Tag Archives: Word of God

Pearls & Swine

Matthew 7:6

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

The placement of this verse has always baffled me. Right after Jesus admonishes the people not to judge others and not to concentrate on the faults of others He proceeds to tell them that they need to be able to discern who the dogs and swine are. It’s really quite an extraordinary verse that I must admit I need an extra helping of the Holy Spirit to put this teaching into my own words.

While Jesus is not talking about actual food or pearls given to these animals. He uses “that which is holy” and “pearls” to signify the things of God. They are holy and precious as pearls or even gold for that matter. After describing the beauty of the Lords statutes in Psalm 19, David writes His laws are more to be desired than fine gold in verse 10. These precious things of the Lord are for His saints, for His children. They are not for the “dogs and swine”

The question has to be on our minds of who Jesus is talking about when He says dogs. The first thing that comes to my mind is that dogs are scavengers and will take anything you give them. They just sit at your feet and wait for something to drop. I have learned a lot about persistent prayer by watching my dog’s persistence and hopefulness that I will drop something when working in the kitchen. He will be thrilled with any small dropping that I might leave there on the floor. These were the words of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus in Matthew 15:21-28. Jesus told her that He was sent to the lost people of Israel and said the things of God are not for the dogs. When the Canaanite women told Him that even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Masters table, Jesus looked at her and told her she had great faith, and He granted her request. We can learn a lot about the first part of this verse from that exchange.

Jesus called this woman a dog because she was not an Israelite. She was not a child of Abraham and those are the ones Jesus was sent for. The Canaanites were believers in many Gods (Wikipedia lists over 20 gods they worshiped). The one true God was a heresy to them and they scoffed at the idea. They lived in the land that Israel came in and conquered when they came out of Egypt. Therefor God told them to destroy all the Canaanites, but Israel did not do that. The Canaanites remained in the land and were a thorn in the flesh for Israel for centuries.

So this women was indeed a heretic. The description of her as a dog shows us that Jesus does not want to give the precious word of God to someone who is defiant against the gospel message. He does not want the Light that He is offering to go to some one who will merely scoff at it and rebuke Him for His beliefs. While it is true that He gave the word to the Pharisees who also mocked Him, they were of the tribe of Israel. They were the sons of Abraham.

The lesson for us about not giving holy things to the dogs is that we should not waste our time to bring the gospel to someone who is obviously hostile toward the words we will share. With this type of person we need to befriend them and let the light that is within us show through in our lifestyle. Giving them the gospel straight up will not do any good. Becoming a part of their life and allowing them to see the joy and peace that Christ puts in our lives may!

Then there is the part about casting our pearls before swine. Remember that pigs were unclean to Israelites. They stayed away from swine completely. They did not eat the meat (No bacon!!!), nor did they raise pigs. The looked on swine as the lowest of the low. Swine love mud holes. They love to wallow in them. In hot weather a pig will cover himself with mud to keep cool. They are dirty animals. If you would cast a pearl in front of a swine he would just push it down in the dirt and not understand it’s worth. That pearl, that seed is worthless to them.

In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price that a merchant will sell everything to get. Why? Because the kingdom, like the pearl, comes to us through agony and pain from the one providing it. The oyster that produces the pearl dies while forming that pearl. Jesus died to bring the kingdom of heaven to us. The gospel is of great value!

What Jesus is saying is that we should refrain from giving the precious gospel to someone we know will just yell and scream at us for the words we say, We should not give it to someone who is obviously dead set against it. Dropping seeds is one thing. Presenting the gospel is another. We must plant seeds in people’s lives, but the best seeds are sown by our lifestyle not our words. The seeds of our lifestyles cannot be ignored while the words of our lips will not only be ignored but we will be ridiculed for them. These pigs are beyond listening to what God has to say.

