The Earth…..and EVERYTHING In It

Psalm 24, verse 1 (quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10)
“The earth is the Lords, and everything in it, and all who live in it.”

Psalm 50, verse 10
“For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Psalm 50, verse 11
“For I know every bird in the mountains, and every insect in the field is mine.”

Psalm 50 verse 12
“…for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”

Ezekiel 18 verse 4
For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child – both alike belong to me.

Haggai 2 verse 8
“The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty.”

Psalm 22 verses 27 and 28
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him, for dominion belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations.”

In other words, God owns it all. The Bible makes that very clear. That means every person, animal, every mountain and valley, every tree, every blade of grass, and every grain of sand belongs to God. The earth, and everything in it, is His.

For us, as followers of Jesus Christ, this is a given. But let’s stop for a moment and consider what it means when the Bible says “everything.” The passages I referenced speak of things that are tangible, things can be visibly seen and touched. They speak of material possessions and money. But I don’t believe God’s ownership is limited to just tangible things. His ownership extends to things that are not seen. It includes our joys, our sorrows, our highs and lows, our successes and failures. It includes our thoughts and our emotions. And It includes all our struggles, our troubles, and the problems we face everyday.

Just so we’re clear, God is not to blame for all the trouble and misery and suffering in the world. All of that came about when sin entered the world. That’s another subject for another time. When I say God owns it all, everything that is seen and unseen, I’m simply following the logic trail and reaching what I believe is a logical conclusion. We are His. God owns our very lives and His ownership is all inclusive. He owns every aspect of our lives here on earth.

All too often, we try to fight our way through trials and difficulties ourselves instead of relinquishing control and giving them over to God. In 2nd Chronicles chapter 20, we’re told that the people of Judah were being threatened by a very sizeable army that was getting ready to invade their land. God told King Jehoshaphat, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but the Lord’s”. Those words can be applied in our lives today. Whatever it is we’re faced with, the battle is not ours, but God’s. How different do you think the outcome would have been if Jehoshaphat had replied, “That’s okay God, I got this. I’ll take it from here.” ?

So what is your battle? Is it a prodigal child? Is it financial difficulty or the loss of a job? Is it a difficult boss or co-worker? Is it an illness or a physical disability? According to the word of God, the battle is not yours, but the Lord’s. I don’t believe for even a fraction of a second that I’m taking that passage out of context and here’s why I believe that. When you acknowledge that the battle is God’s, you’re acknowledging God’s sovereignty over that situation, his ownership of it, if you will. Because we belong to Him, all that we have is His and that includes everything that is in any way connected to our lives here on earth. The earth…..and EVERYTHING in it….

Acknowledging God’s ownership and sovereignty requires submission. We submit to His rule and authority. Submission requires trust. In John 14, at the very beginning of the chapter, Jesus spoke these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” In Psalm 73, Asaph was troubled by the wickedness of the people around him and could not fathom why the wicked prospered while righteous people were subjected to mistreatment and abuse. He did not understand until, as we’re told in verse 17, he entered the sanctuary of God. In other words, he was so troubled by what he saw, he had to give it over to God. It was not until Asaph relinquished control of the thing that was tormenting him that he came to understand that the owner of all creation, God, will ultimately deal with the wicked. And when Asaph came to that understanding, that was the moment he placed his trust in God. That is true for us as well.

With all that said, I need to point out that God is not a cosmic genie who instantly makes our troubles go away when we give them over to him. As Christians, we understand that. Quite often, even when we place our trust and faith in Christ, the problems that plague our lives persist. The abuses witnessed by Asaph did not go away, but acknowledging God’s ownership of that situation allowed him to gain proper understanding of justice as viewed from God’s perspective. It gave him a Kingdom perspective as opposed to an earthly perspective.

So as Christians, we understand that problems sometimes persist even when we give them to God. It’s something we just accept. And the reason we accept it so readily has to do with what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 8. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” The reason we must acknowledge God’s sovereignty over the troubles we face – according to Paul – is twofold. First, our present sufferings are only temporary to begin with, and second, we need to spend our limited time on earth working for the glory of God. Therefore, give the battle to God. It was his all along anyway. He has more important work for us to do! And He has plenty of work for us to do. And bear in mind that God’s sovereignty and ownership of our lives does not in any way negate our responsibilities to do the work He calls us to do. God does His part and He expects us to do ours.

