Giving back to God

Genesis 28:20-22 gives the account of a promise that a man (in this case Jacob) makes to God in response to God’s promise to him of giving him and his seed the land where in he was. Jacob vowed conditionally that if God was with him and if God keeps him in the way he should go and give unto him food (bread to eat) and clothes (raiment) to put on, then the Lord shall be his God and of all that God gives him, he will surely give the tenth back to God (Genesis 20-21).

The Lord God promised to be with him (Genesis 28:15).
The Lord God promised to keep him (Genesis 28:15).
The Lord God promised to provide for him (Genesis 28:13).
The Lord God identified himself to be the God of his grandfather Abraham and of his father Isaac.

Now Jacob is personalizing that this same Lord would also be his God (not just that of his fathers) (Genesis 28:13,22). Jacob also recognizes that the source of everything that he will get is God for he exclaims “and of all that thou (God) shall give me.”

Points to ponder:
God has given to all mankind his only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16).
Jesus promised to be with us, even to the ends of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus assured us that if anyone believes in him, no man can pluck us out of his hand (John 10:28) – in other words, we are kept in Jesus’ hands.
Jesus assured us that we ought not to worry about what we shall eat or drink or wear, for the heavenly Father knows our needs and will provide for us (Matthew 6:31-33) and that we ought to seek God and his Kingdom first.

Jesus need not only be the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – he can be ours too. Have you asked him to be your God?
While we can never out-give God, we learn from the Holy Scripture that Jesus gave himself totally for you and me and he has given us eternal life – Are we willing to give back to him, our life, at least a tenth of it – if not more? Think about it and act on it.

Genesis 28:20-22 (KJV)
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

Finding (living) Water

Genesis 26:32-33 records that on the same day that Isaac had made a peace treaty with Abimelech, the king of Gerar, his servants came to him and told him regarding the well they had dug, that they had found water and Isaac called that well Shebah (and hence the name of the city where he had moved to is Beersheba). Shebah means an oath in Hebrew.

What is important to note is that it is to Beersheba that Abraham first brings Isaac after the sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:19) and dwelt there. It is in Beersheba that Abraham makes an oath of peace with Abimelech, the then king of Gerar (Genesis 21:22-34). Why is Beersheba important? Because it was a step in the direction of the promised land that God had promised Abraham.

The contention over the wells of Abraham, namely Esek and Sitnah, by the herdsmen of Gerar made Isaac retreat to a place of no contention as he names the well that he dug there Rehoboth (Genesis 26:20-22). To Abraham and Isaac, the wells were a sign of God’s provisions while to the philistines and the men of Gerar, it was a sign of property which made them fill/stop the wells that Abraham had dug (Genesis 26:17) and fight over the one that Isaac had dug (Genesis 26:19). The contention that ensues, can be seen, in hindsight, as God nudging Isaac to move toward the promised land.

However, what is noteworthy is that Isaac does not stay where the well Rehoboth was (even though there was no contention there), but instead moves to Beersheba (possibly because he trusted in God as did his father, looking forward toward a city whose builder and maker was God himself (Hebrews 11:10)), and on that same night, the Lord appears and assures Isaac of his covenant with his father, Abraham. Isaac responds by building an altar first, and worshipping the Lord God before pitching his tent there and digging a well there. (Genesis 26:25). After the peace treaty amongst whom he deemed were his enemies (who hated him), his servants report of finding water (Genesis 26:32).

Points to ponder:
While the digging of the well indicates that one intends to live in that land and use the water to sustain his family and flocks, we see here that Isaac did not dig the well, first to find water, before pitching his tent and building an altar to worship God. In fact, that order was reversed.  He gave God the priority over his and his family and flock’s physical needs. He built the altar first, worshipped God and then pitched his tent and dug the well, and God enables him to find water in that well.

This resonates with the very model Jesus laid out for us – that we ought to seek the spiritual things first (God’s kingdom) and all the things that are needed to sustain us shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). In other words, in order to find water that sustains us physically, we ought to seek first the living Water that saves us spiritually, i.e., seek the living water that only Jesus can provide – the water that bring not just sustenance of life, but salvation to life aka eternal life (John 4:10-15). Have you found (living) Water? i.e., have you believed in Jesus’ Lordship and saving grace?

