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Fruity Spirit: Peace

Peace can be mean many things; it can mean rest, safety, refuge, shelter, and more. The Lord is the ultimate peace-giver, as his word says time and time again.

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Ruth 2:12

Taking refuge in God is your ticket to eternal peace in Heaven. To be peaceful, and to have peace at mind and heart, we have to rely on Christ’s encouragement and protection. As humans, we have a nasty tendency to revert to anger or aggression in place of peace. Under God’s wings we take refuge in him, in the Lord, and find peace in his refuge.

Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” Isaiah 27:5

Again, this verse talks about refuge in God, which is very important to our faith, and we remember to let God take care of the bad guys and we help get  them saved. Being peaceful can make such a difference to our reputation and in the lives of others. To be someone who has peace and brings peace to the chaotic lives of others, who are living everyday in such a violent world, can change their lives for eternity.

This week, I encourage you to find peace in Christ. Pray, reflect, worship, and set your heart at rest, so that you can show others the rest and restoration that the Lord offers freely.

Before you can do anything else, you have to be saved and redeemed by confessing your sins. Just as well, in order to listen to the Spirit, follow Christ’s example, and obey God’s commands, we need to have our heart in a place that is ready to listen, follow, and obey–in the refuge and sanctity of the Lord.

The Lord will rescue his servants;  no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” Psalm 34:22

 

Don’t forget to check-in next week for my post on Patience!

It isn’t fair!!: An In-Depth Analysis of God’s Justice

As you read the title, it’s likely that you were reminded of the image of a younger child, whining to a parent about how something wasn’t fair. Or maybe, you were reminded of the last time you thought something was extraordinarily unfair. Or, you might have been reminded of song lyrics, or the saying “Life isn’t fair”, or–maybe you didn’t really think anything and just decided to start reading and find out what it meant. Well, it could be a lot of the above. You be reminded of our previous post on God’s justice, but this post is firstly more in-depth (as you never would have guessed), and secondly uses more direct examples, explaining why exactly the things that happen are fair, or, at least, they are just. The “fairness” of the world has always been an issue for everyone, as humanity has strived to make life fair as possible (ahem–fair as humanly possible, being the core of the problem), and governments have been founded to promote justice. And what is the only thing that is truly fair and rightly just? I think you know.

The Lord has been bringing justice to the world as long as there has been a world. In saying that, there have been many cases which may leave many wondering how justice was served, or such a thing was right, and often those questions concern 1 of 2 scenarios: your life, or the lives of the Israelites (Don’t worry–I plan on going over both).

As far as the Israelites go, it never seemed in the bible that they could stay faithful to God for longer than two politicians can go without shifting blame. But here’s the thing: God forgave them. He constantly had to deal with the cycle of apostasy: the Israelites would fall away from God, then get into trouble, then call on God, then get rescued, then worship God, then fall away and start over again. In some cases, thankfully, it didn’t always involve the Israelites’ near desolation. There are a lot of examples, though, of God not only rebuking Israel, his people, but other nations. Many will point out that other nations’ people, all of them, couldn’t have all known about the God of Israel. The thing is, they didn’t have to know.

Have you ever been punished for something that you didn’t do? Or, especially, have you been punished as a group when you didn’t do anything. I remember personally back in grade school, whenever I had a loud or talkative class, that the rewards would be taken from everyone, not just the main culprits of the greater noise. The teachers often even knew who the main motor-mouths were, but more often than not, they would punish all despite this. They didn’t want to risk the group mentality. That’s something like how God operated in that day and age. Nations like Babylon, Moab, or Ammon worshipped other gods and idols, but those surrounding Israel (note that due to Israel’s central location, there were quite a few) knew about Israel’s god. It’s important that we realized these people, as a nation, rejected the one true God for others. The alternative?