God owns the things that bring us joy, like the birth of a child or grandchild. He owns the joy that comes from landing a great job or getting that promotion or buying your first home. He owns our jobs, and our careers, and all our accomplishments. When we’re experiencing life’s joyful times, when we’re enjoying success, it’s far too easy for us to pat our own backs and take the credit that rightfully belongs to God. All that we have comes from God and it belongs to God. Job figured this out thousands of years ago. After losing everything he simply said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job reasoned that it was all God’s to start with.

Finally, in John chapter 10, Jesus said no one can snatch us out of our Father’s hands. God’s ownership of our lives includes our eternal destiny which was secured the moment we trusted in Jesus Christ as our savior. But here is where God’s ownership takes on even more importance in the lives of believers. As God the creator, He owns all that He created. That’s simple enough. But when it comes to the salvation of our souls, He is not just God our creator, he is God our redeemer. He owns our lives and our very souls and the redemption of our souls was not free. It came at a high cost. Twice, the Apostle Pauls tells the Corinthian believers, “You were bought at a price.” That price was the blood of Jesus Christ.

So next time you hear a pastor or teacher say that God owns the earth…and everything in it, stop and think about what that truly means. Reflect on it. Dwell on it. And be thankful that He loved us so much, that He was willing to pay the price that redeemed our souls.

To our Lord Jesus Christ be the glory!

 

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“I Don’t Believe in Organized Worship!”

About ten years ago, when I was still at my former place of employment, our managers called us together one afternoon to let us know that one of our co-workers had been let go. He was an aircraft engine mechanic with an Airframe and Powerplant license and that means he had spent about two years of his life in trade school to get that license. In the world of aviation maintenance, we’re subject to random drug tests and we learned later that same afternoon that he tested positive for marijuana. Everything he had worked for was gone, in an instant.

Though we weren’t in the same department, I knew the man quite well. He professed to be a fellow Christian. He was in fact, very well versed in scripture. His memory of the Bible was so good I used to joke that he could quote scripture forward and backwards. We had many spiritual conversations during the time we worked together. It came as quite a surprise when I learned why he had been let go. But it’s important to understand that only God knows the heart, so only God knows if he was truly saved. The fact that he got fired from his job for testing positive for an illegal substance does not mean he wasn’t. As Christians, we are constantly bombarded with temptation, and sometimes we stumble. We’re not immune to temptation. We’re not perfect.

Like I said, we had numerous conversations over the Bible but when I first asked where he went to church, he slammed on the brakes. “I don’t believe in organized worship.” he said. He went on to say that all he ever did was read the Bible at home. He did not see the need to worship with other believers. He flat out rejected the idea and refused my invitations to visit my church.

The sad part is, he was the sole means of support for his wife and their six children. A positive drug test is an automatic one year suspension of your license. Additionally, you’re required to undergo mandatory drug counseling, at your own expense, to get reinstated. His moment of weakness was costly not just for him, but for his entire family. I can’t say with 100% certainty that, had he been part of a church family and attended church regularly, things would have turned out different for him. But I have to believe the odds would have been greatly improved in his favor.

He argued that the only thing he needed to do was read the Bible. I’m not denying the power of God’s word and yes, we need to set aside time to read the Bible in the privacy of our homes, free from distractions. That’s a necessary part of our walk with God. But it’s equally important to be part of a body of believers who come together on a regular basis to worship God. I have to believe that if he had been an active member of a Bible believing church where Christ is taught and honored, he would have had a congregation of Godly people walking with him and praying for him and calling on God’s power to help him spiritually when he needed it most.

I want to interject something here. These messages not only go out to fellow believers, they’re also posted on a blog at WordPress.com and are read by people who may not necessarily be followers of Jesus Christ. They might be checking out Christianity or are just curious about our faith. If you’re one of those reading this on WordPress, I realize you may have had a church experience at some time in your past that left you disillusioned. I get it. Maybe you’re turned off by televangelists who seem more focused on money than God. Here’s a revelation for you: There are wolves among the sheep! The Bible warns of churches that will stray from the truth of God’s word in the last days, and we are seeing that being fulfilled today. Some of your reasons for avoiding the church might be valid, especially if your first experience was with one of the wolves. But most of your reasons are not. Regardless of your past experiences or your perceptions of the church, there is a truth that is undeniable; you need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And just so we’re clear, salvation comes through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. I’m not saying otherwise. Just showing up at church won’t save you. But in order to grow in your relationship with Christ, you need to be part of a Bible believing church that puts Jesus front and center!

