Go and Sin no More…

Genesis 4:7  7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

captionshesgotbettedaviseyesRead John 8:1-11  The story of the sinful woman.

John 8 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

161980013820276Read John 5:1-15

The Healing at the Pool

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. * One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

*verse 4 is in some versions that an angel of the Lord went down occasionally and stirred the waters.

If you look at these two stories in the Bible they both have something in common.  Jesus did not condemn the person, but the sin instead.  He showed love and understanding to the person, even while telling them the truth about their sin.  In both cases these people are apparently in a state of sin.  The woman is an adulterer, and we are not told what the man’s sin is, but it is apparent that he is in a state of sin from Jesus telling him to leave his life of sin before something worse happens to him. 

In both cases, these people are in a very lonely state.  We know this because, other than Jesus, there is no one to stand up for the woman who is about to be stoned…she has no friends.  In the case of the man who was paralyzed we know he also has no one who cares about him, as he tells Jesus that there is no one to help him into the pool to get healed.  In both of these cases, not only did their sin separate them from God, but also separated them from their fellow humans.  

So we can see that both in our heavenly relationship and our earthly relationships sin plays a big part.   That is why God laid out some rules for living in community with each other in the Old Testament.  Now, just because God laid out a rule addressing a situation doesn’t mean he is approving of the situation…sometimes the rules that God has laid down on a subject are there because he knows the situation is going to exist as long as mankind is separated from God.  Thus, God laid out rules about things like slavery, and divorce.  Even though, Jesus clearly tells us that divorce is not something that God wants to happen…God recognizes that such things will happen so he lays out a rule about it. 

Matthew 10:2-12

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 
3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. 
4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 
5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 
6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’
7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 
8 and the two will become one flesh.’So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 
Now this does not mean that if you are divorced or your spouse is divorced that you are unable to be forgiven…though I have observed that frequently this issue is a big source of pain to Christians who have been divorced or are going through a divorce, or married to someone who has been divorced.  For some reason the issue of divorce is treated as some almost unforgivable sin among Christians.  Now, I can reckon that it is related to the idea that we connect Christ and the Church with the idea of marriage…but this is an analogy…that only works when you are dealing with good marriages.  Yes, in good marriages the two people are generally unified and like minded, but they are still individuals with individual thoughts and feelings and interests also.  If they were not individuals then there would be no need for a marriage…they would simply be like clones existing together.   The thing that Jesus wants us to know about marriage is that we are to treat each other as the most precious person who is like an extension of yourself…a person that you wouldn’t dream of ever hurting…either intentionally or unintentionally…someone to go through life with…a “help-mate”…who each helps the other to live a life which glorifies God.  Divorce is not an unforgivable sin…it simply happens to some people…for whatever reason…the person cannot go back and undo it, so as Christians we need to not hold it over their heads, or make them feel that it is being held over their heads….that is what Satan does…he holds forgiven sins over people’s heads and keeps them worrying and beating themselves up over it.

The same thing goes for slavery…God gave rules to govern it because at the time of Moses it existed every where! God did not approve of slavery…he just knew that it existed and so he laid out rules on the treatment of slaves.  Slaves had no rights at all prior to these rules….they had no hope for redemption…God’s rules were laid down to show that he recognized that the slaves were human beings who were his creations and they were to be treated a certain way with some dignity..and given hope for freedom from slavery.  God did not want or approve of bondage of any kind, just as he did not approve of divorce, theft, murder, sexual promiscuity, lying, or any of the other sins listed in the old testament. It would probably be more accurate to say that God was resigned to the fact that mankind, in general, is selfish and self centered and immature and without rules will govern things according to what most benefits himself…even if it is at the expense of others.  As long as man is separated from God, man needs rules to govern his relationship with others. These rules are a gift and should not be thought of as a punishment or a burden.

So, now, let us go back to how Jesus treated the people in the above two situations…the first thing to take note of again is that Jesus did not beat either one of these people over the head with their sins!  He didn’t ignore the sin either…after all Jesus said that he did not come to condemn the world, but to save it!  Beating someone who is in a state of sin over the head with their sin does not save them!  Jesus knew this very well…he helped them each in the way that they needed help, and then he said, “Go and sin no more!” 

