Tag Archives: inspirational bible verse

Please, Help Me to See God!

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.  (Matthew 5:8 NKJV)

Does this seem like an impossibility to you?  Do you feel as though you’ve seen too much, done too much and had too much done to you to ever have a pure heart?  God knows that I have felt this way for most of my life.  Though you don’t know my heart, and though I can’t know yours, God knows.  Indeed, it was God who described the condition of everyone’s heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.  (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV)

So, knowing this, how could Jesus, bless those with a pure heart?  Do they really exist?  And, knowing this, how could He make it seem possible for anyone to achieve this?  I’ve been dreaming about this message all night, as the Lord placed scripture after scripture into my heart, and if you’ve longed to see God, but despaired of it ever happening, because of the things you’ve done in life, have I got good news for you!  For, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  

Let’s look at King David.  King David had it all.  He loved the Lord, and God had blessed him with the kingdom of Israel, and the love of his people.  He walked uprightly before God, and was seen on many occasions singing and dancing before the Lord.  And yet, like you and me, King David’s heart was just as deceitful as our hearts are.  Do you remember what happened? 

During the time of year, when kings went to war, we discover that King David stayed behind, in Jerusalem.  For whatever reason, David chose not to be where he should have been, and after waking from a nap, he walked out onto the roof and looked around.  And while he was standing there, he saw a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 

Now, instead of averting his eyes from her and leaving his perch on the roof, David he sent a servant to find out who she was.  After discovering that she was married, you would have thought that this man of God would have forgotten about her, but instead, he summoned her to his presence and committed adultery with her.  Before too long, Bathsheba (the woman) informed David that she was pregnant. 

It never occurred to David that he should repent, and ask for her husband’s (Uriah) or God’s forgiveness.  Instead, he began to plot, to cover his sin.  Have you ever been there?  When you’ve sinned against God and man, have you tried to cover it up?  Though it shames me, I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never tried to hide my sins. 

David sent a message for Uriah to come home, hoping that he and his wife would have sex, and then Bathsheba could claim that their child was Uriah’s.  However, it turns out that Uriah was a much more honorable man than David was, and he refused to enjoy the comfort and pleasure of sleeping with his wife, while his fellow soldiers were suffering in the midst of the war.  David didn’t give up, though.  He invited Uriah to dinner that evening, and got him drunk, hoping to get him to sleep with his wife, while under the influence, but even then, Uriah refused to betray his duty to his fellow soldiers.   

So, rather than repenting and confessing his sin to Uriah and to God, David plotted another plan… one that involved Uriah’s murder.  David sent Uriah back to the front lines, where the battle was the fiercest, and ordered the other men to be pulled back, so that Uriah would be killed in battle. 

When Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, learned that Uriah had been killed in battle, she mourned for him.  Then, once her period of mourning was over, David married her, and she became one of his wives.  Before long, she gave birth to a son.  But the Lord was displeased with what David had done.  (1 Samuel 11 NLT)

Indeed, God was so unhappy about what David had done, that he sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront him with his sin.  When he realized that Nathan speaking of his sin, David confessed and repented of it, and God forgave him.  However, the consequences for David’s sin were great.  (1 Samuel 12 NLT)  Still, knowing the consequences of his sin, David prostrated himself before God, confessed his sin and repented.

1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.  (Psalm 51 NKJV)

Beloved, oftentimes, we think that because our sins are forgiven, we shouldn’t suffer the consequences for those sins, but this isn’t true.  Though Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, in this world, we still suffer sin’s consequences.  Yet, if we truly repent, as David did, though we pay the consequences of our sin, we can still be washed clean, even as David was.  Do you wonder if David will ever get to see God, because of his sin?  I believe he will, for even in the New Testament, David is referred to as a man after God’s own heart.  

