Category Archives: Worship

Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Thank You, Lord Jesus!

You have preserved my life for 67 years and You have blessed me with a good, strong body and excellent health. And even though I have not escaped “the curse,” I still do pretty well, for an “old man.”

A couple of months ago I thought I was fit enough to run, and, while You kept whispering to me not to do it, I thought I could, and did. The next day, my right knee loudly complained that I should have listened to You.

Thank You for a good physical trainer that understands the anatomy that You designed and assembled enough to take it easy on my whining knee, and who encouraged me to have a doctor take a closer look. This time I listened, and I went to see my familiar orthopedist, Dr. Medlock. Thank You for the knowledge You have revealed to men and women in the medical field. Thank You for the desire You have instilled in them to devote their lives to the care of others.

Dr. Medlock started with conservative means – a cortisone shot to the knee. That did not help, so he ordered an MRI. Thank You for such wonderful technology You have allowed humans to develop that see inside the human body to help doctors pinpoint physical injuries. Dr. Medlock saw that I had, for the second time in one year, torn the medial meniscus in my right knee, and it would require surgery to repair.

Last Friday, May 26, 2017, I went to the Ambulatory Surgery Center at Medical City, Dallas to get the work done. Thank You, Jesus that You have allowed me to live in the United States of America where we have an abundance of good public and private hospitals staffed with talented and well-trained medical personnel that are efficiently run without oppressive government meddling. Dr. Medlock is an excellent doctor.  With the use of an arthroscope (again, thank You for technology) and the skill of an excellent surgeon (thank You for Dr. Medlock), I was out of the operating room in less than an hour.

Thank You for my wonderful wife, June, who drove me home in the car You gave us. Thank You for an abundance of food at every corner. June bought me a double-double Whataburger for my first meal with money You have provided through the ability You have given us and by the good employment You have provided. You have even provided the insurance to cover most of the medical expenses through the employment You have provided.

Lord Jesus, Thank You for a church family, and a choir and Sunday school family and all the many Christian brothers and sisters You have blessed us with that care for us, and pray for us, and encourage us as we go through the down parts of life. You have not left us alone!

Today, I am four days out of surgery. So far, You have given me the strength to walk eight blocks around the neighborhood, and I plan to walk at least four more before the day is done. Tomorrow, I will drive the pickup You gave me to the place of service You have provided for me.

Thank You, my Lord Jesus, most of all because I am Yours.

Lord, I feel sorry for all those who are so richly blessed by You, and they do not even realize from Whom their blessings flow. Open their eyes, Lord. All things come from Your hand, dear Lord Jesus. Thank You.

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Loving God

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If ye love me, keep my commandments … If a man love me, he will keep my words. (John 14:15, 23)

How can one love God? Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). How does one love or worship “a Spirit”? By definition, a spirit is immaterial. A spirit cannot be heard, seen, smelled, tasted, or touched. Those who choose not to believe in God use this as an excuse. Understandably, it is difficult for us material beings to relate to the Spirit of God. Some, I think, attempt to make the connection by raising hands and swaying to the music of a Sunday morning worship service in order to achieve some sort of euphoric state. (I’m not making fun. I have no way of knowing what goes on inside the heart of others. I’m only making an observation.) I cannot do that. I am not a touchy-feely person that requires a lot of external stimulus. I know God intuitively. God is real regardless of how I feel or whether I can sense Him or not, but to love Him, I must understand His personhood.

One aspect of God’s personhood is His desire to have fellowship with His creation. From the beginning we read, “And they [Adam and Eve] heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day … And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:8-9). God feels hurt when betrayed, but acts justly, yet with mercy. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, God expressed hurt when He said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22), and although He had created the Garden of Eden just for them, He acted justly “and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:22-23). Yet He showed mercy toward the couple. Rather than kill them outright, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 2:21) substituting the life of innocent animals to cover their sin.

From the beginning we find that, while God is just in punishing sin, His love for us, His creation created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), manifests itself in His grace and mercy. We see this pattern revealed again in His dealing with Cain for murdering Abel (Genesis 4). We sense God’s pain: “And he said [to Cain], What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). Because of this horrific act, God executed justice by banishing Cain to a life of wandering (Genesis 4:12), but He showed mercy on him by placing an identifying mark on him to keep others from taking revenge on him (Genesis 4:15).

