Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Treasure of ...Life!

This is a truth I need to remember!

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46”

Does this description sound like any believer you know myself included? Do we cherish the kingdom this much?
Now I’m sure that we have all made small or once in awhile large( at least we think they’re large)concessions here and there because of our faith, but do we put our everyday All into it!
Now, I’m not saying that you or me should go out right now and sell everything of value that we don’t need and give it to the poor. But then again, why am I not saying that? Is it because it’s unrealistic or because I don't want to believe that is what these verses are actually saying? Or because I’m just too comfortable. Besides no respectable Christian would ever advise me of doing anything of the sort nor do they live that way themselves. No, these can't be valid reasons!
What did Jesus tell the rich young ruler? He told him that “you shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matt. 19:18-19” (When the man said he had done all of those things) Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. Matt.19:21"
Did Jesus say to him “Wow good job on keeping those laws, some of them are pretty tough. I mean, for years people have forsaken them, but not you. You’re a man among men, let me give you a pat on the back. If only Judas here were as good as you. Haha just kidding Judy ol’ boy”
No, of course this sounds nothing like Jesus. Jesus was there to tell the truth about the Father and about His kingdom. He was there to speak the truth about how it was worth far more than the treasures/pleasures of this life. Selling everything we own may not be the point. My point is that, why when we have found and received such a great blessing as to be called sons of the most high God, and an inheritance such as eternal life in the presence of God and the angels, do we act as if it were a chore? Why do we try to hold on to the pleasures of this life?
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galations 5:16-25”
So let us rejoice that our names are written in the lambs book of life, and let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. Let us lose our lives that we might find life. These are days of deception and propaganda, a world constantly telling us that the fun we have and ease of life we enjoy are the most important things in life. They say in more subtle ways “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die!” and we swallow it hook, line, and sinker!

I’ll end with this quote from the apostle Paul who considered his life as nothing in comparison to the riches found in Christ Jesus.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Gal.6:7-10”

Thursday, November 24, 2005

God is Love!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16"

I had an interesting thought yesterday, It was about a deep down subconscious thought that I had always kept a little below the surface. I sometimes thought (not believed, but thought) that God loved us (believers) more than He does non-Christians. Although I wasn’t conscious that I thought this way, and were you to ask me, I would have answered you passionately (perhaps in a Sunday school tone) “God loves everyone equally!” but I think I really meant that He loved all Christians equally. Because, after all, we believe in Jesus the Christ, and we who believe in Jesus are called (in His word the Holy Bible) His children. Now of course He died for every one, and He would certainly love them as much as me and other believers; if only they too would choose salvation through Jesus by believing in Him. (I probably didn’t think this way when I caught myself in a sin, but on the whole it is something that was inside of me none the less.) The problem with this thought was that not only is it wrong,  but it takes away from God’s unchanging love and perfection. It creates a religion of good works and a false hope concerning God’s love for us. It destroys the meaning of true love as defined by His word. His love is so beyond our own that it bewilders me and all of us really ( like it did the prophet Jonah when the wicked people of Nineveh repented and were spared from utter destruction). I think that it is hard for us to love somebody unless they loved us back, at least just a little bit(not a biblical principle just a way we often think). And I think we sometimes think that God’s love operates in a similar way. How could God really love those who are sinners, those who rebel and hate Him (or at least rebel and hate His law He's placed in their conscience). Those who, because of their disbelief/rejection of Jesus, are going to hell for eternity; being separated from Him and everything good that is found in and comes from Him. How could He love them as MUCH as He loves His own precious children (those born/"adopted" by faith, as His child) who He died for and who are going to be with him forever? But then I see that is not His nature. He is love! Even Hitler had a chance to live a good life, but in his rejecting truth(Jesus) became a monster. Did Jesus love his disciple Judas Iscariot less than the other disciples, even while knowing that He would be betrayed by him? No, of course not. You see... I have put stipulations on His love, and I have subjected it to circumstances. I didn’t know that I had, but I’m glad that I do now. Because there is something that I have to know/remember about His love. It IS unchanging... truly and wonderfully unchanging. He loves us all equally, both the sinner and the saint. He took everyone's penalty onto Himself in Jesus(should they accept it). Why? Because God is love!
The rest (receiving the gift of salvation, choosing Jesus and recieveing heaven or rejecting Him and in essense choosing hell) is up to us and our free will (insomuch as God gave us the choice to believe in Jesus the Christ,or not. That is why the lies of the devil againt God's love being found in Jesus are so wicked. After all, He (Jesus) is mankind's salvation and the love of God the Father displayed. So we can never say that He doesn't love us(He showed us that He does, even to be executed on a cross in our place), and we can never say that He didn't love those who rejected Him. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Jesus is "the way" because of God's love for everyone in the world to know the only true God, and to receive the everlasting life that comes from knowing Him. Here is a great bit of Christ's teaching that shows clearly the love of God the Father  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-47"

The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes. Psalms 119:64

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Firm Foundation

Jesus said, “you believe in God, believe also in Me.”
I have just finished reading some of the most wonderful words. Words of promise and hope. Words that bring warnings yet joy. You may have already guessed that the words were from the Holy Bible. I have read them before several times, but this time was different. I know it is true that His words are living and each time I read them I learn something new. Now this may not be any grand epiphany, but it is a simple truth that we often forget. I don’t know why I forget, but at times like this I’ll rejoice that He lets me relearn things. The words were those of Jesus to His disciples and to those who believe in Him. From the book of John chapters 14-17. I can’t even write on them, but I insist and wish that you who believe will read them and be blessed! Read them over and over feasting on each verse (as odd as that may sound). There are sooooooo many verses that I wanted to use. About His love for us, His promises, our role as believers, our hope as children of God, the glory of the Father, the reason of existence, and the truth found in His word. But in the end I think that just as He teaches me He can teach you so much more than I ever could.

