Seek and Receive

Matthew 6: 33

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Last week I wrote to you about Matthew 7: 7 – 12 (See Word of the Day, Fish or Snake, May 15, 2020). The substance of that article was asking and receiving, seeking and finding, knocking and the door being opened. We look for God’s blessing and God is not a man that He would give us a snake if we asked for a fish. He gives good gifts to His beloved.

I was out on a bike ride Friday with those ideas still running through my mind. I stopped at a church to pray, as has become my habit. It sort of feels like with all the churches empty and the parking lots vacant, it is good for me to utilize that space to offer prayers. So, I was leaning on my bike praying when I saw this sign. This verse is so familiar that I almost missed the significance but as I prayed, all of a sudden truth dawned on my consciousness. SEEK AND RECEIVE!

Now before we dismiss this as materialism, take note that God said, ALL things. Jesus was talking about our needs being met, so yes, he meant that our Father would meet our material needs but Jesus is the fullness of all things so this would include your need for social contact and friends, needs for peace, tranquility, relaxation, meaningful hobbies, projects and work. No matter what you need, or want, Jesus included it when he said, “all these things will be added to you.”

The key word, though, is “seek.” Ask, seek, knock; receive, find, have opened. The epiphany that went through me Friday was that “seek” is the word that we should hear and which ties these two passages together. It is worthwhile to note that both passages are part of the same presentation. Each is taken from the Sermon on the Mount which is Jesus’ most comprehensive soliloquy.
We are instructed to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and everything else will be given to us besides. It is almost to say we will not have need to ask for those other things because we have sought, and received, the one thing. Our receiving is tied to our seeking and that which we are to seek is God’s Kingdom. God knows what you need, and He does not want you to seek those things or even worry about asking for them. Seek Him and His way of doing things and He will provide for your needs and everything else for which you ask. That surely makes for a powerful prayer life. And on that note, when you are at the point where your needs are met and you don’t spend your prayer time on those things, and, when you know you will receive what you ask, imagine how big your prayer life can grow and the things you will pray about. Seeking God and His kingdom really opens up life. It creates a great release of spiritual energy. We are changed as we move into the Kingdom because we reside in God’s presence.

Ask, seek and knock, but in your seeking, seek the one with all wisdom. Seek God and His ways.

My Heroes

Luke 6: 38         KJV

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

I don’t use the King James version very often because I don’t speak Elizabethan English. Occasionally, though, there are verses that I just hear in the old KJV and you may as well. This is one of those verses. We understand, at least at one level, what this verse means. Taking a look at it in a modern version, though, is like hearing it in “plain English.” Here is the Passion Translation’s take on this verse, “Give generously and generous gifts will be given back to you, shaken down to make room for more. Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top! Your measurement of generosity becomes the measurement of your return.” I like what the God’s Word version says too, “Give, and you will receive.” I mean, just say it plainly, right? Now, just in case we hadn’t noticed, this is Jesus speaking. What, then, is his point? Is he trying to get us to give, or to receive? It seems to me that he is teaching us how to receive. What do you think? I can imagine a question like, “Jesus how do I receive what I need and want?” Here is his answer, give!

I have some absolutely lovely friends whom I met through the MS bike ride. Recently when I inquired about bike racks, they made me one. WHAT?!! Crazy, right? They are so generous! They do a lot for their team, but they also do a lot for others. They are just crazy givers. I said to a friend, “How can they even afford to do all they do?” She answered, “Because they are givers.” Duh Ivey! Yeah, God pours into their lap because they give generously. That’s what Jesus said would happen, after all. Oh, me of little faith. Why didn’t I see that right off the bat?

We read these words, even believe them, at least in our minds, but they are only effective when they sink in and become a part of us. You can’t talk people into being givers, they have to get there on their own. You can encourage them, but the key is that if we really believed Jesus, we would all generously give. Jesus’ words can infect your heart and boy, when they do, it is awesome. I mean, you just want to be around people like that.

I want us all to learn to be generous in our giving. I should lead by example but then come with me. I want you to give so you receive, and then I want you to give again and receive again, and . . .. I want us all to be like these folks because not only do I have a beautiful bike rack for my team, but even better was the feeling they gave me in my spirit. How can I repay them for that? I cannot, but I pray to my dear Lord that he will bless them for their kindness, and I am confident that he will.

Receive

Galatians 3: 13 – 14

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”- in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

In the Old Testament when God promised that He would pour out the Holy Spirit He sometimes made the promise to the nation of Israel but more often said that He would pour out the Spirit on all mankind. You see, God already knew the future. He knew that through Jesus and His sacrifice all the world would inherit the blessing of Abraham through adoption into the family of God. It was God’s intent that we would all share in the blessing.

