What Would Jesus Eat for Breakfast?

Often when devoted people read the Bible they focus on the big picture, they see the forest. But sometimes the trees, the little things, the details contain practical ideas not only for our spiritual development but for our physical needs too. Thus I noticed a small thing in Matthew 21:18-22, where Jesus spoke to a fruitless fig tree, causing it to instantly dry up from the roots. That’s the big picture, the lesson on having faith when we pray or speak (verses 21-22).

But that headline was not what grabbed my attention this morning. It was the side note, the footnote of the passage, something sort of between the lines.

In verses 18 & 19 of that passage in Matthew 21, we read, “Now in the morning, as He (Jesus) returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves…”

What time of day was it? “In the morning”. What was Jesus’ condition or need? “He was hungry”. And where did He check for food? On “a fig tree”. What do we call food that is eaten in the morning? Breakfast.

So then Jesus wanted to eat fruit for breakfast! I guess that must be a perfectly healthy thing to do: If Jesus, the person who lived in perfect physical health on earth thought fruit for breakfast was a good thing, then it must be healthy to have a fruit breakfast.

Now, that does not mean Jesus always ate fruit for breakfast, but we can say for sure that He thought it healthy to do so.

Let me add that the tree Jesus wanted to eat fruit from was grown organically – grown on naturally nourished soil, grown without pesticides and other man-made chemicals that foul up our soils and poison the fruit trees of our day.

Again, the health lesson here is, If fruit for breakfast was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me and you. So when I’m short on time in the morning, or for variety sake, I can breakfast on some apples, bananas, or some other fruits in the morning. Thank You, Jesus, for being my nutritionist too. You are the total Savior, not only for my soul but for my body as well.

Jesus On Taxes: Tax-Free Living as Benefit of Citizenship?

During His 33 years on earth Jesus made few political statements. Two times He spoke about taxes. We remember one of those instances well – the one when Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. But the other instance of ‘Jesus On Taxes’ is not as familiar or memorable to us.

The passage is Matthew 17:24-26, and the incident took place in the city of Capernaum, which Jesus used as the home base for His ministry. There some tax collectors asked Simon Peter, the leader of the twelve apostles, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”.  In Jesus’ absence, Peter answered “Yes”. Jesus did pay the tax that was used for the upkeep of the temple in Jerusalem.

Later, before Peter could inform Jesus about the tax collectors’ question, Jesus asked Peter, “From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter replied that the earthly kings of that day collected taxes from foreigners, not from the subjects or citizens of their kingdoms. Jesus then told Peter that the citizens are to live tax-free.

In the world of Jesus and Peter, not paying taxes was a benefit for being a citizen. Taxation was what you got for being a foreigner. How things have changed since the first century! In today’s developed world, it is a crime for citizens not to pay taxes. But don’t worry, our leaders tax foreigners and visitors too! In the United States of America, for example, nobody is truly exempt from all taxes. Even the poor, those on public assistance, and those who get annual tax refunds from the government still have to pay sales taxes on gasoline, diesel, and many other goods and services. It could be said that, in America, only the dead and buried don’t pay taxes, but we can’t be so sure about that!

 

April 29, 2014

Why Poverty Programs Fail to End Poverty

I was born in an African village with no electricity or bicycle, and I walked barefooted until about age ten – then I wore my first pair of slippers (flip flops). What changed my life was not the suit and tie, along with thirty dollars that American missionaries gave my father and other Liberian pastors once a year. I think my divorce from Lady Poverty began when my parents sacrificed to send me away to “learn book”. In addition to getting a formal education, I was introduced to that King of Books aka the Bible, which is the greatest anti-poverty manual the world has ever seen. One thing the Bible has taught me is that poverty is the default economic condition of the human race. The Book reveals that charity neither cures poverty nor creates prosperity. Instead, handouts tend to subsidize poverty and keep the poor just poor enough not to prosper. The Holy Book enlightens me to understand that the sure cure to poverty is showing people how to succeed.

