Tuesday, December 30, 2014
It took longer to get to to Harris Hospital for the MRI than it took to accomplish our purpose. First daughter went with me since I was taking an “I don’t care” pill to alleviate my claustrophobia. Since we were going by a Hobby Lobby and had some Christmas money, we stopped for some fabric. Yes, we have some, but lots of plans for quilts this coming year.
When I was down on the moving bed, the technician asked if I’d like music – yes, that always helps. What’s your preference? Could we get gospel? Yes. We have Pandora. The first sound was an advertisement for a Bible College. Then the song began, just a bit before my head entered the machine that would try its best to shake my brain as it was being photographed.
“Don’t Do It Without Me” wasn’t the music I was expecting, the music I was used to. It reminded me of a service in a co-worker’s church in Oklahoma City, filled with spirit, directing petitioning our Lord. I liked it.
I was expecting the familiar, perhaps my favorite Rochester Family music, Highway to Heaven from their Following The Leader album.
Or a southern hymn from a century before – Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance gives me comfort, too.
It’s past Christmas, or I would have asked for Mary Did You Know from Mark Lowry, or David Phelps’ The End of the Beginning, covering more than the holiday.
Some music covers multiple portions of the glad tidings of great joy that the angels shared that special night shepherds watched their flocks by night. It helps as we fulfill the Psalmists plea:
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. (Psalms 95:1 KJV)
Why do we do this, over and over again, day after day, week after week, often the same – ever so favorite – songs?
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (Psalms 95:3 KJV)
These songs are uplifting, they open our heart and minds to listen to the Lord. They help us follow this suggestion, too:
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (Psalms 95:8 KJV)
The new ones I heard today were comforts to me as the MRI made sounds that absolutely were NOT comforting, any more than the thought that “Henry” was giving notice of changes, requiring additional tests because drilling through my skull and palpitating my brain is NOT on the top of my bucket list at all.
Gospel music, however different from my southern blue grass gospel, tells me of my savior, the savior of all who reach out to Him and provides comfortable peace.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:26-27 KJV)
That, along with some gospel music. Try it some time, even when you’re not in the pounding MRI.
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: (Colossians 1:12-16 KJV)
There is no doubt in my mind that Paul wanted to share his reasons for thankfulness. Perhaps he heard Jesus’ words:
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5 KJV)
Perhaps not, but maybe he read what John had written:
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 1:3-5 KJV)
Some within the darkness did comprehend. Of those He spoke:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14 KJV)
I can’t imagine light being hidden in darkness. Think of the children’s song, hiding it under a bushel. Every bushel basket I’ve seen would seep light, it would be seen in the darkness, just as the city set on a hill.
In addition to His light, He has shared His kingdom with us.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15 KJV)
Yes, we are His children and we should call Him Father. That makes me very thankful, and gives me reason to praise Him:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17 KJV)
Did you get that “suffer with him” part? We are not promised a trouble-free life here. There is enmity with many things that are in this world. Our Father has been ignored, forgotten and declared dead across ages. Yet, His children continue to offer thankful praise for all He has done and for what He has promised in the future.
His Son knew about bringing children close:
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16 KJV)
Let Him bring us closer, for that’s His kingdom.
Monday, December 29, 2014
I mentioned the David Warren Family yesterday. Their gifts are not confined to music. David preached in the morning service from Matthew 20:1-16. He gave four excellent points from that scripture, but today I want to stick to the first one:
Beware of bargaining with God.That ought to be a given, but we do it so often. Second daughter and her husband went Saturday to see “Unbroken” and enjoyed the movie. She was aware of “rest of the story” articles, too. The Washington Times and Religion News Service, carry information from the Billy Graham organization about Louis Zamperini’s bargain with God.
