In Whose Image are you?

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

Read Matthew 22:15-22  (NIV)

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

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

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

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

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

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 22:17 A special tax levied on subject peoples, not on Roman citizens
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immanuel – God With Us

christmas-nativity-scene_455966Matthew 1:23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”

Read Isaiah Chapters 6 and 7:  This is where the prophecy of Jesus being born from a virgin appears.  King Ahaz is being told not to worry or be afraid to stand firm on his faith, or not stand at all.  There are two kings planning to attack Jerusalem, but God tells Ahaz that this will never happen.  He says that before Immanuel is born both the kingdom of Damascus and the kingdom of Samaria will be in ruins, for more information about this invasion see 2Kings 15 and 16.

Also note that in King James the name Syria is used in the place of Aram.  Looking into a bible dictionary we find that Aram and Syria are interchangeable.  The word Aram  is the name of the youngest son of Shem who was one of Noah’s son’s making Aram his grandson.  Aram was the founder of the Aramaean nation and so the country of Syria is rightly called Aram, though the same Hebrew word means Mesopotamia and Syria.  The designation Syria as an abbreviation of Assyria and came into common usage after the conquests of Alexander the Great. During Ahaz’ time there were actually two separate countries/nations Assyria and Syria.  

In the story of King Ahaz, God was with Ahaz and God had Isaiah give a prophecy of when God would be with us in the flesh.  The prophecy was given to the people of the House of David.  Obviously, this part of the prophecy wasn’t taking place that day or being fulfilled in Ahaz’ life time.  Jesus wasn’t born for several hundred years after this,  but it was a promise from God, and these people knew that God keeps his promises.  

The thing about prophecies in the Bible is that God almost always gives a “short term – in their life time” prophecy whenever he is giving a long term “somewhere in the future, but not necessarily in your life time” prophecy.  One reason for this is to show that the prophet is legitimately a prophet and can be trusted that if he gives a prophecy it will eventually come true.  

In this case the short term prophecy was directly to King Ahaz and his people that God is with them in spirit “right now” and will take care of their problem…all they have to do is to wait on the Lord to act…they just need to wait faithfully.  The second half of the prophecy is that later on God will be with his people, literally, “in the flesh.”  Walking among them.

Sometimes, I don’t think that, as Christians, we really give enough thought to the idea of God walking around in the flesh and what that tells us about God.  He didn’t just send Jesus to “die” for us…he also sent him to “live” with us.  So that we would know exactly who God is, and what God believes is the best form of worship, and so that we can have constant communion with him….each and every day of our lives.

We could never reach up to God…so God came down to us…isn’t that just the most awesome thing?  Whenever, I think of it…how deep is his love for us that he would enter the hardship of living in a physical body with its daily needs and aches and pains just so that he can get close to us?  I know, you are thinking, but how can God house himself in a human body?  Well, I don’t know the specific answer to that question, except to just acknowledge that He is God..by the very nature of being God…shouldn’t he be able to do anything?  If there is something that God cannot do, then He would not be God, would he?!! 

We do not need to know how God does everything…we just need to know that he can and he does…God is able and he is with us!  What more can we ask for in life?

God is Sovereign

grand-turk-first-reef-stop-sea-weedGenesis 1:3 And God said,”Let there be light and there was light…”

Read Job chapters 38 and 39  and Read Genesis 1 thru Genesis 2:4. 

When we look at these chapters they are a beautiful reminder of the sovereign power of God.  Simply put…God is awesome! In Genesis we read about how God spoke the world into existence…and in Job we read about how detailed these plans were….how he “laid the earth’s foundation”..anyone who knows anything about building something knows that a foundation is not laid without a plan.  Most people even when they go to build something as simple as a chicken house or a garden shed will go and make a basic plan of the size and materials needed, then take and put some sticks in the ground and lay it all out with string before starting to even dig holes for the foundation to be poured, or to put posts in the ground.  I know that when my husband and I built a fence to contain some animals we spent hours studying all the different types of fencing available and what we needed to have to best keep the animals that we had inside the fence.  After all, who wants to chase animals around because they get out.

Now, as human beings we have a saying, “the best laid plans go awry,”  this is often true for us as we have to contend with outside influences that we have no control over.  Truthfully, God is the only one who has control over everything.  God can control everything with just a word.

