Burning Out in Search of Your Purpose

May the God of all grace, who is rich in wisdom, and abounding in mercy, be with you in the name of our Lord Jesus-Christ. I wonder how you would describe your Christian life. Has it so far been one of constant fire for the Lord? Or can you distinctly identify periods of drought, sometimes very long ones? Periods where you were – and perhaps still are – simply cold toward spiritual matters. May be even worse. Do you feel like you have simply run out of steam for God?

You can remember the days when you had all the zeal of the world. Perhaps that was at your new birth and the months that followed it. On fire you were to even preach the gospel. Volunteering at your local Church, even proposing new ideas of ministry. But now…

…You are exhausted. You feel like you have been doing everything you can, but now, you are tired, and that zeal is just not there anymore. At best, a routine has settled in, but spiritually and emotionally, you are somewhere else.

You, have burned out.

This burning out, is not like the one Paul is describing, where, precisely because of the Gospel, they were persecuted on every front.

2 Corinthians 1:8We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life itself.

No, the burning out I am describing is where your Christian zeal is gone. Your prayer life is all but nonexistent, and your active involvement in Church is a thing of the past.

And even worse…

It seems like it does not really matter whether you find in you the energy to jolt yourself back up. God Himself seems silent. Not a word from Him, not a word of encouragement from Jesus in your head that perhaps says “Yes, go ahead, I am with you, do not give up!”.

What is my mission? What is my ministry? What is my calling? Why can’t I seem to find it? Why am I just not on fire for Him?

These are just some of the questions you have been wrestling with.

You, have burned out.

What is Happening?

I would not pretend to have the comprehensive answer on the matter, nor presume that God would reveal such to me. But one potential big reason could be the mistake we often make of placing the carriage before the horse.

We are focusing on the ministry before focusing on ourselves.

When you look at the words of Jesus, and of His apostles after Him, by in large their focus was on our personal growth, rather than our ministry.

Jesus’ message was full of Do’s and Don’ts for our personal life. He preached so that our very character will change. You can read Matthew 5 to 7 for a good illustration of this. His focus was not for us to engage on a quest to find our “ministry”, but to embark on a life of internal transformation by getting rid of moral traits, habits and behaviors which keep us far from God.

The Apostles’ message echoed their Lord and Master’s. Very little – if anything at all – is found in their writings about how to get creative in the church, how to attract new members, or how to get children engage in Bible school. No, we do not see any of that. But what do we see instead? A call for personal transformation. A call for each of us to look inward, a call to fight old habits and put on new ones.

Galatians 5:19-25Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Fighting our old nature – the flesh and what it produces – is where our focus should be. The fruit of the Spirit is not described as a series of activities in the Church, or a series of personal ministries, but instead as a list of character traits that are in perfect agreement with the Laws of God.

It is God’s part to give you a ministry, not yours – It is your part to fight your old habits, not His

And so we find ourselves often focusing on something else that God would have us focused on. We want to work for Him, but we are not focusing on purifying ourselves as He commanded. And therefore often we move forward, with our temporary zeal and creative mind, only to run out of steam because the Lord, was never with us to begin with!

2 Timothy 2:21 So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

It is the Master’s privilege to judge us fit for use. Sure, as we fight our old nature and put on the new one supplied by the Spirit, we will find ourselves “doing” things that could rightfully be described as doing ministry work. But they are not the focus, for they are simply the natural product of the transformation that is taking place inside of us, which should be our focus.

And if God judges that we should spend the rest of our lives here on earth doing nothing else but transforming ourselves, rather than doing any kind of ministry, so be it, for it will all be worth it. For remember, only holy people will see God (Hebrews 12:14).

Matthew 5:8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

May the Lord Jesus live His life in You, through the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the God the Father.

AMEN

NO! My Friends, Christ is NOT There!

Friends;

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with you in abundance, through Jesus, the faithful Witness. Oh my dear friends, it is noteworthy that one of the very signs of the end-times resembles so much the fulfillment of the great commission, recorded in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:19 – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost

The wise child of God ought to ask Himself: Is “Christ everywhere today” the fulfillment of the great commission? Or is it the fulfillment of Christ’s Own prophecy regarding the great tribulation?

