Your Opinion or God’s Standard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

log-in-eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob & Mickey 1965

1Corinthians 13:4-7 

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

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The Confusing Knowledge of Good and Evil

garden-of-eden

Read Genesis Chapter 3

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring  and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam named his wife Eve,  because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Looking at the Garden of Eden God mankind gained the knowledge of Good and Evil from eating the forbidden fruit….but does this mean that they while knowing that there is Good and there is Evil (which destroyed their innocence) that they understood what is good and what is evil? No, it doesn’t seem so.  For instance, it obviously was not a sin in the Garden of Eden to be in a state of nakedness…if it was then God would have clothed man right off the bat, wouldn’t he? Yet, their response to this new “knowledge of good and evil” was to notice that they were naked and go and hide from God…in fear.

I kind of picture this as the same reaction as a deer when the headlights of an oncoming car get into its face….it knows that something is outside of the norm and knows that this is scary, but doesn’t know exactly why or what to do about it.

Another way to examine this issue is to think what it is like whenever we have to go to a place where we don’t know anyone.  Most of us feel quite a bit of concern and stress, anxiety and fear even about these kind of new situations.  I ran into a person at my church this past weekend….she came into the door, and told us that she had passed by many times, but was really afraid to come in.

To hear this, you would think that we were not a nice place, or had a bad reputation, but that is not the case at all.  The lady was simply verbalizing the common fear almost all of us have of new groups and situations.

The question is why do we have this fear?  If we really analyze it the answer is clear….anytime we enter a new group of any kind and especially when we don’t know anyone there…we have a very tough situation…a tough question must be answered…we ask ourselves:  “What if I don’t fit in?  What are the rules of this group?…how do I learn them?…What if I make a mistake because I don’t know the rules?!!  How uncomfortable will I become? How embarrassed will I become?”

So now, let us revisit the Garden of Eden situation here…doesn’t it seem like that even though they were suddenly aware that Good and Evil existed that they did not really understand what Good and what Evil were?

When God deals with them there are certainly consequences to their disobedience…they obviously knew that they had disobeyed, but the mindset they had was not one of sorrow and repentance…it was the mindset of “who can I blame that will let me off the hook?” (Doesn’t seem like much has changed for mankind in all these centuries since Adam and Eve’s time, does it?!)

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The thing is that God sent them out of the Garden and their act of disobedience definitely had consequences…hard labor both for Adam and for Eve….the earth itself was put under a curse.  The peculiar thing is that it seems that God is saying that the curse was because of Adam and Eve and the serpent….it doesn’t say that God was “kicking them out of the garden because he was mad at them”.  It does tell us that God was sending them out of the garden to keep them from eating from the tree of life.

Now I have heard the idea that this was a protection for them, so that their state of sin would not be permanent.  Mankind and the earth would not be permanently cursed.  I think we have all seen movies and read stories about immortals who are self-centered and destructive…after all what have they got to lose…they are not able to be killed so they can do anything they want.  That is the problem with someone who lives forever, but has no moral compass, no compassion, no love for others.

One of the things not mentioned in Genesis 3 is anything about love. Desire is mentioned…desire for the apple, desire for the husband…all of these are fleshly desires, but no mention is made of tender love and concern for one another.  There is no evidence of it at all…just desire, and blame.

John 15:1-25 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prune so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

The World Hates the Disciples

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

The thing is we are all born as selfish and self centered human beings…we have to be taught how to love and care for others and put their needs above our own.  By setting Adam and Eve outside the garden in a situation where they had to struggle in their everyday life God put them into a situation where they would learn to rely on one another and need each other…where they would have to learn to care about the other person for their own survival.  Now, some of you may think this is just plain mean…but to be truthful…it is tough parenting…God style.  They could have obeyed and remained in the Garden, yet they chose not to do so.  God was not surprised by this choice!

So, now we have people struggling day after day to figure out what is good and what is evil. Another way of saying it is…”What are the rules?  So that I don’t get into trouble?”

