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We are what we eat

In the Sermon on the Mount, found in chapter five of the book of Matthew, the Lord gave eight beatitudes, or blessings, to the people. In verse six we find, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

What do you hunger for? As believers, we know that riches, honors, and the pleasures of this world amount to little when it comes to God’s kingdom or even our own true joy. For the momentary pleasure these things may lend, the happiness factor doesn’t really satisfy for very long. The new car “smell” is only for a short time. Vacations come to an end. Even food and water can carry us only so long before we need to replenish ourselves.

In speaking of God, St. Augustine once said, “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee.”

The universal traits of the human heart include the desire to seek out something to fill our restlessness. Unfortunately, many of us, even after being saved, can look for this completion in the wrong places. What we’re searching for is only found in Christ. That is where we are fully whole, established, complete, and satisfied.

While some may wish to find their own righteousness in what they do, say, or stand for. True righteousness, the one that fulfills and sustains, is only imputed spiritually through the bestowment of the Lord. Self-righteousness, piety, and one-foot-in-the-world mentality will not be blessed by the Lord, and those who seek these things still remain starved and wanting.

In the words of John Piper: “If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

We truly are what we eat.

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Exalt much?

King David came a long way before writing some of his psalms, particularly Psalm 34. Through his exploits in battle, some became jealous of his exalted name among the people, namely King Saul, which led to David’s fleeing to Gath out of fear. He attempted to live there without revealing his identify but was soon discovered. When King Achish learned of David’s identity and reputation as a soldier, he seized him. While under house arrest, David began to dwell upon his situation. Realizing the danger he was in, he made a pretense of being insane to obtain release.

David looked back upon these events and came to understand that he acted out of fear of man and not out of fear of God. He was humbled before God and wrote Psalm 34 to praise him for deliverance in spite of his deception and sin and also to teach the principles pertaining to the “fear of the Lord” which David learned through his painful experience. David acknowledges he should have trusted in YHWH (the Lord).

Now he promises to persistently praise his God. His praise, even though it stemmed from a specific life event, is ongoing. David is committed to praising God at every opportunity and at every turn. Just as we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), David promises to praise without ceasing.

At all times, in every situation, under every circumstance, before, during, and after trials, as well as in the blissful days of utter joy, to bless the Lord is never out of season. His praise should continually be in our mouths. What a blessed state to have our mouths full of God’s praise.

Put on the new self(ie)

How are you dwelling these days? For some, the word “dwell” may be misunderstood. Dwelling in the Lord and his word is far different from just reading or being acquainted with it. One may have a scripture verse dear to their heart and read it often or may even have it memorized. Dwelling in the Lord in the life of a believer constitutes living out the verse as though its very essence has inhabited the thoughts, will, and actions of the hearer.

In chapter three of the book of Ephesians, Paul talks about the behaviors a Christian ought to practice: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.  In verses 16, he adds dwelling in the Lord’s word. He stresses the teachings of Jesus should live within the believer powerfully.

 In applying the meaning of the verse to one’s everyday life, we all need to grow in Christ and we often need guidance and admonishing along the way. His word in David’s psalms speaks clearly to the lesson plan in our school of learning about Christ.

 With regard to spiritual songs, Paul never spoke of a preference to any one type of music over another. His purpose here is to state that all types of music are to be used to let the word of Christ dwell richly within us, and the singing is to be done with an attitude of thanksgiving rather than focusing on ourselves or our own desires.

 Similarly, in Ephesians 5:19, he says it again, “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.”

 May we all through God’s grace dwell in the Lord richly, and may our hearts always be tuned to God’s praise as we “put on” Christ every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Portrait

God’s Portrait

 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

 

He weaves a new dawn each day

from the shadows of night

while the sun bears a golden wand

to dispell the darkness.

In measured time, He unravels the buds,

polished finer than silver to sprout His light

on retreating winter’s frost.

His glory spreads everywhere:

in the song of sparrows…

a blue moutain’s arc…

the setting sun…

The rocks and hills declare His name.

Each moment, His glory enrobes the landscape

in quilts of love—the tapestry is endless

as the grains of sand.

Wounded? There’s an AP for that

Witnessing people who continue to harp and bemoan their struggles while crying racism, unfairness, etc., on Facebook is more than sad. Souls desperate for validation and looking everywhere for something to bind their wounds and heal their hearts. Daily, the onslaught of memes and posts and articles talking about the social issues/trials/inequality or discrimination…questioning if their lives matter through protests, chants, and marching. All in keeping time with the drumbeat of futility and loss of hope.

