God Chastens those he loves

IMG_1400Read Hebrews 12

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

God Disciplines His Children

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Warning and Encouragement

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[f]

Footnotes:

  1. Hebrews 12:6 Prov. 3:11,12 (see Septuagint)
  2. Hebrews 12:13 Prov. 4:26
  3. Hebrews 12:20 Exodus 19:12,13
  4. Hebrews 12:21 See Deut. 9:19.
  5. Hebrews 12:26 Haggai 2:6
  6. Hebrews 12:29 Deut. 4:24
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.

 

Recently I had an experience with my prayer life in that I was chastened by God about how I pray.

I have a list of people that I go through each night and pray for prior to falling asleep…though there are some nights that I fall asleep and wake up when my arms fall asleep too from leaning on them with my head!  I figure God knows how tired I am, so I just start over with my prayer and then finish up and go to sleep for real.  Sometimes we are tired and unable to focus or even comprehend all that we have to say to God.

Anyhow, one night I was prayer as usual, and when I got down to a certain person on my list..the Holy Spirit really pushed me to prayer intensely for this person.  I began to seriously pour out my heart about this person and how much I would like to see them drawn toward God and see them become a much more happy person in the way a person who truly knows that he/she is loved by God will be happy….contentment and peace.

The next day, I was doing my daily tasks and the Lord whispered to me, “Do you know that this person doesn’t have anyone in their life to show them the Love of Christ?”  “There is no person who loves them without expecting something in return….without wanting them to turn around and suit their needs, instead of just loving them as they are now.”  I suddenly realized that it was true.  This person whom we all love, but have not been loving toward because of their decisions in life.  I realized that I was guilty of being judgmental and condemning toward that person.

I suddenly realized that there was another guilt that I had…in my prayers I had been praying for that person to be “guide, guard and protected”, but had not been praying with any real expectation beyond preservation of their life.  I had been praying without expectation of any change in their life whatsoever.   This is a terrible thing to realize.

I had been looking down on that person as someone whom God could not do anything to help them.  Unconsciously, my prayers were tainted by my worldly opinion of the person.  So, of course, the prayer would have very little if any power in that person’s life.

I felt quite devastated to realize that, although Jesus gave his Disciples the authority over things in earth and in heaven as far as casting out….I had never actually accepted that authority….the authority of change through prayer.

I mean, in my own life, and whenever someone would ask me to pray about something I did.  I was really comfortable about that…I always through the years…have prayed that God would help me with this or that and then started looking for the help to happen and watching for how God would help me to deal with whatever issue I needed help with.

Unfortunately, in this particular person’s life I had no such expectation, so did not look.  This meant that I was not praying with expectation of an answer.  I was unconsciously saying, “God I don’t expect much because their life is really a mess!”  Even though, I have met many people whose testimony about their lives told me that their life had really been a mess also, but God helped them to do something about it.

Yet, here I was looking at this person with the condemning eyes of the world, instead of the loving eyes of Christ.  There is no where in the Bible which would uphold what I was doing.

Yes, there are people who chose to turn their backs on God, and yes they get condemned for it.  The thing is, we, humans, have no way of telling who these people are.  We do not know what God knows.  We can only see that the person appears to be making unGodly choices with their life, we cannot know for sure, if they will continue to make those kinds of choices, or if something will happen to turn their heart toward God, and make them a huge minister for others around them.

God looks at us with, “where there is life…there is hope, I am a God of the living, not the dead”…attitude.  “I love you, and I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you…” God is a good God always!

Satan looks at us with, “you are too bad to be saved, just rot in your guilt and sin…don’t expect anything else”

Our Pastor, in his sermons over the past 3 weeks, has been being used by God to help bring me to this knowledge of my own sin.

The thing is that the second I realized that I had been praying while looking down on someone, praying without expectation, I felt miserable, and really apologized to God for it, and promised never to pray in that manner again.  The second I made the realization and the apology…I felt this magnificent feeling of power run through my body from toes to head..rising up through me…it felt like a huge release of power from the Holy Spirit in a big giant “atta girl!  I am glad that you realize this!  Now we can accomplish things with your prayers that we have never been able to accomplish before!”

