The case has been thrown out…

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

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

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

guilt_carry-man

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

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

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

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

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

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-shoes-walking-feet-grey-gravel-1000x666

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

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

hqdefault

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

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

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

A psalm of David.

1Let all that I am praise the LORD;

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

2Let all that I am praise the LORD;

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

3He forgives all my sins

and heals all my diseases.

4He redeems me from death

and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

5He fills my life with good things.

My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

6The LORD gives righteousness

and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

7He revealed his character to Moses

and his deeds to the people of Israel.

8The LORD is compassionate and merciful,

slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

9He will not constantly accuse us,

nor remain angry forever.

10He does not punish us for all our sins;

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

11For his unfailing love toward those who fear him

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

12He has removed our sins as far from us

as the east is from the west.

13The LORD is like a father to his children,

tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

14For he knows how weak we are;

he remembers we are only dust.

15Our days on earth are like grass;

like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

16The wind blows, and we are gone—

as though we had never been here.

17But the love of the LORD remains forever

with those who fear him.

His salvation extends to the children’s children

18of those who are faithful to his covenant,

of those who obey his commandments!

19The LORD has made the heavens his throne;

from there he rules over everything.

20Praise the LORD, you angels,

you mighty ones who carry out his plans,

listening for each of his commands.

21Yes, praise the LORD, you armies of angels

who serve him and do his will!

22Praise the LORD, everything he has created,

everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the LORD.

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

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

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

Nathan’s Parable and David’s Confession

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

n00022518-b

 

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

OR

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

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

John 8:31-36 (New Living Translation)

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

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

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

 

Advertisements

Embarrassing Worship…

n00022518-b

Luke 9:25-26  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Have you ever been embarrassed by God? or by worship of God?  embarrassed to talk about God to someone?  Embarrassed by someone who wants to talk about God to you?

For most people, the answer to that question would probably be yes, that at some time in their lives they have been embarrassed regarding God.  It isn’t that they don’t like God, but most of the time it is that many people do not want to be considered “wacky, way out there, uncool, outside of the world’s norm”, or just really don’t know enough about who God is in their own life to be able to relay that to someone else comfortably.

I remember when I was a teenager in high school having an experience where I wanted to run away from this woman who was right up in my face saying “HAVE YOU BEEN BORN AGAIN?!!! BECAUSE IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN BORN AGAIN..YOU CANNOT GET INTO HEAVEN!”  Here I was a normal, but very shy teenage girl, at a car wash fund raiser for the band trip and this woman who was having her car washed pretty much attacked me with those words out of the blue.  I found her to be down right scary!

Now, back then I very much believed in God and prayed and already had taken Jesus into my heart, but I really didn’t have the relationship with God that I have now, and I expect that my relationship with God will continue to deepen and grow the rest of my life.  However, I was largely unchurched at that point…didn’t really start going regularly until I was an adult…we moved a lot and neither of my parents were church goers then.  I had never at that point even heard about this “born again thing”…all I knew was that I was relying on God to get me through my life with prayer…I really only knew Bible stories from the Children’s Bible which I had read several times…it was very comforting.  The thing is,  a Bible written to Children is just that, and does not have the depth of the complete Word of God.  However, the Bible tells us to have the faith of a child and at that point I certainly did…it was very simple…God said it..I believed it.

That is still what God wants from us today…just like a child we are to believe him.  The thing is that as we get deeper into scripture our understanding of God grows and so does our relationship with him so that as we mature we go from this feeling of wanting to run away from people who talk about him…to the feeling of deep joy whenever we are with someone who loves God and wants to talk about God with us.

I will tell you that from my perspective now, I still feel that the “attack” method is the wrong method to approach and share your faith with someone.  It makes the person feel inadequate, embarrassed, and defensive…they are definitely not going to want to listen to anything that is said to them!

Usually, when you tell someone that if they don’t “do” something they cannot get into heaven, then the person you are talking to gets the mistaken impression that there is something they can “do” to get into heaven.  The truth is that we can only get there by the grace of God, through belief in the saving power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  God is the one who “gets us there”…faith is what “gets us there”…as my Pastor is fond of reminding us, “there is nothing you can do that will make God love your more…or less.”

