No Neutrality Allowed

from Lynda Lindsey

Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters. Luke 11:23

On bringing the first fruits of the harvest to God: And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house…

Deuteronomy 26:11(a)

…Be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in His ways, and keep His statutes and His commandments and His rules, and will obey His voice. Deuteronomy 26:16(b)-17

We are God’s treasured possession, a people set apart and made holy to the Lord our God; we are called to walk carefully in all His ways, to obey His commands and rules, and to listen to and obey His Word. We are to be especially mindful to love and honor God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our wholehearted obedience to God demonstrates the reality of our professed love. There’s no allowance for God’s people to choose neutral, halfhearted, foot-dragging, maybe-I-will-maybe-I-won’t love and serve God; it’s all-out, total commitment.

Just as God gave the Promised Land to the Israelites, a land overflowing with goodness, so God gives us richness and fullness of life. We receive abundantly from God’s generous bounty: forgiveness and salvation, eternal life and security, protection and deliverance, guidance and direction, help and care. The laws God established are for the preservation and protection of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden and the most vulnerable. How can we then do any less than honor God with our obedience, an obedience rendered from a heart spilling over with praise and thanksgiving?

Those who hear, believe by faith, and trust and obey are saved and blessed; Jesus even calls us friends. God plucked us out of enemy territory and placed us in His kingdom, under His rule and reign.  Remain diligent; don’t turn back. Decide to worship God joyously and thankfully for all His goodness and kindness. Decide to be with Jesus, on His side, for His cause, to gather with Him and not scatter. The harvest? Plentiful. Laborers? Few. Abhor neutrality. Press forward lest our last state be worse than the first. Turn back after tasting the Lord’s goodness? Let it not be!

The Nearness of God’s Kingdom

from Lynda Lindsey

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  Luke 10:8-9

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

Jesus trained his followers, then empowered them and sent them out to proclaim the nearness of God’s Kingdom. God’s kingdom is not one bought by military or political might and strength, rather it is the rule and reign of God in our hearts and lives. We are invited, not coerced into citizenship. Just as earthly kings demand total allegiance, Jesus, our heavenly king, commands our total devotion. There’s no place in kingdom work for determining the minimum amount of service we can offer! Jesus warns that once we’ve begun, we should never look back. 

Once begun, if we look back we’ll be useless, unfit for service, just as once we’ve begun to plow a field, if we look back while continuing to plow, our rows will be crooked and uneven. The cost of discipleship is high. Serving Jesus must take precedence over everything else, even over all other relationships. The harvest is plentiful, laborers few, and the terrain we pass through is dangerous. We must travel lightly, not allowing anything to distract us while we proclaim the Good News of the Gospel honestly, urgently, and lovingly.  

Much is at stake. People must be offered truth and healing, encouraged to repent, be set free from bondages that enslave and ensnare, and be instructed in sound doctrine. There was great rejoicing when Jesus’ followers returned. There will be even more rejoicing in the future, for there is a “not yet” part of God’s kingdom still to be realized. The kingdom of God has arrived and is already present, and God’s kingdom will also arrive at the end of the age when Jesus comes again to gather His church. Keep a forward focus and rejoice! God’s kingdom is near…and day by day it is coming nearer!

In God We Trust

from Lynda Lindsey

O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. … You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. Psalm 115:9; 11

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Psalm 115:1

Those who make them (idols, the work of human hands) become like them; so do all who trust in them. Psalm 115:8

It’s easier to trust something tangible, something we can physically touch and see, something solid and visible, like an idol, rather than something abstract. Abstract thoughts and ideas, void of concrete objects, are harder to understand. Yet in spiritual matters, we walk by faith, not by sight. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Pledging total loyalty to an unseen God is the way of eternal life, truth, and blessing. To trust idols, the work of human hands, is to become as lifeless and useless as the image itself. God, although invisible, is not unknowable. 

God allows Himself to be known. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve and revealed Himself to Moses through the burning bush. God led the Israelites day and night with a pillar of cloud and fire. God’s names and His attributes enable us to know Him personally, not just know about Him. Jesus, God’s exact representation, made like us in all aspects, except without sin, the One in whom we trust to save us from sin, reveals God to us. To know Jesus is to know God; when we know God in all His glory and majesty, His steadfast love and faithfulness, our heart’s desire is to glorify Him.

It is God we trust, not idols fashioned from silver and gold, idols that are mute, deaf and blind. Our God is a God that sees and hears and speaks and knows. God, immortal and invisible, the all wise, all knowing God and King, is our helper, our trust and shield. A God who save us when we cry out, a God who gives us peace and rest. Our God is a God of the living, not the dead and lifeless. We trust a God whose work is finished, a God who sits in the Father’s presence interceding for us day and night, a God worthy of our fear and trust. The choice is ours. Idols? Or the Living God? 

