Thursday, April 10, 2014

OBSTACLES & ROAD BLOCKS

GOD always cared for those who had less.

The Law, as well as grace, made provision for the less fortunate and those who didn't have the ability to earn income. In the Old Testament, God's commands to His people were: "And you shall not glean your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather its fallen grapes; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord your God." [Leviticus 19:10, AMP] (Similarly, "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow." [Deuteronomy 24:21, AMP]).  Elohim, lived up to His title of Jehovah-Jireh, not only by providing water, manna and quail, but by instilling in Israel the mind to care for those who had less than they did--whether Israelite or stranger. God was so concerned that no one slip through the cracks that He gave the command regarding gleaning, just to ensure that their was provision, even beyond the tithe.

The tithe was established in Israel to care for certain classes of people: "When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;
Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them." [Deuteronomy 26:12,13]. In addition, God says: "If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto." [Deuteronomy 15:7-10]. The real blessing is in giving--not simply to one chosen class of people, but to everyone who has need.

Who is the stranger, if not the immigrant who comes to our country seeking asylum from war, poverty, and famine? Who is the widow, if not the elderly and disabled who struggle to live daily, dependent upon the mercy of our government system, especially since the church has not done its part--in gleaning or the tithe? And the same goes for the fatherless; who are they, if not the millions of children and their single moms who wonder everyday how they will make it through the week?

Jesus, came and added grace to these God-given principles, not by saying give less--or don't give ten percent (particularly since, Jesus lived under the Law, and grace had not yet been realized). He added grace in saying: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." [Luke 6:38] (Jesus said this right after the Pharisees came accusing the disciples of "gleaning" in the fields, on the Sabbath). Jesus also said, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." [Matthew 25:31-46]. How we give (or not) will determine where we spend eternity. 

How much should we give? "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."

And, the apostles understood what Jesus meant--and what He taught them from the Law. And, this is how they lived it: "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

They made provision for everyone--those who served in ministry, and those they served, as well as any who came among them with a need--not a wish, a whim, a fancy or a desire, but a need. 

It was no longer about the tenth, but the ALL.

We must remove the roadblocks and things within our hearts that keep us from giving lavishly, as much as we are able to give--according as "he purposeth in his heart", since that is the storehouse of our treasure. Giving must be a heart thing, not by coercion, or even command; just purity of heart. To have a heart like God is to provide for the well-being and welfare of others...just like God.







Tuesday, March 11, 2014

GOD-Exaltation vs. SELF-Exaltation

 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”
When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. [Numbers 16:3-5, ESV]

You know the end of that story, don't you...not pretty...at least for Korah and the rest of his rebellion, and unfortunately, their families, too. We often bring down those we love, in our foolish pride and self-seeking. If you ever watch the news, you know exactly what I mean. As foolish men are carted off to prison for presumptuously taking what was not their own (thinking they would get away with it--you know, all the Bernie Madoff's out there) dragging families and friends through the muck and mire behind them. It isn't a new phenomenon.

There is a HUGE difference between GOD-exaltation and SELF-exaltation.

When God exalts, you can be humble, and He will lift you up--you never need to put yourself on display in any way, shape or form for people to see or recognize you. He will increase you, as you decrease, and mortify the flesh. Remember what Paul wrote to the Philippian church--it's a paradox. If we exalt or promote ourselves, we will be rejected or abased by God, because we have our reward of men; but, if we instead, humble ourselves, and "have the mind of Christ" He will exalt us, in due time. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [Philippians 2:5-11]

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Taberah

 "And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them. Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."    [Numbers 11:1-6, ESV]
 
 
What an awful thing when God (Who is Jealous), isn't enough to satisfy and delight. Clearly, He was in their (Israel) midst (10:34-36) resting upon the camp day and night, protecting, feeding, warming and supplying every need, all while covering their sins. Could they really be that forgetful? Still, they wanted something more--God, Himself, wasn't enough--that's the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life at work. They wanted what they saw possessed by the pagans around them who had gods of wood and stone. For this, God sent a fire--idolatry is serious and it is a contagion; it spreads like wildfire. So, God sent a fire to combat/consume the murmuring (and, the idolatry that precipitated the complaining along with it). 
 
