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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

God’s Attitude Adjustment

Psalm 18:27  You save the humble, but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

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Read 1 Samuel 10:1 through 11:15.  This is the story of Saul being anointed as king of Israel, and being rejected by the men of Jabesh.  The Leaders of Jabesh had an attitude of why should you be king of us?  They were in effect rejecting God’s choice of leadership over them.  The next thing they knew they were embracing Saul as their king and rescuer.  Saul showed mercy to them and spared their lives because he didn’t want anyone’s death to take away from God’s Glorious Rescue.  This event did in fact result in Israel as a whole recognizing Saul’s kingship.

The back ground for this story is that Israel decided that they wanted a king so that they could “be like other nations.”  God told Samuel to go and anoint Saul as the first king of Israel.  Then Samuel prophecies to Saul about what will be happening shortly after his anointing as King.  Now Samuel was a well known and respected prophet of God, so it is not really surprising that God give Saul an experience of himself by having the Spirit of the Lord come upon him as he meets up with the prophets and becomes a person who is prophesying himself….Samuel tells him that he will “become a different person”.  Isn’t that the goal of all of us whenever we have the Holy Spirit dwell in us?

The funny thing is that Saul, even with this experience of God, did not seem to really accept the anointing.  After all, actions speak stronger than words, and Saul went home having had this magnificent experience of God and when his Uncle asked him what Samuel had said, he just mentioned the donkeys that they had been looking for, and never said a word about the anointing of himself as king.  Also when Samuel called all the tribes together to announce that God had chosen a king for them…Saul hid behind the supplies.  He had to be brought out…then a lot of the people were “Long live the King!”  Then Saul went on back home to work in the field as usual.  A few brave men inspired by God followed him.

Now in Saul’s defense…Israel had never had a king so it was probably a bit hard to accept.  I mean, how do you go about telling people that God made you king of them?  He certainly had some difficulty ahead.  Also we should keep in mind that a king in Saul’s time and area of the world was very different from a king in the European mindset that we all have.  It would probably be more appropriate to picture a Sheik at this point.  No grand palace was built, yet.  That had not come about.

Now, as we read, not everyone was accepting of Saul’s anointing.  It seems that some were quite skeptical of his ability to lead…after all, who is impressed with someone who just goes and hides when they are called upon?  They probably thought he was timid, and they were looking for someone to take care of business for them.  Even though Saul was the tallest most impressive person in looks…but his attitude was not what they were expecting.  As usual, there were some who were “scoundrels” who were not going to just follow along with God..they thought they knew better than God how things should be and they despised the person that God selected…and refused to bring him gifts as a show of recognition and acceptance of him as their anointed king.

Next thing you know, there is a problem with the city of Jabesh…it is besieged by a guy called Nahash the Ammonite.  Jabesh offers to become the subject of Nahash, but he doesn’t want that…he says only if he can gouge out their right eye as part of the treaty.  So the men of Jabesh stall Nahash, and send for help.  Now we get to see that Saul has what it takes to be king…the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he slaughters his oxen and uses them in a method that we might see as rather like something out of the movie “The Godfather”…by sending parts to every tribe in Israel with a threat…”Follow me or else!”   (This will be done to your oxen too!)  What a brutal attention getter, right?  The thing is that this is what it took to get all the people to rally around him as their king and go to war for their fellow Israelites well being.

Now there is an interesting parallel in this, at least to me, in Joel 3: 9-10.

9Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! 10Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”  (Bible Hub NIV)

swords_to_ploughshares_2This business of Saul ridding himself of his Oxen which were the tools of his farming life, and sending them off to threaten the “farming life” that all of the people of Israel embraced…it was necessary because Nahash was threatening the peace and life styles of all of Israel…he probably wouldn’t have stopped at just the city of Jabesh.  Saul was announcing that it was a “time of war”.  War is brutal and shocking…Saul wanted to make sure he made that clear to start with, but that in this case it was necessary to defend their people.  Suddenly, the “timid” “quiet man” who was a farmer was awakened as a “warrior king”.  Israel’s response is amazing and also gives us some numbers to think of:  330,000 men come in response to Saul’s call.  They go against Nahash and they succeed in rescuing Jabesh.

Suddenly, Israel is all, “Hey those men who were being against Our King Saul we need to find them and kill them! Look how great Our King Saul  is and how mighty a warrior he is..he can take care of business for us!”  Note that there is no thought of God in them, but all thoughts of Saul.

