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.

16x

Read: Leviticus 18-19, Matthew 27:32-66

Some days, I have the memory of an elephant. I remember minute details about things that happened over a decade ago that never really mattered, even while they were happening. Other days, my memory has the lifespan of a gnat. I think that, for the most part, the Israelites fell into this latter category.

Through much of the Pentateuch, Israel gets reminder after reminder. Sometimes I read a passage and have to go look back because I am positive I’ve read it already. Today is no different.

Leviticus 19:2

After this verse, the words the Lord your God are repeated fifteen more times within the chapter. Sixteen times within thirty-seven verses, Israel is reminded that the Lord is their God. If repeating something three times is important, how important is sixteen?

The number sixteen in the Bible is often associate with love. In the Old Testament, sixteen of the various names and titles for God specifically signify His constant, never-ending love for the children of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists sixteen distinct qualities of love.

When questioned about the most important commandment, Jesus wraps it all up.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30 (NIV)

I find it interesting that, for as many qualities as Paul uses to describe love, God reminds His people that He is their Lord. Far more than God wanted Israel to follow a strict set of rules, He wanted them to love Him. From a pure love, obedience flows. God wants the very same for us.

Even as I write this study, I wonder for myself how much would change in my life if I were to intentionally remind myself daily of God’s lordship in my life. The Lord is my God. He is my Lord. I believe that this is what God was doing with Israel. He was working to renew their minds to His way of thinking.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Our love for God should be, like Jesus stated, with our whole being. But it all starts in our spirit, followed by our mind. If the mind does not conform to the spirit, our strength cannot follow suit. Our spirits know and love God, but it is the daily reminder of His lordship in our lives that will cause everything else to conform.

So remind yourself that God is your God. He is your Lord. Do it sixteen times if you have to.

In His own image

Read: Genesis 1-2, Matthew 1

Genesis-1-27

Reading through the account of creation, we see that man is the only thing God created in His own image. Man is the only being that God breathed His own life into. Though they were made on the same day, man was different from the beasts of the field.

Man was made upright. His understanding saw Divine things clearly and truly; there were no errors or mistakes in his knowledge; his will consented at once, and in all things, to the will of God.

Matthew Henry

Before Adam made the worst decision in the history of humanity, he was at one with God. He knew no separation from his Creator and lived in perfect communion with Him. We know, that at the moment Adam chose to eat from the forbidden tree, that unique relationship was severed. While that relationship can never be fully restored on this side of heaven, God made a way for us to still have communion with Him. But it takes work. It’s not an instant fix; it is a lifelong effort on our part.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

The only way to gain back even a portion of what Adam experienced with God in the garden is to continually renew ourselves to His will. You truly to become like the people you most spend time with, so spend time with God. Become more like Him—the way we were all created to be. This process of renewal must be constant and consistent. always moving forward and never looking back.

Paul said we need to be forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). We have a decision to make. We can continue to live in separation from God and do as we please. Or we can approach Him through the grace provided through Jesus’ sacrifice and get to know Him and His will for us. We can live as we were created to live in perfect harmony with our Father.

The same

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)

No matter what translation you read, this verse is pretty much exactly the same in every one. The Amplified adds Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same. The word same means just that. The same. Never changing. Unaltered. Never different. That is our Savior.

Think about that for a moment. The message that Jesus taught while he walked the earth is still valid today. Just because the world has changed and humanity has changed, doesn’t mean the Gospel changes.

So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes from God’s special favor…

Hebrews 13:9b (NLT)

Too often, we try to complicate the message of Jesus. It can get watered down or it can be altered to seem more appealing. But the true message of Jesus can get lost in all the things we try to do to it. If Jesus never, ever changes,why do we try to change his word? If Jesus appealed to the masses two thousand years ago what makes us think that he won’t appeal the crowds now?

We have not been called to make the message of the Gospel appealing. We’ve been called simply to share it.

And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him.

Hebrews 13:20 (NLT)

God is most please with us when we do His will His way, and He has already given us all we need to accomplish it. We don’t need to try to make up new stories or rules or ways of doing things. Jesus already set the standard and, since he never changes, why would we try to change his message?

Jesus ministered to anyone and everyone with grace and love. We should do the same.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 17-19, Hebrews 13

No matter what

Have you ever been determined to do something no matter what? Nothing can draw you away from reaching for and attaining that goal. There is no prize you will accept but victory.

Or are you someone who has a price on everything? You want to do some things, but if the reward is great enough, you can be swayed away from the task.

DETERMINED: Having a firm or fixed purpose.

