What Kind of Fruit?

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John 15.1-8  1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

From this passage I understand that I am grafted into the perfect vine of Jesus. With that life force flowing through me (the Holy Spirit working through me), I am to produce fruit. The fruit of Jesus is bountiful and nutritious and refreshing, and useful for many things.

Mark 12.1-9 1 And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. 2 And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 4 And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. 5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. 6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. 7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others

From this passage, I understand that God gives me choice. I can decide how to manage my vineyard. He planted wonderful seed in me (His Holy Spirit), and I have the ability to access that life force for growing wonderful fruit. But I can also decide to keep that fruit to myself and / or to grow that fruit in a different way. My way of growing fruit is not good, as God’s is; therefore, I will produce poison or malnourishing fruit.

From this same passage, I understand that God sends people to me to collect His fruit. Again enters choice: How do I treat those whom God sends?

What kind of fruit am I producing, and what am I doing with it???

Good fruit from the vine of Jesus vs worldly fruit is like eating real food vs junk food. Worldly works “taste” good to the world, but there’s no nutrition, and leaves you wanting more of the junk. Jesus’ fruit is real, and it is satisfying.

As new or immature Christians, coming from the world, we may still like the worldly fruit better. Often, this bad fruit gets pruned away and it hurts.

  • John 15. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away and
  • v6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered
  • Isaiah 64.6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses areas filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

As Christians we yearn more and more for the nutritious fruit of the vine.

How do we get fed the nutritious “fertilizer” and nutrients to produce good fruit? Connect to the Source:

  • Jesus is the Living Water
  • Jesus is the True Vine
  • God’s Holy Spirit abides in us
  • God’s Word is Truth: read it

Romans 5.8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – and – Ephesians 3.20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us  — Did you get that? The power that worketh IN US. That’s God’s power IN US!

This is the mystery and miracle of God working through us: We are to be channels of God unto others – we commend God’s love to others while they (we) are sinners. To do this, we must die to ourselves. We allow God to take away all those branches and leaves that are our flesh; and we step aside to let Him live through us. Then we will bear His fruit, and it will be so abundant and good that there will be plenty for ourselves and to share with all those whom God puts in our paths. And we will give God the glory!

Galatians 5.22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 

Philippians 1.11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

* images collected from google images

Firstborn Son

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Luke 2.7a And she brought forth her firstborn son

Mary was a virgin when the Holy Ghost came upon her and she conceived. She knew beforehand that she would bear a son, and that His name would be called Jesus. This was her firstborn.

As I read this in Luke Chapter 2, I thought of the firstborn of the human race. Adam and Eve were created, but not born of a woman.

Genesis 4.1, 2 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.  And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 

Cain was Eve’s firstborn, the firstborn of the entire human race. His younger brother, Abel was born next (we don’t know if they were twins, since the verse doesn’t indicate that Eve conceived again after Cain).

But the firstborn of the human race killed his younger brother. This is a manifestation of Jeremiah 17.9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Every human ever born of man and woman has a desperately wicked heart. We are a race steering ourselves to death.

And then there’s Mary. We don’t know much about Mary prior to the conception and delivery, and again not much afterward. Did God pick her because she was so good? Mary had the same deceitful and desperately wicked heart that everyone else has. But she was a virgin, we know that (Luke 1.27); she humbly accepted all that her Almighty God told her through the angel Gabriel (Luke 1.28 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her); and sang a praise to God her Savior (Luke 1.46 – 56).

Luke 2.7a And she brought forth her firstborn son

Jesus was God’s firstborn (and only!) Son, too: John 3.16 (my emphasis) For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

God offered salvation for the human race by offering His only and beloved Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice. God loves us just as much as He loves His Son. God cannot love anyone less, because He is perfect, and He has only perfect love.

Jesus remains the only perfect example of human flesh submitting to the complete authority of God, every moment of every second of every day that He lived on Earth. He had no sin (1 John 3.5 And ye know that he (Christ) was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.)

There’s quite a difference between the firstborn of the human race and the firstborn of God through the human race. Jesus had a human heart, but that heart was in perfect submission to His Heavenly Father. Because of that, He had perfect peace always; He was in perfect communion with God always

We can strive to have the same peace of Jesus: God gives us a new heart when we acknowledge Him as rightful Lord and Savior, when we bow humbly before Him and confess our sin. God made us a new creature (2 Corinthians 5.17), with the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 2.16).