The “attack” method leaves people believing that God is mad at them…whether that is intended or not…that is usually the result.

I have been to a variety of churches over the course of my life, and the ones I dislike the most are when the minister is preaching in a very dogmatic, and loud, voice…it is in an “attack” mode…”you are a sinner” type of voice.  Now, for some people, that is what they are used to and they respond to this…for myself, I believe that if as the Bible says God talks to us in a “still, small voice” then why is it okay for ministers who are representing God to be yelling at his people?

littleboy-610x406

1Kings 19:11-13  

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

 

Now, when we look at this story of King David, he took 30,000 men with him to move the Ark of God back to Jerusalem..they were celebrating greatly…we have all seen that many people celebrating something…most sports stadiums hold about that number of people and we see people doing all sorts of strange things in celebration of their teams…embarrassing things…painting their bodies weirdly, jumping, yelling and screaming for their teams….so put that picture in your head and think about David and his 30,000 men doing that in celebration that God is going back to the “City of David” with them…in the form of the Ark of the Covenant.  They are almost there and then something happens…one of the oxen pulling the cart stumbles…someone unthinking of the rules for dealing with God reverently grabs the ark and it kills them.  Now, if you have ever seen the movie the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and watched the scene toward the end where the evil guy opened the ark and it killed everyone who looked at it…it may give you an idea of the power of the Ark of God…it had real power because God had designated it as the place he would reside when he was with the Israelites…keep in mind there was no temple built yet…so touching it was an irreverent thing to do!  God had laid out rules about who could approach him back in Leviticus and how they could approach him. Anyway, looking at this fellow dying from touching the Ark scared David a lot….it stopped the celebration in its tracks.  David decided that it was too risky to bring that Ark into the city, so he left it in the care of Obed-Edom the Gittite for 3 months.  When he heard how blessed this guy became and that he wasn’t killed, David decided to go and get the Ark after all.

imageNow, we come to some more extreme celebrating…it tells us that David was dancing in the streets as he came into the city…he was only wearing an ephod on the top half of his body…that is basically a vest….he is unashamedly celebrating the return of his God to the city.

Now, his wife, who was Saul’s daughter, Michal…was extremely embarrassed by the sight of her husband, the King of Israel, dancing  wildly and jumping about in the streets, half dressed.  She tells him so as soon as he gets home….in 2Samuel 6:21-22

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

(Now we are told that Michal had no children to the day of her death…I am guessing that this is because David was no longer interested in someone who held him in disgust and disrespected his love of God like she did….I don’t read into that some “punishment from God that he closed her womb”…just that she didn’t have children before that and had no opportunity to become pregnant after that.)

 

 Read 2 Samuel Chapter 6 and John 13:1-17

Samuel Chapter 6   New International Version (NIV)

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. He and all his men went to Baalah[a] in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name,[b] the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it,[c] and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets,[d] harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.[e]

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord.18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessedthe people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 6:2 That is, Kiriath Jearim (see 1 Chron. 13:6)
  2. 2 Samuel 6:2 Hebrew; Septuagint and Vulgate do not have the Name.
  3. 2 Samuel 6:4 Dead Sea Scrolls and some Septuagint manuscripts; Masoretic Text cart and they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill
  4. 2 Samuel 6:5 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint (see also 1 Chron. 13:8) songs
  5. 2 Samuel 6:8 Perez Uzzah means outbreak against Uzzah.
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 13 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

 

jesus-washing-peters-feet-ford-madox-brown-1856-publicdomain-detail

I find Peter to be very endearing here…in this story, his behavior is one of childish enthusiasm toward Jesus….he doesn’t want to miss out on whatever Jesus is offering…so he responds in an “over the top” statement of  “don’t just wash my feet then, but wash all the other limbs as well…make sure I am all clean from head to toe – I don’t want to miss out on any part of whatever you are offering us…give me a double portion of it!” (Paraphrase of verse 9)  I really appreciate how enthusiastic Peter is toward receiving Jesus.  Jesus simply tells him that he only needs his feet to be cleaned in order to be completely clean.  (Now there are a lot of Jewish traditions and understandings regarding this that goes a lot deeper about the washing of the feet and the different traditional methods of ceremonial cleansing, but I am focused on Peter’s enthusiasm, not on the cleaning right now.)

