The Bible Observations Part 5

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At dawn on the day of Passover, Peter who is fearful and disillusioned, denies that he knows Jesus and realizes Jesus’ terrible prediction has come true.  Judas faces his own guilt and hangs himself.  Pilate’s wife is also troubled because she dreams that her husband is about to execute an innocent man.  Caiaphas leans on Pilate, warning him that Jesus’ execution is necessary to keep the peace.  Pilate sentences Jesus to a beating as he does not want this man’s life on his hands.  At a public trial, he gives the crowd an option to free Jesus or to free Barabbas.  The crowd that was carefully selected by the Pharisees demands for Jesus’ death and the freedom of Barabbas.  One thing that should be noted is that the name Barabbas in Aramaic means “son of the father.”  Pilate asked the crowd who to free the “Son of the Father” or the “son of the father.”  Just when we thought the story was powerful enough, we have the opportunity to go deeper and find even more power.  By birth, I am Barabbas, you are Barabbas, and every human being is Barabbas.  By birth, we are natural liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers…sinners.  The punishment we all deserve is torture that ends in death by crucifixion.  Jesus Christ committed no sin but he became sin for us and took the penalty upon ourselves so that we may be right with God and with Him.  That is amazing Grace, that is the greatest demonstration of Love that could ever be made.

Back to the story of the episode:  The punishment for blasphemy is stoning to death, the priests convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus in the best interest of Rome as life would cause riots and disorder among followers.  Jesus, mocked and beaten, carries his cross through the crowds to Golgotha, the hill overlooking Jerusalem.  The same people who cheered on Jesus as he entered Jerusalem watched in silence and confusion as he left carrying a cross.  One thing that I found interesting in the movie was that the man who was ordered to assist Jesus carrying the cross acknowledged Jesus as Lord.  From what I understand, the Scriptures only note that a man was ordered to help carry the cross.  With the way the Bible episode portrayed it, the man who helped Jesus with the cross became the first dedicated disciple.  All the other followers ran and hid amongst the on looking crowds.  From what we know, only one person came forward and one person helped Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha.    

It was a common practice to have a sign on top of a cross to indicate the crime that was committed by the person being crucified.  Pilate ordered that the sign above Jesus be printed in three different languages that said:  “King of the Jews.”  A very interesting and noteworthy observation was that as Jesus was hanging on the cross, the annual animal sacrifice was about to be made the sacrifice of a pure white lamb.  When he breathes his last breath, the city quakes, the skies blacken, and the temple was destroyed with the Holy curtain split open.  The days following Jesus’ death are dark, especially for Peter who feels he failed Jesus.  Pilate believed that in a weeks’ time, Jesus would be forgotten and a new trend would begin.  But when Mary Magdalene goes to Jesus’ tomb, the world is yet again turned on its head.  The stone is broken, the tomb empty and a figure walks toward her.  Jesus Christ has overpowered death itself and is getting His followers ready to declare the Good News.

In Jerusalem during the Pentecost and with wavering faith, the disciples pray fervently and the Holy Spirit empowers them and they all speak in every language that was being spoken from people all around.  The first thought that came to my mind during this scene was that Communion brings Presence.  Their mission begins, but it will entail a constant battle of hatred and violence from non-believers.  When new follower Stephen speaks out against Paul of Tarsus he is stoned to death, however he had light in his eyes and joy in his heart and asked God to forgive the people stoning him for they did not know what they were doing.  Peter baptizes Cornelius as the first Roman then baptizes surrounding Romans to those who believe in Jesus and remembered Jesus on the boat promising him to be a fisher of men. 