So many times we hear ourselves asking…then why doesn’t God do this?  Why doesn’t God just “fix” everything that is wrong?  The answer is that God wants us to learn who he is and that he is a God of love.  He wants us to learn to actually live the two great commandments that Jesus laid out for us.  Now, to live those commandments we have to learn how to love people no matter what they do…that is how God loves us.  We have to learn to love others the way God loves them, and that is how we are to show God that we love him.  If we all did this then it would glorify God…and glorifying God is what our lives are actually about.

We are told in Isaiah 43:7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (KJV)

pexels-photo-29095The Lord Speaks

Job Chapter 38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 “Can you bind the chains[b] of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
    or lead out the Bear[d] with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’s[e] dominion over the earth?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom[f]
    or gives the rooster understanding?[g]
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
    Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
    and the clods of earth stick together?

39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
    and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry out to God
    and wander about for lack of food?

Footnotes:

  1. Job 38:7 Hebrew the sons of God
  2. Job 38:31 Septuagint; Hebrew beauty
  3. Job 38:32 Or the morning star in its season
  4. Job 38:32 Or out Leo
  5. Job 38:33 Or their
  6. Job 38:36 That is, wisdom about the flooding of the Nile
  7. Job 38:36 That is, understanding of when to crow; the meaning of the Hebrew for this verse is uncertain.

162105287141082Job Chapter 39 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
    Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young;
    their labor pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
    they leave and do not return.

“Who let the wild donkey go free?
    Who untied its ropes?
I gave it the wasteland as its home,
    the salt flats as its habitat.
It laughs at the commotion in the town;
    it does not hear a driver’s shout.
It ranges the hills for its pasture
    and searches for any green thing.

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
    Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
    Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
    Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
    and bring it to your threshing floor?

13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
    though they cannot compare
    with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
    and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
    that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
    she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
    or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
    she laughs at horse and rider.

19 “Do you give the horse its strength
    or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
    striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
    and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
    it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
    along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
    it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
    It catches the scent of battle from afar,
    the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
    and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
    and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
    a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
    its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
    and where the slain are, there it is.”

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Genesis Chapter 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good,and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

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

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

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Genesis Chapter 2:1-4 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Adam and Eve

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LordGod made the earth and the heavens.

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.

Faithfulness and Integrity of Heart-God’s response to Solomon

city_of_david

Read 1Kings 9:3-9: The Lord said to him:“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’” (NIV)

This is God’s answer to Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication. The guidelines that God gave to Solomon are pretty simple aren’t they?  God tells Solomon in these verses to have “integrity of the heart and uprightness” like his father David did.  What do you think God means by integrity of the heart?  I mean we know that David was someone who sinned….he was an adulterer, and a murderer he had Bathsheba’s husband killed by ordering him placed at the front of the battle and having the troupes than back away from him…in order to hide his adultery because Bathsheba came up pregnant and he couldn’t get Uriah to sleep with his wife after he ordered him home from the battle.  When I think of David, I certainly it certainly doesn’t seem like he had integrity of the heart and uprightness.  He was a sinner plain and simple…but in God’s eyes after David had passed away and the throne of David was given to his son, Solomon, God still saw David as someone who had integrity of the heart and uprightness.  How can this be?

In Acts 13:22 we are told that God had found David, a man after God’s own heart to replace Saul as King.  So how can a person who is a sinner be someone who is after God’s own heart.  Someone who is an adulterer and a murderer be someone who has “integrity of the heart and uprightness?”

David did not recognize his own sinfulness.  He fell into the trap of thinking that because he was King he was above everyone who recognized him as their King.

After all, it isn’t like Bathsheba had a choice in the matter…she was taking a bath, and David saw her, and wanted her.  So, as her King, he sent for her, and probably pretty much took what he wanted from her, or coerced her in some way.  It is highly unlikely that she was allowed to say no to him.  Women in David’s time did not have a lot of rights, and a woman who was called for by the King would have even less rights than usual.