The implication of this statement from Jesus is that we humans are capable of setting aside our sins…we are capable of self control…that God expects us to use self control in dealing with our sins!  God does not accept the excuse that “the devil made me do it!”

Now, this may be an idea that is hard to swallow, but Jesus is not a liar…so we have to accept that we are capable of living lives that are not full of daily continual sin.

Does this mean that we will never sin?  No, it means that once we know that something we are doing is a sin, then we have a responsibility before God to not continue to do that sin.  We all have sin in our lives that we are not even aware of…God is good to reveal our sins little by little as we go through life so that we are not overwhelmed by them all at once.  They are also revealed to us in such a manner and time that we are able to understand how that sin is hurting us, or hurting others around us.

Frequently,  our sin is revealed to us by our gaining more knowledge of the nature of God, and maturing more and more in our relationship with God by following Jesus.

3512363192_744e1a346e

For example:  A person who look at their horoscope in the paper each day, thinks to themselves that it doesn’t hurt anything to look at it and see how the “stars” say their day is going to go.  However, when that person starts getting to know God, they realize that God is clear about this kind of thing in the Bible:  Leviticus 19:31  31 “ ‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.

The person starts to understand from reading up on the subject in the Word that God does not want anyone or anything to stand in between them and Him.  So oops!  Suddenly, the person realizes that by looking to see how the “stars” say their day is going, they have fallen into a state of looking to an idol, looking toward someone or something that is not God.

Think about it, if the person finds that the horoscope is right, and on occasion it will be by the law of averages, and that they are actually written so vaguely that they can be interpreted to be able to impact anyone….suddenly, that person is not making a move without consulting their daily horoscope, or palm reader, or something like that!  That is a form of worship…God says not to worship anyone, but Him. (Commandment #1)

So here is this person who has been living in ignorance of their sin, thinking that it is harmless…who suddenly realizes as they seek after God, that this really is a sin, and it is a serious sin at that!  (Not that all sin is not serious…in God’s eyes sin is sin.)

Now, they have the option to continue in that sin with their new knowledge, or to do as Jesus tells the man and the woman in the stories above…”Go and Sin no more!”  Or another way to say it is, “now that you know what you have been doing wrong, stop doing that!”

littleboy-610x406

Another two points to be made here:  1.) Temptation is not sin! (Jesus was tempted, yet he did not sin!), 2.)  We are not born already filled with sin because our parents were sinful-that idea of “original sin” was not introduced into the church until Augustine introduced it which was well after the time of Jesus and his Disciples!  Jesus and his Disciples believed in the idea of an “age of accountability” (Isaiah 7:14-16  14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.15“He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. 16 “For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”)

We are not told what this exact age is, and from study, I have concluded that it is different for each person, it is dependent on the moment when a person realizes what is right from wrong…or what is good and what is evil…what is sin and what is not.  We all know that this is not an age set in concrete…even our court systems recognize this…that is why sometimes there are people who commit crimes, yet are found to not be responsible for their actions…we recognize that everyone is not the same in maturity…some folks may have mental disabilities that mean they can never be held responsible for what they do because they cannot understand right from wrong.

We can know that the idea of “original sin” is not a credible idea because if we were all born sinful because our parents were sinful, then Jesus would have been automatically been born filled with sin and he would not have been a good example to us, nor an acceptable sacrifice for us..simply because he was born of a human woman.  We know that Jesus was not guilty of any sin, therefore we have to reject the idea of original sin…we have to reject the idea of being helpless to stop sinning! That idea comes from the evil one’s desire to keep us in bondage to sin…after all if we cannot help our sin then we can simply claim we have no responsibility for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that any person can get salvation for themselves without Jesus Christ…that is not the case…Salvation from sin comes through Jesus Christ and Christ alone…that is the forgiveness for sins…I am talking about the thought that we are helpless to keep from sinning on and on when we know something is a sin.  Jesus clearly tells us that we can stop sinning!

2Corinthians 5:21  21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

I will leave you with this thought:  God loves you…you are his precious child.  In response to the love God has for you…turn away from sin….go and sin no more…take salvation seriously…glorify God with the way you live your life. When you become aware of a sin…repent promptly…asking his forgiveness in the name of Christ…and return to your task of living a life which glorifies God.  Don’t let the evil one bind you with a lie about who you are based on what you have done.

Romans 8:38-39 

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 
39 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.