Saul is the one who admirably brings them back around to thinking about God…he says “No, there won’t be any killing today..this would take away from the Glory of the Lord who has given us victory today.”

So Samuel tells them that they should go and “renew” the kingship of Saul.

Now, this is really interesting because that is exactly what God wants from us…when we have rejected him, or his way of doing things, and we have been given an attitude adjustment in our thinking and we have come to see that God’s ideas and plans are superior to anything we could come up with…God wants us to go back to him and apologize and appreciate God and his love for us, and most importantly….Renew God’s kingship over our lives!  That is what God’s attitude adjustment is all about…renewing our relationship with him!

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1 Samuel 10

1Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

Saul Made King

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.

14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?”

“Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.”

15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”

16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.

17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”

20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes.

26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.

Saul Rescues the City of Jabesh

11 Nahash[a] the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.”

But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”

The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”

When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.

They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”

11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

Saul Confirmed as King

12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

Footnotes:
  1. 1 Samuel 10:1 Hebrew; Septuagint and Vulgate over his people Israel? You will reign over the Lord’s people and save them from the power of their enemies round about. And this will be a sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his inheritance.
  2. 1 Samuel 11:1 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls gifts. Now Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and Reubenites severely. He gouged out all their right eyes and struck terror and dread in Israel. Not a man remained among the Israelites beyond the Jordan whose right eye was not gouged out by Nahash king of the Ammonites, except that seven thousand men fled from the Ammonites and entered Jabesh Gilead. About a month later, Nahash

    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.

Silver or Gold I do not have…

Isaiah 35:6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah.

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Act3 and 2Samuel 9 are two stories about people who are lame. One story is from the New Testament, and one from the Old Testament.  They are very different stories, but both stories have something in common.  A person who was looked down upon was raised up.

In the story of Mephibosheth (Meh-fib-o-sheth is how I pronounce it) King David is looking for any survivor of King Saul’s household so that he can honor them with the blessing of God.  It turns out that the only one left other than a few servants is his friend Jonathon’s son, Mephibosheth.  You may recall that Jonathon was David’s best friend, and the son of King Saul.  So you can imagine how happy David must have been when finding that his friend’s son was the one who had survived from King Saul’s household.  Mephibosheth is different from the lame beggar in Acts 3 in that his lameness came from an accident.  At the time that Mephibosheth was 5 years old and his Grandfather King Saul, and his father, Jonathon were slain – well, his nurse grabbed him and went to run away with him to save his life.  Unfortunately, we are told that Mephibosheth fell and was lame from then onward for the rest of his life.  Now, most of us would probably decide that when he fell he broke his foot or leg and it wasn’t set properly and healed up wrong.  At least that is what I am getting from this story.  Anyway, to sum up what happened here, King David, was very happy that Mephibosheth was alive, and decided to restore to him all of King Saul’s lands, servants, etc.  He also declared that Mephibosheth would eat regularly at the King’s table.  In other words, he bestowed a great honor and wealth on Mephibosheth and also made it so that he could enjoy the company of his friend’s son on a regular basis. You can be sure that Mephibosheth was looked down upon prior to that because he was King Saul’s grandson, and also because of his lameness.  So King David, although he could not heal the lame, physically, (as Peter and John were able to do through the gift of the Holy Spirit)was able to heal the heart of Mephibosheth through his kindness and showing love toward him.

Now in the story in Acts Chapter 3 We see an actual physical healing of a man who had been lame from birth.  He was so lame, that he had to be carried from place to place.  It tells us that he was carried by people every day to the temple gate called Beautiful so that he could beg from those going into the temple courts.  Now there are a lot of gates into the city during Jesus’ time and they are all named.  The Beautiful Gate is the gate that is in front of the Temple…it leads to God’s house.  So this lame beggar had a pretty good spot for begging…after all, wouldn’t people be the most generous when they are going in to stand and worship God?  He also apparently had some family or friends who made sure he got to that place every day to do the work of begging for money so that he could eat.

