Paul’s Authority and Mission

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Dave makes some really wonderful points here about how Paul the Apostle is often taken out of context and seems to be at odds with the Apostles and Judaism with what he says.

I heard a sermon on the radio today in which the entire scope of the sermon was on how Paul was the “only” authorized Disciple to the Gentiles….it was presented that Paul was essentially the only one we as Christians needed to listen to and worry about listening to in our Bible.

Whether that was the Preacher’s intent or not…that is the message he was handing out quite passionately.  He completely ignored the fact that the first person to deal with the Gentiles aside from Jesus was Peter the Apostle (Acts 10) who went to see Cornelius the Gentile and his family.  Peter was called upon by the Holy Spirit to go and see Cornelius and his family, and the Holy Spirit told Cornelius to send some men to go and get Peter, whom he had never met before.  Peter witnessed this important thing when he went there, that although Cornelius and his people were all Gentiles (non-Jews) God gave them the Holy Spirit also.  This was an important thing when it came to the decision of the Apostles about how Gentiles could remain as they were (Gentiles) and still be included in the Salvation offered by God.

Many of our Christian Churches over the centuries and still today have doctrine that takes Paul out of context and forgets that Paul as well as the other Disciples and Jesus, himself…were all practicing Jews…they did not forsake the practice of their faith in order to accept Jesus..they still kept Sabbath and Passover, and the other Jewish Holidays….they were still Jewish until their deaths…although they had recognized and accepted the Messiah as the source of their salvation.  Jesus was a devout practicing Jew…he could not have kept the law perfectly if he had not been.

So what does this mean to us?  This means that Paul who was a Pharisee who was the son of a Pharisee, who was trained by a famous Pharisee (Gamaliel) was still a Pharisee even while he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  He was still a Jew….he still honored Jewish traditions and laws, but he understood that the law is not the source of salvation. He understood that Repentance and acceptance of the Messiah, pursuing God was the source of salvation….relationship with God.  As Dave says in this Video…Paul was not a rogue who was separate from the Disciples.  He was under the Disciples authority…he was commissioned by them (as well as Jesus – Acts 22:21) to go and preach to the Gentiles. The Disciples understood that Paul had been authorized by Jesus as the Disciple to the Gentiles and they followed the Holy Spirit’s wishes and sent him out to them in obedience to God.

Paul tells us to be who we are…if we are Jews to be Jews who accept the Messiah, and if we are Gentiles to be Gentiles who accept the Messiah.  We are to accept Jesus where ever we are and be the person that God created us to be, as we are all unique individuals and God has a plan for each and every one of us in how we are to serve him.

Dave gets a lot deeper into this idea in his video and makes some very impressive points about Paul and his Mission/Ministry.  I encourage you to give it a watch.

It is interesting to look at the scripture in the context of how the Disciples would have understood things from their position as Jews.

Source: Paul’s Authority and Mission

What’s Your Identity?

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John 1:12  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

What are you basing your identity on?

Note:   Many of the ideas in this entry can be attributed to a sermon I heard preached by my Pastor last Sunday….I take notes, and so from the notes I’ve written this blog entry and added some thoughts, explanations and examples of my own.  Sometimes, I tell him that I am going to use what I heard him preach on in my blog.  I really enjoy Pastor Jerry’s sermons, and learn a lot from him.  I hope you will enjoy this glimpse also.

Read Matthew 23:1-12  

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.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 23:5That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm

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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Jesus is pretty clear that his disciples should not be doing things that glorify themselves.  Funny thing is that he tells them to be careful to do what the Pharisees and the teachers of the law say to do, but not to actually do the same things they themselves do.

We all know folks who do this, and at any time we are all guilty of being “hypocrites” or “actors”.  Sometimes, it is unintentional, we simply get new information or change our minds about something that we felt/believed deeply in the past.  Jesus is not talking about the unintentional hypocrisy that happens in those cases.  For example, We have all used the phrase:  “I would never do……(fill in the blank)” and then we have proceeded to condemn someone else for doing that very thing….a few years go by and maybe we have done the thing we said we would never do.  Perhaps…we would “never stay out after midnight because nothing good comes of that….” then we find that we have a job which requires us to stay out after midnight.  This is a very mild example, but this kind of hypocrisy happens all the time.  The problem comes with the self-righteousness that comes along with those kinds of statements. The unloving and condemning/judgmental attitude that comes with the hypocrisy.

That is the very thing that Jesus was warning his disciples against…the “do what I say,  but not what I do” attitude that the Pharisees and the Scribes were filled with.  They were largely filled with their own righteousness, and filled with the need for gratification and glorification by mankind.  They were not focused on serving God, but they were serving themselves in the pretense of “doing it all for God.”