2 Cor 10: 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

In a parenting magazine when my first child was born I read what turned out to be very sound advice:  “Kids like to know that you are in charge…because if you are not in charge, then they are in charge, and being in charge is scary…therefore, kids like routine because it is comforting and shows that you have things under control and that you are in charge.”  Or “kids like rules and boundaries.”

adorable-20374_1280Ephesians 6:1-3  1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 
2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 
3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

To God we are all children, and God is a wonderful parent.  So he lovingly gave us a set of rules to live by…the rules were not given to us so that we can feel condemned or hemmed in, or constrained.  Though many times that is the attitude we hear from people about God’s rules.  People many times have been given the impression that God is mad, and mean, and just gave us a bunch of dos and don’ts so that we can be kept under control and have no fun at all in life!  Nothing could be further from the truth!

God gave us his laws so that we would not be like the deer standing in the head lights…scared and confused and unsure of what to do…or how to please God.  God gave us his laws because he loves us and wants to clear up the issue of exactly what is Good and what is Evil?  How can we tell one thing from the other.  He sent his son to further clarify what is Good and what is Evil by living out for us in a normal day to day life how to abide by God’s law.  While we were in a state of sin, outside the Garden of Eden, God loved us so much that he gave us both his laws, and his son.  His laws so that we can live together in peace and harmony in a Godly way, and his son so that we can understand how to draw close to God and what God considers important in our daily walk with him.

I am a parent, both my children are adults, and I can tell you that no matter how many of the rules my children broke or what they do in their lives I will always, always love them.  Yes, sometimes, I have been mad at them and disappointed in them..as I am sure my parents were at times mad at me and disappointed in me…but there has never been a moment that I have not loved my children.  There never will be a moment when I won’t love them.

That is how God, the Father, feels about me and about you…sometimes we don’t follow his law…we miss the mark (sin) or even, willfully, disobey a command, but when we turn back to God, the Father, with a heart of sorrow and apologize…God forgives…just like we earthly parents forgive our children.

There are penalties to sin that cannot be avoided on this earth…if you steal you can be put in jail, if you kill you can be put in jail, or killed yourself, if you lie, then you lose the trust of those you have lied to…etc.  There are some penalties or responsibilities that have to be taken for doing the wrong things, but God is gracious to forgive and restore your place in relationship with him regardless of the penalties you have to face.  God says, I will be with you always to the ends of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

God’s law is a law of love..he gave us those laws because he loves us…unendingly…eternally…God loves us!  Each and every one of us!

John 3:16-21 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

The Value of Wisdom

IMG_1400Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Read Proverbs chapter 8  This is why wisdom is so important.

Read 1 Kings 3:1-15  This is where Solomon asks for wisdom instead of riches, so that he may rule well.

Note:  Although Solomon states that he is a child, in verse one you see that he is getting married so he was at least a teenager, however compared to his court officials he was in the ways of worldly experience a child.

Proverbs 8  New International Version (NIV)

Wisdom’s Call

Does not wisdom call out?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
    where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
    at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
    I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
    you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.[a]
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
    they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
    knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
    I possess knowledge and discretion.
13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech.
14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
    I have insight, I have power.
15 By me kings reign
    and rulers issue decrees that are just;
16 by me princes govern,
    and nobles—all who rule on earth.[b]
17 I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me.
18 With me are riches and honor,
    enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
    what I yield surpasses choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
    along the paths of justice,
21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
    and making their treasuries full.

22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,[c][d]
    before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30     Then I was constantly[e] at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.

32 “Now then, my children, listen to me;
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
    do not disregard it.
34 Blessed are those who listen to me,
    watching daily at my doors,
    waiting at my doorway.
35 For those who find me find life
    and receive favor from the Lord.
36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
    all who hate me love death.”

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 8:5 Septuagint; Hebrew foolish, instruct your minds
  2. Proverbs 8:16 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint; other Hebrew manuscripts all righteous rulers
  3. Proverbs 8:22 Or way; or dominion
  4. Proverbs 8:22 Or The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work; or The Lord brought me forth at the beginning of his work
  5. Proverbs 8:30 Or was the artisan; or was a little child

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

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1 Kings 3:1-15 (NIV)

Solomon Asks for Wisdom

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem. The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.

He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.

