Friday, June 24, 2011
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23)
The above passage is a familiar one, but as I approached it one day, I thought about what it means to be led by God through “paths” of righteousness (what is right, just or normal according to God‘s standards).
This entire Psalm reflects a God who is seen as a Shepherd loving and dependable towards his people. So, when I noticed there were “paths of righteousness,” I wasn’t surprised that God has carved out paths for his people to follow in. Even David knew of God’s paths of righteousness. He said “my steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped” (Psalm 17).
As children, we can probably all remember our parents telling us to stay on a certain path to get where we wanted to go. There’s always danger lurking and a good parent will forewarn their children. The other day, I was walking in a strange neighborhood and nearing the end of my “path”, I encountered a very big dog who came out of nowhere. I screamed and tried to outrun the dog which didn’t work very well. Suddenly, the owner captured his pet and I struggled to find my peace again. Had I known more about this path, I may have avoided this situation.
God, who is the perfect parent, knows what is planned by the enemy and will keep us shielded from the devil’s schemes IF we will keep God always before us. Proverbs 3:5&6 is one of my favorite passages, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” A straight path is a righteous, (right) path.
All of this to say…. There is a path worth traveling and it’s the path of righteousness. If Jesus is your Shepherd, he will gladly lead you in order that you may avoid the pitfalls that are lurking around every corner. Lastly, it is for his glory that we arrive at our destination where we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).
Friday, June 17, 2011
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking. But of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” (Rom.14:17).
The Apostle Paul wrote the above passage to the Christians in Rome and the believers everywhere. Paul wanted the believers to love one another whether or not they all served Christ the same way. Some believers may eat meat, others vegetables, some consider one day more sacred while another considers every day alike. Paul said it’s really not beneficial to argue about such things because after all, who are we doing all this for anyway?
Further, Paul said it’s not good to offend your brother by doing something you may have perfect peace in doing because if you do, you are no longer acting in love towards him (Rom.14:15). Further saying in verse 21 that it is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. Just because you feel blameless before God is not a good reason to continue to do something that would cause another believer to stumble.
God is most interested in our walk before Him because to Him we will give an account of our lives (Rom.14:12). God does not want his children to be consumed with external things; in this case, food and drink. Be consumed with loving God with all your heart and with all your soul (mind, will and emotions) and with all your strength, Deuteronomy 6:5. According to Matthew's gospel, 22:38, “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself' (Matthew 22:38).
When man is reconciled to God - a wonderful benefit of peace toward Him and your fellow man is a result. In addition, joy is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit which is like icing on your cake! Loving God and being righteous (right with God) will bring about a life worth living, noticed by all, especially God.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
“He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor” Proverbs 21:21 (NIV).
Proverbs is a book of wise sayings written mostly by a man named Solomon who was the son of King David and Bathsheba. The word “proverb” comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rule or to govern.”
The above scripture is an encouragement to those who desire to be Righteous (integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling and acting; the condition acceptable to God ) because when you desire to be right with God and actively pursue Him, God desires to do right by you. Solomon is saying through the unction of the Holy Spirit, if you will pursue; meaning to follow eagerly or with haste; to chase that which is pleasing and acceptable to God, then God will reward you with benefits that cannot come through any other source.
I have a cute little Yorkie named Kirby and everywhere I go... he follows almost to the point of my stepping on him. He knows that he will get my affection and undivided attention if he eagerly chases after me. Imagine yourself being that persistent with God. If Kirby were to sit in the corner all day, he would miss the stroke of my hand upon his fur and the words of love I speak to him. What he craves; he goes after with diligence.
We too should crave the benefits of God. Some say going after a reward is a wrong motive, but what if the reward is Life, Prosperity, and Honor. These are some rewards we need to desire and expect when we chase after Righteousness.
Solomon said that the one who followed after Righteousness and mercy finds life. This life that Solomon was referring to was not simply living from day to day without purpose, but it’s living day to day ON PURPOSE and WITH PURPOSE. It’s like springtime after winter when the green leaves replace the barren branches and like fresh flowing water from a once empty well. God wants to give us a life of abundance, not just an existence. Jesus said in the book of John (10:10), “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The Lord knows the condition of your heart and will bring back to you what you have sown towards Him and others. “The Lord searches the heart and examines the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve” Jeremiah 17:10.
And lastly, God wants to bring honor which is glory, abundance, riches, splendor, and dignity to you and me! He loves to open up the windows of heaven over the one who follows after Him with pure motives. We fail to realize that the abundance that God has for us far outweighs worldly gain. He desires to give us what cannot be obtained on our own. He is the source of everything that is good and ultimately every good and perfect gift comes from Him.
Friday, March 18, 2011
“…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11
The above scripture was spoken by the Apostle Paul as a prayer for the Philippian believers. The word “fruit” used by Paul made me think of natural fruit, such as oranges, peaches, apples, etc. Although, not a farmer, I do know that fruit can only be produced from a healthy tree rooted and grounded in good soil, water from heaven, and adequate doses of God’s sunshine.
