Featured Post

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...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Names of God

In the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, many names are used to refer to God. This list is short and only speaks to names I have studied and used. There are 72 names cited by some scholars and even that is conservative. Sometimes there is a story that goes with the name and may indicate why it is used.
     1. Elohim is translated as God and is the first name of Diety. In            Hebrew it is plural in form, but singular in meaning. This                  implies the Trinity.(Genesis 1:1)
     2. Jehovah--YHWH--God--I AM--The Self Existent One.                    (Exodus 3:14)(pronounced Yaw-way)
     3. Adonai--means Lord--Without capitalization, adon or adonai            means master. Adonai with the capitals letters means Master            and is usually translated Lord. (pronounced ah-do-NI)
     4. Adonai Jehovah--Lord God--This title incorporates elements           of both words, but focuses more on the Adonai.                               5. Shaddai generally means the strengthener and satisfier.                    (Genesis 17:1)
      6. El means God and is used in other words to mean represent            God-Daniel means God is my judge; Gabriel means strength            of  God;Israel means wrestles with God.
     7. El Elyon is translated Most High or Most High God. (Genesis         14:18-19)
     8. El Olam means the Everlasting God--(Genesis 21:33) The             Hebrew word means hid or hidden and refers to time. It                   emphasizes the eternal duration of the Being of God. It also             presents the hidden or mysterious elements of his nature. He             is everlasting and He is the God of everlasting things. 
  
The next collection of Names of God emphasize his sovereignty in special circumstances and may be a comfort to us when we have a need of an extreme nature.

  1. Jehovah Elohim--God is creator and moral authority over man.
  2. Jehovah Jireh--The Lord will provide.(Genesis 22:8)
  3. Jehovah Nissi--The Lord my banner.
  4. Jehovah Rapha--The Lord who heals 
  5. Jehovh Sabaoth--This title refers to God's Supreme command of warriors, the hosts of Heaven.
  6. Jehovah Shalom--God our peace
  7. Jehovah Shammah--The Lord is present
  8. Jehovah Tsidkenu--The Lord our righteusness
  9. Lord of hosts-Commander of the warriors or soldiers of Heaven.
It is a blessing and an aid to Bible study and your prayer life to recognize the names and description of God in the scriptures. Learn to recognize Him and His ways, His depth and dimension, and the names He answers to.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Did You Have a Question? Cain

English: Cain and Abel; as in Genesis 4; illus...
English: Cain and Abel; as in Genesis 4; illustration from the Sunrays quarterly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
     The Bible asks a few questions, and the answers are available to those who search with open heart and open mind.
In Genesis 4 God posed questions to Cain after he and Abel had offered sacrifices to God. The questions came to Cain because his offering was not accepted by God. Abel's offering was accepted, and that gave Cain a reason to be angry. His vengeance was directed at Abel, and he killed him. 
     No rules or laws are recorded to explain the sacrifices and offerings, but, in hindsight, we say that Cain brought an offering of produce from his crops and Abel brought a blood sacrifice of his flocks. Analyzing the offerings in light of the Law of Moses, we now say that Cain was proud of his offering saying look, "Look what I produced." Abel in humility slaughtered his best stock as a sacrifice to God.  The difference was not explained in scripture before the death of Abel. Did Cain and Abel know the meaning of sacrifice? Now we know that bragging before God is not wise and does not bring forgiveness or blessing. Cain lived a long and painful life to prove this lesson. We will do well to learn it without the experience of Cain.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Neheimiah- The Rest of the Story

Destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonian ...
Destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonian rule. Illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Neheimiah is the second part of the story of the Jews' return from Babylonian captivity. Ezra directed the beginning of the return with the rebuilding of the wall and repair of the Temple. Neheimiah was the govenor put in charge when the initial stages were completed.

Neheimiah recounts some similar accounts of the census and proof of blood lines and the opposition from those who had not been taken to Babylon. He says they worked with the tools but kept a weapon with them to defend their work. He lists some of the accomplishments naming the gates that were completed. During the rebuilding of the Temple, they discovered a scroll that had been lost in the destruction. Chapter 8 discusses the importance of this discovery.  

There is argument between historians and theologians about whether Ezra and Neheimiah lived during the same time or whether these events took a longer period of time. I would like to get some idea of the time frame, however, I don't want to get bogged down in a historical argument when my purpose is to understand the message this event has for modern readers.

I love the description of the reading of the scroll in Chapter 8. By this time many of the exiles had returned. They assembled in the square before the Water Gate; men, women and all who could listen with understanding stood and listened. Ezra, the scribe,  brought the scroll out and read it and the people listened attentively. He stood on a high wooden platform and other scribes, priests and Levites stood with him. As he read some of the Levites were explaining the meaning so that all could understand.

They stood and listened from daybreak till noon. The people said "Amen, Amen," with raised hand. Then they bowed and worshiped. Neheimiah and Ezra said to them, "This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not morn or weep." For all the people were weeping.
Then he said to them "Go and eat the good food and drink the sweet drink, and send portions to those who have nothing." They began to celebrate and rejoice for they understood the law and some wept. 
He said, "Do not grieve because your strength comes from rejoicing in the Lord."

