Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lessons to Learn

The story of Abraham is written about in several sections of the New Testament.  Abraham's life encourages us. Speaking of Abraham, God refers to Abraham's righteousness and what it means for us, in Romans 4:
Romans 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Abraham was called by God in Genesis as an important aspect of the Christ line.  In Genesis 3:15, the seed of this lineage was first prophesied about.  The word 'seed' is used quite often in the book of Genesis  and is a theme throughout Genesis.  God watched over the lineage of the promised seed.
Romans 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Abraham is a father figure to all (both Judean and Gentile) who believe. God said in Genesis 3:15 that there would be an enmity; a battle between good and evil. Abraham had to deal with this enmity throughout his life. He was constantly faced with challenges to God's promises. He dealt with famine, perils, pressures, and adversity of all sorts.  He made mistakes and tried to accomplish God's promises on his own. The battle of good and evil continues throughout the Bible in the tension between senses faith versus spiritual faith, works versus grace. (See Galatians 4:22-31)

Bullinger's Appendixes Link

 God's promises encouraged him and he stayed the course. Abraham's life is full of lessons. The greatest lessons we can learn are not from judging Abraham as there is a lot that we may not fully understand. However, if we read in the New Testament as to what God wants us to learn from his life, it will encourage us to believe God's promises in this amazing grace administration.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Shur Wilderness: The Mall
Last night I had to run out to mall to change a gift I was giving to someone. So on December 23rd at 4:30 in the afternoon, I ventured out to one of the busiest malls in the country. There was a sea of cars everywhere. The streets that led into the perimeter of the shopping center were extremely backed up.

If Abraham could get across the desert, I could certainly do this! It did turn out to be an amazing journey! I drove up to the store, headed right into an empty parking space waiting for me, got in and out of the store and home in about a half hour! I also met and talked with a very nice salesperson. When I walked out of the store, I saw someone just sitting in the middle of the road of the parking lot, unable to decide where to go for a spot. It was so hectic. The car driver had a frazzled look so I yelled out to him, "Follow me!" Then I waited until he turned in the right direction and led him to my spot. It was actually a fun experience!

My husband was shocked that I was home. He had decided to make dinner thinking I would be be suffering from sojourn fatigue. He had it prepared up to the cooking part and was just putting it in the fridge thinking he would be cooking it later when I walked in! We both marveled. What looked like the Wilderness of Shur going forward into the errand at the beginning, turned out to be a promised land celebration at the end.

This time of the year is so wild. I'm not sure Christ wants to be associated with this holiday, so I am not getting too upset about the 'war on Christmas'. It is one less thing to worry about. God's love is year round and He is the ultimate giver. The story of Christ is about wholeness (salvation) in our hearts; it transcends holiday trees, mistletoe, holly wreathes, and Santa Claus.

What a privilege it must have been for the magi to meet the child Jesus. They were from Persia and and traveled far to honor Jesus as a king.
Matthew 2:1-2 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 Judeans? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
The magi were probably followers of Zorastrian teachings of the east. They were not Judeans and yet when they got to Jerusalem looking for the child, the people who should have been in the know about the birth of Christ were not aware of it. Actually, only two groups of people truly knew of the birth of Jesus: the shepherds from the fields and the magi who trekked over desert and mountains to pay respect to a King.

There were people around the Roman Empire at that time who celebrated 'Saturnalia'. It was a winter solstice pagan festival. It was from this culture that holiday trees, raucous celebrating and gift giving as a ritual came from when Christians reached out to the culture in the first century. Hence the evolution of the holiday season.

If you are traveling this season somewhere to be with loved ones or simply staying at home, we can truly rejoice that our path is lit up and plain with a light that not seasonal.  It is the light held up by Jesus Christ because he is the way, the truth and the star by which we can look to handle any desert or mountain in life and even a trip to the mall!  Romans 10:9 and 10 is a good place to park.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sojourning With Grace

As I read through a previous blog post, Desensitization of Evil, I began to think of how evil tries to tamp down on good. We all go through similar things that Abraham experienced. Throughout Abraham's journeys, many blockades were thrown up to get in the way of God's promises. At times he was surrounded by idolaters. He could have been influenced by them.
Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood (the river Euphrates) in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
These gods could have become his gods just as the influences and images around us today can pull us into their snare. We are surrounded by attitudes, popular objects and fads as well as people, causes, world opinions and many other distracting addicting diversions.  We can be effected in two ways.

