Extravagant??

even-smaller-bug-light136 The almond buds and branches must all be of one piece with the center stem, and they must be hammered from pure gold. 37 Then make the seven lamps for the lampstand, and set them so they reflect their light forward. 38 The lamp snuffers and trays must also be made of pure gold. 39 You will need 75 pounds of pure gold for the lampstand and its accessories. — Exodus 25:36-39 NLT

For those who think God has something against money, prosperity and being rich, here is something to think about.  Seventy-five pounds of gold is 1200 ounces.  On today’s market, gold is listed at $1114.30 per ounce.  That means that in today’s world, the cost of the lampstand and all of its accessories would be $1,336,800 in US currency.  Extravagant?  If you own all the gold in the world, does extravagant even have a meaning?  One could object that God took all this money from the poor, homeless Israelis.  Why would He do that?  But, we must remember when they were slaves in Egypt, they had nothing and when God called them out of Egypt, He caused the Egyptians to give the Israelis all of their jewelry and gold.  He was the reason they had the gold in the first place, they were just carrying it for Him.  The same is true of us today, anything that we have came from God and we are just carrying it for Him. The next time the offering plate is passed, ​we need to ​remember where our gold came from and give a goodly portion of it back.  When ​we​  have an opportunity to share the bount​iful gifts​ God has so freely given to u​s, let us​ share it with a joyful, thankful heart. Take a moment to remember and thank God for His extravagance in giving us His Son. ​ We will never be able to give to God more than He has given to us.  When we seriously think about it, God doesn’t really require much of us.
8  No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. ​ — Micah 6:8 NLT​
Post 01-31-2016

Redemption and Restoration

even-smaller-bug-light11 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. — Galatians 6:1-3 NLT

Yesterday, I wrote about witnessing by spending time with sinners.  We are called to do just that, but in doing so, we need to use wisdom and discernment.  Being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit does not keep us from making bad decisions.  If we have weaknesses of the flesh, we need to avoid those situations where we would be needlessly tempted.  We don’t put ourselves in harm’s way unless we are sure that we have been called to do that.  Just as it would be foolish to step into the street in front of a speeding truck to try to prove that God always protects us, it is foolish for us to put ourselves in dangerous situations if God has not called us to do so.  Not many of us are David Wilkersons (The Cross and the Switchblade) who can successfully face the dangers of the worst parts of New York City to witness to gang members.  Nevertheless, we all have a calling to witness to those around us.  The mission field starts in the home and goes outward from there.  We do not want to be like the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19) who ended up battered and naked.  We must use discernment in where, when and to whom we witness, but that is never to be used as an excuse not to witness.  We may not be sure of all of God’s will for each of our lives but there are two things we can be sure of in this journey with Jesus.  We are to make disciples as we go, we all have our marching orders to do that.  We are supposed to restore the fallen as well, but do so circumspectly avoiding the very appearance of evil.

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,  baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”– Matt. 28:19,20 NLT
Post 01-30-2016

God or Man?

even-smaller-bug-light112 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” — Matt. 9:12, 13 NLT

This statement by Jesus is in answer to the Pharisees who were complaining about Jesus and His disciples eating with sinners.  Jesus had just called Matthew to come and follow Him.  Matthew had  invited Jesus and His disciples to his home to have dinner with him and some other tax collecters and disreputable sinners.  The Pharisess had referred to the group as scum (verse 11).
Jesus knew that the Pharisees would not accept Him and His teachings because they thought they were righteous already.  W​ith w​ho​m​ do we spend our time outside the church building?  Do we, as the disciples of Jesus, spend all of our time with other Christians or do we seek the lost and minister to them?  Do we have a missionary mentality or is it “We four and no more”?  Jesus was sent to seek and to save the lost.  ​Because He did that, He was rejected, offended, persecuted and eventually hung on a cross. ​ He commanded us to do the same and gave us the authoirty to do just that.  When we do that, we stand the chance of being rejected, offended and​ criticized for “eating with scum”?   ​Suffering these things puts us in the same group with Jesus ​and God is pleased with us.  Which is better, to live a lifestyle that pleases God and lay up eternal rewards or to live a lifestyle that pleases men gainng worldly rewards but losing our own souls?