Again, some are called to take the gospel to people who will mock them, ridicule them, and kill them for the words they speak. These are selected vessels that God will lead in their witness. They have given all for the gospel and are willing to lose their lives if need be. If you are called to such a mission field, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. Your task is monumental.

We all have an obligation to share the gospel if we are followers of Christ. We are to sow seed wherever we go. Some will fall on hard ground, some on rocky ground, some on weed-filled ground and some on fertile ground that will produce fruit. Most of the time we do not know where a person is on the ground spectrum. We just share what God puts in our heart. But if we know that they fall under the category of dog or swine, we must tread carefully and listen to the words of Jesus in this verse. Save that seed for someone who will benefit from it, and try to befriend the dog or the swine. That’s the way we will win them!

Where is Your Treasure

Matthew 6:19-21

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

My brother used to have a fun game he played with his grandson. It started when he was just three and went on for about 6 years until the young man outgrew it. My brother would draw up treasure maps They would feature keys areas in and around his yard, and his grandson would try and decode those. At first. He needed help. But then it got harder and harder for my brother to make them difficult. Somewhere along the way, his grandson started making up maps for my brother which got more and more challenging. It was a fun game that I’m sure they will remember for the rest of their lives.

I can remember as a teen doing a lot of scavenger hunts. You were given a list of items and you had to go around and find them somewhere. One of those lists might include a pine cone, a paper clip a tube of lipstick and other very diverse items. We always had fun trying to win those scavenger hunts to win some silly little prize. Sometimes I feel like doing one again.

All of my life I have been hunting treasure though. For 24 years I hunted the treasures of this world. Wealth, fame, status, respect, power – these are all the treasures of this world. I was drawn away from this quest by what I perceived as the treasures of the flesh. These are the things we want so that our physical life will be more exciting and more provocative – sex, drugs, booze. These things dominated my life and distracted me from those fleshly treasures that most go after., They made me unable to function to my fullest capacity and I fell way short of the things I could have accomplished. They caused me to drop out of college and waste my mind. They caused me to pour out my income like water into the abyss. They caused me to become a lost soul. This is what the treasures of this world will do to a man.

Moth and rust corrupt. This is an interesting saying to me. A moth will eat away at natural fibers like wool until it is destroyed. When I think of moths, I think of wool Moths can destroy a wool coat quite quickly. When wool was stored in old days, people used moth balls to keep the moths away. They really stink, in case you didn’t know. I’m not sure whether people still use them or not. I used some to put under my deck and keep the stray cats out, and it worked!

Rust uses the oxygen in water to corrode items made of iron. Iron is known as a very strong metal, but it is no match for rust. I remember once having a Dodge Opal car which was made in Germany. It came overseas on the deck of the boat and all that salt water had quite an effect on the car. As much as I loved that car. It had rust everywhere, and it just kept getting worse. When the floorboard started rusting through, it was time for it to go!

These two items are known for their durability and strength still today. Yet that durability and strength are vulnerable to a small insect and the natural elements of the world. Our lives are the same. No matter how strong we are, it’s the little things that will seep in and destroy us. Paul wrote that a little leaven will leaven the whole lump (Gal 6:9). Leaven in this case is referring to sin. If just a little gets in, our whole body is infected with it. The riches of this world can bring all kinds of sin alive in our lives. Greed, jealousy, pride, arrogance, haughtiness, boastfulness, and the like. These seeming little things will corrupt us, and people will easily see past our Christian façade.
The other thing about the worlds riches is that thieves can steal them. People can take them away from you. We hear of this all the time not only with traditional robberies, but with the many scams that are going on, money making schemes galore. And people just being plain dishonest. All of these things rob our of our earthly riches.

So then, are we to not put aside money for retirement or the future of our family? This is not what Jesus is talking about here. He is talking about gathering to yourself riches to lavish upon yourself. He is talking about getting riches so that we can appear better than anyone else. God hates pride, and riches can easily lead to pride if we are not careful. If you are accumulating wealth for your retirement and future generations, do not think for a moment that God is not pleased with that activity. That is part of being a good steward. But if you are heaping up treasures and just storing them to lavish on yourself then beware lest you be carried away by their allurement.

