Putting the pieces together

Mark 8:18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?

When Jesus began to warn the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees, they thought he was talking about bread. They thought he was saying these things because they had forgotten to bring bread with them. Jesus had just multiplied bread and fish for the second time right before the disciples got into the boat to cross over. Already they are concerned about a lack of bread.

How many times has God intervened in your life in a supernatural way where He’s done something really miraculous for you, solved a problem or answered a question or brought provision? In that moment we believe that we will never forget what God has done for us and that this will be such a boost to our faith for all time. But usually within just a matter of days we have forgotten and we are again fretting and complaining and wondering if God will come through.

Mark 8:21 So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

The word understand is “syniemi” and it means put together, i.e. join facts into a comprehensive inter-locking whole

We might say it this way, that it’s putting two and two together. They had been with Jesus when there was a need for food for the multitude and He provided it. Then on another occasion there was a need for food for the multitude and He provided it. Times without number there were people who needed healing and deliverance and He provided it. Putting two and two together means we recognize that whatever our need is we have a Savior who is able to meet it. We need fear no lack, no problem. We just need to remember the testimony of God that we have already experienced in our lives, knowing that He is the same God today.

He wants us to remember that time we were sick and we went to the doctor, then to the medicine cabinet, and found no relief. Then we went to Him and He healed us.

He wants us to remember the time our heart was broken and we went to our best friend and we went to our mom, and found no relief. Then we went to Him and He comforted us.

He wants us to remember the time we fell into sin and devastated our life and had nowhere else to go. So we went to Him and He forgave us and restored us.

So often I have a tendency to live my life as a series of disconnected events. But He is writing a story and building a testimony into my life and every piece along the way is an important part of the whole. When all the pieces come together they make a beautiful picture of the work of God in us.

Choosing wisely

Mark 3:6-8 Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him.

Often we observe that the scribes, Pharisees and other religious leaders had a very different reaction to Jesus than the common people did. The people traveled great distances to see Him. They listened attentively as He taught, recognizing an authority and a weightiness to His words. They humbly brought their brokenness and need before Him to receive healing, deliverance and help from Him

The elites were not like this. They listened to judge and criticize. They came to see Him in order to condemn Him. They were jealous of the demonstrations of His power which made them all too aware of their own lack of power. And for them, this is what it was all about – power. They didn’t care about the people who were in such need, they cared about themselves and protecting their own positions.

The elites wanted prestige, reputation and position. The common people just wanted Jesus. One group pursued what was temporal and the other, what was eternal. Each made a choice, just as we do. Choose wisely beloved.

A very covid Thanksgiving

I planned to have dinner with family but a coworker’s positive covid test changed my plans. At noon while everyone else was enjoying a meal, I was sitting in my car waiting to be called inside for my covid test. I wasn’t alone. There were many other occupied cars in the parking lot. I’m sure they hadn’t planned to spend their day this way either.

It isn’t the day I had planned. But it is the day that I’m having – so thank You Jesus anyway 😊

Update: test was negative 😊

Leaving the leaven alone

1 Corinthians 5:6b Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

Paul wrote this in the context of a sinning believer who was left uncorrected and became a source of corruption with the possibility to contaminate the whole body. I believe it equally applies to us as individual believers.

While we are “in the world but not of the world” we are often far too comfortable partaking of the things of the world. We are deceived when we think that this will leave us unaffected. Just like leaven, carnality and wordiness in one area will work its way through the entire life.

As I’m writing this our nation is in limbo as a presidential election has been contested and the whole country seems to be divided. Everywhere you look there is political commentary and I must confess that I’ve struggled with staying free of it. There just a desire to know what’s going on – not that we can really know.

Many of the political commentators on both sides are biased, harsh and angry. Who can listen to a steady diet of this and not be affected in their spirit?

Feeding on the things of this world, even when they don’t seem to be overtly wicked, will dampen your spiritual senses and quench your spiritual fire. It’s not worth it.

