Distracted by Satan

Matthew 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

IMG_0418Read Luke 10:38-42   

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 10:42 Some manuscripts but only one thing is needed
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Read Luke 18:18-30 

Luke 18:18-30New International Version (NIV)

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 18:20 Exodus 20:12-16; Deut. 5:16-20
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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In both of these stories there is a common problem.  The persons of the rich young man, and Martha are both distracted by things of this world.  They are clinging onto the wrong things.   In the case of the rich young man, he has pride that he has kept all of God’s commandments since his youth…but he doesn’t see that his pride and his love of his wealth is a problem.   That is the beam in his own eye.  He would not choose Jesus over his wealth and status.  It isn’t that his wealth was a bad thing or that his position in life was a bad thing…it was his unyielding love of those things that made them bad.

In the case of Martha, she had Jesus in her house, and she was so busy fussing in the kitchen that she didn’t have time to appreciate and listen to him.  Have you ever done that?  Had a guest and been so busy with trying to make them comfortable physically that you had no time to spend with actually visiting with them?  I am a bit of a neat freak, so I can relate to this a bit.  After Thanksgiving dinner I want to get things cleaned up because my relatives will start cleaning up for me if I don’t get on it.  I appreciate their help, but it makes it hard to sit down and enjoy their company.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not making a complaint….the help is wonderful.  I didn’t grow up with that kind of help…it was myself and one of my brothers hand washing it all.  However, I can relate to Martha a bit.  The host/hostess of the party always wants to make sure their guests are having a good time.  The thing is that most guests come to visit us, not our food and drinks.  This was the case for Martha also, except her special guest was Jesus!  Her sister sat right down to visit, recognizing that spending actual time with Jesus was most important…hearing what he had to say…soaking up that presence.

Satan uses all kinds of methods to draw us away from God, but one of his most useful and successful methods is to make us feel that something is more important than seeking God’s presence!  We frequently treat God as a “I’ll get to him later!   I don’t have time for that right now!”

The thing is that God only adds to our lives….somewhere many people have gotten the mistaken notion that God is going to take something from our lives.  Gosh, I think maybe they might have received that notion from Satan, don’t you?!!

In C.S. Lewis The Screw tape Letters we see many examples of how the devil manipulates people from behind the scenes….whispering to them, causing havoc between them and their fellow men, causing unreasonable hatred between people, etc.  However, the method that is easiest is simple distraction.  Here is an example, paraphrased from the book:

There is a guy sitting in a library and he is starting to have a really important thought, so the demon whispers in his ear…it’s time for lunch…let’s go get some lunch….of course, the body needs fed, so that man gets up and goes out to get lunch…(once outside the library the world is noticed as it is busy and noisy)…completely forgetting the thought that he had been starting to entertain about God.

Genesis 1:26 New International Version (NIV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 1:26 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text (see Syriac); Masoretic Text the earth

We need to be certain that we don’t let our physical and emotional needs or our joy of God’s creation and the activities we have here on earth distract us from the fact that we are God’s creation and we are created to serve and glorify God.

Once we understand that we are created to serve God then we have a purpose that causes us to seek out how God wants us to serve him.  For each of us our service to God is unique…God planned out what part we have in his plan before our birth.  It is to prosper us, not to harm us….that doesn’t seem like God is planning to take away anything at all.  In fact, I can tell you that the peace of heart and mind that God gives to the person who serves him with all their heart is so very wonderful.  It is a contentment that can be found no where else.

Isaiah 43:7New International Version (NIV)

everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”

We can see from reading Genesis 1:26, and Isaiah 43:7 that God gave us a job to do, and that we are here to glorify him.

Jeremiah 29:11-14  11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.

