Tag Archives: Christianity

Deuteronomy 26-29; First-fruits

Do you follow a daily routine? For those of you who work outside the home, I imagine that is true of you. Those of us who don’t have the demands of a job might be less inclined to follow a regular pattern every day.

But I noticed in reading chapter 20 today, God didn’t make provisions for different life-styles. All Jews – everyone – were commanded to take the “first-fruits” of their produce, and give it to the Lord. Matthew Henry tells us there are three things we can learn from this:

  1. to acknowledge God is the giver of every good thing. Sometimes we pride ourselves on our accomplishments, or possessions purchased with the fruit of hard work and dedication. “I did it my way…” is applauded in our society. But the reality is, everything we enjoy is a gift from God. Moses is reminding us it’s important to recognize that, and show God that we are grateful.
  2. to deny ourselves. The Jews had labored in the fields over that crop. They planted, weeded, watered, harvested each grape, each sheaf of wheat. But they gave up their “rights” to the food and gave it to God.
  3. to give God the first and best we have. The first of the crop is the choicest, best part of the harvest. That was the produce these Jews brought to the Lord, not the leftovers.

It should be the same in a spiritual sense, too. I like how Matthew Henry put it: “Those that consecrate the days of their youth, and the prime of their time, to the service and honor of God, bring Him their first-fruits.”

So what is the “prime” of your time? Are you at your best first thing in the morning? Or when the kids go down for a nap? Or at lunchtime at your work desk? Or before you go to bed at night?

I knew an elderly pastor who was a firm believer that if you didn’t have your quiet time with the Lord early in the morning, you weren’t giving Him your first-fruits, and therefore were disobedient to Him. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, because I know some people who are NOT morning people. Early in any day is definitely not their prime time.

But if morning is not your best time, when is? That is the time of day I believe God would have you honor him, deny yourself, and give Him the best you have. That’s the time of day you need to be in His Word, praying, communicating with your Savior.

And it’s the time of day you should be setting aside to do that. If we try to “find” time to spend with God, there will be days, perhaps weeks, when we don’t get around to it. That, my friend, is not pleasing to God.

Instead, we need to be making time to spend with God. We make time to do the things that are important to us, right? Plan ahead, set aside, get into a routine and follow it.

When I was working, and going to grad school in the evenings, I remember thinking I was too busy to have daily devotions. I was on a golf league, and a racquetball league, I played the organ at church, and sat on a couple of boards. I was a busy girl. I could barely get up in the morning, and worked late into the night. There was no time to open my Bible. I knew I should. I felt guilty about it. But I couldn’t imagine where I’d find another fifteen minutes of my day.

I made the mistake of saying that to my pastor who immediately said, “If you are too busy to spend time with God, you are too busy.” He talked to me about eliminating some of the demands on my life. But I loved to golf, I loved racquetball, and I couldn’t just quit school or my job just to read my Bible.

He looked at me and said one word, “Priorities.”

Ouch. I realized God wasn’t a priority in my life, and He deserved to be my first priority. “First-fruits” took on a whole new meaning.

I realized then and there that the minutes I spend with God each day are the most important minutes of any day. It’s part of obedience to the God who deserves my full attention. And God blesses obedience.

I pray that you will enjoy quiet time with God every day. Read His love letter to you, listen for His voice, pour out your heart to Him, and let Him bless you, strengthen you, hug you. You need it. And He loves that time with you. That’s why He created you in the first place.

Don’t miss it. Give Him the best you have. You’ll be blown away when He gives you the best He has!

 

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Deuteronomy 18-20; Go Home

I came across some verses here today which remind me of something Jesus said. Moses is talking about warfare as the Jews prepared to take the Promised Land. “Don’t be afraid,” he tells them, “even if the enemy seems unbeatable, because the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, will be with you and will fight for you.” (from 20:1-4)

But then Moses instructs the army officers to weed out certain soldiers:

If you’ve recently built a house, go home.

If you’ve just planted a vineyard, go home.

If you are engaged to be married, go home.

If you are afraid, go home.

It makes me think of when Jesus, in Luke 9, tells a couple of guys the same thing:

You want to go bury your dad? Go home.

