Misusing God’s Good Gifts

adam-and-eve

In Genesis 3, Eve is tempted by the Serpent to doubt God’s word and to doubt His character (vv 1, 4-5).  Likewise, we tend to think that God is a kill-joy, keeping us from enjoying things that seem attractive to us, not knowing that they can kill us and kill our relationship with Him.

When they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “their eyes were opened,” then realizing they were naked.  This realization could have been sudden, or gradual.  Why did it not previously occur to them that they were naked?  Perhaps in their innocence, they just appreciated their differences and embraced them as God’s loving plan for them.  One would assume the thought never crossed their minds, before the Fall, to misuse God’s good gifts to them. As they became aware of their nakedness did the man  insatiably hunger for sexual satisfaction and abuse his strength, pressuring Eve provide herself for his pleasure any time he wished?  Or was Eve tempted to misuse her seductive power over Adam, manipulating him with sexual attraction to get him to do as she wished?  Were this the case, they would be acting as God feared they would, becoming their own little gods, exercising their will selfishly upon others.  It would be too dangerous to the world for such selfish little gods to live forever by eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, so the reluctant Father banished them from the Garden – temporarily.

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First Responders


As God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), we have the undeserved privilege, joy, and responsibility of addressing the many needs around us in this broken, dangerous world. We all live in a battlefield of sorts, in harm’s way, bullets whizzing by our heads. There are casualties all around us. Brokenness. God’s word designates us priests of God (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 20:6), with the responsibility of interpreting His truth to the suffering and confused around us, helping them to understand God’s perspective on what is happening in this world.

sea beach sand ocean

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We are like first responders, such as lifeguards on a beach, police, EMTs, or firefighters. Like these servants, we must be:

 Ready to quickly offer help
 Visible to those who might recognize their need and express their desire for help
 Practiced at giving the expert help that is needed


Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work?” Proverbs 24:11-12
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”      2 Timothy 4:2

“For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”       Matthew 24:44-47

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”     Matthew 5:16

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”                            Acts 4:13

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”                    2 Timothy 2:15

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New beginnings

As we begin the new year, we have the pleasure of leaving behind us previous hurts and mistakes (hopefully learning from them) and looking ahead to what sort of new life God has in store for us.

Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.”                        
Isaiah 43:18-19

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God does not wish us to continue to dwell on our past mistakes, because He does not. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25 Rather, He is focused upon what He is doing through the New Life He has planted within us.

Jesus’ charge to the woman caught in adultery, after forgiving her, was, “Go, and sin no more.” Warmed and grateful from Jesus’ self-invitation to his house, Zacchaeus vows to turn over a new life:

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”                                            Luke 19:8-9

Our gratitude carries us along in its stream, propelling us into the new lifestyle and new values God places within us in the New Birth. Answering the criticism of His host, who was shocked that Jesus let a woman of low reputation wash his feet with perfume and her tears, said

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47

Like her, let us begin this new year full of the eager anticipation, gratitude, and energy that forgiveness brings.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to Godwhich is your spiritual service of worship.” Romans 12:1

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“Those who sit in darkness . . .”

Our painful circumstances feel more acute this time of year, when others seem to be so happy and light-hearted.  Our present and future seem dreadful.  Job, who suffered (he thought) so senselessly, felt his pain more acutely, not knowing the wider picture of the contest going on in heaven over his response to his suffering.  But we can learn from his attitude.  “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”  (Job 13:15)  And O Lord, give us the hope of the prophet Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
”             Habakkuk 3:17-19

Job’s and Habakkuk’s hope was not based on circumstances or human reason.  Rather, it was based only upon a deeper understanding of the character of Him who holds our lives in His hand.  God’s character breeds confidence.  Confidence like sheep have in their shepherd.

Then I will make up to you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten . . . .
“You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
Then My people will never be put to shame.
“Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel,
And that I am the Lord your God,
And there is no other;
And My people will never be put to shame
.             Joel 2:25-27

He may make our losses up to us and make it make sense in this world.  But it may not be until the next world, when we are given clearer sight and a mind that thinks like His.  Meanwhile, let us show our confidence in our Shepherd by praising Him through our tears and limping along the path in which He leads us.

At this time of the year, let us cling to the Light that shines in our darkness.  

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light
;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
”                          Isaiah 9:2

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Cleaning House

Judah’s King Josiah ordered the Temple, long neglected and run-down, to be repaired.  In the process, the High Priest Hilkiah found the Book of the Law, also badly neglected and ignored.  Scribe Shaphan read from the book aloud to the king.  “When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. . . . “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us. ”  (2 Kings 22:11,13)

Josiah was anguished, having become suddenly aware of the personal and corporate sin that had become so routine in Judah.  In response, he instituted repentant, thorough cleansing of the means and implements of blasphemous worship from the land.