I’m sure we’ve all seen a talent show where someone is determined to become a star. Some rather dishonest people in their life have told them they can do anything. They have talent. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish your dream. Then they sing. It becomes apparent that someone has lied to this individual and that their determination is horribly misplaced.

Are you determined to do something? Where do you get your confidence to do what you’ve set out to do?

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph.

Isaiah 50:7 (NLT)

When we make the determination to do the will of God, there is an assurance that comes with it. We can be confident in our decision and our coming victory.

For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.

1 Thessalonians 1:5a (NLT)

When our determination leads us to do the will of God, the power of the Holy Spirit within us gives us the confidence we need to fulfill our purpose no matter what. Like Isaiah, we can set our face like a stone and push ahead toward the vision God has placed before us being confident in our triumph.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 50-52, 1 Thessalonians 1

Team player

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can goodness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live in darkness?

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NLT)

I am well-aware that this portion of scripture is talking about believers and unbelievers. We usually take this to mean those who call themselves Christians and those who don’t. The New King James Version tells us not to be unequally yoked together. But, did you know that you can also be unequally yoked with believers?

I will admit that, as soon as I saw the word team, my mind drifted to sports. Last year, my favourite football team went through a rebuilding. That’s putting it nicely. The new head coach managed to break a league record for the highest number of different starters fielded by a single team in a season. In addition to talent, the coaching staff were looking for chemistry. In order to win, you need a team of men who have the same drive, mindset, vision, and work ethic. One person on the field who doesn’t share those qualities with the rest of the team can spoil a game or even a season. A year and a half and well over one hundred players in, we’ve started winning again. There’s hope for a spot in the playoffs.

Let’s take this to the realm of the local church. Replace players with leaders, volunteers, or regular church-goers. When we all share a vision and work together with similar ethic and effort, we win. The church grows. Plans come together. God moves. But one person applying a different set of ideals can spoil the whole thing. Ask any church leader.

Every denomination and even every church within a denomination (or outside of a denomination) has their own way of doing things. We trust that the leadership is hearing from God and are presenting that vision down the line to the rest of the body. We have several options:

  1. We can get into line. We can be those players who are on the team to win. We’ll follow every instruction passed down from the coaching staff and do everything in our power to win. In church words, so long as the pastor is in line with the Word of God, we come into line with the pastor.
  2. If you don’t agree with the coach/pastor, a few more options may present themselves. You can work to come into agreement with the leadership—so long as the vision and methods are biblically sound. Pray about it. Ask God to change your heart and your mind. If you still cannot come into agreement, a word of advice—leave. Don’t be that one person that spoils it for everyone else. If you’re the one that doesn’t agree, be quiet about it and exit gracefully without making an attempt to bring the whole thing down. If it’s not of God, it’ll come down on its own anyway.

If you are a believer, I hope that you’ve found yourself a winning team, er, church. I pray that you are in a place where you can get on board with the vision and are invited to help that ministry become all God has called it to be. If you haven’t yet found your team, I pray that you soon will or that God will do a work in you so that you can grow right where you are.

God created us with so much variety. There is no one single way to go about accomplishing His work, yet He never called anyone to go about it alone. So find those with whom you can team up. Work with them. Grow with them. Win with them. Be a team player.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 23-24, 2 Corinthians 6

All I really want

What do you want in life? A nice car? A big house? A good-looking spouse with a good job? Do you want to be happy? Feel settled? What do you spend your time pursuing?

Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.
You are all I really want in life.”

Psalm 142:5 (NLT)

Can any of us say, like David did, that the Lord is all we really want in life? Do we look to God for direction in everything? Do we trust Him with our lives—our entire lives?

Let me hear of your unfailing love to me in the morning,
for I am trusting in you.
Show me where to walk,
for I have come to you in prayer.

Psalm 143:8 (NLT)

While I believe that our spirits long for God completely, the rest of us often struggle to catch up. In our heads we can say that God is all we want, but our attitudes and actions may not quite fall into line.

That is where the asking comes in.

David had no trouble at all bringing his complaints and concerns to God. Did he do absolutely everything the way God wanted him to? No. But he was still the man who, despite his downfalls and shortcomings, chased after the heart of God.

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
on a firm footing.

Psalm 143:10 (NLT)

We have to keep reminding ourselves that, even if the spirit is willing and the flesh weak, that God, in His infinite loving kindness is still faithful. When we call out to Him, He will answer. If we allow Him to, He will lead us. If we open our eyes, He will show us the way.

If we endeavor to truly make God all we want in life, He will meet us where we are and fill as much space in our lives that we make available to Him.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 142-144, 1 Corinthians 10:14-33