Still, a greater example comes from the Flood account in Genesis 6-9. By that time mankind had become so wicked and corrupt, “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:6, emphasis mine). The word translated “repented” is the Hebrew word nâcham, which means to “sigh” or “breathe strongly,” or, by implication, “to be sorry.” It does not mean that God changed His mind (Malachi 3:6). The end of that verse expresses God’s hurt over man’s depravity: “it grieved him at his heart.” God’s justice came in the form of the Flood. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8, emphasis mine). Because of His grace, i.e. love, God showed mercy in saving His creation from complete destruction.

We could go on and on with examples, but from the beginning of Genesis, the pattern was set for the personhood of God. He is just, loving and merciful (and much more). We should also note, in these first examples that it is man who does wrong, but it is God who first responds out of His love for us. Indeed, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). John writes in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16, emphasis mine). The word order in the Greek emphasizes God’s love – “so loved God the world.” So great is God’s love that He acted. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

The shama proclaims “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He quoted the shama, (Matthew 22:36-38). It seems rather paradoxical that God, who first loved us, demands that we love Him when our natural inclination is to reject Him. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11, emphasis mine). Yet this jilted lover reached down to those who rejected him (John 1:10-11) and literally gave His life to rescue us from the very clutches of eternal death.

When we come to a deep understanding of that reality, our desire should be to return that love. But how? We can’t wrap our arms around Him. We can’t kiss His wounded head, hands, and feet. How can we express our love for Him in a tangible way that truly demonstrates our love?  How can we “love the LORD [our] God with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] might”? God gave the answer. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8). In short, we demonstrate our love for God by obeying His commandments. Someone might say, “But that is Old Testament. We live under the New Testament; we are not bound by the Law.” That is both true and false. We cannot be saved by obeying the Law, but that does not nullify the Law. It still serves as our standard, i.e. our guide book. There is a saying, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

The Law gives us something to aim for. The fact that we cannot perfectly meet that standard is the reason Jesus had to die in our place. And He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Note that “commandments” is plural. Jesus, who is God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14), gave those commandments to Moses, and He says, “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). However, He did condense all of His Law down to two: (1) “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  (2) “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Then He said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). If we can do all of that, then we are keeping all of His commandments, and thereby we demonstrate our love for Him. But how do we know we are keeping those two? Check the guide book – the Old Testament.

Loving God has nothing to do with the euphoric experience you get, or don’t get, out of Sunday morning “worship” service. Loving God means obeying His commandments. That is how you show your love for God, and no fuzzy feelings are required.

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Eyes That See Not

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Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.  (Ezekiel 12:2)

In this day of technological marvels it is increasingly more difficult to believe in miracles. It seems that every extraordinary accomplishment or phenomenon can be explained by some naturalistic means. Today we possess the ability to send men to the moon and return them safely. We send probes deep into space to explore distant planets in our solar system. Our space telescopes look deep into the far reaches of our universe. Medical science, while it has yet to find the cure for cancer, has made remarkable progress in healing patients having the dread disease. Scientists in the study of eugenics continue to make inroads into the modification of human DNA with the hopes of creating super humans with capabilities for greater physical endurance, greater mental agility and intellectual acuity, better vision with the ability to see into the infrared light spectrum, and all of this while consuming less food.[1],[2] This, of course, is for the betterment of mankind, and is seen as our next step in human evolution.

