Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Israel and the Olive Tree

Olive trees near Florence

When God inspired men to write down His words in what we call the Bible there is never a word wasted, never a word untrue, never anything scientifically in error, never anything fictitious.
I continually learn new details about something I did not know before that reveals yet  again God's infinite wisdom and attention to detail.
Recently, I learned some very interesting facts about the farming of olive trees in Bible times that support  Paul's analogy using the olive tree to illustrate the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles as God's people. 
This analogy is found in Romans 11:2-25.

The following characteristics of the Olive tree make this passage deepen in meaning and enlighten our understanding in its application.

1.  An olive tree can lose its fruitfulness and become unhealthy. 
A farmer watched carefully over the health of his olive trees , to maintain their ability to yield a good  crop of olives.
So also God watched Israel blessing them, caring for them, wooing them to Himself  but they became wayward and rebellious ... finally, He declared them hopelessly 'unfruitful' .. He says .. "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people." (Rom. 10:21) 

2. Save the tree, don't destroy it ! 
A farmer with limited time and space was not willing to just cut down the unproductive olive tree. He desired to save it .
So also God, was not willing to totally reject Israel and start over ..  In Rom. 11:1 Paul declares .. "Has God cast away His people?  Certainly NOT !"

3. Grafting restores the life of the tree . 
The olive tree farmer knew he could bring back the health of a suffering olive tree by grafting in branches from the wild olive tree.   NOTE - The olive tree is the only plant where the wild is grafted into the cultured - in every other plant grafting it is always the other way around, the cultured grafted into the wild. 
Paul's analogy could  fall apart except for this unique fact about the olive tree.   The cultured tree was Israel, the chosen people of God, 'cultured' in God's vineyard.  But in God's plan the Gentiles - the wild olive tree - would be grafted into the cultured olive tree of Israel - so God created the olive tree with this unique characteristic. His foreknew how important this little detail would be to Paul's analogy. 
The work of grafting involved the farmer cutting off some of the branches of the cultured olive tree. He would then cut branches off the wild olive tree and graft them onto the cultured tree where the branches had been cut off the cultured tree. 

4.   Keep the cut off branches. 
When the farmer cut off the cultured branches he would lay them down at the bottom of the tree. 
  For three and a half years the cultured olive tree would force its sap up into the newly grafted in wild olive tree branches...  Then, after that time, he would bore holes into the grafted branches and graft back in the 'dead' olive tree branches that had been lying on the ground for 3 1/2 years.   These branches came back to life and become 'jealous' fighting for their share of the sap.
 The now healthy tree brings forth an abundance of fruit ! 

Isn't that the neatest picture of what Paul talks about ?  How the 'fall' (to the ground)  of the original olive tree branches  is not meant as their rejection ...but that these 'dead' branches will again be grafted in and come back to life. 
Paul even refers to the horticultural fact that these grafted back in branches will be provoked to jealousy, recognizing what they have lost and desire to once again to become fruitful in God's kingdom. 

The careful 'grafting' produced  a 'healthy tree'  of both Jew and Gentile. bringing the two into one so that "all Israel will be saved".  The olive tree (Israel) restored to health and life by the grafting in of the wild olive branches (Gentiles) fulfilling God's plan  that the ONE people of God  would "preach the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the earth - to every nation, tribe , tongue, and people !"  (Rev. 14:6) 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Love DOES Make the World Go Round !

I was to give a short devotional talk at our Special Events morning - a love themed Non-Birthday party - and as I was considering what to say  the Lord dropped the above visual into my mind.  

February is the 'love' month -- and we are all familiar with the saying "Love makes the world go round"   and we smile.  But it is literally true !  
Our God IS love, and in His love He spun the earth on its axis when He created our universe.

When my granddaughter was four years old, she was one of the youngest in her kindergarten class.  Even at that young age , friends were her goal .. the more the merrier ! 

There was a girl named Sherry in her class and this girl for some reason rejected my granddaughter from her 'inner circle'.   It hurt my granddaughter's feelings but she was determined to win this girl over.   Every time I saw her she would tell me about Sherry and how she needed to be her friend, but Sherry would not play with her. 
She would phone me and say , "Nanna, we have to pray for Sherry..." 
She would spend time and care to draw her a special picture.  Or she would offer Sherry the treat in her lunch....  She even asked her Mom if she could buy Sherry a gift and in the store she ever so carefully examined everything to find just the right thing --  but over and over her gestures were turned away..  She tried everything her little self could think of and she became more and more troubled and burdened for this girl .
One day I was at her house and she again talked about Sherry and then asked ... "What is that called when someone, someone ... is ...  "and she fumbled for the right word.   I tried to help... " when someone is sad?   depressed?   upset?"  "no ... no ...  when someone has a broken .. " 
"Oh .. "I said , "you mean a broken spirit?"   I knew she was too young to know what that was, but she grabbed onto it and declared .. "Yes, that is what it is, Sherry has a broken spirit!  We have to pray for her broken spirit , Nanna."
She never gave up but at the end of the school year, nothing had changed. My grandmother heart ached for my little granddaughter because I saw how much pain it caused her to not be able to win this girl for her friend.
My granddaughter is now half-way through a 5 year program to become a Music Therapist. She will be reaching out to the disabled, the handicapped , the challenged and yes, those who have broken spirits.