Advertisements

Experiencing God

friberg_burning_bush300x171

Exodus 3:3-5 

So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (NIV)

Genesis 32:30-31

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. (NIV)

When we look at Moses and Jacob they both had personal experience in meeting God.  In the case of Moses he met with God and the first thing he was told was to take off his shoes…God announced himself by reminding Moses of his Holiness.  Holy ground…I think a lot of time we forget to recognize God’s Holiness.  We take it for granted that he is Holy, but we don’t really take the time to recognize it, to truly be awed by it!  In other words, I think sometimes we treat God much too lightly.  To truly know God, then we must first recognize his Holiness, his sovereignty and his power as our creator.  Then we must recognize his overwhelming love for us…his creation.

Jacob and Moses both recognized these things about God.  They didn’t just randomly believe that God existed on some cerebral level.  They experienced God and by experiencing God….learned to understand exactly who God was in their lives….that God was present in a very real and personal way…right there with them…walking with them each day…only a prayer away.

There are so many people who believe in God and believe that God exists, but do not actually know who God is…they have never actually experienced God’s presence for themselves.  I find that to be one of the saddest things to realize.  I imagine that God finds it even more distressing that I do.  So many people who don’t actually seek God out and actively search to find who he is in their own lives.  They are content to just listen to others tell them who God is, or to never even give God a moment’s thought.  Many of them are intimidated by the Word of God…and are so afraid of misunderstanding it that they don’t even want to open it up and try to read it….although there are so many translations these days which are so much easier to read and understand…and there are so many great studies that can be done to understand it.

the_thinker2c_rodin_bergland

So, how can a person experience God and not just know about him intellectually with head knowledge?

The answer is very simple….pray…talk to God…talk to God with reverence, but not distance…recognize that we were created in God’s own image to serve God…to be in companionship with God….

Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Isaiah 43:5-7 “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back ‘ Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”

Jesus tells us that all of us who accept who he is, as our Redeemer and King…all of us who chose to become Disciples and follow what Jesus taught are given the right to be called the sons and daughters of God…we are adopted in as God’s children.

together-team-people-circle-hands-group-support

John 1:12-14 

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus also said that his Disciples are not his servants, but his friends.

John 15:13-15 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.

The most quoted verse from the Bible is John 3:16, but frequently it is only partially quoted…or partially understood…there is a very important part of that verse that is frequently over looked, or misunderstood.  The idea of “believes in him”…this is not a simple idea of just believing that Jesus exists and that he came to die in order to redeem us.  There is a more crucial deeper meaning….Meaning that believing that not only did Jesus the Christ exist, and come to die for people, but actually believing it to the point that you realize that you are counting on it being true to the depths of your soul.  You are not just believing because someone told you that it was a good idea and that you should believe it.  You are believe it because God has said that it is so and you believe God.  You are believing in God’s love for you.  The first part of that verse is “God so loved the world…”  

God loves us all so much that our continued separation from him is unthinkable…he went to such lengths as to send his dearly loved son to live a human life, and be tortured and abused…all for the purpose of redeeming us back to him…of showing us who God is and how strong God’s love for us is, in a personal, living and breathing way.

Redemption:  Where something is given in order to get something.  Jesus gave his life in every way…he devoted his living and breathing life to showing us who God is, and drew his last breath showing us who God is, then was resurrected to show us even more the power of God…who God is to us.

John 3:16-18 

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

So what did we learn from Jesus about who God is?  We learned that God is healing, loving, understanding, forgiving, holy and powerful.

We learned from Jesus that God wants us to be the same way toward our fellow man…loving, understanding, forgiving, holy and filled with the powerful, holy Spirit of God.

Jesus told his Disciples that every word he speaks and every action he does is only what God tells him to say and do.

John 12:48-50 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.”

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

There are many places in the Bible which tell us about God, we can see all through it how God worked in the lives of every day average people.  Most of us today are just every day average people…God is still working in our lives…he is still there for us to experience his companionship and love…we just have to seek him out…pray and God will reveal himself to you..each person travels a personal and individual road in getting to know God.

Just as no two people can get to know another person in exactly the same way…every friendship is different between people.  I have many friends, and each of our relationships are very individual…some of my friends know each other, and their relationships are also very individual.  We didn’t all get to know each other the same way because we all bring different personalities and life experiences to the friendship.