It appears everyone has a struggle to some degree but some choose to announce theirs. I say, if you’re looking to the world to assure your worth, value or joy or if you’re looking to man to assuage your distress, you won’t find it.

There’s unfairness everywhere. No one has cornered the market on that. The deeper the pain, the more there is to give over to the ONE source of hope and joy. It’s Jesus.

Remaining in the struggle as a way to blame everyone else for your lot in life is a waste of precious time. Why not cling to Jesus? He’s overcome the world.

 

The penitent thief and the wayward comma

So where is the thief on the cross? You know, the one who hung alongside of Jesus on Golgatha.

The story of the thief on the cross is told in Matthew 27:38, Luke 23:32-43, and Mark 15:27. The tale is one of the most memorable in the Bible. A dying, penitent thief accepts Christ as his Lord and Master and is assured by Jesus’ own words of a place in paradise.

It begs the question:   Did the penitent thief go to heaven with Jesus that day?  Is there a contradiction between what Jesus told the thief and what He told Mary on Sunday? Is there another paradise besides heaven?

Luke 23 says,  “Then one of the criminals who was hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43)

One of the thieves, after joining with the other thief in mocking the Lord (Mark 15:32), recognized that Jesus was the Son of God and decided to ask for mercy and pardon. He offers up the simple prayer, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus accepts His repentance and gives him the promise that the thief on the cross will be with him in paradise.

Luke 23:43 says, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” But in John 20:1-17 we read that Jesus meets Mary in the garden on the first day of the week and says, ‘Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’”

Could Jesus  have been with the thief in heavenly paradise that Friday if He had still not ascended to the Father on Sunday? Is this a contradiction? What if the comma was after the word today instead of before it? The meaning would change completely. What if Jesus was saying, “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) If the comma is placed after the word today, it shows Jesus being emphatic on that day of his crucifixion, saying, today when I am dying on the cross with no apparent hope, I am promising that you will be with me in paradise eventually. However, if the comma is inserted before the word today, Jesus would then be promising that the thief would be with Him that very day in paradise.

Is the punctuation in the Bible inspired? In the original Greek text of the New Testament there was no punctuation and no spacing between words. According to Greek language expert Michael W. Palmer, “The ancient Greeks did not have any equivalent to our modern device of punctuation. Sentence punctuation was invented several centuries after the time of Christ. The oldest copies of both the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament are written with no punctuation.”

When the translators of the English Bible translated this verse and others they had to decide where the punctuation should be. The translators themselves were not inspired. God definitely helped them translate the Bible, but the punctuation is not inspired since there was no punctuation in the original manuscripts. Translators made the simple mistake of placing the comma in the wrong position, maybe because of their traditional beliefs about what happens when you die.

There is a theory that paradise is not heaven but another place altogether. People generally come up with this theory to clear up the apparent contradiction between what Christ said to the thief on the cross and what He said to Mary two days later.

Christ promises to the faithful in the church of Ephesus: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Rev. 2:7.

So where is the tree of life? The answer to this question will help us know where paradise is. In Revelation 22:1-4, we learn that the tree of life is in the New Jerusalem. So we can know for certain that paradise is in the New Jerusalem where God reigns. It is not some place in the underworld or in the subterranean regions. Paradise is the garden of God, which is in heaven.

The Scriptures are clear that Christ had not ascended to the Father on Sunday morning. So had he been with the thief on the cross in paradise on Friday? A question to ponder…

Be steadfast

Do your efforts sometimes fail to miss the mark of your objectives? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels like a lab rat? Do you think that sometimes little is shown by your efforts or that no one is blessed by them? We’ve all been there.

Yet the Lord’s word declares to us that while wholly serving God, there is nothing lacking or missing. When we are committed to doing his will, the labor from a pure heart is never in vain. Should our expectations fall flat, we need to remember that it’s all for Him. All that’s done for the Lord is what counts—whatever the perceived outcome. It’s not about recognition or numbers.

The world, even the church, is keen on keeping track of things. We count the number of new converts among us… we record the number of new visitors on a given Sunday… we remember how well attended our church functions have been and keep tally from year-to-year. Nothing is wrong with keeping score. Though it should not be the benchmark by way to measure success.