You want to go say goodbye to your family? Go home. Neither one of you is of any use in my kingdom.

An effective Jesus follower cannot have divided loyalties. Period.

Toward the end of his life, my dad spoke more freely about his experiences as a Marine fighting in the Pacific during WWII. He talked about fear, about duty, about focus and determination, senses heightened, everything forgotten but the task at hand.

He told me about a Marine in his division, who gave in to fear. He said the young man, at a critical point in the battle, stood up and tried to run away. He was immediately shot and killed by the enemy. I must have said something like, “How sad,” or “I feel bad for that guy.”

Dad quickly replied that there was nothing sad about it, that that Marine had jeopardized every other Marine in the area by revealing their position. He had no sympathy for that young man.

So what does this have to do with living the Christian life in 2017? I am reminded that being an effective follower of Jesus is not for sissies. It’s hard. It’s not popular. It takes intention and determination. It takes focus, and courage. It means loving Jesus more than your spouse, or your children. It means obeying Jesus even if it costs us a career, or a friendship. It means sharing the Gospel with that loved one, that neighbor, that coworker, even if that person will think you are an idiot.

It means living a life that doesn’t look like the world. This is war. And if you aren’t in this 100%, just go home. You might as well go golfing on Sunday morning, quit identifying with your church fellowship, stop quoting Scripture if your life doesn’t reflect the Truth.

Because you are putting the rest of us at risk. You are giving Christianity a bad name, you are undermining what God would like to do in the lives of the people you are in contact with. There are people who are totally committed to Jesus, who are obeying Him, loving Him, sacrificing for Him. And if you aren’t one of them, you are a liability.

The soldiers Moses was talking about were still soldiers, the men Jesus spoke to might have really loved Him. But they were told to go home anyway, because they were of no use in the battle at hand.

And neither are you if you aren’t in this all the way. The Bible doesn’t encourage us to kinda follow the Lord. It doesn’t tell us to turn over most of our life to Him. Scripture is pretty clear that it’s all, or nothing.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matt 22:37)

I challenge you to find a verse that says differently.

I know this sounds harsh, but I think it needs to be said. We’ve come way too far away from this truth. And Christianity is suffering for it. There is nothing politically correct about being a Jesus follower. Jesus was hated and crucified because He refused to be politically correct.

I think it’s time we quit trying to look like the world, trying not to offend sinners, or by making sinners feel comfortable in the presence of a Holy God. It’s time we quit wimping out when it comes to standing for Biblical truth. The Church was never intended to be a country club.

It was intended to be an army of dedicated soldiers, giving it all for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. Here’s the good news: Moses reminded the people that God Himself, the God who rescued them from slavery, was fighting with them and for them. We aren’t in this alone. And that makes me believe I can commit myself 100% and He will give me the victory.

Otherwise, I might as well just go home.

Father, I pray for Your children today. Some of us might need to take a step back, to go home for a bit and be strengthened, and encouraged to join the battle. Some of us are ready to get in there and follow Your lead today. May each of us check our commitment level, and may we all make the determination to follow You 100%. You demand no less. You deserve no less. I pray Your Church will be strong, effective, and powerful as we submit ourselves to You, in Jesus’ Name, and for His sake.

Leviticus 17-20; Opinion or Fact?

I have been sharing my opinions on Scripture with you for several years now. I know I am not an authority. I know there are those who have studied and researched God’s Word much more than I. I understand that what I share is often personal. But I pray every day that what I share doesn’t deviate from the Truth God inspired men to write to us here in 2017.

The past couple of days I have been researching, reading various opinions, looking at opposing positions trying to get a handle on a very explosive subject. When I tell you I did not go into this looking merely for people who agree with my position, that would be true. In fact, I read more from people with different views.

But, with all the opinions out there. I will let the Bible be the final authority. I will be careful not to change the wording to fit my point of view. I will not tell you what it means contrary to what it says. I know it was written thousands of years ago. I know we don’t live in the same culture as then. I know the Greek and Hebrew words can be difficult to put into English. However, my final take on this subject will be what the Bible I have in front of me says. Not what I want it to say. Maybe not what you want it to say.