No wonder, then, that scoffers deny the miracles recorded in the Bible. However, this is nothing new. Skepticism in the Word of God has existed since the Garden of Eden: “Yea, hath God said …” (Genesis 3:1). During the Age of Enlightenment (a misnomer in my opinion) “reason” supplanted “faith” so that every effect resulted from a natural cause. Reason, then, eliminated miracles because from this perspective, everything has a natural explanation. Enlightened theologians attempted to explain the miracles of the Bible though natural means. Some who were less capable for the task simply rejected the miracles altogether and relegated them to the category of myth. Thomas Jefferson, for example, redacted the New Testament by excluding every record of Jesus’ miracles from the Gospels.[3]

Rejection of the Bible continues today in greater force due to our technological advancements. So, what is a miracle, anyway? By definition, a miracle is “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause[4] (emphasis mine). By definition, a miracle has no natural explanation and can only be attributed to the supernatural. Arguably, the greatest miracle of all is the universe itself, and all that it contains – from the largest star to the tiniest subatomic particle. Even though there is great disagreement among atheistic scientists about the origin of the universe, they all tenaciously seek a natural explanation for the existence of it all. The Big Bang theory is in such crisis that some have proposed an “eternal” universe disregarding the Second Law of Thermodynamics (entropy – everything is dying). Yet the Bible offers the simplest explanation of all: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis mine) – beginning (time), heaven (space), earth (matter/energy) – the universe. The existence of the universe is a miracle – an immense effect brought about by a “supernatural” cause – God.

If one rejects this greatest of all miracles, which has no natural explanation despite all the theories man can contrive, then no other miracles recorded in Scripture are credible. For this reason, liberal theologians contend that the Global Flood (Genesis 6-9) was just local in spite of the unreasonableness of the command to build an Ark for the event. The confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel mythically explains the diversity of languages. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah resulted from an asteroid impact or a long-since vanished volcano. The Red Sea crossing came about by a hot easterly wind that died up the very shallow Reed Sea – a marsh. The quail with which God fed the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16:13) were migrating and coincidently tired out exactly where Israel was camped so that about a million Israelites ate until full. Downplaying such miracles takes little effort, but they are equally defensible by employing some simple logic. What about the sun stopping (Joshua 10:11-13), or regressing ten degrees (2 Kings 20:11)? Can an ax head really float (2 Kings 6:5-6)? These things defy the physical laws as we know them, and since the skeptic fails in concocting natural explanations for such occurrences, these miracles are attributed to either fantasy or myth. Either way, the skeptic rejects all miracles. For the skeptic, miracles either have a natural explanation, or they will have a natural explanation when “science” learns more, or they are simply fantasy.

These are they who “have eyes to see, and see not” (our starting verse); but for those who “have eyes to see,” miracles are real, and they happen every day.  The creation of a new life in the womb occurs thousands of times daily. Those who “see not” attribute that to natural biological reproduction. But out of millions of sperm cells deposited during sexual intercourse, how does one particular sperm cell just happen to fertilize one particular ovum to create one very unique individual? Who writes the DNA code for the 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) that make up the one-of-a-kind person we are individually? Even identical twins are not exactly identical. The naturalist has no explanation for this and attributes it to random chance. God says, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee …” (Jeremiah 1:5). Those who have “eyes to see” respond, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:14-16). They who “have eyes to see, and see not” suffer from a spiritual blindness that prevents them from seeing the supernatural work of God – the miracles that take place every day.

They who have “eyes to see,” believe the words of Jesus when He said, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). When God answers their prayer, they who have “eyes to see” recognize the Source and give credit to Whom credit is due.

Recently my brother-in-law was involved in a farming accident where he was run over by a huge farm tractor. There are so many ways that he could have died that day. He tells me that when the tractor ran over him he was completely at peace knowing that he would soon see Jesus. He says, “I kept looking around expecting to see heaven, but all I could see was corn stalks.” The tractor he had been driving was pulling a trailer full of silage, and it was coming toward him to get him a second time. The tractor had crushed his pelvis and broken his hip so that he was unable to move, yet he felt that “Someone” rolled him out of the way of the oncoming trailer. Some time elapsed before his son-in-law found him and contacted emergency services. He was flown to Omaha where he spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. He had several surgeries to reconstruct his pelvis and replace his hip. Today, nearly four months after the accident, he has returned to work and is walking with the assistance of a cane. The skeptic would attribute his recovery to the excellent work of the physicians that attended him, and they completely miss the miracle that transpired. Those who have “eyes to see” know that even before anyone knew of the accident, God was already at work to preserve his life. Then as soon as “believing” friends and family were made aware of the situation, petitions to the Father started flooding the gates of heaven on his behalf and continued throughout his recovery. Those with “eyes to see” see the miracle that those who “see not” miss.