Then the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. . . .

He broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with human bones.

Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah.”                         2 Kings 23:4, 14, 15

Kirk Cameron’s character Caleb in the movie Fireproof dealt with his enslavement to online pornography in a radical way, smashing his computer.  (see 2 min. video)  In my own battle, I have chosen to subscribe to the filtering and accountability services of Covenant Eyes (Covenant Eyes.com).  All internet sites I visit get evaluated as to harmfulness, and a report is sent to the accountability partners I choose.  I talk with these men regularly.  I have made at least four mail or phone contacts with publishers of Victoria’s Secret catalogs and of Sports Illustrated to stop these from coming unsolicited to my house.  Some people avoid certain social situations in which they fear they might be tempted to yearn for more things, wealth, influence, or prestige.  Many wisely avoid shopping as recreation.  A pastor I know chose to quit playing on their church softball team, because, in his competitiveness, he found himself inadvertently offending his opponents.

Sometimes our repentance and hate for sin must be followed up with radical cleansing, including destroying the easy pathways back to those destructive habits.  (see blog Burn Your Bridges to Sin)

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.                2 Timothy 2:21

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.                                2 Corinthians 7:1

 

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Spectrum of God’s Gifts

prismI am awestruck at certain times of the day when, to my delight, the sun’s rays burst into a rainbow of colors passing through borders of beveled glass in decorative windows in our house.  It moves me to worship.

Visible light, also known as white light, consists of a variety of component colors. These colors can be observed as light passes through a triangular prism. As it passes, the white light is separated into its component colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.  The higher frequency (lower wavelength) violet light will travel more slowly through crown glass than the lower frequency (higher wavelength) red light.  Therefore, the colors of the visible light spectrum that have shorter wavelengths will deviated more from their original path than the colors with longer wavelengths.  Differing colors contained within the incident beam will be evident as different frequencies of light waves bend varying amounts upon passage through a prism.

God created mankind in His own image.  Humans have their own versions of His creativity, love for beauty, appreciation of good, revulsion over evil and injustice, and comfort from order.  Yet they have their own cultural and personal way of displaying this godly nature.  The subset of those who choose to trust Christ as His provision for their forgiveness and eternal life receive new life within themselves and the indwelling Holy Spirit, who generates internal power to live life supernaturally.  This is transmitted in different ways by each individual, depending on the spiritual gifts they receive from God and on their own God-given personalities.

snowflakesFor just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.                                                     Romans 12:4-8

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.                       1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11

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Our Invisible Harvest

Jesus sent seventy of His disciples out ahead of Him, to where He Himself would subsequently go.  They were to speak good news to those they met there, “that the kingdom of God has come near.”  They were to bring the blessing, “Peace be to this house.  And if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.”  (Luke 10:6)  These people of peace appear to be those whose hearts have been prepared in advance to be friendly to the message brought to them.  Elsewhere, God is portrayed as the Tiller who causes the growth by advance preparation of the soil.  (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

scenic view of wheat field

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It makes our assignment of sowing the seed of the Gospel much less intimidating, to know of this advance work that God Himself has done, assuring the success of the eventual harvest.  

When Paul felt afraid, persecuted and rejected by objectors in Corinth, feeling perhaps that he was the lone believer in a sea of darkness, God comforted him in a vision, “I have many people in this city.”  (Acts 18:10)  When Elijah ran for his life in fear from Israel’s Queen Jezebel, he wanted to die, feeling he was the only remnant follower of Jehovah and that he was sure to soon be brutally killed.  The Lord tells Elijah not only is he not alone, but that there are “7000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal.”  (1 Kings 19:18)  This army of the faithful in Israel were invisible to Elijah.  But God knew who they were.

Peter & CorneliusGod did the ground preparation for the planting of the gospel seed in Caesarea, causing Cornelius and his friends and family to be eager seekers of God and receptive to the good news of forgiveness and eternal life through Christ’s substitutionary atonement.  The words of the gospel were hardly out of Peter’s mouth when those listening were dramatically filled with the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 10)  What an impressive demonstration of God’s advance preparatory work!

Our job as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God is to obediently enter the orchard, looking for the fruit that God has already prepared, cultivated, and nourished.  We can be confident that His people are already there, waiting to be picked.

Lord, lead me to the low-hanging fruit which You have been preparing for the harvest.   Let me do my part in clarifying their understanding of the gospel of grace and answering any questions they might have, that they might walk through that door of faith, putting their trust in You for eternal life and forgiveness of sin.  Let me do my part, knowing that You have done Your part perfectly.

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