Genesis 26:32-33 (KJV)
32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.
33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.

In times of famine …

Genesis 26:1 starts out by saying that there was a  famine in the land and distinguishes this famine to be second to the one that happened during time of Isaac’s father, Abraham (Genesis 12:10) immediately. Interestingly though, you will notice that both Abraham and now his son Isaac, relocate to tide over the famine by moving south toward the land of Egypt. Abraham goes to Egypt, and Isaac goes to the philistine land of Gerar, ruled by Abimelech. In both accounts, we see that instead of seeking the LORD for solace over the famine, Abraham and Isaac both seek the provisions of a foreign land and king. God had promised Abraham, a land flowing with milk and honey – implying that it would be a prosperous land – a promise that a couple of famines cannot undermine. Yet we see from this account of father son duo, that even ones of faith, can sometimes focus on the things they see (like a famine) and forget to seek the LORD God.

Points to ponder:
In times of famine, may we not seek the provisions and solace of any earthly king or kingdom, but instead let us seek the LORD God and his righteousness, and all things shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). If you are in a famine – a famine for relationship, a famine for provisions – seek ye the LORD God first.

Genesis 26:1 (KJV)
1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.


When you are barren …

Genesis 25:19-21 records of the generations of Isaac, through his wife Rebekah, who was blessed to be the mother of millions by her family when she left them to join Isaac (Genesis 24:60). Except there was one problem – Rebekah was barren. So Isaac pleaded (intreated) to the Lord for his wife and the Lord heeded to his prayer and Rebekah conceived.

There are two vital lessons that we can learn from this account. First, when we are barren, we need to seek the Lord and pray / plead to him. Second, our prayers (requests) must be in line with God’s will. God’s will and blessing was to continue the line of Abraham, not through Ishmael, the son of a bondwoman (Hagar), but through Isaac, the son of the free woman (Sarah). If Rebekah had remained barren, God’s word would not come true (at least in a logical physical sense). God’s word always comes true and as Isaac prays to God, he was in essence praying for God’s will to come true, which is what happens.

Points to ponder:
Though we should be hard working, when we are barren, we need to seeking God first and plead to him to bless up. Work hard, but only after prayer. Seek God’s Kingdom first and all things shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33), according to God’s permissive will and pleasure. In other words, seek God first and see him turn your barrenness into blessings. Second, when we pray, let us pray so that the Lord’s will is done in our lives and not just give him a wishlist of our own heart’s desires. Are you barren? (in life). If so, you know what to do. Tarry no further.

Genesis 25:19-21
19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:
20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.
21 And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Cross Verbs – Calling to Action :: 7th saying from the Cross

This is the 7th post of the series, Cross Verbs >> Calling to Action, which is a look at the 7 sayings of Jesus Christ from the Cross, with an “action” perspective, for faith without action is dead (James 2:17). What is of note is that each saying has a verb in it, implying an action of Jesus Christ, the Lord, and what’s more, is that his action calls for our action.

Saying Seven: “Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit.
The Cross verb today is “commend”.

To “commend” is to entrust or to give in charge of and here we see that Jesus commended his spirit to God willingly, trusting God to be in charge of his spirit, after the life he had lived on earth in human form, would ebb away, so that God would resurrect him from his death.

Points to ponder:
The Cross verb “commend” calls us to action – to entrust God with the spirit, the Holy Spirit that God has given to all who believe, so that the Spirit is always victorious over the flesh. We need to commit the spiritual things to God first so that the physical things can be taken care of, for we are commanded to seek God’s kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). We are called to “commend” as Jesus commended, trusting God to keep us alive, even if life on earth as we know it now, ebbs away. Are you and I a commender?

Prayer: God, let me always remember and recognize that the spiritual things matter more than the physical and I commend my spirit that you have earnestly deposited in me, for I have believed in your Son, Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, I give you charge over all aspects of my life, both spiritual and physical … you take and be in control. Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit.  

Luke 23:46 (KJV)
46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Give thanks, then what?

It is thanksgiving day in the year of the Lord 2013 and many would spend time with their loved ones, possibly around a thanksgiving dinner, reminiscing and giving thanks to God for his provisions and protection. But is there more to giving thanks than just a recollection of God’s goodness in one’s personal and public life. We are certainly expected to give thanks to God, but then what?