We are to lay up treasures in heaven. What are these treasures? Many believe these are souls saved because they hear our testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and want the same blessings on their life. In Rev 11:12, we read that we are saved by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of our testimony. This testimony that we share might be the story of how we came to Christ, or a healing He has done in our lives, or peace that He has given us in the worst of times. We do not have to wait for some mighty miracle or special discernment from God to share a testimony. The every day blessings He gives us make a wonderful testimony and can minister just as effectively to those who do not know Christ. I think many Christians shy away from giving a testimony about the Lord because they don’t feel anything “spectacular” has happened to them that would sway another person. Never feel this way. Share what Christ has done for you with anyone where the Spirit prompts you. Your treasure awaits you!

Another thing that is promised to believers are the five crowns. These are mentioned in various places in the New Testament. They are the Crown of righteousness, the incorruptible Crown,, the Crown of Life, the Crown of glory and the Crown of rejoicing. Let’s briefly look at who earns these crowns (yes, they are earned).

The Incorruptible Crown:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 KJV

This verse tells us that those who are willing to sacrifice everything, including their earthly body, will earn this crown. It is not given to those who just barely make it into heaven, or those who just do what they are told and nothing more. It is given to those who go all out, those who are seeking more and more to do from God. Think of the missionary who goes into the jungle seeking out tribes that have never been reached. It is for those who “strive for the mastery” in a controlled, concise way.

The Crown of Righteousness

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 KJV

This crown is given to those who love to see Christ when He appears. I am not convinced that this means only those who rejoice at His second coming. I also think it includes those who rejoice to see Christ at work in other people. They rejoice in the right thing being done in the name of Jesus, because that means Jesus has been present among them. They rejoice when others are touched by the Lord. They also rejoice in hearing from the Lord. Speaking to us is a way that He appears to us. They even rejoice at the Lord’s rebuke and correction because that means He is there. To receive the Crown of Righteousness we must eagerly await His presence among us.

The Crown of Life:

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12 KJV

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10 KJV

This is the only crown mentioned in two different places. Both verses tells us that this crown goes to those who endure temptation and put up with the trials that they might face in their Christian walk. They do not shy away from trouble on behalf of Christ. They accept it as part of the price they pay and they remain faithful through every test the world might bring their way. We should not be afraid of these trials because we can rest assured He is with us in the midst of them for Her loves us.

The Crown of Glory:

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:1-4 KJV

This crown is for the Pastors and teachers of the Word. They have faithfully shared what God has placed on their hearts, delivering His message week after week. They have not shied away from the truth contained in the Word, and they have not altered their message for the sake of monetary gain. They are not forced to preach but enjoy sharing the truths of the Bible wanting everyone to walk in that truth. They shepherd their flock, leading them to still waters and green pastures.

The Crown of Rejoicing:

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” 1 Thessalonians 2:19 KJV

This is given to those who witness to others about the Lord, sharing their testimony freely so all they come in contact with will know the saving power of Jesus Christ. They have no backed off or shied away from confrontation when it comes, but have persevered with patience to win souls to the Kingdom of God. The are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for they know it is the power of God to salvation (Rom 1:12).

There are many who have done long studies about these crowns, but I am going to leave it at that. Some will only receive one crown, others might receive them all. Most of us will fall in between. These treasures are only gained in heavenly realms. They are no earthly good. But the results of what it takes to receive them will bring us even more treasures in heaven. And that is a good thing to strive for.

Your heart will belong to the place where your treasures are.  It will long after them and want to stay in that place.  If your treasure is on this earth, you will be  reluctant to leave this earth.  Heaven will not seem so glorious, because the glorious things in your life are here on this earth.  Don’ let that be your attitude!  I pray that you are seeking those things which are above, not those things you can gather for yourself here below. This life is but a vapor. Why would anyone store up things that would last for a minute rather than have treasures for eternity? Let’s get out there and earn those crowns!