For them who “see not” the miracles that God performs every day but have a desire to see, Jesus says, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).  To have eyes that see requires only that one take God at His Word and ask. “[I]f thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). If you have “eyes that see not,” Jesus says, “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:18). That “eye-salve” is the Word of God contained in the Bible. It will teach you how to see the miracles of God.

Notes:


[1]  http://www.inhumanthemovie.com/

[2]  Horn, Thomas and Nita Horn, Forbidden Gates: How Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic Biology, Nanotechnology, and Human Enhancement Herald The Dawn Of TechnoDimensional Spiritual Warfare, (Defender Publishing LLC, January 1, 2011)

[3]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible

[4]  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/miracle?s=t

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Psalm 103

All that is within me, bless His Holy Name!

All that is within me, bless His Holy Name!

Psalm 103

A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

This wonderful psalm reminds us to give grateful praise to God for all His goodness and love that He continually demonstrates for His children. When we think of blessing someone, we often think of doing something good for that person. When we think of God blessing us, we might think of having good health, a nice home, a wonderful family and friends or any number of things – good things. But is that really what it means to be blessed? And if that is so, how can we possibly bless God? I mean, what can we give to God that He does not already have? (Besides your heart)

Perhaps “blessing” is not what we think it is. As translated in this psalm (and many other places in the Old Testament) the Hebrew word is bârak, and according to the Strong’s Dictionary, it means: “to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), and (vice-versa) man (as a benefit); also (by euphemism) to curse (God or the king, as treason): –  X abundantly, X altogether, X at all, blaspheme, bless, congratulate, curse, X greatly, X indeed, kneel (down), praise, salute, X still, thank.” I don’t know about you, but that definition is certainly confusing. In reading the context of the psalm, we gather that cannot mean to curse God, so by the general tone of the psalm we can infer “an act of adoration.” The Greek translation in the Septuagint (LXX) of this psalm uses the word eulόgei, which means “to speak well of,” and from which we get our English word “eulogy.” I have never been to a funeral where an ill word was spoken of the dearly departed; only good is spoken of the dead in a eulogy.

So this psalm encourages us to “eulogize” God from the very core of our being. We are to “speak well of” His holy name. Why should we do this? The next four verses instruct us. We “eulogize” Him because of how He treats us, i.e., “His benefits.” He forgives our perversities (“iniquities”) which is a disease that only He can heal. He “redeems” our lives, i.e., He “buys us back” from destruction, i.e., eternity in hell. Not only that, but He elevates us to royal status by awarding us a crown, and all of this is because of His “loving-kindness” and “tender mercies.” This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) who spurned his father’s love and wasted all that his father gave to him. Then, while in the filthy, smelly pigsty, having hit absolute bottom, the son remembered all that the father’s house had to offer, and leaving his pride in the mud pit, he determined to return to his father’s house as a lowly servant. But rather than chastise him for his ingratitude and cast him out as a worthless vagrant, the father welcomed him with open arms and elevated him to his former status of the master’s son and heir to the father’s wealth. Then the father threw a huge party with lots of wonderful food – he killed the “fatted calf” that was reserved for special occasions – to celebrate his boy’s return. The fifth verse tells us that He “satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Imagine how the son felt after a long season of hunger, shame, and disgrace! That is what God offers us, and we should speak well of Him for that.

We eulogize the Lord because He carries out righteous judgment on behalf of all who are oppressed. He is merciful – He withholds the punishment we deserve; He is slow to anger. He is gracious – granting us what we do not deserve; He is abounding in mercy. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (v. 10). As great as His mercy is – greater than the heights of heaven – it is there for those “that fear Him.” Do not think for one moment that you can live like the devil and obtain His mercy; but His mercy is there when you recognize Him for Who He is – the great Creator God, Who is to be feared, and whose name is holy and deserves to be “well-spoken of.” When we understand that, He will remove our transgressions, “As far as the east is from the west so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (v. 12).

