Monthly Archives: November 2013

Of Magi and Pilgrims

The Thanksgiving holiday has mutated!  What used to be a celebration of the pilgrimage of some brave men and women who crossed the Atlantic to find an escape from religious control has become a trek demanding shopping endurance. The pilgrims came to America to find a place where they could freely love the God of the Bible and His son Jesus Christ. The meaning of the holiday has definitely changed for some.

The stores are continuously open right now, to make Black Friday become the harbinger of good economic times ahead. Early reports have indicated the economy is sluggish and Black Friday is in the red. Others say it was great! That’s the way the world bounces!

christmas_wisemenTwo thousand years ago, a caravan of some smart wise men set off from Persia (known as Iran today) because they wanted to worship the arrival of a king. They too were on a pilgrimage at this same time of the year. On the way they did not stop at a mall, swipe a piece of plastic and wait in long line to get their gifts wrapped. They were men who knew that some force put this universe together and that the Creator was about to do something big. They were astronomers who believed that even the stars are arranged to magnify the love of a Creator.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. Psalm 19:1-5

Some of my ancestors were aboard the Mayflower and I celebrate them this time of the year. The persecution they faced was for a lot more serious than things  like pilgrimsbeing dropped from FaceBook or a cyber attack on Twitter. The reason for their personal Exodus was that they loved God because of how He first loved them. Oh! that we could all get it to love others with the love of God that we have been abundantly given. There would be no room for judgement, criticism and gossip. God’s love comes with no monthly payment and interest, long lines and frantic rushing around. Instead it always brings a deep abiding peace.

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Thankful For The Glory of God

The first use of the expression, ‘the glory of the Lord’ is used in Exodus 16:7. The reference to this ‘glory’ appears 11 times throughout the book. Actually the word ‘glory’ is a common word used throughout the Bible to refer to honor, weight, and majesty. In our culture, it is a fairly common word, but it is used in many different contexts. If we lose sight of the biblical significance of the word, we are the richness of its meaning is lost.   b8405-thanksgivingpic

Previously in Genesis, the word ‘glory’ is used in reference to men. The discussion of the glory of God comes into prominence in Exodus. II Corinthians 3 describes this:

Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.  

And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 

But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather gloriousFor if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.  

12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 

17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

In the Old Testament, only certain men or women had the spirit of God upon them.  Pharaoh recognized the spirit of God in Joseph. Moses certainly manifested the spirit of God upon him and he actually glowed at times. In the New Testament, God gives holy spirit to each and every person who stands on the rock, Christ Jesus.  It is on the inside, in the heart. God is spirit (John 4:24) and he has given us the some of the substance that He is. Just as Jesus Christ reflected the glory of God, we can reflect God’s nature as we allow it to work in us.

 

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MOSES AND CHOICE

In Exodus chapters 7-14 the battle that was required to get the Israelites out of bondage and back to the original promise of God to Abraham is an interesting study. God wanted to give them ‘a land of milk and honey’. It became a spiritual struggle and only God could have brought them through it all.

The legacy of Joseph in the Egyptians’ eyes was gone. Egypt was a strong nation and the people of God had become their slaves. It was a grueling life and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s descendants were pretty well stuck under an oppressive rule. In order to extricate them, much was required and it started with their cry to God for help.

God’s discussion with Moses is rich with lessons on how to spiritually defeat an evil-intentioned enemy. God sent Moses to Pharaoh and asked for his people to be allowed to leave. Pharaoh said no. God had already warned Moses of this outcome in Exodus 4:21

21 And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

God is not the author of evil. In Genesis 3, however evil was allowed to have its way and from that point on any good would be accosted by something evil in order to win the spiritual battle. This spiritual battle in Exodus is clearly an example of the war between good and evil. Pharaoh, by his own freewill choice, decided which side he was on. He became obstinate, severe and unrelenting in his dealings with God’s people. Even when he seemed to give in, he later reversed his decision.

There are three different words for the word “harden ” (harden) in chapter 7. Hardening of the heart is not a simple matter. Why does someone ‘harden’ his heart? God doesn’t directly determine someones heart to become hardened, just as God doesn’t directly make someone believe Him. It is the choice of the individual. The individual decides whom he will believe and honor. God got right up front and visible to Pharaoh, to his servants, to his magicians and to the Egyptians through the signs and wonders He still rejected God’s request. So in a sense spiritually, God’s great love for his people influenced Pharaoh to decided to turn away and allowed evil to influence his actions. He chose to fight God.

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45:7

When God created light and he separated it from darkness.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:4

Darkness and evil exist because God allows it. If He didn’t there would be no choice. Going back in time to Genesis 3, the question has to be asked,”Who created the serpent?” and then ask, “Why did the serpent rebel against its creator?” The answer lies in God’s justice and His provision of free-will choice. Since God is the author of light, we can choose to walk in light, but darkness is still present.

When Moses sets off to do what God has showed him, he is faced with a challenge of his child’s circumcision. In verse 24, it makes it sound like God tried to kill him. If you take that verse magnify to solely to the hilt, it appears to be attributing evil to God. Did God kill Cain in the beginning? No! God put a mark on him so he wouldn’t be killed. Then why would God kill Moses, the meekest man on the face of the earth? (Numbers 12:3)

When the versions of the bible say ‘the Lord did this’ and the ‘Lord did that’ we have to understand that God is the creator of the universe. He created everything including free-will choice therefore there is an opening for darkness or evil. Anyone who chooses to love God just has to step into the light to get out of the darkness.