The Perfect Law of Liberty

James 1:25 KJV

25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Last time we discussed looking into a mirror and making no changes being similar to hearing the word of God and not doing anything about what God is saying to you.  Now James turns His attention to those who are doer of the Word, those who act upon what they have heard.  I love the contrast between these two types of people.  When we get right down to it, these are pictures of all of us – we either fall into one category or the other.

There are those who just exist to please themselves and do what they want to do.  They may love to read, send time with other people, go to church, be upheld in the community, and appear to live a good life.  Many look up to them and think they have it made.  They have good jobs, a good lifestyle, good families and enjoy good times.  But when it comes to God, they live halfheartedly.    The words they hear in the Sunday morning sermon are just window decorations to their life – they don’t need to change anything.  Their bibles gather dust on shelves at home and rarely do you see them helping out with functions at the church – they attend all the time, but doing work for the church has never been appealing.  Life is all about them and what they can get out if it.  These are those who look into the mirror of the Word and walk away unchanged.

Then there are those who desire to please God, not necessarily themselves.  They may have all the attributes of the first man, but when the Word of Good is spoken, they take notice and do something about it.  Whether it’s a conviction about something in their lies that displeases God or it is some charitable work they can do to help the church or others, they go out of their way to please God at the expense of their own success.  They love to serve and help others. putting themselves in the lower seat.  They would prefer to be unnoticed, working behind the scenes to please the Father, not everyone else.  They do now look for man’s applause, but for God’s favor.  They would be called servants of the most High God.

As you look at these two descriptions, which would appear to the world to be more free?  Of course, the first man would be the example most would strive for.  We see in this verse an interesting description of God’s word.  it is the “perfect law of liberty”.  James realizes that when we work for our heavenly Father, it s the highest calling we can  achieve, and it sets us free form the burdens of this earth.  It’s not that we do not have problems, trials and tests.  It’s that now we have the peace, joy and hope that help us make it through those hard times.  That’s the blessing!

This world would look at the first man and say he was blessed.  He is confident and well-off.  He goes through hard times but usually rises again.  But in those hard times, he is crying out to God just like the second man.  And God hears him – He hears all our prayers.  Bit many times God has been trying to get this man’s attention for years, and the man’s ears are turned away from God’s voice.  Now, when the man needs God, he still does not hear God’s voice clearly and has a tough time knowing what to do.  He does all he can to fix the problem himself.  Many times this causes him to miss the lesson he was supposed to learn, one that had been taught at his church so many times, and he may just have to go through it again.  God is always trying to draw us closer to Himself.  he loves us and wants a close relationship with every one of us.  The man becomes so entangled in this world he does not see his way to God, nor does he hear God’s voice.  There is no freedom there, although from the outside it sure looks like it.

The second man has peace at every turn,  When tough times come, he does not lose his joy because he knows that there is a God who will pull him out.  His hope is always alive, eternal and strong.  He knows the voice of God, and sees every test and trial as a means for God to draw him closer.  He is free from the burdens of this life, living in a heavenly realm instead.  He is blessed in ways the first man will never understand until he yields to the Master’s plan. He is a doer of the word, living the full life God has planned for Him.

Which man/woman are you?  I strive to be the second, but so often find myself like the first.  I want that worldly look of making it, and I certainly don’t want the trials.  But I find myself more and more wanting to please God instead of pleasing myself.  His word os sinking deeper into my spirit, and His voice is easier to hear.  This is where I want to live – in constant communion with Him.  Pray without ceasing.  Rejoice in the Lord always.  In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving letting my requests be made known unto God.  Trusting in the Lord with all my heart.  Not leaning to my own understanding of things, but to His.  Acknowledging that He is intricately involved in everything that comes into my life.   Knowing that He will work all things for my good because I love Him, and He has called me according to His purpose, not mine.  He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper and bring me to an expected end..