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountainand give them joy in my house of prayer.” Isaiah 56:6-7

I think God made it pretty clear that other peoples were certainly to be accepted if they decided to follow the Lord. Every time God punished a nation for their unrighteousness, that nation would have known fully well what they were doing. It’s not necessarily true that every individual would have known that they should have been worshipping the Lord, but it was the nation as a whole that had to be punished. On the other hand, it should

Why? God had to keep his kingdom holy, and to preserve his name. When nations defied God and defiled his name in everything they could, competing for the sovereign kingdom, they were asking for it. The Lord had established his holy kingdom in Israel, which is why he had to keep the Israelites on their toes with specific rules and regulations. God had a relationship with the people only as whole, in a relatively impersonal way. With the relationship, he was glorified. Today, we glorify God on a personal level of acceptance, so that God has a relationship with each and every individual, so it isn’t necessary to execute judgement on the scale of an entire nation. So, was it fair to punish nations outside of Israel, sometimes by killing thousands? It’s slightly more complicated, perhaps, than we think but it was absolutely fair. If there was any doubt, it was decided by the ultimate and righteous judge, the Lord.

So Part 2 of all this our modern-day lives following the life of Christ: your life. Or–since I don’t actually know anything about your life–we’ll go with our lives. As I mentioned, we have a relationship with God today on a personal basis for his glorification. In laymen’s terms, we can know God as a friend. The advantage to this is that judgement does seem a little bit more fair, because day-to-day we are personal held accountable for our own actions, instead of those of our nation or country.

Bad things happen to good people, right? Yes, but for specific reasons. This isn’t an easy thing to accept, or even to live with–especially when we’re the good, striving people who undergo difficulties. But things happen to people for reasons we don’t understand, and the world’s horrible things don’t exist by God’s preference in the first place.

So justice is served in our lives, making things truly right, because God just says so? Yes, but there’s a little more to it. Things come together for those who follow God, as a huge part of the bible is used to tell us. Likewise, those who don’t follow God, by choice, will be punished appropriately. Of course, this doesn’t mean that will always be the case. In fact, it may never seem to be the case in your life.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. ” 2 Corinthians 9:10

Just in case you didn’t get the message: God will supply. And further, he will “enlarge the harvest of your righteousness”, so he will reward you as well. God’s plan for our lives is perfect for us, as he made us, and cares for us personally, so whatever happens, you can face it (that’s definitely in the bible, but I can’t recall where…). As the apostle Paul simply describes trials:

You know quite well that we were destined for them.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3

We were destined for difficulty, and why wouldn’t that be fair? Difficulty builds us up in faith (James 1:2-4). But now that we know all this, we have the responsibility to play our part in God’s plan for justice.

And in the entire world, God is working through countless Christians, people of all ages, origins, and skill sets, occupations, knowledge, and everything else to get the word out, the good news, to all people. And, if one person from some ancient civilization was killed in innocence, or if a woman in a remote village today dies before ever hearing about Jesus, or a child dies in birth–who’s to say, on Judgement Day, God won’t give them a fair sentence? It is fair, whether we understand or not. We can trust the ruling the Lord gives everywhere on Earth or in Heaven. And better, God’s ruling is just–of that we can be sure.

After getting through all of that, you may still have lots of 
unanswered questions, and there are many things I didn't explain.

Luckily, we've probably explained that in another post.
I know for sure there's useful stuff in these two:

A Forgotten God: Just, The Story of His Love

We Are Treasure Hunters

Who wouldn’t want to be a treasure hunter? Of course, in saying that, I’m reminded of two things: Indiana Jones, and that episode from “Psych” where Shawn is following his Uncle Jack’s treasure map. Either way, being a treasure hunter is awesome, and we all know it. It involves modern greed, ancient secrets, plots and mischief of all time periods, danger, and the thrill of the hunt (and being hunted, too). But how does being a Christian add up to that? It’s not quite that literal.

In our walk with God, there is treasure to be found that is more incredible to discover than anything that Indiana Jones ever uncovered. This treasure is treasure which has the power to change our lives for all eternity. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

First we need to know a little about just how important this treasure is. Just because it’s not the lost whatchamacallit of the South American Amazon doesn’t mean it’s not worth searching for.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.”” Matthew 13:44-45

Have you ever seen something that you wanted to just sell everything you owned to buy it? Or have you ever wanted to do something so badly, you almost wanted to give up and drop everything else to do it? The people in these two short parables did just that. They knew what was really valuable.

Yes, now I’m going to pull out the story of the rich young man and tell you to sell everything you have. And then I’ll try to stop being too sarcastic with you, because that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m talking about is spiritual. This is something that comes straight from God. When we find true inspiration, love, wisdom, hope, peace, and prosperity that the Lord offers us freely, then we have found the greatest treasure of all.