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’  (Acts 13:22 NKJV) 

Even after these terrible sins against God and man, David remained a man after God’s own heart.  Doesn’t that give you hope?  It gives me great hope.  Yet, if what Jesus said is true, then how can our heart be made pure, so that we, too, can see God?  We must do as David did, and repent and confess our sin to God…

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9 NKJV) 

Do you want to see God?  Then you must have a pure heart.  How can you have a pure heart?  Confess your sins to God, repent from them, and ask Him to cleanse your heart, just as David did, and your heart, beloved reader, will be made pure, and you will see God.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Lord Have Mercy!

In a world filled with bitterness and injustice, it’s no accident that after sharing the beatitude about those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus followed it up with the beatitude on mercy…

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.  (Matthew 5:6-7 NKJV)

In this world, where mothers and fathers mourn the lives of their children, murdered by men full of violence, we need mercy as well as justice.  In this world, where men, women and children are raped and tortured, we need both mercy and justice.  In this world, where governments lie, cheat and steal from their citizens, we need mercy to go hand in hand with justice.

What is mercy anyway?  For much of my life, I’ve confused mercy with forgiveness, but in this study, I was moved to seek out the biblical definition, as well as the world’s definition, and I was surprised to discover that mercy and forgiveness are two different things.  Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is as essential to our walk with Christ as mercy is, but Jesus addresses that elsewhere.  So, for now, we are going to talk about mercy…

This is dictionary.com’s definition of mercy:

[mur-see]

noun, plural mer·cies for 4, 5.

  1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offenderan enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassionpity, or benevolence:  Have mercy on thpoor sinner.
  2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing: an adversary wholly without mercy.
  3. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty. 
  4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor: She has performed countless small mercies for her friends and neighbors.
  5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing: It was just mercy we had our seat belts on when it happened.

According to Strong’s Lexicon, this is the Greek word translated as mercy in this scripture, and its definition:

eleeō

[e-le-e’-ō]

verb

to be compassionate (by word or deed, specially, by divine grace):—have compassion (pity on), have (obtain, receive, shew) mercy (on).

Beloved reader, in this world that often shows little to no compassion for those who are hurt and afflicted, Jesus commands us to be merciful.  In this world of unrighteousness, we are to show mercy to our enemies, to our friends, to our family, to the poor and forgotten… Indeed, we are to show mercy to everyone we come in contact with.

Do you want to receive mercy?  Be merciful.  Show compassion on those who are less fortunate than you are.  Show compassion to those who are more fortunate than you.  Show compassion to all you come in contact with.

Think about it, even as He was suffering, hanging, naked and dying on the cross, Jesus looked down and saw those who had tortured and hung Him gambling over His clothing, and instead of calling on God to strike them dead (which justice surely demanded), He was moved with pity for them.  Can you imagine feeling pity for your tormentors, in the midst of your suffering?  Jesus did, and He cried out to His Father, not to condemn them, but to have mercy on them…

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

Beloved, if Jesus, who was and is wholly righteous, could have mercy enough on those, who yet tortured Him, to forgive them, how can we do any less?  “But He is God,” you might say.  “It’s harder for me to forgive, because I’m not God.”  If you are truly a child of God, then His Spirit lives within you, and enables you to show mercy.

How much harder was it for Jesus, who knew no sin, to suffer at the hands of sinful man?  How much harder was it for Him to have mercy on me, knowing how many times I have let Him down in the past, present and future?  And yet, He continues to pour His mercies on us…

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.  (Psalm 103:11-18 NKJV)

Beloved, this walk with Christ is not an easy one.  We are tested and tried at every turn, just as Jesus said we would be.  And yet, by His grace, and in His strength, we can run this race, for He will give us the endurance to see it through.  It’s time for us to stop seeing everything through the eyes of the world, and start seeing things through the eyes of Christ.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Then you will be filled, as you show mercy to others.  And as you show mercy to others, rejoice!  For you are blessed, and you will receive that same mercy from the God of all mercy, and let’s not forget:

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”  (Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

All You Can Eat…

When Jesus was tempted by the devil, the prince of the air challenged the Prince of Peace (Shalom) to turn stones into bread, and this was Jesus’ response to him:

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  (Matthew 4:4 NLT)

Let’s think about His response.  Jesus, the very Word of God, who created the universe and all that is in it, said that we need more than bread to sustain us.  In fact, the Word said that our sustenance comes from every word spoken by God…

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through Him,
    and nothing was created except through Him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and His life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.  (John 1:1-5  NLT)

It was through His Word, that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.  It is in this Word that we live and move and have our being…

14 So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.  (John 1:14  NLT)

16 From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is Himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.  (John 1:16-18 NLT)

It is by this Word that we live…  This is the Word that we must feed on…  It’s like going to an all you can eat banquet or buffet, only this food is good for you, and there are no calories!