Paul, whose belief in Jewish law has led him to despise the teachings of Jesus, is enlisted by Caiaphas to remove this new group of believers.  He starts beating them into silence but on a journey to Damascus, he is met by a vision and sees Jesus and is instantly blinded.  In an extraordinary change of faith, Paul is baptized and begins to preach passionately about what he has received, love and forgiveness for all.  Paul travels hundreds of miles and meets a young Greek called Luke and when the other Christians with Luke begin to show resentment towards Paul, Luke stands up for him and declared that the door must be open to anyone and everyone that knocks.  Paul and Luke go on to write most of the New Testament.  Persecution still persists as disciple James is beheaded in Jerusalem and the disciples have no choice but to scatter.  The word spreads with them, far and wide, Peter reaches Rome, Matthew and Thomas further still, but are all killed for their courage.  Only their written word survives.  But one last miracle remains, disciple John survives death and is instead exiled to solitary confinement on Patmos where he receives a revelation of hope while remembering all the events that took place while he was with Jesus.  He writes the very last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation with this message in a nutshell:  Jesus is coming back and all who have the courage to keep the faith will be rewarded.

The Bible Observations Part 4

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Brutal Roman occupation has divided the Jews but Jesus is drawing in crowds in rural Galilee with his miraculous powers and his inspirational words.  He was going around forgiving sins and healing people, even on the Sabbath.  Something that I have found interesting was that in the episode as well as in the Scriptures, Jesus would declare an individual forgiven before the healing.  It seems that reconciliation precedes restoration.  He taught the people what the Kingdom of God was like using various parables.  Jesus Christ has become a Savior to some but a great threat to the Roman Empire as well as the religious leaders.  Pharisees like Simon believe the Jews will survive only by staying close to God through the traditions of Moses.  When Jesus continues to break the rules of Judaism, Simon takes his anger to the top and speaks with the High Priest, Caiaphas, in Jerusalem. 

The Pharisees are well known to be strict on keeping the Law of Moses and paying more attention to the written letter rather than the living flesh.  Jesus was demonstrating to everyone that we were not made for the Law; rather the Law was made for us.  I loved how Bishop T.D. Jakes described the purpose of the Scriptures:  “I have not kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept me.  I am not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath is made for me.  I am not serving the laws of God; the laws of God are serving me, protecting me, helping me, advising me, teaching me how to live.  I am not serving the text, the text is serving me.  I was not made for restricted living but made for protected living.”

The words from John 3:16-21 come to mind while watching the scenes mentioned in the first paragraph.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (ESV)

Crowds continue to flock to Jesus and when he miraculously feeds them all after teaching them the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, they call for him to be their King.  Jesus retreats from their aggressive demand and the disciples are thrown in to confusion about their master and their mission.  The reason was because everybody following Jesus expected him to defeat the Romans by physical force and become the new king of Israel.  Since Jesus continued to be obedient to his Father’s Will, he knew that he had to leave the area and continue with his ministry.

While Peter is sure of Jesus’ divinity, he is less certain about his own faith, he plunges into stormy water when he tries to walk out to Jesus as he walks on the water.  What I found interesting in the movie was that Jesus called out to Peter by name and Peter followed the calling.  From my understanding, that particular event was not recorded in the Bible, we only read of Peter calling out to Jesus to confirm the identity and steps out of the boat to challenge himself.  The context of this scene and the Scriptures is that Peter grew weak in the stormy water and Jesus needed to save him from drowning and rebuked him for doubting and not having strong enough faith.  We also need to remember in both the good times and the bad times that we have a personal God who loves us, cares for us, and listens to us.  We have a Savior who died for us to live a life overflowing with love, joy, and hope.  Back to Peter, he was the first follower to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  When Jesus heard what Peter declared, he blessed him by proclaiming him as the rock where the Church stands.   With that said, if that same Peter had the ability to doubt Jesus in the flesh, we too will naturally have doubts, and when we begin to doubt that is where the praying needs to go in full force because there is nothing we can say or do to have God love us more or less.

The faith of all the disciples is fully confirmed when Jesus shows that he has power even over life itself by bringing a dead man, Lazarus, back to life.  I loved how the movie demonstrated this event by having Jesus requesting to see the tomb.  Once he arrives with other people, Jesus begins to talk while a bright light surrounds the area and Jesus declares:  “I am the Resurrection and Life.  Believe in me and live.  Believe in me and see the glory of God.”  What amazes me in the part of the Bible is that Jesus could have just said the word and Lazarus would have been raised from the dead.  Jesus decided to go to the tomb personally and give a miniature sermon to the people surrounding him while performing a huge miracle.  Talk about having actions speak loader than words, this was just one of many of those examples. 

