Your Opinion or God’s Standard?

peter-paul-simon-magus-neroProverbs 14:12  There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Read Acts 8:9-25 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

 

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.

 

This is the story of Simon the Sorcerer.  He thought that he could buy the gift of God with money.  Peter told him that he needed to get right with God and put aside his bitterness and become free from sin.  Simon was trying to have God by his own standards, and not live by God’s standards.  The thing about having God in your life, is that you cannot chose to accept some of his word, and reject the parts you don’t like.  Even when society wants you to believe that if you chose God’s way, then you are just being mean! 

We must do everything with love towards each other, and nothing in hatred.  However, do not get confused loving someone does not mean that you have to be okay with  everything they do and think that everything they do is good and correct.  That kind of thinking does not lead to a good relationship with anyone.  On the contrary, it will lead to bitterness and resentment toward the other person.  Bitterness and resentment eventually will lead to hatred. That is why God wants us to be forgiving toward others, but again, we do  not have to agree with their every action as being right, in order to love them.  Healthy relationships allow for a difference of opinion.

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God allows us to follow our own way, our own opinion, but whenever we do this, we get further from God, instead of closer to him.  That is our choice…God gave us this free choice.  Just as we draw closer to the people we love whenever we are united with them in thoughts; we draw closer to God when we follow his way of doing things.

When dealing with people we have to have an “agree to disagree” ability on some issues.  Sometimes an issue needs to be set aside for a while and more information gathered then revisited.  The thing to remember in dealing with God is that God has all the information already and has already determined the best way for people to be in relationship with him and with each other.  We, here on earth, never have all the information.

People make mistakes and wrong choices through their lack of knowledge of God, or just willfully choosing to sin.  Jesus said, in Matthew 19:19 Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you love yourself, then you need to be honest with yourself as to what your faults and sins are and confess them to God. 

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We do not have to confess all of our faults to others; they may not understand and may be judgmental and condemning of our faults.  People are very frail, emotionally, and we tend to be unreasonably judgmental toward others in their wrong doings…even though we all have wrong doings of our own.  Many times the person being judgmental just doesn’t have the correct understanding of sin, forgiveness and love…another way to look at it is that they may not be spiritually mature yet.  Sin can be kept between ourselves and God and left at the altar of our confession and repentance.

We do not have to unburden and shout our specific sins from the roof tops and tell the world.

Though depending on the sin, some things may need to be addressed to another person who is involved by way of apology to them…that is making amends with them as far as possible.

Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Remember, God’s forgiveness is complete and total…we can freely unburden ourselves to God and walk away from the altar knowing that he loves us and understands us… that he has all of the information about our guilt or innocence in every circumstance.  God is not forgiving us without understanding the totality of our sinfulness.

The thing is that in order to confess our sins we first have to realize in our hearts and minds what they are.  A peculiar thing that I have found as a growing Christian is that my realization as to what my sins are grows as I grow.  Some things that I have been sinful in doing either haven’t bothered me enough to address it, or I have not realized that it was a sin at all.

Psalm 19:12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

That is kind of what the Bible verse means that talks about trying to get a splinter out of someone else’s eye when you have a big old fence post in your own eye. If you cannot clearly see your own sins to deal with them rightly, then how in the world are you going to be able to accurately figure out what someone else’s sin is and how to deal with it.  Another way to see that verse in more common terms would be like the “blind leading the blind”…it just doesn’t work…you both just bump into everything!

Luke 6:41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

log-in-eye

God is wonderful to reveal our sins to us a bit at a time so that we are not overwhelmed with how awful some of our actions are, in God’s eyes.  That is one of the most wonderful things about God’s love and viewing God as a Father to us…he is not in a hurry with us.  God has a lifelong plan for each of us and wants to mold us into the very best person that we can be day after day, year after year…drawing us ever closer to him.

All we have to do is to act in faith and faithfully believe in God and that God knows what is right and wrong.  We have to trust that what God says is right is actually right, and what God says is wrong is actually wrong.  We also have to study God’s word and talk to God so that we can come to understand for ourselves exactly what is right and what is wrong in God’s eyes…and how we can best live out our faith.

We need to stop making other people’s sins our business…and focus on our own. Whether someone drinks, smokes, cusses, dresses scantily, lives with their boyfriend, or girlfriend…those things are not our business to tell them about…unless they are a person who is saying that they are within the body of Christ…then as a fellow Christian who loves them it may be that there comes a gentle way to introduce the subject to them and remind them of God’s way being the way they have decided to follow in their lives and that they are off the mark.

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However, not every fellow Christian needs to butt into other Christian’s lives and discuss these things…you have to be in a relationship with that person that is close enough for your words to them to be considered loving and to be accepted.  You cannot just randomly walk up to someone in your church whom you don’t have a relationship with and start telling them what they are doing wrong in God’s eyes.  All you will do is alienate them from both you, your church, and possibly from God…you will be seen as a hateful and judgmental and condemning person…not as the loving person that you intended to be.  If someone is not calling themselves a Christian then you cannot hold them to God’s standard of living.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

A person’s sin is always between them and God, not between them and us!  It is possible that God has not yet revealed or convicted that person about their sin being something that needs to be taken care of yet.  So we cannot go around like a sledgehammer banging them over the head with it!