Matthew 24:23 – Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not…26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

As I observe the times in which I live, I believe that Matthew 24 is unfolding before my very eyes. And it is not a call that I am hearing here and there saying…hey, here is Christ, hey, he is in the desert. NO…what I am hearing are SCREAMS so loud my temples feel like they will explode! They are SCREAMING…CHRIST IS HERE, CHRIST IS HERE, CHRIST IS HERE it is too hard to bear.

Look, look my friends how churches are proliferating everywhere and embracing worldly practices. When was the last time you saw churches innovating and disturbing the fabric of their surrounding? They sure are modernizing, but they are not innovating. They copy everything from the world and offer nothing for the world to copy. They have become masters at blending with their environment…Ohhh the tragedy!

Look how Youth camps and conferences are in record attendance. Look how today’s Worship services rival the best performances of Hollywood, looking more like rock bands and Hip-Hop concerts, employing EVERY known technique to appeal to the senses: Light, smoke, mood, sound effects, etc.

Everyone is screaming…CHRIST IS HERE…and I cannot bear!

No…No! NOOO my friend! It is a lie and I will not fall for it. CHRIST IS NOT HERE! CHRIST IS NOT THERE!

1 Corinthians 1:13 – Is Christ divided?…

Just like Jesus was born in a lowly place and not in a palace. Just like the blood of salvation was offered outside the gate of the city and not in the midst of the Temple, just like Jesus appeared to meet His disciples in small houses and a beach shore, or on a road to Damascus to convert a sinner rather than in a manicured Synagogue that screamed holiness, Jesus is found among the lowly and the humble, the ones who endeavor to obey His voice.

Jesus Has chosen His residence, and His residence is the heart of the Humble.

John 14:23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Humble yourself before Him with a sincere heart…and Christ will come! Christ will be there!

In His Name. AMEN.

Dead Churches: Can The Bones Live?

My fellow brethren;

May the God of all comfort be with you in the name of our Lord Jesus, the Christ. Allow me to exhort you to standup for your “home” church, especially if it is evident that it has gone astray.

Whether you attend a megachurch, a small church of only 50 members or a home church of only 6, there is a bond which exists between you and that community. It is the environment you at one point, may have regarded as your place of spiritual nourishment, your spiritual oasis. But as with many, you might have found out that little of that has materialized. You attend a sermon but still leave empty. You are hungry, and yet not fed. You look around you and the conversations hardly point to Christ and the edification of one another in the body.

If you are among those who are hungry for the Word of God, you may resort to reading some other pastors, or visiting their YouTube channel. To you, Children of the Kingdom who are hungry, to you Brothers and Sisters who are disappointed with your church or your Pastors, allow me to share an exhortation around this question: Can the Bones Live?

God asked this question to Ezekiel, after placing him right in the midst of a valley that was full of dried bones.

Ezekiel 37:1-3The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

Later on, God explains to Ezekiel what this all meant. The bones in that context represented the whole house of Israel, dead and in the grave, without hope

Ezekiel 37:11Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’

But before giving the meaning, God told Ezekiel to prophesy unto the bones that they may live!

Ezekiel 37: 3-6And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

And so Ezekiel did as commanded, and life was brought back to the bones…as only the Word of God can! (Ezekiel 37:7-10). The sequence of events is particularly noteworthy: First the bones joined together, each bone to its bone, then the sinews and the flesh came, then the skin. At this point, we had gone from dried bones, to complete human bodies, but still dead. After that, Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy again to the wind, so that those bodies could have breath.

In many respect, those dried bones could be your church, your small home group. Spiritually lifeless! But may I bring to your attention that if you have been granted by God to recognize the true state of your Church, then Grace has been poured on you, and you are called to react. You may look at your church and answer God like Ezekiel…Lord, You know those bones can’t live…my Church is dead and there is no hope!

But my friend, I exhort you to stand before God and choose to intercede for your church, as Ezekiel prophesied to the bones! Can the bones live, God Asked! The answer is YES, YES the bones can live! By the WORD OF GOD and power of the HOLY SPIRIT will the bones live. By them your church will be resurrected, if you will only stand before God!

Ezekiel 37:14I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live

My friend, the life of a church is through the Holy Spirit. Without it, the church is dead. But is there a man or woman in that church who has been granted grace to see the true state of that church, so that he or she may intercede to the Father that that Church may live!