The disciples will need the greatest reserves of strength and faith as they move ever closer toward the point of their mission, to Jerusalem, and into direct conflict with the religious and political authorities there.  In the week before Passover, Jerusalem is full of pilgrims celebrating the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.  The desire for freedom from their oppressors, the Romans, burns strong.  Now, Jesus makes his entrance riding on a donkey, a declaration that he is the Messiah by fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah.  Jesus perplexes all in a protest against hypocrisy by turning on the money changers in the Temple.  The selling of animal sacrifices and money exchanging had become a common practice within the Temple.  Jesus flips the tables declaring that God’s house must be kept holy and that it should be used for prayer.  We cannot serve God and money.  We must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. 

Enraged Caiaphas finds a way to get to Jesus, through disciple Judas who is persuaded into betrayal.  The disciples are thrown into turmoil by Jesus’ announcement that their shared supper together will be their last.  Not only will Jesus be killed, but one of their own will betray him.  Judas runs from the scene and Peter receives his own devastating prediction, he too will fall away.  Jesus and the disciples withdraw in prayer to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus asks his most trusted disciples to stay up and pray for the time has come and that the Father’s Will must be done.  Unfortunately, the disciples fall asleep while their savior is suffering through prayer alone in the garden.  Judas and the arresting Temple guards rush in.  Jesus allows himself to be led away and the disciples scatter.  He is tied up and faces trial by the Jewish elders accusing him of blasphemy.  The punishment declared is death.  Caiaphas finds Jesus guilty and the crowd outside is told the verdict where all of the followers felt betrayed.

The Bible Observations Part 3

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On a personal side note, I do realize that the Bible episodes have aired at least twice already on television and are now available to buy on DVD. I have let the little distractions of life get the best of me and I have made the decision to keep focused and finish the projects that I have started and to focus on writing my thoughts and blogging more often. With that being said, my prayer for not only myself, but for all my readers is that God’s Holy Spirit will have His way in us and to guide us along the path that is set out for us. In Jesus name, Amen.

In episode 3 of “The Bible” the beginning takes place 400 years after the last scene in episode 2 and shows that the Jewish kingdom has fallen. King Zedekiah refused to listen to the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah and that resulted in the city of Jerusalem to be taken by the ruthless and powerful leader of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar. The Jews lose their city and are led on a forced exile back to Babylon where they are enslaved. Here their faith is tested when they are forced to worship an enormous statue of the Babylonian king which is an act of idolatry. When Daniel’s three friends refuse to bow down they are thrown into the fire but are saved by the Angel of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar at first comes to faith, but his arrogance later leads to a time of insanity, leaving the empire vulnerable to defeat by the great Cyrus of Persia. Cyrus tested the Jews’ faith by ordering them not to worship God for a whole month. Nobleman and Jewish leader Daniel, a man of tenable faith, cannot abide, and when he is thrown into the lions’ den as punishment, he has nothing but his belief to save him and God spares his life to be a witness for all those who were watching. Cyrus, now understanding the power of Daniel’s God, allows the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. They have survived the Babylonian exile and learned the importance of keeping God in their hearts.

The Romans dominate the Mediterranean through fear and oppression and the Jews crave a new messiah. Instead they have Herod the Great put on the throne by the Romans. When the Jews rebelled, Herod executed them and over 2,000 people were crucified under Herod’s order. In Galilee, Mary and Joseph watched helplessly as tax collectors ransacked their village. Then Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary change everything. She will bear a child, the Son of God. “The light of redemption shines brightest in the darkest moment.” Bravely, Joseph takes Mary as his wife and journeyed to Bethlehem for the census. Balthazar and other astrologers began tracking a new star and inquired of Herod whether he knows where the prophesied King of the Jews will be born. As baby Jesus enters the world, these strangers are the first to pay their respects. Unfortunately, the next scene was terrible as a jealous Herod orders the death of all Bethlehem’s male babies. Mary and Joseph were able to escape the previous evening following a warning and instructions to leave to Egypt until the death of Herod. When they return years later, young Jesus sees several bodies on the crosses as they pass through and they find an even more divided land.

