Abraham – Blameless before God

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Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.”

Read Genesis 15:3-6, Gen. 16: 1-4, 15-16.

Genesis 15:3-6 New International Version (NIV)

And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[a] be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 15:5 Or seed

Genesis 16:1-4 Hagar and Ishmael

16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slavenamed Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years,Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.  When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

71c047c7371335e79f7c1c7d1386fe1a-1Genesis 16:15-16 

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.(NIV)

 

God promises Abram a son, Sarah takes matters into her own hands by giving Abram her servant to get a child by, as Sarah doesn’t trust God to give Abram a son by her.  This causes them a lot of grief and stress in their lives, but God is faithful and does provide Sarah with the pregnancy of Isaac.

Read Gen. 17:16-22, and Gen. 18:10-15, Gen. 21. 

Genesis 17:16-22 New International Version (NIV)

16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[a] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 17:19 Isaac means he laughs.

Genesis 18:10-15 New International Version (NIV)

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

 

Old_Woman_Laughing_on_the_MarketGenesis 21 New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Isaac

21 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac[a] to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abrahamwas mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[c] began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.

The Treaty at Beersheba

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

31 So that place was called Beersheba,[d] because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 21:3 Isaac means he laughs.
  2. Genesis 21:12 Or seed
  3. Genesis 21:16 Hebrew; Septuagint the child
  4. Genesis 21:31 Beersheba can mean well of seven and well of the oath.

Abraham was faithful to God, and had a feast after Isaac was weaned.  Note:  Abraham cared about Ishmael as his son, and did not want to send him away, but God promised to make Ishmael a father of many nations also, but said that his covenant was with Abraham through Isaac, not through Ishmael.  So, Isaac is the son of promise. 

It is important to note that God was faithful to Abraham and Sarah, even when they were not patiently trusting of him.  Sometimes we hear God, and we naturally want to make God’s words happen on our own and in our own way. 

 That is what happened with Sarah and Abraham.  This sometimes causes us to sin. Sometimes, there are actions that we can take that are okay in preparing ourselves for God’s promise to be fulfilled.  If that is the case we should take those actions,  but there is never a time, when sin is the answer to making God’s promise come true. 

We should always strive to remember that God’s timing isn’t always right away when he promises something.  Sometimes we are just not ready for that fulfillment to take place.  We may have some growing to do first on a spiritual level.  Ultimately, the reason Isaac was the chosen child was that God had already determined that mankind needed a savior and who his chosen people were, and that the savior was going to be a member of his chosen people, I am sure that Abraham’s feast when Isaac was weaned was a feast of Thanksgiving. 

Something to recognize is that God’s chosen people were chosen, not to Lord it over others, but in order to be developed into people who could show the world the character and love of God.  

Sometimes, in our world, we find ourselves falling into the sin of jealousy and resentment whenever we hear someone has been chosen for something instead of ourselves…that is because we have the idea that if they are being chosen, then we are not being chosen, so we are being rejected.  That is a worldly idea…God doesn’t reject people automatically, just because someone else is chosen for a particular task or mission. We each have our own task or mission to accomplish in our lives.  No one person’s task is more important or notable than the one that each of us has been given.  That is part of being in the body of Christ…we all have a task, and each task is important…if the foot is not there, then the body cannot move…the foot is not less important then the arm, or the head, or the body…each is important in its own right.  We cannot forget that, we are all to work together for the good of the kingdom of God.

We just need to follow God and be blameless due to our willingness to follow God, and be faithful in this journey we have…just like Abraham.  If you refer back to Matthew Chapter 1 you will see that Abraham was the first person listed in Jesus’ list of ancestors…yet Abraham was not a perfect person, he was a forgiven person!

 

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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.

 

 

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.