Leave the leaven alone.

Your labor will be rewarded

1 Corinthians 3:8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

I know people who seem to have the “Midas touch” in ministry. Not that everything they touch turns to gold, but everything they touch turns to fruit for the kingdom. It seems that almost effortlessly everything they do in the name of Jesus is profitable. The people they share the gospel with are profoundly affected and get saved. People they pray for get healed. They teach the truths of God’s word with great wisdom and authority.

And then there are other people, who seek God like crazy and yearn to make a difference in this life for the kingdom and have significant periods of time that yield no fruit.

I’ve read stories of missionaries that labored their whole lives in almost unbearable conditions to bring the gospel to a heathen people group. They live and die seeing no conversions to Christ. But the next missionary comes and the harvest is so ripe it requires almost no labor on his part.

So, getting really real here, I often feel like the one always desiring and laboring that my life would be profitable for the kingdom of God, and mostly feeling like it isn’t. Always sowing, rarely reaping. In frustration, ready to stop trying and just wait for heaven.

But at the same time, I can’t stop. Inside there is such a stirring to speak of Him, write of Him, that maybe somebody, somewhere at sometime might be helped.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with discouragement.

A number of years ago somebody shared a video with me that has encouraged me tremendously. I want to share it with you now. It’s about 8 minutes long but well worth the time to listen.

https://youtu.be/SkjMvPhLrn8

I hope it encourages you as well, to continue in your service to the Lord, even when you cannot see the fruit.

Treasure Hunt

Mark 4:34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.

If you’ve ever read through the gospels, you’ve probably noticed that some of the sayings of Jesus are difficult to understand. You’re not alone in this. Even His disciples had difficulty deciphering some of these things. Have you ever wondered why He didn’t speak more plainly sometimes? There is an answer to that.

The Bible is not like any other book. It’s author wants to sit with you to explain and apply it as you read. If you treat the Bible as any other book in the way you read it, you will pass right over many of its treasures. Often in the past I have found myself passing over some obscure passage that I didn’t understand. But I have come to realize that the Holy Spirit wants to reveal these things to us (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Sometimes understanding comes through study, sometimes it comes through pondering and meditating on the passage. But our verse is clear – Jesus will explain things to us if we will stop and listen. How many treasures in the Word of God have we passed right over because we were determined to finish our daily Bible reading!!

Bible reading is not merely about reading a book. It’s about communion with God. He wants to meet with us as we read His Word, revealing its truths, making it life-giving to us by the Holy Spirit and bringing radical change into our life through it. If everything was immediately clear to our human understanding we would breeze right on through our reading, satisfied that we have gained some bit of knowledge, without leaving any room for the Holy Spirit to speak to us.

So the next time your Bible reading leaves you with questions don’t be so quick to move on the the next verse. There may be a treasure just beneath the surface that He is waiting to reveal to you…if you will just stop, ask, and listen.

From riches to rags

Ezekiel 16:8-15 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD. “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord GOD. “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.”

This passage was written to Israel as their idolatry had finally brought judgment upon them and they were carried off to Babylonian captivity. The Lord reminded them that HE was the one who made a mighty nation out of one man and bestowed it with glory and beauty. Israel was as helpless as a newborn baby, abandoned and left for dead, but the Lord loved them and gave them such prominence among the nations of the world. Wouldn’t you think they would be grateful to God? Faithful to God? They weren’t. Their history is littered with their backslidings as they forgot God and chased after the gods of the nations around them.

I wish I could say that we are different. Sadly, we are not. The financial prosperity that God has blessed us with, we squander on our own desires. The gifts He has given us for the purpose of serving Him and building His kingdom we have used to serve ourselves and expand our own influence and importance. We too, forget.