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!  (Psalm 34:8  NLT)

Are there some who still say, “But I want some bread?”  Then join me in this all you can eat banquet… For Jesus, the Word of God, is also the Bread of Life!

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true Bread from heaven. 33 The true Bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

35 Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.  (John 6:32-35  NLT)

Just in case you don’t understand that your very life comes from Christ, He goes into even more detail…

47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the Bread of Life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 Anyone who eats the Bread from Heaven, however, will never die. 51 I am the living Bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live forever; and this Bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is My flesh.”

52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what He meant. “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” they asked.

53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks my blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent Me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 I am the true Bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”  (John 6:47-58  NLT)

To make it clear, we are to feast on the Word of God, for this is where we will find life.  And unlike the bread we feed to our flesh, you can’t overindulge on this Bread.  This Bread of Life will fill us, and breathe new life into us.  The Bread of Life won’t leave us feeling sick and bloated, no matter how much we eat of it.  Instead, our strength will be renewed and restored…

Beloved, have you tasted this Bread of Life?  Do you feast on the Word of God?  Have you tasted and seen how good He is?  If not, come to the banquet, and eat your fill, then have some more.  For this is an all you can eat banquet, and as Jesus said, “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Where Do You Live?

I’ve lived in the same old farm house for the last thirty-one years.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s my home.  When I’m at home, I know that I’m sheltered from the many storms that have blown through over the years.  This old house has endured blizzards, hurricanes and tropical storms, yet it has stood firm, despite being more than seventy-five years old.  That could be because the floor joists beneath this old house are whole logs (with the bark still on them), and there are actual 4″x4″ posts, (as opposed to today’s 4″x4″ posts, which are really only 3.5″x3.5″) in the walls, and the 2″x4″ boards truly  are 2″x4″ as well, (not today’s 1.5″x3.5″).

At any rate, when I’m in my home, I feel safe and secure.  If I’ve been out in the world, and someone hurts me, I long for the security of my home.  Whenever I leave my home for a long period of time, I always feel great joy, when I return to the house I live in, because home is where my heart is.

house_PNG50
House (Image Not Mine)

The same thing can be said spiritually and emotionally.  Where we abide is where we live.  Where do you live?

4 *Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it *abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you *abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who *abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not *abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you *abide in Me, and My words *abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

(John 15:4-8  NASB)

Strong’s Lexicon Definition for Abide

ménō, men’-o; a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), × thine own.

For many years, I lived (abided) in Jesus, and I was quite happy there.  I’ve preached and shared the gospel with many people, and I’ve been blessed to rejoice in the salvation of others, who came to know and love Jesus.  Yet, because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen, even when we’re in our homes, where we feel safe and secure.

Six years ago, my back started hurting, causing weakness and shooting pains in my legs.  I’ve dealt with back pain my entire life, off and on, and when it started, I figured it was just another flare up, and soon I would be back to normal, but that’s not what happened.  Before long, my back and legs were hurting constantly, and within a year, I had to stop doing prison ministry, and shortly thereafter, I had to leave my job, because I was no longer able to work.  The constant pain began to consume me.

During the next six to eight months, my mother passed away, and my children and grandchildren moved far away, to other states.  I fell into a deep depression.  I was totally overwhelmed by the darkness of pain and depression, and my faith began to waver and wane.  I was no longer abiding in Christ; I was now abiding in pain, depression, guilt and anxiety.