The hot topic is homosexuality. I wanted to look at this from as many angles as I could because some people I love have accepted the “Progressive” or “Reformed” view and believe committed homosexuals can be Jesus followers. Is there something to their opinion? I set out to see for myself.

The verses that address this in these chapters in Leviticus are 18:22, (reinforced in 29) and 20:13. In both cases it uses the words “lie with a man,” and “detestable.” Both are part of a long list of sexual behaviors God is speaking against, including incest and sex with animals.

I find it interesting that many of the opinions I read wanted to talk about things like Paul’s direction to the church that women should be silent, and that men should have short hair, and no tattoos. I’d like to stick with what the Bible says about homosexuality. I’d rather not chase a rabbit trail.

I could find no provision for a homosexual relationship, committed or casual, in the Bible. I can’t even find implied consent. The verses I could find in the Old Testament use the words “detestable” or “perverted” in relationship to homosexuality. Some would rather believe that Sodom wasn’t destroyed because homosexuality was practiced openly in that city. I can find verses that make a direct link between homosexuality and the fire that fell on them. I cannot find a verse that says otherwise. If you know of one, I hope you’ll share.

Not implied. A specific verse that contradicts the ones that say homosexuality was a cause of the city’s punishment.

And I would also like to find a verse that says homosexuality is NOT detestable to God. If you know of one that specifically says it, please share that one, too. I can find several that call homosexuality detestable, even a perversion. I can’t put a finger on one that contradicts that.

Some of the resources I looked at said that Jesus came to fulfill the law, so that these specific commandments look different after the cross. They say that because Jesus didn’t address the issue specifically, it implies that He didn’t consider it a big deal after all.

Perhaps. Or maybe it implies He thought we’d know better. Like we know that incest, and having sex with animals are sins, too. He didn’t speak directly about those, either.

Paul had some things to say about homosexuality. For instance, in Romans he called it “unnatural.” In I Timothy he said it was “contrary to sound doctrine.” These verses are specifically speaking about homosexuality as plain as anything.

From what I can see, the Bible is consistent in calling homosexuality a sin. The next question is, can a person knowingly living in sin be a Jesus follower? I can find a lot of verses that talk about dealing with sin, avoiding sin, repenting of sin. I can’t find one that addresses condoning or allowing sin to exist in our lives.

Again, help me out if you know of a verse that speaks about God overlooking sin, or turning a blind eye to sin, or changing His mind about sin.

It’s hard to let the Bible be the final authority when there are so many opinions out there. I have come to the conclusion, however, that as politically incorrect as it is, homosexuality is not acceptable behavior according to Scripture. It is a sin. But it is a sin Jesus died to forgive.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 gives us hope. In these verses, Paul listed people caught up in sin.  Idol worshipers, thieves, drunks, homosexual offenders. Then he said that is what some of them WERE. “But you have been washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Sin is forgivable. All sin is forgivable, except the sin of refusing forgiveness. I am not a homophobe, or a hater of homosexuals. In fact, I love them enough to be truthful in the face of all the lies out there. Believe it or not, approve of it or not, homosexuality is a sin. You cannot follow Jesus if you harbor sin in your life. You just can’t. Not the sin of lying, or gossip, or adultery, or homosexuality.

The Bible teaches that when we sin we can confess that sin, and God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I love Him for that!

So here is yet another post of my opinions on a matter. I have tried to base my opinion on the facts presented in Scripture. I pray that you will recognize that I want the Bible to be the final authority. If what I have shared is contrary to God’s Word, please forgive me. Please correct me. I want only to know God and be true to His precious Word.

Because my opinions are worthless if they are not based on the Truth that God has revealed in the pages of the Bible.

 

 

 

Leviticus 5-7; Rubbing Shoulders

I volunteer with our elementary school’s Good News Club. What a blessing! One thing we teach the kids is that sin is “anything we think, do, or say that doesn’t please God.” Our leader told the kids yesterday that if they don’t love other people, they aren’t loving God.

That got their attention.

I’m sure all of us would agree sin is an affront to God, and it effects Him deeply every time we sin. We know His heart is broken when we sin. We know He is angry when we disobey. And we know that our sin effects our relationship with Him.