My only advice is this, that while reading the chapters you accept and believe that everything Jesus says is true(why wouldn't you anyway right). I know that sometimes when I read, I get into a mode, so to speak, of taking the book I’m reading as a story and not as fact. And so I have to remind myself when reading His word that everything is true and profitable for me. He is who our lives in Him are to reflect. His teaching is better than any you’ll find in the latest novel or sermon.

So rejoice in what you read, for He is coming again and has given us His Spirit of truth.
Wow!!! The God of the universe, of the smallest atom and largest galaxy, of the air we breath and blood that flows in our veins, He has chosen to reside with us... in us. Even if we were disobedient sinners, He said that His very words have made us clean. I’ve said this before, but can I really say it too many times? It is after all a wonderful thing. His Spirit has sealed us and He died to take our place. Why, because He was obeying God the Father who so loved the world that He sent His Son. Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, and boundless.

I’ll end with a verse that speaks a glorious truth, from a prayer of Jesus to the Father.
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. John 17:3"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The kingdom of Heaven

I find this to be an interesting story and so I thought I would share it!

“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Luke 10:1-12"

“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. Luke 10:13-15"

"He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me. Luke 10:16"

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:17-20"

This is just a portion of what the Jesus taught His disciples. That they were to go and share the good news about the Kingdom of God. I find it neat that they were sent ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go, because today we are also called to share the good news of the kingdom and even now He is coming soon. But now the good news this great and glorious hope of the kingdom, is given to all the world. “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. Rev.21:26-27"
Remember, our home is not here on earth(as crazy as that may sound) but He has gone to prepare a place for you and He encourages us to store up treasure in heaven not on earth! If you, like me, believe that is true, why do we still try to build ourselves feeble little kingdoms on this earth? Isn't it so much more important to share His kingdom with those who are willing to receive it.
So rejoice if your name is written in His book, and continue to look forward to His coming. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go!

"He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

There is a lot more written in this text so please share what you may have learned!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Question 2

I’d like to answer my questions from my last blog...
This time I’ll try to cover: Why do you think it was necessary for the Israelites to divorce or separate from their wives, and why did God condone it?

To start, I’d like to point out that the Israelites were already involved in a covenant before they “married” or united themselves to the evil nations surrounding them. There was already in place a holy covenant between their nation and the Lord God almighty. As such they were no longer their own, they belonged to God. In fact the very act of marriage outside of their own people, on the side of the priests and Levites, was a breach of that and against God’s law. They were disobeying the Lord at a time when they had just received forgiveness and the ability to return to the land of promise. They were in truth committing adultery against God. The importance of them remaining a holy nation set apart by God was being jeopardized. To remain God’s priests, and chosen people they had to turn away from all of their wickedness and immorality. If this movement had gone unchecked they would have become unfit to be God’s holy nation and ultimately destroyed. Therefore, in this situation it was necessary to separate themselves from the nations around them, and to become once again sanctified unto God.

I am by no means condoning divorce, God hates divorce. After all, one of the reasons God instituted marriage on this earth, was as a representation of the mystery that is found in the union of Christ Jesus to the church. Divorce is a separation from that truth.

Malachi 2:10-16 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers? Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the LORD’s holy institution which He loves:
he has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this, being awake and aware, yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!
And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion
and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. “ For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts.

Now if you notice that in the prior text there are two troubles:
1. They were joining themselves in marriage to peoples of other faiths and gods.
2. They were divorcing their own wives, and renouncing the commitment they had made to them before God.

Jesus said of divorce:
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. Matt. 19:4-8"

I’m also by no means trying to judge any one either;
“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12"

I’m just trying to share what I’ve learned of the truth, with whatever ability the Lord supplies me with.
“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 4:9-11"

Thursday, November 03, 2005

James 1:27

I’d like to answer the questions from my last blog, but because I can’t write anything that is short, I’ll do one question at a time. The question answered in this blog will be...

What application, if any, can we learn from this text(the end of the book of Ezra)?

I think there is a lot that we can learn from this text. Here are some of my thoughts in point form.

1. It is important to keep ourselves away from temptation before it overwhelms us.
”Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 1 Cor.10:12”

2. We who received God’s grace are no longer our own, but our lives now belong to Christ.
“For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Cor.6:20"

3. It may be necessary to change our surroundings and the way we are currently living.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom.12:2”

4. To realize that we are already joined to Christ Jesus and should have no part of sin.
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9”

5. To acknowledge that we live in a world of idolatry and sinful desires, and are constantly being immersed in it’s culture, yet we are to keep ourselves unspotted by the world around us(not remove ourselves physically from it , but not becoming like it either).
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27"
and “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17"

6. That we have a new covenant in Jesus with a merciful God of grace who loves us, one who will save us from sin and death, restoring us to Himself.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10” and “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15”

There are more things that could be learned from the text, but for the sake of keeping this shorter I think these points are sufficient. Although I'd love to hear more of yours(the reader)!

Note: the other question(Why do you think it was necessary for the Jews to divorce or separate from their wives, and why did God condone it?) will be covered in my next blog.