Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Tree Is Known By Its Fruit

Luke 6:43-45
A Tree Is Known By Its Fruit

     “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit: nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which is in his heart.” -Jesus
     Jesus tells us here that what comes out of our mouth is what is in our heart and if our heart is pure then good things will come up out of our lives, both from our mouths and from our actions.
     I have a question. Why does it seem like sometimes both good and bad things come out of us. Some times we are full of love towards people and at other times we can think incredibly harsh thoughts about those same people? How come it seems like we are able to produce both good and bad fruit? Here are my thoughts on this subject. It seems to me that Jesus’ words in verse 45 give us a clue. He says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good.” Jesus is talking about our heart. Now if our heart is set on Him and our desire is filled with the longing to be with Him and serving Him then what comes forth from our mouths will be good fruit. Our heart is on Him and our actions towards others will be inspired and motivated by Jesus Himself for we are in love with Him and it has become our desire to do His will. We desire Him to have complete control of all that we do.
     Now if for a moment we take our eyes off of Jesus and we look to someone or something else to be our joy and excitement such as a wife or job or house or car or entertainment, then the fruit of that love will come out of our mouths and actions. Whatever it is that fills our hearts with the desire for it, that is what comes forth from our lives. Or if like Peter we step out of the boat in the middle of a raging storm to walk across the water to Jesus and we, like he did, take our eyes off of Jesus and look at the wind and the storm we will rapidly sink beneath the waves. How easy it is to be like Peter and to take our eyes off of Jesus. It is incredibly easy to look at the storm instead of at Jesus and lose all hope of rescue. Also, how easy it is for the Devil to use something we desire to tempt us to take our eyes off of Jesus to seek after it. (It is even more cunning when he uses things that are lawful to us by God’s rules.)
     Our lives bear the fruit of what we desire and pursue. We must be careful that if there are things here on earth that we want, that we are careful not to set our affections on them more then upon Jesus. Our desires must be set on Him and for all other things we must wait patiently to receive them from His hand. He is the giver of all good gifts and will be faithful to give them to us, and as Hudson Taylor that wonderful missionary to China said, “If it truly is a good gift then God will give it and if it is not a good gift, why want it?”
     We will bear the fruit of what our heart desires and if we truly desire Jesus there will be no lack of good fruit coming forth from our lives. If we turn from that desire for Him even for a moment we allow ourselves to plant seeds that will bring up bad fruit out of our lives. We must quickly turn from these things and fix our eyes back on Jesus and pray that He will uproot all of the bad seeds that we have planted that they may not grow in us. We must strive to keep the weeds pulled from the garden of our hearts that the soil may always have plenty of room to produce good fruit.
     May God bless each one of us this week and may He fill our hearts with a renewed longing to be close to Him and to have our lives full of good fruit.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Answers To Prayer, Not The Theory Of Evolution

Answers To Prayer
Not The Theory Of Evolution

     I just wanted to share an interesting lesson that God taught me a few weeks ago. I was earnestly seeking the Lord about some things on my heart and I told the Lord, “Maybe Your answer will come tomorrow.” And the Lord immediately rebuked me and said, “That kind of faith does not please Me, you pray today, you pray for your answer today, this is the faith that pleases Me.” As you can imagine, that brought me up short real quick because I really wanted faith that pleases God and so many times when we are waiting for an answer to a prayer we just assume in the back of our mind that maybe His answer will be some other day, maybe tomorrow. And to make things even more interesting in this matter between He and I, this was a question I had always asked the Lord, “Why is it always tomorrow and never today?” So when He brought me up short and told me, “You believe today.” His choice of words was very interesting to me.
     This made me start to think a lot more clearly about faith. The truth is, if we fall into doubting God’s answers to prayer or just say with a sigh that maybe it will come tomorrow, we actually fall into believing in the theory of evolution - which is that somehow given enough time, some kind of answer will just come about. So instead of believing in the word of God and His own promises to answer our requests, and that once He has spoken it is as good as done even if it takes a bit of time, we fall into believing that if somehow enough time goes by there is a chance that there might be an answer in it somewhere, and that, with the vagueness of time, and it’s mysterious effects there is more chance of the answer happening. Complete trust that God has given the answer and will complete it, this is the faith that pleases Him.
     I had never considered unspoken doubt and reliance on time to actually be agreeing with the theory of evolution - The theory that given enough time and chance something will happen. With God there is no need for time even if He does choose to use it to complete His work. However, time is not the answer. Once He has spoken it will be done as He has promised. So faith for today is the faith that pleases His heart because He can see our trust in His goodness and love towards us. He loves us with a love that really is too deep for words to describe and if we have any doubt that He will answer it hurts His heart to see how little we know Him or trust Him.
     This lesson has given me a whole new expectation in every area of my prayer life because belief in His answer today is to believe in His great love for us and once we have believed, there may be delays in the completion of His answer, but never in the surety of it being answered. Anything less is to believe in the theory of evolution - “Somehow, maybe if enough time goes by it will happen.”
     God gives His word and we can trust His word for by His word He created all that we see - and us! 
God bless you all!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Proper Attitude For Prayer

