NOTHING BUT LEAVES…


Mark 11:12-14 – “And on the next day, when they had departed from Bethany, He became hungry. 13 And seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And He answered and said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.”  NASB

For those who have read “Pilgrim’s Progress,” you will remember that the interpreter took Christiana and her family into his ‘significant rooms’ and showed them the wonders he had formerly exhibited to Christian.  The story proceeds:

“When he had done, he takes them out into his garden again and had them come to a tree whose inside was all rotten and gone, and yet it grew and had leaves. Then said Mercy, ‘What meaneth this?’  ‘This tree,’ said he, ‘whose outside is fair, and whose inside is all rotten, is that to which many may be compared that are in the garden of God, but indeed will do nothing for Him; whose leaves are fair, but their heart good for nothing but to be tinder in the devil’s tinder-box.’”

This was John Bunyan’s way of putting into allegory what he had preached in his sermon on the ‘Barren Fig Tree.’  There are numerous facts that need to be observed and considered.

First, God Has A Right to a Reasonable Expectation of Fruitfulness from All His Creatures.  I believe that is an undeniable truth presented in Scripture.  On one occasion our LORD informed His disciples that they should go and bring forth fruit and that their fruit should remain. (John 15:16). 

This story teaches that God expects only what is appropriate to the nature of the person.  He expects nothing out of harmony with the way He has made you.  God expects that every person should bring forth his own fruit.  It is not the vineyard that bear grapes, it is the vine.  It is not the orchard that bear figs, but the tree.  God expects a proportionate quantity of fruit from each person.  That could easily be reckoned based on their personal ability and circumstances.  God is never unfair and always righteous!

Let me illustrate in a way that hopefully will resonate with each person.  Suppose a lone fig tree was standing in a little better position to receive sunlight.  Suppose that fig tree is able to receive a little more moisture, the soil is better, and the fertilizers is more evenly applied.  The Rule would be, the higher the favor the richer must be the fruit.  God gives us talents and expects us to use them to the fullest of our ability.  It does not matter what that ability or gift is, do it with your all and do it your best.

Another clear precept is that God always looks for Fruit at the Appropriate Time.  In the case of the fig tree in our text, “the time was not yet.”  Figs come before leaves on this type of tree.  Therefore, Jesus had every right to expect that the tree had fruit because it had leaves.  But, in the examination of the tree, there was no fruit only leaves.  If you will, the tree was a hypocrite.  By its outward appearance, it professed to have fruit, but it had none.

Jesus used this example to teach His disciples the peril of mere profession without fruit.  He did not ask fruit as soon as the tree was planted.  He respected the Laws of Growing and Ripening.  He waited for fruit in the time of fruit.  I will pause here and address more in the next devotional and hopefully help each of us move beyond leaves to bearing fruit in our lives.

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

PERPETUAL PROVISIONS PROMISE…


Matthew 6:19-21 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” NASB

I suggest reading through verse thirty-four in this chapter for the full view of what I wish to address.  The Bible is a Book of Precepts and Principles!  Here in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount our LORD addresses a powerful issue of provision and opens the door to a tremendous truth regarding His love and care for those who follow Him.  He exposes the sham and fallacy of following or seeking anything above Him.  He addresses the issue of trying to use God for personal gain. 

The principle and message are clear, and we dare not misunderstand or misapply this revelation.  The principle taught throughout the Bible is, “God Must Be Lord of All or He is Not Lord at all.”  That shines forth brilliantly in this passage and provides some wonderful insight into God’s heart.  Deuteronomy 5:7 instructs that we are to have no other gods before Jehovah God.  Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; and Luke 10:27 advise that we are to love God with our entire being, body, soul, spirit, and mind. 

The Precept is “God Must Occupy the Top Place in Our Lives.”  His character, nature, justice, love, mercy, holiness, and righteousness will allow nothing less.  There can be no cohabitation of the Spirit of God and the spirit of darkness.  [James 4:10-12].  The Evidence that God Occupies the Top Place in Our Lives is found our Love, demonstrated love for Him. 