This promise in Jeremiah was given to Israel when they went into captivity in Babylon, but it applies to us who are held captive by the things of this world also.  Seek God and Find Him…or the way I like to think about it is that if you are seeking God, seriously, with all of your heart, then God will find you…(though he always knew where you were…it is just that he will actively lead you to know him.)  Every person’s journey is individual when it comes to getting to know God…we all have a different story to tell about our faith experience.  IMG_4581

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

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This is at Yellow Stone National Park…whenever I look at this picture I think to myself, I wonder what shape that takes beneath the water…how deep is it, where does it go.  I am sure there are geological maps that have been done, but I haven’t seen them, and it is a beautiful mystery to me…just as is God. (Though only God is worthy of worship!)  This is one of God’s beautiful creations.

Matthew 28:19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…

John 14:16-17  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.  The World cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him for He lives with you and will be in you.

1Cor 12:4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (For more about this read verses 7-11 also).

2Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1Peter 1:1-2 To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

We like to say that God is three “persons” in one, yet He is all one God.  His goal for us as mankind is constantly the same, the Trinity as a whole is out to redeem mankind from sin.  Each “person” in the trinity has a different task in our redemption, but all have the same goal, and the same character.  Although the trinity idea is very confusing to us as humans, it is part of God’s revealing of himself to us, and it shows that He is incomprehensible to us in some ways.  However, God’s character is that of truth, therefore he can only present himself to us as he truly is, even when it is confusing.  One way to look at the trinity is that “God is above is, Jesus is with us, and the Holy Spirit is within us.” (note: this is from Unger’s Bible Dictionary)

Think about the trinity and draw a picture that represents the idea of the trinity to you.  Just as water can be in the form of water, ice or steam and still be water.  The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are all still God, even though they are in different forms, and have some individual traits.   In Christianity the trinity is sometimes represented with a picture of a clover leaf.

For myself, I find it to be an awesome thing that such an incomprehensible God is wonderfully revealing himself to me over the span of my life.

Jesus – Arm of the Lord

851-yeshua-handIsaiah 53:1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the Arm of the Lord been revealed?

Read Isaiah 53  This is the prediction from the prophet Isaiah which describes Jesus’ life, and gives him a name which describes his function as the arm of the Lord.

Read John 12:37-50 This is where Jesus talks about the fulfillment of Isaiah 53.  Jesus states that he only says what God tells him to say.

Note:  In Isaiah’s prediction Jesus will be reviled and persecuted, and won’t be popular with many people, he won’t look pretty, or be attractive, there will be nothing in his humanity which will be attractive in and of itself.  In John 12, Jesus clarifies that he only says what God tells him to say, and that many people will not hear him.  He is not judging, but coming to save, and that those who are unaccepting of his words (which are coming straight from God) will be condemned by their lack of acceptance.

Jesus acts as the Arm of the Lord in his life.  Whatever, our brain tells our arm to do, is what our arm does.  Luckily for us that is an automatic thing.  We just think of what we want to do like pick something up from the ground, and we do it.  When Jesus was here as a human, he was listening to God as if he were a part of God’s body, such as the arm (which he was and is God,so he is a part of God).

Have you ever tried to be someone else’s arm? Here are a couple of things to try that can give you a picture of how tough it can be to act as someone else’s arm.

  1.  With a Partner stand behind the person where you cannot see what you are doing and have them direct you on how to do some activity  such as picking up some small things and putting them in a bowl.  It would be best if you are blind folded so that you cannot at all see what you are doing and try to do this completely on the instruction of the other person.
  2. Another thing to try if you don’t have a partner is to try and copy a picture onto a paper while never looking at the paper.  Just let your brain tell your arm what to draw.

In both of these activities you can see how difficult it is to do things solely on the instruction of another person without using your own sense of sight to do so.  Yet we know that Jesus accomplished perfectly everything that God told him to do.  That tells us just how perfect the communication was between God the Father and Jesus the Son.  They were perfectly in tune with each other.  Jesus’ complete goal in life was to accomplish just what God told him to do, and nothing else.  They were always in communion together.

 John 14:10  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

God wants us to always be in communion with him, through the Holy Spirit which dwells within us.