Though government programs for the poor can be traced to the biblical principles of helping the poor and needy, most of the people who run those poverty programs have long abandoned the underlined Bible principles for assisting the poor effectively. This explains why charity or benevolence has often made the poor more dependent on constant assistance.

A wise person once said, “When you give people something for doing nothing, they still do nothing.”

This is not to say that government handouts and works of charity don’t help anybody. By those programs and services the poor do get food, housing, clothing, utilities, and healthcare. The problem is that most poor people, while receiving assistance, still remain poor and pass on poverty to their children and grandchildren, producing generational poverty.

There are some power tools that have proven to be effective destroyers of poverty: a stable home with a functional family having a responsible mom and dad at the helm; useful, quality education that has value in the marketplace; long-term planning and goal-setting that will guide a person on the way to a better future; a mindset with a set of hands that value work as a thing of dignity; business education that teaches a person how to generate income through ideas, goods and services; money management skill that teaches people how to budget in order to save & invest regularly, spend wisely, and give generously.

In short, the people who seek to relieve poverty through government programs and charitable services will continue to subsidize poverty and generate more of it unless and until they get back to the biblical roots of overcoming poverty. Good intentions are a poor substitute for biblical principles, which are the Creator’s own roadmap for success on planet earth. (For the Bible cure to poverty, sample these Scriptures: Genesis 2:7-15; 13:1-2; 26:12-14; 30:39-43; 41:34; 47:24; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Proverbs 22:7; 27:23-27; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ephesians 4:28; Proverbs 3:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.)

Backsliding Sickness, You Don’t Have to Live with It, There is a Cure

Backsliding is a sickness. It is a disease. And when a believer has backslider sickness, that person is usually on again, off again with Bible reading, praying, attending church, tithing/giving, witnessing, and serving. Now you see them, now you don’t!

Every now and then, backslider sickness may go into remission. When that happens, we’ll see the person return to church. But then the disease makes a comeback and the person becomes a church dropout again.

Thankfully, God has the cure to heal backslider sickness. It is found in Hosea 14:4, the first portion of that Scripture: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.”

The cure to backsliding is the love of God. How does a backslider apply this cure?

First, experience the pure love that God has for you; leave no doubt that God has become your Heavenly Father, and that He really and truly loves you unconditionally and eternally.

Then with all your being, strive to love God with the love He has poured into your heart. That’s loving Christ with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Experiencing God’s unconditional love, and loving God passionately will heal any believer of backslider sickness. You can count on His promise: “I will heal YOUR backsliding, I will love YOU freely!” Do you believe that? Do you believe HIM?

Faith that Moves: We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). The obvious meaning of this verse is seen in the figurative use of the word “walk”, which means “live”. To “walk by faith” means to “live by faith”.

But reading this verse in reverse opened my eyes to something I did not see at first: “By faith we walk!” Believers are not sitters and bystanders. True believers are movers. When you truly believe God you will move. In the Bible, every person of true faith was a person on the move. Real faith will move you toward something or toward some place. Faith moves us to do something or to go somewhere for the God who has called and commissioned us.

“Not by sight”. Often we move, not knowing where we are going, but we start going anyway. Often we move, not knowing what to do, but we start doing something anyway.

Abel had faith; he moved to give the firstborn of his flock. Enoch had faith; he moved with God until God took him away. Noah had faith; he moved to preach and to build the ark. Abraham had faith; he moved from Iraq to the promised land. Moses had faith; he left Egypt for Midian, then he returned to Egypt and walked from there towards the promised land — for 40 years he was walking, moving by faith. David had faith; he was a man on the move. Nehemiah’s faith moved him from the comfort of the Persian palace to the ruins of Jerusalem’s broken, rallying fellow Jews to rebuild those walls.

What about Peter, James and John, and the other disciples of Jesus? Their faith in Christ moved them to obey His words, “Follow Me.” And for three years they were on the move, literally walking with Him. Paul’s faith moved him to travel the Roman world, preaching the Good News of Jesus, planting churches in key cities; he travelled from Antioch to Jerusalem, and over the years to the city of Rome where he was murdered for his faith.