 

This is the same when we are seeking to build a relationship with God…we all have different levels of knowledge about God and we all have different backgrounds and experiences.  God created us as unique individuals…so our relationship with him is also unique and individual.

I really love hearing from different people about their relationship with God and how they have come to know him, and experience him in their lives.  It is so awesome to hear about the various ways that God has revealed himself to them, and how they have grown in faith.

There are many sincere worshippers who have never taken the step to seek out God…I implore you…if you are one of those folks…please take a moment and say a prayer to God asking him to reveal himself to you.  You will not regret seeking to draw closer to God.  It will give you God’s peace and contentment if you do.  Man’s peace is just the absence of war, God’s peace is an internal peace…a true peace.

Prayer is simple….just start out: Dear God….and tell God what is in your heart.  God already knows, so you may as well say it out loud and be honest…you won’t regret it!  Bare your soul to God!

praying-hands-public-domain

 

Meaningless things

IMG_5655Ecclesiastes 1:2  “Meaningless!  Meaningless!”says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (NIV)

Read: Ecclesiastes Chapters 1 and 2  The book of Ecclesiastes is thought to have been written by King Solomon and when you see verse one of Chapter one it seems to bear that thought out…as we also know that Solomon prayed for wisdom from God.  When I first read these two chapters I thought, “Well, how depressing can you get?  Solomon must have really been having a bad time of it when he wrote this.”  Then as I thought of it more there is a lot of truth in this.  We do all live and we all die..no matter how we live our lives…either foolishly, miserably, happily, contentedly, in anger, or in love…we all have a limited life span, and a physical death to look forward to in the end.  For some of us, the end comes sooner, and some much later, but we all have that ending to this physical life.

IMG_0996Also, it is true that we are generally forgotten once everyone who knew us is also dead.  We become just a name on an ancestral chart, or if you are one of those people who actually change the lives of a lot of other people your name may appear in a history book to torment students for many generations to come as to who you are and what you did…when you think of it that is pretty funny.  Names like Marie Curie, Sister Teresa, Jonas Salk…then there are other names that are more infamous…Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini we only wish we could forget those last three…unfortunately if we forget them, then we may not learn the lesson about humanity’s cruelty to humanity that we should remember and be aware of so we can guard against it and others who may appear who are like them.  So, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, is it all meaningless?  Well it might seem to be if you leave out the most important thing in life….your Creator, God!

The thing is that in 1:15 Solomon tells us that 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.”  Now, if we are looking at our ability to straighten things and count what is not there, then this is absolutely true.  However, God can see what is not there in a person, and also has the power to straighten up crooked things.  Only the power of God can do that.  God sees the potential in a person that is not readily visible to others.

crooked-forest-866294_1280

Ecclesiastes 1:18 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 also gives us a bit of truth…as we age we generally can look back and see what we did wrong, and then when we see a young person making the same mistake and cannot influence them with the wisdom we have acquired it does cause sorrow to us.  However, it is good if we can remember that we got through our unwise state and in many ways we are still unwise in our thoughts and actions.  Yet we can take comfort in knowing that God is also working on that youngster’s path in life, as he does on ours. We need to turn our griefs over to God and let him help us through them.  Jeremiah 29:11 For 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.

 

Ecclesiastes 1 New International Version (NIV)

Everything Is Meaningless

The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
    what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 1:1Or the leader of the assembly; also in verses 2 and 12

*************************************************************************************

In Ecclesiastes 2 Solomon starts talking about how meaningless Pleasure and work are in life.  He tells us that he thinks that laughter is madness and what does pleasure accomplish?

Well, as far as I am concerned…I think that Solomon may have forgotten that God invented laughter and pleasure and work.  God knows that laughter is good for us and wants us to have pleasure in the things in life, and have meaning in our work.

After all, God gave Adam a job right away in the Garden of Eden…he was told to name the animals, and care for the Garden.

Genesis 2:15  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

God tells us to have some rest and worship on the Sabbath Day…so God knows that rest is important to the renewing of ourselves to continue the work he has given us.

img_0654b

The thing is that Solomon tells us a few things about his pursuit of pleasure and work and it is pretty plain that he was not including God in his pursuit of pleasure or in his work.  That is why he came to the conclusion that it was all meaningless.

