Friday, April 29, 2016

song of the vineyard

I will sing for the one I love
    a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
    on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
    and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
    and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
    but it yielded only bad fruit.
Isaiah 5:1-2

This is called the Song of the Vineyard. Isaiah is a book I enjoy reading. It is full of poetry, songs and interesting prophecies. I do hope someday, I can sit in heaven with Isaiah and have a great conversation. I would love to hear his stories and what he saw when God spoke to him. He was privileged to visibly see the Lord fill the temple. He cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” The seraphim touched his lips with the hot coal from the alter. He was commissioned directly by God. He heard God speak. Can you even imagine such a scene. I am trying to imagine and I am filled with awe and wonder. I feel so small and definitely unworthy.  Isaiah was immediately humbled and awed.

This Song of the Vineyard really struck me.  God gave him this beautiful poem or song. about a lovely scene of building and planning. It was full of expectation and hope. Everything was prepared and placed.  God was planting a beautiful vineyard and had everything ready for the wonderful, bountiful harvest. Yet, when he looked for the good crop, all he found was bad fruit.  It ends with great disappointment and sadness in this chapter.
We can read that this was describing the a nation of Israel. It was the people of Judah.  They were given great favor and blessings. They were chosen by God, yet were unable to bear the good fruit that God so desperately wanted to find in them.

Verses 3-7 show is God's response to finding bad fruit.

“Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
    judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard
    than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
    why did it yield only bad?
Now I will tell you
    what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
    and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
    and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland,
    neither pruned nor cultivated,
    and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
    not to rain on it.”
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
    is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
    are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
    for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
I realize this frustration over finding bad fruit.  I have planted gardens in the past and sometimes, weeds are very abundant.  It makes it very difficult to find the good fruit.  Little critters have eaten my fruit before I can get it out of the garden. It can be frustrating.  God was disappointed and frustrated. He had so much hope for His people.  Is it the same today for the church?
Does God find good fruit in His people today or is He disappointed by bad fruit?
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit GOd is expecting from His people. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
Galatians 5:19-21 lists the fruit of the flesh God calls bad fruit. "19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
His people should not be bearing this bad fruit. God is looking for good fruit in His people.  We are so quick to look at the obvious sins, but forget to realize this list also holds less noticeable sins such as hatred, discord, selfish, jealousy, disssensions etc. How many times have I been guilty of this bad fruit?  More than I care to admit. 
God is wanting good fruit.  We need to examine our fruit, individually and as the body of Christ and really be honest.  What fruit are we really bringing forth? 
Galatians 5:24-25  also says "24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
and Galatians 5:13-14 says  "13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We have commands that are there to protect us and help us bear the good fruit God is looking for.  We need to walk in the Spirit and crucify the flesh.  God is calling us to bear the good fruit.
Let us all be found worthy as those few in Sardis were (Revelations 3:4) Maybe then, God can send His words that instead of finding bad fruit, He is pleased to find good fruit in His people. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

first response

Have you ever thought about what you do first in an emergency?  What is your first response?  Do you panic? Do you call for help? Do you freeze and wait to see what will happen? 
This first response not only applies to emergencies, but also to most situations. When something goes wrong, what do you do? Do you get mad, frustrated, cry, shrug it off, or try to fix it? 
How about when thing are great or exciting? What is your first response? Do you get excited and tell everyone the great news? Do you dance and have a little party?
There are many things throughout a day and in life that go wrong and go right. There are many opportunities for a first response.
My first response to something good is often a smile or an exclamation of "Yay!"  When a mishap occurs, I may get frustrated or maybe even cranky. I try to solve my own problems, worry over situations I cannot change, and sometimes make problems worse. I hold on to them and finally realize I forgot to trust God first. I realize I have made my life harder by not going to the very One who can help me.

Psalm 121 says I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

When we need help we need to immediately look to God. He is our help. He is the one who protects us and provides for us.  We so often attempt to solve our own problems. We think we can handle this big thing. The whole time, God is just waiting and wanting to take care of the situation. We only have to call on Him. Our first response in trouble should be, calling on God for help. He is always ready and willing to help when we cry out to him. David wrote in Psalm 30:2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. He knew God answers when he would call on Him. He called on God many times and God took care of him.  When he forgot to keep his focus on God, is when David made big mistakes. He remembered who could help him and called on God.

The Word of God has some directives about what our first response should be.

Psalms 5:3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

Psalm 35:28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all day long.

Psalms 16:8 I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Psalms 61:8 So I will always sing praises to your name, as I pay my vows day after day.

1 Corinthians 1:4  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,

Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
 In all these verses and many others I see the word 'always.' Always is all the time, every time. We should respond with praise and prayer.  His praise should ever be on our lips. Prayers should be at the ready. Our first response should be to pray rather than grumble. Our first response should be to praise God for His wonderful blessings rather than be amazed at our wonderful selves. We really could not accomplish much without Him.
Our first response needs to change. Our first response should be that of turning to God in prayer and praising Him. That will turn our focus off of ourselves and off of the circumstances and on to the One who can solve the problems and the One who is blessing us. This first response will certainly alleviate a lot of stresses and difficulties. It would also keep the presence of God ever noticeable. How much more would we be talking to Him and communing with Him if we chose to make Him our first response?  For me, I know my prayer and praise would be greatly increased. My stress would be greatly decreased and my life would become a lot easier.  Sure, the struggles would still arise, but I would be able to rest in knowing I cried out the Lord first and He is taking care of the situation. I would be able to trust Him and know that He is answering my need. I would be able to quit worrying and fretting over everything and just offer up praise to my God.
What will changing your first response do for you?

Monday, April 11, 2016

praise makes a difference

There is something so pleasant about getting out and cutting the grass.  The smell of that cut grass. The breeze blowing and the accomplishment of a nicely manicured lawn really make me feel good.
It is a good time to sit back and admire the handiwork of God. It is a good time to thank God and praise Him for the blessings around me. I get busy mowing, pulling weeds and digging in the dirt. I start talking to God.  It is usually just me since the kids really don't want to put in that hard work.  I can sing, worship and just talk to my Friend, Jesus. When I get through, I sit down in that patio chair and just admire the grass, the trees, the flowers and the beauty He created.
It is amazing what happens in a heart and mind when you really begin to appreciate the things God has done and who He is.  I can start out troubled and weighted down. I can be thinking on the stresses and difficulties. When I begin to pour out praise and worship, it just becomes easier and brighter. I begin to thank Him for more and more.  I start seeing the amazing flower petals opening up and the patterns designed in them. I start realizing that the trees have grown and have new branches. I start hearing the songs of the birds echoing through the yard.
My whole attitude and mindset changes. I focus less and less on the troubles and trials. I focus less on what has gone wrong during the day, and begin to realize how truly blessed I am. My focus changes from the negative to the Creator. My focus becomes God-centered.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
When we thank God, we are in His will. We are changed by His mighty Spirit moving and operating in our praise. He rushes in and dwells in the praise. He can do great things and when we thank Him and praise Him for it, he brings His attention to us. Our troubles shrink in His presence. We are overhauled and uplifted. We are changed.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Have you become so bogged down in the struggles and trials?  Do you see a lot of big problems?
The best thing you can do is start praising God. It will change you more than anything, but it will change those difficult things into possibilities because you recognize the greatness of God.
He created all this amazing world and when we take time to praise Him for it, we can realize that God is bigger than our problems.
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27

Take time to praise God. Take time to worship Him.  He has done great things and deserves all our praise.  Praise Him!!!!!

Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.