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:5-6

This treasure in the Lord is so great that it will change your life forever. The following verse from 1 Timothy says the treasure God gives us enables us to “take hold of the life that is truly life.” This treasure is a couple of things. It’s eternal, and in a number of verses, we are told that riches are stored up in heaven for us. (While that seems far away, God’s gifts will be better enjoyed eternally than just for our short lives! See 1 Peter 1:4 in context) Also, God’s treasure is all the things that we are blessed with by him, and enrich our lives to make them something they never could have been without him. Then, we’re truly living.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:18-19

Many treasure hunters in the Hollywood titles think that true life is fame, riches, women, or perhaps other selfish gain. But we’re searching, seriously, for the treasure that lets us take hold of the life that is truly life. Dictionary.com’s 4th definition of “life” is this: “4. a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived of as belonging to the soul” . Most people’s existence is, for lack of a better term, existential. God wants our lives to be so much more.

I want to wrap this one up by saying briefly how to search for this everlasting treasure, because by now I know you’re interested. To find God’s treasure,  you have to find God. Pray and pour out your heart, listen to his heart for you. Pursue the Lord in your life, every day, and every hour–and seek out the treasure of true life.

Set Your Lukewarm to Flame

This one’s for those of you like me, who live the so-called “average” American life. A home, a family, a nice little suburbia: it seems like the norm, right? While we all seem to prefer blissful idealism, it’s important that we have a realist for a reality-check every now and then. We need to not just live–but live on fire!

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16

Today, I’m aiming to be your reality-check (and mine), in remembering that the world is so much bigger than our first world countries and our suburbia. Even if you don’t have that kind of lifestyle, it can still be just as easy to forget. We can’t settle for standard. We can’t settle for the world’s mentality. We need to be the hot; the blazingly passionate people. It’s when we lose our perspective that we come think that everything is so small and simple. Getting caught up in thinking all this leads to one thing. Apathy.

There are lots of things the bible tells us to know and do and to not do. Below is a few tips to help you get started turning your lukewarm to flame.

  1. Live out loud! Be big and bold and let people know the truth. (Isaiah 58:1)
  2. We are supposed to relay God’s message to everyone. Yes, as in everyone. There’s still a lot of unreached people. (Matthew 28:19).
  3. Before I get you too riled up, remember not to be an idiot. (Acts 19:36)
  4. Have one primary goal in life: the pursuit of God’s kingdom; don’t be double-minded.  (James 4:8)
  5. We have the Lord in our hearts! Don’t forget he’s right there with you. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

These five things will go a long way to turning your average lifestyle into a passionate one. On Judgement Day, there will be a few kinds of people: those who oppose God or don’t care, those who knew of or about him, but never truly sought him, and those who searched for him with everything they had. In short, there are the cold, the lukewarm, and the hot. How do you think you’d be classified?

Blind Date

Out on a blind date, you have a hard time knowing what to expect. In fact, you don’t know what to expect at all. You are placing some degree of trust in the organizer of the date that this person may be for you. But, you are doing it often with very little evidence to base it on.

The Israelites are put in a similar position, but with the stakes a little higher. You would think that the Israelites would react with something like “Are you kidding me God?!”. Isaiah prophesies the nation’s punishment and exile, and yet we are told God wishes the people not to fear this, as if to surrender to their foe.

Therefore, this is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says, “O my people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did.”” Isaiah 10:24

This example is somewhat unusual, in that God has been prophesying to the Israelites that basically they are going to be punished via the Assyrians, and he then tells them not to sweat it. Any reasoning person would surely question this. The bible has plenty of passages which tell us to not fear, and to trust in God (try Psalm 112:7, Exodus 20:20, Isaiah 41:10, or 1 Peter 3:14.). But it makes it one heck of a lot harder when we are told to juggle that with impending death from one of your worst and most vicious enemies.  

There’s plenty of times which there is reason to be afraid. It just so happens that a lot of those times, it’s mostly our fault. But even among this, awaiting what is to us due, we have to realize that even then, even in the moment of absolute darkness, we are to trust God.

A lot of people call it crazy. Blind love?  Blind trust? Blind hope? I call it obedience. And it isn’t blind, either. When we allow ourselves to trust God, and invest fully in him, he will make sure that we are anything but blind. The Lord we serve prepares us for what’s ahead, though sometimes we don’t listen to the warnings and conditioning he gives us. That’s why it’s key that even when we’re not in times of trouble, we still maintain trust in God–that we’ll stay out of trouble.

