Blooms and Scripture 19

Stella D'Oro Daylily

Stella D’Oro Daylily

Great is Thy Faithfulness – “As Thou has been, Thou forever will be.”

The Stella D’Oro keeps blooming for much of the spring and summer. The continuous blooms are an excellent picture of God’s faithfulness. Some human (or group of humans) worked with this variety to improve their re-blooming ability to this point. But it’s God’s strength and power (and faithfulness) that causes them to grow at all.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 ESV

I Wish You Could Smell This – Sweet Savor!

Jasmine in Bloom

Jasmine in Bloom

A “sweet savor” isn’t a common twenty-first century phrase used to describe good smells – but it would appropriately describe the wonderful treat that greets Sharon and me when we go outside these days. The confederate jasmine is in full bloom and super full fragrance. It doesn’t matter which door we exit – the pleasing aroma from the one vine comes over the top of the house or around the corners to reach us.

The phrase is common in the Bible, though, especially in Leviticus. That’s where we get details of the sacrifices required under the Law. The burnt offerings were made “for a sweet savor unto the Lord”. Since God is a spirit (John 4:24), there must be something spiritual about the use of the phrase, rather than an actual physical smell.

We get some insight in Hosea 6:6, when God says: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings“. And, again when Jesus refers to that verse in Matthew 9:13: “But, go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance“.

So, like many things in the Bible, it comes back to the attitude and “heart not just head” perspective (ex: See Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13). God desires we show mercy to others, and know and obey Him rather than just perform the rituals. Jesus didn’t come to call to repentance those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they are sinners.

Our sacrifices to God are not burnt offerings anymore, but our praise, prayer, thanksgiving, obedience and worship are what we offer. And, from reading the verses above, those are what God was looking for all along. However, the burnt offerings were also important back then, or God would not have instituted them. One purpose was to show those making the offerings that they weren’t long lasting – as soon as they finished one, they began preparing for the next. (Perhaps the “sweet savor” was a reminder of that constant need, and God’s “heart” requirements to the people who smelled it).

But, the main purpose was to picture Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He would make (and now has made) for His children. All the many purposes of the different offerings were fulfilled in Jesus. And, there is no more need for any physical sacrifice – He has fulfilled that once and for all.

So, perhaps, we can let the aromas of the jasmines, the roses, the comfort food on the stove, and (add your favorite here)be a sweet savor to remind us to sacrifice our love (from the heart not just the head) to Christ, and remember always what He has done to save us.

he (Jesus) entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (for us).” Hebrews 9:12 ESV

Things Change – Jesus Christ Doesn’t

Onions With Pivot Irrigation

Things change and the process of life moves on.

When we first moved here, to the “middle of nowhere”, the field across the road was just that – a field that was planted each year with varying crops according to the planned rotation. The owners later divided it – leaving one portion for crops and the other as a pasture for cows.

Early this year, the pasture grass was plowed up, a pivot irrigation system was installed, and Sweet Vidalia Onions were planted. The onions have since been replaced with peanuts, which are ready to be turned over for harvesting.

The land right around our house was initially a pasture also. (I’ll have to remember to post at some point about the joys of having cows around your house – especially when they belong to someone else). Most of that pasture was replaced with planted pine trees about 20 years ago and, since then, we were blessed to purchase part of that land.

At the end of last year, we had the pines cut down and now we’re trying to decide what to do with the land. I have set aside about an acre as a new “landscape” area. I had a few hardwood trees planted to get it started, but no long-range plans have been made.

But, whether or not, I make and carry out long range landscape plans, something will happen in that acre. After the harvest across the road, the peanuts may be replaced with onions again, but a different crop may be planted. If left alone, the other part of our planted pine area will re-seed itself from all the remaining pines in the vicinity.

I’ve made this ramble (hopefully a bit interesting) to illustrate the change that happens around us as time passes. Even leaving things alone, results in some type of change.

But, the point I’m heading to is that during this relatively short time described here, and backwards and forwards into eternity, our Lord and Savior has not changed one bit. And, He never will. As things change, and the process of life moves on – often in ways we don’t prefer – that is a wonderful assurance we can hold to.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 ESV

The Bible as a Change Agent

Bible Study 2

Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

This is my contribution to the ChristianWriters.com blog chain for September. Our theme for the month is “change”. Check out others on the respective days shown in the right hand column.

Several years ago when our Church was without a Pastor, I had the opportunity (by necessity) to do some lay-speaking. I entitled one message “The Bible as a Change Agent”. When thinking about this month’s theme, it came to mind, so here’s the blog-length gist of that message.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,

12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

The grace of God that brings salvation is alive in Jesus Christ, our Lord. That salvation is the first and most important change in a believer’s life. It occurs when a non-believer is born again by receiving the Holy Spirit and a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and is converted.

However, salvation isn’t the final change that should happen in us. In verse 12, we move into everyday life in “the present age”. First, it says we are taught. How are we taught? God has chosen the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word as the principle means we learn by.

What are we taught? The remainder of verse 12 describes the continual change that should be happening within us and in the way we live. It’s talking about the progressive changes that should be happening as we become more obedient to God’s Word, and, as we better understand what is required of us through God’s Word.

Verse 13 speaks of some of our motivation to want to change. We are to look to the return of our Lord and rejoice in the fact that we will be with Him in Heaven.

Verse 14 then speaks of Christ’s motivation and purpose for changing us. He is purifying us into His own special people (the KJV says “peculiar people”, which means different from the world around us). And, He desires that so much that He gave Himself for us.

As God’s children, we have been changed when we were reborn with the Holy Spirit. We were made new creations. And, as we move forward in our Christian walk, we are called to continue to change – as the verse in Titus says – to be purified and be a special/peculiar people. And, the Word of God, thru the working of the Holy Spirit, is the primary instrument that God uses in bringing about that change.

