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Things to Remember

I’ve been learning a lot more recently about Alzheimer’s Disease. It seems to be a cruel joke to take away someone’s mind and memory, but I understand that this is part of the curse of sin and death on this world, and that one day the faithful in Jesus Christ will have a glorious body made without hands, and there will be no more pain, sickness, sorrow or death (Revelation 21).

In observing the person who is going through Alzheimer’s, there are things he or she remembers with crystal clarity (usually something in the past), while something from 2 minutes ago is completely forgotten. Some of that is just normal aging, but with Alzheimer’s it is accelerated.

There are things I am sure we all would like to forget. But there are also many things that we need to remember. And the only way to continue remembering those things is to keep them always on the forefront of your mind.

Remember how foolish we were, and how merciful God is to us (Titus 3:1-7; Ephesians 2:12). Remember that God doesn’t remember our sins (Hebrews 10:17). Remember from where we have fallen and repent (Rev. 2:5).

Remember “Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). Don’t look back, don’t pine for the good ole days (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus and His apostles (Acts 20:35; John 15:20; Jude 17; Rev. 3:3).

Remember the poor and the helpless (Galatians 2:10; Colossians 4:18; Hebrews 13:3; 2 Timothy 1:4). Look around, you are not the only one hurting. Remember them in prayers (Philemon 4).

Remember our leaders and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).

Hope this helps. Let’s be better at remembering these things.

Real People

I was talking with Anna this morning about several things, part of which was regarding attitudes and relationships among God’s people. In the midst of that discussion, she shared a thought that she hoped others would realize:

“Congratulations, you just learned that the church is full of real people. Welcome aboard!”

God’s family is made up of broken people who have come to the Great Physician for healing. We are scattered and wandering sheep that have returned to the Great Shepherd of our Souls. We are lost souls who need a Savior.

Keeping that in mind, when we come to worship with God’s people, what are you and I expecting to find? Are we expecting everyone to throw a parade for us, falling at our feet with adoration because we walked into the building? Are we expecting everyone to have a smile and not have a care in the world? Is our assumption that anytime someone frowns, that he or she is upset with you personally?

Listen, real people who are really broken come into the assembly and that may really be showing on their face and coming out in their speech. Real people are sinners in need of grace from God and from you. Real people have bad days and are heavy-hearted. Real people are not always on their “A” Game – It may be a “Y” or “Z” Game that day.

Yes, there certainly are times that God’s people have some areas where we need to improve. We need to be reminded to be more friendly and inclusive. Sometimes cliques do form in the church, and people are left to feel like outsiders. It really does happen.

But I have also seen that every kindness in the world is shown to someone, and he or she still isn’t satisfied, which reveals his or her own spiritual deficiencies. If I am looking to be offended by my fellow Christians, then I will find something to be upset about. If I want to walk around with a chip on my shoulder, then Satan will keep me readily supplied with a Sam’s club-sized portion of chips.

Consider that it may be our assumptions, mindset and perspective that is off. The brethren may be just fine, but our attitude toward them is what is out of line. Stop to think about it, do some soul searching and praying about it. Contemplate how much you have invested into the brethren, rather than what you have not received.

“Congratulations, you just learned that the church is full of real people. Welcome aboard!”

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 6

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
(Matthew 5:31-32)

We continue our consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, can we look into the heart of God and learn what He expects in a marriage? 

In this case in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is speaking of a provision in the Law of Moses that permitted a man to divorce his wife. Take time to look at Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Notice the “if’s” in this passage. If a man divorced a woman and she went out and married again, then that woman could not return to her original husband. God was putting limits on people continually marrying and divorcing in order to keep from defiling the land in which they lived.

Thankfully, we have Jesus’ additional commentary on Deuteronomy 24. In Matthew 19 and Mark 10 we see Jesus in a controversy with the Jewish leadership about marriage. They confronted and tested Him on the topic of marriage, and they used Deuteronomy 24 as the grounds for the argument. They were clearly having a controversy among themselves, and they wanted to bring Jesus into the middle of the fight.

Can a man divorce his wife for any reason?

Did Moses “command” a man to divorce his wife?

What Jesus does is expertly and surgically cut through to the heart of the issue, revealing the hardness of heart and hypocrisy of the people. He takes them to the beginning of the “Law” in Genesis 2 to show God’s heart and original design for marriage. We don’t start in the New Testament to learn what pleases God in marriage,we start in the Garden of Eden with the first marriage.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
(Matthew 19:3-9)

The heart of God is plain in the Old Testament, “Don’t divorce.” Marriage is a covenant with God, and by divorcing and committing adultery we defile that holy covenant.

