Jesus – Arm of the Lord

851-yeshua-handIsaiah 53:1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the Arm of the Lord been revealed?

Read Isaiah 53  This is the prediction from the prophet Isaiah which describes Jesus’ life, and gives him a name which describes his function as the arm of the Lord.

Read John 12:37-50 This is where Jesus talks about the fulfillment of Isaiah 53.  Jesus states that he only says what God tells him to say.

Note:  In Isaiah’s prediction Jesus will be reviled and persecuted, and won’t be popular with many people, he won’t look pretty, or be attractive, there will be nothing in his humanity which will be attractive in and of itself.  In John 12, Jesus clarifies that he only says what God tells him to say, and that many people will not hear him.  He is not judging, but coming to save, and that those who are unaccepting of his words (which are coming straight from God) will be condemned by their lack of acceptance.

Jesus acts as the Arm of the Lord in his life.  Whatever, our brain tells our arm to do, is what our arm does.  Luckily for us that is an automatic thing.  We just think of what we want to do like pick something up from the ground, and we do it.  When Jesus was here as a human, he was listening to God as if he were a part of God’s body, such as the arm (which he was and is God,so he is a part of God).

Have you ever tried to be someone else’s arm? Here are a couple of things to try that can give you a picture of how tough it can be to act as someone else’s arm.

  1.  With a Partner stand behind the person where you cannot see what you are doing and have them direct you on how to do some activity  such as picking up some small things and putting them in a bowl.  It would be best if you are blind folded so that you cannot at all see what you are doing and try to do this completely on the instruction of the other person.
  2. Another thing to try if you don’t have a partner is to try and copy a picture onto a paper while never looking at the paper.  Just let your brain tell your arm what to draw.

In both of these activities you can see how difficult it is to do things solely on the instruction of another person without using your own sense of sight to do so.  Yet we know that Jesus accomplished perfectly everything that God told him to do.  That tells us just how perfect the communication was between God the Father and Jesus the Son.  They were perfectly in tune with each other.  Jesus’ complete goal in life was to accomplish just what God told him to do, and nothing else.  They were always in communion together.

 John 14:10  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

God wants us to always be in communion with him, through the Holy Spirit which dwells within us.

Romans 8:9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

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Isaiah 53 New International Version (NIV)

53 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Footnotes:

  1. Isaiah 53:8 Or From arrest
  2. Isaiah 53:8 Or generation considered / that he was cut off from the land of the living, / that he was punished for the transgression of my people?
  3. Isaiah 53:10 Hebrew though you make
  4. Isaiah 53:11 Dead Sea Scrolls (see also Septuagint); Masoretic Text does not have the light of life.
  5. Isaiah 53:11 Or (with Masoretic Text) 11 He will see the fruit of his suffering / and will be satisfied
  6. Isaiah 53:11 Or by knowledge of him
  7. Isaiah 53:12 Or many
  8. Isaiah 53:12 Or numerous
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.

John 12:37-50 New International Version (NIV)

Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[a]

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.”[b]

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Footnotes:

  1. John 12:38 Isaiah 53:1
  2. John 12:40 Isaiah 6:10
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.

bible verses by way of Bible Gateway.com

 

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King Jesus

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Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice Greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee:  he is just, and having salvation; lowly and riding upon a donkey, and upon the colt of a donkey.

Read Zechariah 9:9-17 This is about the coming of Jesus and his Kingdom. 

Read Matthew 5:17-20 Here Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Read 1 Samuel 8: 5-22  Here the Israelites demand a King for themselves.

Notes:  God gives the Israelites a king when they asked for one, after warning them that kings are human and tend to be demanding.  Then in Zechariah God promises the coming of Jesus as a king who is just and has salvation.  Then in Matthew Jesus refers to His Kingdom as the Kingdom of Heaven.

As you can see from these verses the Hebrews were expecting another earthly king, but one who was more perfect, and less demanding than their other earthly kings.  They could not conceive of the idea of a heavenly king coming to earth.  There are many verses in the New Testament in which we get the idea that the disciples and the people did not understand the idea of a heavenly kingdom.  They believed that the Messiah would be an earthly king!  There are many verses and parables where Jesus attempts to enlighten them, but many people do not have the ears to hear or the eyes to see God’s word.

