God’s Desire to Bless Us

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
(Luke 6:27-36)

This morning, I watched a Bible Project summary of the book of Genesis (part 1 and part 2). What struck me today is how God’s heart to bless all of mankind is so prevalent in the book. From the 1st chapter to the 50th chapter, God’s heart is to bless man, save their lives, and do good for them.

But when you read Genesis, you see selfishness, pride, brokenness, violence, hatred, revenge, deceit, drunkenness, sexual immorality, lust, envy, etc. All of the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5) can be found there. Mankind…we are a messed up and evil group of people, aren’t we? And yet, even though God did punish mankind, God’s heart through it all was to bring His richest blessings to even the vilest sorts of people. He wanted them to repent and be saved.

Look at this pattern in Genesis. God gave Cain time to repent, and even after Cain murdered Abel, God blessed Cain with mercy (Genesis 4). He gave the whole world time to repent until there was only Noah left with his family (Genesis 6). The Lord told Abraham that he would give the people of the land of Canaan several centuries to repent before He drove them out of their land (Genesis 15). Sodom and Gomorrah was spared until there was only Lot left with his family (Genesis 19). And on and on and on it goes.

That’s the heart of God. His heart is to forgive. He wants us to repent. Our loving Lord wants us to be reconciled to Him in a family relationship. He, as our Father, wants to bless us in so many ways. And His desire to do so does not change when we become His enemies. We as humans have done everything in our power to hurt Him, yet He blesses us and wants to bless us even more. He blesses even the most vile and disgusting sorts of sinners today. Even the wicked get blessings from God. That is how God is.

The question really is, “Where is my heart on all of this?”

So, with that in mind, let’s think and pray today about what Jesus tells us in the above passage in Luke 6. Am I like the Father toward those who hurt me? If we cannot bless our enemies and love them, then we are really nothing like our Father in heaven. Is my desire like God’s, in that I seek to love, bless, pray for and do good for those who are against me?

Please, O Father, transform our hearts to be like You. In our homes, communities, churches and wherever we may be, that we may bless the peoples around us because we are your children.

Sacred Selections Adoption

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:27)

James says that pure religion is to care for the widows and orphans. God wants us to help the helpless, to care for those uncared for, and to draw in those who have been cast out.

One very good way that Christians are caring for the helpless is through adoption. It is one thing to cry out about how children are being treated, but an entirely different thing to bring those kids into your own home. God bless those families who have God’s heart and care for those wonderful children made in God’s image. And God bless those who are supporting those families who are adopting children.

Today, I am referring you to an organization called Sacred Selections, a group of Christians that help to financially assist families in the process of adoption.  Here is their mission statement:

Sacred Selections mission is to financially assist Christian couples whose hearts and homes are open to loving and raising a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The dream of parenting does not have to be constrained by limited financial resources. The foundation, its board and many generous donors are committed to using the blessings we’ve received to assist in the wonderful effort in creating a Christian home and family.

Whether you are interested in adoption, or would like to support families who are doing so, please visit their website. Pray about it. See how you can help Sacred Selections and help families fulfill what God calls pure religion.

Ways to Donate: Here is Sacred Selections’ page on the various ways to donate.

For example, here are a couple of ways you can donate. There are more details on their website.

  • You can do a one-time or regular donation through Paypal.
  • You can also use Amazon Smile and designate Sacred Selections as your preferred charity.
  • Directly sponsor a couple who is adopting.

If you want to contact them directly:

 

 

 

What Makes You Indignant?

So, what makes you really angry? We can say that things shouldn’t get us really angry, but the reality of life is we can get really upset about things. We see in Scripture all kinds of examples of people who were really upset, for good reasons and for wrong reasons.

For example, just search the word “indignant” in the New Testament. I used the English Standard Version for this search.

Here are four examples of men who were “indignant” for all the wrong reasons.

  • Matthew 20:24 – The 10 disciples were indignant at James and John for asking to be at the left and right hand of Jesus in His kingdom. At first you might think that they were right to be upset, but what we know is that ALL 12 disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, best and brightest.
  • Matthew 21:15 – When the Jewish leadership saw how the people were praising Jesus they were indignant. We know from other passages that this anger stemmed from a craving for power and control. They were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and were scared of His power and influence.
  • Matthew 26:8 – The disciples saw a woman waste a jar of very expensive oil as she poured it out over Jesus. They were indignant, they scolded the woman and gave her all kinds of ways she could have done it better. Jesus told them to leave her alone and praised her in their presence.
  • Luke 13:14 – The ruler of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath. Instead of rejoicing and praising God that people were healed, he corrected the people and Jesus publicly for this evil doing on the Sabbath. He was indignant, but totally for a selfish reason.

Here are two examples of people who were “indignant” for the right reasons. Look at Jesus and Paul.

  • Mark 10:14 – Jesus was “indignant” at the disciples for hindering children from coming to Him. While at the same time focusing on who was the best and brightest in the kingdom, they were standing in the way of others coming to Jesus. That made Jesus very angry. This should give us pause to consider our own hearts and behavior.
  • 2 Corinthians 11:29 – Just listen to what made Paul really angry. What made Paul “indignant”? He wrote, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” What made the apostle Paul indignant was someone causing another to fall.