Judea is now under direct Roman rule, headed by the ruthless Governor Pilate. Out in the wilderness, prophet John the Baptist shouts wildly that the Jews must repent, prepare, be baptized. Jesus appears, ready to take on his mission, and John baptizes him. Almost ready, he takes on Satan in the desert and emerges stronger and more certain. He finds Peter and walks through the water and gets inside his boat. He asks Peter to be his first disciple and now he is ready to start a new revolution. Give Jesus one hour and you will have a whole new life. A life to change the world.

The Bible Observations Part 2

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On March 31, Easter Sunday, the History channel aired episode 5 of the Bible that concluded their series.  If you do the math, 5 episodes that are only 2 hours long, technically shorter because of commercials, does not provide enough time to show all the details of the actual Bible.  The History channel provided the cliff notes for the Bible.  I have watched every episode of the Bible and took notes, however, I only made time to publish a blog on the very first episode and hope to get everything organized to write about the remaining four as soon as possible. 

In episode 2, The Israelites enter in to their promised land and are now surrounded by hostile neighbors.  They elect Judges to keep unity in their land and the story of Samson is shown.  Samson got his strength from God because his mother made a covenant that he will never cut his hair so that will symbolize that he is a Nazarite.  A Nazarite refers to one who voluntarily took a vow described in Numbers 6:1–21.  The proper noun “Nazarite” comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning “consecrated” or “separated”.  This vow required the man or woman to:  Abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, intoxicating liquors and vinegar distilled from such substances.  Refrain from eating or drinking any substance that contains any trace of grapes.  Refrain from cutting the hair on one’s head; but to allow the locks of the head’s hair to grow.  Not to become impure by corpses or graves, even those of family members.  Samson had two vulnerabilities: his attraction to untrustworthy women and his hair, without which he was powerless. These vulnerabilities ultimately proved fatal for him.  Because his strength came from God, he had a responsibility to carry out God’s will.  Unfortunately, Samson’s own desires led him to disobedience by marrying a Philistine who were the enemies of his people.  The marriage caused so much hostility between the people that the Philistines burned his wife and her family alive in their home.  Later on, he then met Delilah, another Philistine who deceived him in to revealing where his strength comes from and how he can lose it.  Delilah then cuts off Samson’s hair to allow the Philistines to capture him and take his eyes out.  Samson’s’ point of view of the situation was noteworthy.  He was thankful that he no longer had eyes because in the darkness, he is able to think more and see God more clearly than ever before. 

As Christians, we should believe that all of our strengths come from God and that we may unashamedly acknowledge our weaknesses to give God the glory.  The rules of the Nazarites are very strict; however, we should be able to relate to their dedication.  We should be able to live in this world and not be of this world.  We should give most of our attention and energy on God as we serve Him wholeheartedly in anything and everything that we do.  Intoxicating liquors and substances as well as hair are viewed as hindrances in service as those are focused on ourselves for our own pleasures and our own views of attractiveness.  With that being said, it would be best for us to lose our eyes figuratively speaking so that we may only focus on God, His plans, and look at people as God looks at them, not by outward appearances, but by their hearts, their personalities.  In this world full of sin, nobody is perfect; therefore, we should love everyone and always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us that should be seen as our facial glows through every season of life.

The prophet Samuel was pressured to anoint a king for Israel as he was getting older and his sons were too corrupt to take his place as a prophet to the people of Israel.  Samuel warned the people that kings are tyrants that make slaves out of their people.  Since the Israelites were determined to have a king of their own, Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel.  It did not take long for the title of king to get to Saul’s head.  Saul did not listen to Samuel when he was instructed to kill everyone and everything going in to a town.  Instead, Saul took prisoners and kept livestock from the town.  Samuels’ reaction was right when he threw his hands up in the air declaring that he gave Saul one simple command from God, yet no one listened. 