Luke 5:12-15
The Proper Attitude For Prayer
     And when it came about that while He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out His hand, and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And Jesus ordered him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.” But the news about Him was spreading even further, and great multitudes were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
     I would like to discus the heart attitude of the leper. Now when the leper met Jesus he fell on his face and poured out his heart to Him saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him saying, “I am willing, be cleansed.” This man had a very real and deadly disease and when he met Jesus he was not shy or reserved in his request for healing and neither did he doubt that Jesus was able to heal him. His request, “Lord if you are willing, You can make me clean” is a beautiful prayer to our Lord. He was not demanding that Jesus heal him and at the same time he’s not implying that Jesus should have no real desire to heal him. He is humbly pouring himself out to Jesus with his very real request.
     I think that we need to take a moment and remember that Jesus is a person. He is the same now as He was then. So often I think that our prayers to Him are not real. I mean, we don’t treat Him as if He is really listening to us. Because of this we remain very reserved in how we pray to Him and rather than lying prostrate on the floor before Him with our requests, we mumble a few words which we don’t truly believe he will answer anyway, and if we have any belief it is usually that He wouldn’t want to answer us anyway.
     Our God loves us! We must approach Him with this attitude if we are to have victory in our prayer life. This does not mean that He will say yes to everything we ask of Him, but we will always receive an answer as to why He says no to some things. It is a real relationship that we have with Him, remember that! He loves us dearly and sent His Son, who came willingly, to die for us because of His love for us! Jesus purchased this relationship for us!
     Therefore, let us not be backward in our prayers, mumbling and disheartened, but rather let us be bold and enjoy the privileges and blessings of the relationship that Jesus gave to us!
     May God bless and encourage each of you this day in all these things!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Simple Faith

Luke 4:14-30
Simple Faith

     When Jesus came back to His home town, the unbelief of His friends and neighbors made Him unwilling to perform many miracles there. Their unbelief, it seems to me, probably stemmed from them having grown up with Him, and having known Him all their lives. Jesus explains to them how in the past God had done wonderful things even for many who were not His chosen people, just because they had believed in His kindness and mercy.
     The people became angry with Him when He did not perform the miracles they requested, but they had asked with the wrong motives. They were not asking for miracles in humility and simple need but rather for their own gain. So when Jesus refused to gratify their fleshly desires, they quickly turned on Him in a rage, intent on killing Him. Jesus illustrates in these verses that He rescues those who humbly trust in the goodness of God, and we have to be careful, as Christians, that we don’t get caught up in a Christian lifestyle and forget that Jesus actually is God. He is not here to gratify our flesh, but to save us from sin. What do I mean by “Christian lifestyle?” Let me explain. The people with whom Jesus was speaking to in these verses were “Godly” people, people who were chosen by God Himself to be His people forever. Their whole lives revolved around going to church and performing all of the required sacrifices which were written in the books of the law as they knew it. And yet when Jesus came among them they could not believe the truth about Him. He was their blood relative not their God. So we also, as Christians, have to be careful to remember that though He has called us His brothers, He is our God and King!
     “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” -Jesus
Every miracle and every word of Jesus was performed and spoken with the intent to spread the reality of the kingdom of God. Jesus was not there to merely satisfy man’s desire for amazing works of God; He was there to teach the truth and the miracles were just a part of His ministry to the poor who would never be able to afford physicians. Jesus was on a mission of mercy; He was not out to proclaim Himself as great in the eyes of the people. Jesus’ ministry was to meet the needs of the poor and to humble the proud. He was not trying to win man’s esteem through His actions; He was glorifying the name of God by doing God’s wonderful and merciful work. He came to show us how much God cared for his poor, sick, and lost sheep. Jesus was God’s hands, feet, and mouth, and not His own.
     Jesus was not seeking the praises of men and would not stay very long in any one place, but once he had completed His work, he would move on. A normal man would probably have wanted to linger once he had done something wonderful for someone, desiring to enjoy their praises. Jesus had truly done something amazing for these people; He was deserving of the highest praises, and yet He would not stay to receive credit, but told the people He must continue on with His work for His heavenly Father. All He did was for the glory and honor of God.
     Question: How often do we emulate Jesus in this way? What are our motives for serving God? Do we have selfish motives mixed with the good?
     Question: Do we get annoyed if we do some selfless act of kindness, and no one seems to notice or thank us for what we did? Do we wait around to see if anyone will say something?And, if by some miracle we pass that test, what if we do that same selfless act for someone, and they not only don’t notice that we did it, but they accuse us of not doing it and proceed to get angry with us for forgetting that it needed to be done?
     Question: What if we go out of our way to make someone a special dinner, and they get home and complain about what they had wanted to have for dinner and expect that you should have known what they wanted that night? Can we pass these remarks or accusations without complaining or getting upset?
     We always seem to have a reward in mind for whatever we do. We desire for them to be thankful. Not that it is wrong for them to thank us, or to praise us; however, Jesus wants us to seek God’s approval for our acts of kindness, so that we are able to go the extra mile in kindness, whether it is for a friend or for our worst enemy. If God is the one who rewards our actions, He will sustain us while we do the humanly impossible, which is to love our enemy. Jesus wants us to have genuine love for all those around us. He wants us to be confident in God knowing that He truly rewards all our actions whether or not anyone else does.
     We belong to God. We are His children. We are to be His hands, feet and mouth, not our own! As long as we seek the notice and praise of men for what we do, we will always fail in showing God’s love, for we are seeking the world’s love, and not God’s. We must do all things without being bribed, bought, or silenced by the world’s hatred or seduction. We are God’s children, and all the rewards for our actions will come from Him. We must be faithful.
     We must be about our Father’s business, which teaches and trains us for compassion for all mankind, so that we cannot keep ourselves from stopping and helping everyone we meet! We need an outpouring of compassion for our neighbor. We need to understand our eternity, and how it is beyond price. If there was a way to save up and buy it, we would work our whole life to obtain it. Instead, God simply requires us to be faithful with the jobs that He gives us, and not to ignore or walk away from our duties. We must not be bribed, enticed, or attacked off of our foundation in Him and His work.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The rewards for obedience