Romans 8:9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

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Isaiah 53 New International Version (NIV)

53 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Footnotes:

  1. Isaiah 53:8 Or From arrest
  2. Isaiah 53:8 Or generation considered / that he was cut off from the land of the living, / that he was punished for the transgression of my people?
  3. Isaiah 53:10 Hebrew though you make
  4. Isaiah 53:11 Dead Sea Scrolls (see also Septuagint); Masoretic Text does not have the light of life.
  5. Isaiah 53:11 Or (with Masoretic Text) 11 He will see the fruit of his suffering / and will be satisfied
  6. Isaiah 53:11 Or by knowledge of him
  7. Isaiah 53:12 Or many
  8. Isaiah 53:12 Or numerous
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

John 12:37-50 New International Version (NIV)

Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[a]

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.”[b]

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Footnotes:

  1. John 12:38 Isaiah 53:1
  2. John 12:40 Isaiah 6:10
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

bible verses by way of Bible Gateway.com

 

Jesus – The Servant

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Isaiah 42:1- 4 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.  He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.  In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged til he establishes justice on earth.  In his law the islands will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21 is the new testament version of Isaiah’s prophecy.)

Read  Matthew 18:1-5, John 13:1-17, John 3:1-7

Matthew 18:1-5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

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John 13:1-7  It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

footwashing

John 3:1-7  Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’

(Bible Verses are from Biblegateway.com) NIV

 Think about what you have just read.  Jesus describes greatness, and how to be clean.  Soap and water are not really what Jesus is talking about.  He is not just washing their feet because they have mud on their feet; though that is part of the hospitality of the culture of his time.  It is a symbolic washing of the feet, meant to show how being washed by Jesus makes you truly clean on the inside and out.  You are forgiven if you have been washed by Jesus.  We use baptism as a symbol to show that we have accepted Jesus into our hearts, and been washed by Jesus.  In John 3, Jesus talks to Nicodemus about being born again.  It is important to understand that being born of water is your original birth from your mother, and that being born again is to be born of the spirit of God, which only comes from acceptance of Jesus.

In the culture of Jesus’ time when a person entered a house as a guest their feet were dusty and dirty.  After all, the footwear was a type of sandal and the roads filled with dust.  It was the custom to have someone there (usually a servant) to wash the guest’s feet.  Most folks back then did not sit at a table in a chair, but reclined next to a low table and ate in that manner.  This being so, the person’s feet were a lot closer to the table than we experience from sitting in a chair.  Just like us, most people back then didn’t like having dirt in close proximity to their food!  It was just plain good hospitality to wash the feet of the guests.

Jesus was showing his disciples that there is no shame in being a servant, and that there is no job that in the service of others is too lowly.  He was showing the disciples that if there is a job which will help people in a loving way, then it should be done with a loving spirit.  We are not to think too highly of ourselves that we would ignore the needs of others!

Immanuel – God With Us

christmas-nativity-scene_455966Matthew 1:23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”

Read Isaiah Chapters 6 and 7:  This is where the prophecy of Jesus being born from a virgin appears.  King Ahaz is being told not to worry or be afraid to stand firm on his faith, or not stand at all.  There are two kings planning to attack Jerusalem, but God tells Ahaz that this will never happen.  He says that before Immanuel is born both the kingdom of Damascus and the kingdom of Samaria will be in ruins, for more information about this invasion see 2Kings 15 and 16.

Also note that in King James the name Syria is used in the place of Aram.  Looking into a bible dictionary we find that Aram and Syria are interchangeable.  The word Aram  is the name of the youngest son of Shem who was one of Noah’s son’s making Aram his grandson.  Aram was the founder of the Aramaean nation and so the country of Syria is rightly called Aram, though the same Hebrew word means Mesopotamia and Syria.  The designation Syria as an abbreviation of Assyria and came into common usage after the conquests of Alexander the Great. During Ahaz’ time there were actually two separate countries/nations Assyria and Syria.  

In the story of King Ahaz, God was with Ahaz and God had Isaiah give a prophecy of when God would be with us in the flesh.  The prophecy was given to the people of the House of David.  Obviously, this part of the prophecy wasn’t taking place that day or being fulfilled in Ahaz’ life time.  Jesus wasn’t born for several hundred years after this,  but it was a promise from God, and these people knew that God keeps his promises.  