Yet, she could have been stoned for being an adulterer and so could King David.  How desperate might she have become when she found she was pregnant and her husband had not been around in time to get her that way.  I am not saying that Bathsheba was innocent, just that her choice to say no might have been a hard one to make.  She might have considered that if she had said no, then her outcome would have been bad that way also.  I don’t believe that fairy tale that we are told as kids in the sanitized children’s version of the story of this great love….after all, David did have other wives besides Bathsheba…around 8 of them at least that are named, and he had children with most of them.  (2Samuel 3:1-5, 1Chronicles 3:1-3, 2Samuel 5:13, 1Samuel 18-19:24, 1Samuel 25)  

At any rate, the fact that David sinned is well documented in the story of him and Bathsheba.  In fact, we are made aware of how far David had fallen from grace in that instead of allowing Bathsheba’s pregnancy to wake him up to his sin, he just committed more sins to try and hide it.

He had so far forgotten that his role as a King was to serve his people and he reversed it that they were there to serve him…that God had to send him a reprimand in the form of Nathan the prophet.  2Samuel 12:1-13 tells us that Nathan delivered a parable to David which made David wake up to his own sins.   God dictated the penalty of David’s actions, which were dire indeed.

Finally, David repented. Then God forgave.  God is faithful to forgive.  I think that what it means to have “integrity of the heart” is that even while he was in sin, and separated from God by that sin, David was still very aware of who God was, and it was not his desire to ever be separated from God.    David still had faith in God, and understood that God was the supreme King of his own life.  So the minute that he was confronted with the reality that God knew what his sin was and that he might be able to hide it from people, but never from God…he repented…because his faith and his relationship with God was the most important thing in his life.

This is also the reason that God calls David a man after his own heart.  David loved God with all his being and he was truly committed to following God and doing what God wanted him to do.  There were still repercussions for David’s act of sin, that is the thing about sin, it hurts us and it hurts those around us, so there is always fall out from it.  God forgives us but we still have consequences with the people and society we live in.

We know that God’s forgiveness was complete because when he responded to Solomon’s prayer of dedication, God told Solomon to be like his father, and describes David in verse 4 as “walking faithfully before Him with integrity of heart and uprightness.”  God doesn’t want us to fall into sin. If we belong to him and we do so, then he will continually try to get our attention through various means to make us to understand what our sin is and get us to choose to repent of it, and put our eyes back on him.  David fell into sin when he took his eyes off of God for just long enough to stare at a bathing Bathsheba. Yet, David had the integrity and humbleness to apologize to God and ask for forgiveness for straying so far from what God deemed was upright.  God is looking for people who love him with all their hearts, minds and souls and will keep their eyes on Him for eternity.  God isn’t looking for perfect people, but willing, loving and faithful people who are humble enough to recognize that God is sovereign over them and that God knows what is right and best for us.

That is what we can learn from God’s response to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple and from the story of David and Bathsheba.

Grace for Everyone

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Peter Preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West 1738-1820

Romans 4:16 Therefore the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all of Abraham’s offspring, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, he is the father of us all.

Read 1Timothy 1:13-15, Romans 5:1-2, Romans 5:14-21, Titus 2:11  God’s grace is extended to all of humanity not just the Jews. You gain access to God’s grace through your faith in Jesus.  All of mankind were condemned through the sin of Adam, who was one man, and all mankind can be saved through the righteousness and obedience of one man (God in the flesh) Jesus Christ.  Where there is no sin, there is no need for grace.  Where there is no law, there is no sin.  The law was given to show us that we are sinful, if we didn’t know of our sin, then we wouldn’t ever feel the need for grace. Grace came about through the righteousness of Jesus.  In the old testament, God’s grace was demonstrated through sacrifice and cleansing from sin was by sacrifice. 

It’s not that anyone could actually be cleansed by the blood of an animal…(Hebrews 10:2-23) it was that God loved his people so much that he gave them a method by which they could obediently do an atonement so that they wouldn’t live feeling guilty.  After all, once a person feels their guilt, the first thing they want to do is do something to get rid of that feeling of guilt.  Until the Messiah came, God gave them a method that would allow to regularly face their guilt and acknowledge that sin had a penalty, and that penalty was death.

Think about it, each time that person had to go and do a sin offering at the temple they were required to think about their guilt during the time of picking out the “perfect” animal, then when they went to the priest to have the offering made they would naturally see the horror of death that their sin guilt brought about.  (Hebrews 9:22, Leviticus 17:11)All of those temple sacrifices in the Bible were precursors to the perfect last sacrifice which would actually atone for the sins of man.

Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, so any other sacrifices we make now in the belief that they are going to do anything to earn us salvation are insulting to God, because they belittle Jesus’ sacrifice. After all, God gave his son, how can anything that we sacrifice be compared to that sacrifice.  If you have experienced being a parent you know that there is nothing that you wouldn’t do for your children.  You would rather die yourself than to have them suffer.  Yet God allowed his son to die for us because he loved us so much that he wanted us to be cleansed from sin and drawn close to him.

Note: To use the time period before Easter known as Lent as an example; Many times we chose to give up something that is important to us, or that we spend a lot of time doing.  We are doing this not to make an atonement to God, but in honor and remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  It is also to give us a feeling of what sacrifice is all about, and how hard it can be.  Therefore if you choose to give something up for Lent, it should be something which is challenging to give up, otherwise giving it up is not much of a sacrifice. You can chose to give something up in honor of God at any time of the year and for any period.  That is just a traditional time period.  The thing about doing this is that if the thing that you give up is something that you really enjoy, each time you are faced with the temptation of it you are also faced with the thoughts of God.  For my part, I have thoughts like, “oh, no, I can’t eat this right now”…then it goes through my head, “Why not?”  Then, “Oh, yeah, because I promised God that I will give up eating this item that I really crave for this particular time period, and I need to honor my promise to God!”  So you see how it is that each time you are confronted with temptation you are also confronted with thoughts of God.  It becomes a way to also put your focus more on God during that time period, all the while understanding more clearly how hard it is to give something up, and how hard it is to resist temptation.  And we are only tempted a little bit.  Jesus was tempted completely and thoroughly day in and day out for 40 days in the desert, and he was by himself. There was no one there to help him by talking to him and advising him how to overcome the temptation.  Ultimately, when we are being tempted we are alone, as we are the only ones who can decide whether to give in to a temptation or not.  What did Jesus use to overcome the tempter?  He used the word of God.  He battle the Devil with scripture.  An important reason to have God’s word written on our hearts and minds.

Read Genesis 17:1-18:15, Genesis 21:1-7  The story of God’s Covenant with Abraham.  This could alternately be called the first covenant, or the covenant of the Old Testament.  It is the covenant of Circumcision.  The Gospel is under the new Covenant which is a Covenant of grace, whereas the Covenant with Abraham was one of the flesh.  The continuation of that covenant of the flesh was passed down with the 10 commandments in the Old Testament after the Exodus from Egypt that became the covenant of the Law.

If God forgives you…then how can you not forgive yourself?

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This is a hot spring at Yellow Stone National Park, when I look in there I see that tunnel and wonder how deep it is, but will never know the answer.  We do know the answer to how deep God’s love is, and how true his forgiveness.   It is total commitment to us, we need only accept it.

Romans 3: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

Read Romans 3:23-24 These two passages state that all are sinners, and we all fall short of God’s glory (or his perfection), but that we are justified (or forgiven) freely (there is no price to us), by God’s grace and redeemed through Jesus Christ.  God is perfect, and Holy, and nothing that is not perfect and Holy can be close to God.  So, in order for us to get close to God, we need to be sinless, which we will never be, due to our sinful nature.   So God provided us with a perfect (ultimate) sacrifice for our sins, in the form of Jesus Christ who is God’s son, God in the flesh.  It is God’s graciousness towards us, that allows us to accept Jesus with no penalty for our sins. 

That is not say that there are not earthly consequences for our sins.  For example, if someone kills someone, they are still dead.  Even though, having asked for God’s forgiveness the person who did the killing  is forgiven.  That person still  has to live with the knowledge of their criminal/sinful act.  This it true for any sin.

It’s important  that when you are forgiven by God you must also forgive yourself. I mean, who are you, to still think that you are guilty when God, himself,  has forgiven you.  That is the height of egotism, you are actually saying that your feelings on the matter are more important that God’s.  

God has no desire for us to dwell on and wallow in self pity because of the sins we have committed; doing that robs us of our joy, separates us from enjoying God’s presence in our lives.  It also can keep us from showing others, by the example of how we live with God’s forgiveness and joy who God truly is to us.  If we cling to our guilt then we are failing to show others that grace and forgiveness is a fact that you can count on from God when you ask for it.  

