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Thursday, January 23, 2014

We Are Them

We know children.

We see them in our minds eye –
bubbling with giggles,
erupting with laughter,
glowing with life,
showing the imp in their eyes,
itching to move, and
energizing all around.
We see children as hope for the future and joy for the present.
We count ourselves blessed to have them in our lives.
We pray over them, watch them grow, beam at their success, and bask in their joy.
This is how the heavenly Father thought of them and created them. He created them to bring joy and hope. The Father created them to be loved, nurtured, taught, and enjoyed.
Each person is a child. It does not matter how old a person is, he or she is a child of someone. Whether the person is 6 or 86, he or she is a child still. Father God created each of us for relationship with Him and others. He created us with joy, laughter, and love.
We are the created children of the Creator. 
Look at another picture -
Some children are not bubbling with giggles or erupting with laughter.
Their smiles are muzzled and their laughter is muffled.
Their faces are strained and stained by tears.
The imp in their eyes is hooded.
Their bellies grumble from ceaseless hunger.
Their shoulders are slumped and the life within them is hiding.
They walk with meager possessions wrapped in scrap cloth –
a book, a picture, a pan –
not knowing where they will sleep, what they will eat, or where they will find safety.
Their hope is snuffed out. 
This is the picture we see of so many millions of “children” of all ages in this world.
·         The holes in their lives are bigger than ones left by military rockets in their homes.
·         They are mere ashes of their former selves before political violence burned their villages.
·         Greed, politics, coups, and natural disasters left them as detritus.
Dirty bodies.
Torn clothes.
Shoeless and bleeding feet.
 Heads bowed.
Shoulders slumped.
The light in their lives a vague spark.
Do we acknowledge these, our brothers and sisters? Do we recognize their humanity as ours? Do we allow the Father to stir the spark of our compassion to a fire? Are we willing to breathe life into the flames with the Father to stir ourselves to action?
Geography separates us from these other children, but for that, we would be them.
Are we so self-contained we do not feel, look from our lives and selves, or make ourselves known so we can assist our other siblings?
·         Father God told us to allow the children to come to Him (Matthew 19:14).  
·         God said, after He created humanity, it is very good (Genesis 1:31).  
·         Jesus commanded us to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  
·         Apostle Paul told us explicitly to love our neighbors as ourselves (Galatians 5:14).  
All “children” God created are our neighbors.
All the children are us, our siblings.
Will we acknowledge them - their need and their pain - and allow God to fan the flames in our hearts to radiantly love them and kindle life, hope, and joy in their lives again?
Can we sit and see them with unseeing eyes and hear of them with unlistening ears?
Can we be so un-human that we deny the love the Father felt when He created us and put in our hearts?
We can choose to slam the door on our humanity.
·         We can become less human and then, of our own choice, dampen the love, joy, and hope He put in us.
·         Or, we can join the Father and fan into brilliant flame these essences of God within us.
We can stand for the tired, fearful, and hopeless millions upon millions who have been made Refugees. 
Will you close your eyes, shut the door of your heart, and not acknowledge these desolate siblings?
Or, will you become completely human with the heart Father God gave you? 
We are them