In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  That indicates that if I love God with my all then I will do all that is within the realm of my ability and power to do that which He desires.  In 1 John 2:15 we are directed, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  That is painfully clear and wonderfully promising.

The evidence that God does not occupy the top place in our lives is evident in the converse of those passages.  We do not love Him with our all.  We love the world and what it offers more than we love God and His kingdom.  We pursue things over Him and His kingdom. 

I ask that you note the order and emphasis that our LORD places in His discourse.  He gives commands to refuse and then to receive.  He gives actions to be taken, principles are explained, dangers are explored, and the victory that is available is highlighted. 

Look at verses 19-20 of Matthew 6 and see the order of priorities in life.  I ask that you refer to the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 for confirmation and clarity.  In verse 21 we have His explanation of the commandment.  This is a true revelation of the condition of our hearts and the genuineness of our love.  What is most important to us will be most sought after by us.  What is most important to us will command and hold our love and loyalty. 

In verses 22-23 we find the results of the placement of priorities.  In verse 24 we find the contrast and challenge that it is either God or the world.  In verse 25 we read the words, “For this reason…”  For this reason, do the following which details the total commitment of the total man.  It frees from Fear, Worry, Carnal Lust, and enables us to totally pursue the purposes and work of God.

In verse 30 we see God’s supply and in verse 32 we hear our Lord’s exhortation to avoid worldliness and in verse 33 we discover the solution.  God wants the best for our lives.  Jesus powerfully declared in Luke 12:32, “Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

God wants us to seek that which He wants to give. He will give the desire and when the conditions are met give the provision.  God wants to supply all our need and equip us for service and life.  To have the Perpetual Provision of God we must allow Him to occupy the top place in our lives. Please do not make God an afterthought or an addendum but the focus of your life!

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

A SANCTIFIED TONGUE…


Proverbs 10:11 – “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”  NASB

We have all heard and dealt with the subject of ‘taming the tongue’.  We have all had to deal with the repercussions of an unruly tongue.  An unruly tongue, according to the Bible is the source of more evil than almost anything known to man.  It brings defeat because of its negative outlook.  It robs of spiritual blessings because of its evil work.  It is a deterrent to faith.  There are three types of tongues that we need to make note of in our consideration of the Sanctified Tongue.  There is the Unruly or evil, sinful tongue.  There is the tamed or sanctified tongue.  There is the unknown tongue, the Holy Spirit’s utterance.

The words we speak affects our faith.  Negative words such as fear, doubt, confusion, harsh, unfeeling, insincere, or gossip all fuel the carnal mind and man.  They bring about destruction, not spiritual success.  On the other hand, Positive words, such as God, heaven, victory, the Word of Christ and peace all fuel the spirit and help us to overcome.

The Words that we speak are a product of our Thinking.  In Luke 6:45 this is made incredibly clear, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”  Out of the abundance of the heart comes our words and they reveal what we think, how we think, and then reveal how we live.

We must never lose sight of the truth that Our Words have Power.  Job 6:25, speaks powerfully to this truth, “How forcible are right words!”  In Mark 11:22-24, we read the words of Jesus, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him. 24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you.” 

Spiritual Words inspire Faith.  That is part of the clear message of Ephesians 5.  Spiritual thinking inspires spiritual words as is revealed in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”  Words that are believed, based on God’s Word produces actions pleasing to God!

Let me suggest a pattern to seek to follow in your life.  Let your thoughts be rooted in the spiritual things of God and His word.  Let your words be victorious words rooted in the Promises of God.  Be as Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13, “hold fast the form of sound words.”  

Refuse to be negative even in a very negative world.  Always remember that Jesus is the answer and the Promises of God are certain.  Allow the Holy Spirit to Sanctify your Tongue through reforming and transforming your thinking.  We speak what is in our hearts, therefore, it is important that we fill our hearts and minds with the things of God.

