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?

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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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Seven Things God Detests

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

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

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

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

Yet look at these things one by one:

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

Matthew 25:31-46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 16:28

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

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

He said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sinning in Ignorance

highpriestHebrews 5:1-2  Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Read: 1 Samuel 14:1- 46  This is the story of Jonathon breaking a law in innocence, he didn’t know that there was a law, and God protected him from injustice. 

1Samuel 14: One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.

Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.

On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our signthat the Lord has given them into our hands.”

11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him.14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.

Israel Routs the Philistines

15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.[a]

16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions.17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.

18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.)[b]19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hiddenin the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.

Jonathan Eats Honey

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24 Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.

25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened.[c]28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

31 That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Mikmash to Aijalon,they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.”

“You have broken faith,” he said. “Roll a large stone over here at once.” 34 Then he said, “Go out among the men and tell them, ‘Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’”

So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had done this.

36 Saul said, “Let us go down and pursue the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.”

“Do whatever seems best to you,” they replied.

But the priest said, “Let us inquire of God here.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down and pursue the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.

38 Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” But not one of them said a word.

40 Saul then said to all the Israelites, “You stand over there; I and Jonathan my son will stand over here.”

“Do what seems best to you,” they replied.

41 Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, “Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault,[d] respond with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. 42 Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken.

43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.”

So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now I must die!”

44 Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.”

45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.

46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and they withdrew to their own land.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Samuel 14:15 Or a terrible panic
  2. 1 Samuel 14:18 Hebrew; Septuagint “Bring the ephod.” (At that time he wore the ephod before the Israelites.)
  3. 1 Samuel 14:27 Or his strength was renewed; similarly in verse 29
  4. 1 Samuel 14:41 Septuagint; Hebrew does not have “Why … at fault.
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.

I really like this story because it shows a lot about the character of Saul and of the character of Jonathon, his son, but most importantly it is a great illustration of the character of God.  We see many times when reading about Saul that he is actually more interested in what men think of him and how to get what he wants than he is in finding out what God wants.  In this story, the Priest had to remind him that they should seek God’s will in what they were doing.  Saul didn’t punish his men for breaking God’s law, (eating meat with blood still in it)but he was going to put his son to death for breaking an oath that he forced on his men…to fast until evening.  Yet, if you look at that oath Saul demanded of his men, he was asking them to expend a lot of physical energy and yet not be “fueled” physically for the job.  Saul’s temperament was very much that of an “in the moment” type of person…rapid decisions on the spot without taking God into account most of the time until after the fact.  Personally, I find that King Saul’s character was very harsh, seems like he would be an uncomfortable person to be around.

Jonathon, on the other hand in all the readings about him, seems to have been a very sweet, and contemplative person…who was steadfast toward his friends and toward his father.  A person of action, but actions that he considered beforehand, and  looked to God for his answers.  Even when we find that God has made David the anointed future King of Israel…Jonathon does not complain…he simply accepts what his God has ordained…he states that he knows that he will be “second in command”.  Imagine that kind of faith?  Jonathon knows that whatever God ordains will come to pass, and that it will be best for everyone.  He trusted God.  He was even ready to die for eating a bit of honey if that is what God ordained.  God did not so ordain and used the men around Jonathon to open Saul’s eyes that God had used his son that day in order to give them victory over the Philistines. The glory always belongs to God.

1Samuel 23:17  

17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (NIV)

 

We need to always remember to seek God first…if our intention is to seek God and live the way that God wishes us to live, then we can be confident that God will understand our mistakes.  God knows who we are, and what our intentions toward him are in our lives.  If we commit a sin, and we don’t really understand that it is a sin, then God is a God of justice.  If a person is truly seeking the Lord, then he will eventually find a way to open that person’s eyes to their sin.  Even the unknown ones.

Imagine how hard it would be if we all in seeking God were suddenly faced with ALL of our wrong doings in life…ALL of the things that we were sinful in doing, AND expected to FIX them all immediately before being drawn into a relationship with God?

It would not just be hard, it would be impossible!  If that were the requirement then none of us would be able to draw close to God…ever!  Thankfully, we have a loving God who has provided a way for us, through Jesus the Christ, to turn away from our sins and draw closer to him.  God is merciful and allows us to be helped by him in working through our sinful issues one by one as we go through life.  It is an amazing thing to me…when I first really started actively drawing closer to God I had a mental list of what my sins were…now I can laugh at the small number of them (though I thought at the time they the number was large enough…after all one is too many…that is why we need Jesus!).