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (v. 13). “Pity” is an unfortunate translation here. The Hebrew word is râcham, and it means to fondle, love, show compassion. Picture a father or mother cuddling an infant child – that’s the picture; and again it is qualified by “them that fear Him.” His love and compassion stem from the fact that He knows our “frame.” That Hebrew noun is yêtser, whose verb form is yâtsar, which means to “mold” or “form” as a potter fashions a clay vessel. God knows how we were made because He made us out of the dust of the earth, and He cherishes us. This should cause us to “bless” His name!

Our life on earth is brief. Moses said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). This psalm reminds us of that truth. When compared to eternity, our life is like grass or a Texas wild flower; when the hot winds of summer blow in, they dry up and their beauty is forgotten. But God’s mercy is not like that. This psalm says that His mercy “is from everlasting to everlasting” (v. 17). Once again, the promise is to “them that fear Him,” i.e., “To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them” (v. 18). For these “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (v. 19).

In light of all that God has done, all of His creation – the hosts of angels that do His bidding and all of His “works” over which He has dominion (that includes everything and excludes nothing) – can do no less than “speak highly, reverently, and fearfully of the Lord.” And if we fail to do so, Jesus says that the very “stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). Let not the stones do what we were created to do.  “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

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Thank You, Lord

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  (James 1:17)

Name one thing – anything – that you have that does not come from God. How much time do you need to think about it? In the meantime, think about this:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:27-28)

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16)

Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews. Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit. And these things hast thou hid in thine heart: I know that this is with thee. (Job 10:11-13)

The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. (Job 33:4)

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. (Psalm 36:7-9)

Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: (Isaiah 42:5)

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; (Acts 17:24:25)

And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2:22)

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. (Psalm 128:3)

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD. (Proverbs 18:22)

House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD. (Proverbs 19:14)

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: (Genesis 16:2)

And God said unto 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. (Genesis 17:15-16)

So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. (Genesis 20:17)

And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. (Genesis 48:9)

Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORDFor this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him (1 Samuel 1:19-20 )

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD. (Psalm 113:9)

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. (Psalm 127:3-4)

Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers. (Proverbs 17:6)

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. (Exodus 16:15)

For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18)

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. (Psalm 104:14-15)

Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 136:25-26)

The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:14-16)

I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause: Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number: Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields: (Job 5:8-10)

Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. (Psalm 147:7-9)

Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest. (Jeremiah 5:24)

Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:16-17)

He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26)

And I commanded you at that time, saying, The LORD your God hath given you this land to possess it: ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all that are meet for the war. (Deuteronomy 3:18)

And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. (Deuteronomy 26:9)

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) (2 Corinthians 9:8-10)

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1 Timothy 6:17)

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I [God] will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (2 Chronicles 1:12)

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. (Psalm 104:24)

Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. (Psalm 112:3)

Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19)

For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)

And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: (Daniel 2:21)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5)

The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:3)

And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. (Psalm 35:9)

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2)

I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.  (Isaiah 43:11)

Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me. (Hosea 13:4)

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:18)

[Jesus says] Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:32-33)

[Jesus said] I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51)

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11)

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. (Ephesians 5:2)

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (Titus 2:11)

Were you able to think of anything that does not come from God? Everything comes from God and He pours out His riches on believers and non-believers alike. Even His free gift of salvation is available to all, but unlike the sun and rain that fall on all alike, the gift of salvation must be accepted as a matter of choice. Thank God from Whom ALL blessings flow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Priorities

priorities

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

We all have priorities – those things that are most important to us. Things that, when we are forced to make a choice, supersede all others. Many of those things merit high priority – spouse, family, friends, health, etc. Other things that we make high priority are not so worthy – entertainment, pleasure, material possessions, and things of that sort. Whatever our priorities, God wants us to make Him top priority in all things.

A couple of Sundays ago, the Rev. J. John of England, touted as “Europe’s Billy Graham,” gave the sermon at our church. He presented a great message, but the part that stuck with me most was the acrostic “FIRST” that was offered as a memory aid to help us remember to put Jesus first in every area of our lives.