A very unfunny joke I heard last Sunday goes like this: Hypocrites in the church?  No, our church is not full of hypocrites….it is a long way from being full yet.

Yet this unfunny joke does describe many churches and the view of many people about Christian churches and the people who go to them.

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This is a beautiful church I saw while traveling…I really enjoy looking at churches…people put their best into building them to honor God…we should also put our best into building ourselves to honor God.

Another way of saying this is said by Paul the Apostle in  Titus 1:16  

16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

So Jesus realized that people want to be known as something – he knew that this is a need that people have..so he laid out clear instructions to his disciples about this..because if you are known for something then you can be known for the wrong thing….even something harmless can become harmful if it goes to your head.  The Old Testament is full of people who let their own ego take over and it ended up causing harm to themselves and others.  The thing is that some of those people such as King Saul and King David, were actually people who believed in God and attempted to follow God, but because of their self centered nature they failed to be obedient to God…they made the choice to glorify themselves instead of being true to God.

In God’s eyes we are called to be loving servants to others, instead of lifting ourselves up, we should be lowering ourselves down.

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These are reputed to be the “bones of St. Mark”.  I find there is some irony in  that Mark would probably not appreciate the luxurious gold plated place where his bones have been placed…St. Mark’s basilica in Venice, Italy.  Though the place is beautiful to behold for sure.

Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, he emptied himself out and became obedient to the death.

So back to the question at hand…How do you identify yourself?

-by relationship? -by Education? – by position? -by skills? -by bank balance? -by residence?

The truth is that we spend a lot of time trying to figure out who we are in relation to others – “What do they think of me?”  We all do this to some extent.  Everyone gets a vote in who we are – even strangers – we give them smiles and politeness…or scowl at them if we are having a bad day…even the driver in the next lane forms an opinion of who we are to them….”I saw that really rude driver when I was coming home…”

People through out our lives will sometimes give us nicknames…some are very nice and some are really rude.  I remember that an office I worked in had a woman with really gigantic hair…so she (rudely) became known as “the hair lady”…we have almost all of us come across a person or two known as the “snob or the grouch”…then there are more affectionate nicknames such as “shorty, or cuteness, or pet names we call our kids or spouses.”  Nicknames also can come as short versions of your real name:  Vicky (Victoria), Lexis (Alexis or Alexandra).  Sometimes, nicknames can reveal something about us that we don’t wish to have the world know…such as “stinky”  (some unthinking Mom who said that at the wrong moment and the kid was tagged with it for life!)   I know that when we were going to have our first child I had a sequence of names that I really liked and it was a very nice boy’s name…however, my husband was more on the ball than I was…he said, “No we cannot name him that, if it is a boy, because the initials form the word “GAS”…that kid would be teased unmercifully for life!”  I was shocked to hear the initials. (You are laughing now for sure, but this is a true tale!)

Every day we come to this path choice and our choice is determined by our core longings…do we reveal the false self, the small self or the true self?

Core Longings (Dr. Robert B. Shaw) – Belonging, Purpose, Love, Understanding, Significance and Security.

If we don’t have our core longings satisfied, then we can get into trouble by searching for  ways to have these longings be satisfied.  This leads to creating a “false self.”

There is also the “small self” identity which comes from living below your privilege, living without prayer, living with false humility.

We, who are believers, need to understand that in order to continue to become mature in Christ and stay on the mark as Christians…we need to understand that God is the only “legitimate” source for the satisfaction of our core longings.

We should never get our identity from something that can be taken away from us!

Have you ever met someone who spent their lives so wrapped up in their job that they did nothing else…then they retired..or lost the job..that person is usually very lost emotionally.  They just don’t know what to do with themselves…it is like they lost their entire identity when they lost the job.  The same thing can happen if you use your relationship to identify yourself…what happens if your only identity is “Mom” or “Dad” and the kids do what you have raised them to do…grow up and move out and get independent…again…you can become very depressed… it is hard to see this happen to a person from the outside too. It is hard to help them.  It is hard to redefine yourself.

Here are some things to remember:

Ephesians 2:10  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(This tells us that God has a plan for our lives, the plan was prepared before we were created!)

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–

(This tells us that part of God’s plan was for us to be adopted into his family through Jesus Christ…that it is his pleasure and his will that we be added to his family of children.)

1Thessalonians 1:4-5  4 Brothers who are beloved by God, we know that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction—just as you know we lived among you for your sake.

(This tells us that God loves us and chose us, and he chose people to share the gospel with us, and that the Holy Spirit acts in accordance with the gospel to draw us to God.)