And we may not think of it this way, but even our Lord Jesus had faith! The Bible speaks of “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (James 2:1) or “the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). The Son of God came by faith, from Heaven to earth. Then He moved from His hometown of Nazareth and went on a faith walk — I didn’t say a cake walk — and for three years He went preaching, teaching and healing throughout the towns and villages of first-century Israel.

“We walk by faith.” Do you have real faith? Are you walking by faith? Are you on the move? Are you moving toward something, toward somewhere, as the voice of the Invisible calls your name?

What Does It Mean to Eat Up Sin?

Hosea 4:8 is a very strange-sounding verse; just read it aloud to hear how it reads: “They eat up the sin of My people; they set their heart on their iniquity.”

I underlined that verse in my Bible, because it is such an unusual way to speak of sin and people. What does it mean to “eat up” people’s sin and to crave “their iniquity”?

Here are some possible meanings to reflect on:

(1) To feed on other people’s sin, to feed off of their sin. Example: Someone does something evil to make money or to gain a benefit, and they share the money or benefit with you.

(2) To profit from people’s bad behavior. Examples of this include selling drugs, liquor, porn, lottery tickets or services like abortion that harm people. They sin and you make a living by profiting from the goods and services that ruin their lives and families.

(3) To be fueled by other people’s sinful words, desires or deeds. You feel inspired or motivated by the sinful things people say or do, and you want to be like them. In other words, being a godly person gets boring, and you are attracted by and to worldly pleasures. The more you see or hear people “have fun” by doing sinful things, the more you fantasize about what it would feel like to say or do just like them. Others commit sin, and you just eat it all up!

The Power of Words: Pro-choice, Marriage Equality, Climate Change

Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

Words are powerful things. Words are death-causing things. Words are life-giving things. Take political and social agendas for example. The words people use to promote their political or social causes will determine whether those causes fail or succeed.

Those who promote drastic changes to our way of life know the power of words. They do their homework in order to craft the best-sounding words and phrases in pushing their agendas. They do such an effective job that those who oppose them seem and sound foolish or old-fashioned.

Examples…

Not that long ago, it used to be thought of as inhumane for a woman to mention ending her pregnancy. Until some very clever people coined the phrase “family planning”. To remove the stigma from all that the word “abortion” entails, they invented the attractive term “pro-choice”.

They were halfway to total acceptance of their agenda. To get there they found the words to portray those who disagreed with with. So they described everybody else as “anti-choice”. And if you dare argue with them, they say you are part of “the war on women”; you don’t want women to be “liberated”; you want women pregnant, barefooted and baking cookes in the kitchen. It’s hard to win against such war of words.

A more recent example is the whole “gay marriage” movement that is sweeping the United States. It began when the words “homosexual” and “lesbian” were replaced by the nice word “gay”, which speaks of being “happy”, people having tons of fun. Now, if you have a problem with that you come across as being against people’s “happiness”, as “discriminating” against people because of “who they love”. And that’s on top of being labeled “homophobic”, which literally means “human hater”!

If you want two men or two women to “marry” and have exactly the same rights and privileges as a heterosexual married couple, you are for “marriage equality”, the new “civil rights” issue. If you are not on board with that, why, you are for “marriage discrimination” then, which is just as “hateful” as being “racist” or “sexist”.

Once the proponents capture these verbal grounds, with the power of the news media repeating and spreading their beliefs, it is practically impossible for those who disagree to be rightfully heard or taken seriously. By the time we come up with words like “pro-life” and “pro-marriage” or being for the “traditional family”, we are basically playing catch up. The other side has already set the rules, and we are seen and heard as reacting, being defensive.

One other example illustrates how the big-change pushers have learned to weasel their way out of tight spots whenever reality or the facts prove one of their claims to be false. Example…

The years since some scientists, undergirded by some political and social activists, pushed “global warming”, we have been experiencing some of the coldest winters in American history. The “global warming” talking point was starting to fall flat. But before the global-warming camp could be called on to explain their “scientific” claims that the earth is warming, and that this rise in temperature is caused by human activity, they were quick to switch their language from “global warming” to “climate change”. That way, if some parts of the globe experience record cold or record heat, the “climate change” believers can have it both ways. Very clever! Deceptively so.

