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 

Genesis Commentary

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In chapter 3:5-7: The serpent convinced Eve to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden so that her eyes may be opened and will know good and evil. Eve believed that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. After Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and ate the fruit, sin began. God had already made everything, and He saw that everything was good for them to live contently and most importantly, completely dependent on Him. There was no need to obtain wisdom, because with wisdom comes the knowledge of evil which was completely foreign to both Adam and Eve before the temptation. A common question is, why have a tree in the garden if it cannot even be touched? The entire concept of law and order is the fact that there are certain things people can do and certain things people cannot do. If people were able to do anything they wanted, there would be no justice and that would contradict God’s image, because God is Just.

In chapter 2:25, we read that “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” After the sin in Genesis 3:8-10, both Adam and Eve heard God and hid because they were naked and afraid. Fast forward to chapter 42 within verse 9, “nakedness” is also considered “weakness.” After Adam and Eve sinned, they became weak. This fact provides excellent insight into the concept of our weakness points out God’s strength. The Bible is full of affirmations of God’s unlimited knowledge. When God asked Adam where he was, God was not unaware of the couple’s location and what had transpired in the garden. The passage describes God as a parent who instructs His children with restoration as His purpose. Adam and Eve had clothed themselves in sin and God uncovered their sin with great disappointment and punished them by taking them out of Eden, cursed the grounds, and mandating physical labor in order to survive. God could have given up on humanity right then and there, but He didn’t. God is Love, and He cares so much for humanity that it is written shortly after He declared His punishment to Adam and Eve, we read in Genesis 3:21 that “The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.” Although the human couple would die, it was ultimately merciful to deny them the tree; otherwise they would live forever in a sinful and painful world. God graciously provided for their new environment outside the garden and ultimately for their eternal salvation through the promised “seed.” Despite the great sin and His disappointment, He still cared for them and watched out for them, just as He still cares for us, and watches out for us.

In chapters 6-9, people became so wicked, that God decided to start over with just Noah and his family, since Noah was the only righteous person at that time. We all know the story of Noah and the great flood, what I would like to point out is in chapter 9:12-17. The passage provided new meaning to the rainbows appearance as “the sign of the covenant” in which God swore that he would never flood the earth again. Just as in the Old Testament, the people looked at the rainbow to remind them of God’s goodness, the New Testament and today, we look towards the Cross for salvation.

From chapters 12-25, we read about Abram who later is called Abraham, which means, “Father of a Multitude” and is the father of all believers. “To note that God blesses Abraham because of his obedience does not alter the fact that God’s covenant with Abraham is unconditional—based on God’s promise rather than Abraham’s fulfillment of some obligation. But a covenant is, first of all, a relationship between persons—in this case, human and divine. Within that framework, obedience always brings about divine blessing and disobedience always results in the enactment of a curse, or judgment.”

In chapter 27:1-29, Though the Lord had told Rebekeh that her older son, Esau, would serve her younger son, Jacob, that in no way excuses the elaborate deception on the part of Rebekeh and Jacob to defraud Esau of his blessing as the older son. Instead of trusting the Lord to accomplish what He had promised, Rebekeh took the matter into her own hands, much as Sarah had by giving Hagar to Abraham in chapter 16. The entire principle is common even today. Instead of trusting and waiting for the Lord, we take things in our own hands, and sure enough, the outcome is not what God, or us wanted to happen. We want things to be done our way and at our time, but we never seem to learn that life would be so much easier if we take everything to the Lord and pray and wait for Him.

In chapter 32, Jacob wrestles with God and after winning, God declared Jacob’s new name to be Israel because Jacob struggled with God and with men and have prevailed. The concept of a Christian “wrestling with God” during particularly difficult or fearful times originates in this passage. Though Jacob physically limped away from this unexpected struggle, his new divinely given name, “Israel,” indicated that “he struggled with God” and prevailed, growing spiritually in the process. Always remember that if you are going through a difficult time, hold on to God and in His time, you will come out of the struggle stronger and wiser.