The point here is that we need to be enthusiastic in expressing our love of God and our worship of God to others.  We need to Glorify God for what he does in our lives.  Whenever, we find ourselves excited we should express it, even if we may be embarrassed to do so.  I find it to be very peculiar that we have so many Christians who would go to a ball game, or a concert, and cheer loudly and scream and do all manner of things in that set of circumstances, but whenever they are faced with worshipping or praising God the same people would sit in the pews, or stand up like a stick and never make a sound.  Isn’t God much more exciting and worthy of screaming and yelling and cheering in excitement of worship than a sports team or a music group?  If you are a Christian and you don’t think so, then maybe a little re-examination of who God is in your life is in order…just who is God…to you? Ask yourself… “how do I glorify and worship God?  Is God embarrassing for me to talk about?”

 

 

Praying for the Good of Others

162105287141082

Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Note Acts 1:14 demonstrates that it is important to pray together and be praying for the same things, in the same way. That is to be of one accord, or in agreement.

Read Acts 12:1-18 This is the story of Peter’s rescue by the angel of the Lord from prison.  A good illustration of the power of group prayer in one accord.  This is an amazing story.  Peter is rescued, and then he goes to the door of the house of his fellow Christians and the woman is so shocked and happy that she doesn’t even open  the door!  She leaves him standing there so that she can go and tell everyone else who had been praying for him! They actually suggest it is his ghost! You can just see this in your minds eye, can’t you?!

This group of people were praying for him and God answer their prayer promptly…so promptly that they could hardly believe it.  Peter went to let them know he was safe and make sure they passed the information on to others, but then he left.  We go a bit further down and see that Herod was very unhappy about this situation and was probably looking for Peter.  He really wanted to execute him.

You can contrast this story to the one of Paul and Silas being in prison and having an earthquake hit.  (Acts 16:16-40) They didn’t leave, but Peter actually thought he was having a dream, but was in fact being rescued by an angel.  Similar situations, but God handled them differently.  In the case of Paul, he and his companion were there to facilitate the salvation of the Jailer and his family, and their fellow prisoners.  Also they were not being held by King Herod and not under threat of death, God did not have to effect a miraculous rescue for them.  Now that jailer was going to kill himself if Paul and Silas and the other prisoners had escaped, but it wasn’t necessary. The Roman penalty for a jailer who let their prisoners escape was that they had to suffer the harshest penalty of the prisoners they were holding…for ex. if someone in their group of prisoners was sentenced to death, then they would be taking the place of that person if the prisoner escaped.

Peter’s death was eminent if he had not been rescued by the angel.  God was not done with Peter, and there were a lot of people praying for Peter’s well being.  In Paul’s case his and Silas’ arrest was less serious, and Paul had a way out because of his Roman citizenship (though it was not known at the time of the decision to release them).  Paul and Silas also went to visit someone before they left town…people who were probably concerned and praying for Paul and Silas also.

One thing you can bet on in both of these situations is that God knew what situation his people were in, and was keeping and eye on it.  Things went the way that God planned.  Peter escaped and went on about the Lord’s work, and Paul and Silas did the Lord’s work while in jail, and when they were released they also went on about the Lord’s work continuously….preaching the Kingdom is here to everyone they met!  The power of group prayer cannot be underrated.  Many times when we pray for someone we tend to pray in a very specific and limiting way.  Recently, it was brought to my attention through study in a group that we should actually be praying for God’s blessings to shower down into their life..that they have the fullness of all of God’s blessings!