F

Put Jesus FIRST in your Finances. Someone once said, “Show me a man’s checkbook register, and I will show you where his priorities lie.” Throughout the Old Testament, God demanded the first and the best of the people’s possessions – the firstborn male child (Exodus 13:2), the firstborn of every animal (Exodus 34:19), the first of the harvest, a tenth of the harvest (Leviticus 27:30, 32; Deuteronomy 14:22, 28), etc. God has no need of any of these things. In fact, they all belong to Him in the first place (Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 25:23; Job 41:11; Psalm 50:10, 12; Haggai 2:8). The reason He makes these demands is so that His people will learn to depend on Him for their provision. The tithe (the tenth part) is not addressed in the New Testament, but “generous giving” is encouraged. Luke tells us that the early believers “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:45). As Paul made the circuit of the churches, he took up a collection for the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem. Of the churches in Macedonia he commented, “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality … Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:2, 4, 5, emphasis mine). Note that they gave themselves FIRST to the Lord. In order to have our priorities right, we must put Jesus and His kingdom FIRST in your Finances.

I

Put Jesus FIRST in your Interests. These days many things contend for our attention – television, Facebook, entertainment, family, friends, etc. How often do those things keep us from spending time in God’s Word or in prayer? What kinds of books or magazines do we read? Are they God-honoring? When given the opportunity to attend a professional sporting event that conflicts with a church service, which do we choose? Do you allow your children’s sports activities to keep you away from church on Sunday? If our priorities are right, the things of God should be FIRST in our Interests.

R

Put Jesus FIRST in your Relationships. Jesus said “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). That is painfully clear, and it may seem rather harsh; but God created the family, and when God is given first place in familial relationships, there will be enough love to go around and then some. In fact, we are instructed in proper familial relationships. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).  “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right … And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1, 4). Of course, even when we follow God’s instructions, our relationships may not work out to our liking. Jesus warned that our commitment to Him may divide our families. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:35-36, emphasis mine). In that case, Jesus must come FIRST. As for relationships outside of the family, we are instructed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). If our priorities are right, we must put Jesus FIRST in our Relationships.

S

Put Jesus FIRST in your Schedule. Many things compete for our time. In the busyness of our lives, making time for God can be a challenge. The best way to overcome this is to set a time every day to spend time with God in prayer and Bible reading. I am reminded of Daniel when a law was passed “that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God … shall be cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Daniel put God FIRST in his Schedule and “he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10, emphasis mine). Daniel had his schedule set and nothing was going to keep him from his appointment with God, not even a decree from the king. If we want our priorities to be right, we must put Jesus FIRST in our Schedule.

T

Put Jesus FIRST in your Troubles. While it is true that we often forget about God until we are really in trouble, too many times we try to manage our trouble all on our own and only call on God as a last resort. How about calling on Him at the first sign of trouble? “I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill” (Psalm 3:4). “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1). “But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:19). “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation” (Psalm 118:21). Since God hears us and is ready to come to our aid, why not call on Him FIRST? Better yet, why not stay “prayed up” before trouble hits? When our priorities are right, we make Jesus FIRST in our Troubles.

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Living Sacrifices

Living Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  (Romans 12:1)

Someone said that, “The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar.” The image of a sacrifice recurs numerous times throughout the pages of the Bible, and in every instance, save for maybe one, the victim dies. The first sacrifice was offered by our Lord to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). The pre-incarnate Christ[1] had to slay innocent animals (most likely sheep) in order to atone (cover) for the sin of the first couple. After this, the practice was repeated as is seen by the examples of Abel’s sacrifice (Genesis 4:4) and Noah’s sacrifice following the Flood (Genesis 8:20-21). More than a thousand years later God codified the practice through the Mosaic Law. Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice with His death on the cross. That event ended the death requirement for the sacrifice.

The one instance where the victim was spared was in the case of Abraham sacrificing Isaac (Genesis 22). In his heart, Abraham sacrificed Isaac in obedience to God. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac … Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17, 19). Even though Isaac was spared, a substitute took his place (Genesis 22:11-13); someone or thing had to die. However, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). At last, the blood of Jesus offered the final solution to sin so that neither death, nor the shedding of blood remains as the debt requirement for sin. As the old hymn says, “Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.” Even so, sacrifice, for the believer, still remains.