This is a huge problem in Christian circles…we all want to go and fix all the world’s problems by shouting out…”That’s wrong!  That’s a sin!  They shouldn’t be doing that!”  If we take a look at how Jesus handled things we can see that other than him booting the money changers out of the temple…he was always very gentle and kind in dealing with people’s sins.  We as Christians need to remember that!  There are no people in this world who have ever and I do mean ever, been hated, or harassed into loving God.  Hatred and condemnation only gain more hatred and condemnation.  

Proverbs 3:30 Do not contend with a man without cause, If he has done you no harm.

Sometimes when we represent what God says is right in dealing with others we do it in the most wrong way possible…making the person feel that they have committed an unpardonable sin by going on and on about a specific issue will not lead them to repentance and into relationship with God.  It is more likely that they will feel rejected by both man and God.  Haven’t you ever done something and felt that it could not be redeemed so you said, “To heck with it then!”  and just continued in the same path feeling that nothing could be done about it?

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Our goal as Christians should be to bring others to genuine repentance and into a closer relationship with God, so that they can then bring others to genuine repentance and into a closer relationship with God…and so on and so forth!  Our goal is to become united in our relationship with each other and with God.

1Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Challenge: Get a jar, or some sort of container and make it a bank that every time you sin by trying to ignore God’s standard you must put a coin in the bank.  When the bank gets full, then you give the money to a Godly cause (not yourself!)…Remember God’s standard is a standard of love!  Sometimes the need for love in a person’s life actually trumps the letter of the law….that is what grace is about…loving someone and showing them love when they or we don’t deserve it at all!

Rob & Mickey 1965

1Corinthians 13:4-7 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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The Confusing Knowledge of Good and Evil

garden-of-eden

Read Genesis Chapter 3

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring  and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam named his wife Eve,  because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Looking at the Garden of Eden God mankind gained the knowledge of Good and Evil from eating the forbidden fruit….but does this mean that they while knowing that there is Good and there is Evil (which destroyed their innocence) that they understood what is good and what is evil? No, it doesn’t seem so.  For instance, it obviously was not a sin in the Garden of Eden to be in a state of nakedness…if it was then God would have clothed man right off the bat, wouldn’t he? Yet, their response to this new “knowledge of good and evil” was to notice that they were naked and go and hide from God…in fear.

I kind of picture this as the same reaction as a deer when the headlights of an oncoming car get into its face….it knows that something is outside of the norm and knows that this is scary, but doesn’t know exactly why or what to do about it.

Another way to examine this issue is to think what it is like whenever we have to go to a place where we don’t know anyone.  Most of us feel quite a bit of concern and stress, anxiety and fear even about these kind of new situations.  I ran into a person at my church this past weekend….she came into the door, and told us that she had passed by many times, but was really afraid to come in.

To hear this, you would think that we were not a nice place, or had a bad reputation, but that is not the case at all.  The lady was simply verbalizing the common fear almost all of us have of new groups and situations.

The question is why do we have this fear?  If we really analyze it the answer is clear….anytime we enter a new group of any kind and especially when we don’t know anyone there…we have a very tough situation…a tough question must be answered…we ask ourselves:  “What if I don’t fit in?  What are the rules of this group?…how do I learn them?…What if I make a mistake because I don’t know the rules?!!  How uncomfortable will I become? How embarrassed will I become?”

So now, let us revisit the Garden of Eden situation here…doesn’t it seem like that even though they were suddenly aware that Good and Evil existed that they did not really understand what Good and what Evil were?

When God deals with them there are certainly consequences to their disobedience…they obviously knew that they had disobeyed, but the mindset they had was not one of sorrow and repentance…it was the mindset of “who can I blame that will let me off the hook?” (Doesn’t seem like much has changed for mankind in all these centuries since Adam and Eve’s time, does it?!)

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The thing is that God sent them out of the Garden and their act of disobedience definitely had consequences…hard labor both for Adam and for Eve….the earth itself was put under a curse.  The peculiar thing is that it seems that God is saying that the curse was because of Adam and Eve and the serpent….it doesn’t say that God was “kicking them out of the garden because he was mad at them”.  It does tell us that God was sending them out of the garden to keep them from eating from the tree of life.

Now I have heard the idea that this was a protection for them, so that their state of sin would not be permanent.  Mankind and the earth would not be permanently cursed.  I think we have all seen movies and read stories about immortals who are self-centered and destructive…after all what have they got to lose…they are not able to be killed so they can do anything they want.  That is the problem with someone who lives forever, but has no moral compass, no compassion, no love for others.

One of the things not mentioned in Genesis 3 is anything about love. Desire is mentioned…desire for the apple, desire for the husband…all of these are fleshly desires, but no mention is made of tender love and concern for one another.  There is no evidence of it at all…just desire, and blame.

John 15:1-25 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prune so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

The World Hates the Disciples

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

The thing is we are all born as selfish and self centered human beings…we have to be taught how to love and care for others and put their needs above our own.  By setting Adam and Eve outside the garden in a situation where they had to struggle in their everyday life God put them into a situation where they would learn to rely on one another and need each other…where they would have to learn to care about the other person for their own survival.  Now, some of you may think this is just plain mean…but to be truthful…it is tough parenting…God style.  They could have obeyed and remained in the Garden, yet they chose not to do so.  God was not surprised by this choice!

