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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lamentations Bring Rejoicing

The book of Lamentations is a short book having only 5 chapters written by or, at least attributed  to, the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is called "the weeping prophet" because of his messages which focus on the sins of Israel and God's judgment on Jerusalem and and the subsequent captivity by Babylon.

The messages are set as poems using an acrostic style in which each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 all have 22 verses- one verse for each letter of the alphabet, and chapter 3 has 66 verses with each letter getting three verses.

All the chapters describe the destruction of the city called her the "Virgin Daughter Jerusalem." Sometimes the descriptions are personalized and the lament is cast in the first person. Chapter 3 opens with this cry of pain:
I am the man who has seen affliction
    by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.(NIV)

Chapter 2:1 describes God as the avenger:
How the Lord has covered Daughter Zion
    with the cloud of his anger!
He has hurled down the splendor of Israel
    from heaven to earth;
he has not remembered his footstool
    in the day of his anger.(NIV)

The destruction of Jerusalem came from invaders but the punishment is accorded as just punishment for sins committed by Israel with Jerusalem as the errant daughter whose sins have been revealed. The metaphors are graphic and painful.
"Should women eat their offspring
the children they have cared for?"
Jeremiah does not name the attacker as the enemy nations, but only that God has brought this vengeance.
"“Young and old lie together
    in the dust of the streets;
my young men and young women
    have fallen by the sword.
You have slain them in the day of your anger;
    you have slaughtered them without pity.(NIV)

All 5 chapters of Lamentations are filled with the pain and sorrow of the punishment that befell Judah and Jerusalem. It is also a place to review personal sins and failures and view personal punishment not connected with Jerusalem. Righteousness is still God's standard and repentance is still God's requirement.
These verses from Chapter 3 promise God's constant love:
31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What is the Key to Spiritual Success?

How do people become spiritual? What practice or discipline is required for us to be close to God? Is there a secret to getting the "shotgun" position?

John 14:23  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Lots of teachers and leaders have some ritual that is supposed to make you more obedient and give you that special trick to become spiritual and blessed by God. Don't put too much stock in those gimmicks. There are reading programs that prescribe how many chapter you should read a day or how many verses. It may give you a program that will keep you on track to read the Bible in 90 days or a year, but that's all it will do unless you add something to the mix. You will be able to brag that you have read the Bible all the way through; You may glean some facts you didn't know before, but to become spiritual is more than facts and bragging rights.

Jesus was sensitive to this problem. In the Upper Room teaching he gave the Disciples before he was taken into custody by the officials, he gave them a way to evaluate their own progress in the spiritual realm. He said the mark of love is obedience to his word. It's not a slavish, nit-picking, subservient obedience, but one in which we rejoice to read his word and immerse ourselves in its truths. Our obedience comes as a continuation of the reading. Reading the words of Jesus and acting on them seals the meaning in the deepest core of our being, and that's where Jesus comes with his Father to live with us and in us and to make us like him.

Read the words of Jesus and the words that tell what he did and where he went. Read the Old Testament prophesies that tell what he would do when he came and those in Revelations that tell what he will do at the throne of God. Shape your behavior and your life to fit with his words, and you will begin to experience his nearness and his Father's presence, and you will know that he lives in you and his peace will settle on your life. Circumstances are not the key to a life of peace and joy and fulfillment, but being in love with God and obedient to his word is.
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