Eat your fill

Read: Leviticus 24-25, Mark 1:23-45

Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? In a culture where consumption of nearly every kind is at an all-time high, we want what we want, and we want it now! When we live our lives like that every day, it’s hard not to let that same attitude seep into our relationship with God. We use Him like a genie in a bottle, only rubbing away when we want something and then getting upset when we don’t get it right away. We forget that there were some stipulations or precursors placed on our getting.

Leviticus 25:18-19

If Israel wanted the prosperous land God had promised to them back in Egypt, a few things were required of them. Okay, maybe it was more than a few since the entire book of Leviticus is an instruction manual, but you get the picture. If Israel wanted the land to prosper like they’d been promised, they had to abide by the laws God had laid out for them.

Now, before you get all but-that-was-the-Old-Testament-under-the-law on me, Jesus said something rather similar in nature.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:29-31 (NIV)

When Israel entered the Promised Land, God had promised them so much that they would only harvest six of every seven years. That seventh year, they’d reap only what grew in the unplanted fields, and that would be enough to sustain them through the year. In the 49th year, they wouldn’t reap at all, but the previous year’s harvest would be three year’s worth! All of this, if they followed God’s decrees and kept His laws.

God knows we need stuff. We need food. We need clothing. We need shelter. We need. We need. We need. We know that. He knows that. Us telling Him we need that stuff probably won’t make that big of a difference. But what I believe will make a difference is how (and how often) we approach God. Do we go to Him because we need something or do we go to Him because we need Him? Do we go to Him because we want something or do we go to Him because we want Him?

Jesus said that if we sought after the kingdom of God first, everything else would fall into place. This wasn’t a new principle he was announcing to the world. He was only reiterating what his Father had said centuries ago. Obey. Seek God. You’ll be fine.

If you want to eat your fill, you have to first do His will.

Unchained melody

Growing up, I used to love it when travelling ministers would speak in my church. If it was Sunday evening, us kids would get to stay in the service and listen to incredible stories of both miracles and persecutions. It all seemed so fantastic and far away. Yet now, it doesn’t seem so far off. At least not the persecution.

As the foolish, ignorant arguments that Paul warned Timothy against keep being fought, the voices of reason and truth are being drowned out. The words that my country was founded on, the Word of God, is being labelled as hate speech and to be anything but politically correct is to be labelled a hater, a bigot or, in some cases, a criminal.

While I find it sickening to see what was once labelled a Christian nation bow to the cries of the liberal left, we’re not the first in history to experience this type of persecution nor will we be the last.

Does this mean that we too, must allow ourselves stifled? No! Paul, while in chains said that, he was willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen (2 Timothy 2:10). If we truly believe what we say we believe, we will do whatever it takes to see the Gospel spread to every nation. After all, most of what Paul wrote to the Church was written while he was in prison. He was as effective, if not more so while he was chained than when he was free.

Let us not be discouraged by the state of current politics. God is not a politician. He is not a Republican or Democrat, a Conservative or a Liberal. He is God. Period. And He is not bound by any law man can come up with nor can He be stifled by a bill passed by parliament.

For the word of God is full of living power.

Hebrews 4:12a (NLT)

Once the Word of God is out there, it cannot be stopped by any man.

It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Isaiah 55:11 (NLT)

We, like Paul, may have to endure punishment for proclaiming the Gospel.

But the word of God cannot be chained.

2 Timothy 2:9b (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 23-24, 2 Timothy 2

 

Know Go(o)d

Ask anyone what good is. Then ask them what wicked is. Just about everyone will have a response. While responses to those questions may vary, the amazing thing is that nearly everyone can agree that good and wicked both exist. Not many people could tell you where the ideas come from or how we form our own opinions of what they are, but they exist nonetheless.

Does it really matter what we believe is good and what we believe is wicked? Does it matter if we all agree or disagree? Yes, it does.

But first, let’s take a look at Webster’s 1828 definitions of good and wicked:

GOOD: Having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, or the qualities which God’s law required; virtuous, pious, religious; applied to persons, and opposed to bad, vitious, wicked, evil.

WICKED: Evil in principle or practice; deviating from the divine law; addicted to vice; sinful; immoral.

To know what wicked is, we simply have to know what it isn’t. It isn’t good. The more we know what good is, the more we are able to recognise wicked.

Who cares? Why do we need to know the difference? Didn’t God tell Adam and Eve to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? If Adam and Eve didn’t need to know, why do we?

Well, because Adam and Eve didn’t stay away from that tree. Before they ate the forbidden fruit, evil didn’t exist to them. They only knew good. They only knew God. As soon as they disobeyed God’s command and ate that fruit, evil entered their world. Now they knew the difference. We need to know the difference, too.