Incidentally, the person lives over 600 miles from me, so at first I was not sure what I could do other than pray to have someone come into their life who can show them the love of Christ…but I realized that I could send them a care package and a card occasionally to give them a small bit of the love of Christ..kind of hoping to chip away at the pain and ice and anger in the person’s heart that they have received from being constantly looked down upon and condemned.  It is not much, but I am hoping that it is a small start.  It should improve my relationship with them also over time.  I wrote to them and confessed my sin to them.  Hopefully, they will as God does, forgive me my faults.

I am now praying with expectation every night, and usually at least some during the day…soon it will be without ceasing.  I have a picture in my head of them living a wonderful life of joy….I am praying with expectation that this picture will become a fact!

Those whom God loves, God chastens….the thing is that the chastening is not the chastening of the world…the love in this chastening was evident immediately and it drove out the guilt.  It was like God telling me, “I am revealing this to you so that you can draw closer to me…not so that you can be brought down by your guilt…it is to refine you into the person I created you to be.  I love you.  Don’t be upset, rejoice in the fact that I love you enough to tell you when you are doing the wrong thing.”

God is specific when he tells you what you are doing wrong, and he is gentle.

Satan is vague and uses guilt continually to remove your joy.

That is how you can tell them apart when you are not sure of what is going on.

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Read Proverbs 3:

Proverbs 3 New International Version (NIV)

Wisdom Bestows Well-Being

My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.

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.[a]

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.[b]

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
    by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    and the clouds let drop the dew.

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
    preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
    an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
    and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
    and will keep your foot from being snared.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
    “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
    when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
    who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
    when they have done you no harm.

31 Do not envy the violent
    or choose any of their ways.

32 For the Lord detests the perverse
    but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
    but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
35 The wise inherit honor,
    but fools get only shame.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 3:6 Or will direct your paths
  2. Proverbs 3:12 Hebrew; Septuagint loves, / and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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The case has been thrown out…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A psalm of David.

1Let all that I am praise the LORD;

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

2Let all that I am praise the LORD;

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

3He forgives all my sins

and heals all my diseases.

4He redeems me from death

and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

5He fills my life with good things.

My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

6The LORD gives righteousness

and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

7He revealed his character to Moses

and his deeds to the people of Israel.

8The LORD is compassionate and merciful,

slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

9He will not constantly accuse us,

nor remain angry forever.

10He does not punish us for all our sins;

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

11For his unfailing love toward those who fear him

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

12He has removed our sins as far from us

as the east is from the west.

13The LORD is like a father to his children,

tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

14For he knows how weak we are;

he remembers we are only dust.

15Our days on earth are like grass;

like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

16The wind blows, and we are gone—

as though we had never been here.

17But the love of the LORD remains forever

with those who fear him.

His salvation extends to the children’s children

18of those who are faithful to his covenant,

of those who obey his commandments!

19The LORD has made the heavens his throne;

from there he rules over everything.

20Praise the LORD, you angels,

you mighty ones who carry out his plans,

listening for each of his commands.

21Yes, praise the LORD, you armies of angels

who serve him and do his will!

22Praise the LORD, everything he has created,

everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the LORD.

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

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

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

Nathan’s Parable and David’s Confession

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

OR

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

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

John 8:31-36 (New Living Translation)

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

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

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

 

Experiencing God

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Exodus 3:3-5 

So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (NIV)

Genesis 32:30-31

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. (NIV)

When we look at Moses and Jacob they both had personal experience in meeting God.  In the case of Moses he met with God and the first thing he was told was to take off his shoes…God announced himself by reminding Moses of his Holiness.  Holy ground…I think a lot of time we forget to recognize God’s Holiness.  We take it for granted that he is Holy, but we don’t really take the time to recognize it, to truly be awed by it!  In other words, I think sometimes we treat God much too lightly.  To truly know God, then we must first recognize his Holiness, his sovereignty and his power as our creator.  Then we must recognize his overwhelming love for us…his creation.

Jacob and Moses both recognized these things about God.  They didn’t just randomly believe that God existed on some cerebral level.  They experienced God and by experiencing God….learned to understand exactly who God was in their lives….that God was present in a very real and personal way…right there with them…walking with them each day…only a prayer away.