A sanctified tongue wins sinners to Jesus.  A sanctified tongue makes peace (Proverbs 15:1).  A sanctified tongue inspires faith, comforts, and encourages.  It produces a daring in the heart to pursue the purposes of God with a passion and without fear.  True Christlikeness is manifested in our words as well as our deeds. 

My prayer for you and me is, “LORD, give us sanctified tongues!”  God bless you as you enjoy this beautiful day in Him!

THIRSTING FOR GOD – (Part Two) …


Psalms 42:1 – “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”  NASB

John 7:37-39 – “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'”  39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  NASB

Previously we stated that everyone can have as much of God as they desire.  We stated that if one is thirsty, truly thirsty for God and will press into His presence they can drink of the river of God and be filled to overflowing with His Spirit.  We also identified that there are some conditions attached to the Promise of His Fullness and the first condition we identified was “Thirst.”

Condition Number Two is “Come unto Me.”  Jesus requires us to seek Him and that implies a total surrender of our lives to do the will of God, as that will is revealed and understood.  It is a total surrender of our lives unto Him.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  30 “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”  Then in 1 John 1:7, we discover, “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  He must have control!  He must be LORD!  He must find us a yielded vessel!

Condition Number Three is “Drink.”  That almost goes without saying and is almost too obvious to require addressing but we must for clarity.  This is speaking of the whole-hearted reception into our lives the gifts, fruit, and operation of the Spirit of God.  I encourage you to examine the details of 1 Corinthians 12:1-13.  Also, take to heart the declaration of the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” 

We also need to remind ourselves of the declaration of Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” 

Condition Number Four is “Believe on Me as the Scripture has said…”  That means to both believe and obey in totality, the fullness and entirety of God’s Word and pursue Him and His purposes totally.  Remember the directive of Jesus to the disciples as He was preparing to ascend into Heaven in Matthew 28:20?  He said, that they were to teach those they discipled to observe all the things He had commanded. That moment was expanded upon in Mark 16:15-20.  Our LORD declared in John 14:15, that if we love Him, we will obey Him.  In Acts 1:4-8 we read of the outpouring of the fullness of the Spirit of God. 

I believe and declare that if we want more of God, we can have more of God!  If we want to be filled with His Spirit, we can be filled with His Spirit!  The solution is to become Thirsty, Come to Jesus, and then Drink in belief and obedience.  Therefore, my question again, “Are you thirsty?”  “How thirsty are you?”

God bless you as you allow Him to quench your thirst for more of Him!  Have a fantastic day!

THIRSTING FOR GOD…


Psalms 42:1 – “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”  NASB

I believe that I am hearing and sensing a cry and a longing across the land today wanting more and more of God.  Sadly, sometimes it is a longing that is not coupled with the commitment and determination to have more of God.  There are no actions coupled with the longing and it becomes nothing more than a wish not a pursuit.  Sometimes it is from a lack of instruction or understanding.  The pew is not taught by the pulpit the provisions of the promises of God and the pathway into His presence.

I am convinced that having more of God, being closer to God, and being filled with His Spirit is not something that only the select of the elect can attain.  It is for ‘whosoever will come.’  God wants all His children to come to the river and drink of the living water.  I believe it is possible to have as much of God as one desires and there are no limitations on His presence.

Isaiah 55:1 is an incredible declaration, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”   Matthew 5:6, declares, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  God has a river flowing and it flows all the time!  It is a river that will never run dry.  It is a river with a plenteous supply.  It is a river that completely satisfied the living soul.  In the natural, a river at flood stage purifies that river by washing away all the silt and debris.

The truth concerning spiritual things is that our appetites determine our spiritual condition.  We eat and drink what we want to eat and drink because we want it.  If we want something bad enough, we will struggle to obtain it, sacrifice to get it and go to incredible lengths to acquire it.  It is the same in God.  If we want more of God and if we are hungry and thirsty enough, we will get more of God!  God is willing to fill us to overflowing but we must come to the water and drink.