Oh, the joys of those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with scoffers.

Psalm 1:1 (NLT)

There are joys to be had in avoiding the wicked. What else?

But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants;
day and night they think about his law.

Psalm 1:2 (NLT)

Why would anyone want to do everything someone else wants? Remember that God is good. He only wants good things for us. Why wouldn’t we want to do what He wants?

They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season without fail.
Their leaves never wither,
and in all they do, they prosper.

Psalm 1:3 (NLT)

Now we get to the good part. The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more we understand who He is and the more we understand what good is. When we understand what good is, we recognise what wicked is. Then we can stay away from the wicked. When we stay away from wicked people and things, we become fruitful and prosperous.

Does this all make sense now? Know good. Stay away from wicked. Prosper.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 1-3, Acts 16:1-15

Quit your quarrel

Stop quarrelling with God! If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you.

Job 22:21 (NLT)

Fighting with God is fruitless, yet we’ve all either done it or been tempted to. We say we want His will for our lives, but when He asks something difficult of us, suddenly we’re not so confident in our proclamation to do whatever He wants us to do.

If you believe in God as Creator and Almighty, there really is no point in quarrelling with Him. He’s all-powerful. In what world will you ever win the argument?

If you don’t believe in God, why fight at all. You don’t even believe He really exists.

Job’s words tie in to the verse in Acts we talked about yesterday. If you can have peace, things will go well for you. By ending our quarrels with God, we put ourselves in a place of peace with Him. When we’re at peace with God, He is then able to grow and strengthen us.

Had Job quit his quarrel with God earlier, perhaps he’d have seen peace and prosperity return much sooner than he did.

As it is. learn from Job’s struggles. Quit your quarrel with God.

Listen to his instruction, and store them in your heart. If you return to the Almighty and clean up your life, you will be restored. Give up your list for money and throw your precious gold into the river. Then the Almighty himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver!

Job 22:22-25 (NLT)

You cannot be in contention with God and have Him be your treasure at the same time. You must decide what’s best—trying to argue a fight you cannot win or to have peace with God, your treasure.

Daily Bible reading: Job 21-22, Acts 10:1-23

Moved

Are you often moved? Moved to change your mind? Moved by the humility of others? Are you easily moved to forgive? When you’ve been greatly wronged, what does it take to move you?

Manasseh, unlike his father Hezekiah, did evil in the sight of God. His father reigned over Judah and the land knew prosperity and economic growth. 2 Chronicles 32:30 says that Hezekiah prospered in all his works. One would think that, if the father prospered, the son would wish to emulate those actions.But Manasseh wanted things his own way.

He rebuilt the high places and altars to Baal and Asherah. He built altars in the temple. He sacrificed his sons as burnt offerings. If you’re God, are you going to forgive this guy?

Down the road, Manasseh gets captured by the very people that God turned away during Hezekiah’s reign. This must have been the bottom for him.

And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.

2 Chronicles 33:12 (ESV)

What strikes me here is that, even though Manasseh had been worshipping the foreign gods, he still recognised the Lord has his God. God was still a personal God to him.

He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

2 Chronicles 33:13 (ESV)

There is nothing, nothing that God won’t forgive when you humble yourself and recognise him as God. Here is a man who spurned him father’s faithfulness, worshipped foreign gods, defaced the temple, burned his own sons and God still had mercy on him.

God is moved when we humble ourselves and know that He is God.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 32-33; John 18:24-40

Suddenly

It seems to me that, whenever you have a large group of people attempting to decide something, nothing happens suddenly. People argue. People disagree. People walk away. People want their way. Yet when a certain king made the decision to turn Judah away from the idols and return to the God of their fathers, something happened.

And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had prepared for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.

2 Chronicles 29:30 (ESV)

Suddenly. A whole bunch of people did the same thing. It happened quickly and without argument. John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible says this:

And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people 
To see things go on so well, which foreboded good unto them: and particularly that God had prepared the people;
disposed and directed their hearts in such a manner as to yield such a cheerful obedience to the will of God, and show such a hearty regard to his worship and service, and the restoration of it: for the thing was done suddenly;
whereby it the more appeared that they were under a divine influence, which so quickly and powerfully wrought upon them to engage in this work, and needed not arguments and persuasions to bring them to it.

Simply put, God worked on the hearts of the people and they were unified in spirit and action.

Just imagine what the Church could accomplish if we put away the groups and committees and votes and relied entirely on the Holy Spirit to unify us. Not by popular vote, but by unanimous agreement in Spirit and in Truth.

And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.

2 Chronicles 31:21 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 29-31; John 18:1-23