"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Monday, March 21, 2011

Raising The Standard: Gratefulness Is Paying My Debt Of Love Out Of The Firstfruits Of My Increase

"Humour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall be burst out with new wine." ~ Proverbs 3:9-10
From The Pages Of Scripture:
Grateful praise is a vital, energy-producing power in our lives. However, gratefulness is destroyed by the false assumption that God owes us a full, happy, and healthy life. One day Christ performed a miracle, and out of the contrasting responses to it, we learn how the principle of tithing can protect us from the destruction of an ungrateful spirit. Ingratitude is like a disfiguring blight on the soul. An ungrateful person may be unconcerned because their attitude is often concealed. However, anyone who gives to that person will quickly detect the problem. Who in Scripture demonstrated genuine gratefulness out of the firstfruits of what he received and in so doing gained an even greater gift? The grateful leper.
How Is The Gratefulness Of Firstfruits Illustrated In Scripture?
The kind teacher just stood there for several moments. He marveled at the gift he had just received. Finally, he spoke to the grateful man who had given it to him and asked him a very pointed question. That question caused the man to reflect back over many years. He remembered the horrifying day when he had first noticed that something was wrong. A tiny patch of skin on his cheek had become discolored and soon the pinkish blotch began to spread. Before long, he had lost all feeling in his skin and his eyebrows began to disappear. Spongy tumor-like growths began to cover his face and body. Internal organs also suffered from damaging disease. Marked deformities occurred in his hands and feet as the tissues between his bones deteriorated. The sensory nerve endings in his hands and feet no longer responded to heat or pain. As a result, he became the victim of numerous accidental injuries. People who had once filled his life with joy and fellowship now required him to call out the frightening words, "Unclean, unclean" wherever he approached. When they heard these words, the were filled with fear and pity and scattered. His only companions were foreigners who were afflicted with the same condition. The discouraged invalid soon discovered that those around him were infected with an even greater affliction --- deeply rooted bitterness. Humanly speaking, they all had good reason to be bitter. There was no hope for a cure and their progressive deterioration left them vulnerable to many other ailments. The man who now knelt before the teacher had received total healing of his leprosy. He had discovered the miracle on his way to see the priest. It seemed only proper to use the first portion of his newly acquired healthy and strength to return and give sincere thanks. The gift of gratefulness deeply impressed the one who had healed him. but it also prompted him to ask an important question, "Where are the other nine?" Ten lepers were healed, but only this Samaritan returned to give thanks. His grateful heart earned him an even greater gift from the Lord Jesus --- healing in his soul from the bitterness that would continue to consume his former companions. [from Luke 17:11-19]
Why Did Jesus Tell The Lepers To See The Priests?
When the Lord heard the lepers' pitiful cries, He neither touched them nor said, "You are cured!" Rather, He told them to go in their leprous condition and show themselves to the priests. According to Mosiac Law, priests were to inspect their skin to certify that they were fully healed (see Leviticus 14:1-3). The Lord put their faith to the test by asking them to act as though they had already been healed. As they obeyed His command, so it happened. "... And it came to pass, that as they went, they were cleansed" (Luke 17:14). In addition to fulfilling the Law's command, it is likely that the Lord wanted these men to be a testimony to the priests that they might believe in Him as the Messiah. When He had healed a leper on a previous occasion, He charged him to "... tell no man: but go, and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them" (Luke 5:14). After the Lord's resurrection, the priests remembered these things, "... and a great company of the priests were obedient of the faith" (Acts 6:7).
Why Did Only One Leper Return To Thank Jesus?
The test states, " ... and he was a Samaritan" (Luke 17:16). The Samaritans were a despised people. One Jewish author spoke of them as "no nation" and as "the foolish people that dwell in Schechem". When the Jews destroyed the Samaritans' temple on the Mount Gerizim about 128 B.C., the breach between the two groups was final. It is an indication of the horror of leprosy that nine Jews would even consent to live with a Samaritan. But Samaritans, like the publicans, harlots, and sinners, were in general more open to the Gospel. The New Testament almost always speaks favorably of them, and they are portrayed as people who responded enthusiastically to Jesus Himself and to the Apostles of the early Church. Apparently, they did not have as much difficulty recognizing their need for salvation.
What Does The Grateful Leper Teach Us About God's Kingdom?
