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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.  “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.”  Then Jesus wept.  The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!”  But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.  “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”  So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me.  You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”  Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”  And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”  John 11:33-44

Oh Boy!  So much here to talk about.  I haven’t even read my study notes yet, but maybe after I’m done talking, I’ll read through them and type some in if I feel led to do so.

First, one of the most infamous verses, “Jesus wept.”  As speculation goes, what was Jesus weeping for?  Was He weeping for Lazarus, for the mourner’s unbelief, for their being self-absorbed or because He genuinely grieved with them?  I don’t have the answer.  The bottom line is that He showed that He cared.  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15 

Think about it, if the God of heaven, in the form of His earth bound Son, wept for a dead man and the mourners surrounding him, don’t you think that that same God in heaven now would weep with and for us?  What I’m getting at is that God has feelings.  To think about it, you wouldn’t necessarily attribute feelings to an all powerful, all seeing God, even though all through scripture God’s feelings are exposed.  (for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.  Exodus 20:5  God is love.  1 John 4:8  “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand?”  Exodus 32:11 etc.)  But really, do we not laugh at the antics of our small children?  Is God not our Father?  Would He not laugh at our antics?  Would he not hurt when we hurt, would He not rejoice when we rejoice. 

If we are created in His image, would that not include His Spirit, His emotions, His reasoning?  Just because we aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean we weren’t created to be like Him.  God weeps.  God laughs.  God feels just like you and me, but deeper, more passionately than we ever could because He has all knowledge and understanding.  He is complete, we are not.

Yes, Jesus wept.  He felt sad and hurt, upset at His friends demise and the relatives grief.  And because of all the scriptures throughout the bible describing God’s emotions, I know that He understands the depths of mine.  I know that He knows what I’m going through, whenever and wherever I am.  I know that only He has the answer to see me through both the highs and lows of life.  All because He wept

There’s other thing that I want to talk about today and that was Jesus’ prayer…  “Father, thank you for hearing me.  You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”  (emphasis added)  Just this morning, before opening my bible to read, I admit, I was grumbling and complaining to God.  I told Him, “I don’t understand why you have given me such convictions/beliefs.  They are burdensome.”  I then laughed at myself and thought, you’re such a fool.  But, God gently reprimanded me with today’s scripture passage.

God never promised that living for Him would be easy, He only promised that He would be there with us.  I’ve been down and out lately because everything that I have believed has seemed to be all for nothing.  I just don’t care anymore because I’ve been told in similar words to these that, “my walk isn’t adding up to my beliefs.”  That is quite a let down, especially when it comes from someone that should be affected the most by the way that I live, my husband.  Sure, he said it in an argument over the weekend, but it is nonetheless deflating.  I have tried so hard to live out my life according to my convictions.  And it seems that it has all been in vain.  I have been really depressed and not wanting to keep going if it isn’t affecting anyone…

Well, this morning, I was grumbling because someone new found something that I wrote in the middle of March, the 18th I think, and any time someone leaves a comment from a past post, I always take the time to re-read what I wrote and then leave a comment back to that person.  The title that day was…Commit everything you do to the Lord…and what I wrote was a reminder that I have given my life to God and He can used my life however He chooses.  Then, Jesus’ own words in the passage today was also a reminder, I don’t live for myself, I live for Jesus, for others…even if it doesn’t seem to be “working.” 

Jesus, perfect, never any sin found within Him, yet, these people still stood in disbelief, grieving their lost loved one.  Why should it be any different for me, a sinner?  Jesus kept focused on God’s plan, not His own thoughts and feelings.  Jesus, as Paul exhorts us, kept His sights on the prize of the high calling…so should I.  I may feel defeated, but it is God’s interest I need to realign my energies to.  I may feel deflated, but it is God’s work I should focus on.  If no one ever recognizes my achievements in my spiritual life, it doesn’t matter how man judges me, only God, but I must always remember that regardless of people’s opinion of my right living, God can and will use my life for His purposes.  God works for one thing and that is to glorify and honor His Holy Name. 

So, though I seemingly and apparently fail in my daily walk, I must still strive to walk in the light of my convictions, not for my benefit, but for the benefit of others, that they have the possibility of believing.  It is their choice to act upon it, I’m just called to do what I must, I’m not responsible for how they react.

