Thursday, May 21, 2015

Authority

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In the United States House of Representatives is Thomas Hudson Jone’s sculpture of Hammurabi. His Code dates back to 1754 BC:

It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay tablets.

It was used as the legal authority of what happened to those who broke that code.

The United States has such an authority, the Constitution. Created in the 18th century, it must be applied in 21th century cultural activities though there are thousands of new words in dictionaries that were unable to be considered when it was written. Still, it is used as the authority of this nation’s existence. At times.

While in a doctor’s office, I picked up a TIME magazine from February of this year, the article about the measles epidemic/dispute. One line struck me as going way beyond that one subject:

"In a culture upended by diminished authorities . . ."

What absolute truth is included in that statement!! Where do we see authority?  I must tell you that my bottom line authority is God’s word. I believe what is written in what I believe is God’s word to mankind, and I believe it is our Holy Bible. Please do not begin an argument over what is a true Bible. That question actually diminishes God’s message.

There are 53 verses referencing scripture(s) in the KJV. The Good News Bible has 162. Some might see that as discrepancy - until looking at specific verses:

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matthew 4:10 KJV)

Then Jesus answered, "Go away, Satan! The scripture says, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!' " (Matthew 4:10 GNB)

So, if we add “it is written” as well as “scripture”, the numbers are much, much closer. Each translation tells us that the people who heard Jesus recognized scriptures as such. What was found in Qumran confirms our expectations that they were scriptures then and are scriptures today. From those writings that Bereans checked was was preached to them to be so.

They searched documents of authority to verify a tremendous change to what they had been taught. They discovered for themselves, based on an authority they trusted. Not the people who told them what the authority said, but by personal searching. If they had no authority, they would be as we are today – wondering what to believe and where to look for it.

Yes, I am concerned about a lack of authority in our government – at all levels. I doubt I am alone. I am more concerned about denominations doubting scriptural authority, relying instead on cultural desires. I am also concerned that some pick out scriptures that sound good, but ignore what Paul preached:

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 KJV)

We will find what we seek.  If we seek God, He will be found. If we seek our own desires, they too can be found. Remember, Satan tempted our Lord with scripture that lack all the counsel of God.

Be aware of authority. Use it wisely.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You Say, “I am not able.”

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This isn’t the best of graphics – I cropped and resized from a screen capture. I found it after searching for one of the scriptures from a set of cards our missions group made. In case you can’t read the reference for what God said:

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (2 Corinthians 9:8 KJV)

The cards our group created has the “You Say”  on one side and the “God Says” on the other. I must admit I glued some of them together because I’m not talented as some of our ladies who make beautiful things from paper. We have provided them for several different missionaries to pass around, and offered them at our craft fair. They provide an opportunity for people to see that we often have the same feelings, the same questions for God. Such as, “I feel all alone.” Yet we read:

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5 KJV)

No, never alone. Even when we say, “I am afraid.”

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)

A sound mind? But, what if I’m not smart enough?

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30 KJV)

Yes, He has provided wisdom to those who sought Him and asked in order that they might serve Him by helping others. Moses asked for help, he knew he could not face Pharaoh alone. And Solomon asked to help the people he was to govern. I venture to say both of them worried about their responsibilities. Peter tell us:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 KJV)

No one knows your particular situation, though. Why can’t they see how tiring it is to go from day to day, to the point it’s easy to say, “I can’t go on!” Then, He tells us:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)

Oh, there are so many more! The Bible has so many examples of His mercy and His grace – along with examples of His perfect judgment.

I read something from the Bible and get comfort and education from it even while I’m asking questions. I pray for my readers that they, too, will understand what a comfort it is as we figure things out.

Might one of your questions be, “Is He able?”

And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. (Matthew 9:27-29 KJV)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Forgiveness

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Yes – I do watch “Bones” reruns. No, I’m not certain why, but I have given it thought. That’s right, it makes me think. Recently I heard the Dr. Brennan character speak of the "Jesus myth." She explained that she could not accept His miracles, but understood forgiveness as the reason the "myth" endures. How sad to miss so much of God’s message to mankind, but she’s on the right path because God does offer so much forgiveness.  He also requires that we do, too:

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22 KJV)

Please note that Jesus said nothing about the brother changing. We sort of add that part in. We look for remorse, for repentance, for lifestyle changes then we’ll consider forgiveness. Remember earlier in the week when I mentioned the thief on the cross? There wasn’t time for any change to be made in his life. He did admit his guilt, but he did not ask for forgiveness of his sinful life:

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (Luke 23:42 KJV)

When a sick man was brought to Him, Jesus first forgave his sins:

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. (Matthew 9:2 KJV)

Jesus explained why – then healed the man:

And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. (Matthew 9:3-6 KJV)

All sin is against God’s will, as David realized:

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (Psalms 51:2-4 KJV)

The best example Jesus gave for me is:

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 KJV)

Am I willing to expect God’s forgiveness to match mine? Or, should I change mine to match His?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Job Abandonment

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National Archives & Records Administration, ARC Identifier: 302035

I have written a letter of resignation, though mine included a two-week notice. I have typed letters of resignation for other people, too, but many simply abandon jobs. One I remember had some pretty serious consequences. The employee had a company credit card and used it liberally in New Orleans preceding Mardi Gras. Upon realizing his error, he checked into a mental institution for rehabilitation. His parents contacted the company and began setting up restitution.