The Bible counsels us in 1 Chronicles 16:8-12 that we need to first give thanks to the Lord but then commands us with seven other things that we ought to do.

These seven include:
1. Call upon the name of the Lord
2. Make known his deeds
3. Sing unto him (praise him)
4. Talk of his wondrous works
5. Glory in his holy name
6. Seek the Lord (his strength and face) continually
7. Remember his marvelous works

Points to ponder:
Do you/I call upon the name of the Lord for all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32). The Bible says, Call unto me and I will answer says the Lord and show you great and mighty things that you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).
Do you/I make know his deeds? Jesus said that he came to “do” the will of God the Father (John 6:38) and he finished the “work” of paying the price for the wages of sin by his death (Romans 6:23) and abolished death and destroyed the devil (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14), once and for all (Hebrews 10:10; John 19:30). Do you/I make known This Gospel Deed of Jesus, saving mankind once for all?
Do you/I sing unto him and offer to him the sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Hebrews 13:15)?
Do you/I talk of his wondrous works, that is, is our conversation that of heaven, where our citizenship lies (Philippians 3:20), or is it of earthly things that will pass away (Revelation 21:1)?
Do you/I glory in his holy name? In other words, do we bless his holy name (Psalm 103:2) and exult (rejoice) in it, for the Name of the Lord is a strong tower and the righteous who run into it are safe (Proverbs 18:10)?
Do you/I seek the Lord continually for Jesus teaches us that we ought to seek the Kingdom of God first and all other things that we need shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33)? Let us seek the Lord, while he may still be found (Isaiah 55:6).
Do you/I remember his marvelous works? Let us not forget and forsake his first love, but let us remember, repent and return to him who first loved us and let us love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Revelation 2:5; Luke 10:27).

Let us Give thanks and then …

1 Chronicles 16:8 (KJV)
8 Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.
Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.

10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.
11 Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.
12 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

Food on the table or for the Soul

Many in the world today are caught in the hamster wheel of life, so much so that despite all the steps they take, they go nowhere in God’s plan for their lives. They struggle harder and continue to live unfulfilled lives. While speaking with a friend of mine, he was expressing as to how he was dejected in finding out from his believer friends that they spend very little, if at all any time, reading from the Bible and meditating on the word of God, recorded in the Holy Bible. These friends he said were believers, who emulated Jesus in character (for the most part), were loving to their spouses and children, physically motivated and exercising, successful in their work places and leaders in their community. They would tell him that they are very busy, busy to put food on the table, as providers in their family. As we engaged in conversation, it dawned on us that the deception of the devil is to keep us busy with earthly things which hinder us from fulfilling the plan of God in our lives. To be so busy that we don’t have time for God is to BUSY – Be Under Satan’s Yoke. The devil tricks God’s people into being so busy that they focus on working to put food on the table as opposed to working for the Lord and getting food for the Soul from the word of God. In other words, there are many “Starving Christians” in the world today.

Points to ponder:
It is essential to work for providing for our families, but not at the expense of not working for the Lord. Remember Jesus’ words – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Seek ye first the kingdom of God (food for your Soul) and all these things (food on the table) shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33). What are you working for? Putting food on the table or for your Soul? Are you a starving Christian?

Matthew 4:4 (KJV)
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 6:30-33 (KJV)
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Put First Things First :: Seek

Jesus said that one must first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness and not seek after the things that may seem to be needful but which really aren’t for these things that are needed are already known to God the heavenly Father.

We ought to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness first. A kingdom implies that there is a king and there are those who belong to the kingdom and those who don’t. Those who belong to the kingdom cherish the provisions, protection, and pleasures of the king. The kingdom of God asserts that God is Sovereign and he is The King and those who belong to his kingdom enjoy his provisions which are satisfying, his protection which is solid and the pleasure of his presence (the joy of the Lord) which is Salvation. To seek his righteousness is to seek Jesus, the righteous Branch, whose name is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS  (Jeremiah 23:6). To belong to this kingdom means we need to be born again i.e., we should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be born of the Spirit (John 3:5).