We can humbly acknowledge that the throne of the universe (and my heart) belongs to God, and that He is right and just. How often do we give God His place, vs how often do we imagine ourselves on that throne?

Even though we are born of the human race with deceitful and desperately wicked hearts, God, in His love, has made a way, through His firstborn, for us to not only be with Him forever in Heaven, but to live here on Earth with Him in perfect peace (Isaiah 26.3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee).

* Image from TheTorah.com

The Light We See, The Light We Shine

Sometimes what we see of God is not so light and bright. Is it because God has shadows, or is it our own perspective?

1 John 1.5b God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

God is light. He has no darkness whatsoever. If we are not seeing His full lightness and brightness, it is because our vision is clouded, jaded, askew. We allow, or set, or run into, issues that stand between us and God, so we do not see Him as He is.

Be sure to read God’s Word to learn Who He really is. God is Light, God is Love; pure and unadulterated. He has no darkness, no sin, no ill-will. He is patient and kind, and He is always good to us. He is truth. Pray the Holy Spirit will shine understanding in you as you read Scripture.

As Christians, we have God’s Holy Spirit within us. That means we have His Light.

Matthew 5.16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Do others see God’s Light in you? If not, what is the issue? Are you shining His Light? This light is not your own light. It is the Light of the Spirit of God. You have your own flesh warring with this Spirit, but if we put our flesh to death daily, then we can shine God’s pure light.

The issues with shining God’s light, then, are 1) our own sin casting shadows along with God’s Light; 2) others’ perception as they look upon what we cast.

Sometimes our light is cast via actions, daily activities, and getting out and about. Sometimes it’s through conversations, our speech. These are ways other people get to know us.

Sometimes we allow our light to be filtered through fear because of 2), above: we don’t know how someone is going to perceive what God wants to deliver through us.

1 John 4.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

If you allow God to have full reign in your mortal body, then you will begin to understand this amazing love that God has, not only for you, but for everyone with whom you come into contact. If you allow God’s Spirit to work unfettered, then you will have that peace of mind that comes with obedience to God Almighty. Granted, people will not always respond kindly to what God has to say to them through you. Look at the apostle Paul. He endured much suffering when he preached Jesus Christ. Look at the suffering of Jesus, Himself.

If you want the quiet, unassuming, get-along-with-everyone kind of life, try to get over it. God does not call us to such a life. He calls us to obedience, and He calls us to go out and tell the world about Jesus Christ, our Savior. We are to speak His truth in love (Ephesians 4.15).

Other’s response is between them and God. Your obedience is between you and God. Let the Holy Spirit in you so shine that others will glorify your Father in Heaven.

Go Among This Stiffnecked People

In Exodus 19 – 32, Moses went up to Mount Sinai to commune with God. He was gone so long that the Israelites became restless. They were without their shepherd and they strayed. Aaron commanded them to give him their gold, and he made the golden calf. Moses was infuriated: He threw down the tablets from God, he burned the golden calf, forced the people to drink the ashes in water, and commanded the sons of Levi (who stood with the Lord) to slay every man his brother and every man his companion and every man his neighbor (about 3,000 men) (Exodus 32.27). The next day, Moses appealed to God, asking Him to forgive their sin, and if not, to blot him out of the Book. God assured Moses that whosoever has sinned against Him, him will He blot out of His book (Exodus 32.33).

The Israelites marched to Mount Horeb, where they witnessed God speaking directly to Moses, face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend (33.11).

God and Moses went back and forth about the Israelites several times: sometimes it was Moses railing against the people, wringing his hands and agonizing what to do about them; God called for mercy. Sometimes God was full of wrath against His people; Moses begged for mercy.

In Numbers 12.3, God states that the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. (I can only imagine Moses wrestling with writing that down, and God making sure that Moses understood that it certainly would be written down.)

In Exodus 34, Moses hewed two more tablets of stone and again went up unto Mount Sinai. There, the LORD passed by before Moses and proclaimed, “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

Moses bowed himself to the ground and worshiped, and said, “If now I have found grace in Thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance.”

I tried to imagine what it might have been like for Moses to hear the Voice of God, to hear God proclaim His Holy Name in his very ears. Then I gave myself a dope slap: Moses had the Voice of The LORD God Almighty in his ears; I have The Spirit of the LORD God Almighty in my very being. I hear the Holy Spirit in the Words of His Scripture and in the counsel of Godly people and in prayers.

Christians, we have the Very Presence of God Almighty in us and around us. (Psalms 139.5 You hem me in behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me. And Isaiah 30.21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.)

