Monthly Archives: January 2018

FaceTime With God

When you really savor the words of the Lord’s Prayer (sometimes called the Our Father), you realize its beauty.  It is actually recorded in scripture in two places (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4),  and therefore is special:

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13

I remember being in one church and praying the Lord’s prayer  where the ‘Amen’ was after the word ‘evil’ and then being in another church where the ‘Amen came after the for ever.  Sometimes people use ‘trespass’ instead of debt, some use ‘heavens’ in one place instead of heaven.  Regardless, looking at the heart of what is being said in this verse, we can see that Jesus was teaching people how to go face to face with God in prayer (prosuche in Greek). We are to approach him as a Father and he is a Father that knows everything we need before we ask him.

‘Hallowed’ means special and holy; we approach our Father respectfully. We don’t have to complain or murmur. God not only is able to bless us, he is willing.

In the Greek translation, the first ‘heaven’ is actually plural. The heavens include the earth. The earth is suspended in the heavens.  God is not a distant God.  Many people view him that way but he is as close as our breath. He is all around us. We are engulfed in his creation.

Just as manna was provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, God provides for us today, spiritually as well as mentally and physically. For all that he give us in these categories, we probably should owe him, but he has forgiven our lack or debts in all three categories. That’s a lot to shout about and realizing it keeps us tender towards others.

Verse 13 has come into the theological news lately.  For many years people downplayed the devil and his role on this earth. Evil exists, BUT God doesn’t lead us into it!

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: James 1:13

He delivers us out of evil as we pray. It is an important aspect of prayer that we need to recognize.

This prayer taught by Jesus was not supposed to be memorized and repeated over and over. (look up verse 7 to see the context)  It was an example of how people could talk to God in prayer. This is how we do FaceTime with God.

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I Samuel 6

I Samuel 6

After the Philistines took the ark of God, they moved it from Eben-ezer to Ashdod. It was set in the house of Dagon, a Philistine god. I guess they thought “the more the merrier’. According to the text, they sat the Ark right next to Dagon. The next day they found Dagon flat on his face in front of the Ark. The day after that, the same thing happened, only worse. Poor Dagon broke in various places and people were then afraid to visit the house of Dagon.

Wherever the ark went problems occurred so much so they decided to give it back to the Israelites. They kept the ark of 7 months and even when they decided to give it back, they still wanted to leave the option open to keep the trophy. They concocted a plan to find out if the things that had befallen them were punishment by God or just coincidences of life. God is all good and no darkness exists in Him at all.  These idolaters reaped the consequences of their own doings in my opinion.  Evil is as much punishment in and of itself.

They got two oxen who had never been yoked and who had just had baby calves. They made a cart for these oxen to pull and loaded the ark of God up on it. They sent the oxen on down the road. The calves were sent back to their pen. They reasoned that if the oxen went toward a certain Israelite town called Beth-shemesh; then God was returning the ark and they were under the judgement of God.  If the oxen naturally turned back home towards their calves then it was just the happenstance of life.

The oxen went towards the Israelite city. There was still trouble when the ark arrived in the Beth-shemesh.  The people there sent the ark on to Kirath-jearim, which was farther away from the Philistine border. There it remained for 20 years. The people of Israel cried out to God. Why were they constantly being attacked by idolaters?

In I Samuel 7: 3-4 Samuel speaks to them about what needed to be done:

3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. 4 Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only.

Not only were the Philistines having problems, so were the Hebrews. Samuel speaks about strange gods like Baalim and Ashtaroth. The Hebrews had mixed it up with pagan religion and adopted some of the beliefs of their pagan neighbors. Because of this, they didn’t have the clarity and strength to believe that God would deliver them.

This is a great lesson for today. People seek justification of their ways similar to the oxen test. If people who love God start going along with beliefs and practices that are contrary the words of God, they water down their believing, become comfortable with and accept misery as a happenstance of the coincidences of life. The way out of this type of watering down is simply sticking with God by focusing on Him.

Proverbs 4:20-22My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. 21 Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. 22 For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.

This is the only way to live a victorious, powerful life. Yes, life happens, but it is our response to it that determines what comes of it. The more we go to God the greater the results.

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Spiritual Awareness

Hebrews 4:12 says that “the Word of God is quick (living) and powerful..” The right word from God at the right time for the right situation is unparalleled in its effects! It is an experience that is life giving!