The next day they celebrated the Festival of Booths. Subsequently, in Chapter 9 they declared a National Day of Confession of Sin. The rest of the Book of Neheimiah gives details of the resettling and renewal of worship and Neheimiah's reforms.

Don't make the mistake of dismissing the less well-known books of the Bible as unimportant or dull or uninspiring. There are gems of wisdom and stories of valor and victory in them. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ezra

The Book of Ezra tells an important event in the story of Israel. The story continues in Nehemiah. Together these two books describe the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall and the Temple after the return from Babylonian captivity. There is much attention given to the genealogies of the men who returned to do the work. They respected the purity of the bloodline because they had been instructed from the time of Moses this was the responsibility of the Jews, and they noted and excluded all who were the children of mixed marriages or those who had married non-Jews.


There may be other reasons for this bias against non-Jews. The Jewish people were asked to help pay for the construction. They gave generously, so the prejudice may have had concern about who would receive the money or who would be responsible for how it was used. Only those Jews from Judea and Jerusalem gave money or valuables. Those from the Northern Kingdom were either not asked or had already refused. This may also relate to the way and reason the citizens of the Northern Kingdom became "lost." If their genealogies were not provable, they would have been excluded because they could not prove their bloodlines.

Chapter 1 of Ezra records the decree of Cyrus to send the Jews back to Judah and Jerusalem to begin reconstructing the walls of the city and the Temple. Cyrus made an inventory of items that were confiscated and brought to Persia and returned them as part of the reconstruct. He also ordered a census of the captives who wished to be part of the project.

Chapter 2 is a record of the Census and the gifts given to support the work. I will not repeat it here.

Chapter 3 reports the restoration of the sacrifices and the priests who conducted the services. Many wept when they saw the Temple foundation laid, but many others rejoiced. The sound of it carried far away.

Chapter 4 describes the opposition to the rebuilding from those who were still in the land, who had not been taken away. There were letters exchanged between this group of citizens and Artaxerxes who ruled in Samaria and the land West of the Euphrates. Artaxerxes supported the rebuilding and work was resumed.

Tattenai, governor of the region west of the Euphrates, challenged the authority to rebuild. The Jews who had not be deported resented the rebuilding efforts and were often counted as the enemies. Some of the enemies were settlers who were neither Jewish nor interested in the integrity of the county or restoration of a stable government.

Ezra oversaw the work and monitored the disputes between the opposing forces. In Chapter 4 Artaxerxes lent his support and the rebuilding was completed and sacrifice was resumed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I Thessalonians 5:18--In Everything Give Thanks

One year, before Thanksgiving, I learned the meaning of giving thanks in everything. The verse doesn't say "Give thanks for everything." It only says to "give thanks in everything." Give thanks in whatever situation you find yourself. Give thanks when the light turns green, but give thanks when it turns red, too. In favorable situations we should give thanks to God and in tragic situations we are still required to give thanks. Bad things happen. I don't feel thankful for them. I had learned that I wasn't giving thanks for the situation, but God's intent for me was that I should give thanks. Everywhere in whatever season and whatever weather. God required me to give thanks to him. My feelings are not the focus of my thankfulness, but God's sovereignty is.

I'm thankful when I realize this is not my problem and God has a better plan that I have. My girls were old enough to memorize and I required them to learn this verse. I called it "the rule." When something happened that overwhelmed me, and I couldn't express thankfulness to God, I would say, "Somebody say the rule." One of them would repeat the verse out loud. Hearing it in real time in the midst of the event would refocus my faith, and suddenly the horrible was just inconvenient. I had another child after this had become my practice. As soon as she was old enough to know her name, she was indoctrinated, and she also became a prod to my conscience and faith.

After some years, I don't remember how many, I read the passage and continued to verse 19. I was astonished that the letters vibrated on the page. It said, "Quench not the Spirit." Boy sometimes the Word really speaks to you. I re-read the passage beginning at verse 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. I read it again. Quench means to pour water on the fire. Don't act in ways that prevent God's Spirit from being active and alive in your situation, especially when it is a bad one. When we accept the facts as they really present themselves and recognize God's power and majesty,  our faith is released for God to take action. When we whine and complain, we restrict God's freedom to act on our behalf. "Quench not the Spirit" became a corollary to The Rule, 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I find it very faith-building to read this whole section often. You may find other points and phrases that spur you on to obedience and faith in your journey with Christ. Underline them or keep a journal. Memorize them. They will sustain you in hard times. Sometimes they may be a bridge to a testimony.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What's Not To Be Thankful For?

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...
English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Israel had lots of commemorative days and festivals and much is written about thanksgiving. I thought one should relate to our celebration of Thanksgiving as a time to give thanks for harvest, a good year, my children, my home, and God's providence. The Bible doesn't record a special day of giving thanks for good harvest or a good year, but many of the feasts include thanksgiving as an element in the festival. The Feast of First Fruits is a time of thanksgiving, but it occurs at the beginning of harvest, so it didn't exactly fit my criteria. First Fruits means they gave the first part of the harvest of every crop in sacrifice to celebrate the abundance they expected. It gave the idea of giving thanks a new meaning to me. It was a statement of faith to give the first part you harvest to God not knowing you would get anymore.

