Daily Devotional; formerly Chaplains Corner

Discussion in 'Religious Discussions' started by ampaterry, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Freedom to Love

    Over the last few days we have been looking at the ten great freedoms found in Exodus 20, and also in Deuteronomy 5. Yes, God told Israel more than once what His commands are. There is nothing wrong with that. How many times do we have to be told something more than once? We read our reloading manuals, and then re-read them, to get safe reloading practice well and truly stuck into our heads so we don’t have “accidents”.

    Now, very often, as we are reading through a complicated procedure or set of instructions, the author summarizes it with easy-to-remember phrases. That is what God has done for us. The Ten Commandments could be broken down into two sections: The first four have to do with our relationship with God. The remaining six deal with our relationship with people around us. He gave us two easy to remember phrases that summarize all these laws.

    I think God’s idea is that if we get our relationship with Him sorted out, the relationship with those around us will follow naturally.

    If we don’t love God, it is impossible for us to truly love our neighbor.

    1 John 4 says 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

    So these two easy phrases to remember? Jesus had just won a debate with the Sadducees in Matthew 22. Now the Pharisees thought they would have a go at Jesus and this is when Jesus gave us the summary of the Ten Commandments in two easy to remember statements. 34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament when He gave these two summary statements. We’ll glance at these in the next couple of days, although whole books have been written about these two commands.

    1. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

    2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

    May God bless us richly as we learn to love Him with all we are, and then be conduits of His love to our neighbors, and even our enemies.
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  2. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Love God first and foremost

    In Matthew 22 Jesus said 37 … “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment.

    As I said yesterday, Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament. Here it is:

    Deuteronomy 6: 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

    God goes on to tell Israel how to keep these words on their heart in the following verses: by talking about them with their families all the time, by writing them on their houses and gates and literally keep them in front of their eyes.

    Deuteronomy 10 gives a couple of reasons why we should love God and our neighbors: 12 “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.

    15 Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16 So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. 17 For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

    In other words, Love the Lord Your God because He has loved us, and show His love your neighbor.

    Wow!! Think about that: God owns all of creation. That’s wealth beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. That’s power and authority beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Yet this God of gods, Lord of lords, this great, mighty, awesome, just, holy God chose us out of all the rest of the people in the world, to love us, to be kind to us, to show us His favor, to do good things for us, to make us His children.

    The least we can do is love Him back. You know how it is. If you love someone you want to be with them. You want to spend time with them, talking together, doing things together, enjoying the good things in life together, supporting each other through the difficult times.

    That’s how God wants it to be with us. He wants to talk with us through His Word; He wants to hear us talking to Him through prayer. He wants us to know He is with us all the time. Psalm 23 talks about the green pastures and still waters, and it also talks about the valley of the shadow of death. And God is with us all the way, all the time in both the good times and the hard times.

    Part of how we love God is by living by His rules. His commands to us are for our good. He created us. He knows our design specifications and knows how we work best. He has given us a blueprint for not only surviving in this world, but thriving in this world. It’s called the Bible. It has rules for maintenance, for avoiding damage, for repairing damage we get from living in this world, for getting the best out of the lives He has given us here on this earth.

    Furthermore, He offers His extended warranty of eternal life to anyone who will receive it. He says in 1 John 5 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

    There is another reason to love God first and foremost: He will never fail us. People will fail us for various reasons, but God won’t. Things will fail us, but God won’t. He told Joshua in Joshua 1 5 …Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.

    And He tells us the same thing. He will never leave us or forsake us.

    May God bless us richly as we learn to love Him first and foremost.
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  3. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Free to love ourselves

    In Matthew 22 Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments in two easy-to-remember statements. In fact, He said these two statements summarized all the Law and the Prophets. Just think. Over the years since Israel had entered the Promised Land the Jewish leaders had been hard at work writing and embellishing and trying to clarify the Law God had given Moses. Prophets had received messages from God and faithfully passed them on to the Israelites. The two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments on them had blossomed into whole libraries of law. It was almost as bad as the accumulation of laws in the US or UK today. How would it be if all the laws Congress has passed could be summarized in two short, sharp, easily remembered statements? Life would be a lot simpler.

    So Jesus said 37 ...“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    We looked at loving God with all our being yesterday. That simple statement summarized the first four Commandments: in them we get our relationship with God sorted out. Once we have a good relationship with our Creator, we can go on to develop good relationships with others around us that God has created in His own image—our neighbors, other people around us.

    Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament when He gave the second simple statement. That quote came from Leviticus 19: 17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

    So today we look at loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    Hmmm. That brings up an interesting question: What does it mean to love ourselves? We could talk about that for quite a while, and may come back to it another time. A couple of quick ideas here now.

    First, we need to keep in mind that God loves us the way we are. He made us the way we are. Now, we may feel like we are too short or too tall, our hair is too curly or too straight or the wrong color; our eyes are the wrong color; we have the wrong heritage—parents, social background, too poor, etc. We might think we are not smart enough. Maybe we are too fat. Well, we can usually do something about the “fat” bit, but the other things are all characteristics God has given us and we can’t change them. Some people even claim they are the wrong sex or color or race. Maybe we have a genetic malfunction. Maybe we have come through traumatic experiences. All those things are things God has put into our lives for a specific reason, or allowed to come into our lives for a special purpose as He makes us into the people He wants us to be, for His specific mission for each of us. He is equipping us to carry out a particular task in His Body, the Body of Christ here on earth.