Today, there is a similar spirit, that exists among God's people--we should have the best and not suffer or have "misfortunes"; when we do we question God's presence among us (declaring people faithless) or we murmur and complain. Are we just as forgetful as Israel was? Is God really enough to satisfy and to delight us--or do we really follow for the fishes and the loaves? 
 
In fact, we are to be tried and "to think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified."
 
Delight thyself in the Lord. Man up; this is par for the course of this earthly race.

Monday, February 24, 2014

LEVITICUS

"And Moses said, “This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do, that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.”[Leviticus 9:6, ESV]

The Glory of the Lord is going to cost you something. It isn't free.

This year, I decided that among other things, I would read through the Bible again--it's been years since I have. In the past, I simply read, this time it's taking a lot longer, because I no longer have the ability to simply read the Word of God; I just can't. I always end up studying. Today, as I got into Leviticus--the Book that I normally, dread (I'm being honest), and find quite tedious; something said (well, it would have to be Someone, right?), take your time and find out the significance of these sacrifices and how they relate to me, in this dispensation. I knew they had to in some way because I remember Jesus words: "Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." [Luke 24:25-27, KJV].

Here's what I learned (and am still digging deeper): 1) The BURNT OFFERING is typical of Christ coming to do the will of God and to glorify Him, in spite of the cost, even unto death. That was the first object of Jesus Christ coming into the world in a bodily form. "
"Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come . . . to do Thy will, Ο God" [Hebrews 10:5-7]. "Therefore, the burnt offering comes first, because it presents Christ, not so much as taking our sins, but as offering Himself without spot to God, to accomplish the will of God and to glorify Him, and that in death."

2) The MEAT/CEREAL/GRAIN OFFERING is typical of the perfect sinless Humanity of Jesus Christ. The perfect sinless God-Man on earth, being Himself, an offering "made" by fire to the Father (fire of affliction/testing). [Leviticus 2:2] The more Christ Jesus was tested, the more evident was His perfect obedience and perfect dependence upon the Father.

3) The PEACE OFFERING is a type of communion with God and with the priesthood (the Body of Christ). The peace offering is an offering of thanksgiving, and of worship and praise, but it is always on the foundation of the work of Christ (burnt offering). Leviticus 3:5 says, ""And Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire". In 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, is a picture of this in action: "Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.
And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."

4) Lastly, The SIN/TRESPASS OFFERING typifies Christ bearing our sins on the cross. The sin and the trespass offering were generally inseparable from the burnt offering--as they killed in the same place. "'And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,' it is always the introduction of a new subject. Now, the first three chapters — which speak of the burnt offering, the meat offering, and the peace offering — are all, in a manner, one, because they are all "sweet savor" offerings, which the sin offering in itself is not. And you will not find that expression anywhere in those chapters after chapter 1:1. But when the subject of the sin offering is spoken of, in chapter 4, there you find the expression again, because it is a different character of offering — an offering for sin, instead of an offering made by fire for a sweet savor. We shall notice the difference by and by. You do not find a third occurrence of it till you come to chapter 5:14. The trespass offering, properly so-called, begins with this verse. The first thirteen verses of chapter 5 seem to connect the sin offering and the trespass offering together, as we have seen. I believe I am right in saying that, throughout this Book of Leviticus, at the beginning of every new subject this expression occurs.
It is important to see that the sacrifices are divided into two great classes — the sweet savor offerings, or offerings "made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord," and the sin offerings. In the sweet savor offerings, when the worshipper laid his hand upon the head of the offering, it signified that all the acceptability of the sacrifice was his; he was identified with all the sweet savor of the sacrifice. But in the sin offering it was just the other way. Instead of the offerer being identified with the sweet savor of the sacrifice, the animal — the offering — was identified with the man's sin; his sin was transferred to the head of the animal. Now, there are these two sides to the work of the Lord Jesus: The first is that the Lord Jesus was charged with our sins — He "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world." The Holy Spirit has put into our mouths those words in Revelation 1: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
The Lord Jesus, at the last supper, in the night in which He was betrayed, when He took the cup, said, "This is My blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28)." (From: Christ' Offerings; R.F. Kingscote; Stem Publishing)