God’s Attitude Adjustment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1 Samuel 10

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

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

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

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

Saul Made King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul Rescues the City of Jabesh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul Confirmed as King

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Things God Detests

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Proverbs 6: 16-19 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Read: Genesis Chapter 39  This is the story of Potiphar’s wicked wife who pretty much did all of these things which God detests.  Although she did not shed Joseph’s blood she did cause him to go to prison, which could have resulted in the shedding of his blood for sure…yet, he was innocent of all the things she had charged him with.  She is not a person of good character.  Despite her actions, and the harm 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  Joseph being imprisoned…Joseph did not sin.  He did not say, “Well, whatever, everyone in the world is against me, so I might as well be the person that they have decided that I am!”  He did not engage in a self-pity party.  He decided to stick with God and just make the best of his circumstances.  In the end, his attitude of doing his best despite his circumstances turned out very well for him.  God blessed him for his determination to follow the Lord’s will with his character.

Now, although this is not a popular view in the eyes of the world…let’s consider Potiphar’s wife for a moment…she did all of these bad things.  The Bible clearly tells us that God hates these things….so can it be inferred that God hated Potiphar’s wife?  Absolutely not, God has a hatred of the things that she did, but not of the person of Potiphar’s wife.  She was still a person who was a well loved creation of God.

Most of us, as we go through life,  meet at least one or two people who have done the things that God hates.  It may even be ourselves at one time or another who have done these things…though we like to think not.

Yet look at these things one by one:

captionshesgotbettedaviseyes1.) Haughty eyes….this is someone who thinks too much of themselves, they think they are above others, and that the same tules don’t apply to them as to the “other folk”…that is the sin of PRIDE!  I believe that it can be said that we all at some point in our lives suffer from this sin.  If you have ever judged another person in a condemning way, then you have been prideful. That may seem harsh, but think about it…God did not make you the judge…Jesus Christ is the judge….

Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left.

34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. 36 I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’

41 “Then the king will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me! God has cursed you! Go into everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me.’

44 “They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?’

45 “He will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.’

46 “These people will go away into eternal punishment, but those with God’s approval will go into eternal life.”

GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)Copyright © 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations. Used by permission of Baker Publishing Group

snake_tongue2.) Lying Tongue…well we don’t need an explanation of this do we?  We have all done this….told a lie when the truth would do…sometimes, the lie is as simple as answering, “NOT ME!” when asked if you know who did something. (This particular answer is prevalent in all households with children…in fact, I was once cleaning one of my customer’s houses and one of the children had written it on the wall…I thought, “Oh, so “Not Me” lives here too!”)

3.) hands that shed innocent blood….now it is hoped that we are not guilty of this for sure…though..if it were applied to the blood of an innocent animal instead of a person..it would probably be more than likely that again a vast majority of us would be guilty.  After all, if you drive a vehicle then at some point you are going to probably hit one of those “Kamekaze Squirrels” (or some other animal) that runs out in front of you when they are already across the street…they turn back and go and run under your car’s wheels!

I do not know if God would apply that thought to animals, and I will leave it up to you to decide it.  I, personally, feel mighty upset when I know an animal is killed, though it doesn’t stop me from eating meat.  Scripturally, there is a basis for the idea of the animal’s blood being innocent blood as the sacrificial system of Judaism used animals to represent atoning sacrifice.  Though it was also understood that animal blood did not actually clean away anyone’s sin…it was a representation of the act of how bad sin was to God that blood had to be shed to atone for it. It was also a means to see to the feeding of the priests and their families.  Anyway, I will leave that to each person to decide whether this applies to the blood of animals or only humans.

4.)  A heart that devises wicked schemes…Wow! This is another doozy!  Have you ever decided to do something that you knew was wrong?  Well, here it is…a simple version of the heart that devises wicked schemes.  A wicked scheme is a plot to do something wrong…either to yourself or to someone else….it is a plotting out of a sin before hand.  For instance:  You decide that you want to go into an adult book store after work.  There you have it….you are at work, and you have decided to go and do something later that God would not approve of your doing!  That is a simple example of devising a wicked scheme!  In the world’s eyes there is nothing wrong with that action, but as a Christian you have to look at things from God’s perspective, and he tells us to avoid sexual immorality.  Our culture is full of it….and it is very popular…the television shows are full of all of these issues.