First we can be drawn in by them as they take up more and more of our time. If an ideological spin is repeated often enough, it starts to take on authenticity. Lines drawn around truth start to blur and lose importance and suddenly everything dims and becomes mundane.

On the other hand, we can be repulsed by them in an irritating way. This also takes away valuable time in our lives. We can get caught up with indignation and lofty judgements that do us anything but good. Sometimes we just need to pray and walk away and leave it at that.
Genesis12:1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 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: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Life involves a series of steps. Sometimes we have to deal with hard stuff. Not every step is surefooted and sometimes we lose our balance, but if our trending is toward the right direction we end up in the right place. In Romans 4 we can see that Abraham ended in the right place in his life despite some frustrations, passage of time, missteps, impatience and misjudgments.
Romans 4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
The story of Abraham is more about what God did for Abraham than what Abraham did for God. His life is an example for us, that is why Abraham's life is recorded. The lesson learned from  his life will always be that God is  our hero.

*note God changed Abrams name to Abraham by adding the 5th letter of the Hebrew alphabet to be the 5th letter of his name. Sarai's name was changed to Sarah in the same way.  The number 5 in the Bible represents grace!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Habakkuk in a Crazy World!

Sometimes things going on in the world really throw us for a loop. If you haven't experienced this lately; turn on the news for one second. Things are insane.  In an effort to understand the current state of affairs, it is great to rely on God for answers.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly (Link) unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Thayer (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) defines boldy as: "freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech openly, frankly, i.e without concealment,without ambiguity or circumlocution, without the use of figures and comparisons, free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance."

A friend of mine is doing a personal study on the book of Habakkuk (It's a small sliver of a book in the old testament that hardly anybody reads or talks about). He recently shared with me some of it's greatness and its application to life. I decided to take a look at it. 

A lot of scholars don't even really know anything about Habakkuk because not much is written about him elsewhere, but he is the one who wrote 'the just shall live by believing' first. (Later on this phrase appears in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38)

His honest, open and respectful heart to God in the first 4 verses is such a great example of Hebrews 4:16:
Habakkuk 1:1The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out (complaint- not just for himself but all who have to put up with the evil going on around them) unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!Why dost thou shew me iniquity (ugh!), and cause me to behold grievance? (injustice) for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.Therefore the law is slacked (numbed), and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
Habakkuk is a great read if you have questions about the crazy world! There is nothing new under the sun! God listens and answers and at the end of the book Habakkuk says:
3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord (Yahweh God in relationship with man), I will joy in the God (Elohim- mighty God) of my salvation. 19 The Lord God (Yahweh, Adonai- God as overlord) is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. 
God is our sure-footedness in these strange and mind-numbing times. His Word elevates us to the high places with balanced wholeness and we can certainly rejoice and benefit from our mountaintop view!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Desensitization to Evil

Why was Lot so reluctant to leave Sodom before its destruction? It is hard to answer that question.
II Petert 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
 God calls Lot 'just' and 'righteous' in II Peter. He certainly was bothered by the things going on around him.  He was vexed by unlawful deeds, yet he continued to live there.

Think about what surrounds us today.  We are constantly barraged by ungodly issues.  There is nothing new under the sun. All one has to do is to look at what is presented to us on TV. Cable news runs practically non-stop and they for the most part, promote liberal ungodly agendas. Movie channels deliver soap opera type movies all day long. Profanity, nudity and violence dominate the story lines. Reality shows are popular, even though they are not true reality. "They" say we live in a changing world. Truthfully the world has not changed much. Good is still good and evil is still evil. Both can effect us.

We can start to become desensitized to evil if we are not careful. It can be gradual. The more we are exposed to it, the less serious its violations seem. In Lot's world he still had a choice and at some point he became accountable for his choice. While Abram (Lots uncle) developed character in believing the wonderful promises of God, Lot was looking at cave dwelling after escaping the ruin of Sodom.  Neither of these men were perfect, they differed in the focus and direction of their attention.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Life's a Beach?