Somehow, Leviticus is beginning to take on a whole new meaning. Then, I read that verse: ""And Moses said, 'This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do, that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.'" I was reminded with a resounding note, if I (or anyone) desires the glory of God, and His Presence, it will cost something. We will most assuredly have to surrender our will and lay ourselves on the altar of sacrifice, willing to go through the fire of affliction to be perfected and learn obedience to the Sovereignty of Almighty God. We owe Him Thanks for forgetting our sin, washing and cleansing us from all unrighteousness, and then clothing us in priestly garments--fine linen (which stands for the righteous acts of God's holy people), an ephod (A priestly garment connected with seeking a word from God), the breastplate (judgement) and in the breastplate: Urim (light) & Thummim (perfection & truth), the mitre (the turban wrapped about the head; the mitre was in the form of a turban, "a fine piece of linen that was wrapped around the head. A plate of gold was placed on this turban of fine linen over the forehead. On this plate of gold were engraved like the engravings of a signet–that is, deeply carved as they would have been carved upon the seal of a king–the words “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD”. This gold plate was fastened to the linen bonnet by blue lace. This is the plate of gold that was put upon some blue lace and tied onto the linen bonnet." And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. [Exodus 28:38] So, Aaron wore the mitre because of the sin of the people and so they could stand in the presence of the Lord and be accepted by Him. 

I really want the glory...even more than I did yesterday. I'm overwhelmed by Leviticus, but in a good way.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Not So "Suchy-Much" After All

It's sad sometimes, to see how puffed up, God's people have become. We seem to forget, very quickly who and what we were before God extended mercy to us and redeemed us from the snare of the enemy.

Paul warned the Corinthian church about this attitude:
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you."

Paul, the apostle, saw in them what we commonly see today--sin, mixed with pride and arrogance. Many of us assume that because we have been born again, and God is faithful to forgive us (if we confess our sins) we have something to boast about. We don't. The only good, righteous and holy thing about any of us has nothing to do with us--it is only the presence of God in us that makes us righteous; and that is only if we choose to let Him make us "perfect and entire, wanting nothing" by the trying of our faith and patience. Their (the Corinthian saints) arrogance and pride was displayed much the same way today's professing Christian displays it. It's a beam and mote thing. It's shows when you deflect away from your own sin and point out the sins of others--particularly (as Paul taught) those who are not even saved. 

"What [business] of mine is it and what right have I to judge outsiders? Is it not those inside [the church] upon whom you are to pass disciplinary judgment [passing censuring sentence on them as the facts require]? God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside. Drive out that wicked one from among you [expel him from your church]." [1 Corinthians 5:12,13 AMP] 

Do you recognize a pattern, yet? Even as many of us who profess Christianity and scream about Bibles and prayer in schools (which by the way are legal, and always have been--they just cannot be forced on anyone), nativity scenes at Christmas in front of government offices, or protesting at abortion clinics and fight to reverse Roe v. Wade, or show such vehement animosity toward homosexuals and lesbians--even debating whether or not they were born that way, or arguing evolution; we do so not recognizing that we are judging those who are "outsiders", rather than ourselves. Meanwhile, among us, there are pastors and leaders succumbing to adultery, drug addiction, incestuous relationships, molestations and homosexuality, etc. All while, we turn a blind eye and say, "touch not mine anointed and do my prophet no harm!" We have misused this verse to shield leaders from discipline and accountability for so long--yet, it is completely out of context. "And when they went from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." [1 Chronicles 16:20-22, KJV]. As anyone can plainly see, the reference is to the time when God was leading His people to Canaan, and He kept them safe from kings who would do them harm by saying to those kings (who were not apart of Israel) "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm". It is this dangerous blind eye that now has led to rampant and blatant sin among church leadership--and even to a rash of suicides and stress-related illnesses often blamed on the work of the pastorate. In reality, in many cases it should be linked to presumptuous sin. It doesn't end at leadership--it is spreading like a cancer throughout the Body, and will continue, until we acknowledge its presence and repent. Grace is being abused and trampled underfoot, like wildfire.