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What I find fascinating about this story is that the beggar had apparently asked Peter and John for money, but then he must have discounted them right away as being unable to give him anything.  We know that Jesus told his Disciples to not worry about how they were dressed, (Luke 12), and not to act grandly with self importance, but to be humble. (Matthew 6) So we can, probably, safely believe that neither Peter nor John were richly dressed.  The reason I think this is that we read in verse 4 that Peter and John both looked straight at the beggar and then Peter tells the beggar “Look at us!”  This causes the beggar to look back at them, with expectation of receiving money.  In actual fact, it seems that Peter and John showed the beggar more respect than he gave them.

This is rather peculiar, as in our world today the person who is shown the least respect is the person who is homeless, who is reduced to begging in order to survive.  People tend, generally, to look past them, or through them, anything, but making eye contact with them.  Usually they are ignored by the larger percentage of those who are going by them.  I am wondering when reading this story if it was the same in the days of Jesus.

We know that it wasn’t this way with Peter and John, but they were Disciples of Jesus.  God had provision in the old testament for widows and orphans, the poor and the helpless. Below are a couple of verses showing the attitude that God wanted his people to have toward the poor.

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
    for they share their food with the poor.

Daniel 4:27 (ESV) “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed [poor], that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

851-yeshua-handSo let’s go back to the story…here is this man looking at these two men whom it was obvious he expected to receive nothing from to start with and now he has an expectation from them…because of their attitude…imagine how he felt at Peter’s next words:  Peter says, while looking this guy straight in the eyes…I don’t have any silver or gold, but I will give you what I do have.  Now this beggar was probably expecting Peter and John to give him a piece of bread or something like that, right?  I mean, that is what I would be expecting if I were him.  Instead, Peter reaches down and takes this beggar by the hand and helps him up, instantly this man’s feet and ankles (which had never known how to hold weight in an entire lifetime) were strengthened and he was able to stand. He was not only able to stand, but the man was suddenly able to dance and jump around.  He went in to worship God, walking, jumping and praising God with all his heart!  What a sight that must have been.  How glad this man was at this very unexpected healing in his life.  I am thinking that the Beautiful gate had never been a place more beautiful to him than right then.  Peter and John look at all the astonished people and ask them why they are so surprised…then go on to use this healing as a way to glorify God and talk about who Jesus really was and what his purpose was in walking the earth.  They turned this monumental occasion in the man’s life into an opportunity to glorify God and share who God is with their fellow Jews.

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They literally did the same thing that Jesus did as he was illustrating who God was…they met the needs of the people first, in order to show the love of God, then they told them clearly who God was and how much he loved them.  How much he wanted them to have a restored relationship with him.  

Note:  I know that we see a lot of people who have signs and some of them may not actually need the help they claim to need, but that is between them and God, not between us and them.  We need to remember that and not let it keep us from following God’s leading when it comes to helping people in need.

Read Acts 3

 1One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks to the Onlookers

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[a]

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[b] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 3:23 Deut. 18:15,18,19
  2. Acts 3:25 Gen. 22:18; 26:4

 

Read 2 Samuel 9 (NIV)

David and Mephibosheth

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

“Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons.

12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 9:11 Septuagint; Hebrew my
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.

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

phylactery-on-yemeni-jew-1914-wikipedia-us-public-domain

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

Distracted by Satan

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

IMG_0418Read Luke 10:38-42   

At the Home of Martha and Mary

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

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

Footnotes:

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

Read Luke 18:18-30 

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

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1:26 New International Version (NIV)

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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

Isaiah 43:7New International Version (NIV)

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

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

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

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

What’s Your Identity?

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John 1:12  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

What are you basing your identity on?

Note:   Many of the ideas in this entry can be attributed to a sermon I heard preached by my Pastor last Sunday….I take notes, and so from the notes I’ve written this blog entry and added some thoughts, explanations and examples of my own.  Sometimes, I tell him that I am going to use what I heard him preach on in my blog.  I really enjoy Pastor Jerry’s sermons, and learn a lot from him.  I hope you will enjoy this glimpse also.

Read Matthew 23:1-12  

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 23:5That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm

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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Jesus is pretty clear that his disciples should not be doing things that glorify themselves.  Funny thing is that he tells them to be careful to do what the Pharisees and the teachers of the law say to do, but not to actually do the same things they themselves do.