I have often thought about how deeply my granddaughter felt the pain caused by the rejection of her  offers of friendship and I can not help but think it is a picture of how God feels when He is pushed aside by His children.
We easily repeat John 3:16 and think about God seeking to save the lost ... and of course He does - He does not want anyone to perish.   But ,  I think His deepest pain is when it is His own children that He cannot reach.
God longs for His children to spend time with Him... but too often we are too busy.

We live in a hectic, busy society where there are more distractions for our attention and time than ever before  and many days we focus on just getting through everything that crowds onto our to-do list!

 But think of a specially busy day where it seems what can go wrong does go wrong .. and then in the middle of that day, the phone rings and its someone with an emergency who needs your help.  Would you not drop everything and rush out to help?
Someone has wisely said that we always have time for the most important thing.
What if we made spending time with the Lord so important that everything else could be dropped or put on hold? 
George Muller discovered a secret ...  He said the more he had to do in a day, the more time he had to  spent in prayer just so he could get it all done!

If I am making you feel guilty,  that is not my intent.   I want to melt your heart to respond to the longing of our Lord's heart to spend time with His children.

I love the story of the prodigal son.   When he had been away from his Father and then finally decided to come home, he was ready to grovel in guilt at his father's feet... but what did the Father do?   He brushed his guilt aside and declared .. "I'm just so happy you are here!"

I found this beautiful poem online that so describes God's love for us... His children.

God’s love for me,
is unfathomable . . .
for, His love for me
is immeasurable.

 His love rises,
higher than the sky
it goes further than . . .
any space shuttle can fly.

God’s  love for me
is unbelievable . . .
for, His love for me
is undeniable.

His love goes deeper,
than the ocean’s floor
it goes further than . . .
any miner can dig for ore.

God’s love for me
is unexplainable . . .
for, His love for me
is unconceivable.

His love is wider,
than the whole universe
it goes further than . . .
any light the stars can disperse.

There’s nothing about me,
that is lovable . . .
yet, God’s love for me
is unstoppable!

Copyright 2018
Deborah Ann Belka

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Grinch stole Christmas?

We have all heard of the Grinch who stole Christmas and I have not talked to anyone who admits to being his friend.  He is rather universally recognized as the one who steals what we love about Christmas ...

Let me do a little play on words ... yes.. the Grinch steals the joy of Christmas but what if we allow a 'Grinch' to be our in-house guest all year round ?   And give him not only the joy of Christmas but also the joy of every day?

Who is this 'Grinch' ?  We know him by the name of Grudge.

We have all entertained grudges at some point in our life, I'm sure - but maybe you never realized what a destructive thief a grudge is.

Who doesn't love babies ?  They are such adorable little joy-givers - that one smile just melts your heart. Who can walk past a fresh-faced, wide-eyed baby in the grocery aisle and not smile and coo at them?
For those of us who are mothers we know all about carrying them for nine months, then bearing them -giving birth, then holding them close and nursing them  - giving them the nourishment they need to grow and flourish.

Now consider the key words in my comment about babies -- and see how we use all of them when we refer to grudges.

  • we carry a grudge 
  • we bear a grudge 
  • we hold a grudge 
  • we nurse a grudge 
What does that tell us ?  Think about when you first held your newborn.  It immediately captured your all-consuming attention and became a 24/7 focus and priority, did it not?   Everything else in your life was decided upon only after you considered how it would affect your baby. The child's well-fare - truly, his very life- depended on you. The responsibility was huge. 
Other needs became secondary to the needs of your child.  No penny spared, no effort too costly. 
And .... how many sleepless nights did you endure trying to pacify your restless child?   

Hmmmm ...   all too applicable to that 'grudge' we hold so dear, are they not?   

