Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Anger? Temper With Mercy

 


And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. (Mark 3:5 KJV)

Most often, when people want to show when Christ became angry they choose the scripture where he drives the money-changers out of the temple. Seldom do we read Matthew’s account of the healing of a man on the Sabbath:

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. (Mark 3:1-4 KJV)

Why, since God commanded we keep the sabbath holy, shouldn’t we? And if there were rules, why shouldn’t a man claiming to be God keep them? Those who had set themselves up as judges of what God wanted determined that this man, claiming to be God, was doing what God said not to do.

They accused Him, and Matthew’s account gives His explanation:

And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
(Matthew 12:11-12 KJV)

In Mark’s relating the event of disciples eating grain, we read:

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: (Mark 2:27 KJV)

People who see God as a judge of our actions, they are right. That occurs both now and before His throne. However, being perfect, His justice is, too. Tempered with mercy and knowledge, justice accurately sets people on a path leading to Him. It is easier to see that path when we understand another verse does not maintain a good path:

Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. (Deuteronomy 12:8 KJV)

While Judges tells us when this was done, Proverbs tells us what happens when it is done:

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts. To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:2-3 KJV)

In our world today, we do not seek God’s justice. It appears more often than not that we seek revenge. We see the oldest of laws, an eye for an eye. Yes, that is mentioned three times – in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy – but Jesus offers a different take on this in His Sermon on the Mount:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (Matthew 5:38-42 KJV)

Please note that the facts above are that an original harm was done. The man suing at law is doing so because he was wronged by the man being sued. Resist not the original evil by returning evil, but understand the justness of repaying the person who originally lost by our action.  We know what God wants us to do:

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)

We have two questions to ask – Are we harming God? Are we harming another of His children – to understand whether we are doing right or not. Jesus was not harming God by helping the man with a withered hand on the sabbath. Justice was softened by mercy, just as God’s justice regarding our sinfulness is softened by the mercy extended by Jesus:

Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25 KJV)

Remember the two questions when considering what you need to do. Temper justice with mercy, too, and expect mercy from God.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Mirror Images

 


Isn’t that a beautiful shot of Mount Hood and Mirror Lake in Oregon? Not mine, of course, I found it on Wikimedia Commons to show how beautiful a mirrored image is – but how dangerous.

Starting at the edge of the lake, hikers headed for Mount Hood can walk for hours in the forest. Starting at the same edge of the lake but taking the image, a person could drown if unprepared for water, and they will never reach Mount Hood. Satan, who we know as a roaring lion:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9 KJV)

Satan is an expert at tempting with mirror images, and his temptations of Jesus are perfect examples:

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:2-4 KJV)

Satan did not offer to do anything for Jesus, He just wanted Jesus to do what they both knew Jesus could do – give His body nourishment. How could that be wrong? It would help his body continue. Jesus didn’t come to teach how to live here on earth, but to live eternally. Bread alone wouldn’t do that, but what came from God does.

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. (Matthew 4:5-7 KJV)

Another “Show me a miracle to prove who you are!” This wasn’t in God’s plan. Jesus’ actions were to glorify God, not to show how important Jesus was or how many angels were waiting to serve Him. I love a piece from “He Left It All”:

Not one comfort did He bring
Not His robe
Not His crown
Not ten thousand bowing down
Not one piece of jasper wall
He left it all

Ten years ago I wrote that He’s Done It All, too. When He said “It is finished,” He was finished providing eternal life for us. The rest is up to us, to accept that. In the mirror image, Satan offered Jesus the world to worship him:

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matthew 4:8-10 KJV)

For whatever reason He has, God has allowed Satan to operate in this world. It will be eternity before we know why, but we can immediately see the fallacy in what Satan offered – all he offered were the physical things of this world. What Jesus came to salvage were souls. Jesus came for the people in the world, not kingdoms nor their glory.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10 KJV)

That thought is firm in the 59 English versions I checked today. There is no doubt it confirms:

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

Satan has no part in our eternal existence with God. But he’ll spend your lifetime trying to convince you otherwise with mirror images to make this world seem the most important thing in your life. It isn’t. God is.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36 KJV)

Then again, how important is it for us to say we love God, and we won’t spend time with Him, others who love Him, or those who need Him:

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:17-19 KJV)

Don’t settle for what’s in the mirror – go for the real.  Do you believe God? Work for Him? Tremble?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Oral Tradition

 


Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 KJV)

What’s the best time to teach someone about God? Sitting, walking, at home, away from home, evening, and morning. Any time, any where, to any one – but here it is so important to teach our children. Why?

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. (Psalms 103:17-18 KJV)

We all have an impact on our children, their children, and even to their children, too. Part of what we impart will be oral tradition. It need not stop with our own family. What we impart to friends – and to strangers – has an impact, too, even when the time we spend is short.