First Fruits was actually third in the yearly celebrations coming on the day after the Sabbath following Unleavened Bread.

Passover was held during the first month of the Jewish year. It commemorated the exit of the Jewish people from Egypt, so giving thanks was inherent in the ceremony. They were thankful for release from bondage. The Festival of Unleavened Bread began the next day and lasted for seven days. It continued the celebration by remembering the wandering in the wilderness and the manna that God provided for their sustenance.

Leaven represented the contamination caused by exposure to the world, other cultures, and mankind's original sin. Most of the bread and  grain offerings were specified to be without yeast, but the feast of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks was celebrated the day following the seventh Sabbath after First Fruits and celebrate the fertility of the land, and the sacrifice includes two loaves of bread made with yeast. I loved this because it indicates God's acceptance of us even with our faults and failures. Passover had been symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus, and First Fruits indicates that God loves us even in our human condition. Originally Pentecost marked the giving of the Law. In the Christian calendar it marks the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Biblical feasts in the fall of the Jewish calendar include  Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and the Feast of Weeks. Christians celebrate these in the Spring or Summer. The Fall celebrations are Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles.  Again, the times are reversed, and in our present calendar, they come in the Spring. 

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...
English: Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Everything Give Thanks

English: Feast of trumpets, as in Numbers 10:1...
English: Feast of trumpets, as in Numbers 10:10, from Henry Davenport Northrop, Treasures of the Bible,' published by International Publishing Company 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My last post in this blog dealt with the first four feasts on the calendar of the Jewish year beginning with Passover and ending with the Feast of Weeks. I'm still looking for references to Thanksgiving. Today I will take up the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Trumpets occurs in September. Trumpets represent a rich tradition in the Bible. The ram caught by his horn in the thicket saved Issac from the blade and gave Abram the son of the promise who would go on to fulfill his destiny.  Joshua sounded the Trumpet at Jericho to signal victory for Israel. The Feast of Trumpets occurs in September which is symbolic for me, at least,with harvest. The priest blew the trumpet to signal the workers it was time to quit work and assemble for worship. For Christians in the Age of Grace. the trumpet represents the end of time, the translation of God's chosen to reward or judgment. For the saved, it is a blessed hope. For the lost, the mere thought of the Trumpet, is a warning.


The Day of Atonement is a most holy convocation. It is the day of confession, the day we recognize and face the times and ways we failed in obedience to the Law. The Day of Atonement does not have a comparative in the Christian calendar. We are called to confession and repentance continually. On the Day of Atonement the Priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the Mercy Seat with the Blood of the Sacrifice, and for that one day the Jewish nation experienced forgiveness and freedom from the burden of sin. As Christians, we claim mercy daily because Jesus died once for all and has removed the hindrance of sin from us. Easter is our Day of Atonement as well as our Passover.

English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a...
English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a goat, as on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; from Henry Davenport Northrop, "Treasures of the Bible," published 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five days after the somber Day of Atonement the most joyous of the Hebrew Holidays begins. It is called the Feast of Booths and celebrates the Jews victory written about in the Book of Esther. Those celebrating lived in lean-to shacks for 7 days to remember the wilderness wandering and to remember crossing the Jordan. The book of Jonah, as well as Esther,  refers to the booths as an event to be remembered and celebrated. Read these stories to celebrate your victories and redemption.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

More About Parables

Jesus used parables a lot. He said things like: The kingdom of God is like unto, and the Bible reader knows a parable is coming. Poets and novelists are fond of parables too, but in popular literature they are called metaphors. The intent of using metaphors is clarity and understanding. Jesus sought to make things plain when he was teaching and training the Disciples. I thought people were sophisticated enough to understand a parable or metaphor, but I was wrong. Jesus was more careful than I was: He said, "to what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with comparison shall we compare it?" It is like a grain of mustard seed...

My parable tried to explain the way Salvation works. I wanted people to understand grace and forgiveness through the metaphor, but they focused on the financial aspect of the metaphor thinking I meant I could buy forgiveness. 

Jesus used lots of parables. I don't think he meant to say we should all plant a mustard seed, but that the kingdom of God grows and shelters like the plant. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, he wanted his hearers to understand the principle of the Father's forgiveness,
his joy at having his son return home, and the offer of love and companionship to the elder son. There are different truths expressed in the parables, but they are not blessed when deliberately distorted by the hearer. In my use and sharing with others, I thought some of the comments were directed at me in criticism to make me appear foolish. Please read "The Credit Card" and you can decide. 
The Credit Card

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Psalms 40 & 41

English: Scroll of the Psalms
English: Scroll of the Psalms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Psalms 40 & 41 are included in the group that are called Messianic Psalms because of their attention to the life and ministry of the Messiah. They are for that reason prophetic. Both are written by David, both record praise for God's deliverance and sustaining grace. In both psalms David switches from first person to third person in the narration and sometimes to second person. Sometimes he addresses God directly. It seems that he is overwhelmed with the magnificence of God's power and presence. 