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Think about some of these questions:  If you were to create a kingdom how would it be? How are you going to govern?  How are you going to protect?  How much freedom are you going to allow?  Can there be too much freedom?  What happens if there is too little freedom?  You must make your subjects happy and content and well fed.  How are you going to do that?  Think about the problems involved…what if someone is unhappy? or disagrees with how you are planning to do things?  

When we look at what Jesus says about the Kingdom of Heaven we don’t see him talking a lot about government at all.  He really spends time telling us about God who is loving, and that those who wish to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven should strive to be servants.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 right after the Sermon on the Mount that “unless a person’s righteousness surpasses that of the pharisees and the teachers of the law they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Now, that is a real problem for most of us if we are depending on our keeping the law to get us into the kingdom of heaven.  Thankfully, God’s idea of righteousness is different from our worldly view of righteousness.  Righteousness is not about being a perfect person.  It is about loving God faithfully, and pursuing him and trusting that he is a God who keeps the promises he makes…or the very basic idea of righteousness is to have faith in God…not just to believe that God exists.

When God tells us in Zechariah 9 that the King will come riding on a donkey, and then we read that this is exactly what Jesus did…Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy about the Messiah that God gave to the people of Israel through his prophets.  There is not a single one that he did not fulfill!

Jesus is the heavenly King come to earth…to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  We cannot simply be Christians who treat the Kingdom of Heaven as some place that you go to when you die.  As I recently heard someone state, “We cannot treat our Christianity as simply a life insurance policy for the hereafter!”  If we do that then we are only experiencing a very small part of what God has for us.  As Jesus states in Matthew 22:32, Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38 God is a God of the living, not a God of the dead!  I like Luke’s version, he adds “for to Him all are alive!”

I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus to be my King and the Lord of my life while I am still alive…I don’t want to wait to meet him and spend time with him until I am dead!  There are so many things in life to experience, and it is much better to experience them with Christ as your King, than looking for a human King or president to “save” you…if you look at the record of the world leaders today, they are the same types as those listed in the Old Testament…the same types as God warned the people of Israel about.  The Kings/leaders of today, are takers…they are not givers.  God is a giver!  He gives and gives and gives and takes pleasure in giving to us.

Now, don’t go thinking that if you follow God you will be gifted with great amounts of material wealth…that is not what I am talking about.  God will give you what you need to bring about his plan for your life!  What God gives us is not always a tangible material good, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  The gift of salvation and freedom from the things that weigh us down emotionally…the freedom to love others the way they should be loved!  Not to be loving them for their status in this world, or for their physical beauty, or for what they can do for you!  To simply love people for who they are, as they are  “warts and all”…the way that God loves them!  God loves people from the point of understanding everything about them and loving them anyway!  This is how he wants us to love them also!  These gifts of salvation and freedom are only a couple of the gifts that God gives to his believers.  There are many other gifts listed in the Bible that he gives to his people in order to allow them to use those gifts to glorify Him.  img_0552

The Prince of Peace

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

Read Matthew 5: 1-12  The Beatitudes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am The Alpha and the Omega…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:44-46  

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Judges all people equally

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Psalm 96:10  Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”  The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Read Isaiah 56:1-8  This is a statement of God’s acceptance of everyone who is upright and keeps his ways.  That God answers their prayers and looks on them as equals in his sight.  All of God’s people are equals.  You are either God’s or satan’s.  It doesn’t matter what nationality or gender you are, or what your physical body looks like.

Read Genesis 11:1-9  This is the story of the Tower of Babel.  Note that these men suffered from pride, and they could all communicate well enough for building this tower.  God took them down, by making them all speak different languages so that they could not communicate and continue building the tower.  They were not acting in an upright manner, so God demonstrated his Godhood by forcing their plans to go awry in a very harsh way.

Isaiah 56:1-8

Salvation for Others

56 This is what the Lord says:

“Maintain justice
    and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
    and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
Blessed is the one who does this—
    the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
    and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”

Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
    “I am only a dry tree.”

