Friday, December 19, 2014

Dilemma – Day 5 – On His Father’s Side

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Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (Philippians 2:5-7 KJV)

We hear them – “What Child Is This”, “Mary, Did You Know,” “Away In A Manger”, etc. – and we picture the child in the nativity set. We know His story, but there are at least two sides to every story. Pastor reminded us of this during last Sunday’s sermon when he spoke of a song: “On My Father’s Side”.

I heard that for the first time this October. We were on our way to church with my sister-in-law, listening to her husband’s favorite radio station. We both enjoy genealogy as a hobby and are used to the phrase. This is a good time of year to consider Jesus’ genealogy – it played a role in His death.

Jewish leaders charged him with blasphemy – for making statements that equated Him with God. Certainly, His disciples did, and I do, too. His crucifixion, however, was under Roman law. Had it been under Jewish law, the punishment would have been stoning, not in keeping with several prophecies (no, I’m not going to list them here.)

I see Him as God. I worship Him as God. Even as described by Paul, in the form of a servant, looking as any other man, I agree with John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 KJV)

In flesh, He called God “Father”, even as He died:

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:34 KJV)

He prayed to His Father for us:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:20-21 KJV)

On His mother’s side He was made flesh and dwelt among us. On His Father’s side He is King and Lord:

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:14 KJV)

He is that Lamb, as recognized by John:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29 KJV)

Can you see that in each manger scene? The mother at His side, pondering in her heart all that occurred the night He was born? The Father, one with Him? Can you see Him with the woman at the well:

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. (John 4:25-26 KJV)

Can you see that, in this child?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dilemma – Day 4 – Who Is He?

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Chronologically, I’ve reached a fourth thought from Sunday morning – pastor’s sermon, “Who Is That Baby, Really?”

We all know that baby in the manger. Christian or not, we know His name is Jesus. We also know He changed the world. For we Christians, His title is Christ, His father is God and He is, too. There are several verses that explain much about Him.

Matthew begins with paternal genealogy, establishing male links to David’s throne and describing the heavenly message provided the magi as well as Herod’s destructiveness.

Mark skips all that and jumps straight to the prophetic message that the Messiah would come – and was right there, right then.

Luke, from my point of view, interviewed Mary, who had been pondering things in her heart since the birth – and surely after the death – of her firstborn. Luke tells us personal things, as viewed by a loving mother.

John begins with the divinity of our Lord:

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. (John 1:1-3 KJV)

Isn’t it wonderful that all of these descriptions, by four men who walked with Him, are provided in order for us to see Jesus as they saw Him. How about those who came later?

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:12-17 KJV)

Paul pretty much includes it all. God is. He has given us an inheritance in His kingdom. All things were created by Him – for Him. The answer to why we are here – because God created us for Him.
Which is why we pray for others:

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:9-10 KJV)

No. This does not close my dilemma. No. The sermon wasn’t longer than any other Sunday – there simply were so many lifting thoughts that there are more days to fill. You’ll see more, tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dilemma – Day 3 – The Middle

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Lamentations is said to have been written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, even though the Bible does not specify the author. The timing is widely believed to have followed the fall of Jerusalem, though one Jewish site states:
In actuality, the widely accepted Jewish view is that Lamentations (or at least the bulk of it) was penned years before the actual calamitous events it depicts.
This site states that Jeremiah chapter 36 describes the destruction of the first writing of Lamentations, and Baruch’s rewriting the dictation by Jeremiah. Their explanation ends with:
And indeed, seventeen years later, on the ninth of Av in the year 3338 from creation, the Temple was destroyed and the Jews led into captivity—precisely as Jeremiah had prophesied.
Ever since, the book of Lamentations is read every year on the eve of the ninth of Av.
So, with such sadness, such mourning, do we find some of our most loved verses set right in the middle chapter:

It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV)

Now, if you are a hymn-singing Christian, those four words should bring a tune to mind: Great Is Thy Faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see

In the midst of storms in our lives, we do sing out that our Lord is merciful to us, every day.

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:24-26 KJV)

That hope we have in our faith:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

This entire chapter in Hebrews lists people who changed their lives and the lives of others through their faith in God. Some mock that faith – others would hear more. Luke describes this duality in his chapter on Paul’s sermon in Athens:

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. (Acts 17:32 KJV)

The difference in Jeremiah and Lamentations seems to be that only Jeremiah and Baruch are shown to have that same faith in adversity. Each of these who demonstrated their faith in God’s faithfulness are remembered today. They are seen as examples who worked through adversity without deleting God from from their lives as abandoning them.

I have met people who did not make it through their adversity with their faith intact. And, others who appeared to have picked up faith in the midst of great pain – both physical and spiritual. I believe they learned to lean on the strength God has to offer. I would love to have that faith, reading and studying to help it grow:

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

Keep these middle verses in our heart, for adversity never is a stranger, even to children of our God.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dilemma – Day 2

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Yesterday’s blog was just a thought received before our Sunday School lesson. Since I’m going (somewhat) in an orderly fashion, we’ll look at that lesson of poetry – Lamentations. Five chapters – four with 22 verses, the middle one with 66. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 have verses beginning with letters of the Hebrew alphabet; chapter three has three verses, in order, beginning with each of the letters; chapter five has 22 verses, though not beginning with the alphabet. It would take some planning and forethought to create such a funeral dirge:

How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! (Lamentations 1:1 KJV)

From the analogy of widowhood, we move to abandonment:

She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. (Lamentations 1:2-3 KJV)

Politically, we haven’t moved that far, have we? Jerusalem, as the center of Judah, had allies – which it worked well for them – who abandoned her – when it suited them better. I do believe that has occurred to individuals in politics, and to nations, in our world today.

Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths. (Lamentations 1:7 KJV)

In lamenting the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, David used a phrase that we still use today:

How are the mighty fallen (2 Samuel 1:27a KJV)

The feelings Jerusalem’s enemies felt was not sadness, but mockery, even for her religion. How could she have been abandoned by the God she had been extolling for generations? Even in poetry, Jeremiah defined the “How?”

Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself. (Lamentations 1:8-9 KJV)

How happy enemies are when their own errors bring down individuals! That applies to nations, too. How said when an entire nation errs – and chastisement occurs.

They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me. (Lamentations 1:21 KJV)

And, that’s just the first chapter. There are four more. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the middle of this poetry. What do you expect?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dilemma

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Coming home from Sunday morning services, I faced a dilemma – which of the verses / topics would be today’s blog – and in which order should the others come? Yes – there were that many good verses, thoughtful topics and thought-provoking ideas. So many that I decided to start with  the simplest: friendship.

It would be so easy to start with “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” but there are several verses I’d like to share before we get there.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 KJV)

Now, a friend may criticize (helpfully), may even chastise, and certainly is open to offering advice. Friendships are built on honesty and grow through adversity. If someone separates during these events, perhaps it was an acquaintance, not a friend.

The Preacher wrote of bonds between people:

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 KJV)

Two are better than one – but we can have more than one friend:

And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12 KJV)

Proverbs has more about friends, too:

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 KJV)

Do we understand how to show ourselves friendly? Are we giving friendship before expecting anything – or are we investing, demanding a return?

Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off. (Proverbs 27:10 KJV)

Keep our friends. That’s awesome advice. We can forsake them, but we will regret that. Which brings me back to the hymn:
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
  Everything to God in prayer!

Yes – talk to our friends. That includes speaking to God in prayer. Getting to know Him through reading His word. Look to understand verses such as:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:13-14 KJV)

An awareness of His command are necessary to have His friendship, yet He laid down His life for anyone who would be His friend before we had that understanding.

We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 KJV)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Galatians?

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O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3 KJV)

I don’t have the ability to call my readers foolish, though. Paul felt this question of sufficient importance that repeating the thought in a couple of ways might make his readers think more than twice about what they were doing. What they were doing had changed:

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (Galatians 5:7 KJV)

The Galatians had moved away from faith to works. Paul sees this move as a response to someone: “who hath bewitched you,” “who did hinder you.” It is a big deal who we listen to when it comes to determining our actions.

Galatians’ third chapter reminds me much of Hebrews’ eleventh chapter – faith must be understood:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

Empirical evidence is quantitative. It is definable and measurable. We know that specifically measured recipes will give specific results – how else could we anticipate the taste of chocolate chip cookies? faith does not offer such measurements, so we like to substitute works in order to quantify results. We can list commandments and count the times people see us obey them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work, which Christ explained in Matthew 5:27-28.

From Galatians 5, we see circumcision, an empirical evidence, not as a sign of compliance, but as a rejection of Christ:

For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:3-4 KJV)

Paul gives us a single standard:

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Galatians 5:5-6 KJV)

Here he combines the two items – faith and love – through which Christianity works. Without one or the other, Christians fail. James explains that very well in this example:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:14-16 KJV)

Moving back to Galatians 3:2, the question remains for us to answer – are we doing good works expecting to win God’s favor (and perhaps mankind’s?), or through love because of His gift?

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It’s Not The Man

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He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. (John 1:8 KJV)

I read that in another blog – “This Little Light of Mine” – that lead in with this verse about how each of us have a unique way of being witness of this light. This verse is describing John, Jesus’ cousin, that we call The Baptist:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. (John 1:6-7 KJV)

It's not the man that's important, whether it's John, a pastor or television personality. It's the message. It’s the light that is important:

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)

There are many people who witness to their belief that Jesus was a good man. Some say He was a philosopher who worked to give the poor hope, even though that hope was fruitless. Others believe He was a great prophet, sent by Allah as many were before and one was afterward. The Bible gets specific here “and the Word was God.”

It doesn’t get more specific than that, does it? Well – actually, it does:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 KJV)

He confirmed that He was the light:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12 KJV)

He also said that He would be leaving this world:

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5 KJV)

He had plans for when that happened:

Ye are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14b KJV)

That’s what we’re to witness to – He left knowing that there would be a reflection of His light as long as we were willing to tell the world about Him. When we do, through our words or actions that reflect His light, we are following His instructions:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 KJV)

How’s your light? Too often I find mine dimmed by a number of things. I could list those things, but I’m certain each one of us is aware of what dims our light. And, we just as aware of what would polish it to the point that it would reach through the blindness around us.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 KJV)

John was no different than you or I. He was a man with a message – a man who bore witness to the light of the world. How is your light?