Monday, January 20, 2014

All of Me

Luke 11
Upon reading Luke 11, what first caught my eye and mind was verse 42. I was curious as to what Jesus meant when He said the Pharisees pay tithe of mint and ruse and every herb. I wondered did this mean they who knew the Law gave the very smallest bit required by God and felt their obligation fulfilled. As I went further into the text looking at the Greek words and the Old Testament laws for tithing, I found something different from what I first thought. This made me look at all of Luke 11 to see if there was a theme here which Luke wanted people to understand. What I found was amazing. There is a theme in this chapter. This theme is taught by others, but maybe not in this way. We spend so much time studying the Lord’s Prayer, the good Father versus the earthly father, cleanliness, demon removal, and the lamp under the bushel basket that we do not often see the whole picture of Luke 11. This is what amazed me. The lesson Luke told is one of the main points of Jesus’ ministry. Before I give it away in advance, let us look at this chapter as a whole.
After Jesus prayed, one of the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. The Lord’s Prayer so many of us know. It contains six points. Our prayers must start with the supreme, hallowing God, revering God because of who He is. Since God is spiritual, this is a spiritual request. Next, we are to pray for God’s kingdom to come. This seems like a physical thing, asking for Jesus to return to the earth to judge the people, cast Satan into eternal fire, renew the created world, and have His kingdom reign forever in the new heaven and new earth. We must remember though that Jesus said with His appearance God’s kingdom came. With the birth of Jesus, God began His new Covenant with the people of earth and this new covenant began the kingdom of God on earth. In addition, whenever a person receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, God’s kingdom has come for them. Therefore, God’s kingdom is spiritual and physical. The kingdom will fully come upon Jesus’ second coming to earth. The next thing we are to pray for is to ask God for our daily needed food, the bread for our physical body. Through the fourth item in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to ask for forgiveness. This is an internal and spiritual thing and requires acknowledging we have sinned and humbling ourselves to confess those sins against God and His moral laws. This is an internal and spiritual act requiring our mind, heart, and spirit. The fifth aspect of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught is that we to ask for a forgiving heart. We are to forgive because He forgave us. Forgiving people means we understand we are also sinners who have received God’s grace and mercy and, understanding this, we, through God’s love, forgive those who have hurt us. This aspect of the Lord’s Prayer is also an inner, spiritual thing. The final part of the Lord’s Prayer is important and is an internal spiritual thing. We are to ask God for strength to avoid temptation. Jesus recognized that the temptation was not the sin, but could lead to sin if a person did not have the strength to overcome the temptation. Humankind often cannot do this with their own inner fortitude. They can always avoid temptation with the power and fortitude of Jesus, who, being tempted like all men, did not succumb to the temptations, even when the devil tempted Him in the desert. What I want to make sure we see is that most of the Lord’s Prayer, which He taught His disciples, has to do with inner spiritual things. Each of them related to God and four of them related to humankind. One specifically dealt with physical things for humanity. One physical thing for which Jesus instructed us to pray was for our daily needed food. Every other thing He instructed us to pray was spiritual and internal. Let us consider that and move to the next passages.
We can break the rest of Luke 11 into these categories: the Giver and the asker (vs. 5-13), the kingdom of God is here now (vs. 14-20), cleaning house (vs. 21-26), the thematic statement of Luke (vs. 28), comparisons of humans and God’s working (vs. 29-54). Verses 5 to 13 show us a comparison of an earthly giver and our heavenly Father who gives. There are three stories used to show us how much more loving and gracious our heavenly Father is toward us. Because of the one man’s persistence, a neighbor friend wakes and gives him food. Because of a father’s love, he gives a child a fish and an egg instead of a snake or scorpion. If an earthly father or neighbor gives this, how much more will the heavenly Father give. Therefore, Jesus tells them to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, and knock and keep on knocking. The Father will always provide your needs whenever you ask. Do not give up faith because He wants you to find Him. He waits for you to ask, seek, and knock.
As we continue our reading, we find Jesus cast a demon out of a mute man and the Pharisees reacted (vs. 14-26). We must remember who the Pharisees were. They were one of the three sects of Judaism. “Pharisee” means "separatist" an of the separated one. People of the time knew them as the chasidim, which means loyal to God. The Pharisees were the strictest in their observance and obedience to God. They became extremists in limited parts of the Law. This may be what blinded them to the Messiah in their midst. After Jesus cast out the demon from this man, the man spoke and the crowds expressed amazement. To counter the crowds, the Pharisees said Jesus cast out the demon by the power of Satan. Jesus used rhetoric to refute this by saying that since the demon came from the devil, why would the devil cast the demon out. That would be one house fighting itself. He said a house divided against itself could not stand. Jesus then spoke a barb. He asked, implying since He is the Messiah and they do not accept Him, by whom do their sons cast out demons. He implied that