Friday, August 17, 2012

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Property Virgins

In real estate, it is all about getting more for your money, whether it is land or houses. In Orange County, that is difficult to do. Most of the homes are so over priced. The sad part is a few years ago, the housing market was so high and now all those people are losing their homes. Most of the houses on the market are short sales or bank owned.

As I have been studying the Israelites in the book of Numbers, it occurred to me that like the television show "Property Virgins," these people were first time home/land owners. All they knew was "renting." Having owned a home once and now as a renter, there is a kind of freedom in that comes with owning something that you can make yours.

The book of Numbers is about God allotting land to the twelve tribes. The map looks very much like the U.S. today. Boundaries are given to Moses by God for each tribe to settle in. But in doing so, like a contract that is written up for the potential homeowner, it comes with rules and regulations. The difference for the Israelites is that their property was an inheritance. They did not have to pay for anything, but like an association that many subdivisions have today, there were rules to be followed. The rules in associations are to keep the neighborhood peaceful, but many people break the rules and there is a consequence. Usually a fine to be paid and unhappy neighbors.

I discovered many things over the past few weeks in studying the book of Numbers and now that I am into Deuteronomy that God is requiring of His people and that is obedience. This all began to unfold for me when I came across Deuteronomy 4 verses 1 and 2. It says,
"Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you."

Prior to this "association policy" in the book of Numbers two sentences caught my attention in regards to the property these people were about to receive. It is sandwiched in a passage as Moses is assigning property (boundary lines) to the tribes. It says "
... 'This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.' " 13 Moses commanded the Israelites: "Assign this land by lot as an inheritance..." (Numbers 34:12&13) Boundaries bring inheritance. Inheritance isn't only about prosperity, it's about safety, health and well-being. God was very specific on the boundaries He was giving to His people. The reason being was that their enemies were surrounding them in the countries outside of the Promised Land.

Something interesting about this prompted me to go back a few chapters to Numbers 26 verse 52-54. It says, "
The LORD said to Moses, 53 "The land is to be allotted to them as an inheritance based on the number of names. 54 To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one; each is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those listed." Now normally when one would read this, the reader understands the fact that a larger group of people require more land and the smaller group, not so much. But going back to the land and inheritance I realized that it is possible the smaller tribes lost out on some of their inheritance due to their disobedience. A consequence to a previous action. Let me recap on what happened earlier in the book of Numbers.

Shortly after the twelve spies returned from the Promised Land, ten of them brought back a negative report and their negativity spread throughout their tribes. God was very angry at them for this and because of this, the scripture says that these people were struck down by a plague before the Lord. (Numbers 14:36 & 37) They died! The subtraction begins. In Numbers 16, Korah and some others took it upon themselves to rise up against Moses. They decided that Moses wasn't the right leader for them and wanted to take him out. Um, I don't think that was so smart of them to think they knew better than the Lord. God is the ultimate authority and whom He chooses is the last word. It's kind of like people wanting to fire their pastor. There is no blessing in that because God opened up the ground and swallowed up their whole families. (Numbers 16:31) Another subtraction. Then in Numbers 21, the people started complaining again about not having what their "flesh" desired and fearful of the unknown. So God sent poisonous snakes to kill off the grumbling. (Numbers 21:4) The third subtraction of people.

So now you see where I am going with this. People were lost along the way due to rebellion and complaining. I'm sure this is the reason some of the tribes became smaller and therefore, lost out on some of the land that was promised to them.

This all came together for me about the boundaries God has set up for us. God has given us guidelines and rules, like a Property Management company, for our good. That living inside the boundaries we will receive the inheritance promised to us. That trusting in the Lord with all of our heart, doing the things He asks us to will bring prosperity and success. It is when we complain and distrust, and rebel against Him that we step outside of our safe zone and put ourselves out there for the enemy to attack.

The reason it took so long for these people to inherit the property the Lord wanted to give them was because He truly wanted to make them virgins. One of the definitions of the word virgin is pure and undefiled. God truly was wanting "Property Virgins" to inherit the land He was giving them. It wasn't about the land being pure, but the people. He cares way more about people than property. Psalm 16:6 says, "
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."