Just as fruit is sweet to the taste and the juice runs down one’s chin, so is a person who is filled with Jesus, who is our Righteousness. When we are “in Christ” and allowing His love to fill our hearts and minds, we don’t have to “try” to be like Jesus. We just are! A peach tree doesn’t have to “try” to produce peaches. So, just as a tree doesn’t have to work at producing that beautiful fruit - so is the process for you and me who have responded to the love of Christ that has been shed abroad in our hearts. It’s no longer I who liveth, but Christ who lives in me and out of me onto others (Galatians 2:20).
When I’m enjoying my relationship with Jesus - the evidence is the fruit of righteousness (integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling and acting; the condition acceptable to God ). In other words.....having the character of Christ within me. Even without my help, God is producing His fruit in and through His people. Once we “…taste and see that the Lord is good”(Psalm 34:8), we will never long for anything else.
Yet, remember, all of that juicy fruit of righteousness being produced in us is for God’s glory, edifying or building up the body of Christ and also for future believers who need to see Christ in us. We don’t have to fear running out of this fruit as long as we continue to fill up our hearts and minds with that which is wholly delicious!
Without our union with Him, we will lack beauty, sweetness, tenderness and rotten to our core. For without Him, we are nothing and can do nothing.
Oh, may we be filled with the fruit of righteousness…..
Monday, March 7, 2011
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:20
The above scripture was spoken by Jesus while ministering to the people on how to live in a way that would please God. He taught truths that many people had never heard before because Jesus operated with a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of understanding which confounded the religious folks and amazed everyone else. Before Jesus began his ministry, the teaching of that day came from the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes.
The Pharisees were a religious Jewish group that zealously followed the Old Testament laws, as well as their own religious traditions. They were highly respected in their communities and most people feared them. The scribes or teachers were learned in the Mosaic law and in sacred writings. Luke 11:52 (Jesus speaking) “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” As religious experts, they did not recognize who was among them, namely Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. And further, they had prevented people from knowing God by enforcing people to live under the law and their traditions.
"We must do more than they, and better than they, or we shall come short of heaven. They (religious leaders) were partial in the law, and laid most stress upon the ritual part of it; but we must be universal, and not think it enough to give the priest his tithe, but must give God our hearts. They minded only the outside, but we must make conscience of inside godliness. They aimed at the praise and applause of men, but we must aim at acceptance with God: they were proud of what they did in religion, and trusted to it as a righteousness; but we, when we have done all, must deny ourselves, and say, We are unprofitable servants, and trust only to the righteousness of Christ; and thus we may go beyond the scribes and Pharisees" (Matthew Henry Concordance).
John the Baptist said in John 1:26 “…but among you stands one you do not know.” Sadly, today many who appear to be spiritual do not truly know God. They may know about God, but if you do not personally know Him by inviting Jesus to come live in your heart, to forgive you of your sins and to be the Lord of your life, then you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Remember, Jesus is not so much interested in all the things you do or your outward appearance before man, but most interested in the condition of your heart. To man, we may appear to be kind, generous, knowledgeable in the things of God, but God knows if our hearts are angry, unforgiving, unloving, and untouched by Him.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at, Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7. The context of this scripture refers to the Lord’s choosing of the next King of Israel who would be David, son of Jesse. Jesse did not see what God saw in his young son. When Samuel the Priest and Prophet came to Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.” This was the case for all of David’s brothers. David was the one who had a heart after God (Acts 13:22). God is moved by the motives of our heart not the work of our hands.
So how does Matthew 5:20 apply to us today? Model yourself after Jesus and not people. Don’t look at people’s deeds and their knowledge as “righteousness” to be obtained. Keep your eye on Jesus and may your righteousness (integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling and acting; the condition acceptable to God) be your standard and your motivation. As long as you are in Him and looking to Him, you will certainly not miss the Kingdom of Heaven where the Lord we serve reigns.
Pray, right now, that the Lord will cause His Righteousness to grow in you. May His grace, which is his divine influence upon your heart, be poured out upon you, rise up in you, and flow out from you to others as you walk in relationship with him. May that relationship not be full of activity to appease him and others, but may your motivation be to please him and love him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). May you walk in relationship with Jesus moment by moment till you see him face to face in the age to come.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wheat, Tares & Weeds
Matthew 13:24 NKJV
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares? He said to them, An enemy has done this. The servants said to him, Do you want us then to go and gather them up? But he said, No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
There is quite a teaching here in this parable, but our focus is going to be upon the difference between wheat, tares and weeds. To those of us who are not farmers, we would not readily be able to determine the difference, but there is a significant difference between “wheat, tares, and weeds.”
We must realize that the wheat and tares is symbolic of wheat being a believer and follower of Christ whereas the tares are those who have not come to faith in Christ. One reason, the wheat and tares grow together is that Jesus would have believers to influence unbelievers that all would come to the knowledge of the truth.