their sons cast out demons by the power of Satan (vs.19). Consider this, though. Jesus said, “Since I do not cast out demons by the power of Satan because Satan would not ‘divide his house,’ then I must cast our demons by the finger of God (the power of God). Since Jesus cays out demons with the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (vs. 20). Jesus just proclaimed God’s kingdom had come. He said, “If you are not with me, you are against me” (vs. 23). Jesus continued talking about demons. He said in essence, when you clean house spiritually, unless you take in a stronger man than yourself, then the one who mastered you before will return to master you again and it will be worse (vs. 21-22, 23-26). Jesus meant, when you hear about Him and change your life avoiding sinful activities and other things because of what He said that is good. However, if you just do external things, changing your actions, but do not cleanse internally, the demons will return to find a suitable place to live. Hearing Jesus, believing Him, and following Him requires not just a physical change, like actions, but an internal spiritual change where a person gives his heart, mind, and soul to Jesus. When a person gives their whole self to Jesus, Jesus cleans him or her inside and out. Jesus guards the person so that demons, who are stronger than people, cannot overcome him or her when returning to look for a new home. God is a stronger guard than the person against the demons. A person cannot protect him or herself against the strength of Satan using just  his or her own strength. Only with God’s strength can a person resist the devil. When God cleanses a person inside and out, He gives His strength to him or her. These things are what Jesus spoke of in the rest of the chapter.
We must understand one more thing before we go to the last section of the chapter. The theme of this chapter is verse 28. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Blessed are those who hear, consider, and understand the Word of God. This is an active hearing. It involves the physical ear and the mental capacity of a person. "Observe" means to guard for one's self or to take care not to violate. Jesus, said, then, happy is the person who hears, considers, and understands the Word of God and takes care not to violate His Word. This is an act of volition, an act of the will. This is internal, not just external, as the Pharisees lived the Law of the Old Covenant. The Ten Commandments gave four laws in relation to God and six in relation to humankind. These were moral and religious laws. The Pharisees were following some of the laws strictly. Those who pray for God's kingdom to come, His will to be done, and for strength to overcome temptation are those who Jesus speaks of here. God's kingdom is more than prayer, following rules, and forgiveness.  It is observing the Word of God, believing, taking it into one's heart, and living it, nit just following a few rules only. It requires an internal change as well as an external. The Pharisees were external followers. The Pharisees were self-righteous, not righteous. Only God can give righteousness. As a follower of Jesus, Jesus changes the person inside and out, physically and spiritually, which includes the heart, mind, and soul.
We arrive now at the section of the chapter that shows human activity as compared to godly activity. This section of Luke 11 shows that belief changes a life because true belief affects the heart and creates a love of God that lives out God’s love to others. First, Jesus began by reminding them that in the past God sent messengers. Some people believed them. Consider Jonah. When he told them God was bringing judgment on them because of their sins, they tore their clothes, put on sackcloth, and repented. Because of their true repentance, God spared them. When the Queen of Sheba ventured to speak to Solomon about His God of whom she heard, she believed because of his testimony. Jesus said one does not hide a light, but uses it to lead people. He compared a person’s eye to light. The Pharisees were the eyes for the Jews, but their sight was not good and they led the Jews into darkness. With the Son of God as their light, all the Jews would be full of light and would not have darkness for the trickery and deceit of Satan.
Jesus continued speaking to the Pharisees and the Law interpreters and teachers about their actions and beliefs when a Pharisee invited Him to eat lunch with him. This is where Jesus became explicit with the Pharisees regarding what keeps them from believing. As they each sit at the table to eat, the Pharisee noted that Jesus did not follow the Law concerning washing before a meal. Jesus used this opportunity to make His main point. The Pharisees are more concerned with obedience to the Law that is visible to other people, the external Laws. They cleaned their hands and the outside of the cup and platter. He said, though they did this, they were still unclean. He told them there were “full of robbery and wickedness.” They did not allow their belief in Yahweh to change who they were internally, but instead chose to do those things that were visible to others so they would appear holy and devout. God sees inside a person. Jesus gave them an example in verses 41 and 42. He said to give from what is inside their selves to charity, knowing that they were not. He said when the love of God, which governs their actions, affected them internally in true charity, then they would be clean They would be clean because God had control of their hearts. Verse 42 shows what Jesus meant. The Pharisees were so concerned to give the exact amount and right thing for tithe that they went out of their way to make sure they even gave the herbs recorded at the bottom of the tithe list. They went out of their way to make sure they observed even the jot and tittle of the Law, but they disregarded moral law and the love of God. Jesus told them they should have tithed as well as followed the morals of God’s Law, which His love, had it resided in them, would have enacted. Jesus pointed out their error. They were following the actions the Law required to the final degree, but they were not following the moral law that God’s love put into the heart of a true follower. Ouch! Does this ring true for us, too? This was the first “woe” Jesus proclaimed that day. The people of God are to give from the inside and the outside, justice to everyone and love of God. These Pharisees were hypocrites and corrupters of public morals.