So, now we have people struggling day after day to figure out what is good and what is evil. Another way of saying it is…”What are the rules?  So that I don’t get into trouble?”

2 Cor 10: 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

In a parenting magazine when my first child was born I read what turned out to be very sound advice:  “Kids like to know that you are in charge…because if you are not in charge, then they are in charge, and being in charge is scary…therefore, kids like routine because it is comforting and shows that you have things under control and that you are in charge.”  Or “kids like rules and boundaries.”

adorable-20374_1280Ephesians 6:1-3  1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 
2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 
3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

To God we are all children, and God is a wonderful parent.  So he lovingly gave us a set of rules to live by…the rules were not given to us so that we can feel condemned or hemmed in, or constrained.  Though many times that is the attitude we hear from people about God’s rules.  People many times have been given the impression that God is mad, and mean, and just gave us a bunch of dos and don’ts so that we can be kept under control and have no fun at all in life!  Nothing could be further from the truth!

God gave us his laws so that we would not be like the deer standing in the head lights…scared and confused and unsure of what to do…or how to please God.  God gave us his laws because he loves us and wants to clear up the issue of exactly what is Good and what is Evil?  How can we tell one thing from the other.  He sent his son to further clarify what is Good and what is Evil by living out for us in a normal day to day life how to abide by God’s law.  While we were in a state of sin, outside the Garden of Eden, God loved us so much that he gave us both his laws, and his son.  His laws so that we can live together in peace and harmony in a Godly way, and his son so that we can understand how to draw close to God and what God considers important in our daily walk with him.

I am a parent, both my children are adults, and I can tell you that no matter how many of the rules my children broke or what they do in their lives I will always, always love them.  Yes, sometimes, I have been mad at them and disappointed in them..as I am sure my parents were at times mad at me and disappointed in me…but there has never been a moment that I have not loved my children.  There never will be a moment when I won’t love them.

That is how God, the Father, feels about me and about you…sometimes we don’t follow his law…we miss the mark (sin) or even, willfully, disobey a command, but when we turn back to God, the Father, with a heart of sorrow and apologize…God forgives…just like we earthly parents forgive our children.

There are penalties to sin that cannot be avoided on this earth…if you steal you can be put in jail, if you kill you can be put in jail, or killed yourself, if you lie, then you lose the trust of those you have lied to…etc.  There are some penalties or responsibilities that have to be taken for doing the wrong things, but God is gracious to forgive and restore your place in relationship with him regardless of the penalties you have to face.  God says, I will be with you always to the ends of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

God’s law is a law of love..he gave us those laws because he loves us…unendingly…eternally…God loves us!  Each and every one of us!

John 3:16-21 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. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

The Value of Wisdom

IMG_1400Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Read Proverbs chapter 8  This is why wisdom is so important.

Read 1 Kings 3:1-15  This is where Solomon asks for wisdom instead of riches, so that he may rule well.

Note:  Although Solomon states that he is a child, in verse one you see that he is getting married so he was at least a teenager, however compared to his court officials he was in the ways of worldly experience a child.

Proverbs 8  New International Version (NIV)

Wisdom’s Call

Does not wisdom call out?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
    where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
    at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
    I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
    you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.[a]
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
    they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
    knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
    I possess knowledge and discretion.
13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech.
14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
    I have insight, I have power.
15 By me kings reign
    and rulers issue decrees that are just;
16 by me princes govern,
    and nobles—all who rule on earth.[b]
17 I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me.
18 With me are riches and honor,
    enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
    what I yield surpasses choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
    along the paths of justice,
21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
    and making their treasuries full.

22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,[c][d]
    before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30     Then I was constantly[e] at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.

32 “Now then, my children, listen to me;
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
    do not disregard it.
34 Blessed are those who listen to me,
    watching daily at my doors,
    waiting at my doorway.
35 For those who find me find life
    and receive favor from the Lord.
36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
    all who hate me love death.”

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 8:5 Septuagint; Hebrew foolish, instruct your minds
  2. Proverbs 8:16 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint; other Hebrew manuscripts all righteous rulers
  3. Proverbs 8:22 Or way; or dominion
  4. Proverbs 8:22 Or The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work; or The Lord brought me forth at the beginning of his work
  5. Proverbs 8:30 Or was the artisan; or was a little child

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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1 Kings 3:1-15 (NIV)

Solomon Asks for Wisdom

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem. The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.

He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.

 

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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15203147_10154727143009104_2528749350897290883_nWhen we read about God’s wisdom it becomes clear that it is not anything like the “wisdom” of this world.  The wisdom of this world tells us that people are “worth” more or less depending on what they are skilled in doing…what their job in life is.  When we read about God’s wisdom it becomes clear that God values each and every person as his creation…he values the widows and the orphans just as much as he values the King.  He values those who are childless as much as he values those who have children.  He values the old as much as he values the young.  To God each and every one of us is his created masterpiece.  God wants nothing more than for us to realize this fact and turn to him and be in relationship with him.  He wants us to desire to be in relationship with him.  In Proverbs 8:17 God tells us that “I love those who love me,and those who seek me find me.”  In 8:19 We are told: “My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver,” and in 8:20   “I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,”  

These are just a few of the verses that give us a look at God’s wisdom.  God’s wisdom allows for the world to be full of very different people with different skills and backgrounds and personalities…colorful people with amazing gifts.