The grateful leper teaches us that faith is the only basis for membership in God's kingdom. This Samaritan was brought into the kingdom because he believed. The nine Jews, who thought they were already in the kingdom, were excluded. Many Jews felt that they deserved salvation because they were the descendants of righteous Abraham. They did not appreciate God's goodness and benefits because they expected them. Although the Jewish lepers recognized their need of healing, they felt no spiritual need. When Jesus told some Jews that being natural descendants of Abraham was not sufficient to merit salvation, they became incensed and said He was born of fornication. They also accused Him of being a Samaritan and of having a devil (see John 8:41, 48). Their pride prevented them from entering into the kingdom. The Samaritan was not proud in spirit, but, rather, he was poor in spirit. To him belonged the promise, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
While there are over 900 different varieties of mistletoe, only two are commonly found in the United States: the leafy, or Christmas mistletoe, which is popular Christmas decoration, and the lesser known dwarf mistletoe. Both kinds of mistletoe are parasites. The mistletoe plant grows only one place --- two to three feet in diameter. Dwarf mistletoe is a serious problem in some areas of the southern United States because it grows on commercially produced trees such as fir and pine. Neither kind of mistletoe has roots of its own, and both are dependent on the water and minerals provided by the tree on which they live.
How Is The Need To Avoid Ungrateful People Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
The story that we now have to tell is a lurid one, but it must be told. A group of well-established residents of a forest community decided it was time to warn their young ones of a seductive stranger. She was very attractive in outward appearance, but her fruit was bitter and full of death. The young ones looked up to their elders and listened intently as the older sages of the community drew upon many years of experience to vividly and effectively sound the alarm. "Her pattern is to slip into community undetected and take up residence as though she were one of us. She may wait several years before making her first move, but then she begins to deceptively work her way into the heart of an unsuspecting victim. "She has no roots and is totally unpredictable. From outward appearance she would give no indication of being a threat. However, when the right conditions exist, she attaches herself to her victim and begins sapping him of life-giving strength and vitality. "For many years this delusive stranger has been involved in the occult, taking on the characteristics of darkness. She avoids the light. She is like a cancer in the life of her unsuspecting host and slowly but surely breaks down his defenses with her subtle designs. "only too late will her host realize just how destructive she really is. When life is finally ebbing will he wonder why he did not listen to the warnings of those who have watched her work again and again." "She avoids more mature residents and instead chooses to work her lustful wiles on tender youths. Wherever she goes, she encourages inappropriate conduct by promoting promiscuity." "She is totally selfish, always stealing from her victim to satisfy her own desires. Others will admire her for her beauty and even take what she has to give the, but her fruit will soon poison them. She formerly worked in a hospital, but left only a trail of miser and woe." The wise elders then pointed to a large scar in one of their members and explained to their wide eyed listeners, "Do you see that horrible scar? It will disfigure him for the rest of his life. He is an example of what we are trying to warn you about. She was with him for many years and he could not get rid of her. It took a major catastrophe to free him from her destructive power, and now look at what is left." They concluded their somber message by saying, "Your best hope of escape is to consistently look up to your Creator, to give Him continual praise from a grateful heart, and to pray that He will deliver you from this seductive stranger." These long standing residents are mighty oaks and tall cedars warning the younger trees about the deadly parasite known as mistletoe.
The Characteristics Of The Mistletoe In Scripture:
Scripture abounds with references on the characteristics of the mistletoe. With its parasitic nature and slow destruction of its victim, the mistletoe presents a vivid illustration of the work of evil. This explains its wide use in occult circles. Like the tree in Genesis 3:3-19, the color, shape, and texture of the mistletoe are very attractive, but its fruit is highly poisonous. The seeds of the mistletoe, like temptations, spread to other trees by their own power and through the appetites of those that indulge in them (see James 1:13-15 and 1 Corinthians 15:33). The infection and distorted growth which a mistletoe seed produces in a new victim depict the corrupting force of sin sown in a life. Once a tree is infected by a seed, it will take several years before the growth of the mistletoe plant begins, much like secret sin that its victim attempts to cover up (Galatians 6:7-8). The deceptive camouflage of some mistletoe is a picture of the envoys of Satan who appear as ministers of righteousness to deceive unsuspecting Christians (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
In Memorium: Walt, my beloved Father in Law
God grant you eternity in heaven in His service. We miss you and thank you for your love, kindness and sevice in this world. Thank you for your steadfast love and courage. We miss you. RIP father.

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