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The Wonderful Perks of God

There was a wonderful girl who used to meet with a bunch of us in college. Her name was Anne. We would get together to talk about the Bible and God.  One day she looked me straight in the eye and just kept saying over and over that God loves us. The way she said it penetrated every sinew of my heart.

If we are ever going to see the reality of how God works in our lives or the power that he imparts to us, it is His love that opens the door.

I John 4:19 We love Him, because He first loved us. (The NIV says: We love because He first loved us. Many older manuscripts omit the ‘Him’. Either way it conveys truth.)

It is easy to see the ability of God, we only have to look around at this creation of His. It doesn’t take much faith. It takes more to see that God is willing to do for each of us individually. It takes believing to see how gracious He is toward us. There is not one person who doesn’t have access to God’s love.

Jesus Christ exemplified willingness. In Matthew 8:1-10, the willingness of God through the ministry of Jesus Christ is clear. In verse 2, the record shows a leper coming to Jesus and saying:

Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

Jesus answered him:

I will. Be thou clean. (verse 3)

If that wasn’t enough, Matthew 8 goes on to record the request of the centurion interceding for his servant.  Jesus says:

I will come and heal him. (verse 7)

The centurion responded with:

Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. (verse 8)

Jesus responded with:

Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. (verse 10)

Just a word did it! That’s the love of God!  In John 16:7, Jesus Christ said:

It is expedient for you that I go away…

Jesus Christ is alive and he has the authority of God to be the head of the body of Christ today. Because of his death, resurrection, and ascension, the spirit was poured out upon man. Spirit transcends distance. I’m thankful for Anne, I’ve lost track of her but I continue to thank God for her and pray for her and that goes the distance.

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Self-preservation in a Selfish World

CA Thanksgiving 048

Pick up any newspaper or listen to any news media, it will be ultimately and simply clear that selfishness that ultimately got its root in Genesis 3 is pervading ever aspect of culture today. The sneaky snake of old has wrapped itself around the globe and is squeezing tight, still challenging and questioning God’s words and offering his bait of: ‘ye shall be as God’. People have the choice of loving God or become totally about themselves. Harsh but true.  But is it really harsh?

Jesus Christ provided the greatest example of love. He spoke the truth to all who would hear. The truth helps people! Any truth that comes from God has its ultimate blessings.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Ephesians 1:3 Read the rest of Ephesians to see the wonderful perks of God! 🙂 )

Self-preservation is an interesting concept. We should take care of ourselves, no doubt about it! The ultimate satisfaction, however comes from loving others in the right way. Have you had moments of feeling unloved, unappreciated and miserable? The best way to get out of that funk is not rolling around in it demanding your rights. Watch what happens when you go to God’s word and stir up a little trust and believing and bless someone else. What happens to the misery?! I have found through experience that when I’m trying to decide what to do for someone or about something, I just immerse myself in some in-depth study in God’s word and forget everything else, and then I usually emerge with the heart of knowing what to do!

The serpent made Eve consciously aware of what she seemed to lack. In doing so, it was enticing her to worship him and his logic. Whoa Nellie! What has the sneaky snake done for you lately? By getting people to focus on themselves and not God, misery is absolutely everywhere except where people see and choose God’s logic and spread His love around!

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Rich, Vital, Prayer

The very first thing I ever learned about prayer as a child was that you memorized prayers. I was never taught “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake…l” (scary way to settle your day as your head hits the pillow), but I did learn many memorized prayers suitable for bedtime, dinnertime and many other occasions. I still can recite them but I don’t because I like to think through what I’m talking to God about.

Prayer

The Greek word translated ‘prayer’ is ‘proseuche’. It is a merger between two words, ‘pros’ and ‘euche’. ‘Pros’ generally indicates closeness of one thing to another. ‘Euche’ is a request, petition or prayer.  In another older usage, the concept of vow was included in the definition. It was thought that when a person prayed, he made a vow to give something to God in return for an answer (God cannot be bribed especially with works).

Whatever way you look at it, prayer is an exchange between two parties. It is a closeness. It is a relationship with God. What do we exchange with God? We can never out give God (or get even close for that matter), but in in Hebrews 11:6 Paul writes:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Substitute the word ‘trust’ for ‘faith’ and it gives a clearer picture of what warms the cockles of God’s heart.  As any parent knows, when a child approaches with an open heart of trust it is especially gratifying. The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is about people who have trusted God. God LOVES that trust and he pours it on because He is all about relationship with His kids.

Prayer is a big deal. There are numerous example throughout the Bible. I am especially enjoying Moses’ conversations with God in Exodus!  Prayer is not vain, empty, repetition. Thinking is definitely involved! When my head hits the pillow at night and the thoughts from the day quiet down, I relish the conversation with the Father. There are mornings when I awake with one of those ‘nudges from Him. All day He is there in crisis and celebration. Prayer is a dynamic rich relationship with someone we can trust. It is something to look forward to!

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