Jesus’ disciples were very much aware of job abandonment:

In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. (Matthew 26:55-56 KJV)

Forsaken. Even Peter, upon whose testimony the church was to be built, as we find from Matthew 29:69 to:

Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. (Matthew 26:74 KJV)

Paul understood abandonment as John Mark left he and Barnabas, but also:

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:10-11 KJV)

Mark redeemed himself, giving Paul good cause to see him as profitable for the ministry.

Isn’t that awesome? Both Peter and Mark abandoned the job God had in store for them. Both returned to witness to the fact that God has use for those who abandoned Him – which we all have at one time or another, haven’t we? Isaiah wrote of this:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 KJV)

We, too, can return to the job. Think of how many turned our Lord down during their lives, yet got the job done. Well, it’s a much shorter list to name those who followed without fail.

I’m not here to list failures, though. Mine would take up much more space than is available on the web. Add yours and we would just weep on each others shoulder. No, I’m here today to recognize failures occur and redemption is available to each of us.

That’s the miracle! We proclaim with Zacharias:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, (Luke 1:68 KJV)

We can sing with Fanny Crosby:

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.

And, we can learn a new song:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; (Revelation 5:9 KJV)

Get back to the job God has for us.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Blessing and Blessed

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We meet a very sweet girl while on vacation. We were eating lunch at Tupelo Honey restaurant (which I do recommend!) and the usual discussion was taking place: “I’ll take the ticket”, “No, you got it last time, it’s my turn”, “Let me take care of it”; when our sweet waitress explained to both gentlemen how much better it is to accept the gift, allowing both to receive a blessing.

We’ll call her REL – not her name, but it comes close – and she went to to chat with us a bit about how so many people will turn down a gift, thinking it a social obligation. I heard this same thought from a gentleman in our church years ago – allow someone to be a blessing to you.

Okay, I’m going to take this up a notch and give you some verses about gifts – and hope you either have accepted, or will accept in the near future.  Yes, I am praying for several people who have been very open about not having Jesus in their life. They have not accepted God’s gift as explained in the most quoted verse in the Bible:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

God’s gift. I agree with Paul:

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV)

The gift is explained more than once:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8 KJV)

God intends for us to use this gift ourselves, and spread the word that it is available to all:

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Ephesians 4:4-7 KJV)

We are given smaller gifts to use in sharing the word of God’s gift. Paul was aware of his, and of Timothy’s:

Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Timothy 4:14-16 KJV)

I have neglected my gift in my lifetime and I’m certain others have, too. But neglecting is not as bad for us as not accepting the gift. Refusing and thus losing both being blessed and the opportunity to be a blessing:

For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Hebrews 2:2-3 KJV)

I pray for those on my list that they will not neglect so great salvation. I pray they will accept God’s gift, receive His blessing and be a blessing to others in His name.

What Have We Earned?

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I read this past week that “You did not do anything to achieve your salvation, but you must do something to exhibit it.” The references included:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 KJV)

As the church in Philippi, we will not have the pastor, evangelist, mentor to disciple us. Eventually we must work with God what is His will and His pleasure in our lives. That’s not an easy task.

It is not as praying, “God, do with me as You will,” or “Tell me what You want,” or even “I am Yours to do with as you will.” The most telling work we will do is discover what God has for us to do. We will miss the mark, often. We may even come to His will late in our lives, missing out on blessings and being a blessing to others. Fortunately, it is never too late.

See the thief on the cross? The lasts few moments of his life were a blessing to him and to many others across the ages:

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:39-43 KJV)

Both men desired to be off the cross and away from death. Both men spoke to Christ to achieve their goals – one with sarcasm and disbelief, the other willing to allow Christ to determine the outcome. Both came to the knowledge this was indeed the Christ but after their deaths.

Why wait that long? Utilize the faith available to both of these men, and to us:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17 KJV)

We think first of the Holy Bible as being God’s word to mankind, but the Bible itself tells us of the Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5 KJV)

Jesus was with and was God. Without Him was not any thing made. What have we earned? Nothing. What have we been given? Life that is in Him. The true question is, have we comprehended that life? That light?

Friday, May 15, 2015

He Understands

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"Christus” (1896), by Fritz von Uhde

I like this picture of Christ. It is so human, and speaks to me as does this scripture:

The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. (Isaiah 50:4-7 KJV)

God created man, then became man so we could understand that when He speaks of what we are to do, He has done it.

When we experience sorrow, pain, grief, shame, we know He is not removed from those experiences. We do not pray to a far off deity who simple watches His creation. We reach out to our Father who loved us to explain that love:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 KJV)

We think of His death on the cross and tend to forget the thirty years lived as we live, without attention except from family and friends. We tend to forget the daily activities of the three years of witnessing to people, sharing God’s message to the people He loved. We tend to concentrate on those three years, and the last three days.

Oh, we celebrate His birth, mourn His death and believe in His resurrection – but we think of those as “mountain top” experiences and forget that He applied God’s teachings every single day of His life. Here on earth, and in our future.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)

He endured shame while despising it. He knows what it feels like when we feel ashamed – which we should because of our own nature to go against God’s will. He sees it from both viewpoints. He understands us, though we cannot understand all that He is – for now.

There will come a time when we bow before Him. It is up to us whether He will understand and say, “Well done.” If we do nothing – it cannot be said.