If you think about it…having the fullness of all of God’s blessings is that they have the most “life” in their life…they would be in line with God’s plan for them, and would be a disciple of Christ who is busy making other disciples of Christ…that is what Peter and Paul and Silas and all of the other Disciples of the Lord did for the remainder of their lives….they preached the Kingdom and made Disciples who preached the Kingdom and made more Disciples…isn’t that the greatest blessing…to know that you have been an able participant in the Kingdom of Heaven and bringing others into the Kingdom also?

IMG_0089Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison

Acts Chapter 12:1-16 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”

12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.

18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Closer to Thee, Lord

2f3abf49c62b1a7aef6c4ffc1a9b42d7
I liked this image of these ladies leaping in joy and excitement…it reminded me of John leaping in the womb at the nearness of Jesus also in the womb!

Psalm 84:2 My soul longeth yea even fainteth for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

Psalm 84  This is a prayer for closeness to God.  The person is acknowledging that those who are close to God are blessed and joyful and strong.  In verse 2 the musician states that his soul is faint with longing for God.

Prayer is a way to grow closer to God and understand His plans for your life, you should not only pray to have closeness to God for yourself, you should also prayer for others to grow closer to God so that they can have the joy of knowing Him.

Read Luke 1:5-25  This is the story of Zacharias the priest and Elizabeth his wife and the promise of their coming child who is to be John the Baptist.   God’s angel comes and tells Zacharias that his prayers have been heard.  This is a good lesson on waiting for answered prayer that even when we have prayed for years and don’t see the answer that God has heard us and will answer our prayers.

Luke 1:5-25  In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (NIV)  

If you want to know more about the priestly divisions read 1 Chronicles 23 and 24.  The main thing to note about the priestly relationship of Zacharias is that the priestly division of Abijah was directly descended from Aaron, Mose’s brother, through his son Ithamar.  So was Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife.  It is stated in Luke that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous and blameless in the sight of the Lord; that they kept God’s commands and decrees. Now the fact that they kept his decrees does not mean that they never sinned, it is just that they were in their daily life and in their hearts devoted to God and doing everything that was required of them by law to the best of their abilities.  Blameless and righteous does not mean perfect and sinless.  God considered them righteous due to their faith, the same way that he considered Abraham righteous.  It was that they had a heart for God.

Now in the worldly view of things these people had no blessing of children and they were old.  This would have made the people of their world look down on them with pity, as carrying on the family name was of the utmost importance.  It was so important that when a man was married and died childless, his brother (if he had one) was commanded to marry the widow and raise up a child as if it were his brother’s child.  Apparently, Zacharias and Elizabeth were used to the idea that they were not going to have any children…after all they were old..they were probably resigned to the fact.  Most people would be when that much time had passed, wouldn’t they?!!

Yet, they continued to follow God in their daily lives.  Their faithfulness was not based on what God could do for them.  It was on the idea that, well, “God was God, and if he wanted them to have children he would make it happen, and if not then God was God; it wasn’t meant to be”

Their attitude of faith stood them in good stead and God recognized it and sent an angel to tell Zacharias that he and Elizabeth would be having a son.  Now, here is a hiccup for you…Zacharias didn’t actually believe the angel…he could not get past the idea that he and Elizabeth were too old to biologically have a child.  His doubt cost him.  He was struck dumb until the child was born and it was time for the naming of the baby.  Now, it doesn’t seem that he was deafened, as it says that he made signs to them, but that he could not speak.  The rest of the story is that he was not allowed to speak until the time came to name the baby and he said, “His name is John.”

John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus the Christ…there is a lot more to this story.  As the story says John was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born, and that Holy Spirit recognized Jesus in the womb when Mary came to visit his Mother, Elizabeth right after she was told that she would bear a child….John the Baptist  “leaped in the womb.”  In other words, he was excited to see and be near Jesus even though neither of them had been born yet.  I find this to be a pretty awesome thing!  Holiness recognizing Holiness.

That is what we are to be to God, someone who can recognize him whenever we are around him or his people.  Someone who gets excited by being around and involved with God; by being in conversation and worship with him.  Just like John the Baptist in the womb recognizing Christ…we should endeavor to draw so close to God that we can recognize him by instinct before we even can work it out in our conscious thought processes.  We can know what God is asking of us and know that it is he who is speaking to us.