I must qualify this by saying that there are some conditions to receiving this fullness of the Spirit and His power in our lives.  Jesus said in John 7:37-40, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'”  39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” 

Condition Number One is “Thirst.”  Without being thirsty we will not press in to drink.  Being thirsty as revealed in the Psalm and in John 7 is to have the ardent, eager, famishing, keen, and all-consuming craving and passion for complete union with God and the fullness of His Spirit.  That is far more than just a longing or a wish.  It is a condition where it is life or death to us.  Without more of God, we feel we will perish, and nothing can stand in the way of our pursuit of His presence, person, and power.

I want to quote five passages to illustrate this truth.

Psalms 42:2 – “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?” 

Psalms 63:1 – “O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Psalms 143:6 – “I stretch out my hands to Thee; My soul longs for Thee, as a parched land.” 

Isaiah 41:17 – “The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” 

Isaiah 44:3-4 – “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants; 4 and they will spring up among the grass like poplars by streams of water.” 

If we seek, we will find!  If we are thirsty, truly thirsty, He will give us drink!  Elisha had that thirst as is revealed in 2 Kings 2.  He followed Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel to the Jordan.  He refused to be denied and received a double portion.  Joel declared that this outpouring would be “upon all flesh…”  That includes you and me if we will allow it to become a reality in our lives.  Are you thirsty?  Are you really thirsty?  Then let’s press in and drink and out of that filling with the Water of His Spirit impact the world for God!  

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

PERMANENT RESIDENCE, In His Presence… (Part Two)


1 John 4:16 – “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  NASB

The question asked in both Psalms 15 & Psalms 24 regarding the Presence of God is one that needs to be asked today.  Who can enter the presence of God?  How can we enter the presence of God?  Are we relegated to momentary flashes of His glory or can we establish permanent residence in His presence?  If we can, I want that!

There is a Jewish ritual that helps bring understanding.  In David’s day, the priest had to be cleansed by blood at the brazen altar and by water at the laver, before he could enter the Holy Place.  The blood was for cleansing of the guilt of sin and the water for service.  If he was cleansed without and within, he could enter the Holy Place for a veiled encounter with God.

In Hebrews 10:22 we read, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”  That speaks of today!  What they were expressing in that ritual was “Grace at work.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 informs us, “For by grace are you saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” 

God’s Grace sought us, bought us, and has brought us into His presence at the Cross.  It did that for us while we were still in our sins, defiant, degenerate, and defiled.  1 Timothy 1:14 declares, “And the grace of our LORD was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”  Then in verse 16, we discover Paul’s revelation of his own experience and God’s incredible grace. 

Saul of Tarsus before he became the apostle Paul was a religious zealot bent on destroying this new wave he considered hypocrisy and heresy.  But God’s Grace transformed him, and he became a brand-new man, totally transformed.  When grace comes and we receive it we are candidates for a supernatural encounter with God that is transformational.  It is at that point we are ready to ascend into His presence.  The fact that we do not remain there is explained in attitude, not His purpose.

Back to the question, “Who Can Ascend into God’s Presence?”  I suggest that we could rightly say, he who has applied God’s means of Grace and met God at the altar and laver receiving His Pardon and His Grace.  I am Hungry!  I am Thirsty!  I want more than momentary flashes of God’s Grace, Person, Power, and Presence! 

Psalm 42:1-2 is the cry of my heart, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?” NASB Matthew 5:6 reminds us, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

When we cry out for God and desire Him more than life, He responds.  When we have that longing that can only be filled by God, He responds.  Many have ascended, momentarily, into His presence only to move back into the valley of despair and emptiness.  In that encounter with God, when we truly came into His presence it touched something in us that can only be satisfied with more of Him.  We never forget that encounter and long for it.  The only question is will we commit ourselves to and believe that He wants to elevate us into His presence continually?