All throughout history, God instructed His people to gather together for worship. They started in a tent in the desert and eventually built the temple in Jerusalem. In the first century, Christians gathered in each others’ homes. In 1st Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul used the parts of the human body as an illustration to show how important believers are to one another and to show the importance of cultivating healthy relationships within Christ’s church. He concluded that illustration in verse 27 where he wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” God intended for His people to worship together.

Someone not in the faith might ask, “If Jesus is all we need, then why do we need other believers?” In that same chapter of 1st Corinthians, Paul explains how all believers have something to offer our particular congregations. We all bring something to the table, so to speak. Paul called them “gifts of the Spirit.” And he went on to say that these gifts are given for the common good. In other words, God uses our gifts to help others. In the case of my former co-worker, there might have been someone God could have brought alongside him to help him at just the right time. It may have been a minister or a pastor or a fellow believer could have counseled him or given him the advice he needed to hear. He might have had the opportunity to be part of a Bible class or life group that could have prayed with him and for him. But he never gave them that chance. As it turned out, Satan was able to isolate him and find a weakness. I believe it’s for this reason that Jesus never sent his disciples out alone. At the very least, He sent them out in pairs. There is strength in numbers and we need the strength and encouragement that comes from worshiping with our brothers and sisters in Christ. There are times we may need to draw on the strength of a fellow believer, whether through prayer, a timely word, or wise counsel. There are times when we may need to offer that to someone else. None of that happens when we choose not be part of a fellowship of believers.

I gave several reasons why it is necessary for us as believers to worship together. But there is one very important reason I have not mentioned till now. We come together to glorify and honor God. It should be something we do with gladness of heart as it was in the first century church. In Acts 2 verse 46 we’re told “Every day they continued meeting together in the temple courts.They broke bread in each other’s homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, PRAISING GOD, and enjoying the favor of all people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” We strengthen and encourage one another and ultimately we all draw strength from God. But the main reason we gather together is to give praise, honor, and glory….to God.

Jesus taught on the sides of hills, by the seashore, and in open fields. He taught in people’s homes and in synagogues. Can you imagine anyone who might have said, “I don’t really need to hear Him in person. I can learn all I need about God by staying home and studying my scrolls.” Sure, they could have learned all about God’s law and their history, but they would have missed the chance to see, in person, the love of God being put on display through the life of Jesus. It’s one thing to read about God’s love, it’s yet another to experience it and share it firsthand and that’s hard to do alone in your living room.

Finally, I’m not saying that church membership or belonging to a body of believers guarantees us a trouble free existence. Jesus pretty much guaranteed that we will face trouble. He said, “In this world you have trouble.” (John 16:33). For me, when trouble comes, I want all the help I can get. So I go to God. And in turn, I go my brothers and sisters in Christ. I go to my church family. I cannot imagine trying to walk this walk alone.

On Spiritual Droughts

For the past several months I have not had the opportunity to sit down and write. We moved to Florida and back to Fort Worth within a span of five months. Having to work graveyard shift for a while didn’t help matters any. And on top of that, there were some health issues. All of those things combined were draining. Hopefully things will settle down now, and I believe they will because I feel called to do this, and when God calls you to do something, He will give you the means to do it.

On Spiritual Droughts,

In the eighth chapter of the book of Amos, the prophet speaks these words against the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel:

“The days are coming” declares the sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
People will stagger from sea to sea, and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

Amos told the people a famine was coming, but not of food and water. The coming famine Amos warned of was far worse – it would be a spiritual famine during which there would be no word from God. There would be no prophets to deliver messages from God which in turn also meant there would be no one to speak to God on their behalf. There would be no revelation from God.