Philippians 4:19-20  19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

 

So again…I ask…who are you?  Where do you get your identity from?

I am hoping that your answer will be that you are a “child of God”…that is the best and most valid identity any of us can have…and it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything…not even by death!

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The Good Shepherd

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John 10:11 I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Read John 10: 1-21 

John 10:1-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus the True Shepherd

10 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.All who ever came before Me[a] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?”

21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Footnotes:

  1. John 10:8 M-Text omits before Me.
New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jesus talks about his qualities as a shepherd, and that his sheep are important enough to him that he would die for them.  We are his sheep, and Jesus is our shepherd, who takes care of us and leads us as Jesus describes in these verses.  However, we are sheep with a choice.  We can chose to follow our shepherd, or not (and in that case be eaten by wolves aka Satan). 

Jesus also talks about having sheep in other pastures.  He is talking about people who are not Jews.  Anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile.  People in other faiths can come to know Jesus as well as people who are raised in Judaism or Christianity.  God loves all people, no matter what nationality, or race, or location you live in.  If a person is seeking God, God will help that person to be led to Jesus.  No matter which part of the world or what faith or lack of faith a person is raised, or invested in,  if the person earnestly  seeks God, then God will reveal himself to them.  The Bible is all about God’s revealing of himself to mankind.  So if you are seeking,  Jesus will lead you like a shepherd leads his sheep to the good pasture of God’s word.  As Christians we have to be open and not condemning of a person’s faith background.  

John 14:6New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

As it says in John 10:16  There will be one flock and one shepherd that Jesus will bring the sheep from the other flocks together.  The other flocks would be the people who are not Jewish, but they will still know who Jesus is and accept him as their shepherd.  The thing that all these “flocks” will have in common is Jesus Christ and it will show in their love for God and their love for one another.

John 13:34-35 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This does not mean that all religions will be one…don’t get confused!  It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with people who are seeking to know God.  Jesus was a Jew from birth until the end of his life here on earth…All of Jesus’ original Disciples were Jewish and so was Paul. People of Christ were not called Christians until Antioch in Acts 11:26.  This was when Paul was teaching them. (Though the Bible speaks of a one world religion…Revelation 17:1-18…that is a false religion and that is not what I am talking about here.)

philip2beunuchRead Acts 8:26-40 (ESV)

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[b] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

Now the thing about this story of the Ethiopian Eunuch is that the Eunuch was not Jewish, yet, God knew that his seeking of God, through trying to read scripture was sincere. God chose to honor that sincerity by providing a person who was knowledgeable in the scripture to help the Eunuch understand what he was reading.  Thus the Ethiopian Eunuch was led to Christ, and became a part of the other flock that came under the same shepherd.  Please note that there is nothing in the scripture that says that the Ethiopian Eunuch suddenly became Jewish.  He did not.  If he had we certainly would have been told this.  He met God as he was, and became a sheep who followed the Good Shepherd.  We don’t know what event or series of events inspired the Eunuch to start reading Isaiah, that is only known to the Holy Spirit who is the one who had a hand in it to begin with.

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Read Psalm 23  

Psalm 23 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Lord the Shepherd of His People

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 23:6 Following Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate; Masoretic Text reads return.
New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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!

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

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This is at Yellow Stone National Park…whenever I look at this picture I think to myself, I wonder what shape that takes beneath the water…how deep is it, where does it go.  I am sure there are geological maps that have been done, but I haven’t seen them, and it is a beautiful mystery to me…just as is God. (Though only God is worthy of worship!)  This is one of God’s beautiful creations.

Matthew 28:19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…

John 14:16-17  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.  The World cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him for He lives with you and will be in you.

1Cor 12:4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (For more about this read verses 7-11 also).

2Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1Peter 1:1-2 To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

We like to say that God is three “persons” in one, yet He is all one God.  His goal for us as mankind is constantly the same, the Trinity as a whole is out to redeem mankind from sin.  Each “person” in the trinity has a different task in our redemption, but all have the same goal, and the same character.  Although the trinity idea is very confusing to us as humans, it is part of God’s revealing of himself to us, and it shows that He is incomprehensible to us in some ways.  However, God’s character is that of truth, therefore he can only present himself to us as he truly is, even when it is confusing.  One way to look at the trinity is that “God is above is, Jesus is with us, and the Holy Spirit is within us.” (note: this is from Unger’s Bible Dictionary)

Think about the trinity and draw a picture that represents the idea of the trinity to you.  Just as water can be in the form of water, ice or steam and still be water.  The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are all still God, even though they are in different forms, and have some individual traits.   In Christianity the trinity is sometimes represented with a picture of a clover leaf.