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-shoes-walking-feet-grey-gravel-1000x6665.)  Feet that are quick to rush into evil… This is talking about a person who hears an idea that is to do something wrong, but jumps right into doing it anyway…not taking time to consider how that wrong will affect themselves or those around them.

It could be as simple as deciding to temporarily “borrow” something that is not yours without asking first even with the intention to return it.

There are many ways to be “quick to rush into evil” but the main thing is that we need to be alert to what God considers to be evil..even things that seem at first to not be evil can become so at times.  Gossip is a prime example of a way to be quick to rush into evil.

Gossip…is a very common weakness…a person or group of people can start discussing someone in what seems and has the intention to be a caring manner and it end up being a gossip festival instead.  Whenever, it goes from how is someone doing? into “he said,” “she said,” or “they said” or “I heard”…then it pays to be alert this may be turning into a gossip festival…instead of a caring conversation….gossip harms people because it is not the truth…it is a bunch of speculation…yet many times people don’t give it a thought and rush right into it instead of stopping and thinking first.

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6.)  A False Witness – who pours out lies….Well, when I picture a person who does this…it is a very untrustworthy person.  After all, a person who lies once is hard enough to deal with, but picture how hard it is to deal with a person who lies so easily that the lies just run out of their mouth like water in a river.  This is a person who not only lies, but they lie in order to ruin someone’s character….they are uncaring about other people altogether. The thing is that one lie leads to another in order to cover up the first lie…after a while it is hard to keep up with all the lies that have been told.  At some point, the lie used to protect oneself can end up being a lie that hurts another person.

Have you ever worked for a company and had the managers tell you to  “tell this person or that person…that I am not here right now!”  whenever a person they didn’t wish to take time to speak with would call.  Now, I am sorry, but no matter how you look at it, this is telling someone to lie and that is not right behavior for a Christian at all.  We are not to lead others into sin.  The thing is when you look at this particular lie…it is an easy one to do…many people don’t think about it….it rolls right off the tongue as it seems harmless, doesn’t it?  Funny thing is that this kind of a lie can be altogether avoided and the situation taken care of very kindly by telling the person on the phone, “I’m sorry, that person isn’t available right now.  May I take a message?”  See, there is an absolutely truthful way to handle the same situation that doesn’t require anyone to do something that God hates.  There are always very truthful ways to handle things that people might lie about, and not even make the person feel bad.

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I once heard someone suggest that it is hard to tell a friend that their dress is very ugly when they are of the opinion that it is because they don’t wish to hurt their feelings.  The thing is a person either likes an outfit, or they don’t.  You can always say that you are sure it will look good in the right setting, or that you don’t think it is quite their style.  Again, no lie needed, right?  You can be truthful without being as blunt as a rock with people.  The thing is to be considerate of other folks and make sure you protect their character and feelings as much as possible without lying.  That is just a way of loving someone.

Notice, that God mentions lying as two of the seven things that he doesn’t like?!!  That is because God is a God of Truth…so of course he hates lies of any kind!

IMG_45817.)  A man who stirs up dissension among his brothers…(now this applies to women who stir it up amongst their sisters also)…Dissension is discontent, and disharmony, disunity, and disagreement…God does not like people who sow those seeds amongst others.  This is another situation you see quite often.  There is another way to say this…one bad apple ruins the barrel.  This is to say that you can have a group of people who are really in unity and they are working together with a common goal and a common loving spirit and in comes one person who doesn’t like something or someone.

Let’s use a clear example:  You have a club and they all have a common goal…to enjoy a certain activity together.  Each year you get people in the club who volunteer to be the officers.  One year you get a person who volunteers for one of the offices, and really seems very nice, and helpful and then one day they blow a gasket in the middle of a club activity.  What happened was that they had overloaded themselves, but didn’t gracefully know a way to back out of all they had volunteered to do and it was too much for them.  So after blowing a gasket and quitting in a very public way that person goes home and then sends out email, or gets on the phone and starts calling all the other members to bad mouth everyone else that they were working with in their club….pretty soon…everyone in the club is very upset…especially those who have been unfairly bad mouthed…then a lot of the club members quit…others have hard feelings…it takes years for that club to recover.