The Lord Jesus, in the Book of Revelation, declared the Church in Sardis DEAD!

Revelation 3:1“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

Yet, look at the promise He gave them…they can be alive again, as if they were NEVER DEAD!

Revelation 3:5The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

That is the mercy, the power, the love and the grace of our Lord Jesus, and of His Father. Can the bones live!? Can they live? YES! YES! They can! But Who…WHO shall stand for his people!? WHO will stand for his brethren? WHO will call on the Holy Spirit to return just like Ezekiel prophesied unto the wind? Who will ask for forgiveness for his people? I hope my brethren that you will be one of them!

The Father of light takes no pleasure in His people perishing! You church may be ransacked by demons, spiritually blind, deaf and simply dead. Satan has clearly gotten victory over it and your brethren, to the point that your church has become his favorite playground. But will you, man or woman of God stand like Ezekiel that the Holy Spirit returns and takes back that which is His. Will you stand that God will grant unto your pastor, your friends, your brethren, a repentant heart as in Sardis, that life may be brought back? I pray the Father in Heaven in the Lord Jesus that you will.

CAN THE BONES LIVE?…YES, FATHER, BY YOU, BY YOUR WORD, THEY WILL!

In the name of our Lord Jesus, may His Word stand.

AMEN.

Easter…It is More Blessed to Receive

My dear brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom;

We are in a special week-end: Easter, and for the occasion, allow me to share a thought from the Wisdom that Jesus gave. Easter is typically full of Christian events. Church shows and performances of all kinds, Easter eggs hunt (still trying to wrap my mind around that), concerts, etc.

For some settings, just preparing for Easter can take weeks, or sometimes months. As a church, we certainly do not want to drop the ball on Easter. Our performance must be spot on. We have a plan to invite the community, and perhaps get some of them to start attending church, reaching those who are “lost” in our communities. We will have cookout, bible theme games, story-telling, reenactment, etc. We will give our best, and as so, we will have honored Jesus.

But sometimes…it is more blessed to receive than to give.

Remember the exchange between Jesus and Marta.

Luke 10:38-40 – Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But look at how Jesus replied:

Luke 10:41,42 – But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

On that day, Mary had chosen to receive from Jesus, rather than being too busy trying to give Him something. What you give Him will perish one day (your church performance, etc.), but what He gives you, His Word, is gold, and will never perish. 

Matthew 5:18 – …truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

In this potentially busy week-end, allow me to invite you to find time just for you and your Lord. Invite Him, and ask to receive His Word. You will have chosen the “good portion”, that which will never be taken away from you. Easter was the greatest gift He gave us: His Life. Easter is time to receive.

May you all blessed by the Father through the Spirit, in the name above all names: Jesus, our Lord.

Happy Easter. 😊

Amen.

Behold, All that he has is in your hand

Children of the Kingdom;

Grace, mercy and peace on you from God our Father, and from Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Behold, all that he has is in your hand.  This short statement, uttered by God, was all it took for a man’s life to be turned completely upside down. You are familiar with Job, the famous character in the Bible who lost everything. Yet, Job was the best in the entire world according to none other than God Himself.

Job 1:8 –  Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?

This was God’s own description of Job! We also read a bit earlier just how prosperous and wealthy he was

Job 1:3 -…this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.

Not only was job wealthy, and blessed with a large family, having 10 children, but he also feared God. What a combination! One might consider that he was the greatest living example of what it meant to be blessed! Matter of fact, Satan himself acknowledged it…

Job 1:10 – Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

But one sentence, one sentence from God was all it took for Job’s life to change forever…”Behold, all that he has is in your hand” (Job 1:12). In ONE day…Job lost everything…his wealth, his reputation, his servants, and ALL his children. His own sweetheart even came to him, and advised him to simply curse God and die (Job 2:9)! She was astonished that Job was so foolish as to still maintain his integrity before God.

Oh that we would grasp Who it is that we have to answer to!

Our lives hang on the mouth of God…His words! Before Him, we rise or we fall. Let us not think that because our lives are fine, it is because we somehow are deserving of it, nor if our lives are a misery, it is because we are deserving of it either. God makes the rich and the poor. He raises one, abases another. One day we are in a green field, the next we might be in the valley of the shadow of death. You would think that after all Job went through (and that without cause!), that God would rush to comfort him as we would deem appropriate! Ohhh…not so!