The thing about prophecies in the Bible is that God almost always gives a “short term – in their life time” prophecy whenever he is giving a long term “somewhere in the future, but not necessarily in your life time” prophecy.  One reason for this is to show that the prophet is legitimately a prophet and can be trusted that if he gives a prophecy it will eventually come true.  

In this case the short term prophecy was directly to King Ahaz and his people that God is with them in spirit “right now” and will take care of their problem…all they have to do is to wait on the Lord to act…they just need to wait faithfully.  The second half of the prophecy is that later on God will be with his people, literally, “in the flesh.”  Walking among them.

Sometimes, I don’t think that, as Christians, we really give enough thought to the idea of God walking around in the flesh and what that tells us about God.  He didn’t just send Jesus to “die” for us…he also sent him to “live” with us.  So that we would know exactly who God is, and what God believes is the best form of worship, and so that we can have constant communion with him….each and every day of our lives.

We could never reach up to God…so God came down to us…isn’t that just the most awesome thing?  Whenever, I think of it…how deep is his love for us that he would enter the hardship of living in a physical body with its daily needs and aches and pains just so that he can get close to us?  I know, you are thinking, but how can God house himself in a human body?  Well, I don’t know the specific answer to that question, except to just acknowledge that He is God..by the very nature of being God…shouldn’t he be able to do anything?  If there is something that God cannot do, then He would not be God, would he?!! 

We do not need to know how God does everything…we just need to know that he can and he does…God is able and he is with us!  What more can we ask for in life?

Everlasting Father

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My maternal Grandfather and Aunt, and my youngest brother…even though we rarely attended church we had some awesome role models of people who sincerely believed in God and knew who he was and demonstrated that knowledge by how they lived day to day…in this picture are two of them from the two previous generations and you can see the joy on all three faces as they interact with one another.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Read Psalm 145 This discusses God’s relationship with all he has created.  Even though it doesn’t use the word father, the creator is the father of his work, and God is mentioned as everlasting, and caring.  In verse 4 we are told by King David (this is one of his Psalms) that each generation commends God’s works to another; they tell of God’s mighty acts.  King David understood that this was how it was supposed to be that from one generation to the next we are supposed to be passing down our knowledge of who God is and how much God loves us, and what God is expecting from us both toward him and toward each other.  In honor of the Everlasting Father we are supposed to be doing this to the glory of God.

The thing is that there is many times a failure to do this.  The funny (ironic) thing is that when you know who God is and how much he loves you, and you have a close personal relationship with him then you find it hard not to share what you know about God.  God is exciting…having someone who loves you so much is exciting!  The first thing we want to do when we are excited is to share our excitement with others. In light of this, then I have to ask…why are there so many people in the world who do not actually know and understand the love of God and who he is in relationship to them?  I mean there are more churches in this world than ever before?  If you attend a church I invite you to look around and observe…is your church and the people in it really truly teaching these things?  Are you within your family teaching and/or learning these things?

Self evaluation is always a good thing…but don’t beat yourself up if you find that you are not doing as well as you think you should be.  Just make a plan on how you can better pass on to the next generation your love and knowledge of God.  Note that the next generation doesn’t just mean your own children.

Don’t expect great things to happen immediately…remember that God has a long range plan for your life, and for the lives of each and every person he creates.  What you can take to heart is that God says that none of his Word goes out and does not accomplish what he sets out for it to accomplish. (Isaiah 55) It is just that it takes longer in most cases for us to see this than we would like.

Isaiah 55

Invitation to the Thirsty

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 145:1 This psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which (including verse 13b) begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
  2. Psalm 145:5 Dead Sea Scrolls and Syriac (see also Septuagint); Masoretic Text On the glorious splendor of your majesty / and on your wonderful works I will meditate
  3. Psalm 145:13 One manuscript of the Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls and Syriac (see also Septuagint); most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text do not have the last two lines of verse 13.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Prince of Peace

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Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Read Matthew 5: 1-12  The Beatitudes.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace…he tells us that he gives us his peace.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid. (NIV)

When Jesus describes his peace he tells us that it is not like the peace as the world sees it or gives it.  So what is the peace that Jesus is giving us?  How do we get it?