A grudge has a 'feel-good' aspect to it, because it makes us feel justified - we have been ill-done-by and we are entitled to being vindicated. We can't just let the offender think he did nothing wrong! 
Once we 'bear' a grudge, we hold it close and nurse it in our thoughts and through sleepless nights when we focus on the offence over and over and it grows as we nurse it. What we may not realize is that we can't really hide a grudge - just like the baby in the grocery aisle, our grudge shows where others can see it. 
Yet... what does it do for US?   Like the Christmas Grinch,  it steals our joy, it steals our peace, it steals our love and its steals our contentment and our thankful heart.
And most importantly of all, it steals our sweet relationship with the Lord.  

We read in James 3:9,  "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!"   (the Greek word translated 'grumble' is also translated 'grudge'. )

Jesus also speaks to our human weakness to carry grudges. 
In Luke 6:37 He says ... "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

So often a grudge is based on a faulty judgement on our part and we withhold our forgiveness without just cause. 
Someone wise once said that if we walked in someone else's shoes we would probably do the same things they do. 
A person might offend us with a sharp remark or criticism but we are unaware that their day has been filled with unbearable pain. A person might respond or act in a way that wounds or angers us because it was totally uncalled for, inappropriate or extremely hurtful ... but if we really knew or understood what caused them to do what they did, would we judge them in the same way we did?  

We hold our children tight and are fiercely protective because we know no one else can or would care for them they way we can.  We feel the same way about our grudges. We feel if we let them go, justice will not be served, the guilty one will go free unpunished,  we will be left as the victim, paying the price,  and the guilty one rewarded. 
But we forget ....  letting go of a grudge sets US free and returns to us the 'good things' we let that grudge steal from us.   But we are not abandoning our 'baby' any more than a teen-aged mother who gifts her child to good adoptive parents.  No .. .when we 'give up' our grudge we surrender it to God who  will not only be our defender and healer  but will also make sure that righteous judgement prevails.  If I forgive someone's offense against me, I set myself free, but I do not set them free before God.   
Consider this ... do you want God to judge you according to what other people say or think about you?  Or would you prefer that He judge you according to how HE sees and understands you.  I know I prefer to stand before God without any accusers. Should I not extend that right to others as well?  When we let God judge those who have hurt us, He does not make the mistakes we make when we judge others. 

My Challenge --  Let us celebrate this Christmas season without any Grinches or Grudges in our home or heart.


From my heart to yours --  
May you fully enjoy the blessings of Christmas and experience the love, hope, joy and peace our Savior's birth gifted to the world.  .   


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Melchidedek - a Type of Jesus

In a court of law if a person is charged with 1st degree murder, evidence must be found to prove the crime was premeditated. Should there be a lack of evidence the charge would have to be dropped.
For God to say that He knew the end from the beginning, and that His plans and purposes were indeed “From the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 13:8)….  then He would need to provide evidence of ‘foreknowledge’.  
Since the spiritual kingdom is not physically visible - our God cannot be seen with our physical eyes nor his works proven by physical laws, God had to find another way to provide  undeniable proof that He is indeed who He says He is  and that His promises are based on infallible proof of His ability to perform them.  And because He sits above time and knows the end from the beginning it was easy for Him to use types, foreshadowing, prophecy in His scriptures that would prove to us that we indeed have been given the TRUTH and we can trust every word that comes out of His mouth.
God’s creation is so infinitely detailed that scientists are still a long way from understanding all that creation is … and the more they discover the more they discover they do not yet know or understand and they discover  to a greater and greater degree how detailed our physical world is.
Would He not be as infinitely detailed in His word?  That His word would be an unparalleled work forever unmatched by any other book written or produced?   The more I study God’s word the more I find to amaze and delight me and show me how much deeper I can still go !  And in the same way that every one of the details and laws that rule our physical earth are needful and important (whether we understand them or not!)  so also every word of God is important …  and has meaning for us.
 Some of us were raised by ‘old school’ parents who followed up our ‘why’ questions by the standard… ”Because I said so!!!” and  -consciously or not  - we tend to transfer that experience to our perception of God.  And yet God is not like that at all.  
Our God is invested in revealing that He alone is God, that His word will always stand the test of time and come unscathed through all scrutiny. 
He truly wants to dialogue with us, reason with us, speak face to face - even as He did with Moses - so that we will have an answer for anyone who questions us. 