When we get down to the end of Ecclesiastes 2 we find that Solomon ended up with this very same conclusion…if you do everything in service to God, then God rewards that service with a sense of satisfaction in life.

Not so, for the person who is not serving God…they continue to run through life like a rat on an exercise wheel…until life runs out on them.

Solomon’s thoughts in 2:24-26 may be hard for some to accept, especially if they are running away from God.  It just comes down to one thing…either a person can have a fulfilling and meaningful life with God….or they can choose to run their own life…without God..which means that there is no more life after life…all that person has is the here and now and whatever satisfaction they can find in it.

Personally, I am happy that I have chosen not to live life without the inclusion of the Almighty God, my creator….because this means that not only do I have an after life to faithfully look forward to, but I can also share in God’s joy here on earth by doing the work he has given me to do.  I have assurance that there is meaning to life!

I am hoping and praying that all of you have that assurance also…that is how we all share in God’s joy…the joy of a sinner saved, and the joy of fellowship with God and with fellow believers.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

 296-1220233331pbar

Ecclesiastes 2 New International Version (NIV)

Pleasures Are Meaningless

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart.I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
    “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 2:8 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
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.

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.

IMG_0696

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

Great is your Reward

IMG_49481Corinthians 2:9  However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love him.

I find it to be interesting that the focus of many sermons is the rewards of following God…how we will be rewarded for our behavior or our faith when we get to heaven.  As if anyone who genuinely choses to follow Jesus Christ is doing so for the “rewards” that they might get!  Jesus called his Disciples his friends….now I don’t know about you, but I don’t approach my friends with any thought of what “reward” I can get from them.  The friendship is reward enough.

There are many many verses in the Bible that speak of God giving rewards to people, and we have many many pastors out there preaching about rewards.  This verse in 1Cor. 2:9 tells us that we cannot fathom all that God has prepared for us who love him.

That means that when we think of rewards we can probably cross off things of an earthly nature, from our thinking.  Not that God doesn’t care about those things that you need and desire in your life..he does.  However, face the facts…not every devoted Christian becomes endowed with worldly wealth.  My personal thinking is that if you need it to accomplish the purpose God has for your life, then he will provide it.  The main thing is to understand that having wealth is not a sin, but misusing it, or not recognizing that it is a gift (Even if you work for it, the abilities that allow you to attain it come from God… they are a gift…there are many people who work for it and yet never have it.)

So, lets look at this reward idea from another perspective instead of the material goods perspective.

What is the reward of being a Christian?  I know one of the first things we all think of is that we have been purified and salvation is ours.  While that is true, I don’t think of this as a reward.  Generally, we refer to that as a “gift” that Jesus gave us.  A reward implies something that we worked to earn in some way.  We all know that we cannot “earn” salvation, though there are many people that still try.

Proverbs 3:3-4  Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

So looking at Proverbs 3:3-4 we can see that one of the rewards of following God is that you win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Another way to put this is that you are viewed as a Godly, righteous person, both in the sight of God and in the sight of the people around you.  By living in love and faithfulness you become what Jesus told his Disciples to be….followers of Jesus…Fishers of Men…representing the loving nature of God to those around you…living witnesses to the message of the Kingdom of God.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

colored-flavors-for-cooking-6000x4000_23998

Luke 6:38 is many times taken out of context, but the good measure spoken of here is connected to verse 37 which speaks about being judgmental and condemning of others.  We can just as well paraphrase this verse to say…”Give forgiveness, and love generously to others.”

Those who cook can understand the idea of a “good measure”…it means not to be skimpy in your measurement of an ingredient because it effects the outcome of the thing you are cooking.  So being generous in our measure of forgiveness to others and in our loving of others will effect how they respond to us as people…it effects how they respond to your claim of Christianity also.  God is telling us that we should be quick to forgive and generous in doing so.  Looking at this from a reward perspective…the reward for this is that God will judge your misdeeds with the same measure that you judge others.  If you judge others harshly then you can expect the same from God.  So the benefit of being loving and forgiving toward others is that God is the same to you, and also your earthly benefit is that you will have many more friends and loved ones, and when you tell someone that you are a Christian then they will be apt to believe you and perhaps wish to find out more about your Christianity.

Face it! There is no one who has ever been hated into loving God!