The second of the six “woe” proclamations had to do with the Pharisees pride. They wanted people to see them as righteous through their external performance. This acknowledgement came when people gave them the choice seats out of respect as an honor. Jesus called the Pharisees concealed tombs. They hide their lack of faith behind their actions. They are not true followers of God. Jesus pronounced this as the third “woe." “Woe” that they did not have seats around God’s table.
After Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, the lawyers told Him that what He was saying was insulting them, too (vs. 45). These lawyers were experts in the Mosaic Law. If the Pharisees followed them, then the people would consider the lawyers reputable and would follow them. Jesus confronted the lawyers with their extreme requirements. He told the lawyers they were requiring more from the Jews than they were willing to do themselves. Jesus told them they were not willing to touch the burdens they required with even one of their fingers. These lawyers required more of the Jews allegiance to the Law than they required of themselves. This is hypocrisy, too. The fifth “woe” Jesus also spoke to the lawyers. He told them that they, by their action and inaction, built the tombs of the prophets earlier generations killed. They were as guilty as the past persecutors of God’s prophets. Added to this, they bore more guilt (built the tombs) because they did not correct the past persecutors’ teachings to the Jews. They led the current Jews to believe the persecutors were right in what they did. They approved of the persecutors deeds in their teachings and proclamations to the Jews (vs. 48). Jesus recalled for them that they, being in the loins of the persecutors when they persecuted the prophets, are guilty, too. (The writer of Hebrews used this line of thought, too, when he spoke of the children of Abraham as being heirs to the promise of God and the New Covenant.) In addition to this, Jesus told them God would send prophets and apostles for persecution and killing so that the blood of the prophets since the foundation of the world will be upon that generation. (See Matthew 23:34-36.) Jesus told the lawyers they were hypocrites and just as guilty as the Pharisees and those who persecuted and killed prophets from the beginning of time. Lest the lawyers say the Law or the Pharisees told us to do these things, Jesus ensured they knew the guilt rested within their own hands. The lawyers taught the strict observance by actions, but avoided moral requirements as the Law taught and as Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus proclaimed a final “woe” against the lawyers that was similar to the charge against the Pharisees. It regarded being the light for the Jews. The lawyers, the ones who knew and taught the Law, took away knowledge of God from the Jews. They would not enter the kingdom of God and they hindered those who were entering, the Jews. Should the lawyers consider that God condemn them less, Jesus stated their guilt plainly. They are hypocrites, killers and persecutors, and hiders of the true knowledge of God.
The Pharisees and lawyers had power and authority over the people, yet they did not teach justice and love of God from the heart and soul. They became very hostile toward Jesus, questioned Him closely, and were plotting how to catch Him in saying something against the Law that they enforced. The Pharisees were more interested in outward observance than in inward knowledge of and obedience to God. Outward signs of devotion to God were more important than public and religious morals to them. The way to become more than the Pharisees and lawyers is to hear the Word of God and observe it (See Luke 11:28 and Matthew 23:13.)
When we read or say the Lord’s Prayer, we must understand that the prayer is about God, who He is, our response to Him, our correct understanding of Him, and what is required to be a follower of Jesus. The Pharisees and lawyers chose one part of that, the actions. If actions could give us salvation, then there would have been no need for God’s promise of a new covenant. If actions could give salvation, then there would be no need for God. Yet, we are not as powerful as God, or even of Satan. We need a guard of our house, our person. We need a savior to redeem us from the penalty of our sins; that penalty  is death. We need a new way to be with God in His kingdom and to live in this world until Jesus’ return. God provided this way through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The decision we must make is whether we will give our whole selves to the Lord, our physical bodies, as well as, our heart, mind, and soul. We choose to let God’s love affect our innermost being so that our actions and thoughts come from His Spirit within us and the love God put in our hearts. These give rise to godly actions. By giving only our physical bodies, we will become like the Pharisees and lawyers. In giving all of them, we become followers of Jesus and children of God.
We get to choose. Will you choose to allow God to forgive you and be your Savior and Lord? Will you just follow the Law and not let it affect your moral life? Will you choose to let Him have your whole being, body, heart, mind, and soul? It is up to you. You get to make the decision. He will not make it for you, but He has provided the way and given you the choice. What will you choose?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Upon Wondering