The more we dig, the more we find how true our God is and how absolutely amazing!  
The Bible is written in such a way its content and the way it is recorded provide all the information we need to understand who God is and how we are to live in  His kingdom. 
(see I Cor. 10:11, Rom. 15:4, Heb.1:10, Col. 2:17, Luke 24:25-27)
  One way that God provides ‘evidence’ that He indeed did premeditate the end from the beginning is by putting ‘types’ in the Old Testament. 
 A ‘type’ is a person who by some aspects of his life or character point to Jesus who is the ‘anti-type’.  A ‘type’ is LIKE the ‘anti-type’ it is pointing to.  
So a ‘type’ is a person who is always in the Old Testament and points to the ‘anti-type’ who is always in the New Testament.  
Some types are ---
 Moses -- (Hebrews 3:1-6)   God said He would send someone LIKE Moses Deut. 18:15 -- obviously pointing to Jesus who LIKE Moses ‘would be faithful in all His house’.
Adam --    I Cor. 15:45-49  --   Adam - the first man is LIKE Jesus in that both of them did something that passed on to all people  ---  From the first man Adam, we all received physical life , and also inherited a ‘sin’ nature that condemns us with Adam …   Adam points to Jesus whose substitutionary death gave us spiritual life if we are ‘born in him’ …  So from one we received physical life / condemnation but from the Second Adam, Jesus, we receive eternal spiritual  life / salvation.  As surely as we received from the first Adam , we can have confidence that we also receive from Jesus.
King David -- David was LIKE Jesus in that He was a King after God’s own heart and ruled over his kingdom … God promised in I Sam. 7:16 that David’s throne would be forever ….  Pointing to Jesus who was indeed a descendant of David and His throne is forever!!  Several times Jesus is referred to as “the Son of David”  
Joseph --  while Joseph is not noted as a ‘type’ of Jesus, he so obviously is as I have found 56 ways Joseph is LIKE Jesus …  as in neither have ‘any sin’ attached to them … and both sold for pieces of silver. 
So in our scripture of focus -- Melchizedek is another type that points to Jesus  --  in the ways he is LIKE Him…  
1.    Melchizedek  - His very name means “King of Righteousness”   …  Jesus is our King of Righteousness ….  (Heb. 7:2 , I Cor. 1:30)

2.    Melchizedek -- King of Salem --  Salem is the old name of Jerusalem and means ‘peace’ … and Jesus is our King who is our Peace and He rules  the Heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22)

3.    Melchizedek --  served Abram bread and wine ….  Jesus’ gave His body as ‘bread’, His shed blood ‘wine (Matt.26:28-28)

4.    Melchizedek --  has no mother, no father, no genealogy , no beginning or end…  in this he points to Jesus being more than a ‘man’ - that He was truly God come in the flesh  , as God having no mother or father or genealogy or beginning or end …  a very important LIKE that this Melchizedek type shows about Jesus … it is ‘key’ that we know Jesus, while having walked among us as fully man was also fully God !

5.    Melchizedek - a Priest of the Most High God -  a priest that was not from the tribe of Levi (all Old Testament priests had to be)  Here Melchizedek is LIKE Jesus in that he was of a different kind of priest …  Jesus was not a priest according to the old order of the law, but of a higher order .. a new order that allowed for there to be a change in the law … Had Jesus been a priest of the Old Covenant order then we would still be under the law …  but now we are under the New Covenant of grace that Jesus established in His kingdom!

6.    Melchizedek - blessed Abram who had the promises of God --  so Jesus blessed us who have the promises of God …. 

7. Melchizedek received tithes from Abram …  without this detail we might wonder who was greater, Abram who was chosen by God to be the one through whom God would from His nation … or this Melchizedek who was a priest living somewhere in Abram’s area and time.
But Hebrews tells us  - so we are left without doubt -- that the one who receives the tithe is greater than the one who pays it, and the one who is greater blesses the one who is lesser.  (Heb. 7:4 and 7)
So we see that Jesus is pointed to as being the greater -- the one who blesses us, the one to whom we owe our ‘all’ ...not of what we have ‘earned’ but to give back to Him what we did not earn .. (Micah 6:8)
Note - that Melchizedek did not receive tithes from what belonged to Abram but rather from ‘the plunder’ that was in his hand 

8. Melchizedek - the only Old Testament character who was BOTH priest and King … in that he was shown to be LIKE the coming Jesus who would be both High Priest and King ! 

9.  Melchizedek --  lived before the law , therefore not under the law to obey the law …  in that he was LIKE Jesus in that Jesus came to fulfill the law and bring in a NEW law ...that freed us from the obligations of the law ..and put us under the law of ‘love’ that defines the obligations of the New Covenant. 

So we can see the evidence shows that Melchizedek is a type of Jesus and points to what God foretold that the Messiah would be LIKE.  
Not a single person in the Old Testament believed that the Messiah would be other than a man  called and chosen by God, as other godly men had been, so it is important for us today to see that God revealed thousands of years before Jesus was born,  that the coming Messiah would be GOD in human flesh and offer His body as 'bread and wine' for our salvation..  

Interesting to note that even today, there are still many who believe that Jesus was a righteous man but was not ‘God’. 
If they would but look at the ‘evidence’ they would see that it would easily stand in a court of law!