 

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

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15203147_10154727143009104_2528749350897290883_nWhen we read about God’s wisdom it becomes clear that it is not anything like the “wisdom” of this world.  The wisdom of this world tells us that people are “worth” more or less depending on what they are skilled in doing…what their job in life is.  When we read about God’s wisdom it becomes clear that God values each and every person as his creation…he values the widows and the orphans just as much as he values the King.  He values those who are childless as much as he values those who have children.  He values the old as much as he values the young.  To God each and every one of us is his created masterpiece.  God wants nothing more than for us to realize this fact and turn to him and be in relationship with him.  He wants us to desire to be in relationship with him.  In Proverbs 8:17 God tells us that “I love those who love me,and those who seek me find me.”  In 8:19 We are told: “My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver,” and in 8:20   “I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,”  

These are just a few of the verses that give us a look at God’s wisdom.  God’s wisdom allows for the world to be full of very different people with different skills and backgrounds and personalities…colorful people with amazing gifts.

Satan’s wisdom says that people must all be the same, and all must agree on everything, and only the smartest and those who can make the most income are worth anything, that all others are worthless.  Satan’s wisdom is a wisdom of divisiveness and hatred…of looking down on others because they are different.

Personally, I prefer to live under God’s wisdom. God has guidelines for us to live by so that we can live in peace with each other…so that we can appreciate the differences we all have and make the best use of each other’s gifts to serve God and to show his love to others.  God calls these guidelines his law…the law is something that we should be grateful to have instead of hating it.  Yet we are children and do not know how to understand God’s wisdom.  In many cases we think in our own wisdom that God is trying to take the fun out of life.

Isn’t that how children act when parents give them the rules they should be living by?  Children wish to test the boundaries of the rules…because they don’t understand the intent of the rule is to protect them and show them the way that they should go in life.  God’s rules are given to us for the same purpose…to protect us and grow us slowly through our lives…to keep us from harming ourselves or others while we are going through life…until we can grow close to God and understand God’s wisdom better and learn to love ourselves and others the way God loves all of us.

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Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

You should remember —> You are God’s masterpiece…and you are worth so much to him that he sent his son to die for you so that you can be redeemed and brought back into close relationship with God…but you have to accept this as a fact for your redemption to take place.

 

The Devourer’s of Widow’s houses

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

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

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

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

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

For instance:  Mark 2:23-27 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM

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Commandment #3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Exodus 3:13-15: Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, What is his name? Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”  God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers- The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”

John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born I AM.”

Notes:  In Unger’s Bible dictionary it says that the word Jehovah is a misspelling of the word Yahweh which in Hebrew means “He causes to be or He exists, or He creates.”  This explains why God uses the term I AM to describe himself.  I AM is a short way to say that he exists and has always existed, that God is not a created being.  He is the Creator of Everything.  The tradition of the Hebrews was to not say God’s name out loud in conversation.  This tradition probably has a lot to do with the fact that God’s name is Holy, and that misusing God’s name was punishable by death.   After all, if you don’t say it out loud, then you cannot misuse it accidentally or on purpose.  Historians believe that this is what led to the mispronouncing of God’s name Yahweh (Yahway) as Jehovah.  Since it was never pronounced out loud, some forgot how to pronounce, and spell it.  Also as you can see in John 8:58 Jesus describes himself with the traditional title that God used for himself with Moses.

Exodus 20:7  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Read Leviticus 24:10-23  The story of the Blasphemer.

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.

13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

17 “‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. 18 Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life. 19 Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. 21 Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death. 22 You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’”