And finally, I’ll leave you to ponder the huge symbolism with Jesus last words in this passage, “Unwrap him and let him go!”  We all can read that Jesus was talking about the grave clothes, but what about symbolism?  When we die to self, we are born again and become new creatures in Christ.  I think I’ll just paste in Paul’s words because he says it so much better…

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.  We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.  When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.  So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.  Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.  Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!  Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.  Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.  Romans 6:1-18

I couldn’t just “break in” anywhere, I had to paste the whole bit of it.  So, in my own life, what does this mean?  I wasn’t raised to be a submissive wife.  I was raised to be independent and to take care of myself and my own business.  I was raised with the belief that “if I wanted something done, I needed to do it myself.”  Depending on a man was not encouraged, not because of outright rebellion, but because of all the pain and hurt that I’d seen the women in my life undergo.  I remember making very conscious decisions not to end up like all the women in my life…

So, living under the convictions of scripture is completely contrary to how I believed before.  AND it is extremely hard.  AND I often fail.  Yet, I must throw off the grave-clothes of sin and live in the newness of life and of light so that God’s glory will shine through.  This especially means I must do this in the area of my marriage and with my husband.  There is where the biggest change can be seen in me of the “new life” that I lead.  The old man is gone, the new one is with Christ.

Anyway, I leave you to ponder these scriptures…

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

May God provide the increase.

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“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Every year here at work we have a “Decorate the Door” contest around Christmas time.  Several years ago, this picture was what I decorated my door with.    It is a chalk drawing on black paper of the man that played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”  The words, in case you can’t read them clearly say, “For God so loved the world…He Gave.”  John 3:16.

It was after Christmas that I learned that on Christmas Eve, people were lined up in the hall to look at my door.  That was quite a humbling experience for me.  I still have this door size picture of Jesus, and I use it as my avatar.  This is one of my most favored verses in all of scripture.  God loved the world, He sent His Son to die for it.  It says “world” not people.  Jesus died for the whole world.

In Genesis 2:17-19, after the fall, God cursed the earth, “I have placed a curse on the ground.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.  All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day.”

I guess for me it goes back to the lilies of the field.  God shows such precious care for the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, then that should also indicate how much He cares for us.  It would also substantiate that Jesus died for the whole world.  The bottom line is that God cares for His creation, all of it.

Think of an artist or a musician or anyone in any field for that matter.  When someone makes or creates something, or makes a break through in some science related topic, they care much about their project, creation, or theory.  It is a source of pride.  But, when someone mars it, say as Adam and Eve did with their sin, the creator becomes more protective of it and wants to restore it to its former glory. 

When I read that God loved the worldso much that He sent His only Son to save it, it tells me that God cares to the most finite and infinitesimal decree about me and my life as well as everyone else, simply because it says that He loved the world.  I can’t even begin to imagine that.  Sure you’ve got your tree-huggers and environmentalists, your nature lovers – of which I’m one – and so on.  But, we tend to get in our little group and do a song and dance about that, but what about the dirty, unkempt places of the earth?  What about the dangerous places, both man-made and natural?  If a life would make a difference in some of these places, would these people line up to give theirs?  Probably not.  They would want to live.  And that’s fine, that is what we are programmed to do.  But, Jesus gave His life for the world, the whole world, everything and everyone in it. 

In a way, it seems strange to me that He would do that because the scriptures say, “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.”  Isaiah 65:17 (see also Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:12-13; Revelation 21:1-2)  Then I think that if Jesus set the example and died then rose again for us, and we are to die to self and be born again so that we may have everlasting life, so to should the earth also die to be made new.  Death is the consequence of sin, but life is a gift from God.  Jesus set the perfect example and showed just how much He cares for you, me, our daily lives in minutia, by demonstrating that love and care through His work on the cross. 

I guess to say it in another way, God cares so much for the whole world that He sent His only Son to die for everything within that world, then how much more would He care for me and my problems?  Or you and your problems?  He is deeply concerned with all the intimate details of our lives, both public and private. 

When the scriptures say He already knows everything about us, it is true.  When they say that we are to cast all our cares on Him, it is because He already bore the weight of the whole world on His shoulders while hanging there on the tree.  Not just people problems, but problems of the earth.  Our scientists are starting to clamour at a noisier level about global warming.  But, God knew before hand that this should come to pass, “On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames.”  2 Peter 3:12

I guess even in the midst of all of my woes, I still stand amazed at God’s greatness, His vastness.  For Him to be so concerned about me, yet also being so concerned about every other person on this earth as well as the earth itself is nearly incomprehensible.  We can see pictures of the earth from space.  We can compare the size of the earth with other planets.  We know that space seems to go on forever, yet God cares about everyone, everything on this earth and He cares for everything else going on on all the other planets and stars and everything in between.  My mind can’t even hardly imagine a God so great as that, but my faith can by simply believing all that He said is true. 