Our modus operandi, is to focus on the sin of those without, rather than on the sin of those within. That is not the way of Jesus--or the apostles. Jesus didn't spend His time on earth protesting against publicans, tax collectors, lepers, those who were possessed by demons, the woman caught in the act of adultery or the woman with five husbands. Instead, He touched them, and embraced those who hadn't been touched--even for twelve years. He was willing to touch the "untouchable"--even going against the Law, in lieu of the heart. He often chose expediency (doing what was suitably righteous and just, rather than following the letter of the Law) over legality. The apostles did the same--they didn't win souls by bashing them over the head with a list of sins, and do's and don't's. They, along with Jesus reserved the correction for those within the Body--those already discipled. Jesus often rebuked the "church leaders" of His day--the Pharisees, the high priests, who had twisted and perverted the Law until it was unrecognizable--and until it suited their whims and wishes, and oppressed God's people. Of them Jesus said, "so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." [Matthew 23:3-12, ESV] 
To the scribe and Pharisees, Jesus said, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’  You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?  And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’  You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it.  And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,  saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’  Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?" [Matthew 23:13-33, ESV]

Jesus never spoke to a sinner in such harsh terms. That speaks volumes. We shouldn't, either.  

We really have forgotten our way--and who we are, in Christ. The Corinthians, did, too. 

"When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [1 Corinthians 6:1-11, ESV]

Don't forget to remember what God delivered you from--and that only His arm could or would do it. In our flesh dwells no good thing. "'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.' For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends."


 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What God Sees

Most of us, tend to see ourselves through the eyes of others. We believe what we have been told about ourselves growing up--or we believe what we see in the mirror. We even accept what we think, even if it is born out of times of grief, stress, abuse and all manner of hardship.

Sometimes, God will come to us, and tell us who we (really) are, and we won't accept what God sees, because we have believed lies for so long. We can't even begin to recognize the possibilities of God, in us. We think that the greatness of God is reserved for a few charismatic others--who are "better" than we are. The thing is, that is how WE choose, but it is not how God chooses. God purposely chooses the weak so that only He can be glorified. He wants all of the recognition, and wants none of it to go to the flesh and blood of mankind; it simply doesn't belong there.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (Amplified Version) makes it very clear: "[No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.

And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are,

So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God." 

Perhaps, we don't recognize when we don't see what God sees--when it just doesn't line up. Moses certainly didn't (Exodus 4:10-12); Gideon didn't, either (Judges 6:15)--they both suffered from an inferiority complex. Sometimes, though, we suffer from the opposite complex, too. There is a fine line.  Both are unrighteous--both keep us from fulfilling God's purpose, in us. One stunts us, and the other causes us to focus too much attention on ourselves. To "glory in the Lord" is more than merely saying, "To God be the glory" when receiving accolades. It is living a life of humility, not choosing or accepting special recognition for the work of God. It is how the apostles lived. We must be careful that we are not being worshipped--another very fine line. Strong's Concordance defines idolatry (eidólolatria) as: "worship or service of an image"; that can't simply mean statues and religious icons, since man was made in God's "image" and after His likeness. We must not worship the image of God (man/mortality), we worship God (Immortal). 

The Word of God instructs us: "So that there should be no division or discord or lack of adaptation [of the parts of the body to each other], but the members all alike should have a mutual interest in and care for one another." (1 Corinthians 1:25, AMP) 
God knew (because He placed it in us) the need for human affection and recognition. He sent this word to give us controls and parameters so that we could remain humble and each of us could receive the same (alike, mutual) level of honor within the Body of Christ--no one going without, and conversely, no one receiving more than others. We are simply to give honor to whom honor is due, but there are guidelines, scripturally-speaking, clearly. How do we glory, in ourselves? To glory, (in 1 Corinthians 1:29) means "to vaunt" [kauchaomai]. Vaunting is "to make a vain display of one's own worth or attainments" or  "to call attention to...". We must be careful that we don't vaunt ourselves--or even allow others to do it. We don't want to be ostentatious or showy--always in the forefront. Let God alone exalt, in due time.