I was having a discussion about this with a friend of mine.  We were discussing that there are blessings from God that only come from obedience to his will.  It was not a discussion saying that a person cannot be blessed by God while in a state of disobedience…as we are told in Matthew 5:44-47  “it rains on the righteous and unrighteous.” (rain is a blessing that makes things grow as indicated in this particular verse.)

 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Do not even tax collectors do the same?…

The point is that some of the blessings of God such as Jesus’ peace that he is telling us about in John 14.  Salvation comes when you give your heart to Jesus Christ, peace comes through obedience.

Have you ever noticed that whenever you are on the “outs” with another person, or you have done something that is not quite in line with what God says is the right way to go on a matter, that your sense of peace and contentment are destroyed? …well, God isn’t just telling us to be obedient because he wants to spoil our fun.  He gives us guidelines for how to treat others, and how to treat ourselves so that we can have peace of mind and peace of heart, satisfaction in relationships, and life…so that we can be closer to him and hear his voice more easily.

When Jesus speaks of his peace and he says he is not giving it as the “world gives it”…think about how the world gives?  There is a reason that we have a saying that “there is no free lunch”…Jesus’ peace is a peace where nothing is held over you…it is not at some weighty cost to yourself that you get this peace.  This is a peace like no other.

The world’s peace is usually just a ceasing of hostility…true peace can only come through loving the other person.  That is how Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” because Jesus actually loved everyone…no matter who they were, what they were like, what they did to him, no matter what their sin….Jesus loved them all.  He still loves us all in the same way. (Jesus even loved Judas Iscariot…even while he was betraying him…he still loved him!)

The ultimate freedom for humanity is in the form of Jesus’ peace….once you know how to love others no matter what they are like to you, or to others, short, tall, fat, slim, smart, dumb, nice, mean, red or green, etc. love them all and have Jesus’ peace through your obedience.  That is loving Jesus…being obedient to him.  (John 14:15)

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us “blessed are the peacemakers…”  Be the ultimate peacemaker…love others and obey God…then have peace in your heart, mind and soul!

Prayer – A Conversation with God

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Vintage image of the Lord’s prayer found on Pinterest  I thought it looked pretty interesting.

1Timothy 2:1  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.”

Prayer Defined: Prayer is a conversation with God.  We can pray about anything, joy, fear, anger, any situation or thought we have, whether it is angry or joyful we can take it to God.  God is ultimately the only person we can vent to that already knows the situation and can take the best action, if any is needed.  God understands that life is unfair.

We can also pray for anything, but we shouldn’t expect to always get the answer in exactly the way we are wanting it.  God answers, but sometimes the answer is maybe, sometimes it is no.  Most of the time it will be yes, but the person praying has to be looking for the answer also.  Many times the answer will be wait….wait…wait.  We must always remember that God has a different time standard than we do.  We may have to wait for years, even our whole lives, and we may never see the answer come to fruition.  That doesn’t mean that God has not answered.

For example:  You may pray for someone to come to know God, and die before they ever do, but in heaven you will know that they came to know God.  I have met many people who were anti-God their whole lives, and people prayed for them for years.  Many of these people didn’t come to know  God until something happened in their lives to get their attention, and with others it is a gradual building of relationship, until they discover their belief.  Either way, God does answer prayer, always. 

The great thing about God, is that no matter how often you mess up, or turn away from him, he will always forgive you when you ask (with a sincere repentant heart) and greet you with open arms as though you never left.  That is grace! 

Romans 8:38-39  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now back to the idea of Prayer being a conversation with God.  The thing about conversation is that it requires interaction between two people.  Conversation is back and forth, it is not all one sided.  Many times people treat prayer as if it is a magic wishing well…toss a prayer out and watch the magic happen.