Jesus is the only one qualified to say where a person is going to end up.  He is the only judge.  The pressure is off! You and I are not required to fix the world by standing in judgement on others!  I think, what a relief!  What a reward!  God’s requirement for us is to love the person and show them who God is in our lives by the way we live and love others, and love God.

Please don’t confuse being the type of judgment spoken of here, (which is being condemning) and using good judgement in dealing with others.  

Another reward we have from following God is to be at peace with God, and to have God’s peace in our lives.  Gaining this peace comes from turning our lives over to God and submitting to him.  Part of that submission which leads to earthly peace is to learn to have a habit of forgiving others.  Forgiveness is like that…the more you do it…the easier it becomes…it is habit forming!  The more you forgive the more peace you have in your heart.

God tells us to forgive, not for the person who has done wrong’s benefit, but for our own benefit.  A horrible thing happens to us when we do not forgive….we have anger that moves through us at the thought of that person…until we are consumed with bitterness.  This is unhealthy and usually doesn’t make the other person feel bad at all.  We are not to wait for the person to ask us for forgiveness….we need to be working on it as soon as we have been wronged so that if they ever do ask, then we can be the person who can smile peacefully and sincerely tell that person that we already forgave them for that a while back!  I can tell you that this is a wonderful feeling to have because you don’t need to worry about your expression or anything…it is a feeling of freedom to be able to forgive people readily.  That is quite a reward….it leads to a peace that surpasses any worldly understanding.  A peace of heart.cb9abd0f57c415832936240661835956

Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I really have no idea what reward God may have for his believers in heaven, but I can tell you that for myself, I have found that living in relationship with God on a daily basis is reward enough.  It is a great reward to go through life and enjoy the pleasure of God’s company through good times and bad..to know that you are truly never alone…and also to be able to celebrate the salvation of another person as they learn and get excited to follow God..to watch their life of faith begin and continue…to be part of a larger family…as Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:48   48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

The reward that God gives us in this life is relationship…with him and with others around us.  There are many small gifts along the way  that God may give you (he is good to do that), but relationship is to my way of thinking the primary “reward” for following God.  In short, God’s idea of a reward does not correspond to the earthly ideas of position in society, lording it over others, or monetary rewards…his idea of a reward is relationship with him and with those around you…more love in your life!

I think the reward that most of us who are Christians want from God is said very well in Matthew 25:21

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

 

 

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.

**********************

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

 

The Mighty God

joshua-4-24-the-lord-is-mighty

Deuteronomy 10:17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 

Read Deuteronomy Chapter 10.  Note that the tablets talked about are the replacements for the 10 commandments which were broken over the Golden Calf idol worship.  This chapter gives instructions on how we are to relate to God and to others.  God is a mighty and awesome God. 

Think about what it means to be “mighty”…that is not a word that is really used a lot anymore, but when I was a kid usually it was used in connection with someone being “mighty” pleased, or “mighty” upset…so that gives us a bit of a basis for the idea.  It gives the sense of something that is “as pleased as you can possibly be” or “as upset as you can possibly be”…the key is that it is as “much as you can possibly be”…that is to say extreme or excessive..this is the most common usage…but there is another usage.

mighty_mouse_using_pop_art_style_by_duceduc-d561xzj2There used to be a cartoon when I was younger called “Mighty Mouse”…well, Mighty Mouse was a very strong mouse…super hero category…I always felt that the use of a mouse as a character to be “Mighty” was an interesting thing.  When you look at mice there is nothing about them that is strong or mighty…they are unnoticeable, except in their capacity to get into bins and such and places that you think are secure and eat your stuff.  However, they do have a “mighty” capacity for doing that type of thing for sure.

In the Old Testament we read of the use of the word “Mighty” in connection to King David and his “Mighty Men”.  (2Samuel 23:8-39)   When we read these verses we see that the Bible uses the term “mighty” in the same capacity as the use of “Mighty Mouse”  to mean excessively strong and powerful – over and above the average person.  Super Hero quality strength.  Think of God in light of that definition.