David may not be aware of the Savior to whom the prophesy points. At the time David confesses his own sin;
I  apply that to the sin Jesus accepted from our repentance. We sinned and he took it to the cross. This is not a concept I found in other literature; it is just the way I take it.

So very much of both psalms is very personal and reveals David's love and trust in God. They also reveal his anguish over the disdain of others and heartbreak from personal attack. 40:5 testifies of David's understanding of the mercy and blessing of God. It is a lesson to us to be aware of God's hand in our lives, too numerous   count. 

In 40:7 David takes up the testimony of Jesus proclaiming in vs. 8: I delight to do you will, my God: Your instruction resides within me.

In 41:12 David says that God "supported me because of my integrity and set me in your presence forever." He ends the chapter with a benediction: May the Lord, the God of Israel be praised from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen.

Read these psalms for yourself and don't depend on the view or another, but learn the lessons and the assurance from them in your own experience. 

This week I have also read them and prayed them for family and friends who were dealing with betrayal and difficulty beyond their control. God is our confidant and support in difficult and trying situations.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Messianic Psalms

A lot of the Book of Psalms is devoted to the life and ministry of Jesus. Even though it was written well before he was born, many Psalms give evidence and prophesies about his life. I have not made a detailed study of biblical experts to compare their findings, but a cursory inspection convinces me that we need to read more in Psalms to understand the personality and mission of Jesus. 

Psalms 22, 23, and 24 are well-known as Messianic Psalms. Psalm 22 shows his agony on the cross from verse 1 to 21. Verse 22 begins a section of praise and reflects his message during the forty days before the ascension.

Psalm 23 is the Shepherd Psalm and details the love he shows for followers.

Psalm 24 is a song of glory and praise to God for his blessings and his providence. Many of the psalms speak of Jesus is some way. I could not find a consolidated list, but I'll keep looking. Psalms 40 and 41 also reflect elements of his life and encourage me to seek him first in times of both trial times and of praise.

Read these and find Christ in them for yourself.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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 talk about events that happened before man was created based of archaeological evidence, but no one was around to record it.  Most of the biblical record was recorded by people who are known to scholars, but some things are found which we don't know how they were witnessed. Some things were viewed by a prophet or reported to a writer who was known to be a messenger of God. Sometimes they were seen in a vision. These we take on faith and trust God's provision.

Isaiah records the overthrow of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12-19, and in Luke 10:18 Jesus testifies that he saw "Satan fall from Heaven like a flash of lightening."

God had advance notice about the assault of Satan and his Demons on mankind and the world, and he provided a remedy in the person and work of Jesus. Satan was doomed by his pride. He sought to out do God, to rise above him and destroy man, but God knew the way to deny him that opportunity. It would cost the life of Jesus in a torturous manner, but as soon as he saw the rise of Satan to challenge his authority, God saw and committed to the plan. Even before he made Adam and Eve, before the world began, God already knew that Satan would strike at Jesus' heel and Jesus would crush his head.(Gen.3:15) In the mind of God Jesus would be victorious even though it would cost his earthly life. There was no search for the One to send for this task. There was only one who would do: It was Jesus, God's only begotten son, the Lamb, sinless and righteous.

Could that have happened in Heaven before the world was created? Perhaps, but it would not have had the witness of mankind. We would not have been able to see the result. I'm glad he chose to make us witnesses of the life and victory of Jesus. I live everyday knowing what he did for me and I rejoice that he made me a participant in his life and ministry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Purpose of Parables

English: "Holyland" brand matzah, ma...
English: "Holyland" brand matzah, machine-made in Jerusalem and purchased at Trader Joes in the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
   Jesus taught using parables. The Disciples asked him why he used this method. Sometimes I wonder, too. Some parables are  hard to understand, but Jesus was insistent on using them. The story of the woman who put yeast in flour sounds simple, but their are depths here that many do not grasp. I have heard it interpreted to mean that the message of the Gospels will permeate the world, but I don't think that is what Jesus meant to say.

Yeast was considered a contaminating influence. Most of the meal offerings were required to be made without yeast. The wave offering and the thank offering were made with yeast because God accepted men with their frailties, but the bread offered at the feasts that required a blood sacrifice must not be leavened (Exodus 23:18). Since a portion of the yeast from previous batch of dough was used to leaven the new dough, it was considered common.

When I made unleavened bread, I read recipes from Jewish cooks and cookbooks. The dough was made quickly because yeast is everywhere, in the air, in the kitchen, on the utensils. From the time liquid touches the flour till it is in the oven cannot be more than 18 minutes. That is how long it takes for the yeast to become active. I had to make dough and roll it out quickly and get it into the hot oven in less than 18 minutes to have true unleavened bread. It was harder when I cooked it in a skillet on top of the stove because I couldn't cook but one of the large flat breads at a time.