So many blessings to those who do His Word!

I’m Just a Young Branch

James 1:21b KJV

21 and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Once we have done all we can to rid ourselves of the hurtful attributes of the first half of this verse (filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness), it is time to fill that part of our lives with something more Godlike, more righteous.  This is a true principle with anything we rid  ourselves of when learning to follow Christ.  As we put aside various areas of our lives, it leaves a void in that area, and we must start to fill it with something God provides.  If we were filled with anger before coming, we can fill it with joy once we are saved.  If we had bad language, we can fill the void with praise and prayer. The list goes on and on.  If we do not fill that void, it is easier for us to fall back into our old ways.

James admonishes us to now receive with meekness the engrafted word.  I love the way James words this.  First, we must receive this with meekness.  A lot of people get confused with the word meekness.  They equate it with weakness, and nothing could be further from the truth. Meekness is defined as an attitude of humble, submissive and expectant trust in God, and a loving, patient and gentle attitude towards others in one bible dictionary.  I really like that definition.

First we must receive with humility.  I don’t know more than God.  I will not object or complain to what He is trying to teach me.  I will listen and not try to use my own knowledge to try and figure out what He is saying.  I will allow the Holy Spirit to teach me what God is saying in His word.  Then I will go about making that a part of my life.

Second, we must receive in submission.  We need to submit to His words, and not try to reason our way out of being obedient.  We need to incorporate what He is saying into our lives without reservation or question.  We must recognize His authority to teach us, guide us, and mold us into His image.

Third, we must receive with an expectant trust in God.  We must not doubt that what He is saying is for our good.  We need to be ready for God to move in our lives and help us learn more about the Kingdom.  We must trust that whatever we go through in this life is in His hands, and He will help us through.

All of this should result in that loving, patient and gentle attitude toward others.  Imagine what impression you will make on others if they see this kind of change in your life!  All of those you come in contact with will wonder what has happened, and you can start to plant seeds into their lives about the saving grace Jesus offers.  Hallelujah!

What is it that we receive with meekness?  James calls it the engrafted word.  Again, I love this metaphor!  The word engrafted signifies this word has been grafted into your life.  When a branch is grafted into a tree, the branch starts to receive life from the tree.  This is the point that James is trying to make

Jesus painted the same picture in John 15.  He is the vine, we are the branches.  We must not only be a part of the vine, but we are expected it be fruitful. (We will talk about the necessity of works in the believer later in these lessons).  Jesus tells us if we are not fruit bearing branches, the Father (who is the husbandman of the vineyard) will take it away.  If we are bearing fruit, we will be pruned (trials and tests will come) so that we will bear more fruit.  It is essential that we stay connected to Him, for through Him we have life.  Apart from Him, we wither away.

What a beautiful picture this is of our relationship with Christ and how He comes in and saves our souls.  When we are saved, we are grafted to Him, and the life giving Spirit starts to reveal the word to us.  When we receive it with meekness, we grow in Christ and in His ways.  Even though I have been saved for 40 years, I still need to receive the word with meekness.  This truth James brings out never changes.

I pray this blesses you as much as it does me.  I can get prideful about the years of bible study and meditation I have done.  I can get to a point where I think I know it all very easily.  A while ago a wise man told me that when I read the word, I always need to approach it like I am reading it for the first time, and then I need to accept what it says like a child would accept their father’s words.  When I do this, I realize how little  I really know, and how much I have yet to learn.

May God bless you with the ability to become that child again when you read the word, and receive the word with meekness, ready to be grafted into the vine.

Joy in Temptations???