Job 38:1 – Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

But you see, He is God, and He came down and spoke at length to His servant. He took His time to teach His servant who He really was, because he, job, was a servant He was deeply in love with. One may look at the metal worker beating frantically at a piece of metal he just subjected to an intense heat and call that person heartless and perhaps even…a fool! But the learned eye will recognize the deep love of the metal worker for his craft, and for the fine piece of art he is determined to create.

You see, Job had now experienced something he had not experienced in his entire life, even as a God fearing man…

Job 42:5,6 – I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

How much stronger do you suppose was Job’s faith after this experience? How much stronger was his connection with the God He served all his life? How much more did he understands Him? and loved Him? How did he feel, though he realized that he was nothing, even despising himself after experiencing God, that God from the seat of His throne knew Him personally, and loved Him personally?

My friend, whether you are living in abundance or you have known nothing but misery in your life,  maintain your integrity as Job did (Job 1:22).  God loves His own! Do not accuse Him foolishly, for He is Lord of all. Praise Him, and offer Him your tears if in despair. He hears you and delight greatly in those who fear Him, and shall reward you in His own ways…just like he rewarded Job by unveiling Himself to Him. 

In the name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

 

Who is My Brother? The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

shadow menMay the grace and peace of the Father and of our Lord Jesus-Christ be with you as you read this article. As servants of the Lord Jesus-Christ, it is important that we properly recognize those who are “among” us. I am not speaking of those who are outside, but precisely those who supposedly share our faith of Christ. Just like the lawyer asked the famous question “…and who is my neighbor?” in Luke 10:29, an appropriate question for us today is “…and who is my brother?”. From our context of interest and from our understanding, there really seems to be three types of people among us. We shall call them the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And for each of them, we shall see that God expects us to have a different type of reaction.

The Good Ones

Those are the ones we should be running toward. They are the ones we should endeavor to imitate and learn from. As recorded in many places, the good ones are simply those who follow the traditions they received…from the Apostles (not from their church leader or someone else), and therefore from Jesus-Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1
– Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Philippians 3:17
– Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

The good ones are the ones who clearly endeavor to live according to the scriptures, and nothing else. They are not entangled by the various doctrines of men. Their only concern is to be followers of the true doctrine taught by the Apostles.
But what I really would like to attract our attention to in this article are the other two groups, which in my opinion, we do not always distinguish: the bad and the ugly.

The Bad Ones

These are actually genuine brothers; however, they do not walk properly. These people are “not” enemies. These are the ones we should actually interact with yet not identify with. Let us see how the Apostle Paul describes them, and the instruction he gives us regarding how we should deal with them.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 – But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

We see that the principal characteristic of the bad ones is that, in stark opposition to the good ones (2 Thessalonians 3:6), they do not walk after the traditions of the Apostles (the fact that it is the traditions of the Apostles really deserves to be emphasized again). In verse 11-13, the Apostle further identifies them as busybodies who are weary of well-doing. Now he gives us instructions regarding how we should deal with them.

2 Thessalonians 3: 12-15 – Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. … 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

The good the bad the ugly_1The Apostle tells us that we should not consider such people enemies, but quite opposite (the Greek word used for “but” is alla which is a strong adversative conjunction), we should admonish them as brothers. Matter of fact, this very thing is what the Apostles did in verse 12 in exhorting them. But what brother Paul tells us brings an interesting point. The verb “admonish” is in the present imperative active form, meaning that it is a command (i.e. imperative mood) that we should follow (active voice), and it is something we should do continually (present tense). The question is this: How can we do that (exhort continually) if at the same time we should stay away from them? Yet, that is exactly what the expression “do not keep company” appear to suggest, that we should stay away from them.
It stands therefore to reason (at least in our opinion), that this is not referring to staying away from someone, but instead to not “identifying” with such person. We take note of these people precisely because how they behave is exactly how we should not behave. The  shame of such person as referred in verse 14 does not originate from the fact that we consider him an outcast, but instead from the fact that our own behaviors, which are in accordance to the scriptures, are so different than his that there is no way he will not noticed the differences and therefore, be ashamed. This sentiment will be further reinforced as we admonish (exhort, counsel) him regularly. As opposed to the outcast approach, this my friend, sounds like the agape “love” to me!

