Monthly Archives: April 2015

Dropping the Scales

The apostle Paul had quite a journey on the road to Damascus. For a committed, passionate, dogmatic person, it must have been an incredible shock to his system. He had grown up in a religious system that had groomed and directed him to the man that he was that day. He must have had a hunger to serve his God and he devoted his life to do just that. He did everything ‘right’!

5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:5,6)

I wonder what he was thinking the seconds before he met the Lord Jesus Christ . In Acts 8, prior to the road to Damascus incident recorded in Acts 9, Saul(Paul) had known and consented with the death of the wonderful believer Stephen and proceeded to ravage believers everywhere he could.

Just before Stephen died he spoke in a loud voice for everyone to hear including Saul, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” What kind of an impression did that have on Saul? There must have been something going on in his mind. The first thing Paul said to Jesus was:”Who art thou, Lord?”.

I love Acts 9:17-18:

17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales:

The phrase ‘as it had been scales’ is interesting.  He received his sight not only physically, but spiritually as well. There was a clearing of the blindness to the one true God and his son and what it all meant.

There are times when I’m reading the Bible, something just jumps out at me and it gets me to think: “What is God actually saying here?” There are times I am amazed at the simplicity of truth in its beautiful context. Man and religious theology has made things complicated. Mystical gyrations really aren’t God’s style.

There have been many times in our lives where things get blurry. Over and over when I feel the scales closing in, I remember how many times God says in his word that He does not want us ignorant and that He gives to all liberally that ask. God gave the gift of holy spirit. He gave His word and He provided a son to light the way back to Him. I think it is pretty evident that we can get answers from God. We need not be afraid to ask, nor feel not worthy to ask. We just simply need to ask.

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Ah-h-h Contentment!

‘Self-sufficiency’ is a big word in our culture. By our worldly connotations, it sounds very self-serving. This morning I began exploring the word in the Bible to see what the Bible says about sufficiency and contentment.  I dug up the Greek word ‘autarkees’ . The verb form is used in Philippians 4:11:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (ah-h-h!).

Thayer’s defines this greek word as “a perfect condition of life, in which no aid or support is needed.  I found two uses of the noun “autarkia”. The first one is in 2 Corinthians:

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 2 Corinthians 9:8

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

The context of the Timothy verse is a warning about the world’s answer for contentment. The world’s idea of contentment is in direct contrast with godly contentment. It is very shallow. Shallow water is difficult to swim in. Our culture today is pushing dependency on things that are temporary, unfulfilling and provide difficulty in maintaining buoyancy. Crashing into the rocks need not be our currency.

In Corinthians ‘grace’ is connected to good works through sufficiency. Grace is a very powerful word Check out II Corinthians12:9: ‘My grace is sufficient (arkeo) for thee’. God told Paul that ‘ grace’ would hold him up when adversity hit. Grace is internal sufficiency despite what is going on externally (imperfect though we are). It is a great thing to remember when some wind ruffles our surface.

I love sitting on a beach and looking out over the ocean. As the waves hit the shore it can get choppy and appears ruffled, but farther out in deeper waters, it is calm; maybe a bit wavy on the surface but deep within, there is contentment.

 

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Seek ye first the Kingdom of God- What does that mean?

Matthew 6:33 is often quoted in ‘prosperity gospel’ circles:

 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

It is a great verse but many times people go for the last part of the verse without understanding the first part of the verse. Now I’m not going ‘legal beagle’ here, I’m just pointing out some of the context. In fact the first part of the verse is continually amazing to me as I continue to discover the true nature of a loving Father and God.

If we are to seek first the Kingdom of God, it is nice to know what it is. So what is it? A kingdom is a country ruled by a king. That was simple! We live in the United States of America. It is a republic. We elect a president and representatives to run this country and we have laws and rules by which we exercise our rights as citizens, but these representatives and elected official aren’t the source of our righteousness as evidenced by the constant debate about the rights of individuals and what is fair and just.