The person who blew a gasket was not causing dissension up until they started calling and emailing the other members and bad mouthing others…then they were stirring up dissension.  They were actively, purposefully, working at making others to be discontented within a group.

A person who goes about stirring up dissension is like a poison to a group of people.  It is an active wrecking of the peace which God is wanting us to have with each other.

There are certainly times when we disagree with each other, but there are correct ways to handle that situation.  Going behind a person’s back that you are in disagreement with and talking badly about them is not the correct way to deal with that.

Proverbs 16:28

28 A perverse person stirs up conflict,
    and a gossip separates close friends.

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

The thing about making peace with someone is that you cannot do that behind their back…the only way to make peace with a person is in front of their face and talking to them.

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To see how God promises to care for you when you have a right attitude, an attitude and behavior that glorifies him….read Matthew 5:1-16

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Now, if we are to be the light of the world, then we cannot do things that are done in darkness….otherwise, the light goes out!  All these things that God hates…they are things of darkness that are not done on the up and up with a good attitude…they are all done with the attitude of pride and hatred…not with humbleness and love of our fellow man.  Yet at any one time, we have all been guilty of at least some of these actions…haven’t we?!!  God still loves us, even then.  Just as he loved Potiphar’s wife, yet hated her actions.  So what can we do when we are guilty of these things?

Well, the answer is listed for us in the Bible, over and over…”repent and turn back toward God.”

Acts 3:19 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

The Devourer’s of Widow’s houses

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

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

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

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

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

For instance:  Mark 2:23-27 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus – Arm of the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Isaiah 53 New International Version (NIV)

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

bible verses by way of Bible Gateway.com

 

Avoiding Temptation with Prayer

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Luke 22:40 …Pray that you will not fall into temptation.

Be in prayer so that you can resist temptation. When you are not praying the door is open to the devil.

Read Psalm 141 This is a prayer for God’s protection against doing wrong, or having wrong done to them.  This is a Psalm of David.

Read Psalm 23, 91, 142, 143 These are also prayers of protection.

When in danger, or in a dangerous place, or in temptation, pray to God to keep you from falling to temptation, or being hurt or destroyed in danger.  This is a good prayer to use with soldiers, or missionaries.

Read 1Samuel 24:  This is the story of David hiding in the caves and Saul coming into the same cave to relieve himself and David being tempted by his men to take advantage of Saul’s vulnerability and kill Saul. 

Remember that at this point David has been anointed to be the next King of the people of Israel.  He knows this.  He is being chased by King Saul (the present King) and his men and hunted.  He is hiding in the caves with his men, in fear for his and their lives.

It isn’t much of a mental leap to believe that David, who is described in the Bible as a “mighty man”, a very strong warrior, who has already killed many men in battle would be tempted to go ahead and kill King Saul and take the throne.  He could have even justified it to himself that this was the opportunity that God had given him to do just that.  That is what his men do, that is how they saw the situation.  David did step up for a few seconds and feel tempted…he actually went so far as to sneak up on the King while he was at what most people would consider an extremely vulnerable moment and cut a corner off of his robe.  Then God pricked his conscious about doing anything bad to someone who was anointed by God.

King Saul was after all, such a person.  He was the first anointed King of the People of Israel.

David explains to his men, that it doesn’t go well for anyone who stands up against the one that God has anointed…even if it is another anointed one doing it.  Now that makes for an interesting thought doesn’t it, since Saul is also going up against one who is anointed by God…David, himself.