The Ugly Ones

The ugly ones truly are in a different class. These are the ones we should be running away from, as we earnestly contend for the faith. For one, they are “not” brothers, yet they appear to be so. And that explains why they are so dangerous. They are the false teachers and other ungodly men whose end, as 2 Peter 2: 1 states, is swift destruction. You will concede that it is quite a scary thought that many a times we do not recognize them, so crafty they are at distorting the truth.

2 Peter 2: 1 –…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Jude 4: …there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

These people just like the good and the bad ones are truly among us. Jude 12 states that they feast with us! We talk with them everyday, we even worship with them! How are they able to go undetected? I think the Old Testament holds the key. If we call to mind the false prophets of the Old Testament, we can see that one of the great common denominators among them was that they tended to say those things that the people and the kings wanted to hear. And because they did so, supposedly…in the name of the Lord, most people were quickly inclined to cleave unto them. These false prophets tended to be very popular as opposed to the true prophets. Well, you will probably agree that today is not much different.
Here is another graphic description of the ugly ones, which clearly alludes to the fact that they entice “unstable” souls. How can our soul be stable unless we personally study the scriptures? As you read the next verse, please refrain from thinking that this description suggests that those ugly ones can be easily spotted. The unfortunate and frightening fact about them is precisely that these malicious individuals have blinded many of our brethren by creeping in.

2 Peter 2: 13,14 – …They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls.

These are the people the Apostle John calls antichrists, declaring that they are not of us (1 John 2:19).

It is time for an introspection

Now let us look honestly around us and consider how we often perceive and treat people who, either are from other Christian denominations or even within our own denomination, but do not “walk” according to our established doctrine. How do we treat these people? Don’t we often treat them as if they are the bad ones, and even in many cases, the ugly ones? We do not talk with them, we do not entertain their point of view. Aren’t we treating them as if they are antichrists? And what about those who truly do stray from the truth (i.e. the bad ones), do we handle them as the Apostle Paul commanded in 2 Thessalonians 3? This my people tells me at least two things. First, we are lacking the maturity to properly identify those among us. We see the good ones as the bad ones who need to be corrected. We see the ugly ones as the good ones who need to be imitated, so attractive is what they are saying. We consider those who are not from our church to be the bad ones.

Second, even when we do identify properly those around us, we do not know how to deal with them. We see an ugly one but we are afraid to denounce him, yet the scripture tells us to be watchmen: What kind of watchman stays silent after he has identified a threat? Doesn’t the watchman sounds the alarm and makes sure the alarm has been heard? We see a bad one and we cast him out of the church (or whatever inner circle) instead of exhorting him as a brother, while we ourselves supposedly continue in the traditions of the Apostles. We see a good one and do not make him known so that others may also imitate him.

When are we going to wake up my people? This division within the church, even if they are sometimes based on legitimate concerns, how does it help us as God’s children and servants of the Lord Jesus-Christ? Let us strive to be mature my people, and learn to properly recognize those among us: we have some good, some bad and perhaps even some ugly ones. Oh my dearest people, let us open the scriptures for ourselves, and let us follow the traditions of the Apostles, since they themselves followed Christ. To our God be the Glory, and may our King Jesus-Christ live forever and forever! Amen.

How Do I Seek “First” the Kingdom of God? (Part 2 of 2)

Seek Kingdom first_2
What does “first” mean in Matthew 6:33?

So how do we explain the word “first” in Matthew 6, if there is no “second” as we argued in part 1? I am not a Greek scholar, and therefore I do not master the order of words in Greek sentences. Nevertheless, in light of the evidences already brought forth, I will postulate that Matthew 6:33 should have been translated:

Matthew 6:33 – But first seek ye the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Instead of “seek ye first” as found in just about all biblical translations, I believe we should understand “first seek ye”. There is a difference, and it is a significant one. When one says “seek ye first” the word “first” refers to the object to be sought (in Matthew 6, it is the kingdom of God and His righteousness). And we can ask…Seek ye first what? Answer: the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And because of that, logic dictates that what must come after should be “seek ye second this” (or something similar), which could also be followed by “seek ye third that”. “First”, “second” and “third” all refer to what needs to be sought after, the actual objects.