There are so many people who believe in God and believe that God exists, but do not actually know who God is…they have never actually experienced God’s presence for themselves.  I find that to be one of the saddest things to realize.  I imagine that God finds it even more distressing that I do.  So many people who don’t actually seek God out and actively search to find who he is in their own lives.  They are content to just listen to others tell them who God is, or to never even give God a moment’s thought.  Many of them are intimidated by the Word of God…and are so afraid of misunderstanding it that they don’t even want to open it up and try to read it….although there are so many translations these days which are so much easier to read and understand…and there are so many great studies that can be done to understand it.

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So, how can a person experience God and not just know about him intellectually with head knowledge?

The answer is very simple….pray…talk to God…talk to God with reverence, but not distance…recognize that we were created in God’s own image to serve God…to be in companionship with God….

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

Isaiah 43:5-7 “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back ‘ Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”

Jesus tells us that all of us who accept who he is, as our Redeemer and King…all of us who chose to become Disciples and follow what Jesus taught are given the right to be called the sons and daughters of God…we are adopted in as God’s children.

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John 1:12-14 

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus also said that his Disciples are not his servants, but his friends.

John 15:13-15 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.

The most quoted verse from the Bible is John 3:16, but frequently it is only partially quoted…or partially understood…there is a very important part of that verse that is frequently over looked, or misunderstood.  The idea of “believes in him”…this is not a simple idea of just believing that Jesus exists and that he came to die in order to redeem us.  There is a more crucial deeper meaning….Meaning that believing that not only did Jesus the Christ exist, and come to die for people, but actually believing it to the point that you realize that you are counting on it being true to the depths of your soul.  You are not just believing because someone told you that it was a good idea and that you should believe it.  You are believe it because God has said that it is so and you believe God.  You are believing in God’s love for you.  The first part of that verse is “God so loved the world…”  

God loves us all so much that our continued separation from him is unthinkable…he went to such lengths as to send his dearly loved son to live a human life, and be tortured and abused…all for the purpose of redeeming us back to him…of showing us who God is and how strong God’s love for us is, in a personal, living and breathing way.

Redemption:  Where something is given in order to get something.  Jesus gave his life in every way…he devoted his living and breathing life to showing us who God is, and drew his last breath showing us who God is, then was resurrected to show us even more the power of God…who God is to us.

John 3:16-18 

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

So what did we learn from Jesus about who God is?  We learned that God is healing, loving, understanding, forgiving, holy and powerful.

We learned from Jesus that God wants us to be the same way toward our fellow man…loving, understanding, forgiving, holy and filled with the powerful, holy Spirit of God.

Jesus told his Disciples that every word he speaks and every action he does is only what God tells him to say and do.

John 12:48-50 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

There are many places in the Bible which tell us about God, we can see all through it how God worked in the lives of every day average people.  Most of us today are just every day average people…God is still working in our lives…he is still there for us to experience his companionship and love…we just have to seek him out…pray and God will reveal himself to you..each person travels a personal and individual road in getting to know God.

Just as no two people can get to know another person in exactly the same way…every friendship is different between people.  I have many friends, and each of our relationships are very individual…some of my friends know each other, and their relationships are also very individual.  We didn’t all get to know each other the same way because we all bring different personalities and life experiences to the friendship.

 

This is the same when we are seeking to build a relationship with God…we all have different levels of knowledge about God and we all have different backgrounds and experiences.  God created us as unique individuals…so our relationship with him is also unique and individual.

I really love hearing from different people about their relationship with God and how they have come to know him, and experience him in their lives.  It is so awesome to hear about the various ways that God has revealed himself to them, and how they have grown in faith.

There are many sincere worshippers who have never taken the step to seek out God…I implore you…if you are one of those folks…please take a moment and say a prayer to God asking him to reveal himself to you.  You will not regret seeking to draw closer to God.  It will give you God’s peace and contentment if you do.  Man’s peace is just the absence of war, God’s peace is an internal peace…a true peace.