Don’t Just Survive; Thrive

from Lynda Lindsey

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15

“You shall therefore lay up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 11:18

For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all His ways, and holding fast to Him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations… Deuteronomy 11:22-23(a)

Seeds need the right conditions in order to thrive and bear good fruit; hearts, like seeds also need the right conditions in order to thrive spiritually. Optimal conditions for spiritual growth include keeping God’s Word constantly before our eyes, burying God’s Word deeply in our heart and intentionally obeying Scripture’s truth. We must hold fast to Jesus in the same way a boat’s hatches are made fast to ride out storms and troubles. If we allow ourselves no distractions and patiently allow Him to work in our heart and life, we will not merely survive, we will flourish and thrive. 

The opposite of flourish and thrive? To wither and decline, which is exactly what happens if we don’t walk carefully in all the ways of the Lord. Throughout Scripture we are adjured, as God’s chosen and treasured possession, to set our heart only on the Lord, to be holy in all our speech and actions, and to remember, and to carefully walk in, the whole way that God has led us. We don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth; constantly we are warned of the dangerous consequences of pride, disobedience, and failure to trust God.

Scripture compares a person who takes great delight in making God’s laws an inner part of their being to a fruitful tree, a tree planted by streams that abundantly supply water such that the tree prospers and its leaves don’t wither.  We are the tree; God is the never-ending Source of living water. If we continually delight ourselves in the Lord, He supplies our every need. We neither languish nor wither away; we enjoy spiritual prosperity. Perseverance is key. Pay careful attention. Make God your highest priority in every endeavor and you’ll do more than just survive, you’ll thrive.

Who Is This Jesus?

from Lynda Lindsey

And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 

Luke 7:48-49(a)

The centurion’s message, via his friends, to Jesus: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have You come under my roof… But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” …Jesus…said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Luke 7:6(b); 9

Jesus speaking to the dead widow’s son: “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak… Luke 7:14(b)-15(a)

Who is this man, Jesus? With impunity, Jesus befriends and forgives sinners, heals both Jews and Gentiles, and raises and restores the dead to life. Boldly, Jesus not only touches the dead and those deemed unclean, He allows the unclean to touch Him. Confident in His identity and anointing, Jesus proclaims Himself as Messiah, the Promised One whose mission is to fulfill Scripture, proclaiming good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.

Jesus makes the sick well in personal, face-to-face encounters; He heals from remote distances. Jesus reclines at table with scoundrels, associates with sinners, and keeps company with women who fear God as well as those of questionable character. He works on the Sabbath. Or does He? He asks penetrating questions that confuse and often muddle His hostile audience. Jesus’ words and actions inspire men to kill Him, yet children adore Him. Jesus pardons. Restores. Teaches. Preaches. Cleanses. Jesus commands and demons flee. Jesus inspires and incites great faith or total disbelief. 

There is no way to understand who Jesus is apart from faith; faith is the essential key that unlocks Jesus’ identity. When Jesus raised the widow’s son from death to life, mourning abruptly turned into worship. People praised and thanked God for the miracles His prophet Jesus worked among them. But Jesus isn’t just a prophet. Faith activates the full truth: Jesus is Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, Savior and Lord, and there is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved. Have you answered the question, “Who is this Jesus?” The journey begins with faith.  

Beware and Take Care

from Lynda Lindsey

But from there (exile) you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him, if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments…Deuteronomy 5:29(a)

You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. Deuteronomy 5:32-33

Beware is a warning to be cautious and alert to danger, to take precautionary steps to avoid trouble. Moses issued warnings to the Israelites, now on the edge of the promised land, to beware and take care lest they forget all God’s wondrous acts on their behalf, and in forgetting, let their hearts grow cold and indifferent to God. Hold fast, Moses exhorts. Take care. Keep your soul diligently focused on God. Obey and teach your children to obey, to keep and to do all God says. Beware idolatry; God is a consuming fire, a jealous God, a God who demands total loyalty. 

Idolatry, Moses warns, will result in exile to pagan nations. Yet, even in exile, God offers hope of return and restoration for those willing to repent and seek God wholeheartedly. God allows us to find Him when we diligently and faithfully look for Him. God, in His lovingkindness and compassion, is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but repent. When we turn to Him in repentance, He exclaims with joy, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments.” God wants our hearts to belong to Him, and only to Him, forever. 

Be careful to do as God has commanded. Don’t turn aside. Don’t veer off course. Walk obediently in a straight path in all God’s ways. Don’t add to or subtract from God’s Word. Don’t deviate from God’s plan. Moses disobeyed God’s specific directions; as a consequence of that sin, God banned Moses from entering the promised land. The enemy’s shortcuts and substitutions are unwise and dangerous; resist the enemy’s distractions. There is great reward for obedience: our life will be full to overflowing with God’s presence and love, now and through eternity!