What made me think about this was an In Touch article, “At Home With Refugees”, which was introduced in an email:

Scripture endures in oral traditions too

I’ve used the Berean example in several previous posts – where those who heard Paul’s story of God sending His Son to offer eternal life with Him to everyone. That was as hard to believe then as it is today. The Bereans turned to scripture, where they had learned there is truth:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. (Acts 17:11-12 KJV)

Our children receive with all readiness of mind. We can give them a head start, just as Paul did, to know what to look for in scriptures as well as in their formal schoolwork. They learn to discern what is truth – and what is a mirror image that is wrong. This is doubly important in a world that accepts evil for good.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21 KJV)

How many of the following descriptions do we find in our own country right now:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV)

No one except God knows the timing, but every one reading this knows these are perilous times. There have been many perilous times in the past, and when those times came people recognized them and many did turn away from such and sought God. He is there, just as I wrote and posted yesterday. Where are we?

We are in a position to share our beliefs, our traditions if you will, with anyone who will listen to us. Who do we know who needs God’s presence? Everyone. Who do we know that need God’s salvation? That’s a smaller group in our lives, but we meet so many people that we will never know for certain.

How can we reach them? With our lives, our love, and our prayers. Keep in mind that God uses people who allow Him to work in their lives. Also keep in mind that if He has a specific purpose, He is able to work within what appears to be unacceptable methods to do so. Read Joseph’s story – wealthy son, despised brother, slave, second ruler in Egypt. Or Jonah – prophet, refugee, preacher, disappointed. Or Esther – slave, queen, brave, provider of safety for her people. Or David – shepherd, young brother, giant killer, escaping a king, becoming a king, adulterer, a man after God’s own heart.

Each of those stories has a connection to God’s providing for mankind from creation, all because we are loved:

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

Keep oral traditions alive by sending God’s message and sharing God’s word. It’s an awesome combination throughout history.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Blessedly Forgiven

 


To be forgiven by God, we must spend time with Him. To spend time, we need to find Him. To find Him, we need to know where to look. It’s as simple as finding a needle in the haystack – if you have a strong magnet. You see, God is always available to be found to those who seek Him, He is the magnet. While there are many verses that address this, I selected this one to be first:

That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:27-28 KJV)

I’d suggest that reading the chapter will place the verse  in context, and there is much around it that is good reading to suggest we are expected to seek the Lord as we are His children.

Israel – Jacob, if you will – was chosen by God to father a special nation dedicated to showing God to the rest of the world. Through Israel, all nations would be blessed:

And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (Genesis 18:17-18 KJV)

And, they are blessed.  While this next verse can be applied specifically to a time in history where the people of Israel needed God, I believe it is applicable to those who would call upon Him:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 KJV)

All of the above are included in the Bible which also tells us several times that all men have sinned:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12 KJV)

Way before that, God spoke to Israel in Isaiah chapter 59 (the whole chapter is excellent reading!) and let’s look at the first two verses:

Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 KJV)

What in the world does all this talk about biblical sinfulness have to do with being blessed by forgiveness? God provides the forgiveness after we provide the request for it. For New Testament Christians, which is also for me, it’s tied up in these verses:

But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. (Acts 15:11 KJV)

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5 KJV)

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

These verses sound good alone – they make sense, and still sound good, when they are read in context. We do sin. Sin is acting against God’s will. God has two commandments that are used to base all His laws:

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)

Every single day of our life, we break one of those commandments, don’t we? We either ignore God, or we don’t love a neighbor. Simple failure. It is a blessing that God forgives us. King David knew this and wrote (the rest of this chapter is worth reading, too!):

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (Psalms 32:1-2 KJV)

The sin is covered, thus we are blessed that God does not count that sin against us as we are truthful acknowledging our need for God. For the Christian, we are covered by the death of Christ through a conversion to belief described by Paul in Acts 26. Also described by Peter in Acts 10. These chapters should be read in their entirety – and if not understood, read the four gospels. I’d suggest beginning with John, then Luke, Matthew and Mark. But, that’s a personal preference. Then read the rest of the Bible to see if these are “none other things” then those which the Old Testament did say should come:

Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22-23 KJV)

Do you feel blessed?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Labor and Rest

 


The Bible has a lot to say about work and rest. The first reference is how God created:

And God said, (Genesis 1:3a,1:6a,1:9a, 1:11a, 1:14, 1:20, 1:24, 1:26 KJV)

Our work isn’t that easy, is it? Even when a general sends his army into the field of battle, his brain should have worked hard strategizing their win. But, most of us know physical labor as well. Partly because of Eve, we have to work hard than Adam’s first job:

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (Genesis 2:15 KJV)

A perfect Garden spoken into existence by God. Then both Eve and Adam gave into temptation and their responsibilities changed:

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:17-19 KJV)

Beasts of burden were yoked to do part of the labor. It was that simile that Christ used when He was closing His answer to John the Baptist’s question:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29 KJV)

The rest Jesus provides is for our souls. Not so much for the bodies that still labor in a workforce that changes before a man can retire, but for our souls that question or existence, the very reason we labor.

Why are we still living? Some decide that it isn’t worth doing, and I grieve for the soul that was in such pain. We pray for them. Pray that they will take time to learn of Him. It takes reading, studying, praying, and proving His promises. I’m provided of the Bereans – a wonderful example for us. They did not reject the message Paul brought to them. Instead:

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:10-11 KJV)

We are able to live with God’s peace that truly does pass our understanding. His peace that takes His children through troubles century after century:

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 KJV)

Rest, and peace. It takes belief in Jesus Christ, son of the living God who created the heavens and the earth. And how do you believe?

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:14-15 KJV)

Look for that preacher that speaks from the Bible what God inspired writers to give to us. Read those glad tidings of good things and ask that preacher to whom they apply and why. You may actually study the book for years. You can build a close relationship with the Holy Spirit that speaks for us in heaven. Scriptures show these things are so. If you believe I’m wrong, challenge my beliefs, please.

Come, learn of Him, and accept rest.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Sowing


 Sowing peanuts at Sde Nehemia

This past Sunday I heard three different messages, multiple scriptural references, each having a connecting thread having to do with people who sow the word of God. I really can’t separate the thoughts as to which came from which mouth, but fully understand the message comes from God’s word, the scriptures written for our use.

Early Sunday I heard a statement from Dr. Charles Stanley:

“You reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow.”

I would add an admonition – please be careful what you sow, for scripture certainly matches Dr. Stanley’s words:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10 KJV)

It takes a mature Christian to be understand what is to be sown – God’s message to mankind of love and promises to be with Him eternally. It takes reading scriptures and prayer to God to understand the relationship we have with Him as His children. Not simply His creation, but children of adoption:

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. (Romans 8:23-25 KJV)

How do we mature? That was our Sunday School lesson from 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. You’ll have to open your Bible or click the link to read those verses, but they speak of milk and meat. New Christians receive “milk,” verses that have value with little conflicts, before “meat,” verses that appear to have conflict until we are able to digest their truth.

As example – many verses are well known by many besides Christians. The best known would be John 3:16. No conflict there, and it has been abused by some to indicate everyone is saved. But it’s not the whole story, and when it was written, there were no verse numbers. Now there are, and John 3:18 is just as valid for Christians – but carries the truth that some will not believe and will not have the same eternal life that Christians are promised.

God’s word continued in the worship service Sunday –  to become a Christian as well as remain in God’s will:

Set – we feel we know where we are, where we are going; but . .

Upset – something upsets our lives and we feel nothing is right; then. .

Reset – we focus on what we know is right – God, and reset our goal to do His will.

Which takes us back to the Bible where, as new Christians, we learned to take in His word, pray to Him about what we’ve learned, then listen for the answer to our questions.

Now, what does that have to do with sowing? That is the job of every Christian – to give the message of Christ at every opportunity. Go back to 1 Corinthians 3 to see how that was done (set), the problems it caused (upset), and the reset Paul outlined.

Sowing God’s word does take patience, doesn’t it?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Potential - Apples and Bibles




I can’t remember the date I made 30 of these little stand up frames. They were for a 2010 ladies retreat our church had planned, and my talk was on potential. I wrote a blog about the potential of one apple seed. Every one of us has potential. Right now there are hugely divided concepts on how to consider our personal potential, but my thoughts had to do with our potential in spreading the gospel. Maybe it bears repeating after ten years:

Jesus spoke with His disciples about mustard seeds a couple of times. I used to have one in a glass globe on a bracelet as a reminder of the potential in the smallest of faith.

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. (Luke 17:6 KJV)

I’ve been thinking about potential.

I was looking at apple seeds -- odd looking, elongated and varied in size. Their fruit is good to eat and nutritious, though eaten in large quantity, apple seeds themselves are poisonous. Yet singly, each seed has the potential to repopulate the species across our planet. That's what caught my attention -- potential.

Of course, that's true of any seed, but the apple reminds me more of humans than most others. Their fruit can be pleasantly sweet, or pungently sour; suitable for snacking or better for baking. Whole apples can be stored for months, dried sections keep for a year. Apples are nutritious; they can be eaten raw or cooked; baked whole or made into apple butter; juiced to drink or made into jellies or vinegar.

We enjoy the trees for the beauty of their flowering, their fruit and for shade. We would miss them if they all suddenly vanished. If there was one remaining seed, it would have the potential to provide new trees, new fruit, then new seeds to plant even more. John Chapman took this to heart and became the American legend Johnny Appleseed.

But, most tree seeds do not produce a plant resembling the parent. Grafting is necessary. When you purchase an apple tree from a nursery, you'll find a grafting scar, Just as Romans 11 speaks of branches “graffed” onto the tree, necessary to provide the right fruit.

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. (Romans 11:22-23 KJV)

These examples show us potential – the potential of providing a strong plant with good fruit and spreading it around the world.

We must look at our own potential. Are we capable of producing good fruit? Could we repopulate the gospel over the entire earth?

How prepared are we to fulfill this potential? If we had to, how much of the Bible could we reproduce? Can we name each of the books? How many verses are memorized? Do we know the Roman Road?

How many references do we know to support our doctrinal beliefs? Do we speak of these outside our church? Do we study to learn more? To share more?

Take a serious look at potential – of service to our Lord, of supporting salvation for others. Grow that potential, with the strength and support of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5 KJV)