We all tend to offer these bargains to God:
Lord, if you will (insert what you wish God to do), then I will (insert what you promise God you’ll do.)Zamperini’s bargain was to have God save him and in return he would serve God. Here’s Zamperini’s quote on the result after attending a 1949 Billy Graham crusade:
“I started to leave the tent meeting, and I felt awful guilty about my life. Yes, I had a lot of great times, a lot of great experience, a lot of escape from death, but I still didn’t like my life after the war. I came home alive. God kept His promise. I didn’t keep mine, and so I went forward and accepted Christ.”The laborers in Matthew 20 made bargains with the householder, used as an example of God’s kingdom:
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. (Matthew 20:1-2 KJV)
The householder went back a few hours later:
And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. (Matthew 20:3-4 KJV)
Apparently, even more were needed as he made that same bargain with laborers the sixth, ninth and eleventh hours – whatsoever is right I will give you. At the end of the work, all the laborers, from the first through the last earned that same penny a day. The first hired did not like the bargain:
And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. (Matthew 20:11-12 KJV)
Our God is just. Not in the way men are just, but with true justice, as shown in the answer:
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? (Matthew 20:13-15 KJV)
God gives good gifts (Matthew 7:7-11) and wants us all to have His gifts (II Peter 3:9) so why would we want to bargain for more when all we have to do is:
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)
Sunday, December 28, 2014
If you follow the link attached to the graphic, you’ll reach the David Warren Family home page. They’ve been coming to our church on a regular basis for several years – through a generation where we’ve watched their children grow up, leave and new come along. It’s always a blessing when they are here, through their music and David Warren’s preaching.
Sunday morning their first song caught my heart: Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is. I believe most of us like the beginning of the second verse:
The most eloquent of speakers tell me I'm okay,
Yes – there are “feeling good” preaching out there. The ones who tell us over and over that God loves us (and I firmly believe He does), that He accepts us as we are (and I just as firmly believe He does). There are many preachers that will discuss the changes that come into our lives when we love and trust Him.
It’s not a one-way relationship. If that’s what is expected, someone is not telling like it is. We need that first verse:
But my spirit is tired, and I need rest.
I want to hear from heaven, a clear word from God,
A sermon of conviction straight from the heart.
God is quite capable of providing all of our needs, but there are expectations specified for us:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40 KJV)
I know – you’ve read that before. Lots of times before in this blog because I believe it is the most important message in the whole Bible. For it to be factual, we must accept there is a God, that He deserves all of our love and that there’s more to life than God. We must love our fellow man. That last sentence tells us we have a lot more to learn, too. These are commandments – not suggestions. Laws are to be based on them and prophecies much be, too. Is that true for what we worship?
Does your preacher preach this message? Words from the Bible – or just today’s headlines? Can they be combined? Is God’s word applicable in today’s world? Will a preacher tell us like it is:
Don't be afraid to call my sin what it is.
And preacher, tell me I can overcome,
But it's only by the blood of the Lamb .
Don't tell me like I wish it was,
Preacher, tell me like it is.
Preach until I've heard God speak to me
Don't worry 'bout my feelings; don't worry 'bout my shame
Just preach the cross of Jesus and that I'm to blame.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
We are a society of the soon-to-be obsolete. The roads we build to alleviate traffic are filled as soon as the construction signs are down. The clothing worn last spring must be changed into the new styles that will come out this spring. Our economy moves forward on planned obsolescence. New homes are an investment to be left as soon as new designs are available. Even our relationships – headlines tell us marriage is passé and celebrities teach how to move on to new relationships without rancor.
It doesn’t work, does it? We are always wounded in some way when we toss out the old (which may or may not be debt free) simply because there is something new.
I almost used another graphic – a photo of the cars in Cuba. They are not the same on the inside, though, as when they were new. The appearance is the 1950’s, or earlier, but mechanical changes have been made. They were maintained. Their brokenness healed:
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (Psalms 147:3 KJV)
That’s the verse on the above graphic, but it’s not the only one that tells us about God’s ability to restore:
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalms 23:1-6 KJV)
I like another Psalm that speaks of restoration:
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. (Psalms 51:10-12 KJV)
My Bible tells me when this was written:
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.Theirs was a very broken relationship – both broke God’s law, with death as a consequence. Both Uriah and David’s child died. Yes, David knew about restoration and strongly desired God’s presence in his life.