Jacob’s conversation with Esau in 33:10-11 is interesting: “For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” Those verses highlight the fundamental concepts of being a Christian, which are acceptance and care. God has already accepted us and cares for us just as we are. Once person acknowledges this acceptance and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then it should be difficult to keep this kind of love to oneself. When we accept others and care for them, just as God has done for us, we will see God in one another. Just recently I got a devotional email from Max Lucado that fits perfectly with this: Once there was a man whose life was one of misery. The days were cloudy, and the nights were long. Henry didn’t want to be unhappy, but he was. With the passing of the years, his life had changed. His children were grown. The neighborhood was different. The city seemed harsher. He was unhappy. He decided to ask his minister what was wrong. “Am I unhappy for some sin I have committed?” “Yes,” the wise pastor replied. “You have sinned.” “And what might that sin be?” “Ignorance,” came the reply. “The sin of ignorance. One of your neighbors is the Messiah in disguise, and you have not seen him.” The old man left the office stunned. “The Messiah is one of my neighbors?” He began to think who it might be. Tom the butcher? No, he’s too lazy. Mary, my cousin down the street? No, too much pride. Aaron the paperboy? No, too indulgent. The man was confounded. Every person he knew had defects. But one was the Messiah. He began to look for Him. He began to notice things he hadn’t seen. The grocer often carried sacks to the cars of older ladies. Maybe he is the Messiah. The officer at the corner always had a smile for the kids. Could it be? And the young couple who’d moved next door. How kind they are to their cat. Maybe one of them … With time he saw things in people he’d never seen. And with time his outlook began to change. The bounce returned to his step. His eyes took on a friendly sparkle. When others spoke he listened. After all, he might be listening to the Messiah. When anyone asked for help, he responded; after all this might be the Messiah needing assistance. The change of attitude was so significant that someone asked him why he was so happy. “I don’t know,” he answered. “All I know is that things changed when I started looking for God.” Now, that’s curious. The old man saw Jesus because he didn’t know what he looked like. The people in Jesus’ day missed him because they thought they did. How are things looking in your neighborhood?

Finally in chapters 37-50, the well-known story of Joseph and his family is told. I admire Joseph and the faith that he kept throughout his entire life. Joseph’s own brothers betrayed him by plotting to kill him because of the favor their father showed toward him, then decided to sell him as a slave to the Ishmaelites, and then was sold to an officer of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Once Joseph gained good standing with the Pharaoh, he was then framed by Pharaoh’s wife of adultery and was thrown in prison. Eventually, two of Pharaoh’s servants were thrown in prison, had dreams in which Joseph was able to interpret accurately and requested that the servants not forget about him when they left prison. Sure enough, they both forgot and Joseph remained in prison for two more years until Pharaoh had a dream in which no one else could interpret and at that point, a servant remembered Joseph, got him out of prison, and Joseph regained his status under the Pharaoh, and continued to live his life in faithfulness. In chapter 41:51-52, “Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, meaning, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship in my father’s house.’ And the second son he named Ephraim, meaning ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.’” Near the end, Joseph is reunited with his father and brothers. While he holds his brothers responsible for their actions, he nevertheless offers forgiveness and urges them to forgive themselves since God used the circumstances to accomplish His wider purpose. In chapter 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.” Joseph had long since forgiven them, recognizing God’s providential hand of protection behind what had taken place. Let us follow that example. Whatever we have been through, whatever was done to us, whatever we are going through, whatever what is being done to us, and whatever we will go through, whatever will be done to us, let us look at the Big Picture, let us pray to see God’s hand in the workings of our daily life. Let us forgive all the wrongs that were done to us and by us and “live like saved children of God—because that is who we are.” The last quote is from a good friend who commonly uses it at the end of his sermons.

Exodus Commentary

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“In many ways the book of Exodus is the foundation stone upon which the rest of the Bible stands…It’s regulations regarding the proper treatment of others serve as the core around which the teachings of Proverbs, the lyrics of many Psalms, and the proclamations of the prophets were built. From a New Testament perspective, this book is used in three main ways. First, it prefigures the life and ministry of Christ, especially in His role as our sacrificial lamb. Second, it provides examples that illustrate the Christian life. Finally, it presents the moral and ethical framework to guide Christians in their decision-making.” (HSCB)

3:7, 16-17, 21; 4:12, 27 —Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of My people, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them…I have paid close attention to you and to what has been done to you. And I have promised you that I will bring you up from the misery…And I will give this people such favor that when you go, you will not go empty-handed…Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say… The people believed, and when they heard that the LORD had paid attention to them and that He had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.” When the people believed, they bowed down and worshiped. What are we doing now? Most of us, are living day-by-day just going through the motions of life. Sure there are some of us that go to Church over the weekend, and maybe even a select few that go to a Bible study as well sometime during the week. What about the rest of the time? The Bible teaches that we are to pray continually, and that we should enter in prayer with first giving praise and thanksgivings to God. Here is a challenge for everyone: Worship God 24/7/365. Here is the reason for this, God has not only heard and seen our sufferings, He has experienced everything in the flesh of Jesus Christ that we have experienced and will experience. He pays close attention to us because He cares about us and every little detail about our lives, He wants to be a part of us, and not just any part. He wants the most important part, which is our heart. If we allow Him to enter our hearts, then there would be no more empty void that some of us feel. If for whatever reason, we still feel some kind of void in our lives and we have already let Jesus into our hearts, then we can take that to Him in prayer and leave it at the Cross.

9:14-16—“Then you will know there is no one like Me in all the earth. By now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with a plague, and you would have been obliterated from the earth. However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you My power and to make My name known in all the earth.” 10:3—“This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?” The Bible teaches that Jesus will not come again until everyone on the entire earth has heard the Message of the Good News and has had an opportunity to make a choice of whether or not to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives.

