Saturday, August 19, 2017

Doing God Your Own Way

Isaiah‬ ‭55:8‬ ‭- "For My thoughts are not your thoughts,  nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.  
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There is a belief, a misconception, that we can do God our own way. This simply is not true. It may seem narrow minded, but trust me it is not, when it is said we must receive Christ. 

There will always be some who want nothing to do with God. There are some who believe in different gods. There are some who believe all religious roads lead to God. But there is only one God, the one who created all things. He is the only one who gives true life to those who desire it. It is by and through Him our lives are changed.

We are all born with some understanding that there is something...Someone... greater because we have been created in His image. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. While we God has given us a way to know Him, we cannot know all about Him. The only way we can know Him is to seek and eventually receive God...Jesus. He always seeks everyone that they might be saved from their "lostness" in this world. Lost because He is not with them. 

The message is very simple: Receive Christ, receive life. There are just so many ways to put it. It is the most important thing anyone can do. And, sadly, the one thing so many resist doing because of man's beliefs.

Big lie: We cannot get to God or heaven in our own merits. If we were so perfect why did God have to send His perfect, holy, sinless Son Jesus to die for us? (Why did a death need to take place?) 

So now, instead of us doing for our salvation and eternal life, we too must die...to self. To those lies. To our ideas of right and wrong. To the world's view of right and wrong. Our focus must be on His view and this rubs people the wrong way. Our self gets in the way of receiving Christ. We want what makes us feel good or comfortable. God's way is not always as comfortable. It means giving up our ways. But, oh, if we do...

But, oh, if we do, we find that scripture that states His ways are not like ours is so accurate and good. We know who we can trust implicitly. He knows what we need more than we do. His ways are always good and true and just, even if it's not what we would choose. It takes a step of faith to do this and more steps of faith to keep on. When we do, there are great promises for us. The greatest is eternal life in and with Christ. 

We people think we are so smart. We think we have it all figured out. We believe in ourselves. Because of this there is division, as we see playing out in the world today. Only God knows the beginning from the end. I want to stand by Him. 

Many are suggesting that because of all the turmoil in the world today, the fact that it has grown quickly and escalates in its ugliness, that these are signs of the last days before the eventual return of Christ. While no one can say exactly when, and I do believe that things are going to get worse than we now see, and He will return. The worse this world gets, the more I long for it. The more I long for the promise of heaven and no more sorrow, tears or pain. I long for this for so many.

We can all long for that. We can all be assured of that by seeking God now. By seeking the God whose wisdom, knowledge and understanding far surpasses ours. He's there for anyone who wishes to receive Him. Any race or religion. He paid the price for all who would receive Him. He crosses over denominational lines because He is not a denomination. He is God. He is above man and man's ways (and thoughts and imaginations). 

I do not expect America to grow great again. No one can be greater than our God. He's the one I am glad to know and whom I will follow. How about all of you? 

Isaiah‬ ‭55:9,11-12‬ ‭- “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Back to Eden

Genesis 2:15-16 - Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

The biblical definition of Eden is house of pleasure. It is also referred to as paradise. I have been ruminating about eternity but somehow this got cultivated. 

Paradise. In the beginning God...created the heavens and earth. He created man. He created man to live in a garden called Eden. Paradise. Heaven on earth. God talked and walked with man. Man's job was only to name the animals and tend the animals and the garden God created…and walk with Him. There was no physical labor involved. It was to be an eternity like this. We don't know if more people would have been added to the garden. That's one of God's mysteries. 

Imagine spending days on end walking and talking with God. Everything was provided. Food was abundant. Clothes were not necessary. There was no pain, illness, sorrow or shame. As long as they obeyed one single command, just one, it was paradise. But Romans 5:12 says, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… Man was vulnerable. 

Man's free will, a deceitful serpent, curiosity and one disobedient move changed all life. "Did God really say...?"  was the thought that entered man’s head. All man had known till this time was the goodness, presence and provision of God. So man may have questioned, like we do today, if He is so loving why would God _____ (you fill in the blank). So, what could be wrong with eating of this delightful looking tree's fruit?

Test. God wanted obedience...and only required one thing, not to eat of that one tree...for if you do you will die. It didn’t take long for man’s will to take over. 

Separation. Man disobeyed God's command. He became ashamed of his nakedness and was banished from Paradise, no longer saw God or walked with Him. Separated. Sin separated man from God. We are all separated from God until we make a choice. Pain, sorrow, tears became a part of life. This was the new norm. We all know and live this. God was no longer as accessible. Now man had to toil for a living. Life was different. Paradise was lost.

A plan. Fast forward several thousand years. After many years of God trying to get man to obey His commandments and trust in Him for all their needs, He chose an alternative. He had a plan. He chose to come down off His throne and be born and settle among the people for awhile. He would walk with them again. He would look like an average Joe come from humble beginnings. He owned nothing, had no place to live, but had a wisdom people either could not dispute or were so jealous about and intimidated by they wanted Him dead. 

This Man said He was God. He said He could bring eternal life. Did anyone put two and two together and think of Eden, the lost Paradise? Did they remember how He walked with man back then, like He walked among them now? Did they even consider this might be the same Man? Some did. His name was Emmanuel, God with us. How did some not know? How do some still not know? 