For this is what the Lord says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose what pleases me
    and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
    a memorial and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that will endure forever.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
    to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
    and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
    and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
    a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign Lord declares—
    he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
    besides those already gathered.”

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. (via Bible Gateway.com)

Genesis 11:1-9

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 11:2 Or from the east; or in the east
  2. Genesis 11:2 That is, Babylonia
  3. Genesis 11:9 That is, Babylon; Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused.
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.

Our term for someone who is going on about nothing, or not making any sense is that they are babbling.  If someone tells you that God won’t accept you or forgive you because of something that has happened in your past even though you ask him for forgiveness and have moved forward away from that sin…then you can be sure that they are in fact babbling in the worst way!  God really doesn’t like it when people cause others to move away from him instead of closer to him.  That was in fact Jesus’ main contention with some of the Pharisees…they had added rules which made it harder for a person to follow God.  He challenged them in Matthew 15 about why they made their traditions more important than the following of God’s law.  Sometimes we are guilty of that too.  We tend to expand on God’s rules to the point where it is hard to remember them all.  Then we judge others when they don’t follow the expanded rules….

God is the only true judge of a person, and he judges all equally under his qualifications for them….faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and living in faithful obedience.  God doesn’t care where you came from, only where you are going now!

God’s Good Works are Completed

female-easter-tiger-swallow-tail-butterflyPhilippians 1:1-6 Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi together with the overseers and deacons grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God every time I remember you and all my prayers for all of you.  I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Read Luke 8:2, Matthew 27:56-61,Luke 24:1-10 in this order, they are about Mary Magdalene.  As you can see from the verses God began a good work in her and it continued.

Luke 8:2  and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out. (NIV)

Matthew 27:56-61 (ESV)

56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Luke 24:1-10 (NIV)

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.

Sometimes it is hard for us to see when God is doing a good work in someone.  This is especially true if we are a person who has been hurt by other people.  The tendency is to remain skeptical about changes in other people until they are proven.  Recently in this regard I was asked by someone when I said that I was still observing a person for change, “when will you know they have changed?  How can you be sure?”  Well, I personally had figured out a goal that when I observe it I would know that particular person had truly changed.  The Bible tells us to be wary of being deceived.  We are told to put on the full armor of God among the armor of God is the belt of truth.  (Ephesians 6:14)

The only way to be sure a person has changed, is to have this belt of truth on and observe.  The thing is the belt of truth can also protect us from deceiving ourselves in thinking that a person in whom God has completed a good work has not changed at all.  We can deceive ourselves by refusing to see that change.  Then that becomes a form of pride, as it causes us to believe that we are superior to that person in some way, and this is also a disobedience of the 2nd great commandment that Jesus gave us…to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Titus 3 Reminds us that we are only saved through the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ…so there is no need for any of us to get a big head about our salvation.  The fact is that most of the good work that God has done in us is still continuing to be done.  There was a t-shirt slogan that came out when I was a kid…”Wait!  God isn’t done with me yet!”  Some of God’s good works are immediately evident, and some take more time to come to fruition…so don’t write off a “good work in progress” as a “good work gone bad”.

Titus 3:3-6 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Respect for God’s House

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Matthew 21:13 It is written, he said to them, My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.

God’s house is a house of prayer, and needs to be treated as a Holy place.  Nothing ungodly should be taking place there.

Read Mark 11:15-19 Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, and stated that His house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, and that they had turned it into a den of thieves.

Read Acts chapter 3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[a]

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[b] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 3:23 Deut. 18:15,18,19
  2. Acts 3:25 Gen. 22:18; 26:4

The disciples John and Peter go to temple to pray during the time of prayer.  Although you are to pray without ceasing, this is more that you should be mindful of God during the course of your day.   There are times when you should spend time only thinking of God and talking to God through prayer, without doing anything else at the same time.  Life can get in the way of our prayer time if we let it.  We can become guilty of treating our prayer time with God as an after thought…you know, something you do in a half minded kind of way…just putting it right in there while you are multi-tasking and never giving him the personal one on one attention that we need to really be fully in God’s presence.  