For myself, I find it to be an awesome thing that such an incomprehensible God is wonderfully revealing himself to me over the span of my life.

Grace is Never Wasted

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This is an 1800’s copy of Rev. John Brown’s Self interpretation Bible.  It has a lot of information in it, and was still being printed into the 20th century.  My Mother bought it at a used book store, and she recently passed it on to me.  It is an awesome thing to hold something that has been around that long and has been treasured as the word of God.  There are very neat calligraphy entries in the family section which give a glimpse of life in the 1800’s and how fragile it was.  There is an entry of a birth, then in the same day an entry of the baby’s death.  You can imagine how hard of a day that must have been for the writer of those dates.

1Cor.15:10  But by the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace to me is not without effect.  No I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Note: God doesn’t bestow his grace on anyone and it is wasted.  If his grace is bestowed on you, you will be productive for him.  You are what you are by the grace of God.

Read the story of Esther part 1:  Esther Chapters 1 thru 4.  In this first part of the story of Esther, we find out how it comes about that Esther becomes queen, and we learn of Mordecai overhearing a plot on the king’s life and saving his life, and Haman enters in as the enemy of the Jews who plots for their destruction. Mordecai tells Esther that she may have been put in the position of queen just for the purpose of saving their people from extinction.  Note that Esther lived in Persia which is Modern day Iran/Iraq her time was 473 BC or Before the Birth of Christ, or BCE which is Before Common Era in new terms.

Most of us spend at least some of our time on this earth contemplating why we are here…or what is our purpose.  For each person that is different.  We are all unique creatures created by God.  We all have an intended purpose.  For some of us it can be as important as Queen Esther’s purpose where we can save a whole nation of people.  For others it may be something as simple as being there to help another person across the street at the right time to save their life.  Maybe the person who is crossing the street is important in a different way in God’s plan.  Perhaps that person is involved in the teaching of someone who may grow up to be a leader who does something on behalf of God.  Maybe they will grow up to be a well known minister or world leader, maybe they are just another person who is going to grow up and pass on what they have learned from the person crossing the street to others…maybe they are the next Madame Curry, or Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham.   The point is that no matter what task God gives us in life we should all treat ourselves as an important part of God’s plan.  In God’s eyes each and every one of us are valuable and equally important.

One thing I have learned this week is that sometimes we may hold ourselves in a place because we don’t want to let someone down, or we feel needed there.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of the story of Esther.  She was told that God would save his people even if she did not step forward to speak with the King on their behalf, but that she would suffer a great penalty for not stepping forward in faith.  God would use someone else to accomplish his purpose.   That is true.  God has a back up plan for his ultimate plan.  That is part of our free choice.  We are free to choose at all times whether to follow God’s plan in our lives…or not.

Each of us have our very own individual journey of faith.  How we grow depends largely on how much we pursue God. If we just sit back and do nothing, then we simply won’t grow or our growth will be very slow…it may have starts and stops in it.  If, on the other hand, we avidly pursue God…he will draw closer to us in amazing ways.  The Holy Bible is like the ultimate Vitamin for your spirit.  The more you dive into it the more you can learn about who God is and what he wants you to do in your life.

Yet, sometimes even the most devoted Christian can have moments when they are unsure of God’s plan….the thought comes…”What do I do now? I want to stay in your will for my life, but I don’t know what you want me to do?”  At times like that the best thing to do is to pray and to open God’s word and start reading and listen to the quiet, still voice which instructs on on the way we should proceed.

 I had an experience recently.  I spent several hours really praying about whether to stay where I am serving God, or to go look for another place to serve.  At that time (which was several months ago) I went out of the place where I had been praying and sat down in the car turned on the radio just in time to hear a random minister talk about “what do you do when you don’t know what God is wanting you to do?”  I thought, (goosebumps) “Wow!  Timely answer God!”  I was told through that minister to just keep doing what I was doing because it wasn’t anything unGodly, until it was evident that God wanted me to do something else.

Sometimes God uses others to give you information about what he has in mind for you to do.  Sometimes, he will tell you himself.  Yesterday, I heard the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit telling of a pride problem I had that was unrecognized by, yours truly…aka me! Sometimes pride can hold a person back from doing God’s will also.  I mean, sometimes we talk ourselves into believing that we are the only one who can do something and that we are indispensable in certain situations.  When reminded of the story of Esther she was told that she was the person chosen for the task, and that may be why she was there, but if she refused, then God would use someone else. That is why it is important to truly immerse yourself in God’s word…to the point that the content is written on your heart. This will draw God closer to you so that you may more clearly hear his purpose for your life and understand how important you are to God…what a precious person he created you to be.