Satan’s wisdom says that people must all be the same, and all must agree on everything, and only the smartest and those who can make the most income are worth anything, that all others are worthless.  Satan’s wisdom is a wisdom of divisiveness and hatred…of looking down on others because they are different.

Personally, I prefer to live under God’s wisdom. God has guidelines for us to live by so that we can live in peace with each other…so that we can appreciate the differences we all have and make the best use of each other’s gifts to serve God and to show his love to others.  God calls these guidelines his law…the law is something that we should be grateful to have instead of hating it.  Yet we are children and do not know how to understand God’s wisdom.  In many cases we think in our own wisdom that God is trying to take the fun out of life.

Isn’t that how children act when parents give them the rules they should be living by?  Children wish to test the boundaries of the rules…because they don’t understand the intent of the rule is to protect them and show them the way that they should go in life.  God’s rules are given to us for the same purpose…to protect us and grow us slowly through our lives…to keep us from harming ourselves or others while we are going through life…until we can grow close to God and understand God’s wisdom better and learn to love ourselves and others the way God loves all of us.

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Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

You should remember —> You are God’s masterpiece…and you are worth so much to him that he sent his son to die for you so that you can be redeemed and brought back into close relationship with God…but you have to accept this as a fact for your redemption to take place.

 

Sinning in Ignorance

highpriestHebrews 5:1-2  Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Read: 1 Samuel 14:1- 46  This is the story of Jonathon breaking a law in innocence, he didn’t know that there was a law, and God protected him from injustice. 

1Samuel 14: One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.

Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.

On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our signthat the Lord has given them into our hands.”

11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him.14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.

Israel Routs the Philistines

15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.[a]

16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions.17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.

18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.)[b]19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hiddenin the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.

Jonathan Eats Honey

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24 Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.

25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened.[c]28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

31 That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Mikmash to Aijalon,they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.”

“You have broken faith,” he said. “Roll a large stone over here at once.” 34 Then he said, “Go out among the men and tell them, ‘Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’”

So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had done this.

36 Saul said, “Let us go down and pursue the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.”

“Do whatever seems best to you,” they replied.

But the priest said, “Let us inquire of God here.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down and pursue the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.

38 Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” But not one of them said a word.

40 Saul then said to all the Israelites, “You stand over there; I and Jonathan my son will stand over here.”

“Do what seems best to you,” they replied.

41 Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, “Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault,[d] respond with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. 42 Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken.

43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.”

So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now I must die!”

44 Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.”

45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.

46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and they withdrew to their own land.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Samuel 14:15 Or a terrible panic
  2. 1 Samuel 14:18 Hebrew; Septuagint “Bring the ephod.” (At that time he wore the ephod before the Israelites.)
  3. 1 Samuel 14:27 Or his strength was renewed; similarly in verse 29
  4. 1 Samuel 14:41 Septuagint; Hebrew does not have “Why … at fault.
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.

I really like this story because it shows a lot about the character of Saul and of the character of Jonathon, his son, but most importantly it is a great illustration of the character of God.  We see many times when reading about Saul that he is actually more interested in what men think of him and how to get what he wants than he is in finding out what God wants.  In this story, the Priest had to remind him that they should seek God’s will in what they were doing.  Saul didn’t punish his men for breaking God’s law, (eating meat with blood still in it)but he was going to put his son to death for breaking an oath that he forced on his men…to fast until evening.  Yet, if you look at that oath Saul demanded of his men, he was asking them to expend a lot of physical energy and yet not be “fueled” physically for the job.  Saul’s temperament was very much that of an “in the moment” type of person…rapid decisions on the spot without taking God into account most of the time until after the fact.  Personally, I find that King Saul’s character was very harsh, seems like he would be an uncomfortable person to be around.

Jonathon, on the other hand in all the readings about him, seems to have been a very sweet, and contemplative person…who was steadfast toward his friends and toward his father.  A person of action, but actions that he considered beforehand, and  looked to God for his answers.  Even when we find that God has made David the anointed future King of Israel…Jonathon does not complain…he simply accepts what his God has ordained…he states that he knows that he will be “second in command”.  Imagine that kind of faith?  Jonathon knows that whatever God ordains will come to pass, and that it will be best for everyone.  He trusted God.  He was even ready to die for eating a bit of honey if that is what God ordained.  God did not so ordain and used the men around Jonathon to open Saul’s eyes that God had used his son that day in order to give them victory over the Philistines. The glory always belongs to God.

1Samuel 23:17  

17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (NIV)

 

We need to always remember to seek God first…if our intention is to seek God and live the way that God wishes us to live, then we can be confident that God will understand our mistakes.  God knows who we are, and what our intentions toward him are in our lives.  If we commit a sin, and we don’t really understand that it is a sin, then God is a God of justice.  If a person is truly seeking the Lord, then he will eventually find a way to open that person’s eyes to their sin.  Even the unknown ones.

Imagine how hard it would be if we all in seeking God were suddenly faced with ALL of our wrong doings in life…ALL of the things that we were sinful in doing, AND expected to FIX them all immediately before being drawn into a relationship with God?