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.   Romans 5:6-9

All this is to say that if I am trying to live like Jesus and pattern myself after His example, then I too should be willing to love so much that I am willing to sacrifice, even for my husband.  He may be irritating and gets under my skin, but maybe I should stop and think about myself in relation to God.  I’m sure that my life hasn’t been at all pleasing to God.  Look how often I fail and cling to my ways.  Yet, God sent His son for me and He did so by including me in the whole world

I don’t know, this is one of those things that God has profoundly sunk deep into my soul and understanding, yet I can’t seem to express the completeness of this thought.  God gave.  He gave of Himself, He gave His Son, He gave His life, He gave His love.  And for what?  For you, for me, for the whole world.  Is it to unreasonable now for me to give?  Not after what God has already given.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

May God provide the increase.

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Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead.  They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife but no children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.  Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children.  So the second brother married the widow, but he also died.  Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, who died without children.  Finally, the woman also died.  So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her!” Jesus replied, “Marriage is for people here on earth.  But in the age to come, those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.  And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection.

“But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  So he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him.”

“Well said, Teacher!” remarked some of the teachers of religious law who were standing there.  And then no one dared to ask him any more questions.  Luke 20:27-40

Both yesterday’s and today’s scripture passages had some really good notes to accompany them, but I chose not to type them in yesterday and today, I’m not sure whether I will or won’t…we’ll see. 

Generally, when reading this, most people take away from it, ‘use scripture to answer the tough questions.’  This is true for God’s word never changes and it is the foundation and basis for life.  And because ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,’ (Hebrews 13:8) then His Word is also ‘same yesterday, today and forever.’  With that understanding then, as Jesus used scripture to refute the Sadducees, so we can use scripture to do likewise.  Jesus rightly answered the underlying question/dilemma that the Sadducees put before Him.  Jesus discerned their true meaning and motive.

Well, that isn’t what I want to talk about today.  Jesus made this comment when He initially answered the Sadducees, Marriage is for people here on earth.  But in the age to come, those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.  And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection. 

What does that mean?  Here He outright says, we will be like the angels, children of God.  This means that the dynamic and intricacy of our life relationships that we hold here on earth will not be the same in eternity.  Think about it, how often does scripture demonstrate our relationship with God as if we are the bride and He is the groom?  So, our marriages here, though we will recognize our partners, will not be viewed in the same light there.  We will have the ultimate singleness of heart and yearn only for our God.  Our sibling relationships will not be the same either because we are joint-heirs with Jesus.  Our parental relationships will also take on a different perspective because God will be our Father. 

“Marriage is for people here on earth.”  I suppose that I take some small comfort in this sentence.  When I think about the brevity of life, I realize that all the hardships that I face in my marriage are like the blink of an eye and then eternity will set in and I will truly be married to the “man of my dreams.”  Jesus will be all I ever need, as He should be now, I just get in the way of that. 

I don’t often dwell on thoughts of heaven.  I want to be wowed beyond consciousness.  I know that God has made heaven a place beyond my comprehension.  I know that He has done things in heaven that I can’t even begin to imagine.  I know that all of my assumptions, my understanding, my ideas, my convictions are going to appear so infinitesimal and smaller than the smallest known particle compared to what God has in store for us.  This scripture passage assures me of that.  All my preconceived notions of what heaven will be like, are like fine dust because I really can’t even begin to understand the vast greatness of God.  Jesus said that our relationships won’t be the same here as there.  If I can’t comprehend that, even though He outright said it, then how can I even begin to comprehend any other changes that will be? 

John describes his vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelations.  (The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.  Revelation 21:21)  Even in his description – which is much more than this one sentence – I can’t even comprehend…how can pure gold be as clear as glass?  And all of the newer versions either say “clear as glass,” “clear as crystal,” or “as transparent glass.”  So, if I can’t even comprehend what the scriptures outright tell me, how can I even begin to imagine what it will be like.  I just simply can’t.  I am overwhelmed just thinking about thinking about it.  Instead, I want to be like the little child enveloped in the ‘magic of the moment’ when I first encounter Disney World … or something like that.  That precious ‘awe struck look’ that only a small child can seem to master at every new leaf that is turned.  That is what I want to feel when I reach heaven, and that is what I will feel, because I just know that I can’t even in my wildest dreams begin to know or understand what Jesus has in store for us there.