The thing is that we all have sins that we don’t even recognize yet…it takes time with God for him to reveal them to us.  It is his love for you and me that he does this for us.   As we are able to set aside and grow away from our sins one by one we can grow closer to God and grow into the peace of heart, mind and soul that God wishes us to have in our life.

We are just like babies in dealing with our sins and in dealing with God.  Babies don’t understand the concepts of friendship or sharing, but usually by the time they are, say, 10 years old, hopefully their parents have taught to understand how to be a good friend, and that people share things, and selfishness is wrong.

It is really important to remember that God loves us even when we are sinning, but that our sins separate us from God.  So as soon as we recognize a sin, we should ask God to forgive us, and help us to turn away from that sin.  Remember John 3:16

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.

God does not  want anyone to perish!  God loves us…he is not mad at us…he wants what is best for us…and following is plan for our life is what is best, but in order to come to know that plan….we have to seek God out with all of our hearts!

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Something to think about:   Are there times when you have done the wrong thing for what you think are the right reasons, but then you find out that you cannot justify doing the wrong thing for any reason?  

Is there a time  when you have unknowingly done the wrong thing?  For instance, you try to patch up some friends who are disagreeing and they get mad at you because of your methods.  Perhaps you tricked them into being in the same place at the same time, or you lied to them to get them to make up.  What happened when the lie came out? 

Perhaps you ate a piece of cake not knowing that the cake was supposed to go to a bake sale, and not be eaten at home.  You didn’t intentionally do the wrong thing, but it turned out that you had done the wrong thing.

God sees these kinds of things and realizes what we are doing…even if we think that no one sees us…God knows what is going on all of the time.  God sees things through the eyes of love!  

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This is my dog, Leia.  She is getting old now, but she is always happy to see me and just wants to be with me. I really appreciate  how God supplied me with pets who let me see such a simple and straight forward happiness. 

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.

Prayer for Healing

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Psalm 6:2 Be Merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; Oh Lord, Heal me for my bones are in agony.

Read Mark 9:14-29 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.  As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him.  What are you arguing with them about?  He asked.  A man in the crowd answered, teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.  He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.  Oh unbelieving generation, Jesus replied, how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.  So they brought him.  When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion.  He fell to the ground and rolled around foaming at the mouth.  Jesus asked the boy’s father, How long has he been like this?  From childhood, he answered.  It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.  If you can? said Jesus.  Everything is possible for him who believes.  Immediately the boys father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, He rebuked the evil spirit.  You deaf and mute spirit, He said, I command you come out of him and never enter him again.  The spirit shrieked, convulsed him and came out.  The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, he’s dead.  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.  After Jesus had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately, why couldn’t we drive it out?   He replied, this kind can come out only by prayer.* 

*Some manuscripts say prayer and fasting – but it doesn’t appear that Jesus took time to fast before casting out this evil spirit…fasting would be a physical thing that we do ourselves and is not something that can enhance or add to the power of God.  It can help us to concentrate on God more, or to make us “feel” more sincere, but God actually knows how sincere we are already so we are inevitably really fasting for our own sake.  There are times when a person is inspired by the Holy Spirit to fast and pray and they should follow that leading in obedience to God. In that case it is the obedience which matters not the actual physical act of fasting. 

When Jesus is told that the Disciples could not drive out the evil spirit his response is that the generation is disbelieving and how long shall he stay with them.  This question is very serious and really needs some examination.  Is Jesus talking to the crowd?  or is he saying that his Disciples still lack belief?

If we look at Mark 6 there is an indication of the answer for us.  Mark 6 tells us about Jesus’ visit to his hometown.  As you can read, during that visit it says that due to the lack of faith in the town Jesus “could not” do any miracles there, except laying his hand on a few sick people and healing them.  So it seems that Jesus was actually talking more to the townspeople in Mark 9, than to his Disciples.  After all, if he were addressing his Disciples about their lack of faith, he would have spoken to them privately as he did in the end about why they couldn’t cast out the demon.    So what we learn from Mark 6  and Mark 9 is that what is required for the working of God is simply belief that God can and will work.  Please note that I am not saying that in every instance that we pray for the healing of a person that the healing will take place…sometimes the healing we wish for is not within God’s plans…sometimes there is a more important kind of healing that the person needs which is not always obvious to us.  Perhaps a healing of a different nature.