The spiritual life should not be a roller coaster ride.  If this cycle of up and then down is all we can have, it is a miserable life.  I believe it is God’s desire to bring us into His presence and let us abide there.  I believe that He wants an abiding intimate relationship with us.  He wants to give us the Kingdom.  He wants to walk and talk with us, as He did with Adam in the garden.  He wants us to enjoy His presence as did Enoch.  He wants to communicate with us daily, as He did with Moses.  I believe He wants to abide with us, as He did with Abraham. 

There are over 160 times, in the Bible, that the declaration appears that we are “in Christ.”  Not simply touched by Him, stood before Him, seen Him, experienced Him, or encountered Him but we are IN HIM!  In 1 Corinthians 6:16, we find the quotation, “I will dwell in them and walk in them…”  God wants to be more than our Savior, Healer, Baptizer, Deliverer, and Provider.  He wants to have continuous fellowship with us.  He wants to dwell among us, walk among us, and commune with us.

I am not satisfied with occasional glimpses of His glory, I want permanent residence there.  I don’t want memories but a current reality.  I don’t want to testify of God has done something in my life, I want Him to be doing something all the time.  We cannot be content to have ascended and then descended back into the valley, we need to go beyond that and learn to Abide!  “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?”  Let it be me!

God bless you as you press into His presence and abide in Him and His words abide in you.  Have a fantastic day!

PERMANENT RESIDENCE, In His Presence…


1 John 4:16 – “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  NASB

I have discovered something perplexing about the Christian walk many seem to have with God.  Many of us, seem to move from mountaintop to long and lonely valleys frequently.  We have momentary flashes of God’s Glory in which we are elevated into His presence, then we fall back into our valleys until the next burst of His glory. 

That pattern does not seem to fit the pattern of Jesus or His disciples in the New Testament.  If David, with all his mistakes, sins, shortcomings, and problems could attain the abiding presence of God, why can’t we?  We have a better covenant established upon better promises, so why do we fall prey to this predicament?  We have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, Unlimited Grace, and the fullness of God’s two covenants. So why do we suffer this plight?

Another question in my mind is, “Is it possible to break this erratic crisis-oriented approach to God’s presence and learn to Abide Continually in Him?”  Can we make that kind of spiritual turnaround and have, as the norm of our lives, Praise and Presence rather than Petition and Work? 

I don’t know about you, but I am Hungry!  I am Thirsty and tired of living for momentary flashes of God’s Glory and Presence and desire to have Permanent Residence in His Presence.  I want His Kingdom to Come, the atmosphere of heaven to be present, and learn to live in a culture that is His Kingdom and His Purpose.  I want more!  If anyone in human history has moved and operated and lived in His presence, I want to!

With that thought in mind, I am reminded of two parallel verses in the Psalms. One is in Psalms 15 and the other in Psalms 24.  There is a distinct and clear contrast, yet both Psalms asks essentially the same question, “What does a man have to do to enter the presence of God.”  That is a question worthy of asking and one for which I want an answer.

Psalm 24:3 – “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD?  Or who shall stand in His Holy place?”

Psalm 15:1 – “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy Holy hill?”

One speaks of ascending into God’s presence and the other of abiding in His presence.  One desires to stand in God’s presence even if momentarily and the other wants to live there!  I want the latter while enjoying the former.  I have tasted God’s Glory in my life. 

Mankind has as is recorded in various outpourings of His Spirit in spiritual awakenings in human history.  On the Day of Pentecost in Acts, we find the first wide-scale outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon mankind.  We have recordings of people in many different denominations having an incredible spiritual awakening and the presence of God.  Men and women met God and would never be the same again. 

We cannot box it, package it, or bottle it we must receive it personally.  The Psalmists see the problem and express it with the cry of their souls.  They desire to come into the presence of God and ask, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD?”  The answer was: “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”  (Psalm 24:4).  Actions, attitudes, motives, and inward cleansing are part of the process.

I have only scratched the surface but will pause here and pick this up again next time or in another devotional. Until then, let us all pursue His Presence as a place of Permanent Residence.  

God bless you as you seek Him with a whole heart!