After all, people who are riddled with guilt are not usually very happy, and although misery loves company, company does not love misery!  In other words, no one wants to be around a Christian who is beating themselves up all the time and looking and feeling miserable.  Just as no one wants to be around someone who is perpetually angry.  Those attitudes do nothing to draw others to God because they are no different than the unforgiven non-Christian world. Yes, we all have those feelings from time to time, but by and large we should enjoy the fact that we are forgiven and redeemed by God’s grace.  There should be something about a Christian that is different from those who don’t know Christ.  That is why we are told to be in the world but not part of the world. 

Romans 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what (is) that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

 Read Joshua Chapter 2, and Joshua 6:17, 21-25  This is the Story of Rahab the Harlot (Prostitute)  Refer to Matthew 1:5, this is a list of Jesus ancestors, and in this verse it lists Rahab’s name.  This is an excellent example of God’s grace, you can never be too bad for God’s grace and forgiveness.  God forgave Rahab her sin so completely that he even included her as an ancestor of Jesus.  Jesus’ ancestry list is full of sinners who have been forgiven by God.  That is the grace of God.

The Burden of the Law

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This is a pic of the statue of the lady of justice.  The statue is blind folded because Justice doesn’t care who you are or what they see.  It is only the weight of the evidence that they care about.  The sword in the other hand depicts the punishment that is forthcoming if the person on trial is found guilty.  God is not blindfolded, he knows exactly who you are, and he is a God of justice and grace.  Thank God that we don’t have to “get what we deserve” that he provided his grace for us.

Acts 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Romans 7:21-23  So I find this law at work, when I want to do good, evil is right there with me, for in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

Read Acts 15:1-12, Philippians 1:7  This passage fills in the gap between the old testament and the new testament.  It states that the law was too big of a burden to bear, that the disciples Paul and Barnabas believe that since God settled the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, through their faith, those who were not circumcised, that it is through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as the gentiles were saved, that there is no longer a difference between the gentiles and the jews in terms of how they are saved by grace.  Grace is for everyone.  If you believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God, then you will be saved. God’s grace is limitless.  

Read Genesis 20:1-7  The story of Abraham being deceptive about Sarah’s status as his wife.  Sarah was his half sister also, but in that time period rules about blood relationships and marriage were different, but rules about adultery were not different from today.  They may have been different because of the lack of understanding of genetic diseases, or it may be that there were not the number of genetic diseases back then that there are today.  Primarily because mankind was closer to the genetic perfection of the Garden of Eden, but that is just a supposition on my part.  They would certainly have known something about animal husbandry and diseases being passed down to the next generation.   Anyway, back to the point at hand….

Abraham lied to protect his own skin, and nearly caused Sarah to commit adultery.  He definitely wasn’t consulting God about his fears.  God visited Abimelech in a dream to tell him not to take Sarah as his wife because she was already married to Abraham.

God forgave Abraham for his deception and protected his marriage in spite of his lies. This is an example of the burden of law being too much for Abraham to deal with because of his fear for his life.  The law said that adultery was punishable by death.  Abraham couldn’t keep the law because he let his fear for his life overwhelm his sense of what was morally right and what was morally wrong.   God recognizes our inability to be perfect under the law, so he gave us his grace through Jesus Christ.

People generally have a view of God where they say, “Yeah, but if we just do more good things than bad things then when we die and go to heaven we should be let in because we are more good than bad.”  I once read something that really gives a wonderful illustration for the “more good than bad idea” and so I will share it with you.  I cannot tell you where it came from, or I would certainly credit the person as this is a great example.

There was once a man whose children wanted to go to see a movie later in the evening with some friends and they requested permission from their father.  While requesting to go it came out that the movie had some violence and a few swear words in it, but as the children explained to their father, “Dad it is only a little bit of violence and just a few bad words.”  Their father said, “well, then, let me have an hour or so to consider this and I will get back with you.”  An hour later he called his children together and asked them if they would like some of the fresh brownies that he had just finished baking.  These brownies looked delicious, so the children were really happy to say yes, but the father said, “there is just one thing about these brownies that you should know before you decide if you want one.”  The children said, “Really, and what’s that, because they look really great!”  The father said, “Well, these brownies have a special ingredient in them…I have added a bit of dog poop into them…but well, there’s only just a little bit of dog poop in them, so you won’t even notice it when you eat them.  Do you still want them?”  Well, it is pretty obvious that no matter how good those brownies looked, no one would want to eat them if they had even a small amount of dog poop in them.  The kids were the same.  So their father made his point quite well, that a little bit of something bad, is as bad as a lot of something bad.