Mark 6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

So what kind of prayer would be required to cast out something like the demon in Mark 9?  Perhaps a prayer that God would bolster the faith of the people who are needing and looking for his intervention, but are not daring to believe in the possibility of God doing what they ask.  After all, the father of the boy recognized that Jesus was talking about him when he said that the generation was disbelieving…his response, “I do believe, help me to overcome my unbelief!”  So what did the father believe?  He believed that Jesus/God could and was able to help his son, but his unbelief was in whether Jesus/God would choose to help his son.  His unbelief was based on years of trying different things to help his son…it was based on experience.  Many times we are bound by our experience and that leads us to be in a state of unbelief.  A miracle is a miracle by virtue of it happening despite our experience that “such things don’t normally happen.”   Miracles are unbelievable incidents that is why they are greeted by such skepticism…our experience doesn’t want us to accept that this is possible…however, our spirit longs for the kind of childlike belief that it can.  The good news is that once we acknowledge that we have a problem with our ability to believe, then we can pray for “help with our unbelief” and God will bolster the little bit of belief that we have and help us to believe with our whole heart.  Then we start to see and know who God truly is in our lives…that is a true prayer of healing.

The God of Everyone

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The Areopagus where Paul preached the Unknown God to the people of Athens…Paul knew what it was to be cleaned by God!

Mark 11:17  And as he taught them he said, Is it not written, my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.

This statement about God’s house being a house of prayer for all nations first appeared in Isaiah 56:7.  This angered the chief priests and scribes so they wanted to destroy Jesus because he threatened their way of life.  The main idea is that everyone no matter what nation or race can talk to God through prayer, that He is the God of everyone, not just the God of the Jews.  God also accepts anyone who repents and turns to him.  

I learned the extent of God’s forgiveness myself in a rather shocking way.  I was sitting in a church once and a guy shouted out to the pastor that he was sure that God would never forgive him because he was a mercenary and killed people for a living.  Now I was pretty young in my knowledge of God, and really still thinking that this was probably true…after all, why would God forgive someone who hurt people for money?!!  So I was pretty shocked to hear the minister tell him that yes, God would forgive him, if he asked for forgiveness sincerely!  Then, an interesting thing happened to me, the idea was so shocking, that it got me thinking…really thinking…is this the truth…and you know what…I had been limiting God’s forgiveness…many times we go along and we limit God’s forgiveness based on what we think is bad or worse, or not so bad.  The fact is that we are saved by the grace of God, and God doesn’t limit that…as Peter saw in his vision!  What God makes clean is clean indeed….therefore…who are we to hold a person’s past over them?!!  We are not to do that…if a person is steadfast and fruitful in their faith, as Cornelius the Centurion was, then we are to treat that person as a brother or sister in Christ with us….an equal to us…equally loved by God.  God equally listens to their prayers…the Bible is full of sinners who have done terrible things, and some in our human judgement who have done some not so bad things, but God forgives and he forgives absolutely!  We would do well to remember that and not fall into the trap of thinking like the world view that some people are too bad to be forgiven..after all…the Bible tells us that God would have no one be lost!

2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Read Acts chapter 10.  This is the story of Cornelius the Centurion whom God used to pour the Holy Spirit out onto the Gentiles also.

Acts Chapter 10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Corneliusfound out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointedJesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water.They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Footnotes: (NIV by way of Bible Gateway)

  1. Acts 10:19 One early manuscript two; other manuscripts do not have the number.
  2. Acts 10:46 Or other languages  

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!

Prayer in Decision Making

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Luke 6:12-16 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them whom he also designated apostles. Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot, Judas (son of James), and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

 Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing his disciples.  Jesus prayed all night, giving up sleep because this was a very important decision, and He wanted His Father’s help with it.  Then he chose his disciples. 

 Do you pray about your choice of friends?  Your choice of spouse? job? business ventures? where you are choosing to live? or raising your children?  

Many times in life we have major decisions to make about things.  Some of those decisions are crucial to how happy and satisfied we will be for the many years of our lives.  Doesn’t it make sense to include the Lord when you have to make a decision like that?

Sometimes we just don’t give God a thought and forge on ahead because an opportunity presents itself.  Sometimes that opportunity is not what it seems like it should be…for example:  You may be offered an incredible job opportunity that seems all you could dream of..there is just one catch…you have to leave everything you know, and everyone you know to go to live in a different place entirely.  Now for some people the sheer adventure of going to another place would just be irresistible…however, for a person who is deeply rooted in their family life, very close to their parents, or seriously dating someone a decision like this can turn out to be very very important…the difference between happiness and misery.

Either way, this kind of offer is huge in the person’s life because it requires them to be able and willing to go somewhere and adapt to a situation that offers them no support.  Yes, there are telephones and the internet to keep in touch with others, but for some (myself included) that would not be enough.

So it just makes sense to include God who should be your close personal friend and intimate confidant through prayer in your decision making process, right?