Psalm 10
            As we read Psalm 10, we observe obvious things. David faced wicked people and wanted God to avenge him. Another thing we notice is David’s questioning the nearness of God. After seeing these obvious parts of the psalm, if we want to learn more, we must dissect the psalm. We should recognize that often humankind, when in crisis, questions God’s presence, even when they realize He is not absent. God allows us to express our feelings and leads us to recall that He was with us all the time. We will see this as we go through the Psalm 10.
            Beginning with the format of the psalm, we find four parts. They are 1) the opening question, 2) the situation and plea, 3) description of the wicked, and 4) description of God. David’s opening question is like that of Psalms 13, 22, and 55. He asked why God was not near and was hiding Himself. Each of us can relate to David’s feeling alone and without God. We understand what that feels like – fear, desperation, searching, wondering.
            David expressed his circumstance with much emphasis. The wicked “hotly pursued the afflicted.” Notice David does not speak solely of himself, but of all the weak. He used many adjectives to express the persecuted people. He called them the afflicted, unfortunate, innocent, orphan, humble, and oppressed. The Hebrew words David used regarding these people mean the clean, guiltless, poor and unfortunate, needy, weak, orphaned, humble, crushed, and oppressed. David pleaded with God to let the wicked catch themselves in their own plots and traps, which they laid for the afflicted.
            David expressed for nine verses who the wicked were and what they do. Verses 3-11 reveal to us the character and actions of the wicked. The wicked were prideful, covetous, greedy, self-centered, merciless, and snide, as well as, despising and abhorrent of God and others, gave no thought to God, derided enemies, considered self greater than others. These are characteristics coming from a person’s attitude. David also told God about the actions of the wicked. They were intentional in their evil, deceitful, oppressive, treacherous, predatory, strong in strength and numbers, troublers, as well as, they cursed God and people, plotted, and murdered. We perceive from this list that David meant that these wicked were intentional in their evil; they planned it in their minds and hearts. They were evil in their actions, too. They laid in wait to steal and murder people. David showed God and us, the later readers, that the wicked are wicked in every part of themselves – heart, mind, and body. Their evil was mental and physical affected the wicked as such. Evil affected their whole self. They were complete evil. (As Christians, we can understand why God says we are to love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, so that evil could not have any part of us.[Luke 10:27])
            Let us break this down by verse.
Vs. 3. “The wicked boasts (praises himself for) of his heart’s (soul’s) desire and the greedy (covetous gain by violence) man curses and spurns (despises, condemns, and abhors) the LORD (Yahweh).”
The actual Hebrew says of the last part of this verse that the wicked praises and blesses the greedy man. This puts a better understanding of the wicked into the reader’s mind.
Vs. 4. “The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance does not seek (enquire of and require) Him (God). All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’.”
This haughtiness of countenance means he is exalting himself. In addition, the Hebrew word for “thought” in this verse is the same word used to mean “plots.”
Vs 5. “His ways prosper at all times. Your (God) judgments (justice and judgments) are on high (from a lofty and noble place), out of his (the wicked’s) sight. As for all his (the wicked’s) adversaries (those who have what he wants and whom he distresses), he snorts at them.”
Note that the word “prosper” in this verse is the Hebrew word meaning “strong.” It is used in this way is Psalm 52:7 too. Thus, the wicked’s ways are strong. Notice, too, that this verse compares a man’s strength with God’s and recognizes that God’s judgment comes from a higher place than that in which man exists. Yet, the wicked man snorts as if he is greater than everyone.
Vs. 6. “He (the wicked) says to himself, ‘I will not be moved (shaken or overthrown); throughout all generations I will not be in adversity’.”
This man thinks himself so great that nothing and no one can overthrow him, just as Psalm 49:11 says, too. He forgets he is a man, not God, and so is not invincible. Through John, in Revelation 18:7, the Lord says the person who lived this way and caused torment and mourning will receive this in the same quantity as judgment.
Vs. 7. “His mouth is full of curses (oath or curse), deceit (deceit and treachery), and oppression (injury, fraud, deceit); under his tongue is mischief (trouble) and wickedness (trouble, wickedness, and sorrow).”
This verse uses a very interesting idiom, “under his tongue.” The literal translation means he hides his mischief and wickedness, but them spews forth venom as a viper (see Psalm 140:3). This idiom means he burdens and oppresses. David put forth that God and others could recognize these people because they were full of curses, deceits, treachery, oppression, and fraud. The wicked are tricky. They bring burden, oppression, trouble, sorrow, and evil.