Back to the original thought about the use of parables: Jesus may have chosen parables as a method because the image generated in the story is persistent and stays in the mind and heart of the hearer. He wanted his listeners to return to the message in the future, to dwell on it as they went to sleep, to consider it while they worked in the fields or in the kitchen, to uncover the deeper meanings in private moments.
A kind of unleavened bread called "Podpło...
A kind of unleavened bread called "Podpłomyk" in Poland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus quotes Isaiah describing the people as calloused of heart, neither seeing nor hearing nor understanding the teachings of Jesus or the Word of God. He teaches in parables to overcome this block in their minds. Are we still so blind and deaf? Are we missing the message as they did?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another Parable of the Sower

Image of the Sower Parable
Image of the Sower Parable (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the midst of the judgments against the evil God sees in the nations, there is a parable of growth and development. Isaiah 28:23 begins a lesson for God's people to learn about planting and cultivation. He prepares the soil to receive the seed. We sometimes complain about the difficulties we face, the problems that upset our plans, but God wants to use them to make us able and ready to receive seed. He envisions a crop. It may take some plowing to break up the hard soil and to remove weeds or rocks that makes the ground unfruitful. Let him plow: He proposes a crop.

There is also the need to understand the harvest. Different crops require different methods. Some seeds are threshed and some are ground. The method of harvest depends on the use of the final product. Some seeds are use for making bread, and some are added for flavor and appearance. The farmer decides which method is best for each product. We are always subject to God choice and intent. He knows what to expect from us, and he is pleased with his final product.

Isaiah 28:23-29
See also Matthew 13:3-9
Mark 4:3-12
Luke8: 5-15

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Heaven


In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Gen 1:1) Here Heaven refers to the skies with clouds, stars, the sun and moon. It is a physical reality populated by the Firmament referred to in Genesis 1:6. God left nothing to chance. In Psalm 8 The physical forms are very important, but they are not the whole story. Heaven has another meaning. 

Heaven also means the habitation of God in biblical references. It is the place of the afterlife. It is no less a reality than the skies, but the reality is spiritual and unseen by human eyes in this life. I'm afraid we think of Heaven as a place of stasis and abiding peace. Most of the biblical references describe intense activity. Indeed, glory and joy are not silent. The prophet Ezekiel described the scene in Heaven beginning with a whirlwind. He saw four angelic beings that were accompanied by wheels empowered by the Holy Spirit and he heard the voice of God that sounded like the tumult of an army.(Ezekiel 1)

Isaiah's vision describes the majesty of God. He is "high and exalted seated on a throne,"(Isaiah 1) and there are angels in attendance. When the angels call to one another, the sound of their voices shakes the door posts and the Temple is filled with smoke.

Interpreting these grand and exalted images may be difficult requiring research and study, I can't help but think it will be worth the effort. I want to know what heaven looks like and what I will see there. I do plan on taking the trip.

There will be other posts on this subject.

   

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How Should We Honor God?

Nations pay tribute with ceremonies and statues. Sometimes they honor an individual by naming a day for them. The military parades are always rousing and exciting. Sometimes we pay tribute by naming a school or a public building for them. We may honor a hero by naming a child for him or her. 

But how do we honor God? We say we witness and testify and evangelize in the name of our Savior. Sometimes we put on a big event to mark the day, but God wants us to quit bragging about what we are doing and just do it. Why do we have to have a day for that or mark it on the calendar. Why don't we just do it? Why don't we just tell a neighbor or a friend about the grace of God without the publicity. Can it be a natural part of our language? We tell them about the sale at the grocery store and about the storm that destroyed our roof. Can't we just say we have a Lord that loves us and live like he does? Are we afraid to be an individual? It seems like it's O.K. to invite people to go to Church as long as it's the in-thing, but to invite someone we don't know to go to a Church where we don't know all the members may be challenging.

Let's look at honoring God one more time from the perspective of putting him first and let us just be one the bunch. Make your witness an expression of joy and don't be afraid of what "they" will say. I'm trying to practice this more. Join me. It may be trending!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

God's Righteous Right Hand

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 3:1)

 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 40:31) 


It thrills me to find scriptures that support each other, that probe deeper in God's word and reveal more of his intent and purpose for us. 

I'm not trying to make a patch-work quilt, but when the Bible addresses an issue, I want to learn all I can about it. Jesus sat down in Heaven at the Right Hand of God. At the time the New Testament was written, Paul and the other writers were sensitive to the value placed on the right hand. Left-handedness was considered sinister and certainly Jesus was seated in the most favorable position. The verse expands on the meaning saying that Jesus is the exact representation of God's radiant glory.

Isaiah gives a command not to fear and then he says why we should not be fearful. In the KJV the command is more forceful. I also like the chanting quality the King James translations gives the passage when it repeats the "I" phrases: I am with you, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you. There is also a power component in the last phrase "...uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

Take his words and his placement of Jesus as your own promise of your place in Jesus. In Him. We are IN HIM. We are not weak or fearful in him. We are at his Right Hand with Jesus. Claim your place and yield to his proclamation.   

