. By the way, an unbeliever isn't much of a threat to this enemy. He knows it won't take much effort to keep him away from God. A believer, however, has to maintain a steadfastness in the truth of God's Word.  

We are told to live in the world but not be of it. The Lord chooses to reveal Himself to us, as was discussed in church this morning. If this revelation of Jesus Christ has truly happened in our lives we should not take it lightly. It is a very special, for lack of a better word, occasion. We are to glory in the idea that He wants fellowship with us. We are to press in to Him. We are to maintain a steadfastness with Him. We are to seek the truth of His Word and grow in our revelation knowledge and love of Him. Then we are to be obedient when He shows us what we need to do...and what we need not to do! I saw this one day: The more you read the Bible the more you'll love the Author. No greater truth.

Our days are numbered. We do not know the number of them, but God does. He provides all the real truth a person needs, even if it doesn't always meet with what we have believed before He revealed Himself to us. The truth will set a person free. He has created us, knows what's best for us, loves us. Why would we want anything else? 

As the last verse above states, He will do to us as He would (and will) do to our enemy if we choose to disobey once we have known Him...or choose to look the other way when the Gospel is preached or the love of God shared. There is a very hard word for these people. God does not lie; He cannot lie. 

Revelation 21:8 - But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Luke ‭23:13-15‬ ‭- Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him."

Pilate and Herod became friends, Luke 23:12 states. Neither one, it appears, wants to put any blame on Jesus. They saw no wrongdoing in this Man. Yet He was found guilty because the people were a strong force. The people convinced Pilate Jesus was bad news. How the power of the masses can coerce. Just because the masses say something or someone is right, doesn't make it so. 

But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. (Luke‬ ‭23:23‬)

How we so need to listen to truth. How we need to know it. The Bible shows us this truth. How we need to stand on this truth, found in God's Word. We need to be okay with being in the minority. 

When Jesus died there were two thieves, one on either side of Him. One knew he was guilty of his crime while the other still balked. Jesus pardoned the one. In the thief's last minutes of life he MET and KNEW the Truth. How nice it would be to see others do the same, even today. 

2Timothy‬ ‭3:1,12-14‬ ‭- But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come... Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them...