When I was growing up a lot of attention was paid to not “setting anything on the Bible.”  This was an act of respect in my parents eyes for the fact that the Bible is the living word of God…that it is Holy scripture.  I don’t find anything wrong with this stand on things, but for me I feel that the ultimate respect that you can pay God’s word is to read it and learn it and have it written on your heart.  All the other treatments of God’s word become empty things if you don’t have a relationship and have it in your heart.

Personally, I do set things on my Bible as I am usually carrying a lot of things in my arms when I am coming and going from my home with the Bible to church and back.  It is really hard to not have anything on top of it…it doesn’t really bother me much because I do have it written on my heart and I am using that Word.  When you use something it usually gets a bit of wear on it.  You can tell folks who really use their Bibles because unless they just bought a new one..it is usually full of stuff that is falling out of it, and quite worn looking.  I think God would rather it look that way than to keep it crisp and new and sitting on your coffee table.  Now I am not saying that everyone “must” memorize chapter and verse and be able to recite scripture and include where it is located in the recitation.  The idea of writing it on your heart is more like knowing it so that if you are in a situation where you are tempted or don’t know how you should handle things…then you can have a scripture pop into your head…the Holy Spirit can remind you of it and help you to know what to do and how to act in any given situation and remain in a Godly position.

Jesus did this when he was being tempted in the desert…Satan would say something to tempt Jesus, and Jesus responded to Satan using scripture to refute what Satan was saying.  If you don’t read it then you cannot truly have it written on your heart…you cannot truly be a doer of the Word as well as a hearer of the Word.  (James 1:22-25)

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Now if we go back to the stories above of Jesus over turning the money changer’s tables in the temple courts and the contrasting story of the newly healed lame man who entered the temple courts “walking and jumping and praising God” some people would be very upset at the idea of the man jumping around in the temple courts and say it was disrespectful.  I don’t believe that God would see it that way at all….this man was so grateful for his healing that he could not contain his joy!  It was flowing out of him with childish excitement.  It was so pronounced that it attracted attention…this caused people to come running to see what was going on there.

Peter looked at them, and took the opportunity to remind them of who God was, and that they should not be surprised at God’s ability to heal….and that the healing came through the promised Messiah that they had rejected.  Peter acknowledged that their rejection was done in ignorance of who they were rejecting and he told them that they should change their hearts and turn away from that ignorance and embrace who Jesus truly was…that Jesus was the author of life and that in their ignorance they had “killed the author of life”…now if someone is the author of life, then certainly they would be able to heal would they not?  It would be a little thing to them to do so.  Peter was quick to give the credit to God and not to take it for himself.  That is so important when you are doing something that God has given you to do…be sure to give God the glory and honor for using you to do that deed just as Peter did in this situation.  Knowing God, acknowledging him, obeying him and giving him the glory for all the blessings in your life is the ultimate paying of love and respect to God.  At least that is my thinking…because the word says that if you love God then you will obey his word, and God will come to make his “home” with you….essentially when I read this I understand it to be that you become the “house of God”  in a much more literal and important way than a building will ever be.

John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

Shouldn’t the “house of God” have the “Word of God” inside of it? Isn’t that just respectful?

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As for the money changers…they didn’t understand this concept at all because if they had understood then they would have known that God wanted us to love each other, not cheat each other. Jesus was walking among them in living flesh and they still didn’t get it!

God’s still small voice…rest for your souls

IMG_1339Matthew Chapter 11 (NIV)

 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciplesto ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Woe on Unrepentant Towns

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[e] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

The Father Revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (NIV)

15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods,is to be put to death.”

21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

When I was in church this morning Matthew 11 was the text and what caught my attention at the time was verse 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

There are many ways to look at this verse, but another translation of it is to say, “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully moving forward”.  It is rather hard to wrap my mind around the Kingdom of heaven being “subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it”  after all, the Kingdom of heaven is in heaven, right?!!

However, if you look at it from the standpoint of it “forcefully moving forward” that gives a different idea, at least in the mind of the Pastor who was preaching this morning’s message, and also I can see and understand that what he is saying may be a way to look at it.  It gives the idea of God’s will be done by passionately intense people who have subjected themselves to God and the spreading of his word.  The following of his plan.  The Pastor this morning spoke about the idea that God does not want people to stand still in their faith.  He wants people to passionately reach out to others in love and compassion to show them the character of God.