It would not just be hard, it would be impossible!  If that were the requirement then none of us would be able to draw close to God…ever!  Thankfully, we have a loving God who has provided a way for us, through Jesus the Christ, to turn away from our sins and draw closer to him.  God is merciful and allows us to be helped by him in working through our sinful issues one by one as we go through life.  It is an amazing thing to me…when I first really started actively drawing closer to God I had a mental list of what my sins were…now I can laugh at the small number of them (though I thought at the time they the number was large enough…after all one is too many…that is why we need Jesus!).

The thing is that we all have sins that we don’t even recognize yet…it takes time with God for him to reveal them to us.  It is his love for you and me that he does this for us.   As we are able to set aside and grow away from our sins one by one we can grow closer to God and grow into the peace of heart, mind and soul that God wishes us to have in our life.

We are just like babies in dealing with our sins and in dealing with God.  Babies don’t understand the concepts of friendship or sharing, but usually by the time they are, say, 10 years old, hopefully their parents have taught to understand how to be a good friend, and that people share things, and selfishness is wrong.

It is really important to remember that God loves us even when we are sinning, but that our sins separate us from God.  So as soon as we recognize a sin, we should ask God to forgive us, and help us to turn away from that sin.  Remember John 3:16

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.

God does not  want anyone to perish!  God loves us…he is not mad at us…he wants what is best for us…and following is plan for our life is what is best, but in order to come to know that plan….we have to seek God out with all of our hearts!

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Something to think about:   Are there times when you have done the wrong thing for what you think are the right reasons, but then you find out that you cannot justify doing the wrong thing for any reason?  

Is there a time  when you have unknowingly done the wrong thing?  For instance, you try to patch up some friends who are disagreeing and they get mad at you because of your methods.  Perhaps you tricked them into being in the same place at the same time, or you lied to them to get them to make up.  What happened when the lie came out? 

Perhaps you ate a piece of cake not knowing that the cake was supposed to go to a bake sale, and not be eaten at home.  You didn’t intentionally do the wrong thing, but it turned out that you had done the wrong thing.

God sees these kinds of things and realizes what we are doing…even if we think that no one sees us…God knows what is going on all of the time.  God sees things through the eyes of love!  

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This is my dog, Leia.  She is getting old now, but she is always happy to see me and just wants to be with me. I really appreciate  how God supplied me with pets who let me see such a simple and straight forward happiness. 

Paul’s Authority and Mission

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Dave makes some really wonderful points here about how Paul the Apostle is often taken out of context and seems to be at odds with the Apostles and Judaism with what he says.

I heard a sermon on the radio today in which the entire scope of the sermon was on how Paul was the “only” authorized Disciple to the Gentiles….it was presented that Paul was essentially the only one we as Christians needed to listen to and worry about listening to in our Bible.

Whether that was the Preacher’s intent or not…that is the message he was handing out quite passionately.  He completely ignored the fact that the first person to deal with the Gentiles aside from Jesus was Peter the Apostle (Acts 10) who went to see Cornelius the Gentile and his family.  Peter was called upon by the Holy Spirit to go and see Cornelius and his family, and the Holy Spirit told Cornelius to send some men to go and get Peter, whom he had never met before.  Peter witnessed this important thing when he went there, that although Cornelius and his people were all Gentiles (non-Jews) God gave them the Holy Spirit also.  This was an important thing when it came to the decision of the Apostles about how Gentiles could remain as they were (Gentiles) and still be included in the Salvation offered by God.

Many of our Christian Churches over the centuries and still today have doctrine that takes Paul out of context and forgets that Paul as well as the other Disciples and Jesus, himself…were all practicing Jews…they did not forsake the practice of their faith in order to accept Jesus..they still kept Sabbath and Passover, and the other Jewish Holidays….they were still Jewish until their deaths…although they had recognized and accepted the Messiah as the source of their salvation.  Jesus was a devout practicing Jew…he could not have kept the law perfectly if he had not been.

So what does this mean to us?  This means that Paul who was a Pharisee who was the son of a Pharisee, who was trained by a famous Pharisee (Gamaliel) was still a Pharisee even while he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  He was still a Jew….he still honored Jewish traditions and laws, but he understood that the law is not the source of salvation. He understood that Repentance and acceptance of the Messiah, pursuing God was the source of salvation….relationship with God.  As Dave says in this Video…Paul was not a rogue who was separate from the Disciples.  He was under the Disciples authority…he was commissioned by them (as well as Jesus – Acts 22:21) to go and preach to the Gentiles. The Disciples understood that Paul had been authorized by Jesus as the Disciple to the Gentiles and they followed the Holy Spirit’s wishes and sent him out to them in obedience to God.

Paul tells us to be who we are…if we are Jews to be Jews who accept the Messiah, and if we are Gentiles to be Gentiles who accept the Messiah.  We are to accept Jesus where ever we are and be the person that God created us to be, as we are all unique individuals and God has a plan for each and every one of us in how we are to serve him.

Dave gets a lot deeper into this idea in his video and makes some very impressive points about Paul and his Mission/Ministry.  I encourage you to give it a watch.

It is interesting to look at the scripture in the context of how the Disciples would have understood things from their position as Jews.

Source: Paul’s Authority and Mission

The Devourer’s of Widow’s houses

IMG_2256Luke 20:45-47 45 Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

I was having a conversation with my Mother last week and she mentioned the widow’s mite and I felt compelled to go and reread it.  Many times I have heard people quote this story as if it were another of Jesus’ parables and say things like  “The Widow was more blessed than all the rest because she gave everything she had to God!”  I have heard this story used to say that we should give our all to God.