Prayer is simple….just start out: Dear God….and tell God what is in your heart.  God already knows, so you may as well say it out loud and be honest…you won’t regret it!  Bare your soul to God!

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Meaningless things

IMG_5655Ecclesiastes 1:2  “Meaningless!  Meaningless!”says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (NIV)

Read: Ecclesiastes Chapters 1 and 2  The book of Ecclesiastes is thought to have been written by King Solomon and when you see verse one of Chapter one it seems to bear that thought out…as we also know that Solomon prayed for wisdom from God.  When I first read these two chapters I thought, “Well, how depressing can you get?  Solomon must have really been having a bad time of it when he wrote this.”  Then as I thought of it more there is a lot of truth in this.  We do all live and we all die..no matter how we live our lives…either foolishly, miserably, happily, contentedly, in anger, or in love…we all have a limited life span, and a physical death to look forward to in the end.  For some of us, the end comes sooner, and some much later, but we all have that ending to this physical life.

IMG_0996Also, it is true that we are generally forgotten once everyone who knew us is also dead.  We become just a name on an ancestral chart, or if you are one of those people who actually change the lives of a lot of other people your name may appear in a history book to torment students for many generations to come as to who you are and what you did…when you think of it that is pretty funny.  Names like Marie Curie, Sister Teresa, Jonas Salk…then there are other names that are more infamous…Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini we only wish we could forget those last three…unfortunately if we forget them, then we may not learn the lesson about humanity’s cruelty to humanity that we should remember and be aware of so we can guard against it and others who may appear who are like them.  So, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, is it all meaningless?  Well it might seem to be if you leave out the most important thing in life….your Creator, God!

The thing is that in 1:15 Solomon tells us that 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.”  Now, if we are looking at our ability to straighten things and count what is not there, then this is absolutely true.  However, God can see what is not there in a person, and also has the power to straighten up crooked things.  Only the power of God can do that.  God sees the potential in a person that is not readily visible to others.

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Ecclesiastes 1:18 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 also gives us a bit of truth…as we age we generally can look back and see what we did wrong, and then when we see a young person making the same mistake and cannot influence them with the wisdom we have acquired it does cause sorrow to us.  However, it is good if we can remember that we got through our unwise state and in many ways we are still unwise in our thoughts and actions.  Yet we can take comfort in knowing that God is also working on that youngster’s path in life, as he does on ours. We need to turn our griefs over to God and let him help us through them.  Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Ecclesiastes 1 New International Version (NIV)

Everything Is Meaningless

The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
    what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 1:1Or the leader of the assembly; also in verses 2 and 12

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In Ecclesiastes 2 Solomon starts talking about how meaningless Pleasure and work are in life.  He tells us that he thinks that laughter is madness and what does pleasure accomplish?

Well, as far as I am concerned…I think that Solomon may have forgotten that God invented laughter and pleasure and work.  God knows that laughter is good for us and wants us to have pleasure in the things in life, and have meaning in our work.

After all, God gave Adam a job right away in the Garden of Eden…he was told to name the animals, and care for the Garden.

Genesis 2:15  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

God tells us to have some rest and worship on the Sabbath Day…so God knows that rest is important to the renewing of ourselves to continue the work he has given us.

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The thing is that Solomon tells us a few things about his pursuit of pleasure and work and it is pretty plain that he was not including God in his pursuit of pleasure or in his work.  That is why he came to the conclusion that it was all meaningless.

When we get down to the end of Ecclesiastes 2 we find that Solomon ended up with this very same conclusion…if you do everything in service to God, then God rewards that service with a sense of satisfaction in life.

Not so, for the person who is not serving God…they continue to run through life like a rat on an exercise wheel…until life runs out on them.

Solomon’s thoughts in 2:24-26 may be hard for some to accept, especially if they are running away from God.  It just comes down to one thing…either a person can have a fulfilling and meaningful life with God….or they can choose to run their own life…without God..which means that there is no more life after life…all that person has is the here and now and whatever satisfaction they can find in it.

Personally, I am happy that I have chosen not to live life without the inclusion of the Almighty God, my creator….because this means that not only do I have an after life to faithfully look forward to, but I can also share in God’s joy here on earth by doing the work he has given me to do.  I have assurance that there is meaning to life!

