Dealing With Grief

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On April 25, 2015, my mom went home to be with the Lord at age 55. I had known that she was suffering in this life, but I did not know how much until I talked with her doctor a few days after her passing. I knew that my mom has had type 2 diabetes most of her life and as a result developed other medical complications from that such as spinal stenosis (narrowing of spaces in the spine caused by degeneration of joints and discs). A few years ago, she was diagnosed with CHF (congestive heart failure) and her doctor had informed me that she had severe COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe). About a month prior to her passing, it was discovered that her kidneys were in bad shape due to an infection and dialysis was recommended but my mom refused that treatment knowing how bad her COPD was she felt there was no point to go through the mental and physical side-effects dialysis would bring. Some facts that have given me comfort is that my mom did not want to be on life support or pass away in a hospital. She got what she wanted by passing away in her sleep at home. She also did not want to be seen by a lot of people for a funeral service. I discovered that funeral expenses can add up very quickly to thousands of dollars so since my mom did not have life insurance and I did not have money to pay for a large funeral, especially if it was just going to be a closed casket service, my mom got that wish as well. I complied to her final wish by having her cremated and her ashes are now in an urn behind a couple of pictures of her in the living room.

https://youtu.be/WmIqYDAncOs (When You Come Home by Mark Schultz)

It is never an easy feeling to witness suffering, especially when a person is a family member who you dearly love and care for. In the worst times of my mom’s sufferings, I shared in that suffering to the point where my entire body would just numb up and I would have no specific feelings at all, just a combined mix of feelings to the point where my body would just blank them all out. That is what I felt the day before my mom passed and have been feeling at random times since then. Although I was in emotional shock and felt completely numb, I was also at peace because I knew that my mom was no longer in pain or suffering. She went to be with the HEALER, the very presence of LOVE. It is no coincidence that my mom wrote out lyrics to this song and had that piece of paper in an easy place to find:

https://youtu.be/XRlYbgagnN8 (Wish You Were Here by Mark Harris)

The thoughts and prayers from family members and friends have also played an important role in my loss. As a good friend of mine always says, “isolation is bad and community is good.” If we did not have other people in our lives, life would be a lot more difficult than necessary. Most importantly, if we do not have Jesus Christ in our life, we would be completely lost, especially in the hard times. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since we have a great high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who has gone into heaven, let us hold on to the faith we have. For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. When he lived on earth, he was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.”

https://youtu.be/oI_h_IRfRe8 (Somebody’s Praying by Ricky Skaggs)

Max Lucado described the experience of brokenness as this: “Before your pain, the view was clear; God seemed so near. After your pain, well, he was harder to see. He seemed a bit distant…harder to perceive. Your pain distorted the view—not eclipsed it, but distorted it.” Although there have been times in my life where my view was distorted, I believe that it was because of those times that when I found out that my mom had passed away, my view of God became more clear and I knew without a doubt that He was closer to me at that moment more than ever. I greatly enjoy this one quote: “God’s light in our dark nights are as numerous as the stars, if only we’ll look for them. When God comes, we doubters think, all pain will flee. Life will be tranquil. No questions will remain. And because we look for the bonfire, we miss the candle. Because we listen for the shout, we miss the whisper. But it is in the burnished candles that God comes, and through whispered promises he speaks: ‘When you doubt, look around; I am closer than you think.” Healing begins in a place where our grief merges with God’s grace.

https://youtu.be/Qni5bIN5qmU (Amazing Grace by Celtic Thunder)

I have been noticing, lately more than ever, that in spite of all circumstances, there seemed to be just enough to make it through the day. There has been just enough food, there has been just enough money, there has been just enough comfort for the day. I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.’ So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong.” When sorrow comes and we begin to fall apart, the best place to be is on our knees so that in the midst of our chaos, God can bring order. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I like how the last few words of that verse is worded. When our heart gets broken and our mind becomes confused, we only need to call on Jesus and he will see us through it all. He is always with us walking with us in the good times and carrying us in the bad times. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

https://youtu.be/DavJ9UKS2ps (Your Not Alone by Owl City)

Max Lucado comments on Lamentations 3:1-66 as: “Jeremiah’s sorrow and consolation represented the nation’s agony. Surrounded by sin and sorrow, Jeremiah saw hope in God’s steadfast love and mercy. God renews our lives day by day.” Because God renews our life each day, we should take to heart the passage from Job 22:21-22: “Obey God and be at peace with him; this is the way to happiness. Accept teaching from his mouth, and keep his words in your heart.” The promises of Scripture can give strength to the weak, courage to the fearful, love to the lonely, and peace in the commotion.

https://youtu.be/JsLk-Prtsn0 (Your Love Is Like A River by Third Day)

I encourage everyone to check out the following organizations to see how you can support them:

American Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.org

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

American Lung Association
http://www.lung.org

I would like to conclude this entry with 1 Peter 5:6-12: “Be humble under God’s powerful hand so he will lift you up when the right time comes. Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you. Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. Refuse to give in to him, by standing strong in your faith. You know that your Christian family all over the world is having the same kinds of suffering. And after you suffer for a short time, God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong and support you and keep you from falling. He called you to share in his glory in Christ, a glory that will continue forever. All power is his forever and ever. Amen…I wrote this short letter with the help of Silas, who I know is a faithful brother in Christ. I wrote to encourage you and to tell you that this is the true grace of God, Stand strong in that grace.”

https://youtu.be/7ttTfcu8gQo (Mercy Said No by Greg Long)

Trapped in Hell

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Many people hear the word, “hell” and picture fire everywhere with little red devils with horns running around poking everyone with pitchforks.  There is a much more frightening concept about hell that needs to be known.  The truth of the matter is hell is more than just fire and demons, it is a separation from God.  There are many circumstances in life that will make one FEEL like he/she is in hell right now.  We live in a fallen world that is filled up with sickness, pain, sorrow, and death.  The worst thing Satan can do is throw in a combination of attacks where you have one family member who is in pain and ill, you have a close friend that had recently passed away, you bury yourself in your work to try not to think about the events that are happening all around you resulting in having no free time to spend with your family and friends.  A few days of being a busy-body turns into a few weeks which in turn becomes a few months to a few years.  In that process, you get the feeling that you have been abandoned by those you love, that they have forgotten about you and have moved on with their lives which completely excludes you.  Loneliness and depression sink deep into your soul creating a huge empty space inside of you and regrets of the past and uncertainty of the future flood your thoughts.  Eventually you have gotten to the point where there seems to be no hope at all and you just want to give up.

If you are at that point in your life right now or you feel like you are reaching that point, I urge you to give up right now.  Give up your worries, your regrets, your sorrows, your anger, anything that is bringing you down and holding you down.  Seize on to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life.  Let him fill you up with his Love, Grace, Mercy, and Truth.  In other words, empty all of yourself and ask God to fill you up with Himself and allow him to live through you and guide you on this journey of this life to life everlasting.

http://youtu.be/-pD2zIuiC2g  (Break Every Chain by Tasha Cobbs)

Romans 5:3-8, “There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!  Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (MSG)

When Satan makes you feel like you are trapped in hell with lies and various negative circumstances, pray to your Father in Heaven to free your mind with Truth and Blessings that He has given in the past and assurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel in the future.

http://youtu.be/7IUMTJoH-PQ (Blessed Assurance by Third Day)

Revelation 21:1-7, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (KJV)

http://youtu.be/ezd2PkwXlEU  (All My Fountains by Passion Band)

The Anchor of Grace

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I cannot believe how quickly time has been moving lately. I have recently turned 29 years old and have no idea where the time has gone. Of course, the most important question that should be asked in the present is where is the time going? It is so easy to get sidetracked in life when you are trying to keep focused on one thing and ten other things just pop up with the appearance of needing our attention. If we do not have our priorities in order then we will lose focus on what is truly important in life. There will always be work to be done and money to earn, however, friends and family are with us for just a short time. The subject for this blog entry is Grace because it has been weighing heavy on my heart lately and it is only by God’s Grace that this entry is being made.

In my spare time, I enjoy watching YouTube videos from talent shows such as The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, etc…   It is nostalgic to watch people get discovered for their true talent and rise from the show and what I enjoy the most is hearing their stories of what they went through. Of course, it is also humorous to watch people attempt to act out something they clearly do not have the talent to do. From 7 years old to 70 years old, people go on talent shows to get their moment in the spotlight giving their all.

Here are just a few examples of clips from shows around the world that just blew me away when I saw them:

http://youtu.be/QWcpoQirMoU

http://youtu.be/YPjYtEZbjW0

http://youtu.be/g3Rf5qDuq7M

http://youtu.be/W86jlvrG54o

http://youtu.be/WUpWSD7krSk

As I watch these shows, I cannot help but wonder what if everyone got up every day and gave their all just as if they would do as they prepare for their moment in the spotlight overcoming all obstacles and continuing on the path that was set for them in front of an audience. God is not only our Judge but also our audience every day of our lives. Why do so many of us put him in our pocket and only take him out on Sundays or only on holidays or only if something is terribly wrong and we have no one else to turn to or worse, if we refuse to acknowledge his presence at all?

We are alive because of God’s grace and our purpose in life is to live in grace with God and with each other. When we refuse to accept this truth and decide to go our own way then there will be a guaranteed empty void in our lives. The void is where God is meant to be. The more we accept this truth, the better able we will be to willingly empty ourselves of our own wants so that we may be filled with his Holy Spirit. As a result, we will live out the kind of life we were designed and created to live. A life that is filled with peace, love, and joy. That sounds like heaven on earth doesn’t it? Is that not part of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray? “Let Your Kingdom come, Let Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I would like to conclude this entry with a song/prayer. If you have not done so already, allow God to be your anchor in Jesus Christ. Do not let go of him because He has not let go of you. He is with you to the very end and if you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, there will be no end; there will just be a new beginning.

http://youtu.be/qqsiHRCuJdo?list=RDqqsiHRCuJdo

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.”

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