While it is true that we should give ourselves fully over to God I don’t believe that it is in God’s nature, nor is it in scripture that God would like people to starve in order to pay tithe.  In fact, if you look at Luke 20:45-47, it is pretty obvious that Jesus is condemning the scribes for “devouring the widow’s houses”.  Now, I look at that along with Luke 21:1-4 where Jesus is standing there and observing this woman put in all she had to live on and it seems that Jesus is saying that the scribes are actually at fault for making this poor woman believe that in order to be accepted by God she needs to give everything she has to live on…even if it means she must starve.

Now there are other places that we can go in scripture to back up the idea that God takes care of his people and he puts the people and their well being above following the law.

For instance:  Mark 2:23-27 

23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him?

26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

(1Samuel 21:7 for the scripture about David and his men.)

When we look at Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Many times you will hear folks say, “Blessed are the Poor” and then leave it at that…the complete statement is Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Now that is a completely different idea…there is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount which is talking about wealth or poverty of material goods.  Everything is talking about attitude toward God and toward others in life.

When I read the idea of the Poor in Spirit…I think it is about being selfless in your attitude in life.  You are always looking toward the needs of others, and what God wants you to do…not always yelling about yourself and your rights in this world.  That is what it means to me when I read the “poor in spirit” statement.

God continually condemns self centered people who walk all over or manipulate others for their own gain!  There is a lot of misconception about wealth in the world of Christianity.  The reason misconception continues is that there are many Christians who do not read the Word of God for themselves and study it.  Relying solely on someone in the pulpit to tell you how to be a Christian is a huge error!  There are a lot of folks who take things out of context and support their beliefs instead of taking it in the context in which it was written and finding out what God is really like.

There are very sincere Christians in all walks of life..both wealthy and poor…God has no problem with the level of your pocket book….only if you love your wealth more than you love him and those around you is there a problem.  The Bible says, “Love of money is the root of all evil”, not: “money is the root of all evil.”

1Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

This is why the scribes were condemned…it was love of themselves and love of money to the point where they actually “devoured widow’s houses”.  They were hypocrites in the worst way, they gave “some” of their wealth, but made the widow feel that she had to give “all” of her goods in order to measure up.

Have you ever done that?  Seen that someone was giving a lot and so felt the need to put more in than you could really afford…more than you had previously decided on because the amount you were able to give seemed “insignificant” by comparison to what you knew the other person was giving?!! God says that he loves a cheerful giver…he wants you to give what you feel you can… to honor him.  He does not want you comparing yourself with the person next to you.  He wants your love and trust in him. That is why it is best if all giving is done quietly and personally.

I went to a large church as a visitor with someone once, and that person told me that whenever they went to their church they felt that they should always bring the “checkbook”; when I attended with them I understood why they felt that way…the buckets (literally) were passed about 5 times down the aisles during their worship!  Now some folks who are new or unsure of their Christianity would feel pressured to always put something in each time it was passed in order to not be “embarrassed”…I wonder what Jesus would think of his followers treating his sheep like that in his name?!!  Well, we don’t have far to look…looking again at the verses in Luke 20 and Luke 21 above it seems clear how Jesus would feel about these things.

The Bible is very clear on the status of widows and orphans from Old Testament through New Testament the attitude is the same.  Those who are most vulnerable in society should be protected and cared for either by their relatives or by the church if there are no relatives to care for them.

Exodus 22:22-23King James Version (KJV)

22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;

For more from the apostle Paul on the care of widows and orphans look at 1Timothy 5.

In Whose Image are you?

g2698Genesis 1:27 (NIV) So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Read Matthew 22:15-22  (NIV)

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 22:17 A special tax levied on subject peoples, not on Roman citizens
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.

 

This past Sunday during Worship our church Pastor presented these words of Jesus in Matthew 22:15-22 to us in a way that I had never had it presented and it really struck me as peculiar that all these years because of the way the world thinks about money being so important that it is usually presented as being about money.  This passage isn’t really about money at all…it is about belonging, or ownership!  It is about who is your Master?

As it was explained on Sunday to us, Jesus was being acknowledged as a Rabbi by these people.  We can read it right there in the text.  It was expected that a Rabbi when asked a question was going to answer it….it was unavoidable…that is why we read that they were trying to trap him.  I mean usually we would say, if he doesn’t answer then he can’t be trapped, right?!!!  Well, being a Rabbi he was required to answer any question that was put to him.

A little background given here is that these Pharisees were Jews and they actually disliked Rome and wanted them gone, but they were also generally the wealthy class and liked the power that they had…they felt that Jesus was a threat to their way of life.  The Herodians on the other hand were followers of Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas and the Herodians all received their power from Rome, so they liked the Roman occupation of Israel.  They also didn’t care for Jesus’ because they thought he was going to move in and become an earthly king in Israel.  They thought he was a threat to their power also.

So in this instance, the Herodians and the Pharisees came together to try and get rid of Jesus by trapping him with his own words.  It seemed that when you read the question that there is no way that Jesus could say anything that was not going to be against Rome or against the Jewish Law.