And it all comes back to today’s scripture and other scriptures like it, Jesus has said that it won’t be like what we know and are accustomed to.  When you get right down to it, we only know a life and a world that has been marred with sin.  We don’t really know what perfection looks like.  Our marriages, though a symbol of one aspect of our relationship with Jesus is nothing like what our relationship with Jesus will be.  We can only glimpse what it should be and yet we will never fully comprehend until that day that Jesus takes us back with Him to the marriage supper.  Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

I take away from scriptures like these that I just simply don’t know.  For all that I think I know, all that I think that I understand, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes down to what will be when Jesus comes again and all will stand in the light of perfection.  My marriage isn’t perfect.  My life isn’t perfect.  The choices that I’ve made are far from perfect.  I don’t understand why I suffer from such hardships.  I don’t understand why I tend to be a little more emotional than others.  But, I know that even though I try to live my life by the convictions that I hold, they too aren’t perfect.  I make mistakes, I fall down and get back up and try again.  In heaven, with Jesus, it won’t always be this way.  I don’t understand the mind of God, but on some level at least I know that by living this imperfect life and making these less than perfect and right choices, I am learning whatever the Lord is teaching me.  I believe it has to do with the scripture from Ezekiel 11, God is giving me  singleness of heart.  I am learning that nothing in this world or in this life is more important than Him and no one means more to me than Him. 

Jesus said, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”  Matthew 10:37-39

Scripture is full of apparent contradictions to our understanding of life.  But, that is how God has chosen to reveal His word and His will to us.  We can’t understand it fully, but we can decide to follow Him regardless.  He knows our heart, even if our brains try to ‘mastermind’ our lives.  (No pun intended.) 

Now I think I’m talking in circles and about things that I don’t fully comprehend.  I’ll type in the notes for today’s scripture so that maybe you can glean something after all.

Note on verses 27-38

The Sadducees, a group of conservative religious leaders, honored only the Pentateuch – Genesis through Deuteronomy – as Scripture.  They also did not believe in a resurrection of the dead because they could find no mention of it in those books.  The Sadducees decided to try their hand at tricking Jesus, so they brought him a question that had always stumped the Pharisees.  After addressing their question about marriage, Jesus answered their real question about the resurrection.  Basing his answer on the writings of Moses – an authority they respected – he upheld belief in the resurrection.

Note on verses 34, 35

Jesus’ statement does not mean that people will not recognize their partners in heaven.  It simply means that we must not think of heaven as an extension of life as we now know it.  Our relationships in this life are limited by time, death, and sin.  We don’t know everything about our resurrection life, but Jesus affirms that relationships will be different from what we are used to here and now.

Note on verses 37, 38

The Sadducees came to Jesus with a trick question.  Not believing in the resurrection, they wanted Jesus to say something they could refute.  Even so, Jesus did not ignore or belittle their question.  He answered it, and then he went beyond it to the real issue.  People may ask you tough religious questions, such as “How can a loving God allow people to starve?”  “If God knows what I’m going to do, do I have any free choice?”  If they do, follow Jesus’ example.  First, answer them to the best of your ability; then look for the real issue:  hurt over a personal tragedy, for example, or difficulty in making a decision.  Often the spoken question is only a test, not of your ability to answer hard questions, but of your willingness to listen and care.

Enough of my ramblings…

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

May God provide the increase.

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Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.  One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”

But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

“Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd.  But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”  Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.  John 5:1-15

Unlike many of the other stories of healing by Jesus, this man wasn’t commended for his faith.  Jesus simply healed him.  So, what is the difference?  Jesus standard comment was, “your faith has healed you,” but there is no such comment uttered by Jesus to this man.  Why?  This man, after 38 years of laying there, seemed to have no hope, to him, this was simply a way of life. 

In many of the other stories, the person seeking healing acted or spoke in faith.  In this story, Jesus chose this man over all the other sick people.  Was this man particularly spiritual, did he believe?  Based on his response, I don’t think he was overly faith filled.  He was just like anyone else, something good had finally happened to him and he rejoiced.  Now, he could do what he couldn’t do before.  The account doesn’t say that the man fell down and worshipped Jesus.  It doesn’t say that the man decided to follow Jesus from that point onward.  No, instead, Jesus had to find him later in the temple and tell him to stop sinning. 