What happens if all you need to do is accept Jesus and be baptized?  Then why bother with going to church, or praying or anything else? After all, “you” have been saved, so why bother with anything else?  You are not going to be any “more” saved by going to church are you?  You are not going to be any “more” saved by doing good works!  Jesus did it all and all you have to do is accept it and do nothing the rest of your life, right?!!

While it is true you are “saved” simply by accepting Jesus, you cannot just accept part of Jesus and be saved.  Jesus was/is looking for people who accept all of Him, and all of what he says.  People who are willing to give “all” of themselves to God’s service.

 Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

People who give all of themselves to God are people who are also concerned for obeying God here on earth while they are living, not just concerned for their afterlife.  They are also not just concerned for their own salvation, but are concerned for the salvation of others.

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

This doesn’t mean that God is asking everyone to become ministers or pastors or give up their families and communities and run off across the world to be a missionary!  There are some people whom he asks that of, but for most people your missionary field is in your own backyard, neighborhood, place of work, people you meet!

This also doesn’t mean that you have to jump on everyone you meet and beat them over the head with God and God’s word as you know it!  God speaks in a still small voice, so that is the example he gives us in dealing with others. Gentleness, not being wishy washy, but being non-condemning and gentile in your explanation of who God is and what he is looking to bring into their lives!

1Kings 19:11-13  And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but theLord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

 

I remember when I was in high school and my band was doing a car wash fund raiser.  There was a woman there who got right up in my little 9th grade face and said, “Have you been born again!!!”  The way she said it actually made me feel like I had done something wrong..it felt threatening, especially because at that point I had never heard of the idea of being born again.  I looked at her really scared like and nervous, and said that I didn’t know what she meant.  She again pounced on me and said that you had to be born again to go to heaven and that if I wasn’t born again then I wasn’t going to heaven!  Now, I was not a big church goer as a child because we moved a lot, and my family didn’t go to church.  I usually went with one of my Great Aunts when I was around her and really loved going with her.  I was especially enamored with the felt board and how those little figures would stick to it was mesmerizing!  I loved Bible stories and read them a lot in the children’s Bible.  I had prayed that Jesus was going to live in my heart when I was about 4 years old, and I knew who Jesus was and trusted him.  However, the Jesus I knew was not a person who would yell in someone’s face that the needed to get born again to go to heaven.

The Jesus that I knew called to people out of trees and told them that he was going to have lunch with them.  He called to people who were fishing and told them to come along that he would make them a different kind of fisherman.  Sometimes, Jesus spoke in riddles that I didn’t understand as well as I thought I should, but he was gentle and loving with people who were trying to understand the kingdom of God, and trying to follow him.

Now Jesus was very tough on those who weren’t going to follow him, or who misused God’s word to make other people’s lives harder.  He was really tough and very direct if people who were supposed to be representing God to his people were misrepresenting God to them.

I am sure that this woman, who never got around to explaining anything about being born again to me…because I saw a car that desperately needed my attention to wash right then…had the best of intentions and was very passionate about her faith, and really wanted to share it with me.  The problem was that she was literally ferocious in her approach!  When she was talking to me, it felt violent!

There is a fine line between being passionate and sharing what you know with all the joy in your heart, and literally pouncing on an unsuspecting person and beating them over the head with the Word of God!  With most people it is much more productive to share things with a sentence here or there, in relation to a comment they have made about something than it is to just pounce out there out of the blue with the word of God.

Ex.  Someone says to you something like, “hi! How have you been today?” and it happens to be Sunday, and you have gone to church.  You can respond, “Oh, I am having a great day so far, I went to church this morning and we talked about… and this is how I feel about it or what I got out of it…” then wait for their response, you will either hear, “Oh, that’s nice! and they will change the subject…at which point that means that you give it up and move on to another conversation…or as Jesus tells us, “shake off your sandals and move on out of town.”

You may also hear another response, such as, “Oh, that’s interesting….I went to church also and we talked about thus and so today…” or “Oh, really, so I have been looking for a church around here, what is your church like…”  or “Oh, I really don’t know much about God, but I always thought that….”