Vs. 8. “He sits in the lurking places (a hunter’s blind; lying-in-wait, an ambush spot) of the villages; in the hiding places (for protection or perpetration of a crime), he kills the innocent. His eyes (used figuratively to mean mental qualities of lying-in-wait) stealthily watch (lie-in-wait) for the unfortunate (hapless, poor and unfortunate person).”
The wicked person lies in wait in a hidden place to ambush the innocent. David repeats this sentiment within the verse and says the wicked, with his mental quality of deception and wickedness, lays waiting for the poor, hapless, and unfortunate person. This verse shows the intentionality of the wicked.
Vs. 9. “He lurks in hiding places as a lion in his lair. He lurks to catch the afflicted. He catches the afflicted (poor, humble, needy, weak) when he draws (intentionally sets a trail to lead) him into his net (a trap).”
David repeated, the wicked laid waiting in a hiding place just as a mighty lion in his lair, his hiding place, waiting to catch his prey. Just as predators go after the weakest, the wicked sought to snare the afflicted, poor, humble, needy, and weak with his treachery, deception, oppression, and wickedness. The wicked actively enticed them into his net. He lay in wait and lured them. He intended to do harm. The wicked planned, was intentional, in trapping the weak, and that was not just for food, as the lion stalks his prey.
Vs. 10. “He (the afflicted) crouches (dakah – is crushed, broken, made contrite), he bows down (is bowed, crouched, humbled) and the unfortunate fall (by attack) by his mighty ones (great in number and strength).”
The wicked crushed, broke, and humbled the unfortunate by their strength and numbers.
Vs. 11. “He (the wicked) says to himself, ‘God has forgotten (forgot and ignored); He has hidden His face. He will never see (regard, and consider) it (the wicked’s treachery)’.”
David repeated verse 4. He began with the wicked’s mindset and repeated as a reminder and to add emphasis. In verse 4, the wicked said there is no God. By verse 11, he said God forgot, hid his face, and would not see it. The wicked deluded themselves concerning the ever-presence of God, His power, and that He never overlooks or forgets anything. God saw everything in the past and will see all the wicked does now and in the future. The wicked got away with so much in the past, he felt God was powerless and only a manmade god. God does not ignore what happens. God deals with all and judge them, if not while they are on earth, then at the judgment seat when Christ returns.
The final section of this psalm encompasses verses 12-18. These verses show how David perceived and knew God. David recognized God’s greatness and goodness, the two categories of God’s characteristics. He acknowledged God’s greatness by stating God sees all (omnipresence), is all-powerful (omnipotent), and knows everything that happens (omniscient). God is righteous, eternal, infinite, and King of all. David expressed God’s goodness by acknowledging that He listens to the humble, helps the weak, gives strength, is just and avenges the weak, and pursues the wicked. These show God’s greatness and goodness to humankind over all time and we see them throughout Bible times and later.
            Vs. 12. “Arise, O Lord; O, God, life Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.”
This is a plea and a command from David. He knew God is powerful. David cried out to God to remember His children and the weak. He asked God to show Himself to the wicked.
Vs. 13. “Why has the wicked spurned God? He has said to himself, ‘You will not require it’.”
David asked a rhetorical question, which he answered. The wicked spurned (abhorred, detested, snubbed) God because he did not believe God required his obeisance and honor. He did not believe in God. He did not recognize with awe that God is real and powerful.
Vs. 14. “You have seen it, for You have beheld mischief and vexation to take it into Your hand. The unfortunate commits himself to You. You have been the helper of the orphan.”
David brought to God’s attention that he knew God saw what the wicked did. He called on God to be the God he knew Him to be and who he knew God had been for His people. He held God accountable, in essence. David recalled how God rescued the unfortunate and orphan before and called Him to do it again. David was being bold.
Vs. 15. “Break (violently rend, shatter, crush) the arm of the wicked (those hostile to God) and the evildoer (one who is evil, malignant, unkind, hurtful, and adversarial). Seek out his wickedness until You find none."
This phrase is use in Job and Ezekiel, as well as Psalms 37:17 and 140:11. David asked God to crush the might and strength of the adversary. He pointed out this one was wicked and evil. Wicked is rasha and means hostile to God. It is a mental thing. The evildoer is an active adversary who is hurtful, malignant, and unkind. This covers both of the areas of the wicked in this chapter, mental and physical (actions). David then asked God to not just crush these wicked ones, but find all wicked and crush them so they are no more.
Vs. 16. “The LORD is King forever and ever. Nations have perished from His land."