I’d like to challenge us that each time we come into the sanctuary our prayer would be like Paul’s on the road to Damascus – “Lord what would you have me to do?” and also “Lord what would you have me to learn?” – and pray that when we go back out the doors, we would walk out a changed person.

A challenge that every time we go into a Bible Study class that we would ask the same thing of God and desire to walk out of that class a changed person. A challenge that every time we open our Bible – we would ask the same thing of God and desire that when we close it, we would be a changed person.

But, let’s always focus on our reason for that – it’s not to be a “better” person, although that will result from this. Our motivation is that Jesus has given Himself for us – so that we are changed and can stand before God without condemnation, and with the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, and God’s Holy Word we can continue to change in this present age, to become more like our Lord Jesus every day.

The Disciples Didn’t Get It, Until…

English: The Last Supper, showing Jesus, at th...

Jesus said: “One of you shall betray me”.

And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And, as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” Mark 14:17-19 ESV

We read in the Gospels that the disciples often just didn’t get it. They were with Jesus and He was teaching them and showing His power through miracles on a daily basis. But, because they didn’t get it, Jesus’ words to them often began with “Oh, ye of little faith”.

The disciples were there when Jesus fed five thousand men (plus women and children) from a few loaves and fishes. Yet, not long after that, Jesus asked them about feeding four thousand and they said it couldn’t be done.

Jesus kept repeating the fact that He was going to Jerusalem to die. Yet, they took it to mean He was going to start His earthly reign, and spent time arguing over which of them would get the highest office in that kingdom. They just didn’t get it.

However, in the Scripture above, during what we call The Last Supper, they did get it. When Jesus said one of them would betray Him, they didn’t accuse each other and point fingers of guilt. No, each of them sorrowfully recognized his own weakness and asked the troubling question “Is it I?”

Before we start condemning them, we need to ensure we get it. We need to recognize we have no real strength without Jesus. We may not betray Him in the same manner He described, but we can betray our faith in many different ways.

The assurance comes, though, in that we don’t have to act on our own strength. 1 John 4:4 tells us Whose strength we can rely on:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 ESV

Lover’s Leap for Joy?

Lover's Leap

Lovers' Leap Image by aeu04117 via Flickr

In this country’s mountainous regions there are many locations dubbed “Lovers’ Leap”. They all have associated legends, many involving Native Americans, and with variations on the “Romeo and Juliet” theme. (Perhaps there is a Lovers’ Leap legend in Great Britain and that’s where Shakespeare got the idea.) One legend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia has a white settler and the Chief’s daughter falling in love. After much scorn and exclusion from both families, the couple embraced and plummeted to their death to be together forever. Another location has a closer sequence to “Romeo and Juliet” – the two lovers were from different tribes, and members of the maiden’s tribe attacked the brave and left him for dead at the top of a cliff. The maiden found him, and thinking he was dead, she jumped off. When he awoke and discovered what had happened, he threw himself over to be with her.

Jesus’ refers to a different type of Lover’s Leap in the sixth chapter of the Book of Luke:

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23 ESV.

The reactions Jesus describes are also those associated with the Lovers’ Leap legends: scorn, exclusion, and hatred. The legends end in tragedy, yet Jesus tells us instead of jumping off a cliff, we should respond with a leap for joy.

That is humanly hard to grasp. We can understand the leap for joy made by those who had been physically crippled their whole life and were miraculously healed by Jesus (and Peter and Paul). However, in this passage, Jesus says we are blessed if we’re treated like the ill-fated lovers of the legends. That doesn’t sound like a miracle – or does it?

The critical phrase in Jesus’ statement is the requirement that our suffering be “on account of the Son of Man”. As the Apostle Peter wrote, “what glory is it” if we’re hated and scorned because we’re hateful and scornful ourselves? No, our enduring this type of suffering is “acceptable to God” and we can leap for joy only because of whom we love: Jesus Christ.

And what’s the miracle behind this lover’s leap for joy?

We love Him, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

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This post is part of the Christian Writers blog chain. Our theme for this month is “Leap”. Please see the list to the right and visit my friends’ blogs to see what they have to say about this topic.

Christmas is Past, New Years is here – What now?

           We just celebrated Christmas. We sang “Joy to the World!” as we should – joyfully! Hopefully, that joy remains, but with Christmas past, and a new year before us, what comes next? As always, we can look to Scripture to give us an example.

            In the second chapter of Luke, we read the Christmas Story – the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem; Jesus’ birth and His being laid in the manger because there was no room at the inn; the angel revealing the good news to the shepherds; the shepherds running to see, and then glorifying and praising God.

            Then, we read of Jesus being taken to the temple when he was 8 days old. Simeon and Anna were there and both recognized, by the Holy Spirit, that this baby was the Messiah.

            The next specific thing we read about is a trip Jesus’ family took to Jerusalem for the Passover. After the feast, Joseph and Mary started home and unknowingly left Jesus behind. When they discovered He wasn’t with their relatives, they hurried back to Jerusalem. They found Him in the temple, talking with the teachers.

            Mary confronted Jesus and asked why He had worried them so. Jesus replied: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”Luke 2:49 NKJV

            As we leave Christmas, 2011, behind and look forward into 2012, we can consider Jesus’ example recorded after the Christmas Story. We can “be about our Father’s business.”                

            I’m going to try something different this week. I’m not going to tell you what I think that means, but I’ll ask what you think. Please take a few seconds and leave a comment on how you think we should “be about our Father’s business” in 2012. As we get some comments (hopefully!), that should give us all more to think about.