Your Opinion or God’s Standard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

log-in-eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob & Mickey 1965

1Corinthians 13:4-7 

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

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The Confusing Knowledge of Good and Evil

garden-of-eden

Read Genesis Chapter 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 To the woman he said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The World Hates the Disciples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Value of Wisdom

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 8  New International Version (NIV)

Wisdom’s Call

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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1 Kings 3:1-15 (NIV)

Solomon Asks for Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ephesians 2:10

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

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

 

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.

Seven Things God Detests

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

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

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

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

Yet look at these things one by one:

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

Matthew 25:31-46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 16:28

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

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

He said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sinning in Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Routs the Philistines

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Eats Honey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Samuel 14:15 Or a terrible panic
  2. 1 Samuel 14:18 Hebrew; Septuagint “Bring the ephod.” (At that time he wore the ephod before the Israelites.)
  3. 1 Samuel 14:27 Or his strength was renewed; similarly in verse 29
  4. 1 Samuel 14:41 Septuagint; Hebrew does not have “Why … at fault.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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

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

1Samuel 23:17  

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Your Identity?

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

What are you basing your identity on?

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

Read Matthew 23:1-12  

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some things to remember:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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The Good Shepherd

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

Read John 10: 1-21 

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

Jesus the True Shepherd

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

Jesus the Good Shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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

John 14:6New King James Version (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

philip2beunuchRead Acts 8:26-40 (ESV)

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

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

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

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

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

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Read Psalm 23  

Psalm 23 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Lord the Shepherd of His People

A Psalm of David.

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

Holy One

IMG_0758
This is at Yellow Stone National Park…who, but God could create something so beautiful and full of such color?!!

 

1Samuel 2:2  There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (NIV)

Read Psalm 99 and Psalm 111 Both of these Psalms talk about the nature of God.

Read Isaiah 6  This chapter is where Isaiah is commissioned by the Lord to serve Him.   The Seraphs recognized God’s Holiness, loudly.  It was noticeably praiseworthy.

Can you just imagine being Isaiah and finding yourself in this situation?  Here he is suddenly confronted with the holiness of God, he looks and sees the Seraphs who are regularly in God’s presence are not daring to look directly at God or stand on the ground in His presence.  Isaiah expresses to us the idea, “I am certainly going to die!”  After all, no one can look upon the Lord and live!  Nothing can survive God’s presence if it is unclean! 

The marvelous thing about God is that He can make things clean….God is the only one who can clean things up that others would think are beyond saving!

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is an important prayer that the Jews say regularly:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Note:  There is only one Holy One, and that is God. 

IMG_1813Psalm 89:5-7   Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Lord, the heavens praise Your wonders—
Your faithfulness also—
in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can compare with the Lord?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord?
God is greatly feared in the council of the holy ones,
more awe-inspiring than all who surround Him.

Psalm 89:5-7 mentions the “holy ones”, which means those surrounding God in heaven….this would be, most likely, God’s other creation…the angels, seraphs, and cherubim.

Being Holy according to Unger’s Bible Dictionary is to be set apart, or separate from something.  Truthfully, this definition falls far short of describing the Holiness of God.  We in our humanity have no way to describe God’s Holiness.  We are too self centered and judgmental.  The only valid guidelines we have for what God’s Holiness is like are God’s guidelines.  Since he is the Holy One and we are not, then shouldn’t we use his guidelines to establish what living a Holy life is to be like?  

Job 4:17-21  “Can a person be more righteous than God,
or a man more pure than his Maker?” If God puts no trust in His servants
and He charges His angels with foolishness,
19 how much more those who dwell in clay houses,
whose foundation is in the dust,
who are crushed like a moth!
20 They are smashed to pieces from dawn to dusk;
they perish forever while no one notices.
21 Are their tent cords not pulled up?
They die without wisdom.

Eliphaz the Temanite in Job 4 has a very tough picture in his mind of who God is, doesn’t he?  Yet, we know that God charged Eliphaz, and Job’s other friends with misrepresenting God to Job!  However, Eliphaz’ attitude is very similar to our attitude toward God.  We frequently charge God with characteristics that he does not have.  We blame God whenever things go wrong in our lives.  We blame God whenever things we have done, or others have done cause pain and suffering.  If we cannot understand what is going on, then we blame God for not stepping in and “fixing it!”  because he has the power to do so!  The truth is that just because someone has the power to do something doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do!