However, what comes out of Jesus’ mouth is to ask for a coin and say:  “Whose image is on this coin?”  The answer he receives is “Caesar’s”.  So Jesus comes back with “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s!”

So we learn that since Caesar’s picture is on the coin that it originated with him, so he owns it!  That coin was minted by Caesar and controlled by Caesar, if he wants some of it back, then he has a right to take it back in taxes!  So that explains it from the money standpoint, but the other half of Jesus’ statement tells us what he is really meaning when he says to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is Gods.

I mean, look at this….God doesn’t print money, so it must not be talking about money, right?!

So the question becomes how to we give back to God what is God’s?

These are 4 things that my minster gave us as particular methods to give back to God (though there are certainly other additional methods also)

1.) When we worship Him (This causes us to move upward spiritually or to say it a bit differently we put our focus upon the Holiness of God)

2.) When we serve Him (This causes us to move outward spiritually, we put our focus on how we can do what God wants us to do with our lives and not on ourselves so much)

3.) When we are obedient, when we listen to the scriptures and give ourselves over to them even when it is not convenient or easy for us. (This moves us inward spiritually this is a real faith building thing because it allows us to learn to trust God by our obedience)

4.) When we devote ourselves to become more like Jesus. (This moves us onward spiritually and we have a closer very personal relationship with God and with others around us…it also has the very definite effect of allowing us to have the peace in our hearts that Jesus spoke of…the one that passes all understanding)

Being a Christian is about a journey not about being static and unmoving.  Jesus says to follow him by following his teaching.  If you are not moving you are probably not following, this means that your Christian walk has stalled.  When you are on a journey in order to get to the destination you have to keep moving forward.  Jesus wants us to follow him so that we can keep moving forward and closer to God…so that we can become mature in Christ.

Colossians 1:28  He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

As we continue and become more mature Christians we give back to God more and more of what he created….those made in his image…ourselves!

So….Christians…get a move on…continue your journey…give to God what is God’s!

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the girl on the right in this photo is about the image of the woman on the left in the other photo
Glenna and Essie and Ralph
The woman on the left in this photo is the Great Grandmother of the girl on the right in the other photo…only God could stamp people like this 3 generations apart!

Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM

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Commandment #3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Exodus 3:13-15: Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, What is his name? Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”  God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers- The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”

John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born I AM.”

Notes:  In Unger’s Bible dictionary it says that the word Jehovah is a misspelling of the word Yahweh which in Hebrew means “He causes to be or He exists, or He creates.”  This explains why God uses the term I AM to describe himself.  I AM is a short way to say that he exists and has always existed, that God is not a created being.  He is the Creator of Everything.  The tradition of the Hebrews was to not say God’s name out loud in conversation.  This tradition probably has a lot to do with the fact that God’s name is Holy, and that misusing God’s name was punishable by death.   After all, if you don’t say it out loud, then you cannot misuse it accidentally or on purpose.  Historians believe that this is what led to the mispronouncing of God’s name Yahweh (Yahway) as Jehovah.  Since it was never pronounced out loud, some forgot how to pronounce, and spell it.  Also as you can see in John 8:58 Jesus describes himself with the traditional title that God used for himself with Moses.

Exodus 20:7  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Read Leviticus 24:10-23  The story of the Blasphemer.

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.

13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

17 “‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. 18 Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life. 19 Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. 21 Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death. 22 You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’”

23 Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Reading this story of the blasphemer who was put to death and the indictment that God laid on him is very hard.  There are many things that are hard to understand, but if you realize that God is a Holy God, and that he was in the process of making the people of Israel into a group of people who were to be living examples of the character of God to others on earth…then it can be seen that a person who did not respect the God who was providing for them and caring for them could not be tolerated.
I know, you are probably saying that they could have just thrown him out of the camp, but again, if you think about the environment outside the camp…a dry and desert environment…wouldn’t throwing this person out be the same as sentencing them to death?  There was a reason why people traveled in caravans in those days.  There was no city, no civilization…just their camp.
At the same time, it is shown in verse 21 that God was not giving this instruction lightly…the value of human life is of the utmost importance.  God also did not want anyone to believe that there was a separate law for the native Israelite and the one who lived in Israel but had an Egyptian Father, so in verse 22 he reminds them that the law is for both the Israelite and the foreign born.  The same law.
We have a lot of conflicting beliefs over the death penalty as a punishment, but the Bible clearly had laws regarding this, and considered that someone who took God’s name lightly or ran down God’s name should be treated to that punishment.  The punishment of death was not lightly given…but for very grave offenses, such as adultery, murder, and blasphemy.
There should also be an understanding that God was applying these laws to those who lived within the boundaries of Israel and with the Israelite people.  The 10 commandments were given so that people could understand how to live with each other….to have respect for each other, and the land of Israel was a Theocracy, not a Democracy.  We Westerners, as a rule, have a hard time understanding what a Theocracy is, and how people can live in one.  That is because we believe that the individual freedoms of people are more important than our individual beliefs about God….in other words, we are generally more self centered, than God centered.
The peculiar thing here is that the Pharisees used this law to try and trap Jesus.  They found that despite all the scriptures about the Messiah, they were unable to believe that Jesus, who was identifying himself with God…could be that Messiah.  All they saw was blasphemy.
Luke 5:20-21  20When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21But the scribes and Pharisees began to consider this and ask, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemy?  Who can forgive sins but God along?”
If we were a strict Theocracy then we would be having everything in our lives revolve around God, and all of our laws would be looking to make God centered decisions.
Personally, I am grateful that we do not live in such a strict society; because even a strict theocracy is governed by human beings who are incapable of making good judgements about people.  In the days of Moses, God was in direct and certain communication with Moses…there wasn’t any doubt about this within the confines of the Israelite people.  God was their rescuer and Moses was the leader that God had given to them. Moses, himself, was under the punishment of God for misrepresenting God’s character to his people.  He was banned from ever entering the promised land for doing that.
God is a loving God, but we cannot forget that he is a Righteous and Holy God who is not to be taken lightly.  Whether in speech or in action.  The good news is that he is a loving God who is just to forgive us whenever we ask for it sincerely….If you look back at that story we do not hear that the blasphemer of Mose’s time was asking for forgiveness at all…it is not made clear to us…but if we look at the pharisees…even thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer they picked up stones to stone him..John 8:59  At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. 
The seriousness with which the Jews took this law of God and the Holiness of God’s name into their hearts was still in effect in Jesus’ time which was thousands of years after Mose’s time. The thing is that Jesus was who he was saying he was, yet the Pharisees could not see it!  They were blinded by their own self-righteousness!