Putting First Things First, we must first be seek to be born again i.e., make THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, for all of our own righteousness are like filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God (Isaiah 64:6). We must seek to be part of God’s kingdom, meaning that we must seek to let God the Sovereign King, be our King and when we do so, all of his provisions (food and clothing that we think are needful), his protection and his pleasure (the Joy of Salvation) will be added to us to enjoy and cherish.

Points to ponder:
You may have been running away from God seeking the provisions that the world has to offer, the wealth, the fame, only to find out that the happiness that comes from these things is short-lived. You may have sought protection in the defenses of man only to find out that the fortress and refuge you received were like egg shells. You may have been seeking the pleasures of companionship with other people only to find out that apart from being with Jesus Christ, everyone is lonely and only in Him is found real peace. Stop running after what the world has to offer and seek Jesus today. Seek the Kingdom of God, letting God be your King, first.

Jesus Christ is The Seeking Shepherd, seeking those who are lost (Luke 15:4; John 10:10-15) and he is seeking you. Seek him when he may still be found (Isaiah 55:6). Putting First Things First, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and Jesus, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Matthew 6:33 (KJV)
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

John 3:5 (KJV)
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Playing hide and seek with God

Someone said, “Life is like a game of hide and seek; we are either hiding from God or seeking him.” When we falter and sin, we try to hide our shame, on account of our sins, from God, as did Adam, and fool ourselves into thinking that we can hide from the only One who is not only omnipresent (Psalm 139:8) but also omnipotent (Job 42:2; Luke 1:37) and omniscient (Acts 15:18). There are no hidden (secret) sins with God for every account of our life is laid nakedly bare in front of him (Psalm 90:8). And when we are in dire straits we often seek him, although we must be seeking him first (Matthew 6:33) and at all times and not just at the time of need. Psalm 119:164 records that we must praise him seven times a day implying that we must praise him without ceasing at dawn, morning, brunch, lunch, twilight, evening, night (all day long). The Bible promises that if we seek him we will find him (Matthew 7:7) and let us seek him when he may still be found (Isaiah 55:6-7), now in the time of Grace.

Points to ponder:
Are you/I hiding from God? If you/I are hiding, let us believe in the Lord Jesus and repent of our sins so that he may clean us and clothe us with robes of his righteousness. Are you/I seeking him (all the time)? Remember, one thing is sure, irrespective of whether we seek him or not, he is expectantly yearning for us and seeking us, as did the Father of the prodigal son. Let life not be a game of hide and seek, but a practice of seeking and finding God constantly, for when we seek his face and humble and pray, and turn from our wicked ways (repent), he will hear from heaven and forgive our sins and heal the land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Note, seeking and repentance bring forgiveness and healing; hiding does not.

Psalm 90:8 (KJV)
Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. 

Isaiah 55:6-7 (KJV)
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

No man :: seeks to be not known openly

We see in the Scriptures that the brothers of Jesus were shortsighted who failed to recognize two vital facts. First, they did not recognize who he was and second, they did not recognize what He had come for. His brothers told him to leave to Judaea where the feast of the Tabernacles was to be, since even they did not believe in Him, failing to recognize that the host of the feast was already tabernacling with them. Secondly, they thought that Jesus came to display his works and gain some fame. In fact, they mistook him to be one who sought popularity (John 7:4) stating that no man seeks to be not known openly and does things in secret. Jesus’ work was not to win opinion polls but to win the hearts and souls of all men. Jesus tells them twice that His time had not yet come (John 7:6), that His time had not yet full come (John 7:8). He sends them earlier to the feast and later joins them in the feast in secret, not openly (John 7:10).

What can we learn from this? Jesus’ modus operandi was in exact opposite to that of the world. We do things that we want people to observe and praise us. The extent of our works are often directly related to the praise and popularity that it gains us. We try to do things according to our own schedules and time. We like to be branded as prosperous with power, position, and popularity. Let us pray that we are no longer shortsighted and let us emulate the most popular God who sought not to be popular. The only thing that matters is if we are operating according to God’s calendar, and not our own. Let us seek His kingdom first, for all other things will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). Let us stop working to be known by men, but by God and if God wants your works to be known by men, He will.

John 7:1-10 (KJV)
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.
Now the Jew’s feast of tabernacles was at hand.
His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
For neither did his brethren believe in him.
Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.
The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.
Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.
When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.