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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God’s Word is Powerful

IMG_5331Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Read: Psalm 119:9, 11, 105, Isaiah 55:10-11, 2Samuel 22:31, Proverbs 12:25, 25:11, John 1:1-5, 14.

Read Matthew 4:1-4.  This is Jesus answer to the first temptation.

Psalm 119:9-11  

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:105

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,

 a light on my path.

Isaiah 55:10-11

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

2 Samuel 22:31

31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. 
Proverbs 25:11
Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given.
John 1:1-5 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

John 1:14  

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.

Matthew 4:1-4
 

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

(Verses taken from Bible Gateway.com and Bible hub.com and are the NIV version of the Bible)
These are just a few verses in the Bible that tells us about the value of God’s word in our lives, and how powerful it is.  When reading the Bible it is always comforting to keep in mind that there is a word there for everyone.
One of the other things to keep in mind is that John 1:14 tells us that The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.   That Word that became flesh was the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is described as God’s Word becoming flesh, if that doesn’t tell us clearly how powerful the Word of God is, then I don’t know what does.  Yet that very Word of God laid down his life for us, though he had all the power of God behind him.  His life was voluntarily laid down for us.  I find it to be a very amazing thing that God loves us so much, no matter how many times I contemplate it…it is always very awesome!  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all loved each other even a fraction as much as God loves us.   The only way that is possible is if we all live our lives with God’s powerful Word written on our hearts…living in obedience to Him…that is what the Kingdom of God is about.  We need to realize the power of God’s Word and take it into our hearts and lives, seriously.  Not just in a lukewarm way.
John 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
Matthew 26:53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

God is Always with You

Angel picPsalm 88:2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.

Read Psalm 88 This is a prayer from a depressed and lonely person, who feels that they are so all alone in the world, that even God has deserted them, that they might as well be dead, and are in fact a living dead.

Read Job Chapter 36

Consider Job 36 in relation to Psalm 88.   Do you think the person in Psalm 88 would gain comfort from reading Job 36. Are there other bible verses or Psalms that you feel would be comforting if you were feeling depressed and alone?  (Hint:  The Lords prayer, Psalm 23, Psalm 91, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5, The Beatitudes)

My favorite Psalm is 91.  The imagery especially in the KJV is just beautiful.  The idea of hiding under God’s “wings” like a chick under a mother hen is pretty irresistible when you are going through a hard time in life.  We all have hard times and struggle with feeling alone during those times.  After all there is no one on earth who understands what each of us is going through (and we all are going through something called life, which at times can be difficult to bear).  That is because as much as we can love another person we cannot live their life, or get inside their head and have their emotions or their perspective on what is going on at all times.  God is the only one who can truly hear our cries when we are sad and really understand all that we are going through in life, and all that we have already been through.  God both celebrates our joys with us, and also bears our sadness with us.

He hears us even when we are crying from within our hearts and souls and we don’t even know the words to say to tell him or anyone else how we feel or what we need.  God always knows.  The thing is we just need to lean on him through prayer.  Sometimes, you can just bow your head, and cry to God about your anguish.  He already knows what is in your heart.  God is faithful to offer comfort our times of distress.

Sometimes that comfort may come in the form of another person saying a timely word, or sharing a painful time of their own and reassuring you that they got through it.  Once when my family and I were going through a hard time God provided some words from one of my friends who had gone through a similar experience when she was young:  “Eventually you will get through this, and things will settle down, and there will be a new normal…it won’t be like the old normal…but things will settle down and there will be a new normal.”  Those were some of the most reassuring words at that time that I had heard.  I clung to them.  God had given me such a wonderful friend who having suffered themselves was able to lift me up by giving me these words of encouragement.

The thing about God’s comfort is that you have to be willing to be comforted.  You have to be looking for that comfort.  It is like having a pillow and bed and home available to you, but choosing to sleep outside in the cold on the hard ground instead.  Even out on the cold hard ground, God is there with you offering you comfort.  To me that is such a comforting thought….it is an empowering thought…because God loves us and knows us so well.

Job 36: Elihu continued:“Bear with me a little longer and I will show you

    that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
I get my knowledge from afar;
    I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
Be assured that my words are not false;
    one who has perfect knowledge is with you.

“God is mighty, but despises no one;

he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.

He does not keep the wicked alive
    but gives the afflicted their rights.
He does not take his eyes off the righteous;
    he enthrones them with kings
    and exalts them forever.
But if people are bound in chains,
    held fast by cords of affliction,
he tells them what they have done—
    that they have sinned arrogantly.
10 He makes them listen to correction
    and commands them to repent of their evil.
11 If they obey and serve him,
    they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
    and their years in contentment.
12 But if they do not listen,
    they will perish by the sword[a]
    and die without knowledge.