May we fall on our knees before the Living God:

Praise Him

Psalms 113.4 – 6

4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,

His glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God,

the One enthroned on high?

6 He humbles Himself to behold

the heavens and the earth.

Confess we are sinners

Jeremiah 10.23, 24 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. 24 O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.

Beg for His mercy and forgiveness

Psalms 86, 1 – 7

 Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.

2 Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.

3 Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

4 Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

6 Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.

7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.

And humble ourselves and pray as Moses did: If now I have found grace in Thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance

“Forgive and Forget” or “We Need to Talk”

Matthew 18.21, 22 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

In our everyday lives, we have occasion to cross paths with many other people. Sometimes those paths are smooth, sometimes not so much. Forgiveness is in order.

Someone cut you off on the road? Forgive. Your husband/wife sounded disrespectful? Forgive. Your sister forgot your birthday? Forgive.

Do we simply forgive each and every time, and go about our business as if nothing happened? Sometimes that is the wise route to take.

The Bible also says, Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18.15-17

So sometimes we are to sit down and discuss things with others. If there is a relational problem, we must seek to solve the matter. Whether it be friend-to-friend, husband-wife, parent-child, siblings, co-workers, church relations, or others; if we have continuous relations with someone, we need to work things out.

God is a God of relations. We are to relate to each other in a Christian sort of way. If we are angry, we must be certain to discuss in love. If that’s not possible due to emotions, then set a time and place when all parties are able to set emotions aside.

We are to be accountable to one another. If one person is running roughshod over another (and perhaps does not even realize it), s/he should be held accountable. Again, Matthew 18.15 tells us to go and tell him his/her fault. But be sure to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4.14, 15 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.)

And keep all things in prayer. The Holy Spirit will guide you in all things: timing, setting, spirit, words, and body language. Pray with the person you need to confront, or pray with a trusted friend. If needed, have a trusted friend sitting by as you have your discussion; the friend will provide accountability.

Matthew 19.19, 20 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Proverbs 27.17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Sometimes a third party is needed. Godly counseling is also indicated: Proverbs 15.22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established. Proverbs 19.20 Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. Proverbs 1.5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.

Pray God for wisdom and discernment. Read God’s Word, learn of Him.

Proverbs 1.1 – 7

1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;

3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Obey God Rather Than Men

Acts 5.29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men

This was the apostles’ response to the council and high priest when asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” (v 28) and the apostles were correct.

Sometimes it is easy to remember this verse when faced with a BIG, clear directive in opposition to God’s Word, when obeying that directive sends clanging warning bells.

To how big or how little a thing does this apply?

What about peer pressure? What about advice from a trusted friend? What about when your boss hints that a task should be done ~this~ way? How about a spouse’s suggestion that’s a bit “off?” What about that television show? What about when everyone else in church thinks this is the way to go? What about when the pressure to do something is tremendous, and you think you have no choice?

How faithful and obedient can a person be to God in every. little. thing? Do we even stop to consider? Do we, like the Bereans did (Acts 17.11), stop to examine the Scriptures to see whether these things are so?

When we don’t examine God’s Word, when we don’t have our daily devotionals and time with God, we can quite easily go singing merrily along in our own power and the power of the culture that surrounds us – bombards us, even. The more we stray from God’s Word, the easier it becomes to stray even more.

Be grounded in the Bible. Read it every day. Compare what you hear, what you believe to be true, with what God has to say about it. Pray before, while, and after you read; pray the Holy Spirit will guide and interpret to your poor mind what the truth is in any given situation.

In big things and small, God always blesses obedience. Always. You may conjure up consequences to your actions, but God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3.20). Trust Him.

Then go forth, and obey God rather than men.

Faithful in That Which is Least

Are you faithful in the little things?

Little things:

  • Did you get your daily chores finished before you went to bed, or did you leave some undone so that you could do stuff that may not have been on God’s list?
  • Were you faithful in showing love to your spouse and children?
  • Did you return that little item? You don’t know exactly how it ended up with you, but you know where it goes.
  • Did you spend quality time with God?
  • Did you rejoice in the day the Lord has made, or did you grouse?
  • Did you remember to thank God for all things?
  • Were you respectful to others, counting them as more important than yourself?
  • Did you walk and speak with integrity all the day long?
  • Were your words needed and edifying? How about your facial expressions?
  • Were you wise with your resources: time, money, gifts/talents?

If we are not faithful in the little things, that is an indicator that our faith is small.