But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
(Malachi 2:14-16)

So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.
(Proverbs 2:16-19)

This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”
(Proverbs 30:20)

You can see from these Scriptures, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to honor marriage. The Law did in this case give provision for divorce, but God’s heart and expectation for marriage has always been the same. Marriage is a lifelong covenant, don’t divorce. If the Jewish man would have searched the Scriptures for God’s heart on marriage, he would have found it. If he was looking for a loophole to exit marriage, then his heart is revealed and he got exactly what he was looking for. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 3

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 4

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 5

Smartphone Addiction

Here is a link to an article about Smartphone Addiction. Listen to what even the people in the world think about what is happening to both kids and adults because of the addiction to technology and social media.

It is certainly something to consider and talk about with your family if you are not already doing so.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Are the Givers Able to Receive?

The teacher doesn’t like to be taught, the fixer doesn’t want to be fixed, the counselor fights against being counseled, and the giver has a very hard time receiving.

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.
(Romans 15:25-27)

In Romans 15, the apostle Paul wrote of two groups of people that were both givers AND receivers. The brethren from Jerusalem were sharing spiritual blessings and were receiving material blessings. The brethren from Macedonia and Achaia were receiving spiritual blessings from those at Jerusalem and were in turn giving material goods to help them in time of need.

This relationship is how God designed the body. This is how it works. But it only works when the givers receive.

Receiving is tough. It means I don’t have all the answers and resources. It means admitting I need help. It says, “I can’t do it by myself.” It by definition requires vulnerability and transparency. You have to open up to let people into your “safe zone.” Having to receive is having to admit I don’t have it all under control.

When the giver is put in a position to receive, the giver is in a very uncomfortable and unfamiliar position. Its like writing with your opposite hand. Writing for me left-handed is like breathing, but attempting to use my right hand is completely awkward and uncomfortable. The giver is completely safe and at home with the giving part, not so safe and secure with being taken care of. There are pride issues to deal with for sure. A lot of humility is needed to receive (of course we should have humility when we’re giving too!).

So, if you are someone who is the do-er, the fixer, the counselor, the teacher and the giver, how do you handle it when others offer you help or advice? Do you receive it well?

The eye needs the hand, and the hand needs the eye. When I have a fleck of dust in my eye, my hand helps my eye. When I have a splinter in my hand, my eye helps my hand. We need each other. We need to learn to receive.

Son Your Sins Are Forgiven

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
(Mark 2:5-7)

In Mark 2, we read of a paralytic man that four friends let down through the roof to get to Jesus. Jesus saw their faith and said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This statement sent shock waves through the religious elite in the crowd. They knew their Bibles.

Who can forgive sins but God alone? Great question. I have another question, who can forgive sins but the one offended?

So let’s say my brother comes up to me and punches me in the face and breaks a few teeth, leaving me on the ground bloody and toothless. A stranger then comes by and looks at my brother and says, “I forgive you.” I’m going to say, “What? You forgive him? I’m the one with blood and teeth coming out!” That person was not the one offended, I was.

Jesus was the one offended. He is God. It was the sins of the paralytic that hurt Jesus. Jesus was the one with blood and teeth coming out. Whatever sins that paralyzed man committed were directly against Jesus, and only Jesus could be the one to release him from that debt.

…But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
(Isaiah 43:24-25)

The Lord God (Jesus) is speaking here in Isaiah saying that the sins have burdened Him. God was the one offended, beaten up and saddened by what we have done.

So think about what happened in Mark 2 with this paralytic man. This man had a problem bigger than not being able to walk. He had sinned against the Lord Jesus Christ. But look at the mercy of the Lord, Jesus could have said, “You deserve not to walk for what you did to Me.” Jesus gave him two incredible gifts that day, but one was infinitely more valuable. That day the man walked, and that is great, but that day his sins against Jesus were released by Jesus.

What a merciful and amazing Lord we serve!

In Me You May Have Peace

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

I was thinking about this verse this morning. There are two “in’s” in this passage:

  • In the world you will have tribulation.
  • In Me you may have peace.

How do those two concepts coexist? Tribulation, meaning we are under pressure like grapes being crushed to produced juice. That is what happens to us in the world, according to Jesus. But then he also says that we can while under pressure and anguish have peace.

“In Me you may have peace.” We are physically located in the world, but our hearts and relationships are tied to the eternal Christ. This is how Jesus slept in a boat on the storm. He was physically located in the storm, but His heart was resting safely and quietly in the Father.

I really need this right now. Maybe you do, too. May we come to Christ and to His words (and to His people) for the peace that passes all understanding. The peace that only comes through Jesus Christ.