He also understood that restoration requires change – not replacement with new, but restoration of the true. According to the Pulpit Commentary:
He prays that God would cleanse him from his sins and the defilement he had contracted by them (Psa_51:7): “Purge me with hyssop; that is, pardon my sins, and let me know that they are pardoned, that I may be restored to those privileges which by sin I have forfeited and lost.”
Sin does not always end with a broken spirit, broken nor contrite heart. Realization of sin and its consequences comes with a relationship with God. Build that, and He will heal.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Just a few questions – and don’t expect much in the way of answers, for it’s very personal. How was your Christmas?
Not just the actual day but also what went in to preparing for Christmas?
Did you shop a lot? That’s something that concerns our government just as it concerts economists and vendors. Christmas shoppers keep the wheels of commerce moving. Is that a bad thing?
Did you overspend? No, please don’t answer here – that’s VERY personal and I don’t need to know that at all. But, you do, as part of budgeting.
Did you have a tree? The graphic is one of my daughter’s - a nod to the expected traditional ostentatious display of a ceiling tall tree covered with costly decorations. I didn’t do that much this year.
Did you have a nativity set? If so, did it have wise men? Angels? I covered that in Christmas Day’s post. The shepherds who answered the news from the angels would not have met wise men at the manger.
Did you attend a church service dedicated to Christmas? More than one? If so, was the full gospel given, or just His birth?
Did you overeat? We certainly did. What was your menu? Ours began with Caprese appetizers led through Italian Wedding Soup across pesto/garlic/cheese bread into a variety of pasta to be covered with Alfredo or red sauce then topped with meatballs or chicken or any combination of the above. Oh, yes – we did overeat! Did the food get blessed before eaten? Absolutely.
Did you have guests who do not believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, savior? Many hosted those – and some of those hosted guests who do love and serve Him.
Did you sing carols that celebrated His birth – or songs of chestnuts roasting while a ruby-nosed reindeer frolics with a frosty snowman before heading out with eight others in a flying sleigh with a fat man first described in the 19th century?
There’s a great diversity among those who celebrate December 25. As for me and my house, it is celebrated as the birth of God’s great promise to mankind. From the fall of Adam and Eve, it was woman’s seed at enmity with the tempter:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15 KJV)
Later, the promise was more specific. Childless Abram was told:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: (Genesis 12:2 KJV)
There is neither time nor space here to look at all the prophecies, but they do culminate in:
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, (Matthew 2:4-5 KJV)
Did that get covered with your family on Christmas Day? Only on that day? Or was the birthday boy forgotten among the wrapping paper and boxes that headed for the trash bin? Or, was there gratitude:
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV)
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.
That’s a lovely nativity set, isn’t it? Like most, however, it compresses three separate events into one:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 KJV)
While some would discount the biblical narrative, in “Antiquities”, the historian Josephus wrote:
Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance.
Once again, history confirms an item in the Bible. There isn’t a historical backing for this, though:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)
Multiple Jewish prophecies tell us a male (Isaiah 9:6) of David’s lineage (Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5) would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); that He would be a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, despised by many (Isaiah 53:3). There are many others.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16 KJV)
Our nativity scene above does not include shepherds, but perhaps the angel denotes that portion of the story. There were no magi at the manger, either:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet (Micah 5:2), And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (Matthew 2:1-6 KJV)
Those who recognized the prophecy, shared it with others, then promptly returned to their daily routines, are among us today. The wise men, however, sought and found Him:
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11 KJV)
They came to a house, not a manger. This is why, when the family manger scene is set up, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and animals are around the child in the manger – and the wise men with their camels are across the room, still on their journey.
Share the message the angels and wise men brought –
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Friday, December 19, 2014
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
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
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!
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
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
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:
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
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
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?
Friday, December 12, 2014
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:12-14 KJV)
At lunch the other day Beloved Husband and I were discussing finances. Doctor and Hospital visits tend to create such talk. He made a comment I’ve heard all my life:
My immediate thought was:
That’s because today’s verse came to mind. Unfortunately, I had not memorized that verse, just had the thought behind it in my mind because I’ve read it over and over in different studies. It’s not a stand alone verse, either. It fits in after:
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:9-11 KJV)
Verse 9 is one I used just yesterday. See how the days flow together when we’re reading the Bible? There are specific thoughts that continue through one book into another. There are references that are foundational, too, and verse 11 is one of those.