Though Amos was originally from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, God sent him to preach a message of judgment against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. By the time Amos arrived on the scene, the people of Israel had become very prosperous. Unfortunately, that prosperity did not translate into gratitude to God. Instead, they turned away from the God of their fathers and turned to the false gods that were worshipped by the people of the surrounding countries. So God sent Amos to warn them that judgment was coming. And when that judgment came in the form of an invasion by the Assyrians, the people probably cried out to God and pleaded with Him for deliverance as they had done so many times before. This time however, God would not deliver them. In 2nd Kings chapter 17 we’re told that God “removed Israel from His sight”. And if they were out of God’s sight, it would stand to reason, in a manner of speaking, that they were out of God’s earshot as well! When you cry out to God, nothing can be worse than for God to remain silent. This time their pleas for deliverance would go unanswered. That was the famine. That was the judgment God pronounced on the people of the northern kingdom through His prophet Amos.

Several weeks ago, I experienced what felt like a famine of my own, a spiritual drought if you will. In my case, it was due to a work schedule conflict that kept me from being able to go to church for about six weeks. It was not because God had cut me off, and my drought was not of the same scale and magnitude as what the people of the Northern Kingdom suffered. Nonetheless, I still felt isolated. I felt cut off. It felt like something was missing. It was, for a short time, my own spiritual famine.

Now you might ask if I was praying and reading my Bible during that time and the answer is yes, I most certainly was. I believe in the power of prayer and in the power of God’s word, that they can carry us through times of spiritual famine like the one I was in. So shouldn’t that have been enough? Yes, absolutely. I believe in the sufficiency of God’s word. But God knows how important it is for us to worship with other believers. That’s why, in Hebrews chapter 10, the author reminds us not to neglect meeting together in corporate worship. We still live in a fallen world – we’re sinners saved by grace – yet we’re still subjected to temptation every day. Though we’re in the process of becoming more like Christ every day, we have a ways to go. That’s why we need the fellowship of other believers. We need to uphold one another, to lift each other up. We need the encouragement that we get from being around other believers. And I believe fellowship is vital to our growth as Christians.

To be clear, during that six week time frame, my faith did not waver. There was no danger of backsliding. It was nothing like that. In reality it was a little thing but it was still a tough time. If you’ve ever been away from your loved ones for an extended period of time, then you know what it’s like. If you’ve experienced a prolonged illness or injury that kept you at home or in a hospital for a period of time and unable to get out and go to church, then you may have had that feeling of being in a spiritual drought. But there’s one thing we can always be certain of when we’re in a drought. It’s something I learned while growing up in farm and ranch country in south Texas. Whenever there was a prolonged dry spell, the farmers and ranchers used to quip that they always knew when a dry spell would end. And when was that? When it rains!! It was a little tongue in cheek humor, but they were exactly right. It always rains at the end of a drought!

Amos’s prophecy, as is true of most Biblical prophecy, had a short term and long term fulfillment. In the short term, we know from history that the Northern Kingdom was invaded by the Assyrians and the people were scattered among the surrounding nations. Because of their stubbornness, because they refused to listen to the prophets God had sent in times past, God, as we’re told in 2nd Kings, removed them from His sight. That was the short term fulfillment. In the long term, there would be another famine of hearing the words of the Lord, a period of 400 years during which time there would be no word from God. In our Bibles, this is the period of time between Malachai and Matthew. It’s the Intertestamental Period. Some refer to that time as the “silent years” when there was no word from God.

The years that separated the time of Malachai and the preaching of John the Baptist were indeed a time of spiritual drought. But like I said, it always rains at the of a drought! When Jesus came into the world, He was both the Bread of Life and Living Water. The birth of Jesus, His life, His death, and His resurrection signaled the end of the drought. The Bread of Life and Living Water was made available to everyone who calls on His name and trusts in His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of their eternal souls.

In the life of every believer, and for certain in my own life, there was a time of famine, a time of spiritual drought. For the majority of us, before we accepted Jesus Christ and invited Him to be Lord of our lives, we lived in a drought. But the moment we surrendered to Christ, the drought was over. The rains came! They came by way of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for our sins. They came in the form of God’s grace and the promise of eternal life with Christ. Imagine a farm or ranch that gets all the rainfall it needs and never suffers through a drought. Imagine the crops or livestock it would yield! In a very simple way, that describes for us the abundance of God’s grace. We will go through the ups and downs of life, even as followers of Christ. But we can take comfort in the knowledge that God has already given MORE than enough grace to bring us through our times of spiritual drought.

Ephesians 2 verse 8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves – it is the gift of God.

Hebrews 4 verse 16 – Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

The grace that saves is the same grace that restores and replenishes! Praise be to God!