God has a right to righteousness. He is the authority by which all things are made. He knows how his universe works best and what he created was created in love. From the giant construction of the heavens down to the tiniest intricacies of the atom, love and order can be found. We have the choice to seek his spiritual kingdom citizenship. I am thankful to live in a country that recognizes freedom of religion and I hope it continues to do so. Our first amendment is precious and wise. Our government cannot establish a particular religion. Who or what we believe is our God given right and the writers of the constitution respected that.

Righteousness is about what is just. It is what works correctly, so obviously if God created the universe he knows how it works and is quite powerful. I love the Kingdom of God and I have seen how exercising citizenship has wonderful right benefits because  of God’s loving just nature.  So often, when difficult situations(no-apparent-answer type situations) pop up, God handles it when we turn it over to Him.

Life is full of conflict and most of that involves interaction between people. It is difficult when emotions escalate and stinky pride backs people in a dark corner and anger tempts reaction. Sound, loving thinking and decisions go by the wayside and chaos and mis-justice reign supreme. This is where turning to God and his righteousness stops the progression in its tracks! I have seen this so often that I readily depend on Him to settle these things especially if I steer clear of the pride-anger-unforgiving zone. That zone sets up an acoustic barrier for genuine, clear, and right answers flowing out of the heart of God.

Read the context of Matthew 6 and see:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

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God Sooooooooooo Loves…….

It is great that Resurrection Sunday celebrations come at the same time as the arrival of spring. Could it be God planned it that way? I love the early days of spring, it is so enlivening! Just maybe God wanted to surround us with everything He could to maximize the meaning of the resurrection.

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God is a forgiving Father, He proves it over and over. There’s an outstanding parable in Luke 15:11-32. Many call it ‘The Parable of The Prodigal (lost) Son’. It really should be called ‘The Parable of the Forgiving Father’ because that is the point of the whole parable. In that story, the father never stopped loving his son, it is just that the son had put himself out and away from father so that he could not participate in the benefits of that love.

God gave us all free will and despite what happens in some ‘religious’ circles, God does not force by fear and compulsion. God continues to loves us and the joy of that is that every second we have the option of running straight back into his arms when we realize worldly attraction is not what it is cracked up to be.

The ‘prodigal’ son probably had a lot of rethinking to do, but the number one thing he had to realize is that his father loved him. That big hug was genuine! God did a lot of loving in Genesis and Exodus despite the lack of believing and missteps that are written about there. God loved those griping, impatient and rebellious people. The Old Testament is  filled with the grace and love of God that when we read it we can’t help but see the true nature of God despite the hollywood  and hellfire and damnation versions of His nature.

The other son in the story exemplifies some ‘religious’ attitudes towards what was going on too. He needed a hug too.  I love the last two verses of the parable because it balances it all out as only a loving and gracious God can do:

31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:31-32)

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Fig-ure This One Out

During the days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus there are actually two records involving a fig tree. People have assumed these were the same incident, but in examining the details, one finds that there are several ‘apparent’ discrepancies. This is where all the fun begins. Actually digging deeper and sorting out who said what, why, when and where reveals amazing beauty and exquisite depth for the hungry heart.

The timing of these two instances, just ahead of a dark week ahead, is purposeful.  In Genesis 41:32, Joseph explains to Pharaoh a principle regarding God and revelation:

Genesis 41:32

And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.

Things were going to change. The old wineskins of religion were going to be replaced by a new covenant. The fig tree represented Israel. The conditions of the nation at that time had become fruitless.

The 10th of Nisan was the very day when Israel was to choose the Passover lamb.

Exodus 12:3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: (Exodus 12:3)

Jesus Christ was the passover Lamb that year. Jesus Christ would usher in a new age that would mean life for both Judeans and Gentiles. He was the ‘once and for all’ permanent atonement for anyone who believes including Israel.

10 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 

5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 

8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10-1-10)

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