In stark contrast, when one says “first seek ye”, the word “first” refers to the action of seeking, not to the object to be sought after. And we can ask…First, do what? Answer: seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And therefore, in this case, what must come after needs not being another action of seeking (as in “seek ye second”). What comes second could be the outcome of performing the action seeking, or anything else for that matter. I believe this is precisely the meaning of Matthew 6:33: “First, seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you”. There is one and only one thing to seek (God’s kingdom and His righteousness), and there is one resulting outcome for seeking that “one” thing (everything else will added to us).

So why does this matter?

I believe to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness is so much easier to do when we realize that it is the only thing we are supposed to be doing. And yes, to be honest, this could be quite an unsettling statement.

Seek Kingdom first_4

But it is only the case because we have become deeply hardwired into being concerned about our own needs (ourselves, our families, our loved ones). Yet, God’s children should not be afraid by Matthew 6:33, at least if our interpretation is correct. Quite the contrary, to follow Jesus’ commandment of Matthew 6:33 is the best way to test and increase our reliance on God. This is how we fulfill our part of our relationship with our Father.

If King Solomon’s story is any indication, the promise that everything will be added to us as we focus on nothing but God is an absolute certainty: Our needs in all categories will be met. These needs we have are legitimate, and Jesus Himself acknowledges them in Matthew 6. But when we believe that Jesus has given us permission to seek them as long as we seek God first, that is when everything gets very complicated. Everything gets complicated because 1) we are left wrestling with the question on how to put God first in our lives (which is the reason why everyone has a different opinion on it) and 2) we are now confronted with Jesus’ rebuke (in the same chapter mind you) that it is impossible to serve two masters (Matthew 6: 24, 25) because we will eventually despise one of them. And if life has taught us anything, it is typically God we end up despising. So, “See ye first” or “First seek ye”? What is your take?

How Do I Seek “First” the Kingdom of God? (Part 1 of 2)

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Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us have wrestled at least at some point with the question: How do I seek God first? Or How do I put God first in my life? For some, the answer is to make sure that the first action they take in the morning when they wake up is to pray, meditate, read the Bible or something of that nature…in other words, putting God first is putting Him first in the day (after all, Jesus Himself did that). For others, it means that before taking any decision, they lift the situation to God first (most likely in prayer). They are then peaceful in taking their decision simply because they “consulted” with God first, even though they may have not gotten an answer from Him (I am certainly guilty of that). Yet for others, it means never missing Church on Sunday, no matter what.
The reality is that if you ask 10,000 Christians what it means to seek God first, you will get 10,000 answers. And this fact is most certainly a clear indication of a serious problem. I will argue that how Matthew 6:33 is typically interpreted is the very source of much of the troubles those who want to serve God face in life. I will argue that Matthew 6:33 is not saying that God’s kingdom and His righteousness is the “first” thing we should seek, but that instead it is “the only thing” we should seek. And there is a “BIG” difference between these two interpretations.

The answer lies in Matthew 6:33 itself

Seek Kingdom first_3By stating that we should seek “first” the kingdom of God and his righteousness, it seems that Jesus is permitting us to seek other things as well, as long as the first thing we seek is God’s kingdom and righteousness. Indeed, if there is something to be sought “first”, then logic demands that, at least, there must be something to be sought “second”. And this understanding is arguably the most prevalent for most of us Christians. But isn’t this understanding flawed?
Look again at this verse. What is the result of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first? “All these things will absolutely (that is what “shall” means) be added unto us”. What things? The things listed throughout Matthew 6, which are everything us, human beings, typically seek in life: “what we shall eat, what we shall drink, what we shall put on”. So the obvious question is this: If “every” imaginable natural need we seek to satisfy in life will be “given” to us, what else is there to seek? Obviously nothing! Because something that is given does not need to be sought after…it is given. We see therefore that although Matthew 6:33 states “Seek ye first”, it actually gives no room for something else to be sought after.

The example of King Solomon: King Solomon became the wisest and richest man to ever live, and 2 Chronicles 1: 7-12 records how this came to be.

2 Chronicles 1: 7-12 – In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. 8 And Solomon said unto God, …10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great? 11 And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: 12 Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.