King Jesus

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Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice Greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee:  he is just, and having salvation; lowly and riding upon a donkey, and upon the colt of a donkey.

Read Zechariah 9:9-17 This is about the coming of Jesus and his Kingdom. 

Read Matthew 5:17-20 Here Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Read 1 Samuel 8: 5-22  Here the Israelites demand a King for themselves.

Notes:  God gives the Israelites a king when they asked for one, after warning them that kings are human and tend to be demanding.  Then in Zechariah God promises the coming of Jesus as a king who is just and has salvation.  Then in Matthew Jesus refers to His Kingdom as the Kingdom of Heaven.

As you can see from these verses the Hebrews were expecting another earthly king, but one who was more perfect, and less demanding than their other earthly kings.  They could not conceive of the idea of a heavenly king coming to earth.  There are many verses in the New Testament in which we get the idea that the disciples and the people did not understand the idea of a heavenly kingdom.  They believed that the Messiah would be an earthly king!  There are many verses and parables where Jesus attempts to enlighten them, but many people do not have the ears to hear or the eyes to see God’s word.

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Think about some of these questions:  If you were to create a kingdom how would it be? How are you going to govern?  How are you going to protect?  How much freedom are you going to allow?  Can there be too much freedom?  What happens if there is too little freedom?  You must make your subjects happy and content and well fed.  How are you going to do that?  Think about the problems involved…what if someone is unhappy? or disagrees with how you are planning to do things?  

When we look at what Jesus says about the Kingdom of Heaven we don’t see him talking a lot about government at all.  He really spends time telling us about God who is loving, and that those who wish to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven should strive to be servants.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 right after the Sermon on the Mount that “unless a person’s righteousness surpasses that of the pharisees and the teachers of the law they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Now, that is a real problem for most of us if we are depending on our keeping the law to get us into the kingdom of heaven.  Thankfully, God’s idea of righteousness is different from our worldly view of righteousness.  Righteousness is not about being a perfect person.  It is about loving God faithfully, and pursuing him and trusting that he is a God who keeps the promises he makes…or the very basic idea of righteousness is to have faith in God…not just to believe that God exists.

When God tells us in Zechariah 9 that the King will come riding on a donkey, and then we read that this is exactly what Jesus did…Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy about the Messiah that God gave to the people of Israel through his prophets.  There is not a single one that he did not fulfill!

Jesus is the heavenly King come to earth…to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  We cannot simply be Christians who treat the Kingdom of Heaven as some place that you go to when you die.  As I recently heard someone state, “We cannot treat our Christianity as simply a life insurance policy for the hereafter!”  If we do that then we are only experiencing a very small part of what God has for us.  As Jesus states in Matthew 22:32, Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38 God is a God of the living, not a God of the dead!  I like Luke’s version, he adds “for to Him all are alive!”

I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus to be my King and the Lord of my life while I am still alive…I don’t want to wait to meet him and spend time with him until I am dead!  There are so many things in life to experience, and it is much better to experience them with Christ as your King, than looking for a human King or president to “save” you…if you look at the record of the world leaders today, they are the same types as those listed in the Old Testament…the same types as God warned the people of Israel about.  The Kings/leaders of today, are takers…they are not givers.  God is a giver!  He gives and gives and gives and takes pleasure in giving to us.

Now, don’t go thinking that if you follow God you will be gifted with great amounts of material wealth…that is not what I am talking about.  God will give you what you need to bring about his plan for your life!  What God gives us is not always a tangible material good, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  The gift of salvation and freedom from the things that weigh us down emotionally…the freedom to love others the way they should be loved!  Not to be loving them for their status in this world, or for their physical beauty, or for what they can do for you!  To simply love people for who they are, as they are  “warts and all”…the way that God loves them!  God loves people from the point of understanding everything about them and loving them anyway!  This is how he wants us to love them also!  These gifts of salvation and freedom are only a couple of the gifts that God gives to his believers.  There are many other gifts listed in the Bible that he gives to his people in order to allow them to use those gifts to glorify Him.  img_0552

The Mighty God

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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!

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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.’