Saul had compromised the instructions of God to please his own people that resulted in displeasing God.  A king is not above God, kings must rule in God’s name, not their own.  We need to live lives that are worthy to God to please Him alone and not try to please people.  The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to please everybody so let us stop trying to do that and just please the One who is worthy to be pleased.  How do we live lives worthy of God?  How can we please Him?  The answer is simple yet difficult for us to keep in practice.  We need to study His words, meditate on them day and night, and most importantly follow them and just look towards Jesus Christ as a living example to be followed.

Samuel discovers a young shepherd who God has chosen to become the next king after Saul and anoints David who becomes a servant in Saul’s court.  As David faces Goliath, he understands that because he himself is a shepherd who protects his sheep, God protects him.  All the people of Israel as well as the Philistines mock David for even thinking he has a chance to take down Goliath.  As he walks towards Goliath, he ignores the negative shouts from the people and prays the famous Psalm 23 and defeats his enemy giving God the glory of the battle won.  David becomes close friends with Saul and Saul’s son, Jonathan and they are seen fighting side by side.  After some years, Saul begins to get paranoid and have destructive thoughts about David as he wishes his own bloodline to take over the kings’ throne at the appointed time.  Saul got so enraged to the point that he begins to chase after David through the land to kill him.  Although David had a number of opportunities to kill Saul, he never took them because he respected the fact that Saul was God’s anointed king of the land and it is up to God to determine Saul’s fate.  It came to pass that during a heavy battle, Jonathan was killed by an arrow and as Saul witnessed this take place he looked around at all the dead soldiers, took his sword and dropped face down on it.  Saul’s crown went to David and he became the second king of Israel. 

Repentance and restitution leads to a life full of joy, bitterness and grudges lead to death.  Although we may not agree with people in government, we need to remember that all authority is in God’s hands and He has the power to give and take away positions.  We need to respect our officials and if they are not Christians or are not making Godly decisions, we need to continually pray for them and remember that the officials are just a select few who have been elected by the majority.  We need to continually be witnesses to others so that those who live a sinful lifestyle that may be legal in the land, will be shown that their lives are leading straight to eternal death.  I do not recommend preaching fire and brimstone at the street corners, but I do recommend meeting with them and sharing your own story of who you are and how you would be if you did not have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Live your life that will be inviting others to Jesus rather than drawing them away. 

One day, David noticed a woman bathing on the rooftop, whose name was Bathsheba and was the wife of one of his finest soldiers.  David’s lust got so strong that he influenced Bathsheba to have an affair and as a result, she became pregnant with his child.  David attempted to trick her husband into having intercourse with his wife so that her husband would believe the child belongs to him.  Unfortunately, the husband was so devoted to his country that he did not believe in having intercourse with his wife before going in to battle.  David gave orders to have the man go straight in to the front lines where the battle is the roughest and have the other soldiers stand down for the man to be killed.  David took Bathsheba as his own wife and because of his sinful actions, God punished him by taking the life of his firstborn son, and because David was a man after God’s own heart, God promised to give him another son to rule after him and his name would be Solomon.  After Solomon was born, David had a replica of a temple that was to be built in Jerusalem and it would be Solomon’s job to have it built.  David first believed that the temple would be his, but was reminded that it belongs to God.

An idol mind is the devils’ workshop.  When you do not control your thoughts, your thoughts will control you.  God’s Grace gives us the desire and the power to do His will.  Today, we need to remember that Christ’s substitutionary death paid our penalty for sin and emancipated us from the power of sin.  Christ’s death paid our penalty; Christ’s resurrection freed us from sins’ power.  With that, these verses should be our first thoughts every day we get up: 

Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” 

Psalm 139:23-24:  “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.”