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

This generous giving mentioned in James is not about material goods…it is about advice and guidance…notice the first part is about if you “lack wisdom”  doesn’t that speak to you about how God feels about being part of our decision making process?

Sometimes things are not as good as the offer seems, if you speak to God about it, he will make straight your paths.  God will answer you in a “still, small voice” and let you know what the problems are with the offer or opportunity in your life…or if it is a relationship, what may cause you to have problems.  I know that some of you probably don’t understand the “still, small voice concept” so I will try to explain it to you as I understand it in my life.  It takes some practice to “hear” it because it is very quiet..God is not yelling to get our attention.

So here is my example that seems to help folks understand it in the easiest way:

There have been times when I have driven into the city and as I was entering it heading for a destination, the thought pops into my head, “which way should I go today, the outer belt or through down town?”  Then I usually will get a thought bounced back at me like “take the outer belt today” or “the outer belt is not the best idea today.”  Now, when I heed that voice, most of the time things go smoothly on the drive, but I have found with practice that whenever I have not listened….I usually have a traffic problem such as an accident ahead, or getting behind some really slow person who seems like they have never driven on the highway before..something like that.  So over time, I have practiced listening to this “still small voice” whenever I have a decision to make..sometimes it is a small decision like which way to travel, and sometimes it is a big decision like should I change to a different church.

There are other ways that God can communicate with you what he thinks you should do…for instance, (honestly, I have had this happen to me)..I was praying and wrestling with a decision about whether I should leave the church I had been attending for many many years for more than two hours while I was working one day,  and left work, sat down in my car and turned the radio on and a preacher on it says, “Today we will be talking about what to do whenever you don’t know what God wants you to do…” (I like to listen to radio ministers.)

Sometimes, God will tell you something, and then he will also have a friend come to you or even a stranger say something that will back up what he has already told you.  A lot of times these people don’t have any idea that you are even struggling with some decision at all, they just happen to make a statement of good sound advice which you realize when you hear it is just what God would want you to do.  It falls right in with what you know is the character of God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The thing to remember is that in order to “hear” and “understand” what God is telling you, you need to spend a lot of time with him in prayer and practice listening to him.  Prayer is a two way conversation.  It is not just you doing all of the talking. Also, if you don’t understand God’s character then you may fall pray to making a bad decision which puts you out of obedience to his will for your life.  In order to make good decisions that keep you in God’s will, then you need to know God intimately…this only comes from the study of God’s character through scripture and through spending time in prayer speaking to and listening to God.

1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.

Jeremiah 33:3  ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

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.

Worthless Prayer

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Look at this picture of Jesus on the Cross and the people at the foot of his cross…they are being depicted with the dedication that the Bible shows us they had..suffering the sight of the death of their savior…unknowing that he would rise again. By Carl Heinrich Bloch

Proverbs 28:9  He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

Read Jeremiah 7, and Jeremiah 11 These chapters illustrate how God feels about people who turn away from Him, then God doesn’t like that person’s prayers. However, God still loves us, even when we are in sin…He will  love us straight to the gates of Hell and if you go through those gates, then God will still love you; but the separation is eternal. I think that permanent separation from God is what hell is actually all about.  (That’s just my personal opinion to be sure.)  

Just as a parent will allow their adult children to do the wrong things, and not approve, and also won’t stop them but still will love them. Even as you read these two chapters everything in them seems very harsh, doesn’t it?  This tells us how much God wants us to show our love to him through obedience to his word.  How much God hates the actions of those who say that they are his people, yet, don’t follow what he says to do.

Now, this is not about being legalistic in how you view God.  There is absolutely nothing that you can do to gain God’s approval besides accepting his son.  However, to accept his son, you also have to accept his son’s “yoke” or his son’s teachings. (Matthew 11:28-30) You cannot accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus and then go on about your merry way as you always have.  If a person has really and truly accepted Jesus as their savior then there will be changes in them.  Now, that does not mean that they are suddenly going to spring forth into perfection…no, but it does mean that they have a change of heart where they realize that they have been doing things that are (as my Pastor is fond of saying) “off the mark” of where they should be.  Another way of saying that they are not on target for what God wishes in their lives.  God is the one who changes the person by the Holy Spirit’s presence within them.

So, how does a person know what God wants of them?  Well, Jesus stated it clearly: (Matthew 22:36-40)

1.) Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.

2.) Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

If you follow those two commandments, then you don’t have to worry about all of the rest of God’s law because you cannot follow those two commandments and still break any of God’s law at all.  That is what Jesus’ taught.