I am hoping and praying that all of you have that assurance also…that is how we all share in God’s joy…the joy of a sinner saved, and the joy of fellowship with God and with fellow believers.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

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Ecclesiastes 2 New International Version (NIV)

Pleasures Are Meaningless

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart.I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
    “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 2:8 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
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.

Jesus – Son of David

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Luke 1:69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

Read 2 Samuel Ch. 7  This is God’s promise to David to make his kingdom and his house last forever. 

Read Matthew 1:1-17  This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ from Abraham onward.  So you can see that God kept his promise to Abraham to make his children as numberless as the stars, and to David to make his kingdom and house be eternal, through Jesus.

Read Luke 1:26-33  This is when the Angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells Mary that her son will be called the Son of the Most High, and he will rule on the throne of his father David and over the house of Jacob forever.

Note:  Jesus’s title of the Son of David is a racial title which reminds us that Jesus was a descendant of the Jewish King David who was a descendant of Abraham.  In short, it reminds us that Jesus is Jewish.

Genealogy is very important throughout the bible.  It demonstrates continuity of life.  It also gives us a glance at what a forgiving God we have.  Looking at the people listed in Jesus’ ancestry we see all kinds of sinners.  Yet, those people were so forgiven by God due to their faith that he put them in Jesus’ ancestry to show us how total and completely God forgives you.

We know that God keeps his promises, no matter how long it seems to take him to fulfill a promise…when God makes a promise…he keeps it…you can count on it!

 Look at the number of generations from Abraham to Jesus…Abraham did not live to see the promise kept, but God kept it anyway!

The same with David, King David did not live to see Jesus, hundreds of years later, still representing his throne, his authority, and kingship…yet, Jesus is an eternal King, to a Kingdom without any ending!  How is that for promise keeping?!!  Yes, there were times when the King was not actually sitting on the throne in Israel.  Just because a king is not actively sitting on the throne doesn’t mean there is no king.

Jesus told us that we are to preach the Kingdom come…because the Kingdom is here!   We refer to this as the gospel.   The word gospel means the good news!  The good news is that God loves us and sent his son so that those who believe in his son, Jesus the Christ, and ask for God’s forgiveness of their sins, can receive that forgiveness and begin a new life living for God with the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.  This is a promise that God made to us!  We can count on God to keep his promise!  That is one of the things that knowing Jesus as the “Son of David” means to us!

Luke 9:1-2   When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Psalm 103:10-12 New International Version (NIV)

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

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Bible Verses listed in lesson from biblegateway.com

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2 Samuel 7 New International Version (NIV)

God’s Promise to David

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[b]; your thronewill be established forever.’”

17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

David’s Prayer

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human![c]

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?[d] 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.

27 Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.28 Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 7:11 Traditionally judges
  2. 2 Samuel 7:16 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint; most Hebrew manuscripts you
  3. 2 Samuel 7:19 Or for the human race
  4. 2 Samuel 7:23 See Septuagint and 1 Chron. 17:21; Hebrew wonders for your land and before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt, from the nations and their gods.

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Matthew 1:1-17 New International Version (NIV)

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 1:1Or is an account of the origin
  2. Matthew 1:1Or Jesus Christ. Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean Anointed One; also in verse 18.
  3. Matthew 1:11That is, Jehoiachin; also in verse 12

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Luke 1:26-33  New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 

 

Immanuel – God With Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everlasting Father

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My maternal Grandfather and Aunt, and my youngest brother…even though we rarely attended church we had some awesome role models of people who sincerely believed in God and knew who he was and demonstrated that knowledge by how they lived day to day…in this picture are two of them from the two previous generations and you can see the joy on all three faces as they interact with one another.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Read Psalm 145 This discusses God’s relationship with all he has created.  Even though it doesn’t use the word father, the creator is the father of his work, and God is mentioned as everlasting, and caring.  In verse 4 we are told by King David (this is one of his Psalms) that each generation commends God’s works to another; they tell of God’s mighty acts.  King David understood that this was how it was supposed to be that from one generation to the next we are supposed to be passing down our knowledge of who God is and how much God loves us, and what God is expecting from us both toward him and toward each other.  In honor of the Everlasting Father we are supposed to be doing this to the glory of God.