The Bible Observations Part 1

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On March 3, 2013 the History channel introduced The Bible television series.  Although I had expressed interest in watching it at the time it was on the air, I did not get the opportunity to view it until just recently through On Demand.  I realize that this, of course, has not been the first time the entertainment industry has brought television shows or movies to reflect Biblical characters and accounts.  With that being said, why is it that it is being talked about so much?  Maybe it is because of the exact same reason why there was so much talk when Mel Gibson made The Passion movie.  I believe that the reason is because the History channel chose to make their series as closely accurate to the true accounts from the Bible as possible.  In doing so, the History channel is shining the light of truth into the darkness of a lost and deceived generation in America. 

In the first episode of the Bible, the History channel shows what took place in the books of Genesis and Exodus.  There were a few phrases in the first episode that I had to take note of to include in this blog entry.  These are not in the same order as they were mentioned in the show as I am bringing my own insight to the entire episode in general.  “God has freed us from slavery and it has been a long journey, but this is just the beginning.  God saved me for a purpose.  To be chosen by God is a blessing and a test.  Those chosen must go through tests to prove their faith over and over again.”  Books can be written on each individual sentence, and I am pretty sure they have been.  For today, I will just write what came to me while watching the show.  Psalm 22 along with Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 were basically beating me down by the time the show had ended.  Not so much as it has been written, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” more so of me thinking and praying, “My God, my God, why have I forsaken thee?” 

Here we are living in the 21st century with so much technological advancements and easy living in the United States for the most part, we have forgotten where we have come from and sadly do not know where we are going if we continue to live such a care-free selfish life.  We read in Isaiah 30:15: “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  Sound familiar?  This verse was written sometime between 701 and 681 B.C. and still applies today as does the message of the Bible itself.  As a Christian, from much time studying Scriptures and theology and a lot of life experiences, I have learned that God never forsakes, never leaves, rather He always loves and is always Just with more grace and mercy than we can possibly imagine.  It is us, who make choices that draw us closer or farther from Him.  In times of trouble, we become full of rage and ask why God has forsaken us instead of evaluating the circumstances and the past that has led up to where we are now.  Now is the time to repent of sinning and rest in Jesus Christ.  Now is the time to quiet our minds and our hearts and trust in God and allow His Holy Spirit to work on us and through us so that we may become the people that God has created us to be in the first place.

We should never minimize what God has done for us.  It was at the cross of Jesus Christ where God demonstrated His love for us.  While all of us were captivated in our sins, Jesus died for us so that we may live for Him.  It is by the cross of Christ where we may be saved through grace by faith and can now be free from every sinful action and addiction that has enslaved us up to this time in our life.  Yes, each one of us has had such a long difficult journey in this life.  You may have been a believer your whole life and grew up in a Bible believing family and went to church every week.  You may have grown up in an unbelieving home where your caretakers would argue, fight, and maybe even abuse each other and/or yourself.  You may be that person in between.  We all have a story to tell because we have all been born as human beings.  The truth is, no matter where you are in life or in your spiritual journey, God has created you and offers salvation to you for a purpose, and while we are still breathing, our salvation in Jesus Christ is just the beginning.  We are loved by God and have been chosen by Him to love Him and each other just as He has loved us.  How then, can we possibly show such love?  How can we possibly provide that much forgiveness?  How can we have so much patience?  The answer is simple but difficult to live through.  God gives us tests in life.  It does not matter if you are a long-time believer or a sincere atheist, tests will be given to all people.  These tests are not made and given to harm us, they are meant to build us up and shape our character so that we may have a deeper understanding and trust in God to be like Christ in everything that we think, in every word that we speak, in every action we take, may it be eternally worthy.     

(Captivate Us by Watermark):

http://youtu.be/ZT5sSzTG12M 

And Then It Snowed

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Well, today seems like a good day to write about snow as a few inches have accumulated.  This entry will be dealing with the topic of snow more so in the allegorical sense with a little bit of literal sense so here is my two cents.  Although it is normal for anyone to have doubts and sadness with a longing for modification, I have personally been struggling with adjusting to become the man that I need to be and that I was made to be.  Basically, I have been going through a winter lifestyle (feeling cold, being inconvenienced, and most of all, completely uncertain of the future).      