Matthew, Mark and Luke quote Jesus referring to this scripture:
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. (Psalms 118:22-23 KJV)
Paul is aware of this analogy, too, understanding that Christ is the foundation on which we build our faith. We should be very careful how we build that faith, too, and how we share it with others. If our materials are inferior – wood, hay or stubble – it will cease to exist. If, however, our materials have strength – gold, silver, precious stones – they will withstand fire.
Do not take it to mean that we must have wealth in an earthly sense. Remember Micah’s question:
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:6-7 KJV)
And God’s answer:
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)
Walking with Him teaches us that wealth is not as important as heart (Luke 21:1-4) and actions just as important as words (James 2:14-18). We need to take inventory – are we on the firmest of foundations; and, what are we building?
Thursday, December 11, 2014
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)
The elderly gentleman was not pleased when his wife told him who was at the meeting that night. The neighbors she spoke of had been a thorn in his side – and rude to his wife! – in the past. Their being left behind when he and his wife moved was part of the comfort of their new place. Just speaking of them caused his voice to quaver a bit.
He knew his Bible and he could quote that forgiving seventy times seven, but they had lived as neighbors seven days a week far more than seventy weeks, so maybe there was a bit of justification for his reaction? Not really. The seventy times seventy wasn’t a maximum. Besides, there had been changes.
While he had been outgoing and friendly to them, he spoke of their needs to others, prayed for their needs as well as their souls and the church had responded. He was reminded that Paul had explained this very point to the church at Corinth:
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9 KJV)
We cannot change anyone’s life. But – we can plant the seed of hope, watered with the love we share and when they are ready to listen to God, He will provide what is necessary to increase love in their lives. None of us can take credit for doing God’s will since we do labor together, never alone, as Jesus promised:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 KJV)
Our gentleman and his wife also have taken to heart:
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 19:19b KJV)
Look that up and read verses 16 through 22 – another excellent lesson. But our focus here is on neighbors and Matthew quotes Jesus again, making them second only to our Lord:
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)
Second is our neighbor. Yep, that rude, insensitive, thoughtless neighbor who needs God as much as we do, but hasn’t realized it - yet. Our witness can be a beckoning light. Our gentleman’s life was, as he planted seeds of love.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) (Jeremiah 42:1-2 KJV)
We’re closing our studies in Jeremiah in Sunday School. Jerusalem has fallen, Babylonian Captain of the Guard Nebuzaradan has released Jeremiah, offered him shelter, and set up a governor that Ishmael son of Nethaniah then killed. There appeared no end to the war.
Seeking God’s guidance, the leaders that were left came begging to Jeremiah to pray “unto the LORD thy God.” Notice that’s “thy”, not “my” or “our”. The supplicants were used to there being an intermediary between them and God, not taking Him as their personal help in times of trouble. There’s a difference, isn’t there?
Jeremiah did as they asked, promising to tell them exactly, truthfully, God’s response:
Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you. (Jeremiah 42:4 KJV)
The people promised to do exactly, faithfully, God’s response:
Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God. (Jeremiah 42:5-6 KJV)
Need we go any further? Was it so different then as it is now? We seek answers to problems and promise to use those answers. The Bible has answers, we say that we know it does – but . . . . . After ten days, Jeremiah returned with God’s plan for their future:
And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him; If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land. (Jeremiah 42:9-12 KJV)
Reminds me of “Waiting, Quietly”. In the most difficult of situations, depending on God is the right thing to do. Jeremiah not only tells them (verses 13-20) the penalty for disobedience, he tells them God knows they weren’t serious about following His plan.
And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you. Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn. (Jeremiah 42:21-22 KJV)
Their answer to God’s instructions?
Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there: (Jeremiah 43:2 KJV)
Things haven’t changed, for proud men, have they? The choice then is the same as ours today – listen to God, or not.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
I’ve borrowed this graphic from Beth Amatelli’s “I talk … God listens” for today’s blog, along with verses:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4 KJV)
We quote from different translations to get the message across that Christians will face a wide variety of temptations, just as non-believers do. For us, though, working through those temptations with patience has rewards. In the next verse is a great help in times of temptation:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5 KJV)
We ask ourselves, “Can this be wrong? No one is being hurt, it’s not illegal (or only slightly so), and no one else will know about it.” Really?
If we do wonder about the “rightness” or “wrongness” just follow verse 5. Solomon did when he first became King of Israel. God offered him assistance and he asked for wisdom – and received much more. Doesn’t appear he utilized that wisdom, or God either, later on as he acquired women as signs of alliances with others. Instead, we see him displaying his accumulations and wealth to the Queen of Sheba. Doesn’t appear very wise, does it? What changed?
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8 KJV)
It is easy to become a double minded man, wanting to separate but retain unequal things in our lives. As Christians, we believe in God, trust His offer of Jesus as our savior and look forward to eternity with him – but we’re tempted by so many things in this world that we ignore their being defined as “off limits” in His word.
One person told me, after he left his church, “If there were a God, he would want me to be happy,” though his chosen lifestyle was biblically defined. Honestly, I don’t see any where in any verse that God wants us to be happy here on earth.
What God has told us, again and again, is His desire for a relationship on His terms. Are we too independent to take time to understand His terms? They include NOT giving in to temptation, but patiently working through to the reward:
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12 KJV)
There is nothing this world, or anyone in it, has to offer that could match that crown of life. Temptation, on the other hand, does offers worse:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. (James 1:14-16 KJV)
James addresses how we do that, too:
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:21-22 KJV)
When we decide to “Just do it!”, we need to be certain it is God’s word we are doing. Make life the sweetness of lemonade, especially when given the sour bitterness of lemons.
Monday, December 8, 2014
I'm in my 70's so I've heard a lot of doomsday prophecies - none of which have come to pass within the timeframes given. There's a long list on Wikipedia, a great many having to do with eschatology - the ultimate destiny of mankind. Obviously, none of these predictions have occurred, though many are still set for the future.
Oddly (from my viewpoint), not listed are the predictions of a "Silent Spring" (Rachel Carson, 1962), economic collapse (Robert Heilbroner, 1974), world-wide famine (Paul Ehrlich, 1968) or even that we would use "all the proven oil reserves in the entire world by the end of the next decade" (President Jimmy Carter, 1977.) Could be that's because it wasn't the end of mankind predicted, just life styles as we knew them. And, that includes a current prediction - because we will not be able to make corrections to the Earth's atmosphere.
We're torn between worrying about killer bees or the death of bees; of getting brain cancer from cellphones or losing all communication due to an electromagnetic pulse; software hacking of our personal information or a rogue state (or not so rogue state) settling differences with atomic weapons.
So, what does the Bible say about all this?
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:34 KJV)
We have enough to look after today. Tomorrow we’ll have to look after then, and for each day after that – if we believe that God is interested in our lives. Before this verse, Jesus gave us information on that subject:
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:26-30 KJV)
These are wonderful verses. We are to do what God has designed us to accomplish, and He’ll provide for us:
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (Matthew 6:31-32 KJV)
Are we willing to accept what God has for us – or have we set our own goals and desires? We can answer that if we understand the next verse:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)
Yep – there’s that looking to God for the answer, again and again. The Bible’s longest theme, the relationship between God and man.
I believe the world will change drastically – the church will be removed, there will be a battle at Armageddon and Christ will return, in God’s time. That’s God’s plan for mankind. His plan for me does not include sitting around waiting for those events but to live from day to day.
Christians still sing Ira Stanphill's "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow." We did Sunday morning.
But I know who holds tomorrow
Sunday, December 7, 2014
A missionary shared some ‘I have” statements last Thursday:
I have glorified thee on the earth:
I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:4-8 KJV)
Jesus prayed these accomplishments to His Father, then He prayed for me – and billions of others:
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. (John 17:9 KJV)
That includes Paul, whose letters to churches include a long list of accomplishments before he wrote:
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7 KJV)
After doing that, he expects a reward, defining for whom that reward is given:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8 KJV)
That was for me, too – and billions of others who love our Lord and look forward to His appearing.