What was Jesus’ motive for healing this man?  Who would dare to think they could know the mind of Jesus?  But, alas, I will speculate…There are many points we could make about this story and I want to focus on one…God’s right and desire to glorify His name. 

The man did not choose Jesus, Jesus chose the man.  The man wasn’t particularly faithfilled, but he was chosen anyway.  The man wasn’t particularly thankful, yet he was given grace and mercy anyway.  The man didn’t seem to live out a changed life from the heart, yet he was physically healed anyway.  Sure, he told everyone that he encountered what miraculous thing Jesus had done for him, but did he commit his every waking moment from that time forward to Jesus?

How different am I from this man?  Not very different.  I did not choose Jesus until after Jesus had already chosen me.  When Jesus had me in His sights, so to speak, I wasn’t even looking in His direction, but He wanted me anyway.  When I decided to believe in Him, I wasn’t particularly thankful, and even still, I have a hard time cultivating an attitude of thankfulness, and yet I have been given grace and mercy anyway.  For all my posturing and insistence to live up to my own standards, my way of living apparently isn’t one of a changed life from my heart, according to some, yet I have been physically cared for in every way possible through the work of the Lord.  I tell everyone about Jesus and all that He has done for me, but is my every waking moment committed to Jesus? 

Yesterday, I posted the scripture from Ezekiel 11 about God giving the Israelites singleness of heart and a new spirit within them.  That is what it means to have every waking moment committed to Jesus, having singleness of heart and living by a new spirit within.  The burdens and cares of this life would cease to matter if every waking moment was committed to Jesus.  I would suffer the burning flames of the martyrs’ death if I had singleness of heart and a new spirit within.  Yet, sadly, I dwell on hardships and hurts, I look out for “number 1,” I insist on having my way…etc.  See, I am no different than the man in this story. 

What does it take to have singleness of heart and a new spirit within?  I can only surmise that it simply takes the hope in Jesus that He will gladly fill that desire in my heart.  I say this because yesterdays’ scripture passage outright says that God will give…singleness of heart and puta new spirit within.  It doesn’t say that I can do anything to acquire these things.  God gives – it is a gift.  It isn’t of my own merit.  It is because God has chosen to give these gifts to those He has chosen to given them, like the man in today’s scripture passage.  He was given a “new lease on life” not because he had done anything particularly interesting, nor because of how Jesus knew that he would react, but because Jesus chose to give him that give of physical life. 

I guess what I’m saying is that it isn’t about that man, it isn’t about me, it isn’t about all the little hurts and injustices that we will encounter in this life, but life is all about Jesus and all that He is – it is about His glory, His honor, His majesty.  I am called to reflect that image that Jesus has so carefully built, not to mar it or hide it in anyway.  Yes, God wants to give us gifts immeasurable, but we must have our priorities straight, is God first in our lives?  If God is first, then we will live in His abundance – abundance of life, of joy, of love, of peace.  He gives these as gifts to His chosen and well loved children, me and you.

It is sinful human nature to dwell on ourselves, likewise, it is contrary to our nature to put anyone else first, including God and His will for us.  This story from John today, simply highlights where we are by our very own nature and where we should be by taking on our new nature, the new spirit that God will put within us and living out our lives with the singleness of heart that He bestows upon us.

I don’t want to make light of the problems that each of us face, they are real, some are devastating to us, but, the hope that lies within will not let us dwell there for long because Jesus desires to shine His light through us.  He carries us through whatever hardships we face and then manifests His light through our words and actions.  As Paul says, it is a mystery, yet it is God’s chosen way to draw others unto Himself.

I look at scripture like toady’s scripture passage and am reminded that God loves us very much.  He uses us just as we are, broken and incomplete to accomplish His purpose, His will, not only for us, but for others.  Though He cares very much about us and all that we go through, ultimately, it is our hearts that He desires from us.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

May God provide the increase.

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But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, Lord, for doing this foolish thing.” The next morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message:  “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’”

So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.”

“I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

So the Lordsent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.  But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lordwas by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”

That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lordon the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

So David went up to do what the Lordhad commanded him.  When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.  “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

“Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar.  I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.

David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.   2 Samuel 24:10-25

David, a man after God’s own heart as proclaimed in the Word of God, had a conscience that bothered him.  I believe the closer we are to God, the more sensitive our conscience will be.  Sometimes we are so blinded by our own sins that we may be desensitized in one area/aspect of our lives and not in another.  It is this way in the lives of many of the great men of the bible.  It is this way in the lives of many great men  and women of God.  It is this way in my lowly life. 