James 1:2 (KJV)

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

Wait a minute – did I read that right?  Joy in tribulation?  James, how can you say such a thing?  I mean, after all, I dread temptation.  When they come, the worst in me usually comes out.  I start to fear and worry and I usually get sad, wondering if God will get mad at me. I feel guilty and unforgiven.   I would always prefer that temptations would stay as far away as possible.  And you want me to count temptation as joy?

That is the way I felt about this verse for years at the beginning of my walk with Christ.  I could not understand how temptation could equate to joy, even after I read the next two verses.  But then I started to learn two important things – joy and God’s mercy.  Getting the right perspective on these two things changed my view of this verse.

The joy of the Lord should never be based on my circumstances.  Never.  It is deep down inside of me and it is always there.  What I had not learned yet is how to call upon it when I am in a position that would cause most people to lose their joy.  That is simple – just start to praise the Lord!  Yup, that’s right!  Praising the Lord is huge in getting us into the joy of the Lord.  Why?  Because it takes my mind off the problem and puts it where it truly belongs – on the one who can solve the problem!  That gives me joy!

Then there is God’s mercy.  I forgot about how forgiving He is. When I am being tempted, I forget about His sacrifice because I am too worried about me.  That is pride, plain and simple.  I should never fear that God will not forgive me, or be mad at me, or give up on me, because He won’t (Rom 8:31-40).  Just because temptations come does not change His thoughts about me – I am precious to Him (Psalm 139:17, 149:4), and I always will be.  I am His child, and He is my Father.

A closer look at this verse makes me pause at the words “fall into”.  Temptation is always beneath us.  After all, you can not fall into something that is higher than you – it;s physically impossible.  The word fall here has the connotation of not just falling, but falling into the middle of something.  It’s almost like one minute we are just walking along fine, then then the next the ground has give way and we find ourselves in the midst of a den of snakes.  YIKES!  Isn’t that how temptations are?  One minute we are fine, the next they are overwhelming.  We have “Fallen into”them.

Why is that important?  Because this means that it is not our normal path.  Somehow, the temptation has snared us and taken us off the normal path, and we are in it.  That means all we have to do is find our way back to the normal path, and everything will be OK.

To find my way back to the normal path, I suggest there are two things we need.  Yes, only two. The first is directions.  How do I get out of here?  This place I have fallen into seems impossible to get out of.  What do I need to do to escape?  We have probably all seen it in the movies.  Someone falls into a big hole and in trying to get out the sides keep giving way, or they can’t get a solid enough grip to help themselves up.  They must get help from someone else – someone who knows all about the hole they have fallen into.

Secondly, I must have a light. it can get dark when we have fallen into something.  Darkness is not a good place to be, even if you are not afraid of the dark.

God constantly surprises me. I started writing this blog Saturday night and got to this point and stopped. I really hadn’t planned on going into the “fall” information that I’m sharing now but it just struck me as interesting. Little did I know what God had in store for me Sunday morning.

My pastor’s message really touched me and went along so well with what I’m talking about here.  He discussed the fact that we need to have a firm foundation in Christ but above all a firm foundation in the Word of God.   This firm foundation will keep us from falling into (and he use those exact words) the ways of this world. He mentioned the fact that the world is all around us, crowding us in, trying to distract us in any way it can. This word fall can also be interpreted as being surrounded by something.  Isn’t it true that we are surrounded by temptations all the time.? The advertising world thrives in tempting us to buy this product or buy that product and it’s not unusual that they use sexualized images to do that. The allure of  glamour,  power and wealth are all around us trying to draw us in and make us fall into their trap.
We need a firm foundation in the word of God to keep us from falling.   Remember the Word is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105),  It is also our instruction manual, giving us direction and wisdom for our daily lives (Prov 3:6).  The Word is that sure foundation that will never change, never pass away (Matt 24:35) We can depend on it to keep us from falling in, and to help us get back out when we do fall.
 In my next post, we will see what we need to know about this verse, and why James says it is joy to fall into these temptations.  Stay tuned!