23 Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Reading this story of the blasphemer who was put to death and the indictment that God laid on him is very hard.  There are many things that are hard to understand, but if you realize that God is a Holy God, and that he was in the process of making the people of Israel into a group of people who were to be living examples of the character of God to others on earth…then it can be seen that a person who did not respect the God who was providing for them and caring for them could not be tolerated.
I know, you are probably saying that they could have just thrown him out of the camp, but again, if you think about the environment outside the camp…a dry and desert environment…wouldn’t throwing this person out be the same as sentencing them to death?  There was a reason why people traveled in caravans in those days.  There was no city, no civilization…just their camp.
At the same time, it is shown in verse 21 that God was not giving this instruction lightly…the value of human life is of the utmost importance.  God also did not want anyone to believe that there was a separate law for the native Israelite and the one who lived in Israel but had an Egyptian Father, so in verse 22 he reminds them that the law is for both the Israelite and the foreign born.  The same law.
We have a lot of conflicting beliefs over the death penalty as a punishment, but the Bible clearly had laws regarding this, and considered that someone who took God’s name lightly or ran down God’s name should be treated to that punishment.  The punishment of death was not lightly given…but for very grave offenses, such as adultery, murder, and blasphemy.
There should also be an understanding that God was applying these laws to those who lived within the boundaries of Israel and with the Israelite people.  The 10 commandments were given so that people could understand how to live with each other….to have respect for each other, and the land of Israel was a Theocracy, not a Democracy.  We Westerners, as a rule, have a hard time understanding what a Theocracy is, and how people can live in one.  That is because we believe that the individual freedoms of people are more important than our individual beliefs about God….in other words, we are generally more self centered, than God centered.
The peculiar thing here is that the Pharisees used this law to try and trap Jesus.  They found that despite all the scriptures about the Messiah, they were unable to believe that Jesus, who was identifying himself with God…could be that Messiah.  All they saw was blasphemy.
Luke 5:20-21  20When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21But the scribes and Pharisees began to consider this and ask, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemy?  Who can forgive sins but God along?”
If we were a strict Theocracy then we would be having everything in our lives revolve around God, and all of our laws would be looking to make God centered decisions.
Personally, I am grateful that we do not live in such a strict society; because even a strict theocracy is governed by human beings who are incapable of making good judgements about people.  In the days of Moses, God was in direct and certain communication with Moses…there wasn’t any doubt about this within the confines of the Israelite people.  God was their rescuer and Moses was the leader that God had given to them. Moses, himself, was under the punishment of God for misrepresenting God’s character to his people.  He was banned from ever entering the promised land for doing that.
God is a loving God, but we cannot forget that he is a Righteous and Holy God who is not to be taken lightly.  Whether in speech or in action.  The good news is that he is a loving God who is just to forgive us whenever we ask for it sincerely….If you look back at that story we do not hear that the blasphemer of Mose’s time was asking for forgiveness at all…it is not made clear to us…but if we look at the pharisees…even thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer they picked up stones to stone him..John 8:59  At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. 
The seriousness with which the Jews took this law of God and the Holiness of God’s name into their hearts was still in effect in Jesus’ time which was thousands of years after Mose’s time. The thing is that Jesus was who he was saying he was, yet the Pharisees could not see it!  They were blinded by their own self-righteousness!

Honest Prayer

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

Read Matthew 23 

A Warning Against Hypocrisy

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

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

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

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

(From Bible Gateway.com… the NIV)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respect for God’s House

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Matthew 21:13 It is written, he said to them, My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.

God’s house is a house of prayer, and needs to be treated as a Holy place.  Nothing ungodly should be taking place there.

Read Mark 11:15-19 Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, and stated that His house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, and that they had turned it into a den of thieves.

Read Acts chapter 3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

The disciples John and Peter go to temple to pray during the time of prayer.  Although you are to pray without ceasing, this is more that you should be mindful of God during the course of your day.   There are times when you should spend time only thinking of God and talking to God through prayer, without doing anything else at the same time.  Life can get in the way of our prayer time if we let it.  We can become guilty of treating our prayer time with God as an after thought…you know, something you do in a half minded kind of way…just putting it right in there while you are multi-tasking and never giving him the personal one on one attention that we need to really be fully in God’s presence.  

When I was growing up a lot of attention was paid to not “setting anything on the Bible.”  This was an act of respect in my parents eyes for the fact that the Bible is the living word of God…that it is Holy scripture.  I don’t find anything wrong with this stand on things, but for me I feel that the ultimate respect that you can pay God’s word is to read it and learn it and have it written on your heart.  All the other treatments of God’s word become empty things if you don’t have a relationship and have it in your heart.

Personally, I do set things on my Bible as I am usually carrying a lot of things in my arms when I am coming and going from my home with the Bible to church and back.  It is really hard to not have anything on top of it…it doesn’t really bother me much because I do have it written on my heart and I am using that Word.  When you use something it usually gets a bit of wear on it.  You can tell folks who really use their Bibles because unless they just bought a new one..it is usually full of stuff that is falling out of it, and quite worn looking.  I think God would rather it look that way than to keep it crisp and new and sitting on your coffee table.  Now I am not saying that everyone “must” memorize chapter and verse and be able to recite scripture and include where it is located in the recitation.  The idea of writing it on your heart is more like knowing it so that if you are in a situation where you are tempted or don’t know how you should handle things…then you can have a scripture pop into your head…the Holy Spirit can remind you of it and help you to know what to do and how to act in any given situation and remain in a Godly position.