David’s response to God was always for God to deal with him, not man.  David understood that men are cruel, but God even in His wrath was merciful.  Men didn’t care for others, God, even when angry and meting out punishment or chastisement, did so in love.  David would rather be in the hands of the Lord whether He was “on God’s good side” or “on God’s bad side.”  David trusted every aspect of his life to God, especially his sins.  David knew that God could, should and would deal with the sin in his life and that God would make him acceptable to God.  Now, that is strong faith, to trust so completely in an unseen God than to give place to the known realm of man.

This is what I strive for in my own life.  I know that I will not always get things right.  Look at the mess that I have helped make within my marriage.  But, I know that, as I am doing now, when I stop and say, “God, I have made a perfect mess of my life, my marriage.  I do not deserve your mercy, but I ask for it because you have promised to be merciful.  I know I must deal with the consequences of my choices, but I know that you can also glorify your name through this whole situation and make it into something useful for you.  So, let it be.”  That is when God will heal me and my situation.

At the end of this scripture, David answers Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I cannot present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.”  When I have sinned, when my pride has gotten in the way, when I think I know what is best for my life, thereby placing myself above God, then, I must be willing to sacrifice accordingly when I turn and repent.  If I’m not willing to give to the Lord something that costs me, then my repentance isn’t real and I am only offering lip service to “get out of trouble.”  It is my willingness to give up or sacrifice something of myself, that demonstrates the depths of my repentance. 

Let’s suppose now that I have recognized and repented of my grumblings and complainings against my husband in this public venue, my husband decides that he no longer is willing to allow me to post on my blog.  Am I willing to sacrifice that, believing that God in His infinite mercy will provide a channel for the vision that He gave me to continue.  Yes, I think I am to that point.  Do I want that to happen?  No.  But, I’m willing to accept the consequences.  Those consequences are part of the judgment.  I can ask the Lord to walk with me through those tough times, the ones that I’ve brought on myself, but I don’t feel like I can say, “Lord, I screwed up, will you make it all go away?”  Again, I must be willing to accept the consequences and whatever solution God has in store for me.

Well, I’m rambling again so I think I’ll leave you with the study notes on the passage above.

Note on verses 12-14

Both David and the Israelites were guilty of sin (24:1).  David’s sin was pride, but the Bible does not say why God was angry with the people of Israel.  Perhaps it was due to their support of the rebellions of Absalom (chapters 15-18) and Sheba (chapter 20), or perhaps they put their security in military and financial prosperity rather than in God, as David di.  God dealt with the whole nation through David, who exemplified the national sin of pride.

God gave David three choices.  Each was a form of punishment God had told the people they could expect if they disobeyed his laws (disease – Deuteronomy 28:20-22, famine – 28:23,24; war – 28:25, 26).  David wisely chose the form of punishment that came most directly from God.  He knew how brutal and harsh men in war could be, and he also knew God’s great mercy.  When you sin greatly, turn back to God.  To be punished by him is far better than to take your chances without him.

Note on verse 18

Many believe that this threshing floor where David built the altar is the location where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18).  After David’s death, Solomon built the Temple on this spot.  Centuries later, Jesus would teach and preach here.

Note on verse 25

The book of 2 Samuel describes David’s reign.  Since the Israelites first entered the Promised Land under Joshua, they had been struggling to unite the nation and drive out the wicked inhabitants.  Now, after more than 400 years, Israel was finally at peace.  David had accomplished what no leader before him, judge or king, had done.  His administration was run on the principle of dedication to God and to the well-being of the people.  Yet David also sinned.  Despite his sins, however, the Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14: Acts 13:22) because when he sinned, he recognized it and confessed his sins to God.  David committed his life to God and remained loyal to him throughout his lifetime.  Psalms gives an even deeper insight into David’s love for God.

My sin has been not honoring and reverencing my husband as the word tells me to do in Ephesians 5:33, “and the wife must respect her husband.”  Even now, I know that the Lord has His plans for me and for this whole situation.  I know that even now, God can and will continue to use me.  He will raise me up and give me wings to fly.  Until then, He is perfecting me in the refining fires and as in days of old, I sit in sackcloth with ashes upon my head.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

May God provide the increase.

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Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.  Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.  Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.  For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.