The English word “sacrifice” translates various Hebrew and Greek words each with differing shades of meaning. The first occurrence of the English word “sacrifice” is found in Genesis 31:54 where it translates the Hebrew word zebach meaning slaughter. In Exodus 23:18 it translates the Hebrew word chag meaning festival or victim. In 1 Kings 18:29 it translates the Hebrew word minchah meaning offering or present. As used in our beginning verse, the Greek word is thusia which is the same as the Hebrew zebach meaning slaughter.

Paul calls us (brethren) to present our physical bodies as “living sacrifices” – slaughtered lives. That seems oxymoronic. How can a slaughtered person live? To the Galatians Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20). Again, how can one crucified live? Obviously Paul cannot be referring to physical death. Elsewhere he explains: “that he [Jesus] died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Hence we die to “self.” “For if ye live after the flesh [i.e. “self”], ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). The Greek word translated “mortify” is thanatoō meaning “to kill,” or, in keeping with our theme, “sacrifice.” Note also that the means by which this is accomplished is “through the Spirit.” That source of power comes about by only one way. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This newness is that of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

Through the rebirth and by the power of the Spirit, the Christian can put to death the old self and present his body as a living sacrifice that is “holy.” That does not mean sinless or perfect. “Holy” means to be set apart, consecrated, or dedicated to God. Holiness is an attribute of God that sets Him apart and above all of His creation. This is why God cannot abide sin and why He must judge and ultimately punish sin. Although we cannot obtain holiness that approaches the holiness of God, yet God demands holiness from His children. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Lamentably, Christians these days fail to understand the meaning of holiness. Many think that just because God’s invitation is “Just As I Am” that nothing needs to change. Perhaps they “walked the aisle” to the words of that old hymn, shook the pastor’s hand, and got dunked in the baptistery at some point in their life, and they presume they are okay. They continue living “just as I am.” But God demands holiness.

How does one achieve holiness? In the following verse Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). In other words, do not allow the world to shape you into its mold. Someone once asked, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Sadly when one looks at Christians they are indistinguishable from non-Christians. They dress the same as non-Christians. They talk the same as non-Christians. They indulge themselves as non-Christians. There are absolutely no distinguishing characteristics. God says, “do not be conformed to this world.” Rather we should be “transformed.” Here again is the idea of being “born again.” The Greek word translated “transformed” is metamorphoō from which we get our English word metamorphosis. “Metamorphosis to the adult stage is nothing less than a biological miracle. Complex molecules called enzymes are released, that literally digest the caterpillar while it is ensconced in the chrysalis, converting it into a rich soup of disjointed tissues and cells—which after four days becomes an adult butterfly.”[2] In a manner of speaking, the caterpillar dies, and its liquefied self is “transformed” into a beautiful butterfly. In similar manner, when the person is born again, there is a spiritual transformation that takes place so that the old self is sacrificed and the “new creation” is set apart, dedicated as an acceptable offering to God. That acceptable offering is “your reasonable [logical] service” to God. The Greek word translated “service” is latreia meaning ministration or worship of God. This suggests that all of your life should be conducted as an act of worship to God. It has nothing to do with going to church on Sunday and lifting your hands while you sway to the “worship music.” Your acceptable worship to God is your life – all of it.

Here is where the “living sacrifices” crawl off of the altar. Too many Christians think of worship as what they do on Sunday mornings. Then on Monday, it’s back to conforming to the world. In order for the metamorphosis to become at least semi-permanent, there must be a “renewing of the mind.” That can only take place when the Christian spends time in daily prayer and Bible reading. Instead of reading worldly books, read books by excellent Bible teachers that will build you up. Instead of wasting a lot of time watching worthless, or, worse, harmful television programs, watch and listen to great Bible teachers on TV, DVD or the internet. In other words, fill your mind with the things of God. That will give you a godly perspective on life and the world, and it will change the way that you think. When your thinking changes, the way that you conduct your life will change also. When that happens, you will be set apart – holy – a living sacrifice, acceptable to God.

Notes:


[1] See: https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/02/16/the-first-sacrifice/

[2] Frank Sherwin, “Butterflies vs. Macroevolution” http://www.icr.org/article/butterflies-vs-macroevolution/

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