13 “The godless in heart harbor resentment;
    even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
14 They die in their youth,
    among male prostitutes of the shrines.
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
    he speaks to them in their affliction.

16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
    to a spacious place free from restriction,
    to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
    judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
18 Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
    do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
19 Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
    sustain you so you would not be in distress?
20 Do not long for the night,
    to drag people away from their homes.[b]
21 Beware of turning to evil,
    which you seem to prefer to affliction.

22 “God is exalted in his power.
    Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him,
    or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 Remember to extol his work,
    which people have praised in song.
25 All humanity has seen it;
    mortals gaze on it from afar.
26 How great is God—beyond our understanding!
    The number of his years is past finding out.

27 “He draws up the drops of water,
    which distill as rain to the streams[c];
28 the clouds pour down their moisture
    and abundant showers fall on mankind.
29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds,
    how he thunders from his pavilion?
30 See how he scatters his lightning about him,
    bathing the depths of the sea.
31 This is the way he governs[d] the nations
    and provides food in abundance.
32 He fills his hands with lightning
    and commands it to strike its mark.
33 His thunder announces the coming storm;
    even the cattle make known its approach.[e]

Footnotes:

  1. Job 36:12 Or will cross the river
  2. Job 36:20 The meaning of the Hebrew for verses 18-20 is uncertain.
  3. Job 36:27 Or distill from the mist as rain
  4. Job 36:31 Or nourishes
  5. Job 36:33 Or announces his coming— / the One zealous against evil
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

Psalm 88[a]

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth.[b]A maskil[c] of Heman the Ezrahite.

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 88:1 In Hebrew texts 88:1-18 is numbered 88:2-19.
  2. Psalm 88:1 Title: Possibly a tune, “The Suffering of Affliction”
  3. Psalm 88:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
  4. Psalm 88:7 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 10.
  5. Psalm 88:11 Hebrew Abaddon

**Both these Bible quotes are NIV and have come from Bible gateway.com

 

Avoiding Temptation with Prayer

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Luke 22:40 …Pray that you will not fall into temptation.

Be in prayer so that you can resist temptation. When you are not praying the door is open to the devil.

Read Psalm 141 This is a prayer for God’s protection against doing wrong, or having wrong done to them.  This is a Psalm of David.

Read Psalm 23, 91, 142, 143 These are also prayers of protection.

When in danger, or in a dangerous place, or in temptation, pray to God to keep you from falling to temptation, or being hurt or destroyed in danger.  This is a good prayer to use with soldiers, or missionaries.

Read 1Samuel 24:  This is the story of David hiding in the caves and Saul coming into the same cave to relieve himself and David being tempted by his men to take advantage of Saul’s vulnerability and kill Saul. 

Remember that at this point David has been anointed to be the next King of the people of Israel.  He knows this.  He is being chased by King Saul (the present King) and his men and hunted.  He is hiding in the caves with his men, in fear for his and their lives.

It isn’t much of a mental leap to believe that David, who is described in the Bible as a “mighty man”, a very strong warrior, who has already killed many men in battle would be tempted to go ahead and kill King Saul and take the throne.  He could have even justified it to himself that this was the opportunity that God had given him to do just that.  That is what his men do, that is how they saw the situation.  David did step up for a few seconds and feel tempted…he actually went so far as to sneak up on the King while he was at what most people would consider an extremely vulnerable moment and cut a corner off of his robe.  Then God pricked his conscious about doing anything bad to someone who was anointed by God.

King Saul was after all, such a person.  He was the first anointed King of the People of Israel.

David explains to his men, that it doesn’t go well for anyone who stands up against the one that God has anointed…even if it is another anointed one doing it.  Now that makes for an interesting thought doesn’t it, since Saul is also going up against one who is anointed by God…David, himself.

However, King Saul, by virtue of already being the King was sovereign over David.  David recognized this….King Saul was his master.  David actually loved King Saul and looked up to him.  We see this a bit when we read the story of David and Goliath through David’s interaction with King Saul over the offered use of the King’s armor.  (1Samuel 17)

David also loved King Saul’s son, Jonathon.  He was his best friend.  Imagine how hard it would be to be in David’s position of going up against the father of his best friend.  So, in the end David waits with the scrap of cloth in his hand for King Saul to finish doing his business and leave the cave.