So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For the Scriptures say,

   “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’”

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.  So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.  Romans 14:1-13

There are many good notes for this scripture passage.  I feel that I must include them.  But first, a confession.  When God called me to this form of ministry, I was ready.  I wanted to help others and give them hope.  But, over time, I lost sight of that and wallowed in my misery.  That is not God-honoring and so I have failed you miserably.  I have from time to time brought this up and said something like, “I know I shouldn’t do this, blah, blah, blah” and I would try to get my head straight and maybe for a time I would do okay.  Then I would fall back into my misery, grumbling and complaining.

When I was younger, I remember thinking that I never wanted to be like my grandma.  She complained about everything and everyone.  She was a Christian.  She knew the Bible.  No one was good enough for her.  Every time you saw her, she would inform you that she was going to “kick the bucket.”  I hated it, and I never wanted to grow up and be like her.  Guess what…sounds familiar doesn’t it.

Yesterday, I had a lunch meeting with a good, solid Christian brother.  I spoke for a little bit about my goings on and towards the end of our conversation he simply said, “it sounds like I’m hearing grumblings and complaining”…he said more, but that is what really brought me down off of my high horse.  For whatever reason, I have a temperament that is prone to grumblings and complaining, hardly useful and God honoring now is it? 

My desire is not to bring you down, but to lift you up and how can I lift you up if I’m constantly complaining.  Please forgive me for veering so far off course.  Today’s passage, though speaking of certain things, reminds me to look to myself first.  Know where my own weaknesses and strengths in faith are and then live my life pleasing to the Lord, based on that knowledge.  It also reminds me to be conscious of how I may be affecting those I encounter, in this case, here in my blog.  By complaining, am I really uplifting others?  No. 

So, I am asking for forgiveness and your prayers that I will maintain the correct focus of writing daily for the Lord, not for me.  That is all I have to say for today, here are the study notes corresponding to this chapter, they are long, but good.

Notes on verse 1

Who is weak in faith and who is strong?  We are all weak in some areas and strong in others.  Our faith is strong in an area if we can survive contact with worldly people without falling into their patterns.  It is weak in an area if we must avoid certain activities, people, or places in order to protect our spiritual life.  It is important to take self=inventory in order to find out our strengths and weaknesses.  Whenever in doubt, we should ask, Can I do that without sinning?  Can I influence others for good, rather than being influenced by them?

In areas of strength, we should not fear being defiled by the world; rather we should go and serve God.  In areas of weakness, we need to be cautious.  If we have a strong faith but shelter it, we are not doing Christ’s work in the world.  If we have a weak faith but expose it, we are being extremely foolish.

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This verse assumes there will be differences of opinion in the church about what is right or wrong.  Paul says we are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of opinion.  Differences should not be feared or avoided but accepted and handled with love.  Don’t expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every subject.  Through sharing ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches.  Accept, listen to, and respect others.  Differences of opinion need not cause division.  They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.

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What is weak faith?  Paul is speaking about immature faith that has not yet developed the muscle it needs to stand against external pressures.  For example, if a person who once worshiped idols became a Christian, he might understand perfectly well that Christ saved him through faith and that idols have no real power.  Still, because of his past associations, he might be badly shaken if he unknowingly ate meat that had been used in idol worship.  If a person who once worshiped God on the required Jewish holy days became a Christian, he might well know that Christ saved him through faith, not through his keeping of the law.  Still, when the festival days came, he might feel empty and unfaithful if he didn’t dedicate those days to God.

Paul responds to both weak brothers in love.  Both are acting according to their consciences, but their honest convictions do not need to be made into rules for the church.  Certainly some issues are central to the faith and worth fighting for, but many are based on individual differences and should not be legislated.  Our principle should be:  In essentials, unity, in nonessentials, liberty; in everything, love.

Note on verses 10-12

Each person is accountable to Christ, not to others.  While the church must be uncompromising in its stand against activities that are expressly forbidden by Scripture (adultery, homosexuality, murder, theft), it should not create additional rules and regulations and give them equal standing with God’s law.  Many times Christians base their moral judgments on opinion, personal dislikes, or cultural bias rather than on the Word of God.  When they do this, they show that their own faith is weak; they do not think that God is powerful enough to guide his children.  When we stand before God and give a personal account of our life, we won’t be worried about what our Christian neighbor has done (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Notes on verse 13

Both strong and weak Christians can cause their brothers and sisters to stumble.  The strong but insensitive Christian may flaunt his or her freedom and intentionally offend others’ consciences.  The scrupulous but weak Christian may try to fence others in with petty rules and regulations, thus causing dissension.  Paul wants his readers to be both strong in the faith and sensitive to others’ needs.  Because we are all strong in some areas and weak in others, we need to constantly monitor the effects of our behavior on others.