We all know folks who do this, and at any time we are all guilty of being “hypocrites” or “actors”.  Sometimes, it is unintentional, we simply get new information or change our minds about something that we felt/believed deeply in the past.  Jesus is not talking about the unintentional hypocrisy that happens in those cases.  For example, We have all used the phrase:  “I would never do……(fill in the blank)” and then we have proceeded to condemn someone else for doing that very thing….a few years go by and maybe we have done the thing we said we would never do.  Perhaps…we would “never stay out after midnight because nothing good comes of that….” then we find that we have a job which requires us to stay out after midnight.  This is a very mild example, but this kind of hypocrisy happens all the time.  The problem comes with the self-righteousness that comes along with those kinds of statements. The unloving and condemning/judgmental attitude that comes with the hypocrisy.

That is the very thing that Jesus was warning his disciples against…the “do what I say,  but not what I do” attitude that the Pharisees and the Scribes were filled with.  They were largely filled with their own righteousness, and filled with the need for gratification and glorification by mankind.  They were not focused on serving God, but they were serving themselves in the pretense of “doing it all for God.”

A very unfunny joke I heard last Sunday goes like this: Hypocrites in the church?  No, our church is not full of hypocrites….it is a long way from being full yet.

Yet this unfunny joke does describe many churches and the view of many people about Christian churches and the people who go to them.

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This is a beautiful church I saw while traveling…I really enjoy looking at churches…people put their best into building them to honor God…we should also put our best into building ourselves to honor God.

Another way of saying this is said by Paul the Apostle in  Titus 1:16  

16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

So Jesus realized that people want to be known as something – he knew that this is a need that people have..so he laid out clear instructions to his disciples about this..because if you are known for something then you can be known for the wrong thing….even something harmless can become harmful if it goes to your head.  The Old Testament is full of people who let their own ego take over and it ended up causing harm to themselves and others.  The thing is that some of those people such as King Saul and King David, were actually people who believed in God and attempted to follow God, but because of their self centered nature they failed to be obedient to God…they made the choice to glorify themselves instead of being true to God.

In God’s eyes we are called to be loving servants to others, instead of lifting ourselves up, we should be lowering ourselves down.

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These are reputed to be the “bones of St. Mark”.  I find there is some irony in  that Mark would probably not appreciate the luxurious gold plated place where his bones have been placed…St. Mark’s basilica in Venice, Italy.  Though the place is beautiful to behold for sure.

Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, he emptied himself out and became obedient to the death.

So back to the question at hand…How do you identify yourself?

-by relationship? -by Education? – by position? -by skills? -by bank balance? -by residence?

The truth is that we spend a lot of time trying to figure out who we are in relation to others – “What do they think of me?”  We all do this to some extent.  Everyone gets a vote in who we are – even strangers – we give them smiles and politeness…or scowl at them if we are having a bad day…even the driver in the next lane forms an opinion of who we are to them….”I saw that really rude driver when I was coming home…”

People through out our lives will sometimes give us nicknames…some are very nice and some are really rude.  I remember that an office I worked in had a woman with really gigantic hair…so she (rudely) became known as “the hair lady”…we have almost all of us come across a person or two known as the “snob or the grouch”…then there are more affectionate nicknames such as “shorty, or cuteness, or pet names we call our kids or spouses.”  Nicknames also can come as short versions of your real name:  Vicky (Victoria), Lexis (Alexis or Alexandra).  Sometimes, nicknames can reveal something about us that we don’t wish to have the world know…such as “stinky”  (some unthinking Mom who said that at the wrong moment and the kid was tagged with it for life!)   I know that when we were going to have our first child I had a sequence of names that I really liked and it was a very nice boy’s name…however, my husband was more on the ball than I was…he said, “No we cannot name him that, if it is a boy, because the initials form the word “GAS”…that kid would be teased unmercifully for life!”  I was shocked to hear the initials. (You are laughing now for sure, but this is a true tale!)

Every day we come to this path choice and our choice is determined by our core longings…do we reveal the false self, the small self or the true self?

Core Longings (Dr. Robert B. Shaw) – Belonging, Purpose, Love, Understanding, Significance and Security.

If we don’t have our core longings satisfied, then we can get into trouble by searching for  ways to have these longings be satisfied.  This leads to creating a “false self.”

There is also the “small self” identity which comes from living below your privilege, living without prayer, living with false humility.

We, who are believers, need to understand that in order to continue to become mature in Christ and stay on the mark as Christians…we need to understand that God is the only “legitimate” source for the satisfaction of our core longings.

We should never get our identity from something that can be taken away from us!

Have you ever met someone who spent their lives so wrapped up in their job that they did nothing else…then they retired..or lost the job..that person is usually very lost emotionally.  They just don’t know what to do with themselves…it is like they lost their entire identity when they lost the job.  The same thing can happen if you use your relationship to identify yourself…what happens if your only identity is “Mom” or “Dad” and the kids do what you have raised them to do…grow up and move out and get independent…again…you can become very depressed… it is hard to see this happen to a person from the outside too. It is hard to help them.  It is hard to redefine yourself.

Here are some things to remember:

Ephesians 2:10  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(This tells us that God has a plan for our lives, the plan was prepared before we were created!)

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–

(This tells us that part of God’s plan was for us to be adopted into his family through Jesus Christ…that it is his pleasure and his will that we be added to his family of children.)

1Thessalonians 1:4-5  4 Brothers who are beloved by God, we know that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction—just as you know we lived among you for your sake.

(This tells us that God loves us and chose us, and he chose people to share the gospel with us, and that the Holy Spirit acts in accordance with the gospel to draw us to God.)

Philippians 4:19-20  19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

 

So again…I ask…who are you?  Where do you get your identity from?

I am hoping that your answer will be that you are a “child of God”…that is the best and most valid identity any of us can have…and it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything…not even by death!

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The Good Shepherd

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John 10:11 I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Read John 10: 1-21 

John 10:1-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus the True Shepherd

10 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.All who ever came before Me[a] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?”

21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Footnotes:

  1. John 10:8 M-Text omits before Me.
New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jesus talks about his qualities as a shepherd, and that his sheep are important enough to him that he would die for them.  We are his sheep, and Jesus is our shepherd, who takes care of us and leads us as Jesus describes in these verses.  However, we are sheep with a choice.  We can chose to follow our shepherd, or not (and in that case be eaten by wolves aka Satan). 

Jesus also talks about having sheep in other pastures.  He is talking about people who are not Jews.  Anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile.  People in other faiths can come to know Jesus as well as people who are raised in Judaism or Christianity.  God loves all people, no matter what nationality, or race, or location you live in.  If a person is seeking God, God will help that person to be led to Jesus.  No matter which part of the world or what faith or lack of faith a person is raised, or invested in,  if the person earnestly  seeks God, then God will reveal himself to them.  The Bible is all about God’s revealing of himself to mankind.  So if you are seeking,  Jesus will lead you like a shepherd leads his sheep to the good pasture of God’s word.  As Christians we have to be open and not condemning of a person’s faith background.  

John 14:6New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

As it says in John 10:16  There will be one flock and one shepherd that Jesus will bring the sheep from the other flocks together.  The other flocks would be the people who are not Jewish, but they will still know who Jesus is and accept him as their shepherd.  The thing that all these “flocks” will have in common is Jesus Christ and it will show in their love for God and their love for one another.

John 13:34-35 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This does not mean that all religions will be one…don’t get confused!  It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with people who are seeking to know God.  Jesus was a Jew from birth until the end of his life here on earth…All of Jesus’ original Disciples were Jewish and so was Paul. People of Christ were not called Christians until Antioch in Acts 11:26.  This was when Paul was teaching them. (Though the Bible speaks of a one world religion…Revelation 17:1-18…that is a false religion and that is not what I am talking about here.)

philip2beunuchRead Acts 8:26-40 (ESV)

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[b] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

Now the thing about this story of the Ethiopian Eunuch is that the Eunuch was not Jewish, yet, God knew that his seeking of God, through trying to read scripture was sincere. God chose to honor that sincerity by providing a person who was knowledgeable in the scripture to help the Eunuch understand what he was reading.  Thus the Ethiopian Eunuch was led to Christ, and became a part of the other flock that came under the same shepherd.  Please note that there is nothing in the scripture that says that the Ethiopian Eunuch suddenly became Jewish.  He did not.  If he had we certainly would have been told this.  He met God as he was, and became a sheep who followed the Good Shepherd.  We don’t know what event or series of events inspired the Eunuch to start reading Isaiah, that is only known to the Holy Spirit who is the one who had a hand in it to begin with.

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Read Psalm 23  

Psalm 23 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Lord the Shepherd of His People

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 23:6 Following Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate; Masoretic Text reads return.
New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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!

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.

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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!’