Monday, July 27, 2015

Psalm 8 __In Praise of the Glory and Power of God

I know modern society and commentators challenge the Bible's authority and deny the power of a benevolent God. Scientific interpretation constantly explains or disproves biblical claims of God's authority. We are besieged on every side, as Paul says, but it is still a comfort and solace to read scriptures like the 8th chapter of Psalms and consider the creation as God's blessing for humanity.

David is the writer of this Psalm. He was acquainted with nature as a herdsman, he viewed the land and plants and animals when he was alone in the fields. He recognized mankind's supremacy under God's authority to use the animals and their contributions to life. He valued them as God intended them for our use.

He also questions the supremacy of man in the creation. What is man that God considers him? Man is the creature that communicates with God with conscience and care. The animals are subject to instincts and are not required to be moral or decent. Man has a responsibility to the rest of his race and the creation in which he is the master. Moreover, he has a responsibility to God for his own behavior. David gives us a model to follow: We are to acknowledge God and obey his commands.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? And yet we see failure on every venue. Look again: We have an opportunity to be what God has called us to be every time. Try it one more time. Be that man or that woman God calls you to be. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Psalms Examined

The Book of Psalms is the historic hymn book of the Jewish people. Many of the Psalms give instruction for the musical accompaniment. Many of Psalms give information about the composition: what incident it commemorates and some lend themselves to textual analysis to prove what was happening at the time. Psalms that refer to the Messiah, his life, reign, sacrifice, or death are called Messianic Psalms. Of course, these would be prophetic since Jesus' birth is still in the future. This is a new role for David. He is a poet, a military leader, a king with a crown, and may also be included as a prophet due to his writings about Jesus.

There are other writers recognized in Psalms. Moses wrote Psalms 91, Solomon wrote some and David wrote many and Psalm 5 is one of those. David calls on God to hear his prayer because he is comes to God every morning and seeks his direction. He knows that God abhors evil and he calls on him to guide his way because his enemies are corrupt and devious.

He asks God to destroy them and make their own wickedness turn against them. He acknowledges that God is faithful to those who put their trust in him.

Let those who put their trust in God rejoice. God will bless the righteous. God will make his favor a shield to surround those who trust in him with righteousness.

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Studying the Psalms

The book of Psalms is divided into five books. Theologians and scholars practiced in textual analysis seek cohesion and commonality within the five books, but I haven't found anything yet that seems significant.

Perhaps the five books of Psalms are intended to echo the five books of the law. Some Bibles note the books. They are as follows: Book I--Psalms 1-41
Book II Psalms 42-72
Book III Psalms 73-89
Book IV Psalms 90-106
Book V Psalms 107-150

I am trying to find comfort and strength from the Psalms. These are the characteristic most often promised from reading them, but sometimes there are other glimpses of glory or joy or deep spiritual insight in them. They may help you, too, in unexpected ways. Try it. You might like it.
 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Psalms 6--Seek Forgiveness

Psalms 6 is a prayer of David. He calls on God to forgive his error and not to punish him in the heat of anger. The prayer is sincere and deeply moving, but the words imply some conscious sin that he cannot escape reproof and only forgiveness can restore his favor with God.

There are other psalms that carry the weight of sin: Psalms 38 and 51 are popular for helping the petitioner to find the words and humiliation to express sorrow and regret for sin.

This Psalm does not note the occasion of sin, but we all find sin "ever at the door," and David was a man just as human as all of us are and he must have had other times when he sought forgiveness.

He appeals to God for one reason: his unfailing love. Only because God loves him does he ask for forgiveness. He has worn himself out weeping and his bed is wet with tears; his eyes are weak with sorrow, but he does not appeal to God on those grounds.

He turns away those who might comfort him. It makes me wonder if they were knowledgeable about the deed or were also participants.

In Verse 9 he is convinced that God had heard his prayer and granted forgiveness. He continues to seek acceptance of their guilt on those who are also in need of God's forgiveness.

When you are in need of God's forgiveness, remember David's prayer and seek help from his words when you are convicted of sin. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Psalms 5--Pray Early in the Morning

David appeals to God in Psalms 5 for defense against those who do evil; he appeals to God to hear his prayer and consider his lament. David lived in a society of people who sometimes called on other gods and who were often filled with wickedness. He did not seek vengeance, but he sought God's guidance to lead him, to defend him from the deceit of those who were arrogant.

David prayed in the morning and laid his requests before God waiting expectantly for guidance. He proclaims God's rejection of evil and arrogance. He says God hates the bloodthirsty and deceitful. He does not count himself in the number of those men. He can come into the house of the Lord because of God's great love and bow down in worship.

In verse 8 he returns to the theme of his prayer: Lead me O Lord in your righteousness because my enemies are untrustworthy and tell lies. Make your paths straight for me. Let my enemies' evil come upon them and let their intrigues be their own downfall. Banish them for their many sins.