So today I ask this question, what boundary lines have you crossed that God has not laid out for you? Could God call you a "property virgin"? Where or what is your Promise? Maybe you are in your Promised Land, but you are still fighting off the former inhabitants (previous habits of the sin nature). What is God telling you to do to overcome these idols of the world? I want to encourage you today to examine your heart and ask the Lord for forgiveness. I believe before long, you will see the blessings of the Lord chase you down. The sooner we get it together, the sooner we'll be on the other side.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - The Curse of Fruitlessness

Last night, one of the last things I said to Jeff before we went to sleep was what I read yesterday in my devotions. It resonated so much in my spirit that it was the first thing on my mind this morning. It was about the fig tree in Mark chapter 11: 12-14.

It reads, "The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reach it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And his disciples hear him say it."

Why did that have such an impact on me? I think it is because five verses later which according to the scripture was the next day, that fig tree was mentioned again. Very rarely do you see something picked back up again in the scripture if at all. Mark 11:20 and 21 says, "In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! the fig tree you cursed has withered!'"

There is a very important message here, that I think we often skip over. Sometimes we interpret the cursed fig as the power of Jesus words or even the power of the tongue. But there is more here than just what we say. Let's take a look at it from another angle.

According to my study reference in my NIV Study Bible, it says that fig trees were common and inexpensive. It takes them three years to mature and produce fruit. Then when they do produce fruit, it is only in late spring and early autumn. If one would read this, it would make you wonder then why Jesus was frustrated with it. Did Jesus show some impatience here because he was hungry? No, maybe Jesus was giving his disciples an illustration of why it is important to bear fruit in and out of season. You never know who might be walking by and running on empty and needing some "fruit of the spirit."

Let's just say in this scenario, we are the fig tree. After three years into our "transformation" process of becoming like Jesus, we still aren't bearing the fruit of the spirit. In Galatians 5:16-25, Paul talks about living by the Spirit and what it looks like. "
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and 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.22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
What I find interesting about this particular idea of the fig tree that Jesus cursed, is that the first time the word "fig" and "cursed" were mentioned in the Bible, was back in the third chapter of Genesis. Maybe Jesus used this illustration to remind them that fruitlessness began with the fall of man. That it has always been an issue since God cursed the soil. After Adam and Eve had sinned and had eaten "the fruit" from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they clothed themselves with fig leaves sewn together. (Genesis 3:7) Just a thought, it never says what the fruit was on the tree, but what if it was figs and they used the leaves hoping it would "cover" their mistake? Then God shows up questioning them as to who told them they were naked. (Genesis 3:11) Then God cursed the serpent. (Genesis 3:14) But more importantly God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:17-19)

I wonder if the reason this "cursing of the fig tree" was mentioned the next day was because maybe God wanted to highlight the importance of bearing fruit. Why as followers of Jesus we need to be bearing the fruit of the Spirit all the time. As I mentioned before, you never know who will need it. Think of yourself like a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. Always available for whoever is hungry.

When we were in Israel, I was amazed at the many crops of fruit trees throughout the region. There were all kinds of crops. Unlike the U.S. where we can only grow citrus in Florida and Southern California, grapes in Northern California, apples in Washington, etc. The fruit crops were everywhere. Even in the desert regions they grew dates. Fruit is served at every meal, which is why I believe Paul paralleled the characteristics of the Spirit to fruit. We need to serve them up all the time. There are so many things stirring in my spirit about this that I could go on and on. But I'll stop and leave you with this final thought. Above is a picture of a fig leaf that I brought home from a tree in the Old City of Jerusalem. When Jeff pulled it from the tree, it was as large as his hand. When we got back to the hotel and I pulled it out of my bag, it had shrunk considerably. As you can see it is half the size of my hand. When I got home from Israel, I laminated it to keep as a reminder of what a cursed life is like. A cursed life is limited. The only thing that can bring a life of abundance and fruitfulness is abiding with Jesus (John 15:5) and living by the Spirit which will produce a life that will be Christ-like.