Think for a moment about the relationship between a father and child. That father provides all that the child needs. Food and clothing certainly, but what father would be content to clothe his child in rags. He wants to give her beautiful princess dresses so she feels pretty. Imagine he sends her off to school in her pretty sparkly clothes and she comes home in tattered shorts and a stained T-shirt. He would be shocked by her appearance and ask what happened to her beautiful clothes. She traded her beautiful dress to a friend because she liked the shorts and T-shirt better. Imagine the father’s sorrow. He wanted to make her beautiful but she traded it for filth.

Beloved, God has made us beautiful in Christ. Don’t trade that beauty for the pollutions that inevitably follow our ventures into idolatry with this world.

It just isn’t worth it.

Broken hearted love

Ezekiel 6:9 Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations.

I don’t know why I was so surprised to find the love of God in this passage on judgment, but it shocked me. I would have expected to read of God’s indignation over their unfaithfulness. Or His anger. But His love?

This passage reminded me of the book of Hosea, where the Lord illustrated His relationship with Israel through Hosea’s relationship with his wife Gomer. God didn’t just tell Hosea to marry her, but to love her (Hosea 3:1). And just to clarify the verse from Ezekiel, many translations use the word “whorish” instead of “adulterous” to describe the heart of the people. I think the difference is significant. Adultery implies an act committed because of affection or passion. But whorish actions are done strictly for profit. This describes those who claim to be followers of God, but live in ways that are contrary to Him because it’s better for them.

All of us have experienced pain in life, and isn’t it true that those who have hurt us most deeply are those that we have loved? Our God isn’t just offended or angry with our backsliding, unfaithfulness and indifference. He is hurt by us. Broken. Crushed. Because He loves us.

I could bury my face in my hands and cry, knowing the far too frequent unfaithfulness of my own heart.

Oh God, help me to love You always with a faithful heart!

The satisfied man

Psalms 65:4 Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.

Many of us can look back on our lives as believers and remember the early days of our salvation when we lived in the joy of being forgiven. But far too many of us have let the blood of Jesus mean nothing more than the forgiveness of sins. I thank God that my sins are forgiven, for they have been many. But I believe there is far more that is offered to us then we have even begun to walk in.

The man who has his sins forgiven is indeed a blessed man. But the blessing of the Lord has only begun with the forgiveness of sin, for now we have been reconciled to God and brought into a relationship of intimacy with Him. So the blessed man is the man who not only is forgiven but who, through that forgiveness can approach God. I don’t mean that we approach Him like we would an earthly monarch who has so many subjects making demands on his time that he must rush through each encounter. But our verse tells us that He causes us to approach so that we can dwell…remain…abide. The only reason we don’t dwell in His presence is because we won’t. He has already made His mind about it very clear. He wants us to draw near.

But we busy ourselves trying to find fulfillment in jobs, relationships and leisure while true satisfaction will only be found in His Presence. The blessed man, the one who draws near and dwells in His presence, this will be the satisfied man.

Serving God with the spirit

Romans 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.

Often we serve God with the soul, which is subject to emotional issues, ups and downs. Someone serving with the soul is on fire or lethargic in their service to God in proportion to how happy they are, how encouraged they feel, the nature of circumstances in their life. Those who serve with the spirit take no account of these things but they serve God because He is God in all these things.

We can serve in the flesh by our dedication to a task or a ministry. We are doing a thing and enduring in it by the sheer force of our will power. God may never have called us to that task, or He may have been ready to move us to something else, but we continue on faithfully anyway, in the power of a disciplined flesh. Serving God in the flesh is much like any carnal thing we do. We make our plans, schedule our events, recruit our helpers and go about our work. Everything is structured and organized. So organized that there is no room for the Holy Spirit to move, and if He did move it would “mess everything up”.

But we can serve God in the spirit, leaving all of our own plans and agendas and allowing ourselves to be moved by the Spirit of God, even if waiting to know His agenda means sitting and doing nothing for a time. What matters is what HE wants, and personal preferences must take a back seat. Or be thrown out the window entirely. To serve God with the spirit requires a place of surrender that many are unwilling to accept.

Lord, help us yield to you!