However, King Saul, by virtue of already being the King was sovereign over David.  David recognized this….King Saul was his master.  David actually loved King Saul and looked up to him.  We see this a bit when we read the story of David and Goliath through David’s interaction with King Saul over the offered use of the King’s armor.  (1Samuel 17)

David also loved King Saul’s son, Jonathon.  He was his best friend.  Imagine how hard it would be to be in David’s position of going up against the father of his best friend.  So, in the end David waits with the scrap of cloth in his hand for King Saul to finish doing his business and leave the cave.

Then he comes out of the cave, and bows before his King and announces, “I could have killed you, but look I didn’t…here is the proof of how close I was to you.”  “Why are you listening to those men who say that I am trying to kill you?”

This was a magnificent gesture of love and bravery on the part of David.  If it were not for the intervention of God this could have turned out disastrously.  King Saul was touched by David’s sincerity toward him, and repented of his desire to kill David.  He accepted a pledge of loyalty from David and they both went on their way.  Now there is a lot more to the story of David and King Saul, but the important thing for this lesson is that David recognized God and left God’s plan to God, himself.  David did not get caught up in the temptation to “make” God’s plan happen in his own way.  It is a very human thing to fall into that temptation…the thing is that there is the way that God wants it done and there is the wrong way.

Whenever we are tempted to take matters into our own hands we should always pray that God will open our eyes and hearts to see the way that he wishes for things to go, and to have the patience to follow that way…no matter how long it takes.  We should pray that God will keep us from temptation.  Just as we are told that Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:9-13

9“Pray, then, in this way:
            ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
            Hallowed be Your name.

      10‘Your kingdom come.
            Your will be done,
            On earth as it is in heaven.

      11‘Give us this day our daily bread.

      12‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

      13‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

morningprayer_-jean-baptistegreuze_1780_wmc_pd_500s1
Morning Prayer by Jean-Baptiste Greuze in 1780

Honest Prayer

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

Psalm 99:5 Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.

Read Matthew 23 

A Warning Against Hypocrisy

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

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

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

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c]

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 23:5 That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm
  2. Matthew 23:14 Some manuscripts include here words similar to Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47.
  3. Matthew 23:39 Psalm 118:26

(From Bible Gateway.com… the NIV)

 

In Matthew 23 we find that Jesus is very condemning of the actions of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees.  He tells his Disciples to learn from them by following what they say because they know the law well..(they are sitting in the seat of Moses).  However, Jesus warns his Disciples not to act the way these men act.  These particular Pharisees and teachers of the law whom Jesus was talking about (Jesus and Paul the Apostle were both Pharisees by the way)  were men who failed in their responsibility to God.  They were supposed to be teaching the people about who God was, that he was a God of Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness.  

Instead they were teaching people the letter of the law, but not the Spirit of the Law.  The Spirit of the Law is supposed to bring you closer to God.  Following the Spirit of the Law also brings you closer to your fellow man.  Just look at the characteristics of God given by Jesus, Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness.  If we use those characteristics in dealing with each other we also draw closer to each other in love.  It is nearly impossible to understand Justice, Mercy or Faithfulness without having love involved also.  I am not talking romantic love here, but the love of your fellow humans..compassion.  I mean who doesn’t want to be around and spend time with someone who is compassionate and gentle, merciful and forgiving, and fair?  That is God and those are God’s character traits…we are told to be like that to each other.

garden-of-eden

(Now there are some people who want to judge God and say that God is not always fair…but for those people ask yourself…are you really qualified to judge God?…if you are…then doesn’t that mean that you are taking on the position of God?  Just think about that a bit…it is a hard thing to wrap your mind around…but either Jesus is the Lord of your life….or he’s not..if he’s not, then that means you are trying to be the Lord of your own life…that never actually works out well. -Just refer back to the story of Adam and Eve and see how it worked out for them)

Jesus wanted his Disciples to follow both the letter and the spirit.  He wanted his Disciples to know that the law was not just something to be talked about and taught to others.  It was to be followed by his Disciples too.