There are many big-name churches with large followings and lots of bells and whistles that draw people into attending. They offer multiple programs, expanded state-of-the-art facilities, and continental breakfasts. Do you think God is any more pleased with that body of believers over the small, humble church? We’re all a part of Christ’s body of believers, and in a world full of busy mega-churches, still God looks no further than our individual hearts.

While our work for the Lord is to win souls for Christ and to encourage one another to love and good deeds, we may find our spirits frayed. But this is just a distraction. God’s purpose in our labors is accomplished whether we understand it or not. Our effort to spread the gospel or minister to others is not lost on the Lord. His plans and purposes are fulfilled in the very least of us. The weight of glory that awaits us in heaven is worth everything we do for the Lord today.

 

What’s the purpose?

 

There is a purpose for everything God does. Whether or not we see or understand the Lord’s motivation, as believers there is nothing more valuable to us than our faith… our faith to believe we are saved, God loves us, and he has a plan to fulfill a glorious destiny for us.

But what about the here and now? What’s God doing for me lately? What’s the purpose for all of the mayhem in the world? As it stands, what he accomplished on the cross in doing his father’s will is all the grace we need. The rest of his bounty upon us is just gravy. His word tells us, “My grace is sufficient,” when a troubled Paul prayed for his physical ailments. His grace of an eternal pardon and payment for our sin is the most valuable gift we’ll ever receive and the only one that will enable us into the next world, if we accept it.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28. His purpose? It’s found in the following verse… for us to come to a saving knowledge of Christ and to become conformed to the image of his son… to become part of God’s family.

Many view the world’s troubles and try to justify them as being fair or not fair. God is not so much about the fairness, but he’s all about the justice. Was it fair that Jesus suffered for something he did not do? Is it fair that some who receive riches are not always deserving of their wealth? Does the smartest person always gain the noblest position in life? The race doesn’t always go to the swiftest.

With our hearts heavy for those who lost power in the ravages of the recent hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, or lost loved ones in the horrific mayhem of Las Vegas and elsewhere, one thing is for certain. God is still on the throne.  We need to see the circumstances of life through God’s love and not judge God in light of our circumstances. That’s where our faith comes in. It’s all for our holiness.

Harvest time

The Lord makes everything beautiful in its time. In Ecclesiastes 3, we see there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. While spring brings life through the flourish of new buds, and summer lends its warmth… winter is when everything sleeps, and in autumn, its harvest time.

Cranberries, pumpkins, squash, and apples are just a few of the bountiful offerings plucked from gardens, orchards, and farm fields come this autumn season. While these are the provisions God lends to us, he also has his eye on a different kind of harvest. The harvest of souls. His potential bounty is to be gathered from all parts of the earth for the Kingdom of God.

Reaping souls for Christ is not an instantaneous thing. It takes prayer, time, and dedication, just the same as tending a garden. First, we prepare the soil, and then sow the seeds; thirdly, we tend and cultivate it through conditioning and nourishing with the right combination of sun, food, and water. In time, we reap what we sow.

What’s to be understood is that the process is all overseen by the master gardener, the Lord. While we’re called to do the Lord’s work as we’re encouraged always to do; it’s the Lord who does the ultimate regeneration of people’s hearts.

God employs his people to spread the seeds of good news. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”

 

Keep your focus

When Jesus hung bleeding on the Roman cross, the book of Hebrews tells us he “despised” the shame while enduring the suffering. To despise the shame in Jesus’ mind was to consider it less than worthless and something to ignore. He didn’t let it distract him because he was on a mission and knew the joy that was set before him when he would sit down at the right hand of God on the throne.

Hebrews 12:2 instructs us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith. In Philippians 3, Apostle Paul tells us he presses on and “has set his eye on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

There’s an old story about a farmer and his son. While out in the field he instructed the young boy on how to plow the corn rows straight; he told him to focus on something way beyond the edge of the field and remain fixed on it. Later, when he returned to inspect his son’s work, he found the corn rows skewed and curvy. “What happened?” he asked. “Did you keep your eyes fixed like I told you?” The boy replied, “Yes, father, I kept my eyes fixed on one of the cows in the next field.”

The idea of keeping his eyes fixed on a roaming object is humorous but explains why we often we fail. A racehorse is given blinders when competing so that he’s not distracted from the crowd. The runner who keeps his focus on the finish line is not deterred by the hurdles that need to be cleared along the way. These are the ways to meet the goal: keeping a fixed perspective.

For the believer, there is no other goal than living for Jesus in all that we do. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and not the worldly distractions that so easily entangle us is the only way to win.

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