We live in a “me first” society. If it feels good, do it. You can’t make anyone happy until you are happy yourself. Look out for #1. I am worthy. I am powerful, I am lovable. I am… I am… I am…

Reading these chapters today reminded me that my sin effects God. But it effects others, too. Even sins I might commit unintentionally can hurt my loved ones, neighbors, coworkers, even strangers. And sometimes I need to make restitution, apologize, or receive someone’s anger over what I have done.

We don’t live in a vacuum. We rub shoulders with people every day. Children can get hurt when parents cheat and/or divorce. Parents get hurt when children go astray. Friends get hurt by gossip. We all end up paying for prisons, hospitals, war.

You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. But you are responsible for how you live, how you treat people, how you obey God. You are responsible for not causing anyone’s unhappiness by your sin.

Love one another. That’s how people know we are Jesus’ disciples. Do good to those who harm you. Pray for your enemies. Think of others before yourself. And treat them the way you like to be treated.

Please don’t fall for the lie that it’s your life and you can live it like you want. It is your life. I pray you’ll live it the way God wants.

December 26 – No Time To Sin

I John

Can you be a Christian and still hold on to a sin or two? Does being a Christian involve accepting Jesus, then putting Him on a shelf and continuing life as usual? I would suggest you read John’s first letter and ask yourself what Scripture has to say about that.

This is serious business. I’m afraid we’ve come to believe Christianity is something you put on on Sundays. But John tells us No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. (3:6)

The key to Christianity must be abiding in Christ. So how are you doing?

Do you pursue Jesus by spending time with Him in His Word, and by praying? Are you aware, and do you welcome, His Presence every minute of every day? Do you love Him above all, and share His love with others? Are you more like Jesus than you were yesterday?

I think if those things were true in each of us, we wouldn’t have time (or the desire) to continue to sin.

October 7 – And They Were Following Him

Mark 2

We might think that because Jesus called twelve men to follow Him that is all there was. Yes, there were twelve whose names we know, and who Jesus entrusted with the intimate details of His ministry. But there are many who followed Jesus. Mark gives us a glimpse of that in 2:15.

We know Matthew, that tax collector and disciple of Jesus. But Mark tells us Matthew wasn’t the only tax collector who was changed because of Jesus.

Sometimes, too, I think we get the idea that people like Billy Graham, or Beth Moore, or Bill Gaither have more important ministries than ours because everyone knows their name. That’s just not true.

A follower of Jesus doesn’t have to stand behind a pulpit. He can sit in the bleachers at a ball game. Or across the table at a coffee shop. Or over the backyard fence. Following Jesus isn’t about getting recognition, or limited to those who do. It’s about my obedience, and your’s. It’s about sharing the Gospel, a willingness to let Jesus be seen in us, even if no one else knows our name.

____________

So I’ve shared that I recently bought a house on an island in Georgia. Hurricane Matthew is headed straight to St. Simons and that entire area. God is faithful, and even though we have all been evacuated and are waiting for the storm to blow through, watching the weather channel and praying, I know that it all belongs to God anyway. My prayer is that the people will be safe, including those brave first responders who will do what they can to protect and care for those who are effected. I thank Him that the storm seems to be staying off shore and seems to be weakening. Would you pray with us? As always, may God be glorified even in this.

September 17 – The Wicked Act Wickedly

Daniel 10-12

There are many who believe the world would be a better place if teachers were allowed to pray with students before class, or if abortion was abolished, or the Ten Commandments were displayed in every government building, if there were no X-rated movies, or no corrupt politicians.

But even if we were able to make all that true, the problem would still exist.

At the end of his vision, Daniel spoke with a man wearing linen and who was above the waters of the river. That man dressed in linen put a finger on the real problem…

the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand… (12:10)

I’ve heard it said you can’t expect a non-believer to act like a believer. I’d go further and say you can’t expect them to think like a believer, to reason or feel like a believer.

The problem with the world is not what non-Christians DO. It’s what they BELIEVE. If we want the problems of the world to go away, we need to be busy introducing people to their Savior.