Many of us, like Moses and Gideon, have the opposite issue. We see our "flaws" as reasons we can't be used in any significant way by God. It is specifically because of our lack that God can use us so mightily. It is when we are so weak, that God gets the greatest glory and shines the brightest. No one looks at us, and thinks we are responsible--they know it had to be God, and He alone is glorified. It doesn't matter if we stutter, are too old, fat, skinny, short, uneducated, weak or poor; because it isn't about us, but about the God in us and His ability. When God looks at us, and chooses us, He isn't looking at us--He is looking at Himself, in us. Nothing else matters--His glory overtakes every insufficiency.

Lord, help us to see only what you see. Make us humble, esteeming others more highly than ourselves. Help us to recognize that all of us in your Body are one, and equal--none more important than the other. Help us to see that while leadership requires different care, it doesn't require different honor. Teach us to provide for our pastors, in love as we would want to be cared for in that position, but not to worship them. Gives us hearts and minds to glory only in You and in the cross, that brought us grace. Strengthen us to see ourselves as You see us, so that we may work in Your Kingdom, planting and watering as You provide a plentiful harvest of souls. Lord, teach us balance and temperance in all things. In Jesus' Name. Amen.    

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rebekah, Bad Parenting:101

"Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, 'I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.' But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, 'Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.' His mother said to him, 'Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.'"    [Genesis 27: 5-13, ESV]

And we call Jacob a "supplanter" and a deceiver. He learned it from the best--actually, he came from generations of liars, if we believe what the Bible says about the actions of both Abraham and Isaac with their wives; since they deceived others in an attempt to save their own skin. So, Jacob didn't have the perfect parenting examples of integrity and honesty before him, did he? It's funny--God chose these people to carry the bloodline of the Savior of the world--naturally-speaking. He chose flawed, sinful people just like us--even lousy parents. Why? To give us a hope. It doesn't have to end this way--whatever mistakes we made--or have yet to make, we can still have a future filled with promise if we are willing to repent and submit ourselves to the will of God. You see, some people grow and learn from their mistakes--others just build on their sin, until the proverbial "snowball" becomes a boulder. We miss out on a lot when we attempt to cover up, rather than make amends for our wickedness. 

We have a lot of kids who mess up royally in our society--but we have just as many parents who do, too. We forget those verses that admonish parents, "Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]" [Colossians 3:21, AMP] Ephesians 6:4 says something very similar. Parents, even Christian parents feel as if they have ownership of children--but they belong to God; and must be handled as God's precious and priceless possessions. It isn't okay to manipulate, and use psychological maneuvering on children to form them into your perfect will; the job of parents is to mold them and instruct them to learn of God, so they can seek His will for their lives and learn how to live as independent adults someday. So many marriages crumble because of meddling parents. Many sibling relationships suffer because because of parental interference. Even some parental/child relationships fail because one parent doesn't understand the role, necessity and purpose of each parent in the lives of their children. And strife happens when we don't stay in our own lane, directed by God, following His Word, and walking with integrity (truth and wholeness).

That's what happened to Rebekah. She became manipulative. It wasn't as if she didn't know the plan of God--while she was laboring, Gold told her what would come to pass. It would be hard to forget such a moment. Still, for Rebekah, that simply wasn't enough--Jacob was her baby, her heart. Yes, parents have favorites. I'm not sure that's really a bad thing--since personalities are different and some fit together better than others. The problem comes when we mistreat other children and give preferential treatment. I think it's generally not true when parents say, "I love all of my children the same". They are all individuals with differences in personalities and behavior--the way you love them should be unique to them, I think. They are all special in their own way. Rebekah wasn't necessarily loving her sons uniquely--she was being controlling and devious.