Let all who take refuge in you be glad. In this section he sees God as a shield of protection. David has been a man of war and he is well acquainted with the benefits of a shield and how to use it. He praises God for his favor and blessing and claims it for those who are righteous.

May we also be devoted to God and seek his righteousness early in the morning and his shield of protection from those who practice evil.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Psalms 4






This Psalm is unusual. The Living Bible paraphrase confirms my opinion: It is a conversation between David and God. It begins with David crying out for God to hear his prayer
1Answer me when I call to you,
    my righteous God.
 Give me relief from my distress;
    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.


In the next section God calls the people, and apparently David, to account for their neglect of praise and worship.

How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods[b]?[c]


In Verse 3 David  claims God's provision for himself joins in God's reproof.

Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.


In Verse 4 he refers to how the quality of sleep is affected by the spiritual condition.
 
Tremble and[d] do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,

    search your hearts and be silent.

In verse 5 I can't tell whether it is David or God that calls us to offer "righteous sacrifices," but in either case we are counseled to "trust in the Lord." 

Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord.


In Verse 6 the speaker is David.  He knows that God is our only help in times of difficulty and he seeks the light of his face.
 
Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.

 
 
 It is God's joy David seeks more than the sustenance of grain or the refreshment of wine.

Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.


David again refers to the sustaining nature of peaceful sleep being assured that God provides for his safety.
 
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Psalms 1

Psalms 1 presents the message of righteous behavior as a lesson in what people are not supposed to do. The first verse lists things to avoid. He begins with walking. Don't walk like the wicked do; don't stand like they stand; don't sit in their circle  to mock and demean others. Those who behave like this are not blessed of God.

The one who is blessed is the one who delights in God's law and finds  beauty and joy in it throughout the day and into the night.
There are other signs that he is blessed. He is like a tree that is planted by a river that does not wither when there is no rain. Everything he does prospers.

The wicked do not enjoy these benefits. No, those who do not observe his laws are like the chaff of the grain  that is blown away by the wind. They make no lasting contribution and have no value.

The ungodly shall not be able to face judgment, nor find support from the righteous. God discerns who obeys his laws and who does not. It is not God's judgment that dooms the wicked, but his own behavior and attitude.

Read Psalms 1

Friday, April 24, 2015

Why Consult the Dead?

What do you think about Mediums? Have you been tempted to explore the world  of séances and visions from people who claim extraordinary powers? It is a very innocent looking pastime as long as you don't invest money or make important decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information.

I must confess I sometimes enjoy the extravagant and entertaining TV show aired on TLC called "Long Island Medium." Her name is Teresa Caputo, and she seems to pick up pieces of information about people's lives randomly everywhere she goes. She says she is able to talk to people "who have crossed over" meaning they are dead and wish to share information about their loved ones. Sometimes Teresa is invited to a home or gathering for the purpose of the reading, but many times, the event is spontaneous. I wonder if the random nature of these experiences is a marketing technique. 

God's guidance in the Bible does not condone this method of seeking knowledge. He says in Isaiah 8:19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

In other places the command implies bad consequences for such behavior. Leviticus 20:5-7 compares seeking mediums and spiritists to idolatry. We are commanded not to resort to them. Throughout the Old Testament God ordered cleansing of the land and expulsion of mediums and spiritists. I don't find any reason why he would change now.   

Teresa does acknowledge God in a passive, non-committal manner when she says she hopes her readings bring peace and comfort to all the participants, but she does not profess faith in God or seek God's blessing or help. She addresses the source of her power as "Spirit", but she does not view "Spirit" as Holy or in any way akin to God's Holy Spirit.

Teresa does not seem to be very confident of her information or her connection to  "Spirit." Maybe the shocked reaction when she questions the subjects and finds that her guesses are correct are just acting for the camera. It's still not what I would expect of someone who knows the future. She does seem to have a genuine concern for the people she deals with, but that may just be a good understanding of psychological impact of the situation.

Bottom line--Don't go to the mediums and fortune tellers; but just go to God in prayer and read your Bible daily. Seek counsel from a pastor or Christian friend, and avoid those with "special powers."

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6


                       

Friday, April 17, 2015

They Had Been with Jesus

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13
 
Sometimes there are people who change us simply by their presence. Jesus was like that. He didn't require any uniform or marching songs or extravagant rituals. He taught in various ways: sometimes he preached to crowds; sometimes he just took people with him as observers; sometimes he just fished, or ate, or conversed with them. Yet he always had his eye on the purpose--revealing himself to those who were around him. 

He still wants to draw us to him, to hear his message, to experience his life. He calls us to read his words and dwell on them and make them paramount in our lives.

But be aware his life and influence will change us just as it did the Disciples.  How will being with Jesus change us? Will we begin to share his truth or love his people? Will we walk in his ways and yield to his claims? How has being with Jesus changed you?           
                          
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Word Study For Easter

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
Ephesians 1:7 NIV


I generally think of redemption in regard to reclaiming items that have been pawned, but redeeming often refers to deliverance and rescue. Maybe I should focus on how I'm using the word. Is it a valuable item I need to get back?  Or does is refer to release from personal sin?