In I Samuel 3:1, the spiritual environment surrounding God’s people had eroded and it was due to several factors. Things had become sleepy.  Those who were supposed to be looking out for God’s people had let some things slip to the extent that people were effected. There was scandal, and in some cases those that should have known better were thumbing their nose at God. (I Samuel 2:12-25).

Samuel, as a young boy, grew up in the middle of all of it:

And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision. I Samuel 3:1

Samuel was committed to God. God never forces anyone to live for him. Everyone has a choice. God will work with those who love him. He knew Samuel’s heart. The word was costly and rare in those days. Open vision or revelation involves hearing from God. Things were not too hot spiritually. God spoke to Samuel.  He wasn’t familiar with receiving revelation from God and thought Eli was calling him:

4 That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. 5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. I Samuel 3:4-5

This happened 2 more times and finally Eli figured out what was happening:

And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. I Samuel 3: 8b-9a

God had someone who would listen in Samuel:

And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. I Samuel 3:11

God was going to shake things up. Samuel was established as a prophet  (someone who speaks for God) as God let none of his words ‘fall to the ground’ (or fail) I Samuel 3:19

In the New Testament, under the new covenant with God through Jesus Christ, every believer has the capacity to hear from God. It is a tool built into the holy spirit package. The how-to of it is as simple as what Eli told Samuel. Most of the time it is a ‘still small voice’ in our heart. Some people call it a nudge. It is a live and powerful thought. It is a nudge that produces peaceful godly results and flows with the written word to produce the results desired by God.

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Sense of Justice

The Lord of Hosts (Sabaoth) is used twice in the New Testament: Romans 9:29 (where it is a quote from Isaiah 1:9)  and in James 5:4.  In the Old Testament, this name of God is used the most frequently of all the names of God. It describes God as the Lord of armies, heavenly and earthly. It symbolizes protection for God’s remnant. It implies justice and defense of right.

We can have innate knowledge of justice because of the spirit of God that lives within us. We can sense injustice and foul play.  Our response should be deferring to the wisdom of God as he knows all the ins and outs of what is going on  and how it all works together.  There are a lot of things we just don’t see. Things can be quite complicated and interwoven. God truly can sort it all out.

Have you ever been walking in the woods and found yourself in the midst of a garden of poison ivy. It is not an event that you should thrash your way out of or by stomping all over it to beat it down. This kind of dilemma requires thought and wisdom to effect minimal contact with the toxic leaves.

When our sense of justice is aroused, we must cling to the wisdom of God as our extractor. Our best line of defense is to do as Hannah did when she was dealing with a miserable environment.  She prayed. The septuagint uses the Greek word ‘proseuche’ for prayer and it is a common word for prayer throughout the Word of God. ‘Pros’ refers to a ‘face to face’ encounter and ‘euche’ is a ‘speaking (out loud or in the mind) a desire’. The Greek word illustrates beautifully the remedy to any situation of oppression. We talk face to face with God.

Philippians 4:6-8:

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer (proseuche) and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Today’s world is full of injustice.  It rattles it saber at us all day long in one way or another.  There are times we are called upon by God to deal with it (like I Samuel 17 and David) and there are times to wait (Hannah)and we do that in peace. Whether we act or wait, we fly snuggled under the wings of the Almighty for he is the Lord of Hosts.

Happy New Year!

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The Philistine Defeat

As Samuel was continuing to hear  from God, the Philistines decided to attack Israel. The elders of Israel decided that they needed to take the Ark of the Covenant to war with them, thinking they were carrying the Lord of Hosts with them into battle. The Ark was not magical or a lucky charm. They didn’t need the Ark to have God in on the battle.

3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. I Samuel 4:3

“It MAY? save us”?? Did these guys ask God? What about Samuel? The elders decided what to do. In addition, the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were with the Ark. In chapter 2:12 the word describes these two guys:

12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial (worthless and lawless); they knew not the Lord. I Samuel 2:12

The name for God, Lord of Hosts, describes God as the head of his spiritual armies.  It implies God’s protections, care and oversight. The moves of God in this world do not automatically bring peace. They often rile up those who would rather not have God involved. God-sent armies, however, are always successful. After the Ark was captured, the Philistines considered it a great battle trophy.  Without humility and and the desire to listen to what God has in mind, the Ark was just an Ark.

By the same logic, a church is just a building without a humble, truthful, respectful love for God (church). Symbols, icons, images, religious practices mean nothing in and of themselves. The relationship we have with God is one of the heart that rests in truth.

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