The thing is that there is many times a failure to do this.  The funny (ironic) thing is that when you know who God is and how much he loves you, and you have a close personal relationship with him then you find it hard not to share what you know about God.  God is exciting…having someone who loves you so much is exciting!  The first thing we want to do when we are excited is to share our excitement with others. In light of this, then I have to ask…why are there so many people in the world who do not actually know and understand the love of God and who he is in relationship to them?  I mean there are more churches in this world than ever before?  If you attend a church I invite you to look around and observe…is your church and the people in it really truly teaching these things?  Are you within your family teaching and/or learning these things?

Self evaluation is always a good thing…but don’t beat yourself up if you find that you are not doing as well as you think you should be.  Just make a plan on how you can better pass on to the next generation your love and knowledge of God.  Note that the next generation doesn’t just mean your own children.

Don’t expect great things to happen immediately…remember that God has a long range plan for your life, and for the lives of each and every person he creates.  What you can take to heart is that God says that none of his Word goes out and does not accomplish what he sets out for it to accomplish. (Isaiah 55) It is just that it takes longer in most cases for us to see this than we would like.

Isaiah 55

Invitation to the Thirsty

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 145:1 This psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which (including verse 13b) begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
  2. Psalm 145:5 Dead Sea Scrolls and Syriac (see also Septuagint); Masoretic Text On the glorious splendor of your majesty / and on your wonderful works I will meditate
  3. Psalm 145:13 One manuscript of the Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls and Syriac (see also Septuagint); most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text do not have the last two lines of verse 13.
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.

The Prince of Peace

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Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Read Matthew 5: 1-12  The Beatitudes.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace…he tells us that he gives us his peace.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid. (NIV)

When Jesus describes his peace he tells us that it is not like the peace as the world sees it or gives it.  So what is the peace that Jesus is giving us?  How do we get it?

I was having a discussion about this with a friend of mine.  We were discussing that there are blessings from God that only come from obedience to his will.  It was not a discussion saying that a person cannot be blessed by God while in a state of disobedience…as we are told in Matthew 5:44-47  “it rains on the righteous and unrighteous.” (rain is a blessing that makes things grow as indicated in this particular verse.)

 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Do not even tax collectors do the same?…

The point is that some of the blessings of God such as Jesus’ peace that he is telling us about in John 14.  Salvation comes when you give your heart to Jesus Christ, peace comes through obedience.

Have you ever noticed that whenever you are on the “outs” with another person, or you have done something that is not quite in line with what God says is the right way to go on a matter, that your sense of peace and contentment are destroyed? …well, God isn’t just telling us to be obedient because he wants to spoil our fun.  He gives us guidelines for how to treat others, and how to treat ourselves so that we can have peace of mind and peace of heart, satisfaction in relationships, and life…so that we can be closer to him and hear his voice more easily.

When Jesus speaks of his peace and he says he is not giving it as the “world gives it”…think about how the world gives?  There is a reason that we have a saying that “there is no free lunch”…Jesus’ peace is a peace where nothing is held over you…it is not at some weighty cost to yourself that you get this peace.  This is a peace like no other.

The world’s peace is usually just a ceasing of hostility…true peace can only come through loving the other person.  That is how Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” because Jesus actually loved everyone…no matter who they were, what they were like, what they did to him, no matter what their sin….Jesus loved them all.  He still loves us all in the same way. (Jesus even loved Judas Iscariot…even while he was betraying him…he still loved him!)

The ultimate freedom for humanity is in the form of Jesus’ peace….once you know how to love others no matter what they are like to you, or to others, short, tall, fat, slim, smart, dumb, nice, mean, red or green, etc. love them all and have Jesus’ peace through your obedience.  That is loving Jesus…being obedient to him.  (John 14:15)

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us “blessed are the peacemakers…”  Be the ultimate peacemaker…love others and obey God…then have peace in your heart, mind and soul!

