Pastor's Meditations

The Myth of Greener Pastures by Alex Gonzalez

Last Sunday, as we were driving to church, we witnessed a peculiar and ridiculous scene: A cow bending over the fence, straining her whole body in an attempt to retrieve a delicious morsel of “greener” grass from the other side of the fence.

This foolish cow’s deed is a symbol of the actions of many other animals that risk life and limb in order to get a taste of the forbidden fruit or pasture. Sadly, animals are not the only ones that seek that which is dangerous and/or prohibited.

Have you ever been tempted to desire that which does not belong to you? Have you dreamed (or daydreamed) about having a different house, car, wife, children, job, etc.?

Many years ago, I was tempted to take a bite of the seemingly greener grass. I quickly found out that the grass on the other side is not only not greener, but it tastes like Poison Ivy. I wonder if this is how Adam and Eve felt after they ate the forbidden fruit. 

The myth of “Greener Pastures” is only an illusion, a mirage, or as the title indicates a myth. Like the Roman Mythology and all its false gods, it deals with man made stories and beliefs that have nothing to do with the truth.

This myth is, first of all, DECEITFUL. In Genesis 13:10 we read:“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it  was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord” (emphasis mine)

Lot thought that he was looking at another Eden, while in reality he was running (or walking) into real danger. Appearances can be deceiving as we all know. Even the devil and his minions dress up in garments of light sometimes and temptation never forgets to visit us robed as a beautiful bride on her wedding day.

This myth is also DANGEROUS. 1 John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in  the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride  of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”It is dangerous to love the world and its pastures. It is impossible to serve two masters - impossible to love our Lord and the world at the same time. Do not pursue the things of this world. Follow Christ.

Finally, this myth brings DEATH. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree and instead of entering into a state of enlightment (as they expected), they fell from grace and eternal life. Death entered into the world because our forefathers believed in the myth of greener pastures.

The believers don’t need greener pastures, in fact there is no pasture as green and DELECTABLE as the pastures of our Savior (Psalm 23:1-2). All other pastures are Deceitful, Dangerous and Deadly.If you are a Christian, you are “the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100)  forever. This is our DESTINY. There is no better pasture or place in the whole universe.

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God Desires Service and Worship that Flow from the Heart

 

Biblically, the human heart is the place of the emotions, the intellect, and the will. It is the place where we think, feel, and make decisions. It is the most inner part of our being. 

When we say that God desires service that flows from the heart, we mean that God wants more from us that just outward conformity to a set of rules, a schedule, or a task list. It means that we serve with with desire that flows from the inner most part of our being. 

There are many passages that bear this out. When Moses was taking an offering for the construction of the Tabernacle, God gave him these instructions, "The Lord said to Moses,  “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me." (Ex 25:1–2 ESV) In the New Testament, Paul wrote, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men," (Col 3:23 ESV)

The Lord Jesus Christ made this indictment of the religious crowd of His day, "‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;'" (Matt 15:8 ESV) They went through all of their rituals. They knew the right words to day. But their hearts weren't in it. 

It is very easy to fall into outward conformity to spiritual activities, and yet be far from God in our hearts.  We can go through the motions of reading our Bibles, praying, attending church, and even serving in some ministry, and yet have little affection and passion in our hearts for what we are doing, and for the God for Whom we are  doing it.  This can only be a temporary condition, because as human beings we will not do for long that which brings us little or no  joy. 

Some have concluded the answer is just to stop the spiritual activities until their heart changes.  The problem with that reasoning is that the very activities  that have become perfunctory, are often the means of grace that God uses to change the heart.  

The psalmist shows us that crying out to God to change our heart is what is needed. He prayed things like: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." (Psa 19:14 ESV) and "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psa 51:10 ESV) "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name." (Psa 86:11 ESV) "Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!" (Psa 119:36 ESV). The psalmist prayed for the condition of his own heart! 

We too need the gracious intervention of our God, to change the condition of our own hearts from time to time.  If you find that your heart has become cold, and you are lacking the passion and the joy that you once had, cry out to your Father, confess and ask Him to help you! He is gracious, kind, and He will!

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Your Present Condition is not Your Final Condition

In Genesis 13:16 we find these words spoken by God to Abraham, "for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted." (Gen 13:15–16 ESV) At the moment God spoke these words, Abraham was a nomad who owned no land. He had no children, and was married to a barren woman.  Everything that God promised him was at that moment absent from His life.  It would be several years before Abraham would receive even a partial fulfillment of these promises. But his present condition was not his final condition!

Two chapters later, God again appears to Abraham, and says these words: Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1 ESV) to which Abraham responds: “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”" (Gen 15:2–3 ESV) Abraham is still in the same condition that he was when God promised to make his offspring as the dust of the earth—childless! But His present condition is not his final condition! God reiterates His promise, "And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”  And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”" (Gen 15:4–5 ESV)  This time the scripture adds, "And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness." (Gen 15:6 ESV)

We all know the story.  When Abraham and Sarah were well beyond the age of childbearing, God began to fulfill His promise by giving Abraham, a son. He went from being childless to becoming the father of many nations! His present condition had not been his final condition!

Sometimes it seems as though our lives are not making the impact that we really want them to make. We feel barren and unproductive.  But God has made some promises to us, upon which we can rest, promises like—“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor 15:58 KJV) and "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Gal 6:9 KJV)

Whatever condition you may be facing right now that may be bringing you grief, find a promise of God that applies, trust it, and realize that your present condition is not going to be your final condition! Then patiently wait for God’s timing.

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Our Compassionate Christ

"And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed." (Mark 1:40–42 KJV)

In the first century, leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases known to man. Its victims usually experienced a long excruciating death, that included the slow deterioration of their bodies. “Patients with leprosy experienced disfigurement of the skin and bones, twisting of the limbs, and curling of the fingers to form the characteristic claw hand. Facial changes included thickening of the outer ear and collapsing of the nose.” (Answers in Genesis)

It was not only a physical horror, but it was also a social stigma. The disease was believed to be highly contagious, and therefore when lepers walked down the street they had to call out, “unclean, unclean.” They lived in colonies sequestered from the rest of society.

It was to Jesus, one of these came. He was convinced of Jesus’ ability to heal him, but he was unsure of His willingness. Jesus was not untouched by this man’s horrible condition. He was moved with sympathy, and motivated to help him. Without a doubt, He could have simply spoken the word, and the man would have been healed. But he didn't just speak, he reached out and touched him, and said five words—five of the sweetest words the man had ever heard, “I will; be thou clean” The touch was not to heal, but simply to communicate compassion, and acceptance to this man, who no doubt had gone a long time without any physical contact with another human being.

When we are going through the painful experiences of our lives, it is good to know that our Christ is not unmoved by our struggles. He is both able and willing to do something about them. In His wisdom, he may not do it in our timeframe, but He does care, and will answer our prayers.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:15–16 ESV)

With what painful situation are you struggling? Your Savior cares! Come to Him. He is both willing and able to help you.

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