Because of the constant, chronic pain, I was unable to spend as much time as I wanted to spend with my mother before she died.  And although I had shared the gospel with her many times over the years, I was unable to do so, while she lay dying, and I was consumed with guilt because of that.  I questioned  my own salvation.  “How could God continue to love me, when I couldn’t even minister to my own mother?”  I thought.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; *abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will *abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and *abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.

(John 15:9-11 NASB)

Over the next several years, I continued to abide in pain and depression.  I no longer prayed, because I was so disappointed in myself, and I was sure God was too.  I no longer felt His presence.  I simply lived in my pain and depression.  This was now my new abode, and to be frank with you, I’ve been miserable.

Then, just this week, while reading, I was reminded of the scriptures above, and I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “Abide in Me.  Abide in My love.”  He was telling me to live, dwell, endure, tarry, stand in His love; in Him!  I still have the same physical pain, but I don’t have to live in and wallow in it.  Instead, I choose to immerse myself in His love for me.  His love didn’t stop because I didn’t share the  gospel with my mother one last time before she died.  My pain isn’t a punishment from God.  It’s just a part of life in this fallen world.

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

(John 16:33 NLT)

Losing my mother, my chronic pain, and having my children and grandchildren so far away from me are just a few of the many sorrows and trials I will endure, but I don’t have to try to go it alone.  Jesus tells me to take heart, because He has overcome the world.  I’m not alone and unloved, for His love is unending, just as He is, for God is love (1 John 4:8b).

I am so very thankful to serve the God of all grace, who remains faithful to us, even in our frailties.  Yes, I continue to have chronic, sometimes debilitating pain, but I don’t have to live in pain.  Instead, while living with pain, I will live in Christ.  Where will you live?


* Emphasis added

© 2017
Cheryl A. Showers

What Would You Give for the Pearl of Great Value? Part 1

44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”

Matthew 13:44-46  NLT

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure, like a pearl of great value…  Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, Son of Man, King of kings and Lord of Lords, is the Treasure; He is that Pearl of great value!  Now, when the merchant and the man discovered this great Treasure, (Jesus), what did they do?  They sold everything they owned, so they could get that treasure.  There was nothing more important to them than getting that Treasure, the Pearl of great value.  Likewise, nothing should be more important to us than Jesus, our Pearl of great value…

23 Then He said to the crowd, If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in His glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:23-27  NLT

These words of Jesus are offensive to most people, including we, who call ourselves Christians.  Instead of trying to follow Jesus on our own terms, we must do as He says…

23 Jesus replied, All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make Our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love Me will not obey Me. And remember, My words are not My own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent Me.

John 14:23-24  NLT

Do you love Jesus?  If you do, you will obey Him.  If you don’t obey Him, then you don’t love Him.  Do my words sound harsh?  They’re not my words.  Jesus said they’re not even His own words, but those of His Father. 

Before you take offense at what I’ve written, I should let you know that it’s taken me almost a week to write about this Pearl of great value, because I’ve had to deal with the fact that I haven’t been treating Jesus like the Treasure He is, for far too long…

Father, please forgive me for giving up on You.  Forgive me for doubting, Lord, help my unbelief!  Please forgive me for ignoring You, Lord, my Pearl of great value.  Forgive me, Lord, for trying to live on my own terms, and for refusing to carry my cross daily, following You.  Forgive me, my Lord, for trying to hang on to my life as I wanted it to be, instead of giving it up for Your will, instead.  Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love.  According to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions, and cleanse me from my sins.  Against You, and You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are just when You speak, and blameless when You judge…

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit away from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.  Then, I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You!

As we study this parable about the treasure and the pearl of great value, the story of the rich young man immediately came to my mind.  Do you remember how the young man questioned Jesus about how to obtain eternal life?