So, let’s prayerfully consider and meditate on this today. Let’s take some time to think about if we are really upset for the right reasons.

Jesus was offensive, but He wasn’t

Take a minute to read these two passages from Matthew. On one occasion, in Matthew 15, the disciples were concerned that Jesus had offended the Pharisees (Jewish leadership). Jesus clearly was not worried that He had hurt their feelings, because His words were intended to rebuke them and make an example of them to the others in the crowd.

On another occasion, though, Jesus was concerned about offending certain people. Some had come to collect the temple tax. Jesus taught Peter that since He was the Lord of the temple and its owner, He wasn’t bound to pay the temple tax. However, Jesus did not want to create a situation here where someone would be offended, so He had Peter do some miraculous fishing in order to pay the tax.

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
(Matthew 15:12-14)

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
(Matthew 17:24-27)

There were times when Jesus made a stand for God and it naturally offended people, especially the hypocritical Jewish leadership. But there were other times when Jesus went beyond what was expected in order to keep from offending someone. This is living out the concept of going the extra mile. Jesus didn’t have to pay this tax, He was in no way obligated to do it, and He could have stood His ground and proved how right He was. But He didn’t, He showed humility and love by caring for how others would respond.

It’s something to think about.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
(1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

Before I Formed You in the Womb

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27)

Mankind has a history of forgetting that we are created in the image of God. Mass graves have been found showing the disgusting practice of child sacrifice to idols. Nazis in Germany determined that certain citizens were “useless eaters.” Our own Supreme Court has done so on more than one occasion. Our rulers decided that native Americans and black people were not equal to white people, or that women were not equal to men. Our rulers have on many occasions decided and said that a child in the womb is not a person. The epidemic of pornography also completely dehumanizes human life as sacred and precious.

Right now in Virginia, the Governor is advocating a law that would allow doctors and mothers to decide to kill a baby that survives an abortion. The governor of New York just signed a law allowing abortions up to the point of birth. It blows my mind that people would even discuss this as a possibility, but the history of mankind says this is nothing new.

Today’s post is not intended in anyway to be political. It is intended to be a reminder for today that life is sacred and precious. We are created in the image of God. Male and Female. All colors. All nations. Healthy or un-healthy. Born or Pre-Born.

Please take time to pray for ourselves and our nation, that we may all see each other as created in God’s image and that each person is precious in God’s eyes.

Kudos to Chick-Fil-A

According to what I heard on the news this morning, Chick-fil-A has a restaurant inside the stadium in Atlanta where the Super Bowl will be played. They are not going to open on that Sunday, even for the Super Bowl.

Can you imagine how much money they would make on that Sunday?!?

Wouldn’t it be easy to justify just this one time to open for…wait for it…THE SUPER BOWL?

Here is a link to Chick-fil-A’s website about “Who We Are.”

The Bible does not tell us that Sunday is the Christian “Sabbath Day,” so we need to state that right up front. However, there are principles in the Bible that tell us that we need to stop, honor God and have right priorities.

We can look back at the Old Testament regarding the Sabbath and learn something about what God was wanting. Jesus commented that the Sabbath was made for man. He, as the chief engineer of the universe, knows that man, animals, and land need rest.

What we see happening is that man did not trust God in that law (or in any other law for that matter). They saw the 7th day as a wasted day. It would be an another opportunity to get things done, make money and be more productive. What ended up happening is that they became less productive and most importantly they fell away from God. The priorities of the world began to choke them.

Take a minute to read about Nehemiah’s aggressive persistence in helping the people keep the Sabbath.

In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
(Nehemiah 13:15-22)

Again, we do not have a law from God saying that we need to shut down everything on Sunday. But what if Christians were more mindful of giving more time to God just on Sunday? Are we more focused on the almighty dollar or on the Almighty God? Are we continuing to press, press, press to get all our things done to the point that we don’t have time to rest?

And he (Jesus) said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
(Mark 6:31-32)

So, take a lesson from Chick-fil-A today. Think about how much you are working and pressing. You know the world won’t end if we shut down a little bit and rest. That’s especially for me, but I’m sure many others need to think about it.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
(Matthew 6:31-33)

Daniel – The Ever-Changing Rule of Men

One thing you will notice in the book of Daniel is that every king is making up new rules and decrees. These rules range all across the spectrum from being hostile to God all the way to favorable to God and His people. King Nebuchadnezzar made a rule that people need to fall down before his golden image or die a most violent death. That is followed up by another rule prohibiting people from speaking against the God of Israel or they will die a most violent death. Daniel prophesied through the Spirit about future kings that will come and go and make rules and decrees.

This is the way of man and this is the way of man’s kingdoms. They come and go. It is like kids on a playground trying to play a game…the rules are ever-changing and it leads to a lot of fights. In contrast we see God in the book of Daniel and He is consistent, stable and forever. Men come and go, and so do their kingdoms, but His rule is eternal.

There are a few practical thoughts for consideration:

What is my “rule” like in the home? Are my “decrees” like Ole King Neb’s? One day we have one set of rules and then another set of rules based on how we feel the next day? That is one way we can “provoke our children” (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:12) is by always changing the standards, rules and goal posts. With God’s help and with some sound counseling from older parents, we need to have some consistency in our expectation as parents.

Whatever situation we are in, it is temporary. For example, as we look at the governments of men, we may really get discouraged. Seeing for example what is happening in Washington, DC can really grate on us as we watch the power struggle. Remember that the rule of man is temporary, but God’s is eternal.

We can live with the metals if we know the Rock is coming. I heard this point in a lesson by Gary Fisher. The vision of the kingdoms in Daniel 2 tells us that the kingdoms of men (gold, silver, bronze and iron) will be crushed by the stone that becomes an eternal mountain. Remember that the Rock has come, and He is coming again! All the kingdoms of the earth come to dust in the presence and power of the Almighty God.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8)

Daniel – The Beast Within

We are created in the image of God. Mankind is completely unlike any other creature in this matter. God’s original plan for us was for us to rule with Him as kings and queens. We were to rule the earth as His image bearers on the earth. But we chose to follow the Devil and our own passions. Men and women then became beasts, violent beasts. Humans “devolved” into animals and act in a way contrary to how we were designed to behave, talk and think. Our kingdoms became beasts. In fact, the kingdoms of men are described as beasts in Daniel 7.

There is a great summary of this concept done by the Bible Project. Here’s a link.

But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction,
(2 Peter 2:12)

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.
(Jude 1:10)

Considering this concept that man becomes a beast within, I would like you to think about what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.

While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.
(Daniel 4:31-33)

Think about it. God made Nebuchadnezzar’s exterior reflect his interior. His outside was made to look like his inside. The beast was already within. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t honor God, he honored himself. The king hurt others, he was arrogant and oppressed the poor. He was already a beast! God just made him look like one! Ole King Neb was not fit to live among people.

It wasn’t until the end of the punishment that Ole King Neb was humbled and honored God. He then was lifted back on his legs like a man and restored to his life and position. There are a few neat parallels here to the movie, “Beauty and the Beast.”

But we must take a hard look within ourselves too, because God said that this is what happens to each one of us. What happened to King Nebuchadnezzar is like our own gospel story. We were proud, arrogant and beastly. God humbled us, and we came to him in repentance and humility. God then made a new creation. We are made once again, through the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, into the image of God. God took beasts and turned them into His image.

This is exactly what Paul talks about in Ephesians 4.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24).

Are you a beast? Then let God re-create you!

God is Slow to Anger

Some may read the Old Testament and scratch their heads when they hear that God is slow to anger. There are a lot of people and civilizations that are snuffed out by God in the Old Testament. And yet, many passages in the same Old Testament say that God is slow to anger. How can that be so?

When you see God angry and when you see Him measuring out death and destruction, look at all the evidence. Consider all the qualities of God when you consider His anger. You will see that God truly is slow to anger.

I have pasted several verses below from the Old Testament that speak of God being slow to anger. Look at what else is said in those passages.

Why is God slow to anger? A constant theme in these passages below is that God is merciful, gracious, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. God forgives our sins. Even in Israel’s rebellion, God did not forsake His people. He is ready to relent from the punishment. That is His last resort, not His first option. God’s heart is for us to come to repentance. He wants restoration and reconciliation. Our Father wants us to be close to His side. When God does not clear the guilty, it is because the guilty have left Him no recourse.

Man’s anger is quite the opposite isn’t it? When I am angry, and I really feel justified in that anger, shouldn’t I look at what God is like when He’s angry? Am I merciful and gracious? Does my heart abound in steadfast love and faithfulness? Is my desire to be right, or my thirst for justice greater that my longing for someone to come to repentance? Do I look for ways for others to be reconciled and restored, or am I seeking ways to prove my point and drive home how others have been wrong to me?

Man’s anger does not produce what God’s anger does. Let’s meditate today on the heart of God and why He is slow to anger.

  • Exodus 34:6 – The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,”
  • Numbers 14:18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’
  • Nehemiah 9:17 – They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.
  • Psalm 86:15 – But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
  • Psalm 103:8 – The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  • Psalm 145:8 – The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  • Joel 2:13 – and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
  • Jonah 4:2 – And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
  • Nahum 1:3 – The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Daniel – The High Cost of Anger and Pride

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
(Daniel 3:19-22)

There is a high cost to our anger and pride. It doesn’t just affect us, it hurts those around us. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and anger cost the lives of some of his best soldiers. His anger burned, and so did his soldiers.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
(James 1:19-20)

What does the anger of man produce when left to itself? It certainly does not produce God’s righteousness, according to James. Our anger and pride can destroy a church, a family, a marriage, a friendship, a business, etc. King Neb was so upset his orders were not followed that he lost his mind and went so far that good men died.

It is a sobering reminder for us today that we must have, with God’s help, calm spirits that are slow to anger.

Proverbs 14:29 – Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

Proverbs 15:18 – A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 16:32 – Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Proverbs 19:11 – Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.