In the following quote, it almost seems as if God is joking. He says that even among the punishment, it is only justice, and basically says he’s still giving Jacob a chance.

Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, for I am with you,” declares the LORD. “Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”” Jeremiah 46:28

My favorite part is when Jacob is told by God, “I will not completely destroy you.” Unlike the friend you have organizing a blind date, God will never be cruel or give you something you can’t handle. This trust is not blind in God though. With the countless examples in the bible and in life, people who trust in God succeed. You can always place your trust in God, even when it seems to be blind.

A Forgotten God: Magestic

This week, we’ve discussed the attributes of God that are most often overlooked, starting with how he is jealous and then yesterday how he is just. Today, we’re looking at God’s majesty.

Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty!” Isaiah 2:10

This passage is about as literal as it gets when it comes to fearing God. And honestly, that’s what the Israelites did–they feared God. But why did they fear God? Does that mean we have to hide in rocks from God?

(No. As you may have guessed, we are not called to hide under rocks out of fear.)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Now I don’t usually whip out the King James Version, but this translation phrases this verse better than any other. It tells us that reborn in Christ (with “the spirit” God has given us) we are not people of fear any longer, and we are not meant to live that way. And that means the verse from Isaiah doesn’t mean we have to be afraid of God. It actually has a very different meaning. It means we need to live in total respect for him; that we need to put him completely first. It means that you need to be in awe of God.

If something is majestic, it makes you have respect for its position or stature. Dictionary.com defines ‘majestic’ as “of lofty dignity or imposing aspect”. Clearly, God is of lofty dignity, and he is certainly imposing. Having fear of the Lord means that we don’t imagine him as the harmless tooth-fairy who magically brings us everything we want and need, because that is not what God is. We have to recognize that he is imposing, he is powerful, and he is even more dignified than Queen Elizabeth. And that’s something that comes right along with being infinite and all-powerful. The God we serve is not just a big “hunk o’ love”. As we’ve been looking at this week, he is a lot more complex and incredible than we could have ever imagined.

God is so great and mighty we can never imagine it. If you think you can imagine all that God is, go read Revelation and your mind will be quickly changed. I was reading Revelation myself earlier today and I was amazed at the description of God’s throne in chapter 4. It is very important that we all learn of God’s great glory, and just because we don’t always see it on earth doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly great and powerful. The Lord is majestic beyond belief (yes, I listened to Petra). We have to let that be none to the world–but first among ourselves.

Broken

Trust is injured with a few words. It’s delicate and fragile, and yet it’s breaking is something we see everyday–if we don’t experience it ourselves. People are constantly injuring or being injured, and the loop of pain and causing pain continues.

We are told people are cruel and will be this way in Isaiah. The prophet is inspired with countless messages and predictions, and this specific verse comes from a prophecy on God’s judgment of Israel. He says,

People will oppress each other–man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored.” Isaiah 3:5

I love the simplicity of the line above, saying, “people will oppress each other”. It really goes to show that cruelty is a fact of life and of nature that we have to learn to deal with. I was once told that “there is no such thing as bad people, only hurting people.” Every criminal, murderer, abusive father, or anyone who injures others is not evil, they simply have not received the redemption and life-changing power of Jesus Christ in their lives. And this is the power, the truth, that we must give all people.

This post is about two scenarios. The first is you or me being broken. The second is about everyone else in the world who is broken; the people we are sent to help.

The first step for us is accepting the truth that people’s oppression has existed and will exist always. Nonetheless, God’s redemption for us is available always, and his assistance is always ready, 24/7, to move in our lives. When we need it, when simply aren’t strong enough, God will absolutely move in our lives. There is another side, though. He also wants to make us stronger, and as we trek on through difficulty, trusting that he will come through, we are strengthened in spirit and in our relationship with God. In layman’s terms: trust God. The same applies to others, those saved and those not saved. As I described in yesterday’s post, when we faithfully believe in God, he supplies us spiritual (and physical) protection. Those who trust in the Lord are blessed.

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…” Nahum 1:7

And not only does he care, he guards, protects, and supplies everything they need. The Lord cares for all, and he wants to have a relationship with all. Everyone can trust God. He will never break your trust or anyone else’s. That’s why no matter how broken anyone is, they can always come to the Lord.

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