20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:20,21 NLT

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Eyes On Jesus

even-smaller-bug-light113 “With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed.
In your might, you guide them to your sacred home. — Exodus 15:13 NLT

God led the Israelis through the Red Sea and across the desert with the physical presence of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  It was possible for them to travel twenty-four hours a day without getting lost.  It must have been very reassuring to see the presence of the cloud and the fire and know that they were traveling in the exact direction God wanted to travel at all times. God did not lead them in a straight path from Egypt to Canaan. There were detours that avoided certain areas and dangers.  There were delays and a lot of murmuring and complaining.  We have a guide that is with us twenty-four hours a day as well.  He lives inside us.  But for us to know and understand His directions, we have to spend time talking with Him and meditating on His Word.  There will be detours in our lives as well.  Some of those detours are caused by God and are designed to teach us and to keep us safe from harm.  But just as the Israelis spent way too long in the desert because of their disobedience, some of our detours are caused by our mistakes and bad decisions.  Most of us will probably spend more time complaining than we do studying the Word.  Nevertheless, God is faithful and forgiving and just as He eventually got the Israelis to the Promised Land, He will guide us safely to His eternal, sacred home.  He has never failed and He never will.  Trust Him with all your heart, mind, soul and body.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. — Hebrews 12:1, 2a NLT
Post 01-28-2016

His Faith – Not Ours

even-smaller-bug-light16 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. — Eph. 2:6-9 NIV

This is a familiar passage to most Christians, yet I wonder if we really grasp everything it says to us.  It explains to us why God saved us and raised us up. It was not just for our benefit, though that would have been more than enough.  He did it so He could show to us and the world the “incomparable riches of His grace”.  The greatest expression of that grace was God allowing Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to die on a cruel cross for our sins. It is that grace that has saved us, through faith.  Not our faith, His faith, His gift to us. That is why we can be sure that our salvation is eternal.  Thanks be to God that my salvation is not based on my faith, which is not always steadfast. It is based on His faith, which is steadfast and eternal.  If it were based on my faith, I could be saved today and lost tomorrow.  His faith is everlasting!
89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;  it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;  you established the earth, and it endures. — Psalm 119:89, 90

15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! — 2 Cor. 9:15

Post 01-27-2016

Forgive? Absolutely! Forget? Well……

even-smaller-bug-light125  “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. — Isaiah 43:25 NLT

God forgives us of our sins and chooses not to remember them or hold them ​against us.  No where in the Bible are we instructed to “forgive and forget”.  Like many sayings attributed to the Bible, this one is not in there.  While it is a beautiful expression and idea, I am not sure that humans are capable of forgetting those transgressions,  either the ones we have committed against God or those that have been committed against us.  While we may not be capable of forgetting, we are charged over and over with the responsibility of forgiving.  That we can do, because it is an act of the will, it is a decision that we make.  God has certainly told us that His forgiveness of our sins requires us to forgive others
 
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  — Eph. 4:32​

There are many other verses emphasizing the fact that we must forgive.  These verses also show us how our relationship with the Father is affected by a lack of forgiveness. (Matt. 6:15)  They also show us how a lack of forgiveness causes us to become bitter (Hebrews 12) and how unforgiveness will cause us to lose our reward (2 John). 

The “forgetting” part means that we should be so sure and certain about our decision to forigve that the transgression no longer affects our relationship with the person committing the act.  It is no longer a part of any discussion we have or any decision that we make.  It means that just as God has justified our standing with Him, we do the same for the transgressor.  It is as if we had “forgotten” or as if that incident had never happened.
Notice in the passage from Isaiah that God said He would forgive
 ​themfor His sake which indicates there are some good things that come to those who do the forgiving as well as to those who are forgiven.  So,  if for no other reason, we need to forgive for our own sake.

Post 01-26-2016

Childish or Childlike?

even-smaller-bug-light12 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said:“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. — Matt. 18:2-5 NLT

As adults, we can become like children in two different ways.  We can make decisions based on our wants and feelings with no knowledge or concern of what the consequences might be.  This happens when we want to  exercise control or when we make decisions that are based on what we wantt and not what is good for ourselves and others.  An example is not sharing with others as we should and beoming angry when we are asked to do so.  Another example is being disobedient. This is being “childish”.  The other way we can become like chiildren is to live our lives with the innocence of childhood, accepting others without question, being humble and being obedient to parents and authority figures.  This happens when we base our decisions on knowledge and when we consider the outcome of our decisions.  An example of this is to do what is best for the family and/or those around us regardless of what our desires and wants may be.  The best example is that of Jesus and that is to love without conditions and without expecting anything in return. This is being “childlike” and that is the attitude that Jesus says we must have to enter the Kingdom of God. If we are childish, we seek to satisfy our wants and we seek the approval and praise of men.  If we are childlike, we humble ourselves before God, do His work and seek His approval.
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. —- 1 John 3:17, 18 NLT
Post 01-25-2016