Reconciliation: He was persistent. He said if they would come to Him and follow Him, they could experience life that would be like those days in Paradise, even better. The sins of their fathers and forefathers could be forgiven. Life like in Paradise might not be today, but some day and for eternity. They had to believe, trust in His words and be obedient to His commands. Like man in the garden, they could walk with Him, follow Him. They would be reconciled with Him again. They could once again be guaranteed Paradise. Their old, sinful nature could be made new, through Him. 

Fast forward to what the Bible says about our future. Like the description of the Paradise of Eden, in Revelation we are told:
...God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful. … It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 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.” (Revelation 21:3-8)

Wow, same words and more. It describes Who once was, Who will be…and Who is today for anyone who desires Him. Jesus is the beginning (Genesis, Alpha) to the end (Revelation, Omega). Oh, but the hard words…cowardly, unbelieving, abominable...just a few names for those who do not believe…and fall into the same category as the rest. We are all in that category until we receive Jesus as born again believers. We all must humble ourselves before the living God to become true believers. It’s the only way. Remember Jesus on the cross between two thieves? One totally rejected Him, the other humbled himself and admitted his sin. What did Jesus say to that second thief? Today you will be with Me in Paradise. That’s what He promises. Eden, paradise, Heaven.

People say the Bible is just a bunch of stories. The Bible is a bunch of reality! A bunch of truths. A bunch of wisdom and examples for us to learn from. A bunch of personalities we can relate to. A bunch of stubborn, prideful sinners, some of whom were made new, turned from their sin and walked with God. I have been known to be fickle. I can start a project and get tired of it. Same with books. I can take interest in one thing or another and then lose interest in time. For 18 years I have been committed to Jesus Christ. Through His power He opened my eyes to His reality. I can’t shake it. Even if I grow weary, I bounce back. I once was blind but now I see. This is no whim. 

Isaiah 57:15 - For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Birthright

Genesis 25:34 - And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

I think we all know what a birthright is, right!? In most cases it is given to the firstborn child. It is a right, privilege, or possession. And it is a privilege.

This one part of our sermon Sunday became a focal point for my thoughts. Salvation is a right. 

Esau's father Isaac gave him the birthright because he was firstborn, by minutes. Esau's twin brother was Jacob. The brothers were as different as night and day, as was suggested in the chapter when God told their mother Rebekah: ...“Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23)

Esau was, according to scripture, a wild man, an outdoorsman and hunter. Jacob was a mild man and liked being at home...living in tents. Or as I have read, he was most devoted to God and his family. Esau was described as ruddy and hairy where Jacob was fair. Isaac was more drawn to Esau while Rebekah to Jacob. Now don't start trying to come to any conclusions about Jacob! He was, despite this seemingly gentle nature, also a deceiver, which you can read further in Chapter 27.

One day Esau was out hunting and came home, ravenous. Jacob was cooking a pot of stew. Esau wanted some of that food...Jacob said he would give him some if he would sell his birthright (our first glimpse of deception). What an odd request. But Esau did just that...gave up his birthright all for a bowl of stew. He gave up all his rights to his inheritance. At that moment it meant absolutely nothing to him. 

We can live most of our life never considering the fact that we have a Father in heaven who wants each one of us to receive a better birthright. Many people, including myself for a lot of years, thought absolutely nothing about He who gives this birthright.

Salvation is a right. If it weren't I don't think we'd see examples of inheritance in the Bible. But we do. It is important. 

So, have you received the greatest birthright possible? If you have, do you take it for granted? If not, would you like to? We all can receive this inheritance. We will not receive a physical inheritance, nothing we can put our hands on today, but greater is our reward when we get to heaven. It takes no more than seriously receiving Christ. We ask Him to forgive us of our sins and trust and follow Him the rest of our days. It's that simple.

If we have given our lives to Christ, what are we willing to give up our spiritual birthright for? Popularity or prestige, money, addictions, lust? None of those things last after our last breath. But a spiritual birthright is forever.

I've said this a few times...not all people will go to heaven. It is a great myth many denominations have taught. Life doesn't just end and everyone goes to heaven. Our salvation was bought with a price. We need to get beyond taking the afterlife for granted. Without this inheritance, birthright, we cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

I was at our church's youth retreat last week. It was the driving theme for the kids...we cannot be promised another day. Young people think they have their whole life ahead of them...some adults think the same. They think they can wait to give their lives to Christ if they even think that. But what if today was your last and you'd not given Jesus a second thought? What if I'm right? I can tell you things are different with Christ in a life. You have to experience it to understand. It takes a heart willing to bend and take in the truth. 

God loves all people, but He has standards. If you are in your mind an upstanding person, honest, generous, kind, would you want to make friends with a criminal or murderer? You have your standards too. God is righteous and will only associate with righteous people. We can become righteous through Christ. It's the thing called being saved, born again, becoming a new man. 
                
Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of           God. (John 3:3)

I've been listening to a sermon in my car on eternity. I am considering sharing some of the pastor's thoughts. It might make this thing called birthright, inheritance and salvation more of a desire.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name...          ...lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (John 1:12, Hebrews 12:16-17)