Prayer is not a wishing well, it is not a toss a coin at God and he will spring forth with whatever you want in return.  If what you are praying for is something that goes against the character of God, then don’t bother because the answer to those will always be a resounding “NO!”  (Not because God doesn’t love you, but because he does love you.)

In case I am being a bit vague here, I will give an example of something that it is probably a good bet that God won’t be saying yes to if someone were to pray for it….Let’s say that someone is cheating with someone else’s spouse and they start praying that the person will leave their spouse and marry them instead!  Well I think most of us would agree that this would not get a positive answer from God, right?!!  Why? First of all because the person is not in a right relationship with God if they are in that position in the first place. Secondly, God considers adultery to be a sin, and God does not reward sin.  God’s objective is to get us all away from sinfulness, and back into a right relationship with him.  Does this mean that God didn’t hear them?  No, God heard them, but he said, “No!”

Sometimes, we forget that God has things to say to us too.  In order for prayers to be the most effective we have to be in a close relationship with God.  James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth (avails) much. (KJV)

That way we can hear what God has to say to us, and what he wants us to be doing in our lives to serve him.  We can also hear and understand the answers to our prayers.  God is not stingy with information, as he wants us to understand how much he loves us, and is willing in many cases to show us the reason for an answer of “No” or “wait” or “yes, but not the way you thought it would happen…”  Sometimes, there are occasions (especially when the answer is not what we want) that we refuse to see the answer, or refuse to see the value of the answer we received.  This is especially true when we pray for someone’s physical healing and it does not take place the way we want it to.

There is a Bible verse to explain this also Isaiah 57:1  Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. (NLT)

We don’t always like the answers God gives to our prayers, but he does always answer us.  If we are in a close relationship with God and are in regular conversation with him through prayer we often understand what we should be praying about, and how to pray. This increases the number of “yes” answers we are receiving to our prayers.  As Jesus instructed us in the Lord’s Prayer it is “for your (God’s) will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Matthew 6:9–13 (ESV) “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”

Basic Types of Prayer:  Intercessory, Healing Prayer, Lamentations, Praise/Worship, Blessing, and the most common would be supplication.  There are many different variations of each of these, and some people call them differently because they put them in subcategories, but these are the basics. I will go into explaining these different types of prayer in future blogs.

 

The Traditions of Man

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This is a pretty church in Santorini Greece.  

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

2Timothy 4:2-4  Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 Read Mark chapter 7

Many traditions are just man made traditions and not anything to do with a requirement of God or living as a grace covered Christian.  Now to the Jews circumcision was part of a covenant that they are still keeping, and that is certainly the right thing for them; however, under the covenant of Jesus’ blood,  Gentiles are not required to fulfill that circumcision requirement.  In the old testament before the coming of Christ you had to be circumcised to join the Jews, I imagine that is still the case if you male and are to become Jewish.  However, it is not a requirement under Christianity, it is a choice each person can make.

I have another Christian tradition that I have been struggling with that my own church and most churches deal with, that of Communion.  I decided to read up on this issue in the Bible and have come to the following conclusions.  There are many traditions that are man made about it.  Some believe that it is the literal body and blood of Christ, others believe that it is not, but is a Holy Sacrament and must be blessed by a Priest or Minister, others don’t believe it needs to be blessed or consecrated, but each person can simply take it in communion with others with an attitude of worship, and a recognition what it represents; still others believe that only those of a certain age or only of the like denomination can partake of it.

However,  in the Bible all it says is that Jesus, while sitting at a passover table with his disciples told them while lifting the passover cup that it was his blood, and that breaking the bread it was his body (Matthew 26:26), and 1Corinthians 11 talks about it extensively from the view point of Paul the Apostle.  He talks about it strictly from the stand point of the attitude of the person who is partaking of communion.  Paul says that the people who are partaking of the Lord’s cup and bread should be taking it with an acknowledgement of Jesus’ sacrifice for us as one of his (Christian) sheep.  He also says that they should not be helping themselves and treating it as a party for just those wealthy enough to afford it.  He tells us that if it is being used that way, they can eat or drink at home..it is to be taken with a proper attitude and in community with all who are present who are belonging to Christ.  It is up to the person who is taking it to decide whether they are worthy (aka belonging to Christ) to take it or not.