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting on a beach early in the morning looking out over the horizon.  I love the salty air smell and the intermittent sqawks from the gulls. It is so quiet, majestic and humbling and so very peaceful. In a few short hours however, the beautiful sea could be transformed into an enemy and cause great chaos and damage. Insurance companies place the label "an act of God" to describe the force behind the damage.  Raging seas are certainly not "an act of God", just as quiet beach contemplation really isn't salvation. Whether it's the ocean or beautiful mountains and scenery, this verse in Jeremiah puts things in perspective:
Jeremiah 3:23 Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.
The rulership of this world and how it functions is not under God's control. Good and evil co-exist on this planet. God is certainly the creator of the heavens and the earth, but something else exists in this world that seems to drive to topple God's creation and cause depravation instead of abundance. God's solution to it's effect is set in the central theme of Genesis in chapter 3:
In Genesis 3:14-15 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 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. (The use of the word 'seed' in Genesis is interesting. It is used 59 times. No other book of the Bible uses it that much.)
In Genesis, God wrote about His son who would come and provide the salvation necessary for man to survive and abound in this world and eventually to have access to eternal life with Him. Salvation requires a choice.  Free-will choice is a just provision of God. He doesn't push us, he simply laid it all out in the life of His son.

God is spirit, we can't see Him, but throughout ages he has given His spirit (the very essence of what he is) and laid it upon certain men and women in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament that essence is available by choice to every human being. It takes up residence internally in man now and is not conditional like it was in the Old Testament. We have the choice to become of God's seed and in doing so become enmity to worldly seed. Our heels get  bruised when we yield to the worldly influences, but it doesn't have to effect our head. We have access to God by remembering what he has written in His Word or by reading it. We can pray with the spirit or with our understanding and the raging seas are quieted. I don't even have to run to a beach to get that. It can be accomplished anywhere even in the middle of utter chaos.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Brother's Keeper?

Do you remember the first time you heard the Cinderella story? Being in the stage of life that I now am in, I have seen many versions of the story and each version seems to take on the flavor of the culture.

Sometimes people look at the Adam and Eve story as an old story and have trouble relating the idyllic agrarian culture of that time and its events. Regardless of culture, ethnicity, race and time frame, the Adam and Eve record is about two human beings and their relationship with God. Whether Adam was black, white, middle eastern, farmer, immigrant or even right-brained or left brained, he was human and subject to the free-will choice nature God gave him. The same humanness is played out over and over today and it is displayed in every decision we choose to make.

When God  said "Where art thou?" to Adam after he had been deceived, Adam came out of hiding and told God the truth.  When God asked Cain, "Where is Abel?" He responded,  "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" This is a very arrogant rhetorical question that exposes his evil thinking. God knows Cain is lying and that he had murdered own his brother. Cain threw his own guilt back on God.

"Am I my brother's keeper?" That is a relevant question today. I truly believe from reading the Bible through and through that God's desire for His people is strength, power and confidence. Regardless of culture, Psalm 121 is true today:
121:1  I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? (Nope! Pagan gods were worshiped in the hills.)
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. (You don't have to wake God up!)
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Type and Anti-type

E.W. Bullinger in his book, Figures of Speech Used In The Bible describes a figure called 'Type'. His definition is: "A figure or ensample of something future and more or less prophetic, called the 'Antitype'." A figure of speech is a literary figure that draws your eye to something important. The 'Type' is not an exact match-up, it is a simple illustration or shadow of something to come. Melchizedek is an example of a 'Type'.

Melchizedec is found in the Bible in three locations. Genesis 14:18-20 (his name used 1x), Psalm 110:4 (1x) and Hebrews 5-7 (9x). In the first location in Genesis, Abraham is greeted and blessed by Melchizedec when he returned victoriously from a war with four kings who tried to take over an area of smaller kingdoms. Abraham rescued his nephew Lot, who had been taken captive during the battle. Melchizedek was a high priest and the King of Salem. Since 'Salem' means peace, he is also called the King of Peace. In Hebrew 7, Melchizedec is called the King of Righteousness. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedec out of respect for his position as the high priest of a priesthood that was different from the Levite priesthood that would form in later generations in Israel.

Abraham was the great-grandfather of Levi (Hebrews 7:6-10) who later, was the head of a tribe that served as Hebrew priests of Israel. Levites were servants of God who worked from age 25 to 50 as teachers of the law. Some of them were priests. None of them were kings. Their positions were inherited. (Check out Hebrews 7:3) The Levites were paid tithes from the other tribes for their support. The Levite's priesthood was to the one nation of Israel.

There is a lot in these records that are a shadow or 'type' of the priesthood of Jesus Christ after the order of Melchizedec. What caught my eye when I was reading the Genesis 14 record was that Melchizedec brought forth 'bread and wine' to Abraham as he returned from the war.  My mind immediately thought of Jesus Christ's last supper and the bread and wine analogies, prior to his once and for all sacrifice. Levites sacrificed yearly for the sins of Israel. It was not a permanent sacrifice. Jesus Christ's sacrifice would mean a new covenant for Israel.