God looks at sin that way too, a little bit of sin in you when you are trying to get into heaven and be close to God is as bad as a lot of sin.  A little bit is too much.  That is why just doing more good than bad things is not enough.  That is why we all need a savior, why we all need Jesus Christ…because by accepting him and his having gone to hell instead as your stand in, you have been wiped clean of guilt in God’s eyes.  (This does not give you a license to keep on sinning and it does not make you a perfect person…if it did then there would be lines of people trying to become Christian so they could be perfect on earth!  What it means is that you have taken full advantage of the grace that God has offered you through his son, Jesus Christ!  You are forgiven, not perfect.  Perfection does not need grace!  All human beings are imperfect, and thus require grace.

The whole idea of good outweighing the bad is a worldly view, not a Godly view of sin.

The God of the Living is the God of 2nd Chances

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Angel statue in the ruins at Ephesus, Turkey

Exodus 33:12-23 Moses found grace in God’s sight and told God that he would like to know him personally, and that if God will go with him he will leave that place, but if God won’t be with him, he will stay where God is.  God assured Moses that He was with him, and knew him by his name.  Also God, let Moses see his backside, when he went to get the ten commandments the second time, after the Golden Calf incident.  The second set was obviously the one which was put into the ark of the covenant.

Read Exodus 32 This is the story of the Golden Calf.  Notice that God allowed everyone a chance to repent and come back to him, and if they did then he forgave them, but those who didn’t accept his grace were put to death.  This is symbolic of Christianity’s grace, in which you live your life, and if you accept God’s grace, and recognize your sin, and ask for forgiveness, God is faithful to forgive you, and accept you back to Him.  However, if you don’t repent and accept God’s grace, then when your life is over it is too late, and you will die the eternal death,  instead of living in Heaven in the presence of God.  That is why we have this phrase:  “Where there is life…there is hope.”  Hope for redemption…hope for a return to the side of God.  There is all manner of hope when we are alive.

Truly death is a hopeless state of being, unless you are dead in Christ.  Mark 12:26-27 tells us that God is a God of the living and not the God of the dead.  Jesus says this in answer to the Pharisees’ question about the the woman who was married to one brother after another, so when they would be resurrected whose wife would she be?  Jesus starts the statement about God being a God of the living and not the dead with the statement that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush and said “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  Then Jesus makes the statement that “God is the God of the living and not the God of the dead.”  Reading that line in the Bible,  there is a detail that I always missed…  The statement made by God to Moses is in the present tense…not the past tense.  How does this fit with what Jesus is saying?  Jesus is saying that these people who in Moses’ time had been dead from the earth for more than 400 years were still alive in God and with God.  God was telling Moses the same thing, that although Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were no longer alive on this earth, they were yet alive with Him.  We know this is what God meant because of Jesus statements in Mark 12:26-27…Logically speaking…God cannot be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense if they are already dead…because He is not a God of the dead!

There is no other way to take this statement when they are combined like this because otherwise they would be in conflict.  Usually, when we read that God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob..we don’t really hear the tense.  We think of this as God stating that he is an eternal and generational God.  We think that he is simple identifying himself to Moses in terms of: “I am the God of your ancestors…”

While it is true that God is the God of Moses’ ancestors, that is not what God was trying to convey to Moses.  As Jesus tells us, this is one of those “ears to hear, eyes to see, and heart to understand” moments.  A moment when you go…”ah ha!  So that’s what he means!”  or in Sherlock Holmes version, “By jove, Watson!  I think I’ve got it!”