Wonderful Counselor/Friend

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A lot of valuable advice is passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. That is one way that we “honor our parents”.  Leviticus 19:32 says to “Stand up in the presence of the elderly and show respect for the aged…” 1Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

John 15:13  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Read Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but wisdom was proved right by her actions.

Read Luke 10:38-42  Jesus counsels to Martha on the importance of working for the Kingdom of God.

When we think of a counselor many times in society we are thinking of someone who is paid to give us counsel…such as a lawyer, or psychologist, psychiatrist…etc.

However, we also get counseling from our friends about our problems, usually we don’t pay them – even though sometimes their counsel is better than that of the professionals. A lot of our best counselors in life are older people…sometimes, simply because they have lived longer they have a much calmer way of thinking than younger people…their way of looking at things is viewed through the lens of experience…many of the things that seem like a crisis just are not as much of one as we think they are…many times they are but a “bump” in the road of life.  Jesus is the ultimate counselor.

If we look at the qualities of a good counselor most of us are looking for someone who is

1.) able to keep a secret (trustworthy)

2.) able to give good advice (wise)

3.) compassionate and understanding(feeling)

4.) a good listener(attentive)

Now, if you have a counselor who fails in any of these areas it is really difficult. There is simply no point on which Jesus fails to be a good counselor.  Sometimes when we have a friend who is a counselor they don’t always give the best advise, isn’t that so?!!  It depends on the maturity of the friend, and also on the nature of the friend.  Sometimes, the friend may advise you to do something that is actually not wise at all, but is an indication in their mind of them being “on your side.”  A lot of the time a friend may get angry “on your behalf” when someone else has hurt you.

In those cases you need to pray that God will give you the wisdom to seek out the best counselor for the situation at hand, or that God himself will give you the counsel you need through his Holy Word.

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Remember that when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness what he used to defend himself against temptation was scripture.  That is an awesome lesson of wisdom to all of us.  Just about every problem known to man is covered in scripture one way or another.

A lot of times we hear people say, “oh, that doesn’t apply to today!” or “they didn’t know about all the modern technology we have today!”  Well, whenever someone says something like that remember that even though we don’t live the same way there are some truths that are simply true and timeless.

If you always take the time to ask yourself…what is the most loving thing that I could do toward that person in this situation…and ask God to show it to you…then you will know the Wonderful Counsel of Jesus Christ….and will make a good decision.  It may not be the only good decision, but it will be a good decision.  Frequently, there is not only “one” good decision in any given situation, but several, and a good decision in the same situation may be different and not so good if the people are different in the same situation.

For example…sometimes a good decision requires “tough love” and sometimes it requires “gentle love”.  In either case, the key is “love”.

The important thing is to remember that God has standards of behavior toward others and it is to deny yourself, and follow him in loving others.

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I am The Alpha and the Omega…

IMG_0089Revelations: 22:13  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, The Beginning and the End

Read Genesis Chapter 1, and Revelation Chapter 22.  This is about both the beginning and the end of Man’s life on Earth as we know it.  God was there to create us, and as Chapter 22 in Revelations states He will be there to separate those who are to get into the Holy city of God, and those who don’t. 

The Alpha and the Omega…The First and the Last, The Beginning and the End…Those are very strong images.  They are images of an everlasting, timelessness that we as humans cannot really grasp.  Just like trying to grasp the mathematical number pi…3.1416 onward to infinity.  It is simply beyond my grasp to understand.  I sit and think to myself back when I first heard of such a number that I wonder who came up with it and how they discovered it and how they know that it is infinite.  Obviously, God would be the inventor of that number as well as all others as he is the creator of all things.  He simply revealed it to us humans as it became something that a few of us could almost grasp.  Funny thing is that mathematical pi has been known to have been in use in some form since the time of the Babylonians around 4000 B.C.  You might say that it is one of the remnants of the great Babylonian empire, though their number was a bit inaccurate.  Now for any who are reading this who don’t know what pi is…it is the relationship between the circumference of a circle (that is if you walked around the circle), and the diameter (if you walked across the circle).  I know it is used in formulas for this purpose, but don’t entirely understand it, not being a mathematician.  However, back to the topic at hand…

God, who is infinite (like walking around a circle..no beginning and no end) took a lot of trouble to present himself to us in a very linear, straight forward way.  He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to actually show us who God is in the flesh. Jesus has a whole lot of names listed in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

God knew that we were not capable of understanding all of who he is, so he decided to come and meet each and every one of us where we are on this earth.  Now, as with all meetings, you can make a friend of the one whom you meet with…or you can reject that friendship by either making an enemy, or by simply ignoring the hand of friendship.