Paul, I believe, demonstrates how important this whole structure is. God put together a plan that would ensure that we received all the best He had. It was an elaborate plan and very expensive. It took the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb in order to extend the blessing of the chosen to those of us who were formerly outside the family. God gave His son as that sacrifice so that He could bring us under the umbrella of His protection and into His family. We are now children of the Most High. It cost God everything but through God’s sacrifice, we receive everything.

That is how important you are to the King. And that is how important the Holy Spirit is that God went through these elaborate measures to get the promise to you. The promise is for you.

Now, what do you do? You invite the Holy Spirit into your life. You ask Him to be a part of your daily life; everything you do. You talk to Him just like you talk to God because He is God. He, being the third part of the trinity, is God with you. Ask Him to come live in you. Ask Him to fill you up with himself. And as Paul wrote in the passage above, you must receive Him by faith. You certainly can study more about the Holy Spirit. There are many more verses about Him. They continue to show who He is and how He operates in this world. Many people in the New Testament received the baptism in the Holy Spirit when someone prayed for them so you can ask a pastor or other spiritually mature person to pray with you if you like. There are also plenty of people who have received Him while alone in their own prayers. There is no secret here. It is all in the scriptures. It boils down to acknowledging Him, asking Him into your life, asking Him to live inside of you, to fill you, and then receiving Him. That is really all there is to it. Don’t miss out on the third person of the Trinity. I believe today’s passage shows how important this part of our relationship with God really is. As Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20: 22).

Time of Delivery

John 7: 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.

Jesus was speaking to a crowd and teaching them of the things to come. In fact, he was teaching them about the Holy Spirit. This statement indicates that the Spirit is to be received. In other words, He is a gift and those who wish to receive the gift shall have it. But the Holy Spirit is not going to be forced on those who are unable to receive Him. There is the element of choice on the part of the recipient. The Holy Spirit is for all who choose to receive Him. Receiving Him is not automatic. You have to make your own choice. Not even God is going to make it for you though Jesus did command His disciples to remain in Jerusalem and await the gift of the Holy Spirit which makes it clear that His intent is for us all to receive the gift.

We also learn who is eligible to receive this gift. The gift is for those who believe in Jesus. That is the only requirement. If one truly and honestly believes in Jesus as the Messiah, the chosen one of God, then that person is eligible to receive the long-awaited gift of the Holy Spirit.

We also see in this passage the timing of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been received into glory. We know that during the 40 day period between when Jesus arose from the dead and when He ascended to the Father He appeared to His disciples. One of the things Jesus told them was to await the promise of God because they would receive “the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1: 5). Shortly thereafter Jesus ascended to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God after which, the Holy Spirit was sent into the earth to be with us for all time.

Seek and Receive

Ephesians 1: 17

. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

A friend of mine was suffering from writer’s block. It is a most uncomfortable feeling. I thought, “I cannot afford writer’s block. The Word of the Day has to be delivered tomorrow morning at 5:00.” I have learned that our Father and His Spirit are supporting me every day in producing these “words” from Him and that I must relax and let Him lead me. Still, there are those days which present a bit of a challenge. Yesterday was one of those days. Most days I can pick up my Bible and read anywhere in it and He will show me a message. That was one of the premises of my book, Journey Through the Bible. Every book of the Bible has something to minister to us today. But yesterday, I read from Numbers, Proverbs and did a little jaunt through some of the New Testament books. Nothing. Then at 5:00 PM I opened my Bible and this verse jumped out at me. He did for me in that moment exactly what Paul prayed for us. He gave me a spirit of wisdom and understanding which revealed the Father.

My reliance is on the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t mean that I can always hear perfectly. Paul knew how we all struggle as we grow and stretch. He also knew what we need, namely the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of the Father. So here is the wisdom that I received. Even when I cannot feel the Father, even on those days when I am not receiving as well as others, He is right here with me and He is present to reveal Himself to me. He desires to show Himself to me so that I may reveal Him to you. He wants us to know Him.

Of course, I was seeking Him and His Word. So, even though I was tired and just a little less alert, He was able to speak to my mind and my heart. I hear in my heart, “seek me so that I may be found by you.” There are plenty of scriptures about seeking Him, but the point is that He wants to be found. Therefore, He encourages us to seek Him. I can’t help but thinking that His favorite game is Hide and Seek. Perhaps, though, someone should tell Him the rules because He is horrible at hiding. In fact, He hides in plain sight. One of my favorite “seeking” scriptures is 1 Chronicles 28: 9, “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.”

Paul started the church at Ephesus and he had a desire that his young church would grow in the things of God. Well, that is what every pastor wants. Therefore, Paul prayed this wonderful prayer, that God might give you this gift. I will tack on my prayer today to Paul’s and I pray that you might “receive” the “spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Giving is one thing but receiving is an entirely different one so I pray that you receive. I pray for you today that God will fill you with knowledge of Himself. One thing I advise, seek Him.