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Some Christians use an invisible weaker brother to support their own opinions, prejudices, or standards.  “You must live by these standards,” they say, “or you will be offending the weaker brother.”  In truth, the person would often be offending no one but the speaker.  While Paul urges us to be sensitive to those whose faith may be harmed by our actions, we should not sacrifice our liberty in Christ just to satisfy the selfish motives of those who are trying to force their opinions on us.  Neither fear them nor criticize them, but follow Christ as closely as you can. (emphasis added)

This last sentence in the last note is one thing I need to work on.  I must follow Christ as closely as I can.  I have so much to learn about living for Christ.  I have learned much already over the years, but it is a never ending process.  I have fallen off the horse and now must pick myself up and get back on that horse.  I have failed, I have recognized it and admitted it, now I must strive to do better.  I will, with God’s help. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

May God provide the increase.

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In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.  1 Peter 3:1-2

Sometimes I wonder why God ever convicted me of certain things.  Today, I got into a conversation about “obeying” my husband, especially regarding taking care of our children.  She was adamant and very forceful with her opinions.  I imagine it was more so this way because I’ve often spoke of this concept to her and she has always held her peace. 

I know that I can’t force her to have the same convictions that I have.  So, today was a good reminder that I must watch the things that I say to others so that God’s good and glorious name will not be smeared by my unthoughtfulness and self-centeredness.  In this I have failed.  I cannot retract previous posts, but I will strive to do better.

Maybe there was a break through last night in my relationship with my husband, maybe not.  Only time will tell.  I think in some things, I have finally gotten him to understand more fully what I’ve been trying to tell him, for instance, being pregnant multiple times in a row.  Other things, he seems to be catching on, but slowly.  I don’t care who you are, whether its me, my husband or anyone out there, you can’t run roughshod over some one continually and expect them to take it forever.  It just does not work that way. 

Anyway, I’m tired.  Sorry about my dismal post yesterday.  I do believe wholeheartedly in the above scriptures.  I’ve seen change in my husband from the first time we got together until now.  There is no doubt that God has worked in his life.  I know it and I see it, I just hardly can “put one foot in front of the other.”  I think, the toughest obstacle in my path is me.  I struggle with maintaining the “pure and godly life,” that is necessary to win him over through submission to him. 

Oh, if only I was more like Jesus already!  It would be easier and I wouldn’t think that I’m suffering so.  I can withdraw from the situation to analise whats going on and I know that I “make mountains out of mole hills.”  I can see that I have an unforgiving heart.  I know that I am just as selfish and self-centered as my husband.  I can see that I’m just as hard headed and insistent upon having it my way.  I am rebellious to God’s Word.  In short, while my husband may be problematic, I am to blame for at least half of the problems.

Jesus came to this earth.  He suffered through all the same ailments that we may encounter in a life time.  He was ridiculed, spit upon, derided, put down, scoffed at, beat, taken advantage of, scourged, threatened, mistreated, and sent bleeding to the cross.  He did this willingly, out of love.  That is a pure and godly life.  He set the example that I wish to emulate.  To me, the only way He could ever have gone through with it without fighting back and without allowing self to get in the way was through His love for God the Father and His love for you and me, His neighbor. 

God is love.  (1 John 4:8)  That is such a strong and deeply held conviction of mine, yet, I can’t seem to convey that with my actions, and why not?  I’m selfish.  I can’t seem to fully surrender to God.  I know this.  But, my desire is to one day be completely surrendered to God so that He can use me for anything.  How do you explain this concept to someone who doesn’t hold this conviction?  The road that I’ve chosen isn’t easy, it most likely never will be, especially if I continue about it the way that I have – in my own strength.  How do you explain that the things of this world, the relationships, the possessions, everything in this world will be different in Heaven. 

Blame it on the old human nature if you want, but I’m just like anybody else.  I know that the most important thing that I can do in this life is to live for Christ, bearing testimony through my daily living of His love, grace and mercy, yet somehow, I rarely portray what I believe.  

I must reapply myself to surrendering to Jesus so that His love will not only shine through me but burst out through me.  I’m not sure of how cohesive I have been today with my thoughts, but the Lord is with you while you are reading.  Amen!  O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  Psalm 139:1

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

May God provide the increase.

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