There are so many responses, or so many openings and you just have to calmly carry on a conversation with the person…get them to asking questions about God and talking about what they believe, then gently tell them what your beliefs are and why you believe what you do.  Sometimes they are under the impression that “churches are filled with hypocrites” or “I am trying to fix myself up to be better before I go to church…I need to get right with God”.

The truth is that churches are filled with people who have been “saved” they have been “born again” meaning they have taken on a new life through their belief in Jesus Christ.  Churches are also filled with sinners who have yet to be saved..people who are there for different reasons than to worship God.  Churches are filled with all types of people, but there is one type of person who you will never find in a church….not til Jesus comes back, and then there will be no need for churches as he will be here…that person whom you will never find in a church is…wait for it…here it comes…”the perfect person!”  There are no perfect people in churches anywhere…there are no perfect people out of churches either.  Churches are full of all kinds of people, but there are no perfect ones…the perfect person doesn’t exist except in the body of Jesus Christ.

Face it, all of us would like to be “perfect” and if all it took to make people perfect was for them to attend church, then there would be lines of people around the block outside of churches all over the world waiting to get in so that they could be perfect too!  The fact that there are not tells us that the people in the church are only different in the fact of their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior, right?!!  So what does this mean?

Jesus tells us to be Romans 12:2 people who live in the world, but are not part of the world.  This means that we should be noticeably different from the non-Christian in our character and our way of life.  We cannot help but be living in the world…and God doesn’t want us to sequester ourselves away from the world.  After all, how can we reach out if we don’t interact with it?

We are told that Romans 5:7-9 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If God loved us while we were yet sinners, doesn’t that mean he loves others who are still sinners and who have not yet accepted salvation through Christ?!! Of course it does!  Our participation in God’s kingdom is to passionately proclaim his word to others…being passionate does not mean yelling at people or getting in their face.  What it means to be passionate is that we love God, and we love his Word, and we cannot get enough of talking about God to others and sharing our joy!  If you look at Jesus’ disciples that is what we see over and over with them.  They loved God and it showed in every fiber of their being…they gave all of themselves over to God to use in bringing others to know who God is and what he did for them by way of his Son, Jesus Christ!

The line in Matthew 11 that most caught my attention is this:  Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”  I asked myself how does one stumble on account of Jesus?  The answer seems rather obvious….if you hear about him and you refuse to accept him, then you have stumbled!  Or if someone misleads you about who Jesus is, then you can stumble.  The nice thing about stumbling is that it isn’t a fall…that means that sometimes you can catch yourself, or someone else can catch you before you fall.Operation Unified Response

That leads to my favorite verses in Matthew 11:28-30  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

 

 

Hannah’s Son – Prayer for God’s Blessing

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This is a dress in a window display in a mall I saw on vacation it is made with the pages of books (it was a book store).  It just seems very cheerful, and it kind of gave me a mental lift of our prayers winging their way to God!

 

Roman’s 9:15-16 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then, it does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

Read 1Samuel 1:10-11 Hannah prayed for the Blessing of a son, and promised God that she would give him back to God for all the days of his life, and his hair would never be cut. God answered her prayer and Samuel was born and given to Eli the Priest at the Temple after he was weaned (1Samuel 1:22, 26-28)  God blessed Hannah with many more children after Samuel. (1Samuel 2:5)  Note that Hannah’s prayer was answered and she was blessed with more children for her faithfulness to her promise.  Hannah’s prayer included an offer of personal sacrifice of the thing wanted most.  Sometimes when a prayer is really important we can fast and sacrifice our meals or give up fun activities in order to honor the seriousness of the prayer.  We do this most often either for healing of someone or ourselves, or during the season of Lent in an effort to experience a small part of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  Sometimes when a matter of prayer is crucial to you, you feel that just prayer alone is not enough, then it is appropriate to fast so that you can concentrate on God more.

who 3

Read Judges 11  Here is the story of another person who wanted a blessing from God, and made a vow to God.  However, this is a case where there is a lot of controversy.  We can learn a lot from Jephthah’s wild seemingly ill considered vow.  He vows that if God will let him win a war, then he will offer to or sacrifice to God whatever first comes out of his house when he returns safely.