In reading all these sections of scripture, I can see that Melchizedec was certainly not Jesus Christ, but he might have been an illustration to the Judeans to help in their transition as traditional, religious Hebrews of the early Christian church to the new covenant.
Hebrews 7:15-22 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Presence of Something Else

“God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God. Albert Einstein

In the King James Version of the Bible, there is an interesting verse that people could very easily attribute evil to God.

Isaiah 45:7
I form (yatsar) the light, and create (bara) darkness: I make (asah) peace, and create (bara) evil: I the LORD do (asah) all these things.

In Isaiah 45:7 the word 'form' is the word 'yatsar' and according to Jamieson-Fausset-Brown it means to make something out of something pre-existing. The word 'create' means to derive something from nothing. It is an interesting use of words. The word for evil is 'ra' and it refers to calamity, distress, adversity and disaster. There is a lot to look at in this verse and its immediate context.

In the beginning God created the earth. When it became without form and void, He put it back together by saying: 'Let there be light'. He restored the pre-existing matter. Darkness is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of light.  God is not evil nor does he cause evil. When God is absent by man's freewill choice, he is subjects himself to the nothingness of something else. That is the way the world is.  The way to dispel darkness is to turn on the light. The way to dispel evil is to turn to God.

I Corinthians 1-2 contains an interesting record comparing the wisdom of the world to the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 2:6-9 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Looking back to Genesis, it is interesting to reflect why God warned Adam and Eve about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They lived in the presence of God in the garden.  When they decided to ignore God's warning and turn to someone else's wisdom, the lights went out and disaster was the result. They bumped into all sorts of calamity. God did not bring the problems. They were caused by the presence of something else.

Physical light is such a simple way to illustrate God. In a totally dark room one has to grope and move about with tentativeness and caution. Bumping into things is expected. The minute even one ray of light enters, things get better.  God is the overcomer of darkness.

The second Adam, Jesus Christ, is God's solution to the misery of this world that was inevitable because of the actions of the first Adam.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freedom of Speech and 'Babeling'

In Genesis 10:8-10, there is a record about Nimrod, a great grandson of Noah born after the flood.
And (Noah -> Ham -> Cush -> Nimrod) begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before (in the face of) the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before (in the face) the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar."
Nimrod was a 'mighty man' and loved it. He became quite powerful and settled in the land of Shinar.  E.W. Bullinger, in Apendix 28 of the Companion Bible, Josephus (Ant. Jud. i. c. 4. 2) says of Nimrod :"Nimrod persuaded mankind not to ascribe their happiness to God, but to think that his own excellency was the source of it. And he soon changed things into a tyranny, thinking there was no other way to wean men from the fear of God, than by making them rely upon his own power."

Nimrod was a very powerful man. Cities are convenient for totalitarian-like governments desiring  control over and dependency of the people. it was a perfect set-up for Nimrod.
Genesis 11:1-4 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar (Babylonia); and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
The Tower of Babel construction project was based on human pride as was Cain's offering. God was not blessed by it. The unity that developed was not good. When we think of the word 'unity' we usually see it as a positive force. However, unity for the wrong reasons and out of alignment with God's heart towards man, can be very evil and not easily restrained. Here in Genesis we see the first record of big government.
Genesis 11:5-9And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
God's instruction to Noah was to replenish the earth (Genesis 9:7), not hunker down. Control, fear and the building of religious edifices was not what He had in mind. Their actions resulted in a scattering abroad and a confounding of their language. Uh oh! What about freedom of speech? People have their own free will choice to say whatever they want, but  it is wise to remember that words can be used to promote good or evil.

We live entwined in systems of the world that can trace its footprints of pride and power in the records of the cities of Cain and Nimrod. There is nothing new under the sun today.
Psalm 63:11But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Anger of Cain

The record of Cain in Genesis reveals some sad details of the fallen nature. When Adam and Eve got into trouble about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a chain of events started that allowed evil to gain a foothold within the hearts of men. Both Abel and Cain brought offerings to God.  Both carried out a practice showing allegiance to God.  Abel brought his firstlings of his flock and God accepted his gift as an offering from his heart. Cain's offering was from the fruit of the ground produced by his own labor. Cain's offering was not respected by God and Cain got angry. God's discussion with Cain is interesting:
Genesis 4: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
God asked Cain why he was angry and he warned him that his anger unchecked was an opportunity for sin.  Anger in and of itself is not sin. There is such a thing as 'righteous anger' and it would be sin not to react in anger to things that are evil. But we are to be the master of the anger so that it doesn't carry us away. All relationships aren't perfect. We do things that anger others and others do things to anger us. It is inevitable. To let anger seethe and foment is wrong. We must deal with it and 'not let the sun go down on our wrath' (Ephesians 4:6).