David acknowledged that the LORD (Yahweh) is the eternal King who annihilated whole nations. God is great and good.
Vs. 17. “O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble. You will strengthen their heart. You will incline Your ear”
David acknowledged that God hears His people. God hears the humbled and afflicted. He acknowledged that God gives strength to their souls because He listens to them. God actively relates with His children. He loves them and gives them strength, which gives them hope. This recalls and reinforces who He is in their hearts and minds. God is good as well as great.
Vs. 18. “To vindicate (judge and punish for the orphan and oppressed) the orphan and the oppressed (crushed), so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror (dread, fear, oppress, prevail, and break).”
God vindicates for the humbled, weak, and oppressed. Humankind knows from God’s actions that He is powerful, merciful, and just. David, in his psalm to God, reached the point in His writing where he remembered God’s immortality and man’s mortality. This verse, when it speaks of God, implies man as contrasted to God. The verse juxtaposes God and man, the infinite and all-powerful contrasted with the finite and limited. When the weak and oppressed remember this fact, the wicked should not cause fear in them because they remember God is greater. Our end on earth is not our ultimate end if we are God’s children. Isaiah 29:20 says, “For the ruthless will come to an end and the scorner will be finished. Indeed all who are intent on doing evil will be cut off.”
Verses 17-18 show a progression. God is kind and merciful; He hears and strengthens us. Since He is these, His mercy extends to finding, judging, and punishing those who have hurt/terrorized His loved ones. The progression is that we will understand He loves and hears the afflicted because He vindicates the weak against the evil. These two verses tie into verses 1 and 5. Because God is not “afar off,” but near and kind, He shows the wicked there is a God and He is Him. His mercy to the weak comes as vindication on the wicked. The wicked will understand they cannot prevail because God is not out of sight. God sees all and is more powerful than mere mortal, wicked people.
David answers his question of why God feels “afar off” in the end. God appears far off, so the wicked can experience His reality and power. The wicked will fear Him, because His mercy to the weak requires His judgment and punishing of the wicked. The David reminded the weak, the people of God, and himself that God is not “afar off.” He told this to the wicked, too. Psalm 10 helped to stir the faith of the weak and oppressed, as well.
God recognized David was wrestling. He discerned what David needed to know. God realized David needed to express his fear, so He let him. Expressing one’s self is therapeutic. It allows a person to acknowledge out loud what is bothering a person. It gives a person a voice. God did this for David. He let David voice his fear so that he could recognize it. When a person voices a fear that bothering him or her, he or she acknowledges its presence in his or her life. When he or she acknowledges the problem, then work can begin on recognizing solutions for it. God allowed David to voice and recognize his fear so that he could recognize God as the solution. Once David voiced and discerned (often we have to speak about our problems before we know the problem) the problem, he discerned and remembered God is immortal and all-powerful. He understood and believed God rescues the weak and His children. David believed God heard him, loved him, would avenge him, and is capable to capture, judge, and punish the wicked. This is what we need to remember, too.
God loves each of us so much, He often will wait until we discern and voice our problem so that we recognize that He is the answer to the problem. When we discern the problem, then we can realize God is greater. We can then extinguish the terror that grows within us due to the problem because we discern and believe God is greater than the problem and merciful to the weak and to His children. This is what is most important about this psalm. God allowed David to figure out what was wrong so that he perceived what the solution was. Until we recognize the limits of the problem, we often do not recognize that God in His unlimited-ness can be the answer. God handles what is affecting us mentally and physically. He heals the whole person, heart, soul, mind, and strength. God was not “afar off.” God was there with David helping him to figure out the problem and its limitations and His own abilities as the unlimited, eternal, and infinite God who loves us.
What is creating fear and worry in your life? What is creating problems for you? Recognize that these issues are limited. Realize that God is not far off and can vanquish them. Recognize God, His love, mercy, power, and justice. He is there for each of us. He is there for you. Will you tell Him what is making you afraid and allow Him to work in your life. Try it. You will lose nothing by asking Him to help. In doing so and believing, you can gain a Savior whose love for you is so great He died for you. Go ahead. Ask Him to help you.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Self - for Him