God trains our faith. Notice the disciples. In Luke 17, Jesus is in the midst of teaching them about temptations, trespasses, and forgiveness. As happens so many times with the apostles and with us, they were cloudy as to the meaning of Jesus’ Words. Verse 5: And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

One of the first and most important lessons in faith-training is to read God’s Word. He tells us to pray that He will increase our faith.

Pray God to increase your faith.

Also in God’s Word are hundreds of examples for us to follow or learn from:

Noah, by faith, built the ark that saved humanity. He probably did not jump into faith the moment God called him to start collecting gopher wood. Like all of us, he started by being faithful in the little things.

I’m guessing Abram, when he was little, had many little lessons in faith. In adulthood, he was able to, in faith, fully obey his God. How? Abraham had learned that God is always faithful, that God always loved him, and that God would always protect him.

Joseph’s faith was tested in his teens when his brothers sold him into slavery. He was faithful in Potiphar’s house, he was faithful in prison (remember that part about thanking God for all things?), and he was faithful as a high ruler in Egypt. Here, too, Joseph probably had much faith-training as he grew up, and was rewarded time and again for that growing faith.

David was called the Friend of God. He learned as a boy how faithful God is, and he carried that with him all his life.

Study the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. All these people were able to look back on their own lives. What did they see first? The faith of God. And they could see what God had worked through them.

Faith does not come easily. God has designed us so that we learn through trials, tribulations, and struggles. It has to be that way because our flesh is so strong, and we must learn to put away the flesh.

James 1.2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

AND – look what God can do through those who are faithful!

In the Bible, we get to see the results of the faithful work of others. Every once in a while, God gives us a peek at the results of our own faithfulness (I love it when He does that!). We know not what God intends when we carry out His tasks, when we are faithful stewards with the resources He gives us. Sometimes we get a peek at the results when we are not faithful.   Arrrghh!  Those are faith-lessons, too.

Are you faithful in the little things? Is your faith increasing? What is God showing you about faith?

Hebrews 11.6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

I’m Better than You Because _____

Our Sunday School class has been going through some of 1 Corinthians. The theme recently has been division. Everything we read about and discussed from the Book was relevant to today.

The culture of the city of Corinth was that of a divided economic status. [I think of what I’ve heard of India and the caste system: whatever order you are born into is the order you stay in for life.] The wealthy of Corinth could pretty much do as they pleased (and they did) without concern for losing status. The poor of the same city could do whatever they were able, and never leave their poverty or circumstances. Into whichever level you were born, you expected to stay there always. It was accepted and understood, and no one considered mingling with others of a variant status.

Into this culture walked the apostle Paul, “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2.3). Happily, God had prepared for him some true friends in Aquila and Priscilla, and then also Apollos.

This small group, armed with the Holy Spirit and God’s Word and His direction, set out to change the culture of Corinth and set them free.

Corinth was an important city along a major trade route, with large numbers of sailors and merchants. It was also one of the wickedest cities of ancient times: immorality, scores of pagan practices and heathen religions

It must have been a shocking thing for Corinthians to hear that God created all men equal, that God loves everyone equally. Of course, hatred of God’s Word and violence against Paul’s messages were not new to Paul. It happened in Corinth, too. But in Acts 18.9, 10 God encourages and consoles Paul: “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” Was Paul surprised to hear that there were many people to be saved in such a city? I think not, as Paul had before seen the miracles of God’s salvation.

Paul shook his raiment when the Jews in the synagogues opposed the Christian group and blasphemed; Paul declared that he would go to the Gentiles.

Not having lived in Corinth at that time, I don’t know if the Jews living there were any more moral or kind or loving than the Gentiles. But God had given Paul a mission, and Paul knew he had the power of God to fulfill it.

I’m visualizing Paul making his tents, talking with people who pass by or want to purchase his wares. I picture him walking around to meet other people, speaking as often as the opportunity presents itself to declare Jesus Christ. He would invite them to hear more.

Christians of course did not have churches then; they met in people’s houses. Perhaps there was a group that met in and around the merchant stall where Paul and his friends had set up their tent-making trade. Can you imagine rich and poor and in-between, sitting together for the first time – no seats reserved for the mighty or the lowly, everyone taking a seat where there was one.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians often touched on the topic of division. He must have witnessed it. Even after he left, he still received ill reports of their behavior.

This is a hard thing to embrace! God thinks I’m just as valuable and loveable as that guy over there?

The rich may think: Impossible! I’m better than anyone else in here.