God asked Cain why he was angry and Cain's response was indignation and more anger because he was focused on himself. His anger started to control him and it became his master.

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
This is the result of out of control anger and vengeful indignation.

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

How do we deal with injustice so that anger doesn't control us. The other day an incident really hit into my sense of justice. I had all sorts of ideas on how to deal with it. There are many options to taking care of things in a wise as well as unwise manner, but I decided to give it to God and asked Him to show me the best way. God is a God of peace and solutions are right up His alley, we just have to have patience (and I'm not talking about swallowing it- repressed anger is the worst!). We believe that He can show us the best route, and He does!   The resulting action could be like the example of Jesus Christ and the money-changers or it may be as simple as giving a soft answer. It is His call. Cain wanted to call the shots so it ended badly for him. He ended up being the earliest designer of a very ungodly worldly system.

God is a wellspring of peace, love and restoration. For people who love God and respect his way, these opportunities are an excellent way to see how big God's heart is to us.  When listen to Him and respond, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of how loving our Father truly is when we let Him work with our heart! This is the effective use of anger!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

God Bless America

1 Samuel 12 

And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.

And Samuel said unto the people, It is the Lord that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.
Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the Lord of all the righteous acts of the Lord, which he did to you and to your fathers.
When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.
And when they forgat the Lord their God, he sold (idiom of permission) them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them.
10 And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.
11 And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.
12 And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the Lord your God was your king.
13 Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you.
14 If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God:

19 And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.
20 And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart;
21 And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
22 For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people.
23 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
24 Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Listening is More Than An Art

One morning right when I woke up, I had an 'aha' experience on something I wanted to pursue in the Bible. Then the radio alarm went off and my mind shifted towards other things. Later  my first thought of the day in all of its richness became a fleeting thought. The same thing happened this morning, only this time I sat down immediately with my coffee in one hand and pen in the other, and wrote down all the details. Then things started to really roll and I was entwined with several things to look up in the Word.

Both times God was answering prayers on questions I had. The first time I was too busy, but the next time I was determined to listen. Listening is an art in communication between two people. Between a person and God, communication is more than an art. It is a very real reality that is something to fight for (martial arts? Hi-ya!). The noise of life which includes, fears, condemnation, apathy, opinions, doubts, religious ritual chatter and many other things can cloud our thinking. You can't hear God in a crowded mind.

I fellowship with God-lovers on a daily basis and it is pure joy.  I have nothing really valuable to contribute to another person when I don't keep my listening relationship with God white hot. When I listen to Him, I am better able to listen to others and see God working in their lives also. That is what 'praising God and having favor' (Acts 2:47) together is all about.
I John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
God's love is infectious when we share it with others. A couple of months ago, a friend told me that a great opportunity had opened up at work that it was a great benefit to his family. As I listened, I recognized it immediately as God at work and an answered prayer. It was a great conversation loaded with thankfulness! We remind each other of God's incredible love and the results are compounded!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pray Without Ceasing! It's Exciting!

 One of the most freeing moments in my life was when I found out that prayer was not a repetitive, memorized, knee-crunching activity that was more like a job than a joy. Common misconceptions of prayer engender a boring, tedious and unresponsive prayer life. I can understand why people have to be reminded to pray.

Prayer is active, ongoing, exciting and peaceful. It is something to look forward to, and maintains ongoing peace. There is a constant parade of stressful situations in our lives looming around every corner. This world is far from perfect because God is not running it. People who know God and are on talking terms with the Father of all good, however, can change the world's effects.
Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
 The Greek word from which the word 'prayer' is translated from (especially prayer to God) is 'proseuche'. Koine Greek is very expressive. The first part of that word 'pros' means 'face to face' or 'together with'.  The rest of the word means 'desire' or 'want'.  When we are face to face with God with the desires of our heart, we learn that He is all good and loves us beyond anything we could imagine.  It becomes pure joy to look at His answers. Prayer is a simple and continual conversation.

Recently I was praying about a specific situation I had a picture in my mind of holding up a platter  to God upon which rested all the things I was thinking. God cleaned off the platter immediately and replaced everything a beautiful answer to sit back and enjoy.  I could sense an excitement in how the prayer was answered. God does get excited!  There are other times answers don't come as fast. It is God's business how He answers. Peace is immediate, the rest of the answer may not be. I had another experience a couple weeks ago involving a prayer that had been around on my plate for a long period of time. The answer just dropped unexpectedly out of the blue. It was no big dramatic moment. God is full of surprises.