These fellow humans may not have memorized Proverbs 18:21, but they have applied it quite well: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

How are Unsaved Leaders Like Beasts?

In Daniel 4:16, Almighty God said of the arrogant King Nebuchadnezzar, “Let his heart be changed from that of a man, Let him be given the heart of a beast, And let seven times pass over him.”

Notice “the heart of a beast”.

Also, in the 7th chapter of Daniel, the prophet saw a vision of world empires and world leaders. Interestingly, in Daniel’s vision they all were “beasts” and horns, — lion, bear, leopard, and indescribable beast (Daniel 7:5-7,11,19,23). In the following chapter Daniel sees world leaders as a ram, a goat, and a little horn (Daniel 8:3-8,20-21).

That is not very flattering of the heads of human governments. In fact, it is downright depressing that human empires and nations, kings, presidents, and prime ministers appear as beasts in the eyes of God. It should not therefore surprise us that world leaders deceive their people, lie to one another, bully, intimidate and threaten other nations, throwing their weights around.

No wonder! Like beasts they live by the law of the jungle. The only hope of any unsaved political leader doing one right and good thing in the world is rooted in the prayers and participation of God’s people in society. That’s why the Bible calls on believers to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), and to pray for unsaved national leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-5), so their beastly ways may be kept in check, like caged animals, every now and then. But even with our participation and prayers, world leaders are prone to break out of their cages, acting like destructive beasts, bent against the interests of God and the good of the human race.

Taking Credit or Giving Credit

In the year 605 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon entered the city of Jerusalem on the first of what would be three waves of invasions by his army into the land of Israel. Here is how Daniel wrote about the Babylonian king’s victory over the Kingdom of Judah:

“And Yahweh gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into (Nebuchadnezzar’s) hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.” Daniel 1:2

Notice that the treasures Nebuchadnezzar plundered from God’s temple in Jerusalem he stored in the temple treasury of his god in Babylon. By this transfer from Jerusalem’s temple to Babylon’s temple, Nebuchadnezzar was giving credit to his for his victory over Judah. He really believed his lifeless idol enabled him and his army to defeat the enemy.

We humans tend to take credit for ourselves or ascribe credit to another for the achievements, things, and privileges that Almighty God allows us to have in this life. The worker who gets promoted or gets a pay raise, credits his/her hard work, because that’s what the employee told him/her. The politician who gets elected give credit to his donors and voters; the news media praises him/her for running a brilliant campaign.

Neither the worker nor the politician takes into the consideration the life, health, strength and mind which form the basis for the promotion or election. Those are precious gifts from the hand of the Living God, and without them, the worker could not work, and the politician could not campaign.

Only the wise and the few correctly give credit to God and thank Him for preserving, providing and promoting them. Sadly, those who fail to give Yahweh credit for their good fortunes in life set themselves up to soon be dethroned, and to come crashing down. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Ask King Nebuchadnezzar; he will tell you.

In Ezekiel’s Vision, The Prince is Worship Leader

Yahweh, the God of Israel, gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision of the future temple – the measurements of it, the manner of worship in it, and the ministers who will serve the Lord in it (Ezekiel chapters 40 through 46).

The vision spells out the roles of the participants in temple worship: the people, the priests, and the prince. In this context, this verse jumps out at me – Ezekiel 45:17

“Then it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and at all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel. He shall prepare the sin offering, the grain offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.”

The prince is the head of government, the king or president of the nation. He is the political leader, yet he is not only to be a worshiper, he is supposed to be a worship leader. Thus he would remain humble before Yahweh, and model a life of obedience and piety for the nation.

Search the world for one prince or princess, king or queen, president or prime minister who is both a devoted worshiper and a worship leader in the biblical sense. The nations of the world are in dire need of godly heads of states who are passionate worshipers of the one true God. Let the search begin!

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