Then he comes out of the cave, and bows before his King and announces, “I could have killed you, but look I didn’t…here is the proof of how close I was to you.”  “Why are you listening to those men who say that I am trying to kill you?”

This was a magnificent gesture of love and bravery on the part of David.  If it were not for the intervention of God this could have turned out disastrously.  King Saul was touched by David’s sincerity toward him, and repented of his desire to kill David.  He accepted a pledge of loyalty from David and they both went on their way.  Now there is a lot more to the story of David and King Saul, but the important thing for this lesson is that David recognized God and left God’s plan to God, himself.  David did not get caught up in the temptation to “make” God’s plan happen in his own way.  It is a very human thing to fall into that temptation…the thing is that there is the way that God wants it done and there is the wrong way.

Whenever we are tempted to take matters into our own hands we should always pray that God will open our eyes and hearts to see the way that he wishes for things to go, and to have the patience to follow that way…no matter how long it takes.  We should pray that God will keep us from temptation.  Just as we are told that Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:9-13

9“Pray, then, in this way:
            ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
            Hallowed be Your name.

      10‘Your kingdom come.
            Your will be done,
            On earth as it is in heaven.

      11‘Give us this day our daily bread.

      12‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

      13‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

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Morning Prayer by Jean-Baptiste Greuze in 1780

Praying for the Good of Others

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Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Note Acts 1:14 demonstrates that it is important to pray together and be praying for the same things, in the same way. That is to be of one accord, or in agreement.

Read Acts 12:1-18 This is the story of Peter’s rescue by the angel of the Lord from prison.  A good illustration of the power of group prayer in one accord.  This is an amazing story.  Peter is rescued, and then he goes to the door of the house of his fellow Christians and the woman is so shocked and happy that she doesn’t even open  the door!  She leaves him standing there so that she can go and tell everyone else who had been praying for him! They actually suggest it is his ghost! You can just see this in your minds eye, can’t you?!

This group of people were praying for him and God answer their prayer promptly…so promptly that they could hardly believe it.  Peter went to let them know he was safe and make sure they passed the information on to others, but then he left.  We go a bit further down and see that Herod was very unhappy about this situation and was probably looking for Peter.  He really wanted to execute him.

You can contrast this story to the one of Paul and Silas being in prison and having an earthquake hit.  (Acts 16:16-40) They didn’t leave, but Peter actually thought he was having a dream, but was in fact being rescued by an angel.  Similar situations, but God handled them differently.  In the case of Paul, he and his companion were there to facilitate the salvation of the Jailer and his family, and their fellow prisoners.  Also they were not being held by King Herod and not under threat of death, God did not have to effect a miraculous rescue for them.  Now that jailer was going to kill himself if Paul and Silas and the other prisoners had escaped, but it wasn’t necessary. The Roman penalty for a jailer who let their prisoners escape was that they had to suffer the harshest penalty of the prisoners they were holding…for ex. if someone in their group of prisoners was sentenced to death, then they would be taking the place of that person if the prisoner escaped.

Peter’s death was eminent if he had not been rescued by the angel.  God was not done with Peter, and there were a lot of people praying for Peter’s well being.  In Paul’s case his and Silas’ arrest was less serious, and Paul had a way out because of his Roman citizenship (though it was not known at the time of the decision to release them).  Paul and Silas also went to visit someone before they left town…people who were probably concerned and praying for Paul and Silas also.

One thing you can bet on in both of these situations is that God knew what situation his people were in, and was keeping and eye on it.  Things went the way that God planned.  Peter escaped and went on about the Lord’s work, and Paul and Silas did the Lord’s work while in jail, and when they were released they also went on about the Lord’s work continuously….preaching the Kingdom is here to everyone they met!  The power of group prayer cannot be underrated.  Many times when we pray for someone we tend to pray in a very specific and limiting way.  Recently, it was brought to my attention through study in a group that we should actually be praying for God’s blessings to shower down into their life..that they have the fullness of all of God’s blessings!

If you think about it…having the fullness of all of God’s blessings is that they have the most “life” in their life…they would be in line with God’s plan for them, and would be a disciple of Christ who is busy making other disciples of Christ…that is what Peter and Paul and Silas and all of the other Disciples of the Lord did for the remainder of their lives….they preached the Kingdom and made Disciples who preached the Kingdom and made more Disciples…isn’t that the greatest blessing…to know that you have been an able participant in the Kingdom of Heaven and bringing others into the Kingdom also?

IMG_0089Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison

Acts Chapter 12:1-16 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”

12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.

18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

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.’