We don't have to wear out our knees, whine, beg or bargain when we pray. We can pray for everyone and everything with genuine thanksgiving. We can pray for family, friends, enemies, good weather, bad weather, our country (I Timothy 2:2) or whatever else is on our minds. We just grab the peace and run with it desiring  His "will be done on earth as it is in heaven!"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Unbelief -Deal With It!

There is a great record in Mark 9 when Jesus was asked to heal a man's son.
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
24And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Verse 24 says the man reacted straightway or immediately. Just reading what the man said about believing and unbelieving appears confusing. In Greek there are two words in the New Testament for unbelief: apeitheia and apistia. Apeitheia is an obstinate opposition to something, whereas apistia is a word meaning distrust, lack of faith, weakness in faith. (Apeitheia and apistia link). In this record the word for unbelief is apistia.

The father said he believed but evidently something was holding him back. It wasn't an adamant refusal to believe God, it was a lack of faith or trust. He did say he believed, yet he knew he didn't fully trust God in every area of his life. So he asked for help. He dealt with his weakness in believing.

It is a great lesson to learn to say "Lord I believe, help my distrust!  The spirit of God doesn't control us. The other god tries to do that. The adversary works throughout the systems of the world to get us hooked  and controlled by  his solutions. His systems and methods surround us. It is in the acknowledgement of where we can obtain help, that brings solutions. By our own free will, we choose to believe God, His word and what He accomplished in Jesus Christ. Our minds become refreshed with love and hope and that brings strength.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
That is the way God designed us.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

God's Best?

Recently I read a preacher's remark telling Christians to ask God to show them His best today. I thought it was an odd statement when I read it.  If God has a best, does He have a worst?  Certainly not.

God is good always. Darkness occurs when there is no light. They don't co-exist. Wherever there is light it can be seen,
John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
James 1:17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

God shows us His best everyday. Are we looking?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I, II, III John

The three letters of John toward the end of the Bible are rich encouragement to the believer. The letters are about fellowship with the Father, Jesus Christ and each other. The Free On-Line Dictionary defines 'fellowship' as:

1. a. The condition of sharing similar interests, ideals, or experiences, as by reason of profession, religion, or nationality
b. The companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms.
2. A close association of friends or equals sharing similar interests.
3. Friendship; comradeship.

John's letters are addressed to Christians, not pagans seeking salvation. He makes this quite clear in
I John 2:21:
21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
When reading all three letters, it is important to keep who this is addressed to in mind.We can be a son of God and be out of fellowship with Him. God wants to have a vital spiritual relationship with us. in 1:3-4 it says:
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
Our joy is to be full! It is one thing to say we are Christian, but it is quite another thing to experience the great pleasure that comes with having an active relationship with God. Throughout these letters, fellowship is the big topic.

 In I John I and II, the word 'abide' is used over and over (actually 26 times). It is an interesting study and substantiates the point of John's letters. 'To abide' in something means to continue in, to stay in or to remain at. Studying God's word enables a person to reach for the 'full joy' of fellowship. It is a continuing process. We remain at it. An appleseed never produced an apple without first producing roots, stems and leaves. It takes time and staying at it. We produce fruit in just the same way. The fruit is a result of our continuing relationship with God.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Yoke's on You!

Matthew 11:29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
These words of Jesus Christ are beautiful!  Somehow for many years I had seen the 'yoke' thing as something hard and sacrificial. The 'learn of me' part really got me to really think through these verses.

A 'yoke' is a bar with two loops hanging down. It was used to bind two oxen together to plow a field. Often farmers would hook up a seasoned ox with a young ox to be trained. That's where the 'learn of me' fits in. Jesus Christ said he was meek (not over-bearing) and lowly (humble). He's a good kind of trainer and one that brings rest! It is a great picture to carry around in our minds as we go about our day!

The kind of religion the pharisees represented had a lot to do with emphasis on works and the law. Galatians 5:1 mentions this yoke of bondage.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage
Jesus Christ narrowed the list to two things: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. In addition, we have the help of the gift of holy spirit. Our work is easy and light.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Corinthians 12,13,14 Gift of Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12 - Describes the operation of the gift of holy spirit
1 Corinthians 13 - Lve of Gd that has been shed abroad in our 
1 Corinthians 14 -  Order and respect at gatherings of believing people

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Philippians 1:15-18 - Christ!