Note that God was very pleased with King Solomon for two specific reasons: 1) he did not ask for any riches, etc. for himself and 2) his “sole” focus was on God’s business, His people! We shall see that most likely this is the very same thing Jesus is requiring of us in Matthew, that we forget ourselves and that instead we focus on God’s business. Now we know King Solomon indeed became “very” rich. But did he do anything in particular to become rich? Of course not! Wealth was “given” to Him by God. That does not mean that he did not sign treaties or negotiated whenever the opportunities presented themselves. But those opportunities should be understood as the fulfillment of the promise of God. Solomon had nothing to do with them per say! He became rich because God had promised that He will make him rich. I believe in Matthew, we are exhorted, commanded to have the same kind of “undivided” focus toward God’s business. After all, isn’t that the first commandment?

Mark 12:30 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

The parallel record of Luke 12:31: It is interesting to note that Luke 12:31, which conveys essentially the same message as Matthew 6:33, does not include the word “first”.

Luke 12:31 – But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Compared to Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:31 has two notable omissions: the word “first” and the word “righteousness”. Why “righteousness” is not mentioned here is, I am sure, an entirely different topic, which is well beyond the scope of this article. However, that the word “first” is not mentioned here is particularly noteworthy for this study. In Luke, Jesus tells us simply to “seek the kingdom of God”. And from this record, it is rather evident that the kingdom of God is the only thing to be sought, since just as in Matthew, “everything” else will be added to us as we do so.

Some words of Wisdom: This is what King Solomon has to say, the man to whom God gave wisdom like to no other.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the “whole” duty of man.

To fear (or respect with reverence) God and to keep His commandments is the “whole” duty of man. There is nothing else that man is supposed to be doing other than respecting God and do His commandments. There clearly is perfect harmony between what King Solomon is saying and the position we are proposing here that the “only” thing man is to seek is the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

So there are really two questions that come to mind: The first is how should we understand the word “first” in Matthew 6:33, since there is no indication that this word was added by bible translators as it is sometimes the case. The second is what are the implications of what we argued in this article? We address these in part 2.

 

Are you a “Time” dealer? (Part 2 of 2)

Here, we are seeing that one of the key traits of wise people – wise according to God that is – is their ability to seize every opportunity to change into a Godly moment what is by default an evil moment during the day. You may click here for Part 1.

Ephesians 5:15,16 – See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [King James Version]

“Time” here is not any kind of time: Every piece of “time” during your day is a good deal!

Here, the Greek word translated “time” (kairós) is only one of several Greek words translated “time” in the Bible. But the fact that it is this word kairós that is used here is very, very interesting! Kairós is very specific in that it refers not to any time, but to the right time, or the right moment. For example, it is often used to describe the time a tree is ready to bear fruits. There is a set time for that each year, and any other time is just not the right one to bear fruits.  Now, verse 16 states that the days are evil. So you when we buy time, we are essentially transforming an otherwise evil moment into a Godly one. And from kairós, we may understand that every moment in the day is the “right” moment to buy!

We believe an acceptable paraphrase could be…every moment is a good time to transform into a Godly one and one should, each time, endeavor to do this transformation, because otherwise, all the days are evil ones.

“Buying time” is really the “essence” of our ministry

The only other places where we are asked to redeem something – and that something being time – is in Colossians 4:5. And here, the notion of seizing every opportunity to turn an evil moment into a Godly one is repeated here. But here the focus is on our walk with the intention of gaining others.

Colossians 4:5 – Walk in wisdom toward them that are without redeeming the time

So what we see from these two passages is that to wisdom – both in our own personal walk, and toward outsiders  – reduces to the practice of redeeming the time.

So, are you a time dealer?

What God asks us to buy, time, is available everywhere, and…dare we say, every time. That is because in this day and age, days are evil. Every moment of time is an opportunity for us to seize, either to better ourselves with Christ, or to help someone with Christ. But it is our choice and therefore our privilege to decide just how we are going to that. And there are as many ways as there are individual personalities among God’s children. It is exactly in the How we are choosing to do this that the beauty – and the reason – behind our individual differences is best manifested and understood. And one thing is sure; when we do it, we are actually doing what God is asking us to do. And knowing that is worth its price in gold!