Why is that?  Well, because if you love God, then you won’t disrespect him or any of his creation in any way. That includes yourself and others.

If you love yourself (most people love themselves the most if they are honest…we see it all of the time…), then you want the best for yourself.

The best marriage, best home, best children, best friends, best of everything, right?!!

So it follows that if you love your neighbor as you love yourself, then you will want the best for them also:  The best marriage, the best home, best children, best friends, best of everything, right?!!!

Now, in loving that person you also want them to have the most important thing…the best relationship with God that they could possibly have.  You wouldn’t want that person to have anything bad in their lives, right?!!

This means that in loving them you celebrate with them, and mourn with them as they go through life, and you help them whenever they need it to the best of your ability.

It also means that you recognize that your neighbor may have different needs than you do when it comes to home and family life.  After all, we are not clones of each other.  We have individual desires in many respects, but there is one thing we all have in common on this earth.  It is the desire to have the love and companionship of family and friends.  We all want to be loved, and to be able to tell that we are loved.

Sometimes when we are “loving” others in the Christian way, we end up not so much loving them as “judging” them. We end up telling them what they should and should not do.  Most people have enough people telling them how to live their lives…that is not what they need.  People need the chance to make their own decisions and to realize that they will still be loved.  That is the example that God gives us of loving.

God did not put us in charge of making the rest of the world behave.  He told us to follow him…follow his example of loving others.  God wants us to love people beyond their faults.  Jesus shows us that example time and time again.  He shows people that he recognizes that they have faults, but that he loves them anyway and that he cares about their needs.  God is the one who will work on that person’s faults and bad decisions with them.  We can help them with this, but we cannot condemn them..that is not our job or our responsibility.  We have different responsibilities when dealing with another Christian who we see going astray as we are to correct each other..but for those who do not know Christ we are responsible to simply show them the love of Christ by our love for them and how we live that love out in our lives. (Matthew 18:15-17)

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There is one time that we see Jesus demonstrating some anger to us…the context of that anger is simple…there are people in God’s very house, his temple, who are taking advantage of other people who are coming to worship God.  They are giving them unfair exchanges for their money when they are coming from out of town, and they are charging them unreasonably high prices for the animals that they are buying for sacrifice in the temple.  Jesus actually quotes Jeremiah 7:11 while he is overturning the money changers tables.  Jesus is referring to the time when God proclaimed that empty worship is worthless worship, and telling those who are taking unfair advantage of others that God is watching them and sees what they do.  The people whom Jesus was talking to most likely fully understood the reference…it probably scared them spitless!  They knew that they were guilty in the eyes of God! (Matthew 21:12-13) (Now John 2 calls it a market place and focuses on the disrespect shown to God’s house by buying and selling in it.)

To put this in more blunt and modern terms…if you are just going to church and warming a pew so that you can tell the world how great you are that you go to church…that is worthless in God’s eyes.  If you do not include God in your every day life then your actions of worship are worthless.  God wants relationship with you, that is the way in which God will bless your life the most.  Relationship with God on a day to day basis can get you through anything that happens in your life.  It gives you an inexpressible strength.

Jeremiah Chapter 7 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message:

“‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

“‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,[a] burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’

16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking?declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched.

21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’

27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.

29 “‘Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lordhas rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.

The Valley of Slaughter

30 “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 32 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. 33 Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 34 I will bring an end to the soundsof joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate.

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 7:9 Or and swear by false gods

The Covenant Is Broken

Jeremiah chapter 11 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. Tell them that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Cursed is the one who does not obey the terms of this covenant— the terms I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.’ I said, ‘Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’—the land you possess today.”

I answered, “Amen, Lord.”

The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”

Then the Lord said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 Therefore this is what the Lordsays: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes.13 You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’

14 “Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.

15 “What is my beloved doing in my temple
    as she, with many others, works out her evil schemes?
    Can consecrated meat avert your punishment?
When you engage in your wickedness,
    then you rejoice.[a]

16 The Lord called you a thriving olive tree
    with fruit beautiful in form.
But with the roar of a mighty storm
    he will set it on fire,
    and its branches will be broken.

17 The Lord Almighty, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you, because the people of both Israel and Judah have done evil and aroused my anger by burning incense to Baal.

Plot Against Jeremiah

18 Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying,

“Let us destroy the tree and its fruit;
    let us cut him off from the land of the living,
    that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously
    and test the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
    for to you I have committed my cause.

21 Therefore this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands”—22 therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will punish them. Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. 23 Not even a remnant will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.” (NIV via Bible gateway.com)

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 11:15 Or Could consecrated meat avert your punishment? / Then you would rejoice