Paul had a great attitude, even when he was imprisoned in Rome. He wrote several important epistles from Rome. In Philippians 1, there is a great section that shows his heart.
Philippians 1:15-18  Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
When someone teaches the truth about Christ regardless of motive, Christ is preached. Two human elements are involved in instruction: the teacher and the student.  Because of the spiritual new nature that resides in a person who loves God, there should  be profit to both teacher and student.  However, if other motives dominate the teacher, the teacher will not himself profit like he should, but the student could still certainly profit if it is the word of God. Reversing the situation, the teacher could teach God's word out of a pure heart and the student could have other motives. In this situation the teacher would profit and the student wouldn't.  This is an important point because God works through and with whomever he can to communicate His Word.  There are many teachers and students and we all are both, but in either function we are responsible for our own actions and heart.

Paul was blessed when people talked about what Jesus Christ accomplished. Many people are impressed by famous degrees, great names and organizations. I have read tons of books on religion throughout my life, but it is the name of Jesus Christ that really brings my heart into communion with God. Paul's life was changed when he met Jesus Christ, so has mine.

There is no one organization that has the corner on truth. There are some 38,000 Christian denominations reported today and they don't all agree. What we do have is the 'head' Jesus Christ, the word of God and the gift of holy spirit. When one confesses Jesus as Lord, he becomes a part of the body of Christ and when the body is united with the head everyone involved profits! This is how the true church is supposed to work.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ephesians 6:13-15

Life is challenging, but God has provided the way for us to stand despite challenges. Ephesians 6 is full of great learning to be tapped. It is pretty obvious everything on earth is not all peachy. Ephesians 6:13-15 has some sound advice:
Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 
First, having one's mind wrapped in truth brings great freedom. All contests start in the mind. When truth inhabits the mind, endless doubts and fears are settled. Indecision, worry, endless questions do not bring strength to our hearts, they undermine it. We get truth from God's word and God's word has all of life's answers.

Second, having the protection of righteousness keeps the pipeline open for God's perfect solution.  Having God's righteousness is the only kind of "rightness" to have. Many Christians know a lot of truth but without righteousness, it is ineffectively applied.  Righteousness is given to us because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  His sacrifice took away our "wrongness'. We didn't earn it, we just accept Jesus Christ as Lord and believe that he was raised up by God for our wholeness. It's a tall order because man wants to fix himself and feels condemnation when he fails. We don't have to feel condemned, that's been done away with. We just need to believe what's been provided and be thankful for the spirit of God that has been given to us. We have access to God!

If we have the truth and we boldly believe in God's righteousness in our lives, we have preparedness that springs forth from true peace, the third endowment. Peace promotes clarity and timeliness. We are resilient to the bumps and unevenness on the path of life.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Did God Really Say That?

Adam and Eve had it all: paradise and a wonderful relationship with a loving Father. So why did they mess up?  It all boiled down to a question: "Did God really say that?" The same thing is true today and that question has been the same stumbling block throughout the entire history of human existence.

If we look at history starting with the garden of Eden, this question has continued to rise front and center in all cultures and societies.  Cain's offering to God from the 'fruit of the ground' when God had said the ground was cursed is another example of someone questioning what God said.
Genesis 3:17 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;
There are plenty of examples throughout the Bible and beyond all through history. That question surrounds us everyday on TV, in newspapers, in books, magazines and from other sources of the 'fruit of the ground'.

God gave us two ears and two eyes, two nostrils, two hands, but only one mouth.  Hearing, observation, and even the sense of smell and touch are abilities for receiving information. We also have been given spiritual abilities. God has given us every opportunity to know Him. Man's problem is not his equipment. His problem comes with what he pays attention to. Eve listened to God's opponent. Every human being has the right to listen to whomever he or she wants. Free-will choice is a gift of God.

Just type in the word 'God' on a Google search. The results would be very confusing with all the many different beliefs. Study the Crusades, religious wars, and councils (start with the Council of Jerusalem in the book of Acts and  read about some of many councils that came after the Bible was written) to see the 'Did God really say?' question pop up over and over. I really struggled with who to believe, what to believe or what was actually true. What I finally decided after just simply reading the Bible for myself, was that it is very simple to see God's love and that God is bigger than that question. God provided us with so much in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have known and read many teachers of the gospel and have come to the conclusion that there isn't any one person or organization that really has a monopoly on truth both doctrinally and practically. But God, who is spirit, does for us just as he did in Jesus Christ. This same spirit that was in Jesus Christ is in us and communicates to us. We can have the truth!