The Pharisees were telling everyone else to follow the law, and making it so hard on the average Jew that they were having trouble following them all! However, they, the Pharisees themselves, were not following all of the laws that they were putting upon others.  They were sinning themselves, the sins of pride, and self indulgence, and hypocrisy.  Yet they were busy bodies who were constantly telling other people how they should live, and criticizing what others do.

Jesus tells them that they are all shine, and no substance…they look nice on the outside, but the inside is rotten.  (I think we have probably all met people like this.)  I really love the phrase used about the white washed tomb filled with the bones of rotting corpses (unclean things)…slight paraphrase there, but the meaning is very clear.

The Pharisees in question were clearly hypocrites (aka actors) they were putting on a constant show of “whoo, my poop don’t stink because I am so very Godly..it wouldn’t dare stink….I always look and smell like roses!”  That is what is meant when Jesus says talks about their garments and phylacteries….he is saying that they are making them larger and longer to make them seem like they are more important to them and make themselves seem more holy.  Kind of like if you see someone who is carrying around a Bible and quoting scripture  all the time, but then you hear them tell a whopping lie to someone.  That would probably be the equivalent situation in our time.

If you think about it there are a lot of people who are running all over telling everyone how Christian they are, but then they just don’t act like they know God at all when dealing in their day to day life.  They are just giving God the nod of their head on Sunday and the rest of the week doing whatever they want.  In other words they are not taking God seriously, are they?

Jesus gets on them about the importance they place on the gold in the temple instead of the sacredness of temple itself, and why the temple is sacred.  Now that happens a lot even now.  People put more emphasis on the building they are worshipping in than they do God whom the building is for, or God’s people who are in the building.  That is a sad situation for sure….if a person takes their focus off of God for a second or two, then it is easy to end up with your focus on the wrong thing.  People get panicky whenever they are trying to hold onto something that they perceive that they may lose….at times like that it is easy to get side tracked from God.

This idea of “swearing on the gold in the temple” has carried over into more modern days, and is still around now.  Back in the time of Martin Luther the monk (not Martin Luther King Jr.) the church sold “penance” to people.  Martin Luther did not agree with this and was verbal about it. The church allowed people to buy forgiveness and many rich men took advantage of this to use their money to get away with doing whatever they wanted. 

Today, there are still many Christians who have wealth and believe that as long as they tithe enough money or spend enough on charities they are excused from their actions. 

Jesus did not agree with this and he condemned people who where praying or acting holy  for the sake of pretending to be Holy, while having the education about God to know that this is wrong. They are ignoring what they know in pursuit of themselves and their own glorification on earth. 

Jesus states that these Pharisees are greatly damned for their actions. In other words, the more they know, the more they are expected to represent God to the people, so the greater their damnation when they misuse what they know for their own gain.   It is really important to be honest in your dealings with God and with others. 

Keep in mind that God knows what you think and what you are doing, what your real motivations are.  The only person you are fooling with your behavior is yourself.  The Pharisees fooled themselves.

Follow God through Prayer

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This is a picture of a burnt log and some flowers growing next to it in Yellowstone National Park.  All through the park there was evidence of recovery.  Even in the events of our lives that cause some dreams and aspirations to die, God is with us and can bring beauty from ashes.  If only we talk to Him and follow His leading.

Psalm 37:5-7 Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this, He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.

Read 1Samuel 23:1-14 David asked the Lord if he was to go to Keilah and stand against the Philistines, God told him to go and that he would deliver the Philistines into his hands.  David did so, and God did as he said he would. God protected David and used him (even though Saul was trying to take his life) to save the people of Keilah.

Read Psalm 37:5-7 Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this, He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn. The justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, do not fret, when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

This is an excellent verse to take to heart when you are praying for something, you must trust in God for the answer, even if you don’t see immediate results, be committed to knowing that God is committed to you and that He hears your prayers, and will take action on your behalf.  

God’s justice is always much more accurate and precise than anything that you and I can come up with.  Sometimes the person whom we want justice from has suffered an even greater injustice than we have, but we don’t know it.  That doesn’t excuse the injustice we suffered by them, but it may help us to understand where they were coming from and find a way to love that person despite what they have done.  