17 As Jesus was starting out on His way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to Him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Mark 10:17-22  NLT

This man seemed to do everything right.  He obeyed all of God’s commands, but when he stood before (Jesus) the Pearl of great value, he failed to recognize His worth.  Although he was willing to obey God’s law, he was unwilling to give up his earthly treasures, unlike the merchant and the man, who discovered the buried Treasure and the Pearl of great value.  Jesus, who felt genuine love for this man, even tried to make everything clear to him, saying that if he sold everything, he would have Treasure in heaven, but the man failed to recognize the Treasure (Jesus) speaking to him… and so, with a sad look on his face, the man walked away from the greatest Treasure he could ever hope for, because he already had so many possessions that he couldn’t bear to part from…

23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

Mark 10:23-27  NLT

Hear me now…  People throughout the world are seeing Jesus’ miracles, signs and wonders, even in this day and age, while here in the United States, we see few, if any.  Do you wonder why this is?  It is because we already have so many treasures of our own, that we don’t hunger or thirst for that Pearl of great value.  Even the poor of this nation, (and I am counted among the poor) are not truly poor in comparison to the rest of the world…

You see, though I have very little money to live on each month, it is still more than others around the world have…  I still have plenty of food to eat…  I have a car (it’s old, but it’s paid for, and it runs)…  I have a computer…  I have medical care when needed…  Do you see?  In this nation that I love, I lack for nothing that I need, and I praise God for that.

Yet, this fact remains.  My poverty is not poverty as the world knows it.  Because all of my needs were met when I was able to work, and now they are met by the government, to whom do I run, first, when another need arises?  Who am I depending on?  When my back pain became unbearable, did I turn to Jesus first?  Or did I turn to the doctor?  When the doctors could offer me no help for the pain, and offered instead, a very risky surgery that could do more harm than good, was I angry with the doctors?  Or did I get angry with Jesus, that Pearl of great value, who still hasn’t healed me in the last four or five years? 

Until right now, I haven’t even admitted this to myself.  I stopped asking Jesus to heal me, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if He didn’t.  So, I became more and more depressed, for the last four years, and my faith began to shrink.  I just gave up on the great Treasure.  Now, instead of praying regularly, I seldom bothered to talk to Him.  Instead of enjoying His presence, I wallowed in my pain.  Unlike Job, when I lost my health, I also lost much of my faith… much of it, but not all of it. 

For the God who saved me many years ago, remained faithful to me, in spite of my unfaithfulness.  Though I had lost hope in Him, in His great mercy, He restored my hope.  Then, as I began this study, about the great Treasure, I was convicted, because I have neglected this Pearl of great value.  How could I write about this great Treasure, when I have failed to fully appreciate His value?

For almost a week, I watched TV, played video games, and did what I could, to ignore this study.  I didn’t want to think about it.  I didn’t want to deal with the fact that I had not treated Jesus as the great and wonderful Treasure that He is.  Then, yesterday, as I tried to nap, I heard a still small voice whispering to my spirit, and reminding me of other times when He’s healed me.  In 2004, I had a hyperactive thyroid that was so bad, the doctor was talking about doing a procedure to burn out my thyroid gland.  I was taking blood pressure medicine, and still my blood pressure was through the roof.  I shook with tremors constantly.  My heart rate was super high, and I suffered many other symptoms because of it, but I remember praying for God to heal me one night at church, and He did!  To this day, my thyroid is normal, and so is my blood pressure, heart rate, etc.  

As I thought of how the Lord has healed me in the past, I felt His presence strongly, and felt as though He was saying, “Trust Me. Ask Me to help you, and believe that I can and I will do it for you.”  I had stopped asking Him to heal my back several years ago, after living with the pain for more than a year, because I couldn’t bear the thought of asking Him for this, and being disappointed.  Instead, I chose to live with no hope, and without hope, there is only disappointment…  

Then I began to wonder,  “What if I’m the one who keeps derailing me?  What if God is ready to heal me, but I keep giving up on Him, before He can act?  What if He chooses not to heal my back?  Does this in any way devalue Him?  Is He not still, the great Treasure?  Isn’t He still the Pearl of great value?”

There is much more to this study, but for today, I leave you with this thought…  Is Jesus your great Treasure?  Is He your Pearl of great value?  Or do you, like I have done, treat Him as something of much lesser value?

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

What’s Wrong With a Little Yeast???