Deborah’s Leadership – Make a Joyful Noise

prayer-1427565125dg4

Psalm 66:1 Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands

Read Psalm 66  This is the psalm of praise of making a joyful noise to God. It is important to thank God for his gifts, and blessings, in the form of praying praises to God.  Just as you would thank a friend for a gift they have given you.  God gives you gifts and blessing all the time, you must thank Him in prayer.  God enjoys being appreciated.

Read Judges 4 thru Judges 5:3  This is the story of Israel being freed from captivity to Canaan, and take note of Deborah’s use of prophecy from God to bring this about, and that they praised God’s name for their deliverance.

Judges Chapter 4 – Judges 5:3  4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.  

Judges 5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
    when the people willingly offer themselves—
    praise the Lord!

“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
    I, even I, will sing to[a] the Lord;
    I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 4:4 Traditionally judging
  2. Judges 4:11 Or father-in-law
  3. Judges 5:3 Or of

***NIV via Biblegateway.com***

Now, I have run across many people over the years who are completely ignoring that Deborah was a woman who was the leader of Israel.  Not only was she a woman, but also a wife, and a prophetess of God.  It is evident that she was well respected in that position from the fact that she was able to send for Barak and tell him how many men to take and what to do with those men.  The fact that Barak actually came when she called for him, and refused to go to war without her presence shows us that he probably considered Deborah’s presence as a prophetess of God and the leader of their people to be like having God along in endorsement of the venture.

Now, Deborah’s reaction to his insistence of her going with him was that God looked upon that as a lack of faith and would give the enemy, Sisera, into the hand of a woman.  In other words, Barak wouldn’t get the glory for vanquishing Sisera.  Despite this, Barak did what he was told to do, and went forward faithfully into battle.  It came about as Deborah had said, and a woman named Jael was used by God to vanquish Sisera.  However, Barak and his men did conquer the rest of the “900 chariots” belonging to Sisera, so Sisera was running away trying to find a safe place to hide.  Jael was to Sisera like the saying of the spider to the fly…”come right in and you will be safe.”

Personally, I find this story of Deborah to fly in the face of many of the commonly held misconceptions passed down in the church about only men can lead.  Certain denominations still hold to that idea, and many are so caught up in it that they sometimes make the feminine members of their congregants feel as if they are lacking something.  There are many examples in the Bible of how important women are in God’s plans.

While the New Testament books are certainly written by men, there are many women in them also whom Jesus interacted with, and who very clearly lead their people to Christ.

We don’t have to look far…the woman at the well was responsible for leading many in her village to know the Messiah(John 4:1-42), and Jesus told Martha that her sister, Mary was doing what was important.  That is listening to Jesus and learning from him. (Luke 10:39-42) 

There are many other women in the Bible who fulfilled critical roles…Esther, Ruth, Rahab to name a few, and of course, Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

The common thing that we find with these women is that they all loved God, and recognized what a huge gift God’s love, forgiveness/grace was to them.

IMG_0878
When I see this teapot it gives the idea of sitting down at the table with a friend and having a chat…I get a warm feeling from the image, just as I get a warm feeling from the idea of having a chat with God.

Even Martha in her own way was trying to edify and serve God by being a good hostess to Jesus in her home.   What Jesus wanted most from her, though, was for her to give him her personal time and attention. (Another thing to take note of was that the resurrected Jesus first appeared to two women, Mary and Martha.)

When we spend time thanking God for what he has done for us, and praising him through prayer and song we are also to spend time listening and communing with him.  We are actually celebrating not just what God has done for us recently, but also celebrating our relationship with him while we are doing this.

I know this blog entry put emphasis on the women in the Bible and their relationship with God, but the act of praising God joyfully through song and prayer applies to everyone regardless of gender…the point is that God created us all differently, but wonderfully and we should always celebrate with him whatever role he has called us to fulfill in life.

Celebrate that he has loved us and given us a purpose to fulfill — to be in close relationship with him, and to help draw others into relationship with him by sharing what we know about God with them.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)