God’s Economy

Ecclesiastes 2: 26

For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight.

The way of the Kingdom is very, very different from the way of the world. In this verse for today we see God’s economy at work. If you understand this, it will also help you in your giving because you will see that your income and well-being is not based on how much money you make at your job. It is very difficult for us to wrap our heads around that idea but this is a mindset that we must establish.

There are those who gather and this verse tells us that those people are gathering so that they can give it to those who are good in God’s sight. That is the task He has given them. Does it make you feel guilty to think that others toil so that you may have? Many of us have trouble accepting this and that is why we struggle and continue to work hard instead of taking our proper place in God. We have our role too, don’t we? We are they who stand in prayer for those who gather. We have been called by Jesus to a completely different job. Our incomes are guaranteed through him so that we can fulfill our role in our societies. We have not, because we are failing to stand in our office and do that which we are called to do.

There is another hurdle in this verse we must get over. This verse talks about the person who is good. Is that you? How do we know? What is the standard? Well, there was none good until Jesus came and he even said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone,” (Luke 18: 19). So, who is this good person that God refers to in this verse. The New Covenant answer is, all those who are in Christ Jesus. Mind you, I did not say all Christians or all who delineate themselves as Christians. But those who have clothed themselves in the robes of Jesus’ righteousness are spotless and blameless before God. Hallelujah! That is you. It’s me. In Christ we are more than we could have ever been or even believed for.

So, meditate on today’s verse and then journal it. Ask God what he would further reveal to you about His economy and your goodness in Christ. They are both big ideas, barely scratched upon in today’s devotion but it should be enough to get you started.

Seeker

Matthew 7: 7 – 8

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you for every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.

I have a question for you today. Does or did Jesus have the capacity to tell a lie? Did Jesus ever tell one lie in his life? We need to know because he is the one who spoke these words we read today. Here is another question, is it possible that when Jesus said these words he meant them only figuratively? In other words, are the words in the quoted verses for today meant to express their literal meaning or are they some figurative, allegorical or metaphorical representation of another meaning? We need to know! Does Jesus mean what he said or was he speaking in nuanced riddles?

I looked up simile, allegory, metaphor and figurative and from the meanings I see there, none of them apply to these two verses. Still, many people excuse the literal meanings of Jesus’ words claiming that they represent some other ideas which are not actually spoken. Because Jesus sometimes taught by using parables, some people discount all of his speech as representative rather than literal. Okay, so let me ask you another question. Why would the Son of God, he who came to set us free and to lead us into truth and fullness of life, play cloak and dagger with his beloved? He came to earth to die for each and every one of us; he came to give his life a ransom so that we might be saved. Why then would he hide the ball from us? And yes, that was figurative language I just used and it was obvious and understood.

That is the point of figurative language. It is not meant to hide the truth. It is used to illustrate and make clear difficult concepts. Finally, if we intend to have a relationship with Jesus, one that is based on truth and trust, then we must believe his words have actual meaning. He spoke so that we could hear and be free. When he said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10: 10) we must assume and understand that those words mean exactly what they say. Otherwise they do not have meaning and frankly, the whole Bible is undermined. If Jesus wanted to communicate that the purpose of his coming to earth was to give us life, how else would he say it other than to use the words which have the meaning which normally and customarily mean just that? Do you see what I mean? Once a person reduces one of Jesus’ literal statements to fantasy or figurative poetry, then all meaning for all his messages is lost. Who can say which of his statements are mere figures of speech and which ones he actually meant as spoken? Honestly, it is beyond intellectual integrity for one to adopt this posture. It is the height of arrogance. People who excuse away Jesus’ words and meanings replace them with themselves and their reasoning. It is foolishness!

The point of all of this is that Jesus said that if we seek, we shall find. There is no figure of speech in that statement so really, the choice is whether or not we choose to take him at his word. Do we believe the Father of us all sent His only begotten son to earth to lead us into truth, wisdom, and freedom? Why would Yahweh, Abba Father, sacrifice His beloved on a cross for people He intended to mislead? Does that really make any sense at all? Jesus’ brother, James, said that we should ask God for wisdom promising that God would give it to us freely and without reproach (James 1: 5). Why, then, would God offer to give us all His wisdom yet cloak every word Jesus said while in the earth. It is illogical and unreasonable to believe that so, trust that Jesus came to open eyes and doors. Believe him when he says that if we ask, we shall receive. When we seek, we will always find. Knock on the door because Jesus is on the other side waiting to open it to you.

Jesus has so much for us. The Father invested everything He had to bring us into a personal relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is hovering today with creative power in his hands. They long for us. Let our yearning reach out and take hold of the love offered. Ask, seek, knock . . . receive, find, be welcomed in.