When we read about what God created in Genesis chapter one…it is an awesome thing….he “spoke” the world into existence.  Most of us are really impressed that we can speak into a gps and tell it to plot a route, right?!!  The gps is already in existence and is programmed for  this purpose…God spoke the world into existence from absolutely nothing…We are told in Genesis 1 that The earth was formless and void, and there was darkness…

A God who can speak the world into existence from nothing can most certainly handle my problems, right?!!  God tells us that he will be there from beginning to end…to me that is a comforting statement.  Why?  Well, that is because I love God and I know that God loves me and the he considers me to be very precious to him.  God considers us all to be his very precious creations.  It is just that some people chose to accept God’s invitation to have a close and very personal relationship with him and others don’t.

When you choose to have a close relationship with God everything does not suddenly become perfect and rosy in your life.  Just look at the lives of the Disciples if you don’t understand what I am saying.  You are probably saying, “why not?”

Well, that is the thing, although we are precious to God, so are other people.  Once you have God’s saving grace, he wants to use you to glorify him by bringing other people into close relationship with him also.  Sometimes the process of being used by God for this purpose can be painful and hard to bear…sometimes you don’t even know when or how God is using you.  That is where faith comes in, you just follow God and know that he is with you where ever you go….from beginning to end….he has a purpose for everyone.  Our main purpose is to glorify God, and we are to love people first and foremost even when they are next to impossible to love.  I am sure we all have met some folks who are like that!

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Just fill in the blank here….”I cannot love them because they are…or they did…”

Just remember that God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End…he is there for your beginning and end and he is also there for their beginning and end…he knows exactly what it takes to love each and every one of us.

Matthew 5:44-46  

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

 

He knows how to help us to love the folks who are unlovable…and we are all in some ways hard to love at different times in our lives.  The thing that I have found over the years is that if you can look at things from the other person’s perspective and try to understand why they are acting they way they are acting, then you are well on your way to being able to love them with the love of Christ.

Most of us have met people and thought…”I can never be friends with them…they are so….” (fill in the blank)…then something happens that is unforeseen and we find that we have a common interest, or that we actually believe something in the same way and suddenly we are best friends with that person.  I have learned that you can never write off a person because at first they are not someone you instantly bond with.  Each person has their own unique characteristics and gifts, and their own unique backgrounds and life experiences…their own pains and pleasures in life which make up who they are.

God knows all of it….the Bible says that God knew us before we were in the womb, though the verse is talking to Jeremiah, God knows all of us the same way.

Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” NIV

If you read Revelation Chapter 22 then you see that God is expecting something from us all…it says he will reward each according to what they have done…this is not talking about how much money you have given, or how hard you have worked at work, or how many fund raisers you have done for your church…this is talking about how much you have loved others and how many people have come to know God because of your actions and your words.  Teaching people about who God is must be done with both words and actions…it must be an intentional act…to love that person enough to want them to truly understand the love of Christ.

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Revelation 22 reminds us that people can be lost…because their focus is on themselves and their own pleasures and not on God.  This is a tragedy that God would like to avoid happening.

I read this verse in 2 Peter 3:9-12 about the type of people we should be as we wait for the Day of the Lord to come….we are to be conducting ourselves with godliness and holiness as we anticipate and “hasten” the day of the Lord.   

We are to “hasten” the day of the Lord by loving others and helping them to come to know who God is through knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.

As Peter tells us in verse 9, The Day of the Lord has not yet come because God does not wish anyone to be lost.  It isn’t because God doesn’t see the bad things that are happening, it’s because he wants to save as many as will turn to him.  God’s servants (that would be us) are those who can impact others to turn them toward God…that is what it means to hasten the coming Day of the Lord, or to move the Kingdom of God forward.

1Corinthians 1:18  18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.