The setting for Jesus’ meal with his disciples was a Passover meal.  If we look at the requirements for passover the priest did not necessarily have to kill the passover lamb, but was required to catch the blood from the lamb and sprinkle it on the altar. That was the only requirement for a priest during passover.  The rest of the meal was performed in the individual homes not at the temple.  Here is an interesting site that explains the Passover practices of the Jews…though you can also read it in the Bible in Exodus 12

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11934-passover-sacrifice

Another fact about Jesus’ death, is that with his death the veil between the Holy of Holy’s and the rest of the Temple was torn.  The Holy of Holy’s was the place that only the High Priest could go into as it was the “place of the presence of God.” He was only allowed to go in there on the day of Atonement which was once a year.  With the tearing of the veil by Jesus death there became no need for any Jew or Gentile Christian or anyone to have to go to a Priest in order to be in God’s presence.  We were allowed through the death Jesus Christ to go straight to God ourselves…Jesus is the only mediator between God and Man. (1Timothy 2:5).  That is why when we pray to God, we pray asking in Jesus’ name.  The Holy Spirit lives in us, as Christians, therefore we are not in need of an earthly priest for anything.  Not even for the blessing of the elements of communion.  It is enough for Christians to pray over the elements and ask God’s presence and blessing for their act of Communion and remembrance, honoring of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

The idea behind communion that Jesus gave his disciples is a remembrance of his sacrifice.  It is a reminder to us, that we are sinful and that we needed this selfless sacrifice to redeem us, and reunite us with God.  A reminder that Jesus willingly sacrificed himself for us.  Just as the Passover was a reminder to the Jews that God had “passed over” their houses in Egypt and spared the lives of their first born.  God told them to celebrate passover in “remembrance” of that event in Egypt.

Different denominations have many different beliefs about Communion, Baptism and many other issues….what to wear, how to wear your hair if you are man or woman, etc.  A lot of those beliefs are traditions of the denominations, and not necessarily Biblical.  Many times, those beliefs have grown from someone taking one statement out of context, or out of misunderstanding of the circumstances and/or group to whom the speaker was speaking or what was going in that society.  Many traditions are used by Satan to separate the people of God and cause them to fight amongst themselves instead of being unified through our Savior.  While we can enjoy traditions we need to be aware of what is traditional and what is Biblical and not allow man’s traditions to separate us from our fellow believers.

For instance, if someone were on their death bed and had just accepted Christ, and you were the only Christian around and they wanted Communion or Baptism…would you deny them and say, “Let me go find a minister or a priest, I’m not qualified?”

Each person reading John 14:12-14 should be able to answer that.  Jesus who is our ultimate high priest everlasting told us that whoever believes in Him will be able to do whatever he does and even greater things than he.  We know that his disciples had the gifts of the Spirit, and the fruits of the Spirit and did healing, and baptism, and had communion in Jesus’ name.  Jesus was not out to create a new priesthood with the Disciples that elevated them above those whom they were bringing to Christ.  He wanted each and every one of us as Christians to be priests and serve others around us in Jesus’ name.  (1Peter 2:9)

Now I recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable with the idea of administering Baptism or Communion to another, and maybe they never will.  Traditions have a strong hold on people.  Like getting a hair cut….just be aware, that sometimes a tradition which is not correctly Biblically based can be a separator and not a unifier. Be gentle and loving and it is okay to question a tradition, but question it in the context of “what does the Bible have to say about it?  What does God’s Word have to say about it?”  Is it hurting someone or is it something that helps you to connect with God more fully?  Respect traditions, but evaluate them against the word of God and the character of God.  That is what the Disciples did!  They always went back to the word of God, and took it in the context that the words were spoken!