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27)

 

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 5

We continue our consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, was it okay for the Jew to repay eye for eye and tooth for tooth? (Matthew 5:38-42)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
(Matthew 5:38-42)

Remember first of all that Jesus is not fighting against or correcting the Law of Moses but correcting the hypocritical and carnal applications of the Law taught by the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-20). The Law would be fulfilled and nailed to the cross by Jesus, but He was not in this Sermon trying to correct or improve upon it.

In the Law of Moses, God made clear distinctions between murder, accidental death, self-defense, vengeance, capital punishment, etc. Not all killing was murder. But God did teach very plainly that the mindset that should guide His people is to love their neighbors and their enemies, and not to take vengeance for themselves.

The Law of Moses did say, “eye for and eye” and “tooth for tooth,” but in context God was teaching about how civil authorities were to administer punishment and fines for crimes. The Law of Moses in this case was not telling individuals that they could personally dole out retribution, but apparently that is how some, for carnal reasons, had applied it.

Notice the passage below. See the context of “eye for eye” was “as the judges determine.” It was the congregation as a community that administered punishment, not the individual (Leviticus 24:16-23).

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.
(Exodus 21:22-27)

This principle is very consistent with the New Testament. The Christian, just like the Jew,  is not allowed to take vengeance, because that is God’s realm. Sometimes, many times, that punishment comes through the hands of civil authorities.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:18)

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, Paul is quoting from I believe Deuteronomy 32:25).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
(Romans 13:1-5)

You can see from these Scriptures, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to keep from retaliation. Vengeance was to be left up to God, and punishment was to be left up to the authorities. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

More to come later..

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 3

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 4

 

The Father and the Son

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:9-15)

The Father was well pleased with His Son. The next verse says the “Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” He was there for 40 days. No food. Wild animals. Oh, and He went face to face with Satan. It was certainly a hard 40 days. Don’t minimize that. God drove His son into the wilderness to face the worst Satan could throw at Him. God was well pleased with Son, and He led Jesus down a very hard road. His love includes training and adversity.

The Father sent angels to minister to His Son. While Jesus was in the wilderness with wild beasts and Satan, He was not alone, was He? The angels ministered to Him. That same thing is said of all Christians – Angels are ministering spirits sent to help us (Hebrews 1:14). During our times in the wilderness facing wild beasts and the Devil, we are not alone. We are never alone when we walk with God. He sends us help, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible, but He is helping us.

The Father’s message was proclaimed by the Son. At the end of this passage, we see Jesus proclaiming the gospel of God. There is a reason God allows us to be refined through trials and temptations – through that process He is glorified and His message is preached.

God Has Given Them Work To Do

For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:26)

We all have work to do, whether we are righteous or wicked. God keeps us busy. But in the Scripture we see that God keeps the wicked busy preparing money and things that will in some way end up in the hands of righteous people. This is not to mean that we as God’s people sit around on our duffs and wait for God to take away money from others and give it to us. Nor is it to mean that because we are Christians we are going to be blessed with tons of money.

What it does mean is that God will take care of His people, and sometimes that means He takes care of His people by “transferring funds” from the wicked. How the Lord does that is up to Him, but we see lots of examples of this in Scripture.

What it also means is that the wicked think they are busy taking care of themselves and heaping up riches, but they are only busying themselves in vain. Their purpose in life is selfish and focused merely on getting more stuff. All that stuff eventually goes away, and it is through the merciful hand of God that He directs it toward caring for His children.

Though he heap up silver like dust, and pile up clothing like clay, he may pile it up, but the righteous will wear it, and the innocent will divide the silver.
(Job 27:16-17)

Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:21-22)

Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
(Proverbs 28:8)

The Israelites walked out of Egypt with the wealth of the Egyptians. It looks like a lot of that wealth ended up being used to build the Tabernacle (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 12:35-36; 35:21-22). God’s house was built with the wealth of the Gentiles (compare with Isaiah 60:5,11). Moses’ mother, Jochebed, was paid wages from Pharaoh’s house to nurse her own son (Exodus 2:1-10).

Let’s end with two more passages, one from Deuteronomy and one from the Psalms. Why did God pour out the wealth of the Gentiles upon Israel? Look at the following passages.

He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, and they inherited the labor of the nations, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws. Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 105:43-45)

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest–when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end–then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 8:11-20)

Let’s not forget our purpose! Let’s not forget why God put us on our earth. If we are busy, let’s remember God in the busy-ness! Otherwise, we are just busy heaping up stuff that will go to someone else.