Lately, more often than not, I would get lost in thoughts of regret for things that I should have done but did not do and for things that I did do that I should not have done.  We do something that we know we should not do either from something that we were told of before or just know inside our conscious is not right.  This is sin, doing something that is not right and not doing something that we know we should do.  This usually becomes a downward spiral resulting in the fact that we then become slaves to sin, in other words, we are held in bondage to an activity that is not good for us.  If you do not control your desires, your desires will control you. 

As I was sitting at work, watching the snow fall on the cameras through the closed circuit television monitors, I became inspired with the thought that for every snow flake that comes down is a reminder that I have been forgiven.  This reminiscence comes from Isaiah 1:18-20, “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.  If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.  But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.  I, the LORD, have spoken!”

http://youtu.be/MpWozyQ2QH4  (Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns)

There is a saying that, “Most of us are thermometers, merely reflecting our environment.  We need to be thermostats, controlling it.  We must learn to give more of ourselves than what others may reasonably expect.”  It is never what you are going through, it is always how you are going through it.  Learning to change requires us to think differently, unconventionally, and outside our comfort zone and always requires hard work and dedicated participation.  In the process of change, we need to remember that the greater the struggle we encounter, the greater the blessing we will receive.  As difficult as that is, we need to wait for the breakthrough.  I once heard a sermon that included this quote:  “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  Where the battle rages, that is where the loyalty of the soldier is tested.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  At this realization, we should be able to embrace this season of life that God has given us as a gift.

There is a story about a young boy around the age of 7 who wanted to make a fort on top of a hill in his backyard.  He had a large wooden barrel and was trying to roll it up the hill.  He tried so many times in so many different ways with all of his strength but no matter what he did, he and the barrel would end up back at the bottom.  Finally he just started crying, and his father came out and asked him what was wrong.  When the boy told his dad that he had used all his strength but failed at the task, his dad told him that he did not use ALL of his strength and he needed to push.  The boy said that he had pushed with all his might and still ended up at the bottom.  The father then told him, “You did not use all of your strength because you did not ask me for help.  All you had to do was ask me and I would have helped you bring the barrel up.”

There are many “anonymous” groups (Alcohal Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc…) that have a 12 step program that ask their members to submit to a higher power.  These groups are wonderful for changing people who suffer from some type of addiction in their lives to become better functional people in the world.  Biblically speaking, there are only two “high powers” in this world:  God or Satan.  We must cry out to the right source immediately for help.  When we cry out to God, He will give us deliverance.  He will deliver our souls to salvation.  He will deliver us from bondage to freedom that can only be found in Jesus Christ.  After God has delivered us, we will find rest, peace, and silence with Him.  Finally, we need maintenance to keep us from going down the wrong path again.  We need determination because of salvation. 

In one of my devotional study commentaries, I read that, “Genesis is known as the book of beginnings.  We find the beginning of time, life, marriage, sin, worship, human government, and salvation.  The genesis of abundant life for each believer begins at the cross.  In order to be renewed by the Spirit, Sherwood Wirt says, “We must go to the cross-not only to kneel in reverence, not only to bow in commitment, not only to pick up our cross and carry it, but to be crucified.”  Self-crucifixion means that Christ will send His power into us as individual selves by the same Spirit.  But first, as Richard Bennet says, “The Christian has to attend his own funeral – willingly.”

Shane Idleman provides fantastic insights on life and a few things I got from him that applies to this entry is this:  “Without God, we are self-absorbed drifters with the false mindset that we are kings and queens of this world, looking inward believing that everything is about us.  We often tell Jesus that He should stay on that cross while we sit on our thrones.  Jesus tells us that if we want to live life to the fullest, then we should get off our thrones and carry our crosses.  In Christ, we know that it is not about us, we look outward toward others.  Freedom comes from Jesus Christ who gives life abundantly.  Devotion to Christ and the spreading of the Gospel is a life full of joy.  We cannot become new if we are not willing to break.  We have to break to become a new creation.  Why?  Just as muscles grow in the body, they are broken down while resting and eating nutrients, strained by an unfamiliar workload and responds by growing.”