When I analyze the situation, I find that sin is  the factor that put us in jeopardy. We become debtors in the grip of sin until Jesus pays for our redemption. His blood is the price of our release from the grip of Satan. For this glorious sacrifice Jesus requires only our faith; we must believe in him without any work or promise of payment. We don't have to make converts or raise money; We only have to believe in his life and his message.   

Is it too easy? Do we want to show how good we are? We sometimes feel we need to deserve salvation, but Jesus "died for us when we were yet sinners." There is nothing we can do to deserve his grace. It is free and available to all who believe. Only believe.

Maybe we need to repeat the first lessons and understand the words. Just come to him and believe what he says to you. Just believe.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Come, See A Man . . .

Jesus and his Disciples were traveling back to Galilee from Jerusalem through Samaria. It was noon and they were hungry and thirsty so Jesus sent the others into town to get something to eat while he waited at the well to get some water. A woman was there. This was not the usual time women went to the well; mostly that was something they did early in the morning before it got too hot. Jesus asked her for a drink.

She immediately became confrontational: "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. You shouldn't even be talking to me."

He responded in a similar tone: "If you had asked, I could give you water that will refresh your soul."

She said, "You don't have anything to put water in. You can't even get it."

"I'm talking about a different kind of water, water of eternal life," he said. "Call your husband and I will share with both of you."

"I have no husband. I don't have anyone to call."

"Well, now you are telling the truth. You have had five husbands and the man you live with now is not even married to you." He spoke the facts without accusation.

The information he recited about her opened her eyes and she recognized that he was a prophet. He spoke of the place to worship, and of salvation, and of the Spirit, and of Truth. She knew the truth of the coming Messiah. Jesus declared, "I am he."

She left her water jar and ran to tell the people in the town who he was. Her testimony was compelling. They followed her urging to "come see a man who told me all I ever did." She was convinced and thrilled to hear him and understand the wonders he told her. She learned where and how to worship. She learned the meaning of "water for her soul." She learned the value of her own witness. 

And when she went home, she knew the meaning of salvation.



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Book Of Lamentations

Lamentations has 5 chapters and all of them are part of the dirge for Israel after the fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet for this reason. His prophesies forecast destruction and bondage. Nobody liked Jeremiah or his efforts at preventing the coming destruction. Of course, he named their sins and called for repentance. He was dismayed but not surprised by the response he got.

Lamentations is unique as a Book of the Bible. All five chapters are poetry, but unlike Psalms, they all have the same theme. Each chapter is an acrostic poem. There are Psalms that follow this pattern. Each chapter uses the letters of the Hebrew alphabet as a structural platform. In Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 each has 22 verses with each verse beginning with the next successive letter of the alphabet, Aleph, Beth, Gimel, etc. Chapter 3 has 66 verses and the verses are grouped by threes. He continues the use of the letters to in succession to shape the poem. (This pattern only works in Hebrew.)

He refers to the former glory of Israel, her armies, her Kings, but he mourns what has happened to her people. He repeatedly  calls to mind the sins which led to this disaster and reminds the people they knew there would be consequences, but they flaunted God's laws. 

In Chapter 3 he returns to a joyous exclamation of hope. The Lord's mercies have kept us from complete destruction. My soul claims hope in him. It is good to hope and wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord. Even though he has allowed grief, he will also show compassion. He does not enjoy afflicting us, but this is the result when we rob men of justice. (The Living Bible, Lamentations:21-26.)  

 Read Lamentations and repent. Seek God's forgiveness. Live in obedience. Revel in the joy of grace.
 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Joseph, the Husband of Mary

Joseph seems to be sort of neglected in the Christmas story. He is  initially referred to because Mary was engaged to him. In the Gospel of Matthew the order of events leaves Joseph till last to be notified of the impending birth. Apparently Mary did not disclose her pregnancy to Joseph at the time of the Angel's visit. Perhaps she waited until physical changes prompted questions. Joseph was a righteous man and he did not intend to dishonor God by engaging in unseemly behavior, so he planned to dissolve the engagement quietly. God was not worried about Joseph's reputation. He assured him that Mary was worthy to be his wife and the child was the Messiah who would save the people from their sins

Joseph's importance is emphasized by the genealogy that traces through him. Even though Joseph is a step-father, the Gospel of Matthew is careful to explore the genealogical connection through David. Matthew also points out that Joseph was visited by an angel who convinced him of Mary's virtue. There would be no breech of his honor to take Mary as his wife. Still with all the confidence God put in Joseph, the scripture devotes little time or ink to him in the Gospels.

I have been taught that he is assumed to have died by the time  Jesus was grown. There is no mention of him after Jesus' twelfth birthday. Jesus would have learned the builder's trade from Joseph even though his calling from God was to preach and heal and establish the Church. Some comentators point out that houses in Israel were built from stone, not wood and lumber, so he would have been a stone mason rather than a carpenter. Boats were built of wood and some of the furniture and doors so I have reason to believe he was also skilled in working with wood.