So this is what it means when we are promised “eternal life in Christ Jesus” John 3:16.  Right about now, you are probably thinking, but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead before Jesus was born, so how does that work for them?  Well, they lived under the old covenant, which was a covenant of the law…they followed what God had told them to do faithfully, and were obedient to him…they were saved and considered righteous by their faith.  (Genesis 15:6)  As the Apostle Paul said, they lived and died and never saw the promise fulfilled, but their faith was credited to them as righteousness…(Hebrews 11) Jesus said that the disciples were those who had seen and believed, but so much more honored is the person who has believed, but has not seen. (John 20:29)

We can rejoice in the fact that God is the God of the living…so much so that in the fact of our death we need have no fear as long as we are in Christ during our life…we will continue to be in Christ in our death.  My favorite verse in the Bible is this:  1Philippians 1:21  For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!  Paul goes on to explain that while living this life we can serve Christ, and when we are dead to this life we will be living with Christ so that as Christians we have nothing to lose either way.  This is the grace and promise of God.

The Resurrection

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When Jesus comes back all of the tombs will be emptied and we will all be judged on our faith

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Read Matthew 28:1-10  This is the story of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary going to visit Jesus’ tomb, but not finding Him there.  It is noteworthy that considering the status of women in biblical society, that the first people Jesus appeared to after His resurrection were women.  It is also evidence in the bible of the truth with which the apostles reported their experiences that they listed these women as being first to see Jesus alive again.  Women did not serve as credible witnesses during that time period in any court, yet they were the first credible witnesses listed in the bible to witness Jesus’ resurrection.  This is an excellent example of the first being last, and the last being first.

One of the things that we sometimes miss from just sitting in the church and hearing about Jesus’ resurrection is that Jesus did not just rise from the dead and hang around a few days visit all his disciples and then go to heaven.  There were far more than just those few people, who saw Jesus and could testify to his resurrection.  Jesus was on the earth after his resurrection for 40 days (Acts 1:3) and he appeared to over 500 people who as Paul tells us at the time when the book of 1Corinthians was written down (about 25 yrs later) were still alive to affirm the truth of Christ’s resurrection from death.  (1Corinthians 15:6).  That is one of the great things about the New Testament…the books were all written within a time frame whereby there were many many living witnesses to the truth of the writings.  This means to us many generations later that we can count on and trust that truth.

In Matthew 28:1-10, we are told that the men who were guarding the tomb where Jesus’ body lay saw an angel who appeared suddenly after a violent earthquake and his appearance was like lightening and his clothes were as white as snow.  That event was so shocking to the men that they fainted.  Personally, I find it entertaining that the angel then sat on the stone that had covered the tomb.  If we go and read about other times that God has had angels make an appearance to people they do appear suddenly, but usually, it is accompanied by a “fear not…”  In this case, the actions seem more like God demonstrated concretely to the men guarding the tomb and to all of us through the telling of this tale, that he is almighty and definitely in charge, and “don’t you forget it!”  It’s like him saying to us all, “Look!  I don’t want you to ever forget that I am in charge of death too…this piddling little stone you put in front of the tomb is nothing to me!”  The seated angel reminds me that the job of conquering death was completed.  The sins of man had been atoned for…there was nothing else that God had to do in the future…he had already sacrificed the best that he had for the sins of man!

You would think that these guards who had this experience would have become believers…wouldn’t you?  But if you go ahead and read Matthew 28:11-15  you find that this is not what happened.  These same men when they woke up from their faint ran to tell the Chief Priests all that had happened to them.  The Chief Priests then told the Elders  and they hatched the scheme to hide this miracle from the world.  The guards accepted the bribe and agreed to spread the story concocted by the Jewish Elders. The story that Jesus’ body was stolen in the night by the Disciples.   Despite the huge impression that the angel made on these men, their sense of survival and greed overtook it.  To be fair to them they would have, almost certainly, been killed if they had refused to fall in with the scheme.  Guards who failed to guard, generally, were killed for that failure in the Roman army, and with the added problem that these same elders and priests had made sure that Jesus was killed when he went up against them.  On the other hand these men could have chosen to believe in God’s power, (and possibly die) rather than continue on the path set for them.  After all, it is 2000+ years later, look at the number of people following Jesus and believing in his death and resurrection and the atoning power of his blood…and are there that many people who really believe that his body was stolen by the Disciples?  It is obvious that, God definitely made his point!  God is the one with the power and nothing that man can devise will stop his plan!

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (ESV)