At a moment in time, just a spark in time, a life begins.
A person's journey begins with a loud cry and then,
Lessons are learned, tussled with, reshaped,
As the point is acquired, digested, related
To one’s self. 

Acquiring, adjusting, moment by moment, a life forms.
Living through days with love, tears, joy, and through storms,
Then taking from each moment, regained,
The lessons make the person, push forward, restrain
In becoming one’s self. 

Mixing, stirring, melding, and growing, a person matures.
Walking this journey takes meekness and vigor,
Then walking forward in time with awareness
The knowledge of other is revealed, made known,
To be fully a self. 

Creating, molding, commanding, and breathing, persons are made.
Self’s journey truly began with recognition of that day,
Of something, someone, greater than me,
Knowledge of Creator, for me He redeemed,
As re-formed for Him. 

Walking, waiting, breathing, and praying, persons are fulfilled.
My  journey began recognizing Him and being still,
Awaiting His plan, His will that day,
Knowledge from Holy God, guidance, leads my way,
As disciple of Him. 

Striving, pursuing, running, and fighting, fulfills not one’s soul.
Journey of knowing begins, continues, makes whole,
While walking forward with Him in life,
Knowing, living,  growing, consecrated life,
Only for Him.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Greater (est) Sacrifice

Hebrews 10
The writer of Hebrews put forth his final thoughts on the new covenant. He stated what made the covenant active and what made the priesthood of Jesus Christ greater. He stated in chapter 10 that the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for these and for all sin for all time.
The writer reminded us that the Law instituted with the first covenant was just a shadow of the good things to come. The Law could never be sufficient. If it was, sacrifices would not have been needed continually to make humans perfect and consecrated so they could draw near to God. In addition, if the sacrifices provided by the Law had cleansed them forever, it would have removed from their minds their consciousness of sin, but it had not. Those sacrifices each year reminded them of their sins. This was because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. It takes something greater than the created world to remove sin devised and performed by created humankind.
The psalmist said in Psalm 40:6-8, God did not desire sacrifices and offerings. Samuel stated in 1 Samuel 15:22 that the Lord delights in obedience. God considers that better than sacrifice. Psalm 51, the sinner’s prayer, acknowledges in verse 16 that the Lord does not delight in sacrifice and burnt offerings. Jeremiah, Amos, and Micah speak of this, too. The writer of Hebrews used what the people of the time knew to bolster his argument for Christ’s sacrifice being the better sacrifice. The psalmist in chapter 40 continued in verses 7-8 by speaking as the Christ. “Behold I come, as it is written/prescribed of me.” The Son delights to do the will of the Father and acknowledges that the Father’s Law is in His heart. In John 4:34, John tells of Jesus saying this, too, “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work’.” The Law that is within His heart speaks to the closeness of the Son to the Father. It also speaks to how God puts the new covenant within the hearts of confessed believers. He writes it on their hearts via the Holy Spirit. God commanded the Israelites to tell their children and grandchildren about Him and the Laws. This is what the psalmist said in 37:31, Jeremiah in 31:33, and Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:3. It is a comparison of the two covenants. The first the Israelites had to recall and teach others; the second God writes upon their hearts. These verses in Psalm 40 are from where the writer of Hebrews obtained information for his chapter 10 verses 5-8. The writer of Hebrews reiterated, by Christ doing the Father’s will, He took away the first covenant and established the second covenant.
Jesus Christ’s establishing the second covenant comes through His sacrifice of Himself, as the bulls and goats were before, to take away sins. His offering of His own body sanctifies (hagiazo - consecrates, dedicates, cleanses from sin and its guilt) believers forever. Christ’s priesthood is greater than that of the Levitical priests who daily ministered and offered repeatedly the same sacrifices, which never took away sins, but just covered them. Jesus offered His perfect sacrifice for sins (offering from the Creator God for the created is greater). After His sacrifice of His death upon a cross for sins for all time, and His resurrection, He sat down at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1). He is waiting there as our mediator/intercessor until His enemies (Satan and his demons) are made a footstool for His feet (Psalm 110:1). The placing of His enemies under His feet means the subduing for all time the enemies of God.
The writer of Hebrews summarized this most important doctrine of the new covenant in verses 14-18. By one offering, Jesus perfected (teleioo – completed, accomplished, fulfilled the prophecies of scriptures) for all time those who are sanctified (hagiazo – cleansed from sin and guilt; consecrated and dedicated). The Holy Spirit testifies (marturea - bears witness; affirms that one has seen, heard, or experienced something) to believers, too. The Holy Spirit writes God’s laws upon the hearts and minds of believers (Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 8:10). He tells them that God will no longer remembers their sins (Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12). The coup de gras for humankind is this: where God forgives sin, no other sin offering is required. If a person believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God and confesses his or her sins to God, then Jesus forgives his or her sins forever. There is no longer any sacrifice needed for sanctification, cleansing, and dedication to God.
What does this mean then to believers in Jesus Christ? It means they can have confidence to enter the holy place for themselves. Believers can talk directly to God without need for a sacrifice for cleansing and without need for an earthly intermediary. They have access through the blood sacrifice of Jesus. He opened the veil, which separated humankind from God, by being the perfect and sufficient sin sacrifice. Since believers then have as their priest the greatest Priest over the house of God, they can be near God knowing with full assurance that God cleansed them from evil/sin and a guilty conscience. Believers must now live in the following way. They live with assurance of their salvation. They hold fast with confidence the confession (Hebrews 3:1) of our hope (Hebrews 3:6) of eternity with God without wavering, knowing that He who promised is faithful. Remember God is faithful to His promises. Jesus coming as the Messiah is the ultimate promise of God fulfilled. Believers hold to their confession with hope for their future with God. They act based upon it. They must assemble with others believers, stimulate each other to love and good deeds, and encourage each other as they see the day of the Lord drawing close. Believers are to encourage each other to continue in the faith and to do good works because of the love God has put in their hearts. They are to love God and other humans so that others will see and experience the love of God. God's love will draw others to Him and His salvation.
Each person, in the end, will be held accountable for whether he or she accepted the knowledge of the Truth or not when it was shown to him or her (10:26). If a person knows about Jesus and His salvation, but chooses to live in his or her sins (way of life), judgment will come from God in the last days. Fire will devour and consume him or her (Isaiah 26:11 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7). God chose to love us and draw us back to Him. He provided forgiveness for our sins. This is through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, whom God resurrected and who sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Each person must choose for him or herself whether to believe in Jesus, confess his or her sins, and become a renewed, re-formed child of God. God did everything to bring us back to Him. We must each decide for ourselves to believe in His Son, Jesus, and confess our sins. It is that easy.
Have you heard about God’s Son, Jesus, and His sacrifice? Have you believed and accepted His forgiveness? Are you following Him daily and living as the writer of Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:19-25? When you have heard of God’s love and gospel message, you must make a decision. Your decision will determine your ultimate judgment by God when Jesus returns to earth. You get to choose. Will you choose Jesus?