Monday, October 30, 2006

What Do You Think?

I came across an interesting scripture this morning in my quiet time. Have you ever had one just jump off of the page? This one did for me.

Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:7 (New King James Version)

We both know that there is nothing wasted in the Bible. Every word has been put in there for a reason. So why would it talk about the wicked man forsaking his way, and the unrighteous man forsaking his thoughts?

Napoleon Hill said it best in his great book "Think and Grow Rich" when he wrote that "thoughts are things". And since the battleground for this great spiritual warfare is the mind of man, it makes sense that there should be a twofold approach to that scripture. Wicked people just need to flat out stop doing their wicked actions. But someone who is not right with God is in a different place. He hasn't actually DONE anything wicked...but he is thinking about it. And he too needs to squash the thought of sin before it becomes an action of sin.

I haven't seen one place in scripture where it says that we will never have an evil thought. Come drive your car in Dallas, Texas and you will have plenty of evil thoughts. But I do see where we are admonished to control our thoughts.

"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (New King James Version)

Jesus knew that the thought life is paramount when he said:

"You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28 (New Living Translation)

So what do you think? Solomon said that as a man THINKS in his heart, so is he. Do you think thoughts of peace and power? Do you meditate on the positive promises of God daily? Or do you give your mind a steady diet of the negativity of the world, the lust of the sex industry, the pessimism of the news, or the doubt of humanistic academia? If we think like the world, we will have what the world has: a distance from God. But if we do what God says in that scripture (forsake our unrighteous thoughts) He will draw close to us. And that is something to think about!


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Walmart Apples and God

I went shopping for groceries the other day at a Walmart Neighborhood Market and began my ramble in the produce department. I love Washington delicious apples and they had a whole area dedicated to apples. I started the process that everyone does who is shopping for fruit: search through the myriad of apples on display for the ones that were appealing. I began the selection process by picking up potential candidates and looking them over. Many of them had flaws. There were worm holes, and discolorations. There were some that were bruised so badly that they were too soft in one part and others weren’t ripe enough yet. They were all rejected. The two apples that went home with me were gorgeously red, firm to the touch, nice and big, and looked delicious.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

The next day I couldn't wait to treat myself to one of those apples. They were both firm, red, plump, and looked scrumptious. As I took a bite from the one on the left, I immediately spit it out. The inside of the apple was brown and rotten. How could that be? It looked great from the outside. In my experience, one can tell when an apple is rotten because the outside starts showing signs of deterioration. Not in this case.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” Matthew 23:27 (New Living Translation)

I immediately grabbed a knife and took the second apple. I wondered if it was rotten like the first. When I cut it in two, there were two of the freshest, juiciest halves I had ever seen. The second apple was one of the best apples I had eaten in a very long time. I pondered that very strange scenario. How can two apples look identical but be so drastically different on the inside? There were so many spiritual lessons I learned at Walmart that day. In the Bible there are five places where we are called the “apple of God’s eye”. (Zech 2:8) God is searching the whole earth for some tasty fruit to enjoy. He is standing at the bin looking, feeling, and sometimes squeezing apples to see who will be selected.

“You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.” Matthew 7:16-18 (New Living Translation)

The only time I ever read where Jesus cursed anything was a fig tree that bore no fruit. Producing fruit is extremely important in the grand scheme of things. And the Bible is clear that rotten apples will be chunked into the fire.

“Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10 (New Living Translation)

So today would be a good day to evaluate yourself on what kind of fruit you have been producing lately. Are you a barren tree? Are you gorgeous on the outside but rotten on the inside? Are you tasty and juicy to God? All things are created for his pleasure, you know. (Revelation 4:11) I remember the old days when being called “a fruit” was a bad thing. Let me give you a new perspective on being in the Walmart apple cart.

"I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” John 15:1-8 (The Message)