When we do see Him, what is our list of accomplishments? Have we “fought a good fight”? Did we even know our course, much less finished it? Have we kept the faith? And, my biggest question, have I shared that faith? That’s a question I’m asking myself, not anyone else.
I have no idea what God’s plan is for anyone else, but I believe His plan for me includes sharing the faith I’ve found through His word:
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17 KJV)
That’s very important because:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)
We’re dashing toward an annual celebration of Christ’s birth. In a few short months we’ll celebrate His resurrection. In between there are years of accomplishments. I would suggest the book of John as the starting point for those accomplishments, but Luke is my favorite. Each of the Gospel writers were inspired and each had a specific perspective. Read them all, and note Jesus’ accomplishments – compare them with the ones He listed to His Father during His last hours on this earth.
We may not do His miracles, but there are “I have’s” we can list as our accomplishments for our Lord.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
[Today’s blog is reprinted with permission from “Abundant Life Now,” a free blog which offers inspiring moments, thought-provoking comments, and solid Biblical insight (http://RobertLloydRussell.blogspot.com/).]
introduction ~ Long-time followers of Abundant Life Now know that the subject of law versus grace has been posted multiple times in the past (a listing of relevant past postings are at the bottom of this post).
Sometime ago I read a marvelous book, I Never Thought I’d See the Day: Culture at the Crossroads, by Dr. David Jeremiah which I heartily recommend. It is about what’s happening both in our culture at large and within the Church. What follows is an excerpt relevant to Law vs. Grace.
quote ~ For those Christians who think that living under grace in the New Testament means morality is no longer the hyper issue it might have been under the Old Testament law, the Bible offers several clarifications:
First, through the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, God promised to take His laws off of stone tablets and put them in the minds and write them on the hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:33). That promise was part of the provision of the new covenant that was instituted through the shed blood of Christ: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). In other words, by the indwelling Spirit of God, the laws of God—His standards of morality—move from being an external to an internal reality. God’s law is no longer something to be read, examined, and debated as an intellectual matter. It becomes part of the heart and the mind of the one united to God by faith in Christ. As the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “When the law of God is written on our hearts, out duty will be our delight.” The law changes from being a burden that keeps us from pleasure to a guide that leads us to a wholly new kind of pleasure—the pleasure of walking in God’s best plan for our lives. As Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
In addition, we find that conforming to God’s law in our hearts allows us to experience in all activities of life the specific kind of pleasure and satisfaction God meant for us to find in that particular activity. So the laws are entirely for our benefit; they are given not to prevent pleasure, but to increase it.
Second, the apostle Paul clarifies what grace doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that God’s law has been nullified. Anticipating that he, by his preaching of grace, might be accused of antinomianism (negating the obligation to live a lawful life), Paul wrote, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, establish the law” (Romans 3:31). He says that we are not free to disregard God’s moral laws must because we live under grace (Romans 6:1-2). And he confirms what Christ taught about love being the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10). As we noted above, we follow the law because we love God, knowing that His ways are always best for us and increase our joy.
So New Testament Christians are in no way exempt from the moral and ethical requirements of God’s law. Indeed, we have an even higher motivation for fulfilling God’s moral law: love. Grace means living a moral life not because we have to but because we want to.
Third, Paul puts an even sharper point on making moral choices by saying, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no none seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). There may be an action or choice that breaks none of God’s laws yet is still not “helpful” or “edifying.” The Christian Gospel moves us to a higher plane in life. No longer do we look out only for our well-being but also for the well-being of others. Is something is “lawful” on the basis of the letter of the law, yet it has the potential for hurting another person or tarnishing our testimony for Christ, then it becomes unlawful of us.
Fourth, when a Christian acts immorally, he or she negates the reason for the death of Christ on the cross. Christ died to satisfy the demands of the law” “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Christ died and was raised from the dead to pay the penalty of the law and to break its power over us. The law was good, but because we were sinners, we could not obey it. Thus we failed to be what God created us to be and incurred the condemnation that comes from breaking the law and the enslavement that comes from being subject to it (Romans 6:1-14; 8:1). But by His death, Christ took the penalty we deserved.
Considering everything that is bound up in the cross and the empty grave, our choice to bend the moral requirements of the law of God is an outrageous affront to the One who suffered and died to free us from the power of sin. Why would anyone who claims to have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness for breaking the law choose to insult the Christ who procured that gift through His own suffering?
But the most delicate take on the laws of God is the one provided by Jesus Himself in the Sermon on the Mount—the place in which He corrected human interpretations of the law with divine interpretations, where He revealed to His followers the difference between the letter and the spirit of the law.
closing comment ~ Previous Law vs. Grace posts on Abundant Life Now include:
(1) Law vs. Grace (July 6, 2010)
(2) Law vs. Grace, 2 (July 5, 2011)
(3) The Core Message of the Bible #2 (February 1, 2011)
(4) Law vs. Grace, 3 (This was a 12-part series, published one per month during 2013, and was based upon the book of Galatians.)
Friday, December 5, 2014
This is a “vintage Barbie watch” from the 1970’s. My first daughter had one that I found on a bookcase in the hall one night. My thought was, “She needs to take care of her valuables!” So, to teach her a lesson, I put it up until she asked about it.
It was forgotten. I don’t know how much later it was that I reminded her to be back home at a certain time, she said she didn’t have a way of knowing what time it was, I thought of the watch! And reminded her of it. She said, “I put it on the bookcase and when I went back it wasn’t there. I’ve looked all over for it.”
I had forgotten where I put it. We searched that house from one end to the other – for years. Emptied the house completely when we moved. Still have the bedroom set – dresser and vanity – where one would expect to “save” things. No watch. We tend to forget things.
I was reminded of that story this morning. I believe a good many people have forgotten what Jesus did, and what we are to do.
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. (Jeremiah 50:6 KJV)
Isaiah said pretty much the same thing:
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)
In today’s culture, the word “sheeple” was created as a derogatory description used for followers, not just believers but it is applied there, too. We may have forgotten how sheep and shepherd have been used in the Bible:
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (John 10:11-14 KJV)
When a sheep is not with the flock, the shepherd searches:
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. (Luke 15:4-6 KJV)
The ninety-nine are comfortable in the fold. They really aren’t out searching for that 100th – but the shepherd is. Where do we fit in this story?
Are we one of the complacent ninety-nine simply waiting for the shepherd to complete His work? Are we accepting the work of the shepherd, aiding and serving Him? Are we that 100th, in the wilderness.
He has not forgotten us. He has provided a Comforter:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV)
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26 KJV)
Teach us, make us remember, give us truth – and testify of Jesus, Christ. Don’t put all that away safely, to be forgotten. It needs to be kept in front of us and put to good use.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: (Jeremiah 32:9-11 KJV)
A simple land transaction, the gist of which is laid out in previous verses in this chapter. It sounds as though it might have been a well thought out plan to future use – until you get to verse 14:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. (Jeremiah 32:14 KJV)
That’s what made me think of the Dead Sea Scrolls – two shown in the graphic – and how long they lay in the dessert caves. So, were the proof of this purchase to stay buried? That wasn’t the lesson:
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land. (Jeremiah 32:15 KJV)
One day the people would return to possess their land. That was God lesson in burying the proof of transaction. He kept – and keeps – His word. Jeremiah recognized this:
Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the LORD, saying, Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name, Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: (Jeremiah 32:16-19 KJV)
Jeremiah had been telling kings for some time that the kingdom would fall, that Babylon would conquer Jerusalem and take prisoners. Yet, in the midst of their disbelief of his message, we find this prayer. Here Jeremiah tells us what we should believe, too: “there is nothing too hard for thee.”
Do we believe that? Believe with all our hearts that there is nothing too hard for God? Do we believe that He is control, knows what is happening and often allows men to “go to far” before abandoning them to the consequences of their actions. Do we believe in our own consequences? Can we be as those three young men, taken captive after Jerusalem’s fall:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. (Daniel 3:17 KJV)
He did, remember? And, He will deliver us.