33 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

Matthew 13:33  NLT

In the scriptures, yeast, or leaven as it is called in some versions, represents sin or evil, either by false teachers, or sin itself.  In this study, we’re going to talk about sin, in the context of this parable…

rotten potato

Have you ever bought a bag of potatoes, and had one of the potatoes go bad?  Within a few days, if that bad potato isn’t removed right away, the whole bag will rot, ruining all of the potatoes, and the stench permeates the air.  The same is true for sin, which is why Paul rebuked the Corinthian church, in his first letter to them.  At the time, there was a man in the church, engaging in sexual immorality, and Paul confronted the church for not only allowing this sin to continue in the church, but for boasting about it…

Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8  NLT

The same is true for any sin in our lives.  It starts out as a seemingly insignificant thing, but it grows at an alarming rate, often destroying not only person engaged in the sin, but many others as well.  A good example of this is Adam and Eve…

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, I’m sure they never fully  comprehended the devastation that would follow.  Indeed, they probably didn’t even understand the full scope of how sin and death would soon ravage, not just them, but the entire earth.  I’m certain it never occurred to either of them that their relationship would be harmed, when they determined to eat the fruit God had warned them not to eat.  Yet, let’s look at what happened  as a result of their sin…

The very first relationship that was harmed by Adam and Eve’s determination to sin, was their relationship with God, Who came to walk with them in the cool of the day…

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

Genesis 3:8-10  NLT

Until that time, the man and woman had walked in the Garden of Eden naked and unashamed, but when they ate of the fruit, they immediately felt shame.  In their shame, they hid from the God who created them, loved them, breathed His life-giving breath into them, and walked and talked with them.  That one, seemingly insignificant sin (eating the forbidden fruit), destroyed their relationship with their Creator.  Could it be that it wasn’t the act of eating the fruit, but the decision to disobey God’s command, that destroyed their relationship with Him?

When they disobeyed God, their own relationship was also spoiled.  It would never be the same again… 

11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

Genesis 3:11-12  NLT

Rather than simply answering, “Yes,” to God’s question, Adam immediately threw Eve under the bus, turning against this woman that he had recently rejoiced in, blaming her for his sin…

23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.

“This one is bone from my bone,
    and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
    because she was taken from ‘man.’”

Now, just one sin damaged a relationship that had been perfect up until then.  How could Eve look at Adam the same way?  Imagine how betrayed she must have felt.  Hadn’t Adam been right there with her, when she sinned against God?  Had she twisted his arm?  Why had he turned against her?

Additionally, not only was their relationship with God and themselves damaged, so too, was their relationship with God’s creation…

13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”

“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, you are cursed
    more than all animals, domestic and wild.
    You will crawl on your belly,
    groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the
woman,

      and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike His heel.

Genesis 3:13-15  NLT

Now, not only were their relationships damaged, but that one sin damaged the entire animal kingdom.  No more would the serpent walk.  It would now crawl on its belly.  Instead of walking in peace with mankind, there would now be enmity between the woman and the serpent… 

No longer, would there be only joy in childbearing.  Because of their sin against God, Eve, and every one of her daughters thereafter, would labor and experience pain in childbearing, some even to the death.  Surely, Adam and Eve never thought of this, when they disobeyed God’s command…

16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

I love how The Voice translates this verse.  I think it reveals how devastating the consequences of Eve’s sin was to womankind, and the relationships of man and woman as well…

16     (to the woman) As a consequence of your actions,
        I will increase your suffering—the pain of childbirth
    And the sorrow of bringing forth the next generation.
    You will desire your husband; but rather than a companion, He will be the dominant partner.

Genesis 3:16 VOICE

How many women, since Eve’s day, have longed for a better relationship with their husbands?  How many have sought and failed to find the perfect husband, to love them unconditionally, really listen to them, understand them and treat them as an equal partner?  How many women, throughout the world, must bow to their husband’s every desire, no matter how egregious?  How many women have been and continue to be beaten, abused and mistreated, as a direct result of Adam and Eve’s sin against God?  I’m certain that neither of them foresaw the devastating results of their one “little” sin. 

Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t believe that all of the evil that has fallen on the earth is the result of God’s punishment against mankind.  To be sure, they were punished, but I believe God was also describing the consequences that their sin had set in motion.  Indeed, even those words didn’t share the full scope of what would soon take place, not only in their lives, but in the lives of every other human, who would follow.  When we sin, we have no idea how many people or how many generations will be effected by our sin

17 And to the man He said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
    whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
    All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
    though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
    from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
    and to dust you will return.”

Because of Adam’s choice, man would have to labor and sweat, to produce crops to eat.  This would be no easy task for him, because now the ground was cursed.  No longer would all of the soil be fertile.  Now, man would have to plow and dig, hoe and weed to produce a crop.  Eventually, locusts and grasshoppers would destroy crops, as well as floods and famines and other disasters.  Man would have to fight the elements in order to provide food for his family, until the day he died.  Then, he would return to the dust from whence he had come, and all of this, because he had chosen to eat the forbidden fruit.

Then, after clothing Adam and Eve with animal skins, they were banished from the Garden of Eden.  No longer would they walk with God and talk with Him in the cool of the evening.  No longer would they have access to the tree of life.  Now, their lives would be filled with pain and toil, simply because they had chosen to eat the forbidden fruit…

I’m sure they never dreamed that their beloved son Cain, would kill his younger brother Abel, as a result of their sin.  They never imagined that Cain’s descendants would be given to the same violence as Cain.  They had no way of knowing that all of their descendants, except for Noah and his family would one day be wiped from the face of the earth, because their wickedness was so great.  Because of one “little” sin, all of these things and more happened.

Look around our world today.  Homosexuals are marrying one another, and brazenly displaying their sins publicly.  Children rebel openly against their parents.  Lies, murder, adultery, idolatry and all sorts of evil abound, as the love of mankind waxes cold, because of one little sin.

This is why Jesus and Paul compared sin to yeast.  Only a little bit will spread through all of the dough.  Do you have any sin in your life?  Perhaps it’s just a “little” sin, but that “little” sin can have devastating consequences, and who knows how many people and generations will be effected by it.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:14-16  NLT

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

1 John 1:8-9  NLT

Despite mankind’s rebellion against Him, God hasn’t left us without hope.  When He punished Adam and Eve and told them the consequences of their actions, He also made a promise…

15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.

Genesis 3:15  NLT

You see, because of the disobedience of one man, every generation thereafter, has suffered the consequences of his rebellion.  Every single one of us has been born into sin.  We all have a sinful nature, because of Adam and Eve’s one “little” sin.  Yet, God, in His mercy, has given us the hope for redemption.  He has made a way for us to walk with Him, and talk with Him, and to have everlasting life…

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:18-19  NLT

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

Acts 2:38-39  NLT

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-13  NLT

Beloved, today is the day of salvation.  Don’t let sin destroy your life and the lives of who knows how many other people.  Repent, and call on the name of the Lord, and you will be saved.

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

When Birds Come to Nest in Your Branches

31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31-32  NLT

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?  Some say that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different things, but, if you examine scriptures, Jesus spoke of them interchangeably…

30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”

Mark 4:30-31  NLT

18 Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? 19 It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”

Luke 13:18-19  NLT

So, again, where or what is the Kingdom of God?  How do we find it? 

Egypt-Christians-AP

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

John 3:3-8  NLT

The first thing we need to understand about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, is that only those who are born again will be able to see and enter it.  He also tells us that the Kingdom belongs to those who are poor in spirit…

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].”

Matthew 5:3  AMP

Jesus makes it clear in this verse that the poor in spirit (those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant) have the kingdom of heaven…  He doesn’t say that the kingdom will be theirs, using the future tense.  He spoke in the present tense, meaning this is already so.

Therefore, since Jesus tells us that we must be poor in spirit to receive the kingdom of heaven, and that we must also be born again, in order to even see it or enter it, we must be poor in spirit in order to be born again.  For it is when I was poor in spirit, that I recognized my absolute need for a Savior.  Because I am poor in spirit, I know that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.  I needed and I still need Jesus, and in order to be a part of His kingdom, I needed to be reborn.  I was already born of water from my mother’s womb, so now, I needed to be born of the Spirit.

“Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].”

Matthew 5:4  AMP

It is because I was (and still am) poor in spirit, that I began to mourn (repent) of my sins, and I cried out to Jesus to forgive me and save me.  In that instance, He heard the cries of my heart, and I was born again.  He had not only forgiven my sins, He had also cleansed me from all unrighteousness.  I was no longer the same.  I had been transformed, not because of my goodness, but because of His mercy and goodness.  Immediately, I became a part of the Kingdom of God, because His Holy Spirit came to dwell within me.  For, His temple is not in a building made by human hands.  According to His word, His temple is now within my body…

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20  NASB

The kingdom of heaven is here on earth, among His children, who have been born of His Spirit.  When two or more of us gather together in His name, He is here, in the midst of us.  If you have been born again, you are a part of His kingdom, and you can see it…

So, what is this kingdom like???

mustard-seed

31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31-32  NLT

Remember, in His other parables, Jesus said that the seed represents God’s word, and the crop that grows from it represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word, and produce a large harvest…

23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Matthew 13:23  NLT

Mustard Tree

Therefore, the tiny little mustard seed represents the word of God, planted into the hearts of man.  Then, that tiny little seed grew into an enormous tree, which represents the growth of the church.  Think about it, on the day of Pentecost, there were only about one hundred and twenty (see Acts 1:15) Christ followers, but after the Holy Spirit blew in, settling on them in the upper room, they rushed out into the streets, rejoicing.  Before the day was over, three thousand more believers had been added to their number (see Acts 2:41)!  Everyday after that, more and more believers joined them, as the church continued to grow enormously (see Acts 2:46-47).  Within a short time, the number of believers grew to five thousand (see Acts 4:4)As people were healed and witnessed many miracles, signs and wonders, crowds of men and women began to believe (see Acts 5:14)!  Indeed, as God’s message spread, the number of believers greatly increased.  Even some of the priests became believers (see Acts 6:7).

The church grew amazingly fast, and amazingly large.  Just look at how many people claim the Christian faith today.  In fact, as that mustard seed grew into a huge tree, birds came and made nests in it… Do you remember that the birds represented the evil one, snatching the word away  from the believers in the first parable we talked about in Sowing Seeds Begins with  Prayer?

Whenever scripture speaks to us in parables, they don’t change.  For instance, leaven (yeast) always represents sin.  The seeds in these stories, represents God’s word.  Likewise, the birds represent the evil one.  Whenever the word of God goes out, the enemy seeks to destroy it or snatch it away.  In this case, we see that the enemy has built nests within the church.  So, what does this mean?

In the parable we discussed yesterday, in The Wheat and the Weeds Know the Truth, we saw that the weeds, which were planted by the evil one, grew up right alongside of the wheat (true believers).  Likewise, today, we see the true believers (the church) represented by the mustard tree, and nesting within its branches, are the birds (those sent by the evil one, to snatch the word of God away from the believers).  Do you wonder if this is even possible?  Look at this warning from Jesus…

24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.

Matthew 24:24-25  NLT

There are deceivers in the church, right now.  They are in the pulpits, on committees, and in the pews.  Some may seem righteous, but their hearts are black.  Therefore, it is vital that you know the Truth, and the only way to know Truth is by having a close relationship with Jesus.  Talk to Him and study His word.

16 Rejoice always; 17pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  NASB

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32 NLT

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:15-20  NLT

Beloved reader, if you walk in close obedience to Jesus, you will not be fooled by the birds in the tree.  Even if you are momentarily fooled, God will open your eyes to the truth, and when He does, you  must proclaim the truth of God’s word to others, so that they will not be fooled.  I’m not telling you to kill the birds, because the Lord will remove them, when the time is right.  I’m telling you to speak the truth in love and walk in truth. 

15 But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.

Ephesians 4:15  AMP

15 Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 AMP

If you will do this, beloved, you need have no fear of the birds (enemies of God’s word) in the church (followers of Christ).

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers