God is For You!

Old_Woman_Laughing_on_the_MarketGod’s forgiveness is total…God loves you.  He is not up there in heaven with a book of “today she did this bad thing…today she did this good thing…”  He is portrayed that way, but that is not correct.  The Bible tells us that those who are in Jesus are blameless in the sight of God.

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Colossians 1:21-23 (NIV)

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of  your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

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There is nothing that we can do other than to accept the sacrifice of Jesus which will save us from our sin.  It is Jesus plus nothing for our salvation.  Faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection from the dead are what saves us….

Another way to put this is: if you are in a restaurant and you go to pay the bill and you are told.  The bill has already been taken care of in full.  What are you going to do?  Are you going to reject that someone has already paid your bill and insist on paying it again yourself?!! Of course not!!  The thing is we do this all the time when it comes to Jesus.  He paid the bill for our sin, yet we are still running around in life trying to “be good enough” and “do enough good things” to make up for our bad things, our sins.

Why are we doing this?  Isn’t it rather insulting to both Jesus’ sacrifice, and to God, himself?  We are being awfully full of ourselves to be thinking that we are capable of paying our own bill, don’t you think?!  We don’t even fully understand what all is even on the bill, yet.  Much less have the capacity to take care of it.

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Romans 11:33

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

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There are so many things that we have done which, if we understood them, we would be so upset that we had done them.  We don’t even understand all of the harm we have caused to others in our lives…there are so many day to day things that God covers us from seeing about ourselves in order to protect us from the burden.  Basically, if we were to smell all of our sins…we would not be able to stand the smell of ourselves.  We could not handle knowing all that we have done wrong all at once.  God asks us to seek him and know him, and then, in love, reveals the things that we have done wrong as needed for our correction in drawing closer to him.

faults

 

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The worst of our sin is when we say to ourselves, “Well, at least I am not like that person over there…I am better than they are…at least I am not that bad!”  I tell you that is called judging and condemning.  We are not qualified to ring out judgement on other people or be condemning of them.

We do not have such a pure and clean nature that God does have…we cannot handle judging someone correctly and justly because we are not pure of heart…Mankind was not designed to judge. The job that Adam was given in the garden was “caretaker” not “judge”.  Yes, we are designed in the image of God, but we are not perfect….we are not God….we cannot read the person’s heart in front of us.  We are all looking at the person in front of us from our own perspective…not from God’s perspective.  God’s perspective will always be from the position of knowing the person’s heart and everything about them.  We can never know everything about a person.  Even if they tell us, we still don’t know everything.

I mean, come on, we even surprise ourselves at times, don’t we?!!  If we are capable of surprising ourselves, then that means we don’t even fully know ourselves…how can we not understand that this means we don’t fully know another person, either.

God knows each and every one of us, totally and completely.  He knows the pains and heartaches of each of us.  He knows what motivates us.  He knows when we are doing things in rebellion to him.  He knows when we are doing things that are self-centered.  He knows when we are doing the right things and the wrong things…he knows when we are doing things in innocence and in ignorance.  God knows us totally, and the great thing is that God also LOVES US TOTALLY!  Isn’t that amazing?!!

God always has the goal of having us be back in reconciliation with him and for us to after being reconciled be doing the work of bringing others to be reconciled to God through the work of Jesus the Christ.  God is FOR US!  God is NOT AGAINST US!

We need to stop acting like God is against us and that we have to do it all on our own.  He sent Jesus to die to atone for our sins and reconcile us to him because he is FOR US!  He sent Jesus to tell us how to be reconciled and to show us the way home to God.  Jesus did not simply come to make sure that you get into heaven….that is only part of it.  Jesus came “to show the way.”

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John 14:6 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

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The way that Jesus has shown us is the way of “love” and “understanding”.

Read Ephesians chapter 4

Ephesians 4 New International Version (NIV)

Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Instructions for Christian Living

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work,doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 4:8 Or God
  2. Ephesians 4:8 Psalm 68:18
  3. Ephesians 4:9 Or the depths of the earth
  4. Ephesians 4:26 Psalm 4:4 (see Septuagint)
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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Being unloving and judgmental, and condemning to others grieves the Holy Spirit.

 

Have you ever known a person to change their behavior and draw closer to God because someone came at them and started telling them about how bad their behavior is?

I mean, how effective do you think it is to go up to someone and say, “Are you born again? Do you know if you are not born again..you are going to hell!  God is going to send you to hell for the way you are living!”

How many people do you think turn their hearts toward God when someone says something like this to them?  Anyone?  Usually, the person saying this is not someone who actually knows the person they are talking to at all.  They are just bent on their own agenda of sharing the gospel with anyone and everyone!  They probably don’t even understand what is wrong with how they are sharing it….the intimidation that comes across to the person who has to hear this!  Usually, the person who is asked this question just wants to get as far away from the person saying it as possible, as quickly as possible!  I know this because I was put in this position as a high school student by some woman who was having her car washed at our band fund raiser!  It just felt like she was attacking me…there was no love in her tone at all!

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We need to on all accounts share the gospel in a loving manner…we should not beat people over the head with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit!  The easiest thing in the world in sharing the gospel is to just share in regular conversation your experience.  You listen to the Holy Spirit and you will start over time to understand when there is an opening to share the “good news” of the gospel with someone who is receptive.  Simply seek to bring God into the room with you in the conversation…if the person cuts you off, then don’t stress out and get upset.  Simply change the subject and be loving and friendly toward them.  God is still working on them…God is outside of time, he does not have time constraints…he knows the plan he has for each one of us…to prosper us and not harm us.

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Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)

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.

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We just need to have faith in God’s plans for us and for others. We have no idea how many people will have to bring up the gospel to a person before that person will decide to accept that gospel…each of us may just be a sentence here and a sentence there, then one day the person brings all the sentences in their life together and realizes through the work of the Holy Spirit….”Aha!  So this is God calling me to repent and turn back into relationship with him!  I definitely want to do that!  I wish I had understood this a long time ago!  I wasted so much time that I could have been spending with the Good Lord!”

We will be celebrating with the heavenly beings when each person is saved…that is one of the most awesome things about being a Christian….we can participate in the reconciliation of others with God….through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Not through anything we, ourselves, are doing…no one is ever saved through the work of a person.  We are jars of clay that are fragile and thus because we are fragile…the work of the Holy Spirit can shine through the cracks into the darkness!

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heart-195147_960_7202 Corinthians 4:7-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Treasure in Jars of Clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

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Judah

Genesis 38:26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.

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Genesis 29:35 New International Version (NIV)

35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.[a] Then she stopped having children.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 29:35Judah sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for praise.

 

Genesis 29:35 This is a recording of the birth of Judah, he was the 4th Son of Jacob by his first wife Leah.

Read Genesis 37:26-28 This is where Judah decides that instead of killing his brother, Joseph, they will sell him off to the Ishmaelites into slavery.  The Ishmaelites are actually Ishmael’s people.  Ishmael, if you recall from a few lessons back,  is their Grandfather, Isaac’s half brother.  Ishmael’s people are always in conflict with Isaac’s side of the family.

Alexander_Maximilian_Seitz_-_Joseph_Being_Sold_Into_SlaveryGenesis 37:26-28 New International Version (NIV)

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels[a] of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 37:28 That is, about 8 ounces or about 230 grams

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Read Genesis 38  This is the story of Tamar who was Judah’s daughter in law.  Her first husband died because he was wicked in the Lord’s sight, and in keeping with tradition she is remarried to her first husband’s brother who is instructed by Judah to raise children in his brother’s name.  Onan dishonors God’s rule about this tradition and God kills him because of this.  After her second husband died, then Judah promised that she Shelah was old enough he would give Tamar his last son as her husband.  In the meantime she was to go live in her father’s house again. Judah did not honor his promise to Tamar, so Tamar took matters into her own hands, and dressed up as a prostitute and Judah chose to to lie with her.  Tamar became pregnant, but she had evidence that Judah was the father.  Judah did not recognize Tamar when he lay with her (perhaps her face was covered).  When Judah found out about her pregnancy he was ready to have her killed, but then he was humbled to find that he was the father.  He recognized that Tamar only did this because he didn’t keep his promise to her.   He did not have her killed, but did not take her to wife, he did support her.  She had twin boys named Perez and Zerah. 

Genesis 38 New International Version (NIV)

Judah and Tamar

38 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullamnamed Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.

13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,”14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”

“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.

17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.

“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.

18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”

“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. 19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. 21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”

“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.

22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”

23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”

24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”

Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”

25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”

26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.

27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez.[a] 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.[b]

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 38:29 Perez means breaking out.
  2. Genesis 38:30 Zerah can mean scarlet or brightness.
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.

 

Note:  The important thing to notice here is that Judah when faced with his sin, recognized that he had done the wrong thing, and was sorry for it.  God was good to forgive him and Tamar for their sin and include them in the lineage of Jesus.   According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary, women were only listed in genealogy in the Jewish culture if there were property or any rights being transmitted through them, or if there was something remarkable about them.**  Tamar took a remarkable risk of her life to ensure her future.  Women without husbands or son’s were basically at the mercy of society to take care of them.  Most became beggars.  She was counting on Judah’s sense of justice to fix the problem and he didn’t disappoint her.  If Judah had not taken responsibility for his actions, then Tamar would likely have been stoned to death!

lowe-1467908465NI8One of Jesus’ names is the Lion of Judah.

Revelation 5:5  Then one of the elders said to me, Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.

Read Genesis 49:8-10  This is where Judah is told he is a lion’s cub and that the scepter will not depart from him until it comes to whom it belongs.  This is a reference to Jesus. Judah was the 4th son, but Jacob gave leadership to Judah’s tribe over all of the others.

Genesis 49:8-10 New International Version (NIV)

“Judah,[a] your brothers will praise you;
    your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
    you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
    like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[b]
until he to whom it belongs[c] shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 49:8 Judah sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for praise.
  2. Genesis 49:10 Or from his descendants
  3. Genesis 49:10 Or to whom tribute belongs; 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.

 

**Ungers Bible Dictionary

Jacob – The Older will serve the Younger

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Genesis 25:23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

Read Genesis 25:21-34  This is the story of Isaac praying for Rebekah to have children, and the birth of Jacob and Esau, along with Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for some red soup.  This is where Esau got the name Edom (which means red). Jacob’s name means “he grasps the heel” or he deceives figuratively speaking. Note: The birthright was essentially the family’s leadership and priesthood, it was very significant, and Esau treated it lightly, he basically sold his role as head of the family and priestly inheritance for a pot of soup.  Jacob did deceive Isaac, his father, in the end by pretending to be Esau to receive the blessing that was Esau’s birthright. (Genesis 27). 

***Take note that at this time the Levitical Priesthood did not yet exist….the role of keeping the family on track with God fell to the head of the family…they made the offerings on behalf of the family as were necessary.  

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Genesis 25:21-34 New International Version (NIV)

21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
    and the older will serve the younger.”

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau.[a] 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.[b] Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.[c])

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 25:25 Esau may mean hairy.
  2. Genesis 25:26 Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he deceives.
  3. Genesis 25:30 Edom means red.

 

Genesis 27 New International Version (NIV)

27 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

“Here I am,” he answered.

Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. 12 What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

13 His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18 He went to his father and said, “My father.”

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

20 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied.

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

25 Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
    is like the smell of a field
    that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew
    and earth’s richness—
    an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you
    and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
    and those who bless you be blessed.”

30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

32 His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob[a]? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,

“Your dwelling will be
    away from the earth’s richness,
    away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
    and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
    you will throw his yoke
    from off your neck.”

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you.43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 27:36 Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives.

Read Genesis Chapter 28,This is where Isaac instructs Jacob not to marry any Canaanite women, but to go to his Mother’s brother’s house and find a wife there from his mother’s people.  Jacob dreams of a stairway to heaven and God renews his covenant with Jacob that he had with Abraham and Isaac.  God reassures Jacob that he will be with him where ever he goes. God again reassures the next generation of Abraham’s progeny that he is with them and renews again his covenant that he made with Abraham two generations before with Jacob, Abraham’s Grandson.  God is stable and faithful to his agreements.  Jacob is also in the Ancestry of Jesus the Christ.

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Genesis 28 New International Version (NIV)

28 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram,[a] to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty[b] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way,and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[c] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[d] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[e] though the city used to be called Luz.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[f] will be my God 22 and[g] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 28:2 That is, Northwest Mesopotamia; also in verses 5, 6 and 7
  2. Genesis 28:3 Hebrew El-Shaddai
  3. Genesis 28:13 Or There beside him
  4. Genesis 28:14 Or will use your name and the name of your offspring in blessings (see 48:20)
  5. Genesis 28:19 Bethel means house of God.
  6. Genesis 28:21 Or Since God … father’s household, the Lord
  7. Genesis 28:22 Or household, and the Lord will be my God, 22 then

Read Genesis 32:22-32  This is where Jacob’s name was  changed to Israel because he struggled with God and with men and overcame both.

Genesis 32:22-32 New International Version (NIV)

Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip.32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 32:28 Israel probably means he struggles with God.
  2. Genesis 32:30 Peniel means face of God.
  3. Genesis 32:31 Hebrew Penuel, a variant of Peniel

There is a lot more information on Jacob.  He had twelve sons for whom the 12 tribes of Israel were named.  If you look at historical maps of Israel you will see that there are regions named after each tribe except for the Levites who were to be priests (Exodus).

Isaac – God Renews His Covenant

star-clusterGenesis 26:4-5 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed. (This is another reference to the coming Messiah).

Read Genesis 26:1-6  This is where God appears to Isaac, son of Abraham,  to renew the covenant that he made with Abraham.

Genesis 26:1-6 New International Version (NIV)

Isaac and Abimelek

26 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring[1] all nations on earth will be blessed,[2] because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 26:4 Or seed
  2. Genesis 26:4 Or and all nations on earth will use the name of your offspring in blessings (see 48:20)

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Read Genesis 26:7-11 Isaac lies about Rebekah being his wife, and says she is his sister instead because he is afraid of being killed because men will want her due to her beauty.

Genesis 26:7-11 New International Version (NIV)

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”

Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”

10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

 

Read Genesis 26:12-35  This is where God blesses Isaac for keeping his covenant, he blessed Isaac with generally a long and peaceful life, with the exception of Esau’s marriage to the Hittite women.

golden-wheat-field-1354390133xgaGenesis 26:12-35 New International Version (NIV)

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”

17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled.18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek,[a] because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah.[b] 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth,[c] saying, “Now the Lordhas given us room and we will flourish in the land.”

23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”

25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

26 Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”

28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.”

30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.

32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” 33 He called it Shibah,[d] and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.[e]

Jacob Takes Esau’s Blessing

34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 26:20 Esek means dispute.
  2. Genesis 26:21 Sitnah means opposition.
  3. Genesis 26:22 Rehoboth means room.
  4. Genesis 26:33 Shibah can mean oath or seven.
  5. Genesis 26:33 Beersheba can mean well of the oath and well of seven.

Read Genesis 35:27-29.  Issac lived 180 years.

Genesis 35:27-29 New International Version (NIV)

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron),where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

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God not only renewed his covenant with Isaac, but he also uplifted and blessed him throughout his life, and included him in the ancestry of Jesus.  God made a promise with Abraham, and he renewed the promise with Abraham’s son to show the world that even if the person with whom the promise is made passes away from the earth; God doesn’t forget or forsake his promises.  Sometimes, human beings do forsake a promise if no one is there to remember it, or demand it be kept.  This is not the case with God.  God always remembers his promises, and he always keeps them.  A new covenant, or new promise does not do away with the old promise.  God is not like us who sometimes say, “well, that old agreement didn’t work out, so let’s make a new agreement!”  This type of thing happens frequently in the world today, and has happened frequently through out history.  We need look no further than some of the leaders we have in our countries, and some of the historical wars we have seen.  Unlike us, God keeps his promises, from generation to generation when it is a multi-generational promise.  We can take comfort in that; especially, when we read the Bible and see the promises laid out for us.  Especially in our prayer lives…we pray for those around us to come to know God and draw closer to Him.  Sometimes, we pray for that for the entire course of our lives, and we don’t live long enough to see it come to pass.  Though we may have had it be made known to us that God has it in hand, and it will come to pass…we may not see it…however, we can count on God to keep his promise to us!  Even if we are not here to see that promise be fulfilled!

Isn’t that a marvelous thing!  To be able to have God be that reliable and trustworthy?!!  We can always count on God to have  our best interests at heart…even when we are going through a really hard time where every day seems like a major chore….God really is watching out for you, and being with you.  It is just that sometimes we feel overwhelmed by life and fail to notice that God is still there.

fading-footprints-sand-14780578

Last night I had a dream.  I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.  Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.  For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonged to me, the other to the Lord.

    After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand.  I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.

   This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.  “Lord, you said  once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way.  But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints.  I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

   The Lord replied, “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.  During your times of suffering, when you could see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Jesus’ Family Tree

family-tree-background-family-tree-background-graphicsfamily-tree-background-viewing-gallery-gfqnu5jeJohn 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

Read Matthew Chapter 1: 

Matthew 1 New International Version (NIV) (via Biblegateway.com)

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e]did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 1:1 Or is an account of the origin
  2. Matthew 1:1 Or Jesus Christ. Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean Anointed One; also in verse 18.
  3. Matthew 1:11 That is, Jehoiachin; also in verse 12
  4. Matthew 1:18 Or The origin of Jesus the Messiah was like this
  5. Matthew 1:19 Or was a righteous man and
  6. Matthew 1:21 Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves.
  7. Matthew 1:23 Isaiah 7:14
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

This is the genealogy of Jesus, a genealogy is a listing of ancestors, or a family tree. Many many people in the World are very interested in researching their family trees and finding out as much as they can about who their ancestors are…being Christians we are adopted into the family of Jesus Christ, so isn’t it nice that his family tree is laid out for us so neatly in the Bible? Jesus had some very interesting ancestors…funny thing is that until you start digging into them it would be easy to believe that if someone was honored enough to be an ancestor of Jesus’ then they must really be next to perfect, huh?!!  Well, this is so far from the truth…they are, as it turns out like all of us…forgiven sinners. 

 In many of the next lessons we will be studying the people listed in Jesus’ family tree.  My goal is to show you that God’s forgiveness is absolute.  He does not hold your past against you in any way.  All of the people (like all of us) in Jesus’ family tree are sinners who have believed in God, and been forgiven.  Although John 5:24 is something that Jesus said, and all of his ancestors lived before him in John 5:24 Jesus states that those who believe in God (the one who sent Jesus) will have eternal life.  This is how the people before Jesus birth were judged, by their righteousness and faith in God, by their adherence to the law.  We are judged with grace, which means that we are judged by our faith in Jesus, and his ability as a sacrifice to cover our sins. 

Grace as we have studied before is the giving of forgiveness when it is not deserved.  Grace is not something that replaces God’s law.  We are still to do our best to follow God’s law.  However, neither before in the Old Testament, nor now, in the New Testament does the law offer salvation. 

Matthew 5:17-20 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 

Jesus tells us that he did not come to replace or get rid of the law…he came to fulfill it, but not to remove or replace any part of it.  Fulfilling something does not end it, except in the case of prophecy….once a prophecy is given and is completely and entirely fulfilled it is pretty much done..its value is then in the fact that people who had believed the prophecy know its fulfillment and have stronger faith for having seen that fulfillment.  Laws are fulfilled every day, but we do not do away with them by fulfilling them.

God values faith, and is a forgiving God and this is demonstrated through Jesus’ family tree.

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Info about your bible:  There are over 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament ends the era of God’s prophecy of Jesus’ coming. Matthew begins with Jesus is here, and spends much time proving that Jesus is the Messiah. The book of Matthew was written between 50 A.D. and 70 A.D. To be noted is that B.C. means the time period before Jesus’ birth, and A.D. means the time period from his birth onward. People get confused and think that A.D. means After Death, it does not.  It actually is a latin term that stands for the words “Year of our Lord”  or “Anno Domini” are the latin words.  This means that the book of Matthew was written down shortly after Jesus’ death because Jesus’ died about 33 A.D.  This is important so that you know that there were people around who lived during Jesus time and would say if Matthew wrote down things wrong or made any of the book of Matthew up.  The time it is written means we can trust it to be truthful. The newest part of the New Testament was written by John the Apostle and it was written between 85 A.D. and 96 A.D.  so still it was written with witnesses to the actual events still alive to say if any part of it was untrue.  Therefore, you can trust that the New Testament is true also as is the Old Testament.

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I hope you enjoy our upcoming exploration of Jesus’ ancestors!

 

Ownership of the field of treasure

IMG_0114Matthew 13:44 The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and in his joy he went and sold all that he had and bought the field. 

The standard Christian teaching on this is that this man found the treasure of Salvation and realized how important it was, so he hid it and then went and bought the field so that he could have it.  There is nothing inherently wrong about this teaching, but it has some moralistic problems to it.  After all, Jesus focus was about sharing the love of God with others.  In this parable we see a man who is not planning to share at all…if he was, then he would go running to town with the treasure in his arms and shout to all about it, wouldn’t he?!!  Instead he hides it again, then goes and we presume deceptively purchases the field.  We see this kind of thing happen in the world over and over again…some person will find out some facts about some land that makes it more valuable…maybe some plans for the surrounding area that is unknown to the landowner and so they go and offer an outrageous sum of money (in the land owner’s eyes), but still far less than it will actually be worth if the plans known only to the buyer happen.  We call that “land speculation”…totally acceptable from a worldly standpoint, but rather an unChristian way of acting, right?!!  Morally, as Christians we would have problems with this action…especially if we are the ones who get taken advantage of in the land selling process.

An interesting thing I have learned from Dave LeBlanc’s recent teaching on this parable is that the idea of ownership of something means that you have to work at it for 3 years before you have ownership.  Ownership isn’t something that comes about by accident, just because you bought it.  In Jewish terms, which means in the terms that Jewish Rabbi Jesus is teaching to his Jewish Disciples…ownership is acquired not just with money, but you have to actually do something with it, and do something with it consistently for 3 years.  So if we take that idea and look at this parable again we can learn a few things:

1.)  The man was walking on land that was not owned by a family..it was deserted land…fallow land.  After all, if he found a treasure hidden in a field, it was probably buried in the first place and he found it from working the field with the intent to get ownership.  (We know that the land of Israel did not have a lot of forests, it’s fields are good for olives and wine, and wheat.)  So he was working the field and accidentally dug up a treasure, so he goes and reburies it and then since it is so valuable he must focus all of his wealth on acquiring it immediately.  He does this.

Yet, under the law of Torah, he doesn’t actually own it until he has worked it for three years, now according to what Dave is telling us about Rabbinical Judaism  it is not good enough to just buy the land with money, but to have to invest your time and energy into using it and bringing in a harvest…repeatedly.  In other words, Land speculation is not allowed.  You don’t just buy the land and say, “Look at me, I am wealthy I have all this land, but do nothing with it!”  In our terms, we would say, “use it or lose it”…this makes a lot of sense for people of Jesus’ time.  Land that lays fallow is not producing food.  Israel was a land that occasionally had years of famine…so it was important to produce all that it could in the good years.  After all, refrigeration, and freezing and canning as storage methods were not really around.  The main methods of food storage were probably dehydration, pickling, or fermentation.  According to the Old Testament there was a requirement of fallowness for land every 7 years….this was probably more about maintaining the nutrients and not exhausting the land by repeated growing of the same crop that would sap the same nutrients from the soil, so that the land was not worn out.  Spiritually, it was about relying on the Lord for your well being in times of scarcity..every 7 years there was a reminder to Israel about this.

IMG_1595Also under the laws in Leviticus the selling of the land was not to be permanent…so you may say it was more of a renting out for the use of the land and its crop.

2.) So we also learn a deeper meaning if we apply this idea of having to work for something to our salvation and what Jesus was saying about the Kingdom of heaven being like this treasure found in a field.  It was such a valuable treasure that the man was willing to immediately devote his entire wealth and life to attaining the rights to that treasure.

If we apply this idea to our salvation, the we can and should be believing that as Christians we are not actually obtaining that salvation simply by “saying a prayer” and going on about our normal lives.  If we do not plow the field of our salvation, or dig into our Bibles and take the word of the Lord into our hearts on a daily basis and apply it to how we are living out our daily lives, then we are as lost as the person who has never asked Jesus to come into our hearts.  That takes us to another parable, the parable of the seeds:

pexels-photo-280274.jpegLuke 8:4-15 New International Version (NIV)

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 8:10 Isaiah 6:9

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The seed is the Word of God…there are many things that can happen to people who at first hear it, but do not focus on it and work at understanding it and drawing closer to God.  This links right in with the parable of the man who discovered the treasure in the field, except this man was someone who realized the value of God’s Word and was willing to give up everything else to obtain that value, which was greater than everything he owned already.  He completely gave himself to God heart and soul.  He trusted that God’s treasure was so great that no matter what he must not lose it because of allowing something else in his life to get in the way of it…in this man’s heart it is better to give up on everything else than to give up on God.

This goes along with Commandment #1:

Exodus 20:1-3 And God spoke all these words:

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

“You shall have no other gods before me.

Does this mean that we are to have nothing in our lives except God?  No, it means that God is to be the center of our lives…every action we take in our lives should be in order to draw closer to God and glorify God.

God has given us possessions to use in order to glorify him and draw closer to him and serve him with our lives.  God has put people in our lives so that we may both learn more about God with them and from them, and also help them to learn more about God and draw closer to God through us and how we love them the way that God loves them.

The point here, is that God is to be the most important…we do not all run out on mission trips to far away nations, we do not all go into the formal ministry of a church..we are all, however, to be lay ministers to others in how we treat them and work with them on God’s behalf in sharing our knowledge of who God is with them.  That is how we work the field…and take ownership of our Salvation through Jesus Christ.  We each, can and should do this every single day in our every day lives.  Most of the time we do this, in the very same place that we are already in, and in the very same job that we are already doing.  It doesn’t matter in God’s eyes if you are a house cleaner, or an architect, or some really wealthy influential business man or world leader…if you are a person who is in Christ you have your mission field right where your are…unless God calls you to go somewhere else and or do something else.

Don’t be misunderstanding here….God will not love you any more or any less no matter what you do and don’t do in your life.  However, if you are going to follow Jesus, which is what must be done to be saved, then that requires action on your part!  Jesus journeyed all the while that he was doing his three year ministry…he took action to bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth…he said his Kingdom is “within you” or “in your midst”.

Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, ‘Lo, it is here!’ or ‘Lo, it is there!’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”
It is up to each of us to follow Jesus on our journey to Christian maturity…following requires movement!
Here is the link for David LeBlanc’s teaching on the parable of the field of treasure.

 

 

The case has been thrown out…

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Many times when we accept that Jesus is our Lord and we have prayed for forgiveness we forget to accept that we are really forgiven.

Another way of thinking is that if your sins are a case in God’s court then when you accept Jesus Christ as your redeemer, you have apologized to God for your sins and Jesus has taken the blame for you…if Jesus is your “lawyer” in God’s court, then Jesus Christ has gotten the case of your sins thrown out of court.  The thing is that Satan wants to stand in front of our house in his capacity as accuser and keep throwing the evidence up in front of us.  Or in other words, Satan wants us to dwell on the sins that we have already had forgiven by God.  If he can just keep us in bondage to our past sins then we cannot move forward in our lives and enjoy the peace of God.  We cannot be the best servant we can be for God.  Our lives do not reflect that freedom that God has given us.

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Now, I know that all of this sounds really negative, but it isn’t.  I thought to discuss this because after hearing our Pastor speak on the subject this week, I realized that hanging onto forgiven sins just makes a person stay in bondage to their past.

This world loves it when we stay in bondage to our past because then “we know our place”…we cannot be effective in telling and showing people who God is in our lives if we cannot accept that forgiveness has really occurred.  People who don’t know God and have not accepted the redemption offered by Jesus Christ are in bondage to their sin…they have not been forgiven…so how can we show them the divine and freeing forgiveness of God if we cannot actually in our hearts and minds really accept that we are really truly forgiven and enter into the “rest” that Jesus has promised us?

IMG_4819I heard a really interesting example of this on Sunday when I was listening to my Pastor on this very idea.  Here it is picture this in your mind.  A man is in a dungeon prison cell.  He has been locked up for life, and all he sees day in and day out are the damp stone walls, and the iron bars.  A couple times a day a guard shows up with some kind of food for him, but other than that, he sees nothing but the walls, and the bars….and the hole in the corner for his waste.  So what does this man long for?  I think we would all answer that he wants his freedom more than anything else in the world, right?!!

So one day, the guard arrives and instead of food, the guard unlocks the door, and tells the man that he is free to leave anytime.  Now, one would think that the man would just up and leave as soon as possible, right?!!  The curious thing is that he does not…he turns his back toward the open door and looks the other way, and continues to dream of his freedom day after day.

When I heard this story, I thought how impossible!  No one would really do that, right?!!  That is the saddest idea I have ever heard.

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Yet, millions of Christians do that very thing, every day!

We have the head knowledge that Jesus came to forgive our sins and draw us close to God, and we have accepted the head knowledge…but we fail to understand all of the ramifications of that head knowledge….we have to come to a “heart” knowledge understanding of this great freedom that has happened to us.  (I know that in the world there are consequences to sin, if you steal you can end up in jail…that is not the freedom we are talking about here!  Once a person serves their time in jail for that theft then they are freed from the condemnation for that item.)  Jesus came to free us from condemnation by God or more accurately by Jesus himself, since God has given Jesus the authority to judge the world in the time to come.

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The thing is that when we are forgiven, many times we continue to beat ourselves up over our past.  I know that many of you have seen the Disney Movie called “The Lion King”….well, my favorite scene in that movie is where the baboon konks Simba on the head with his pole.  Simba had been feeling sorry for himself and wallowing in his responsibility for his father’s death, which happened when he was a young cub.  Anyway, he suddenly gets konked on the head with the pole and Simba says, “Ow!  What was that for!” (a bit of paraphrasing here, but that is the gist of it.)  The baboon’s response was amazing…I could just about hear God in the words…”Doesn’t matter…it’s in the past!”

When our sins are forgiven that is how God views it…”doesn’t matter”….or another way to say it….it is as if they never happened….they are not being held against us.  There are worldly consequences, but God is not condemning us for them.

Read Psalm 103…focus on verse 12.  It says that he has removed our sins from us as far as the East is from the West.  (If you take into account that many people prior to Christopher Columbus’ time believed that the Earth was flat and that you could fall off of it if you went too far in one direction…this really gives you the idea that the meaning behind this statement is that your sins cannot ever meet up with you again, once they are forgiven!  They are truly in the past and you are not to be looking into them as something you need to keep beating yourself up about.)asterix_flatworld_8198

A psalm of David.

1Let all that I am praise the LORD;

with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.

2Let all that I am praise the LORD;

may I never forget the good things he does for me.

3He forgives all my sins

and heals all my diseases.

4He redeems me from death

and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

5He fills my life with good things.

My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

6The LORD gives righteousness

and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

7He revealed his character to Moses

and his deeds to the people of Israel.

8The LORD is compassionate and merciful,

slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

9He will not constantly accuse us,

nor remain angry forever.

10He does not punish us for all our sins;

he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.

11For his unfailing love toward those who fear him

is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

12He has removed our sins as far from us

as the east is from the west.

13The LORD is like a father to his children,

tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

14For he knows how weak we are;

he remembers we are only dust.

15Our days on earth are like grass;

like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

16The wind blows, and we are gone—

as though we had never been here.

17But the love of the LORD remains forever

with those who fear him.

His salvation extends to the children’s children

18of those who are faithful to his covenant,

of those who obey his commandments!

19The LORD has made the heavens his throne;

from there he rules over everything.

20Praise the LORD, you angels,

you mighty ones who carry out his plans,

listening for each of his commands.

21Yes, praise the LORD, you armies of angels

who serve him and do his will!

22Praise the LORD, everything he has created,

everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the LORD.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007.

This Psalm was written by King David when he had already sinned with Bathsheba in committing adultery, he had already had her husband put to death after trying to cover up the sin…then he had already married Bathsheba and had at last faced his own sin when God sent the prophet, Nathan, to tell him about it.  At this point, David was praising God with all that he had in him….every fiber of his being…in acknowledgement of God’s grace and forgiveness toward him, David…the sinner.  We know that God really did forgive King David because we learn that after all of this sin on David’s part, God called David “a man after his own heart.”  (Acts 13:22)  Why was David a man after God’s own heart?  It was because he was humble and gracious and he was quick to repent of his sin whenever he was confronted with it!  David believed God when God said that his sin was forgiven….he always loved God and recognized God’s sovereignty in his life.  God was his Lord in every respect.

2 Samuel 12:1-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

Nathan’s Parable and David’s Confession

12 Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’”

13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

 

New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

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So the question I have for you is:  Are you a walking, talking, praising, joyous person of peace who spends your life praising God for the forgiveness and grace and peace of heart that he has given you….are you praising God with every fiber of your being?

OR

Are you a forgiven Christian who has not yet felt the joy of your forgiveness, realized the humbling grace of God (after all, forgiveness is unmerited isn’t it?  You did not do anything to deserve forgiveness, did you?) or have not yet felt the peace in your soul from being able to rest in the arms of God on a daily basis?  

Are you in prison, or have you accepted that Jesus who has set you free really means it, you are free indeed from condemnation in the eyes of God.

John 8:31-36 (New Living Translation)

31Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”

34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 

 

Go and Sin no More…

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

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

John 8 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

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

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

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

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

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

161980013820276Read John 5:1-15

The Healing at the Pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 10:2-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:38-39 

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

Experiencing God

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Exodus 3:3-5 

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

Genesis 32:30-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John 1:12-14 

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 3:16-18 

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

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

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

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

John 12:48-50 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Your Opinion or God’s Standard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1Corinthians 13:4-7 

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