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.