David, makes it clear through out his relationship with King Saul that he does not despise Saul and has no wish to take his throne from him before the appointed time that God will give it to him.  David continues to attempt to serve Saul to the best of his ability despite Saul’s hatred of him, and his constant attempts to take David’s life.

I mean, Saul throws spears at David while David is entertaining Saul with his music.  Saul chases him down and tries to kill him.  When you look at some of the Psalms that David wrote, the headings on some of them tell us that they were written in caves while he was hiding for fear of his life.  That fear is because King Saul is after him.

King Saul actually admired David and promoted him to the position he was in, but after God turned from Saul and David was anointed by Samuel as the next King of Israel (the United Kingdom of Israel) Saul then started to fear David when he saw how mighty he was.  After Saul heard chanting in the street that “Saul had slain his thousands and David his ten thousands…”  (1Samuel 18:6-8) then King Saul could see that David could take his throne as he was held in higher esteem by the people of Israel than was King Saul.

As far as I can find in the Bible there isn’t any direct statement to Saul that David is the one anointed to take his place.  King Saul is just told that another will take his place as King.  King Saul went off of the deep end without a life jacket once he figured out that David was considered “mightier than he!”

However, David despite being given an opportunity of temptation to kill King Saul as he was urinating in a cave where David and his men were hiding….refuses to succumb to the temptation to go ahead and get his kingdom through assassination!  Even with his men egging him on!

1Samuel 24:1-22 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day theLord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed,or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lorddelivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. (NIV via Biblegateway.com)

This kind of thinking and acting is why the Lord stated that David was a man after his own heart.  David loved Saul and loved Saul’s son, Jonathon who was his best friend, like a brother.  I am sure that it pained David to know that he was going to be taking the throne which would have gone to Jonathon, if Saul had remained King.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to have affected the close bond between the two men.  They looked out for each other. Jonathon tried his best to protect David from his father, King Saul.

If we try to understand King Saul’s actions they were largely out of fear…he drove himself crazy from his fear of losing his kingdom.  This tells us how deep Saul’s belief in the words of Samuel the prophet…even though he continually acted against what Samuel had told him to do.  Saul feared people more than he feared the Lord, and fear was his chief motivator.  So in essence, Saul was a person who looked good on the surface, but his actions did not bear scrutiny once you got to know him.  He wasn’t a bad person, but he was a leader and he was in charge of leading his people in the way that the Lord wished them to go.  He was catastrophically unable to do this because of his fears. He was not a Psalm 37:5-7 king.  (Though that Psalm written by David when he was King was written well after  Saul’s demise…perhaps David may have thought of and remembered Saul when he wrote it.)

David suffered a lot of injustice at the hands of Saul, we are never told why Saul acted with so much fear.  Hazarding a guess and going into Saul’s background he was simply not built for the demands of Kingship…it was a great big stress to him, but once he was there, he wanted to keep the job.  He didn’t want to be a failure.  However, he was a failure.  He was self centered instead of God centered.

Simply put, Saul failed to follow God, so God replaced him.  David, despite his faults, never forgot or let his own thoughts replace his love and respect for God.

If you are a leader that God has put in place, you are held very responsible by God for how you lead…more so than the average person who has no one they are leading.  Be a good leader if you are called to lead, pray and follow God’s leading…Wait upon the Lord in all circumstances.  Prayer is the way to “wait upon the Lord.”  If you don’t talk to him, then you won’t know what God wants from you.

 

Note: As an exercise I find it helpful to look up the different places spoken about in the Bible and see where they are on a map.  It kind of gives me a scope of how far things are from each other, and what the terrain is like.   Keilah is 8.5 miles NW of Hebron, the Desert of Ziph is 4 miles SE of Hebron.  Keilah is now satisfactorily by archaeologists as identified with Khirbet Kila.

http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-old-testament.html