Jesus did this when he was being tempted in the desert…Satan would say something to tempt Jesus, and Jesus responded to Satan using scripture to refute what Satan was saying.  If you don’t read it then you cannot truly have it written on your heart…you cannot truly be a doer of the Word as well as a hearer of the Word.  (James 1:22-25)

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Now if we go back to the stories above of Jesus over turning the money changer’s tables in the temple courts and the contrasting story of the newly healed lame man who entered the temple courts “walking and jumping and praising God” some people would be very upset at the idea of the man jumping around in the temple courts and say it was disrespectful.  I don’t believe that God would see it that way at all….this man was so grateful for his healing that he could not contain his joy!  It was flowing out of him with childish excitement.  It was so pronounced that it attracted attention…this caused people to come running to see what was going on there.

Peter looked at them, and took the opportunity to remind them of who God was, and that they should not be surprised at God’s ability to heal….and that the healing came through the promised Messiah that they had rejected.  Peter acknowledged that their rejection was done in ignorance of who they were rejecting and he told them that they should change their hearts and turn away from that ignorance and embrace who Jesus truly was…that Jesus was the author of life and that in their ignorance they had “killed the author of life”…now if someone is the author of life, then certainly they would be able to heal would they not?  It would be a little thing to them to do so.  Peter was quick to give the credit to God and not to take it for himself.  That is so important when you are doing something that God has given you to do…be sure to give God the glory and honor for using you to do that deed just as Peter did in this situation.  Knowing God, acknowledging him, obeying him and giving him the glory for all the blessings in your life is the ultimate paying of love and respect to God.  At least that is my thinking…because the word says that if you love God then you will obey his word, and God will come to make his “home” with you….essentially when I read this I understand it to be that you become the “house of God”  in a much more literal and important way than a building will ever be.

John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

Shouldn’t the “house of God” have the “Word of God” inside of it? Isn’t that just respectful?

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As for the money changers…they didn’t understand this concept at all because if they had understood then they would have known that God wanted us to love each other, not cheat each other. Jesus was walking among them in living flesh and they still didn’t get it!

Closer to Thee, Lord

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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.

Forgiveness through Prayer

pexels-photo-290951 Samuel 7:3 And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, if you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign Gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only, and he will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines.

1Samuel 7:3-10 Samuel told Israel to turn away from the false Gods, and humble themselves before the Lord and ask forgiveness from God and be obedient to God and that God would protect them from the Philistines.  The Philistines came after them, and the Israelites told Samuel to keep praying for God to save them.  Samuel not only continued to pray for them he also made an offering of a lamb.

God heard him, and caused the Philistines (who were the enemies of Israel) to be terrified by thunder and let the Israelites chase them off and kill them. Isn’t the idea of God scaring off your enemies by thundering at them kind of amazing?!! Since God created nature making a little convenient thunder is not a chore for him at all!  

Proverbs 9:10-12 (NIV – Bible Gateway website)

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through wisdom your days will be many,
    and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
    if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

Note:  The people of Israel were doing wrong and had a crisis which caused them to turn their attention back to God.  Think about occasions when people are far from God, and have a personal crisis in their life (or an emergency situation) which causes them to turn back towards God. 

Isaiah 55:6  Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. (NASB)

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When those crisis occasions come about in a person’s life it is awfully nice if your relationship with God is really close and in good standing.  It’s a case of, “Why wait for a crisis?”  to turn your focus back to God.  Also think about how important it is to be in good standing (meaning have a good close personal relationship or friendship) with God when talking to him through prayer. Think about how you feel about friends who are fair weather friends, and only are nice to you when they want something.  Do you feel like giving that person what they want?  How do you think God feels when we don’t give  him a thought unless we need something? 

Think about God’s overwhelming forgiveness in this story, and how they gained forgiveness through prayer and obedience to God’s command. To get the maximum impact in your prayer life, you must have a good relationship with God.  Just as you must have good relationships with your friends for them to be there for you in your time of need.

This does not mean that you will never have troubles, but that you will never be alone in your troubles.  If you are in close communication with God, then your troubles are easier to bear.

Psalms 119:67-68  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (NASB)