God is the Holy One, he is the only one who actually knows everything that is going on…the full picture!  Only God knows when it is the appropriate time for him to step in and “fix things!”  We don’t!  We are not qualified to make that decision, as we are not the ones with all of the information.

God does not have the ability to sin…it is not in his nature.  Sin is not Holy!  Nothing that is unholy can be a part of God.  That is why Satan who was the most beautiful and glorious angel in heaven was cast down along with 1/3 of the population of angels who threw in with him and sinned!  God gave us free will and free choice, and he did the same for the angels in heaven.  Truthfully, there can be no such thing as love without choice.  Love that is forced is not love, but coercion.  God wants us to love him and choose him freely and genuinely.  That is the most Holy thing we can do.

It is true that God knows what choices we will make, but we don’t know what choices we will make. He didn’t give us free choice for his own benefit, but so that we may grow closer to him by our voluntary obedience to him.

In the Bible sometimes, men are called Holy men.  This means they have dedicated their lives to serving God, and living faithfully to follow God’s direction for their lives.  Even doing that we fall short of the Holiness of God. However, God loves us, anyway!  He loves when we choose Him.

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Only Jesus lived up to God’s standard of Holiness, being God in the flesh.  That is what made him a perfect innocent sacrifice for mankind.  Jesus told us that the two most important commandments are to Love God above everything and everyone and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves….our neighbor being our fellow man.  Jesus gave us these as the two most Holy things that we humans can do.  He said if we can keep these two commandments we won’t have to worry about any of the other ones.  That is because the other ones will take automatically fall into place in our lives if we follow these two.

 In Mark 1:21-24, during Jesus’ casting out of a demon from a man, the demon recognized Jesus’ Holiness and Authority as being that of God and in John 6:69  The disciples recognized Jesus’ as the Holy One of God.

Challenge: Make a personal scrap book, or journal of your journey towards being closer to God.  You may use, poetry, stories, magazine pictures or articles, bible verses, anything that  expresses your journey to know God.  We should pursue God’s holiness in our lives.

Bible Verses:

Isaiah Chapter 6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe[a] filled the temple. Seraphim[b] were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.And one called to another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts;
His glory fills the whole earth.

The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.

Then I said:

Woe is me for I am ruined[c]
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said:

Now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed
and your sin is atoned for.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

Who should I send?
Who will go for Us?

I said:

Here I am. Send me.

And He replied:

Go! Say to these people:
Keep listening, but do not understand;
keep looking, but do not perceive.
10 Dull the minds[d] of these people;
deafen their ears and blind their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their minds,
turn back, and be healed.

11 Then I said, “Until when, Lord?” And He replied:

Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants,
houses are without people,
the land is ruined and desolate,
12 and the Lord drives the people far away,
leaving great emptiness in the land.
13 Though a tenth will remain in the land,
it will be burned again.
Like the terebinth or the oak
that leaves a stump when felled,
the holy seed is the stump.

Footnotes:

  1. Isaiah 6:1 Lit seam
  2. Isaiah 6:2 = heavenly beings
  3. Isaiah 6:5 Or I must be silent
  4. Isaiah 6:10 Lit heart

Psalm 99

The King Is Holy (HCSB)

The Lord reigns! Let the peoples tremble.
He is enthroned above the cherubim.
Let the earth quake.
Yahweh is great in Zion;
He is exalted above all the peoples.
Let them praise Your great
and awe-inspiring name.
He is holy.

The mighty King loves justice.
You have established fairness;
You have administered justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God;
bow in worship at His footstool.
He is holy.

Moses and Aaron were among His priests;
Samuel also was among those calling on His name.
They called to Yahweh and He answered them.
He spoke to them in a pillar of cloud;
they kept His decrees and the statutes He gave them.
Lord our God, You answered them.
You were a forgiving God to them,
an avenger of their sinful actions.

Exalt the Lord our God;
bow in worship at His holy mountain,
for the Lord our God is holy.

Psalm 111 King James Version (KJV)

111 Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.

The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.

He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.

The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

The Devourer’s of Widow’s houses

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

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

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

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

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

For instance:  Mark 2:23-27 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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