Look at the words Jesus Christ spoke in John 16:13-15:
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
When we read God's word believing for understanding, the spirit of God can help us. I can learn from other people, but the assurance and confidence in the truth comes from a prayerful inner heart.
Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
When the "Did God really say?" question arises don't give up on the Bible. Read it and refuse to be anxious. The answers will be coming.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Why is the Mystery So Important?

Living the mystery is a way of life.  The doctrinal basis of the mystery lies in the Pauline epistles, but what does it mean or look like when people get together or live life together according to the New Testament. Paul wrote in Ephesians 3 about his stewardship of what God had him write about and what he was to help people see:
 Ephesans 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ (the oldest manuscripts omit this last phrase 'by Jesus Christ'): 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.  
13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Paul was not mentioned in the book of Acts in the beginning. There was a big transition in thinking after the day of Pentecost and was carried on throughout the book of Acts. The transition took place over time and developed. Paul explained it's significance to our lives in his epistles. Jesus Christ is the central example. By his faith we have access to God and knowledge of what true love is all about. That is what is the basis of our relationship with others.

EW Bullinger in his Companion Bible translated verse 18:

18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of love is; (God's love in Christ)
The Christian walk is a strengthened walk.  God fully intended that each of us would be empowered. God is no respector of persons. In the first century, the church was made up of people from all walks of life. Opportunity excluded no one. The wall of elitism was torn down with the veil of the holy of holies.  There is only one mediator between God and man and that was Jesus Christ, a man of faith and love.

Each of us is important to the body of Christ. I need other people to rejoice with and share the Word with. The key is to recognize our own personal responsibility in believing God's Word and then having respect for the spirit of God in each other. The true God wants his kids to thrive, anything short of that is not God's will. Christians cannot be passive to their spiritual responsibility to seek God and recognize the God-appointed Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ's example is huge. I love to look at what he did in the four gospels, his beautiful leadership style, his heart for God, his love for truth. Truth is love because it sets us free. That is big time gigantic love when we share it with each other!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recipe For Fruitfulness

I Peter 1:3-8 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add (Link - epichoregeo- furnish a chorus) to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Recipe for Fruitfulness
Ingredients to add:
Start with faith - believing

  • Virtue - quality, spiritual excellence
  • Knowledge - clear and precise understanding
  • Temperance - self-control
  • Patience - enduring, remaining after others have gone
  • Godliness - a true vital relationship with God (link - eusebeia)
  • Brotherly kindness - brotherly love, love of the brethren
  • Charity - the love of God

Stir with diligence (haste in earnestness)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Presence of God

The biggest thing to remember when reading God's word is that God wants us to know him!
James 1:5 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.
This is an important point to understand about the designer of the universe! Job found it out when God showed him His omnipotence as recorded in the later chapters of the book of Job.  Job responds by saying "I am vile." in Job 40:4. The word 'vile' is the Hebrew word 'qalal' which meant light, not weighty rather than immoral (Old Testament Word Studies) God explained to Job what He was all about.  Job expressed his own lightness, insignificance with respect to the power of God.

God and love are synonymous. If we approach him with an expecting peaceful heart we get answers. Even when we are unpeaceful, he comes through as a loving Father as we depend on Him. Condemnation should never prevent us from laying out our hearts before God.  Job's heart was set at rest by God's presence as ours is when we fully acknowledge Him in our lives.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Freedom From Sinister Design

A little suitcase like a brick, 
It kinda makes it hard to get a good grip
Miranda Lambert - 'Baggage Claim'

Giving from motivation energized by God is so ..... I just can't find the words to describe it!
II Corinthians 9:8-11 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work; (As it is written (Psalm 112:9), He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor (Gr. penes- working for a living): his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth [epichoregeo link] seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase" the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
Bottom line? Thanksgiving to God!

Man tends to carry a lot of baggage around with him. He just can't put it down. Natural man is full of drama and complications left to his own imagination. It saps and drags on him. Then when around others who are willing participants, he gives, trades and unloads with them. The sinister creeps in.

Up above where it says 'being enriched in everything to all bountifulness', bountifulness (haplotes link) refers to freedom from sinister baggage. If people are willing to throw away the baggage claim, and then where two or three are gathered, things turn out spectacular! True and righteous living comes from God. It is choreographed by God and there is complete freedom.

* haplotes - see Numbers in Scripture on above tab 'Bible Tips' pretty gorgeous!