Deut. 30:9-14
The rewards for obedience

     Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hands, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle, and in the produce of your ground, for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in the book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you nor out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it that we may observe it?” But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.
     Once again I will carry on the theme of the last couple of weeks in encouraging us to humble ourselves before God and repent both for ourselves and for the nation that we might once again see His blessing in the outpouring of a great revival and the restoration of our land. God is calling upon us to once again walk by His commandments and to do what is right in His eyes. I take great encouragement and comfort when He says – These laws are not out of our reach nor do we have to travel to the ends of the earth to find them, but they are near to us. The Bible often defines sin as lawlessness, which is, disobeying or disregarding the laws of God.
     We as a people and a nation have entered into all manner of lawless behavior but the challenge before us is not the gross sins of immorality and murder but the sins of the heart where all these things have their beginning. Our enemy, the Devil is subtle and does not immediately try to get us to kill someone, but rather he infiltrates our home with a movie where the bad guy is portrayed so cruel that you actually hate him and want to see the hero annihilate him. This seems ok – it’s just a movie, not real life – however, we have just entered into the heart of the sin of murder as we desire to see him killed. I hardly need to explain that God has told us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us and that even the angels will not bring a rebuke against the Devil who is the author of all that is wicked! We have stumbled and our houses have become unclean.
     Did you know what God said to do if a murder is committed near your town? In Deut. 21 God says that they must offer a sacrifice for forgiveness that God will not allow the curse of bloodshed to be upon their land which will uproot all the blessings that God had promised to them. However, we invite bloodshed into our very homes! We bring it in with no thought of repenting or calling upon our Savior to atone for us, therefore, God’s punishment remains upon us. Furthermore God says that we will receive the consequences of our actions regardless of whether or not we have known that what we did was wrong. A pretty strict word isn’t it? Those who repent and turn aside from looking upon evil (Inviting it into their home) will be washed clean and the Lord will make His home with them. – Isaiah 33:14-17
     Bringing God’s word back to our attention and realizing that He fully means for us to obey it is a strong message for us today. Realizing that we are tied to His promises for either blessing or cursing in regard to our obedience is a reality. -Deut. 27-28 We have been created by God in His image to be rational and responsible men and women. He deals with us in accordance with the high calling for which we have been created – to be His friends! He greatly longs for the day when we will know Him more fully and enjoy His company forever.
     My brothers and sisters, now is the time to not delay in beseeching our Heavenly Father for His mercy and compassion and to turn away from the things that cause His anger to rise against us. We need to purify our homes and walk within them in the integrity of our hearts that we might walk uprightly before Him and do the things that please Him. It’s time to go through the scriptures and refresh ourselves with the words of what He requires of us. Jesus has come to reconcile us to the Father and to give us the power of the Holy Spirit that we might throw off all bondage to sin and live by His amazing and wonderful laws.  God bless you all!