Now, even in the Church, it is sometimes difficult to see the difference between wheat and tares. Some have the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). They may appear to be a born-again believer, when in actuality, they are not.
Now, back to the difference between wheat, tares, and weeds. The wheat is longer, bigger, and stronger. This is a believer in Christ who even when in trials, he demonstrates a strength and confidence in Jesus that carries him through the toughest of storms.
The tare is shorter, medium sized, and weaker. And the weed is the shortest, smallest, and the weakest. The weed DOES NOT PRODUCE ANY SEED. The wheat produces the biggest seeds.
Remember as believers, we are to be fruit-bearers.
Harvest time is when the imposters are readily seen. When the wheat is ready to be harvested, it bends down almost in a bowing position because it’s full of seed. It bends according to the wind blowing against it. This is symbolic of the believer and disciple of Christ, filled with the Spirit of the Lord. Humility is the sign of a believer, bowing to the one they love. These are the ones who spend time with the Lord, walking devoted to Him.
The tare on the other hand is readily seen by the farmer as straight up in form. They do not bow as the wheat. They are not filled with an abundance of seed, symbolic of the unbeliever who is only full of themselves. They are stubborn and prideful. Something I learned from a site about tares, even though they produce “some” seed, and act like wheat, if eaten, it causes one to become severely ill. This is symbolic of those even in our Churches who we sit beside weekly. Be careful who you let minister to you. The tare’s job is to choke the life out of the wheat!
Now remember the weeds produce nothing. They are the shortest, smallest, and the weakest. They are just ugly to look at. We all know what a weed looks like and the minute we see the weed we are anxious to get rid of it because we know the damage weeds can do to our produce. A weed can also be in our Churches. As wheat, believers in Christ, we should influence the weeds (unbelievers and troublemakers) instead of allowing them to influence us. Instead of looking down on the weeds, we must have compassion for them, remembering that we too were weeds before we became wheat. We must consider that every weed can become wheat if only we will allow Christ to be revealed to them through our daily lives.
At the harvest, the weeds will be uprooted and thrown away. Oh what a sad day that will be. We must pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send us out into the harvest field because the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:38). This does not mean we have to go to Africa to win the lost. They are all around us!
We must be vigiliant to continue right standing before the Lord as well as being compassionate and concerned about those who have yet to hear the Good News that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Monday, February 7, 2011
Why is it that we’d rather say we are sinners saved by grace instead of saints who sometimes sin? Many Christians still consider themselves less than what God says they are? Is it because we are more “Sin Conscious” than “God Conscious?”
“This life and nature of God is RIGHTEOUSNESS. Consequently, the man who has received the nature of God has automatically become the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in Christ” E.W. Kenyon
When Jesus Christ becomes your Savior and the Lord of your life, RIGHTEOUSNESS becomes a part of you. 1 John 2:29, “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.”
John also said, “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous” (John 3:7). According to John 14, the Father sent the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things and reminds us of everything Jesus said. The Holy Spirit will reveal the standard of God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS to anyone who believes and He will convict us of sin in our lives. So, if you feel conviction about something ---- repent(1 John 1:9), but don’t believe any lies such as …. “How can I be saved and do what I just did… or “I sure don’t feel very RIGHTEOUS today.” The very fact that you’re feeling conviction is a sign that you belong to the Lord.
Remember, you are a New Creation now. You are the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in Christ Jesus. Try saying that every day and see how it changes the way you see yourself before God. If we don’t know who we are, then we are subject to the lies of the enemy. He will always lie to us because satan is the father of lies (John 8:44)and we will always fall for it until we realize Christ is in us and we are RIGHTEOUS … whether we feel like it or not.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
“….created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” Ephesians 4:24
Some may say it’s sacrilege to insinuate that we could be like God. Many Christians still see themselves as lowly worms before a righteous God. That would be true if it had not been for the sacrifice Christ made upon the cross 2,000 years ago. Christ’s demonstration of his love for mankind was a divine exchange of our sin for his righteousness. We now stand before him NEW - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Imagine ---- you taking your old smelly tennis shoes into a store and as you lay them upon the counter - you’re met with a kind clerk with an enormous smile, who without hesitation hands you the latest, best looking tennis shoes you’ve ever seen. And, the best part is ….. There is NO CHARGE to you. It’s a gift. You walk out of the store wearing your NEW SHOES, you forget those worn out, ugly, smelly sneakers you brought into the store. You won’t ever need them or want them again.
So just as you exchanged your old smelly tennis shoes for a new pair…. Christ took our smelly sin upon himself and gave us a gift - HIMSELF and all that he is. “He became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become his righteousness…“ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now, we’re walking in our new shiny shoes - HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS and holiness. If, by faith you have received this precious gift of Jesus into your heart, you have now begun the greatest journey of your life. There’s no turning back - that old life is gone - a new one has begun. And, I do look like my heavenly Father after all.