Have you ever made a vow or promise that you wish you had never made?  I don’t think there is a person alive who hasn’t.  I am sure that Jephthah had regrets…as his one and only child…his daughter is the one who first came out to meet him.  Now there is controversy among scholars about whether he actually burned his daughter as a sacrifice, or if she was just offered as in the case of Hannah offering Samuel to God as a servant in the temple, or maybe she was just set aside and never allowed to marry, but stayed in her father’s house.  I am going with the idea that Jephthah was known to be a man of God and knowing that God had prohibited human sacrifice he would never go against God.  (Deuteronomy 12:29-32) After all, he was chosen as a leader of his people by God.  That is why he is mentioned in Judges in the first place.

Also his daughter mourns her virginity and it tells us she never knew a man. So her mourning of her virginity in this case would be the never having a husband and children.  For a Jewish woman of her time, that was a horrible fate to have.  A woman’s worth as told to us in the story of Hannah and many other women throughout the Old Testament was based on whether she could provide sons for her husband so that his lineage could continue.  The same could be said of a Jewish man, having a son was his top obligation.  So much so that if his brother had a wife and died without a son, then he was to marry the widow and raise up a son as his brother’s child so that he would have a son to carry on his line. (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)

So when we see this story of Hannah, she was miserable and she wanted a son to validate her worth.  Jephthah had only a daughter and he, undoubtedly loved his daughter as we can see from his response to her appearance.  Jephthah was someone who had no proper family when he was growing up, and was actually rejected and ejected from his father’s house, so family was probably doubly important to him over others who were raised in a family where their Mother was respected and loved.  Saying this, it seems to me that his vow to God really was a painful burden to him.  As his daughter would not be able to provide him with a continuation of his family line, and she was his only child.

Unlike in the story of Hannah and her son, Samuel, we are not told that Jephthah suddenly started having other children.

So both of these people prayed for a blessing and tried to give something to God in return.  Hannah ended up with the greater blessing, as the scorn she received from her husband’s second wife was abated and she had many children.  The way I feel when I read Hannah’s story is that she is a woman in misery, and is praying for God with all the humbleness of her heart to remove her misery.

On the other hand, when I read of Jephthah, he seems like a person of great pride.  He is a person who is a bargainer.  When his family called him back he bargains with them to become the head of the family if he fights for them and prevails.  Then he offers God a bargain, that he will give God a sacrifice of whatever comes out of his house first if God will just let him win against his enemies.  Jephthah was not miserable in the sense that Hannah was, but he was also looked down upon by members of his family and community.  He was a “can do” type of person, his relationship with God was almost completely different from Hannah’s.  Hannah was a “can’t do anything about it” person.  She was humble and laid her problem out to God.  Jephthah on the other hand probably would have gone into battle anyway, and hoped for the best; but felt that if he offered God something that maybe God would make certain of his victory.

The thing is in both cases, God did bless these people with the desires of their hearts.  Jephthah in the end needed and desired the respect of his family after the way he had grown up.  By offering his daughter to God, he also gained more community respect.  We are told that for four days a year the Jewish girls would go into the desert to lament his daughter’s virginity.  In this case, to honor it, as well as mourn her sacrifice of having no family.  Another thing about not having a son, is that there was no one to care for her in her old age….though, as she was a “living sacrifice” to God I am sure that God made sure she was cared for.  Just as he will care for us if we make ourselves into “living sacrifices” to him. For us to be living sacrifices means that we are living our lives fully invested in following God’s plan for our lives.  We are setting aside our selfishness and our need to control things, and allowing God to work in us.

The thing is that there is nothing other than ourselves that we can offer to God…God does not do bargains.  He listens to our prayers and our repentance of our sins, and he wants to give us the desires of our hearts.  Just like any parent wants to give their children the desires of their hearts….without any bargaining!    God does not bargain…he blesses whom he will bless and he curses whom he will curse.  Generally, he blesses those who love him…maybe not the way they wish to be blessed on the surface, but he gives what the person really needs to help them grow closer to him, and to fulfill their plan.  The thing is we don’t always understand the actual blessing that God has given us when it is given to us.  Sometimes, we have to have time to see it.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:33-37 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (ESV)

 

 

The Breath of God

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Last year I borrowed an incubator from a friend and hatched some chicks..some hatched and some didn’t…only God could determine which would make it.  BTW many people don’t realize that the chick is made from the white part of the egg, and eats the yolk before hatching.  So obviously, the chicken came before the egg as God created man and animals with the ability to procreate it’s like.

Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

When I was sitting in church this weekend one of the speakers made a statement that caught my attention.  He said that we all have the breath of God in us.  I really had not given that idea a lot of thought, but it really reminded me of all the Bible verses which talk to us about God’s breath.  I looked up the word breath in all of its forms in my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and there are 53 lines of verses listed which use that word in some form.  When I looked up the word Spirit it has more than 3 pages.  My Strong’s is for the King James, so if you are reading a different version of the Bible you will get a slightly different count most likely.  However, no matter which version you use, the fact remains that the idea of breath is really important…especially when you read things like  Job 33:4  The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  and  Job 27:3-6 As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter,3as long as I have life within me,the breath of God in my nostrils,4my lips will not say anything wicked,and my tongue will not utter lies.5I will never admit you are in the right;till I die, I will not deny my integrity.6I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it;my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. (ref. NIV from Biblehub.com)

Job definitely recognized that God is the author and giver of life, right down to the breath in his body.  This kind of gives new meaning to the idea that your body is a temple of the Lord, doesn’t it?!!  I mean in the Old Testament God residing in the Holy of Holies so that gave man a fixed place to go and worship him…however, since God first created Adam and breathed life into his nostrils man has generation after generation been kept alive by the breath of God.  Even sinners are being kept alive by the breath of God, and God loves us even when we are sinning.  (Romans 5:8) However, that sin separates us from God, even while we are breathing with God’s very breath in our bodies.  No wonder it is so painful to be separated from God.

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2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..The mist on Niagara falls reminds me of the vastness of the power of God…we could feel this mist up a tall hill and still another 15 stories above that through a window.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Here in the main portion of Paul’s speech to the people of Athens about the Unknown God. Paul reminds us of several things…1.)  God is not made of anything that man has created, 2.)  God made the world and everything in it, 3.) God doesn’t dwell in temples or buildings, 4.) God doesn’t actually need anything from us, 5.) God made all mankind from one blood, and he determines the length of everyone’s life, 6.) Once you have heard the gospel you need to take God seriously and make the decision to repent and draw closely to God, 7.)  There will be a day of judgement that only God knows when it is coming.

Acts 17:23-30 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Bible Gateway KJV)  

IMG_1116If we go and read Isaiah 40 we can be lifted up and comforted by the power of God, even though people are described as being like grass and their faith like flowers which wither at the breath of God. I found that statement to be rather disheartening when I first read it.  It can be interpreted as mankind being delicate and temporary, easily destroyed by God.  However, though grass and flowers are temporary and delicate, God still cares for them, (Luke 12:27), and when we continue reading Isaiah 40 we find that God cares for and loves his people and he is strong enough to protect them.  (Besides, if you think of it the same wind or breath of God that can destroy also brings in the clouds which causes rain to fall and nourish the grass and flowers.)  Going on in Isaiah 40:10 we find that we are told not to be afraid, but to shout out and proclaim God and who he is to those around us.

Isaiah 40: 1Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.”

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.

18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
    To what image will you liken him?
19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering
    selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
    to set up an idol that will not topple.

21 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Now Isaiah 40 is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah, but it is also a message to those of us who are living today.  It tells us to be bold that God gives us the strength of his breath…we can run and not be tired, we can walk and not be faint…why?  because we have the breath of God living in us…in the form of the Holy Spirit.  We are literally God breathed and God supported.  So when the world is running madly around and you are racing along with it…remember to fill your lungs with the breath of God and pursue with your full heart to do God’s work in your life…tell others who God is just as Paul did, and be bold about it!  God will give you the words to say!  As in Luke 21:15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 

God’s breath is the breath of life, and it is powerful….count on it and be faithful and bold!