The poor may think: Impossible! I could never be as important as the rich and mighty.

How about us? Do any of these thoughts barge in, unannounced?

“I’m better than you because I’m married.”

“I’m better than you because I have children / grandchildren.”

“I’m better than you because I’m not poor.”

“I’m better than you because my fingernails aren’t dirty after I scratch my head.”

“I’m better than you because I have healthy foods in my cart.”

“I’m better than you because you’re fatter than I am.”

“I’m better than you because I still have my job / I have a better job / I like my job / I get promoted in my job.”

“I’m better than you because your house is a mess.”

“I’m better than you because my house is bigger / I live in a nicer neighborhood.”

“I’m better than you because I take more medications.”

How many more can you think of?

Philippians 2.3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

What a hard lesson this is! Most of human flesh depends on assuring ourselves that we are good, and the way we look good is by looking better than others around us. We fall into this trap so easily because it’s our weak point. Look at how easily Hitler gathered Aryan followers. Look at how easily advertisers sell their products.

Look at how easily our nation has divided. “I’m better than you because I’m right.”

In a book I’m reading, the author posed the question, Do any of us really understand how much God loves us? I thought, No, only Jesus did.

That’s how Jesus could look on every single person with love. Jesus knew how much God loved Him, because He loved Him equally right back. God’s love is perfect, infinite, true. It is impossible for God to love anyone with anything less than perfect love.

If we are looking upon others with the eyes God gave us, instead of our own, then we will understand that we are, indeed, no better than anyone else on any level.

This is why we are able, in Jesus’s strength and wisdom, to serve others. When we access the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2.16), when we work from the love that God puts within us, we receive special wisdom through the Holy Spirit to look upon others with tender hearts and with understanding. We can see that all other people are on the same level we are: in need of the grace of God.

Will God use you to serve that grace to others?

1 Corinthians 1.10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Romans 15.5 – 7 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Random Thoughts about Heaven and the Garden

My Bible reading at the end of last year took me into Revelations, where John falls down as though dead when he sees Jesus (Revelations 1.17). On Earth, this was Jesus, his buddy: they walked together for three years, ate together, exchanged words and questions and deep thoughts. But when John saw Jesus in Heaven, he fell as though dead.

Now I’m reading in Genesis. There are Adam and Eve in the Garden, walking with God in the cool of the day, and talking with Him. Do they see God face to face? No (1 John 4.12). But they walk with Him and talk with Him and do not fall down as though dead. I think that’s because Adam and Eve were perfect at that time. They knew no sin. They knew God only as their Loving Creator, and had no terror of Him.

I think that might be a glimpse of Heaven. In our fleshly sinful bodies, our minds cannot contain what absolute holiness is. But in Heaven, we will see God face to face (1 Corinthians 13.12). We will finally know how to worship Him perfectly.

One other thing has me curious about Heaven. Genesis Chapter 3 says Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field that the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ ”

Then Eve speaks in verse 2: The woman answered the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden…”

My thought: Why did Eve not whirl around to Adam and say, “Look, this snake can talk!”

Did Adam and Eve and God routinely speak with the animals in the Garden? And might this be a peek into Heaven?

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

My readings this month have taken me into Revelations. Yeah, wow. The Dragon. The Beast. The plagues. The whore. The golden vials full of the wrath of God.

The wrath of God! Hebrews 10.31 says, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The wrath of God can be no less than bone-knocking, paralyzing, gut-wrenching terror. Look at the folks in the Bible who saw Heavenly beings – they fell down in fear. Anything that holy instantly reveals the depths and awfulness of our sinfulness.

Psalms 4.8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

How many times does God tell us to “fear not?” Isaiah 41.10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

How do I reconcile the awful terror of standing before Almighty God in my sin, with “fear not?”

By simple obedience. God says to fear not, so I will not fear. Hebrews 13.6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Hebrews 4.16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus Christ is my Savior. My name is written in the Book of Life. I may boldly approach the throne of Almighty God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Since the Lord is my helper, I will also not be afraid of what God shall do unto me. God loves me. Because He first loved me, I love Him. I am precious in His sight, a part of the body of His bride.

I welcome with open arms what God will do unto me.

And I praise Him fully:

Revelations 15.3, 4

“Great and wonderful are Your works,

O Lord God Almighty!

Just and true are Your ways,

O King of the nations!

4 Who will not fear You, O Lord,

and glorify Your name?

For You alone are holy.

All nations will come and worship before You,

for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”