Rebekah is a Hebrew name רִבְקָה (Rivqah), possibly meaning "a snare" in Hebrew, or perhaps derived from an Aramaic name. That fits

Rebekah's plan became Jacob and Esau's pain (Isaac's and Rebekah's, too, once Jacob had to flee). When parents don't understand boundaries (particularly with their adult children) it can create a whole array of problems in the lives  of their children (and their family's, too). I'm sure Rebekah's interference led to some regret of her own--even though Jacob, her favored son ended up with the blessing and the birthright, her tactics caused him to be estranged from her--and caused strife in their home. Imagine if Rebekah had simply prayed and trusted the God of Abraham and Isaac? All that was necessary for Rebekah to do) was to be patient and see God's plan unfold. We make a mess of things--relationships, and destroy the trust of others when we usurp God's authority and "fix" things that He did not direct us to. If only we could learn to move when God says move--and conversely, learn to be still even though we (think we) "know" a way we might be able to make it happen.  

Some might say, I have no right to talk about bad parenting--or great parenting, since I only spent a few short months as a mom. Maybe that's true. I did however, have a great example of a godly mother who knew how to parent--even adult children; who understood boundaries, and gained our utmost respect as well as her son-in-law's, by the way she lived, spoke and taught us. Besides that, I have seen so much of good and bad--I can pretty quickly discern the difference. The proof is often in the "pudding". 

   

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Lamb of God

" And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together."

Sometimes, when things get tough we forget. I'm sure it was tempting for Abraham to forget at the moment when God "tested" him. After all, there were a couple of occasions when Abraham became forgetful--faithful as he was. Remember, his encouragement to Sarah to lie--first to Pharaoh, and then to Abimelech. Abraham had Sarah tell the same lie--that she was his sister--well, it was a half-truth (it was spoken with the intent to deceive), because of his fear. Abraham forgot God's providential care at those moments--he forgot His promise. Abraham forgot that there was a Covenant necessitating both his and Sarah's health and well-being. He didn't need to intervene, or lie to protect himself or Sarah. God was in control. If he didn't fully understand when he encountered Pharaoh, he certainly had it all laid out before he met Abimelech. In Genesis 17, God told Abraham, "As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.... Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after himAnd as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year." Yet, when Abraham arrives in Gerar (chapter 20), he still forgot, and went back to his old ways and had Sarah tell that same tired tale to Abimelech.

Now, don't be too hard so Abraham. All of this was new to Him. God--one God, the Voice of God, and walking by faith were brand new and he had no experience in these matters. Abraham grew up among idolaters--I guess that's why God separated him, before He began to really manifest Himself in His life. It takes a long time for us to figure things out, to mature and become wise enough to stop depending on ourselves and begin to trust in Jehovah Jireh (the God Who will "see to it"). God will get done those things that we cannot--Romans 4:17 says, "...(as it is written, A father of many nations have I made thee) before him whom he believed, even God, Who giveth life to the dead, and calleth the things that are not, as though they were." That is Who God Is, and what God does. He creates, and has creative power. He sees to things we can't see, handle, figure out, fathom, make, or even imagine. He did it for Abraham, and He still does it, today. Our problem is we spend so much time applying God's creative power to things that already exist in nature, things we can earn or obtain on our own if we try hard enough or want bad enough. That is not what His power or our faith in Him (or it) is for. Faith is about eternity (for example: Luke 17:5); we need faith to enable us to live righteously  (forgiving and loving, etc. those who don't deserve it) in the earth, because we don't have to power or ability to do so on our own--it takes God to perform it in us. We need love--God is Love. Just try to live holy without love...it cannot be done. Self-righteousness, yes; holiness, NO.

Abraham was believing God, not simply for a son, but for a Son, through whom the entire world could receive salvation. By the end of Genesis, Jacob, the grandson of Abraham says, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." In other words, they have been waiting, and are still waiting for Jesus or in Hebrew, Yeshua (thy salvation=yshuw`ah). Although, Abraham, Jacob and all of the patriarchs received many earthly blessings, their true hearts desire and longing was for Yeshua. It was the salvation of Israel that they sought--and they knew that it wasn't only Israel that would be saved, but that through Israel, the Messiah (Yeshua Ha' Mashiach=Jesus Christ ) would come. They were looking for the Lamb of God.