The timing for this entry is uncanny as this is the season of Lent.  The purpose of Lent and the purpose of any fasting is to discover where our priorities are and to refocus on God.  For example, if we have the most desire and spending a lot of our time and energy watching television, we need to replace that desire, time, and energy by reading the Bible and be in prayer.  The same goes if we spend most of our time on the computer, eating, playing games, etc… The power of sin is dead; however, the influence is not.  What we fill our minds with will either build us up or tear us down.  We feed our bodies with food, so we need to feed our spirit with Scripture and there will be times where we need to remove what we feed our bodies and replace it with feeding our spirit in order to become stronger.  We find in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”  Later in 2 Peter 5-9, we read, “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.  Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.  The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.”

http://youtu.be/DXDGE_lRI0E  (10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman)

A few expressions to ponder:  “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.  If you must look back, then look back with thanks. If you must look forward, then do so with faith.  In the meantime, just rejoice in your walk living moment by moment.  The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”  I would like to close this entry with Colossians 1:9-14:

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Indulgence

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We have two choices, satisfy the flesh or satisfy the Spirit.  The flesh can be satisfied in many ways: eating, drinking, sleeping, fornication, exercising, etc. which in and of themselves are not bad as long as they are done within limits.  The problem is that the more we focus on fulfilling our desires of the flesh, we will make less restrictions and will end up constrained to do whatever we have to in order to meet our craving.  The more you satisfy the flesh, you will continue to expect more and better satisfactions out of habit.  The Spirit can only be satisfied one way and that is to be still with God.  When you begin to satisfy the Spirit, you will find contentment and joy with all that you have in the flesh and will want deeper satisfactions for the Spirit.  What will you plan to satisfy when you wake up?  What will you feed while you are awake?  How will you feel before going to sleep? 

Romans 5:20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6: “12 Do not let sin control the way you live;do not give in to sinful desires. 13 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. 14 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.”

Romans 8: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)…12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Hebrews 2:14 states, “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.”  In The Art of War, Sun Tzu states that:  “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  The truth is that life is filled with battles, the enemy is Satan and his greatest weapons are providing thoughts to human beings to satisfy their own desires.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  When we depend on our own strengths and fight alone, we will lose and die.  When we put our entire trust in Jesus Christ, we find mercy and with mercy we receive grace.  For further clarification, mercy means not getting what we do deserve (withheld punishment) and grace is getting what we do not deserve (unmerited favor).  When we depend on His mercy rather than our own goodness, we gain better understanding of our identity in Christ and are able to live out our lives each day having no fear and no worries of what lies ahead. 

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor who has made the following statements:  “What is to give light must first endure burning.”  “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  He reminds us that “true happiness in life depends not on conditions but on decisions.”  We read in Job 33:27-30, “I sinned and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved.  He redeemed my soul from going down to the grave, and I will live to enjoy the light of life.  God does all these things to a man several times to turn back his soul from the grave, that the light of life may shine on him.”  Hebrews 4:16 instructs, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.”  In the meantime, God is calling us out of mercy and into obedience.  Eventually it dawns on all of us that we cannot get away with unrepentant sin.  It’s as if God gradually withdraws his mercy after we have come to a knowledge of the truth.  God’s mercy has served its purpose, now it is time for obedience.  Romans 12:1 declares, “Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.”

Galatians 5:16-26 (Message): “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?  It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.  This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.  But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.  Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.  Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”

John Wesley would frequently ask his congregation, “Have you availed yourself to the means of grace this week?”  I would like to go further and ask: will grace be the first thought that comes to your mind when you wake up?  Will grace be remembered and reflected towards others as you go through your day?  Will you go to sleep with a thankful heart because of the means of grace? 

Colossians 3:1-17 (Message):  “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.  Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.  And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.  Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.  So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”

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