There are many stories in the Bible about God’s activities which are amazing, so amazing that if we were not talking about God they would be unbelievable…funny thing is that when you look at King David, he was not at all “mighty” to start with, he was a young man who watched over the family sheep!  When he was anointed King, Samuel looked at all his brothers, and kept asking God, “How about this one?  Is he the one?”  God just kept saying, “No, that’s not the one.”  Samuel even thought he had run out of Jesse’s sons when God had rejected them all, but come to find out it was the youngest, the least “mighty” of them all whom God chose.  If you ask yourself, why?  Well the answer is that God uses the “mice” of this world the most often because then His Glory and His Mightiness shows through to us..that way there is no mistake in our minds about who is doing this great thing…God or the person he chose to empower to act for His Glory.

If a person is all “look at me!  See how strong  am!  Look what can do!”  Then who is taking the credit?  Well, that person is obviously taking the credit for the gifts that God Almighty has given to them in the way of talents and abilities…they are not giving God the glory.  In Exodus Chapter 20 God lays down his basic laws of behavior to the Israelites and also to us who are Christians…(now keep in mind that the law does not save you..no one gets salvation through the law!)

If you look at verse 5 God tells us that he is a jealous God…he is a God of love, but also a God of judgement.  Then look down at verses 18-21…it tells us that the people of Israel trembled and feared the bit of God that they saw…they were so in “awe” of God’s “mighty” power that they were afraid to approach or even talk to God…they told Moses, “You go talk to him, then come back and tell us what he says!”

If we were faced with the same situation today…would we be doing the same thing?  Would we be standing in fear and asking someone else to talk to God for us?  That is not what God wants…he wanted, even then, to have a relationship with his people, but relationships require trust, and time to build.  God recognizes this and is patient with us.  The more “mighty” the person, the harder we feel it is to get close to them…many people are still putting God at a distance…or disregarding him altogether…until they need that “Mighty and Awesome God” to help them through tough times in their lives.  God is always there for us, he is ready and willing to let us lean on his “mightiness” and recognize that he is worthy of our “awe.”

Our reverence…

….our worship.

God, “the Mighty and Awesome God” loves us without reservation, even knowing everything about us … good and bad!

img

Exodus Chapter 20

Then God spoke all these words, saying,

      2“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

      3“You shall have no other gods before Me.

      4“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

      7“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

      8“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.11“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

      12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

      13“You shall not murder.

      14“You shall not commit adultery.

      15“You shall not steal.

      16“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

      17“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

      18All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

      22Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. 23‘You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. 24‘You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. 25‘If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. 26‘And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.’

Everlasting Father

scan-53
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

cb9abd0f57c415832936240661835956

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!

God’s Good Works are Completed

female-easter-tiger-swallow-tail-butterflyPhilippians 1:1-6 Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi together with the overseers and deacons grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God every time I remember you and all my prayers for all of you.  I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Read Luke 8:2, Matthew 27:56-61,Luke 24:1-10 in this order, they are about Mary Magdalene.  As you can see from the verses God began a good work in her and it continued.

Luke 8:2  and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out. (NIV)

Matthew 27:56-61 (ESV)

56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Luke 24:1-10 (NIV)

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.

Sometimes it is hard for us to see when God is doing a good work in someone.  This is especially true if we are a person who has been hurt by other people.  The tendency is to remain skeptical about changes in other people until they are proven.  Recently in this regard I was asked by someone when I said that I was still observing a person for change, “when will you know they have changed?  How can you be sure?”  Well, I personally had figured out a goal that when I observe it I would know that particular person had truly changed.  The Bible tells us to be wary of being deceived.  We are told to put on the full armor of God among the armor of God is the belt of truth.  (Ephesians 6:14)

The only way to be sure a person has changed, is to have this belt of truth on and observe.  The thing is the belt of truth can also protect us from deceiving ourselves in thinking that a person in whom God has completed a good work has not changed at all.  We can deceive ourselves by refusing to see that change.  Then that becomes a form of pride, as it causes us to believe that we are superior to that person in some way, and this is also a disobedience of the 2nd great commandment that Jesus gave us…to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Titus 3 Reminds us that we are only saved through the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ…so there is no need for any of us to get a big head about our salvation.  The fact is that most of the good work that God has done in us is still continuing to be done.  There was a t-shirt slogan that came out when I was a kid…”Wait!  God isn’t done with me yet!”  Some of God’s good works are immediately evident, and some take more time to come to fruition…so don’t write off a “good work in progress” as a “good work gone bad”.

Titus 3:3-6 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,