There was no doubt in the mind of Abraham--or even Isaac that God would "see to it". Clearly, Abraham had raised Isaac to believe God. Isaac was not a small boy when they took that trip to Mount Moriah to sacrifice. It was Isaac who carried the wood (like Christ carried the cross), laid down on the altar (like Christ laid down His life for us) and allowed his aged father to bind him (Like Christ allowed Himself to be beaten, spit on, mocked and nailed to the cross), understanding fully the ritual of sacrifice. Scholars put Isaac's age anywhere from 17-37. The Talmud suggests he was about 37 years old at the time of this occurrence. We cannot dismiss the faith of Isaac. Abraham is the father of faith, certainly Isaac was a faithful son of faith. They both trusted in God's ability to provide a sacrifice or to restore Isaac to life, because God promised that Isaac was the son of the Covenant and he had not yet fulfilled his role. They rested on that promise as they prepared to obey God. I can only imagine the pain and anguish--the psychological strain that must have been felt then. Those final moments preceding the raising of the knife must have been horrendous for both, yet, they trusted God to keep His eternal word. 
At the same time it was spiritually prophetic, it was supernatural. Supernatural, in that God met the immediate need and stopped Abraham from slaying Isaac and provided a natural  lamb. Spiritually significant, in the fact that Abraham knew that a Lamb would come and stand in the gap, as the supreme Sacrifice for mankind. Abraham "saw" prophetically, what John beheld naturally, and we have dwelling within us, spiritually, leading us and guiding us toward perfection. 

"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
   

Friday, January 17, 2014

DEAD Wrong

If Job's experience isn't a perfect example to prove that the Prosperity "Doctrine" (which is so popular in Western churches today) is dead wrong, than what is?

In Job, God's righteous servant (and, God declared it to be so), we have a man who did all of the right things and served God with his whole heart, yet, calamity washed over him almost to consume him. It simply doesn't line up with the mantra of good things happen to faithful people and bad things happen to the wicked or unfaithful.  It also doesn't line up with God's Word. Jesus said, "...for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Eliphaz could easily be a popular prosperity preacher, today--I can just see him all decked out on television, filled with emotion, preaching that message: "If you have faith in God, than there is nothing out of your reach! Those who do not believe, it is evident--the proof is in their lives--of lack and poverty. God wants those whom He loves to have the best of everything--after all we are the King's kids--and as children of a King, we inherit all of the substance of the kingdom--all of the wealth and the health, too...blah, blah, blah." But, Eliphaz and all of the other false teachers seem to be clueless about some of God's most faithful servants of the Bible--the sufferers. Not only Job, but those "elect" saints of 1 Peter who experienced extreme persecution living in catacombs for fear of Nero and his wickedness, as he falsely accused them of burning 3/4 of Rome (story has it, Nero probably did it himself!). The "elect" were also accused of being cannibals because they partook of the Lord's Supper, called atheists because they refused to worship Nero, and were tortured, thrown to the lions, boiled, burned for the enjoyment of the Roman spectators. Then, there was the "cloud of witnesses"--that great Hall of Fame of the faith-filled. Of them, it is written:
"Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Hebrews 11:33-40

You see, the riches that God guarantees and assures us of, are not corruptible, but spiritual and eternal in the Heavens. They cannot be stolen, or lost and if we "delight" ourselves in the Lord, He will give us exactly what we delight in--the eternal, immortal gift of Himself. He won't tarnish, and no moth can corrupt His presence in us. How else could those saints in 1 Peter know anything of "joy unspeakable and full of glory" in their circumstances--if it wasn't spiritual, rather than natural and earthy???

Take that, Eliphaz!

Learn how to be compassionate and understanding--especially when you don't know. Don't assume. Maybe, they are being "considered" because they are so faithful.