In regards to 12:13 God knows all things and did not need to make an inspection tour through the land, noting the blood on each doorpost to discern who was obedient to Him. The blood was the “distinguishing mark,” a sign for the benefit of the Israelites that confirmed their obedience to God and His promise of salvation. The phrase “when I see the blood” is used figuratively to indicate the Lord’s knowledge of those who trust Him. The expression looks ahead to God’s response to those who, having entered into the death of Christ, are protected by His blood from the wrath of God’s judgment.

14:13-14—“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the LORD’s salvation He will provide for you…The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.” In other words, you must be still and know that the LORD is with you. Be silent and listen for Him to speak to you. 33:14—“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

16:18—“…Each gathered as much as he needed to eat.” It seems that God was teaching His people not to profit from the hardship of their brothers and sister. We have certainly lost our way in America. God provided His people with just the right amount needed to live by, no more, no less. Here we are today, working for that extra dollar that in the end we will regret and realize that we did not actually need to make more. Later on in Exodus 18:18, 21, we read, “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone…But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as officials…” These verses are being said to Moses by his father-in-law in regards to Moses judging every case of the law. They can also be useful to us today in a whole other perspective. We were not created to live and work alone. We all need to be a part of a community in which everybody helps one another. I am pretty sure, this is what our founding fathers had in mind while writing the Constitution. Neighbors helping one another in order for everybody to have an equal supply. A small government of officials providing accountability to the people in order for right living.

In regards to the Ten Commandments found in 20:1-17, God and Moses perceived obedience to the laws, not as a way of or precondition to salvation, but as the grateful response of those who had already been saved. God did not reveal the law to the Israelites in Egypt and then tell them that as soon as they had measured up to this standard He would rescue them. On the contrary, by grace alone, through faith they crossed the Red Sea to freedom. All that was required was belief in God’s promise that He would hold up the walls of water on either side and see them safely through to the other shore. The Decalogue begins, not with the first commandment, but with a preamble: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” (Dt. 5:6). Obedience to the Decalogue or any other law has never been intended as the way of salvation but as the appropriate response to salvation already received. Today, Christians need to have the kind of faith in which Jesus has already paid the price of our sins and that He is holding our hands and carrying us through the difficulties of life. It will be because of this faith, that we follow the Commandments. There are some verses that God suggest that one reason we should obey Him is for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. An example is, 34:6-7—“Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” The Bible teaches that human beings are free to make choices. God is good and always acts consistently with His nature. Yet people can choose to rebel against God’s goodness, and consistent rebellion can lead to their hearts being hardened. As the saying goes, “The same sun that melts butter also hardens clay.” We are free in that we do what we want to do, but behind our plans and desired are those of God. Like ripples spreading across a pool of calm water, our actions have consequences for generations to come. We can create waves of difficulty or blessing, according to the choices we make. God does not condemn children because of their parents’ misbehavior. However, children suffer the consequences of their parent’s sinful choices in which establishes a pattern that children model as they mature. The result can be a repetition of their parent’s emotional brokenness leading to conflict, divorce, poverty, or other conditions that make their children’s, and even their grandchildren’s, lives difficult. In 20:20, Moses provides reassurance, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.” God will never behave immorally, but He will bring affliction upon those who live in defiance of His will. As people change their actions and wills, God changes His response to them. Although He is prepared to bring affliction upon people because of their sins, He is prepared to relent as they repent. 32:33-34—…”Whoever has sinned against Me I will erase from My book… But on the day I settle accounts, I will hold them accountable for their sin.” The point is that every person will be held accountable for his actions and words.

The “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” passage is well known, and unfortunately, often twisted, it did not require people to pay someone back for a wrong done to them. Its purpose was to establish limits for retaliation. The most one could do in response to knocking out a tooth was to knock out the other person’s tooth; a person could not be killed for injuring someone’s eye. As Jesus pointed out, a person who was wronged by another could choose not to retaliate for what had been done to him. Often such a response would be the best way to deal with the problem. In every case, it should be the first option considered.

While the Lord ordained the use of ritual in worship, He abhorred ritual that aimed at divine manipulation. The only actions that pleased God were those that arose from the heart, and true worship was to be accompanied by joy in the Lord. In 25:2 God states, “You are to take My offering from everyone whose heart stirs him to give.” Thus biblical religion gives at the same time a higher view of humanity and a higher view of God—omnipotent, undivided, purposeful, merciful, uniformly righteous, and deserving of our undivided love. Israel was to be a kingdom of priests, singing to the Lord and declaring His glory among the nations day after day.

“In the Hebrew language, what is translated as “jealous” can also be translated as “zealous.” The term describes God’s expectation that human beings will make Him their highest priority in life, loving Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. As Creator of the universe and all life, God has the right to expect people to value Him most highly. This type of “jealousy” is not a bad thing. It is proper in a marriage; a wife or husband expects the spouse to be faithful in thought, word, and deed, and would be rightfully upset should the spouse prove unfaithful. The Israelite prophets sometimes compare God’s relationship to His people, in His covenant, to a marriage.”(HSCB)

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