    Psalm 139 talks about how it was God who put each one of us together. We are not a genetic accident. 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

    We have been created in God’s image. If we love God, we can love ourselves in the right way.

    So who are we to question God’s wisdom? He put us together the way we are for a reason, and He put us together the way we are in all His wisdom. If we don’t like the way we are, we are calling God incompetent; we are calling Him a fool.

    No. It’s far better to say “OK, God, You knew what You were doing when you put me together. Now, would you please help me to understand why, and how You want to use me the way I am for Your glory?”

    Second, everyone says we should put others before ourselves, be gallant, generous, self-sacrificing, even altruistic or ascetic. What does that have to do with loving ourselves? Couldn’t “loving ourselves” lead to self-indulgence, focus on myself to the exclusion of others? We’ve all seen people who love themselves selfishly and it should turn our stomachs. Narcissism is the ultimate expression of self-love gone wrong.

    On the other hand, sometimes we look at ourselves and say “How can God ever use me? I’m such a mess.”

    Romans 12 gives a clue on how we are to think about ourselves: 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

    Paul goes on to talk about how we as Christians are all members of one body, and each of us performs a different function, so we are put together differently from everyone else. An eye is not an ear or a nose; a foot is not a liver or a nerve; a hand is not a heart or a stomach. Bones and kidneys and red blood cells and white blood cells and platelets are all different, yet all are part of the same body and all work together to make the body function in a healthy way. Each part is has its special function in the entire body.

    We are all different. God has given each one of us special gifts, abilities, and backgrounds. He does that to carefully equip us to fulfill a special particular task in His body, just as we have many different kinds of cells to perform specialized tasks in our own bodies. When we excel in doing whatever task God has given us to do, we can be thankful to God for how He has put us together; we can love ourselves for what He has made us into. He is the One Who opens doors of opportunity for us; He directs our steps if we listen to Him and trust Him and do what He says we should do.

    Friends, we’ll have to come back to this tomorrow. But think about it. If we can’t love ourselves, if we can’t love God who lives in us, how in the world are we ever going to love anyone else?
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  4. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Free to love our neighbors

    Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments (Ten Great Freedoms) and all the reams of law and prophets accumulated since Moses received the two tablets of stone from God on Mount Sinai in Matthew 22 when He said 37 ...“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    This love for God is not just a nice, good, warm fuzzy feeling. It’s a decision we make, that results in action. This love for God, and then ourselves, and then for others is only possible because God lives in us. If we are Christians we have received Jesus into our lives and He is living in us, working in us, loving through us.

    God’s love for us showed up in action. Romans 5 says 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    John 3 says 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

    God’s love for us meant He gave for us. He didn’t just have nice warm thoughts toward us. He didn’t feel any nice cozy feelings toward us. We were hardly likeable. We were still sinners, totally repugnant, undeserving of any favors from Him. But He chose to love us and put that love into action by sending His Son, who was most precious to Him, to die on the cross for us. God’s Love means action.

    Once we get our relationship with God sorted, once we know how to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind, we can learn how to love ourselves properly, and then we can go on obey His command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    Now, Jesus said the same thing in a little different way in Matthew 7 12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

    People have paraphrased this as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—the “Golden Rule”.

    In Luke 10 Jesus told the parable of The Good Samaritan in response to a question someone asked him: Who is my neighbor? You all remember that story. A man was mugged on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and left to die. Two prominent Jewish leaders crossed to the other side of the road so they could pass him by and not get involved. Then a man from Samaria came on the scene and rescued him. In today’s culture it would be like a black man coming to the aid of a white man he found mugged along the road. Jesus finished by asking 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

    Jesus expanded on that law in Matthew 5. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    God shows common mercy to everyone: His sun shines on everyone; His rain falls on everyone regardless of whether they are good or bad. So we should treat everyone with the same goodness with which God has treated us.

    Let’s go back to that Matthew 5 passage again. Jesus said 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, That’s what Jesus did on the cross as He said “Father forgive them for the know not what they do”. Stephen echoed those words as the Jews were stoning him to death in Acts 7.

    How should we pray for them? We can pray for them to repent, for their salvation; for God to intervene in their lives to stop whatever they may be doing to hurt us, to persecute us. I don’t think that means sticking flowers in the muzzles of their guns if they are attacking us. I still say self defense is a God-given responsibility.

    But for the likes of those who have been taken to court because they were doing things God told them to do—preaching God’s Word to the public, obeying God rather than man’s mandates to be politically correct, witnessing to co-workers, we should be praying for God to intervene in their lives, to either turn them around or stop them cold. But holding a grudge against those who persecute me makes me an emotional prisoner to them.

    We should have the same attitude Paul did when he was up before the court in Acts 26 when he concluded his testimony to King Agrippa. 28 Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”

    Paul wanted his enemy to have the same salvation that he had. He said it again in Romans 10;1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. He was talking about the Jews this time. When we pray for our enemies, that’s what we should be wanting, and praying for. Seeing an enemy become a Christian turns him from being an enemy to a brother in Christ. Seeing an enemy become a Christian would be the greatest good for him.

    There is a side benefit to loving our neighbors and enemies. It removes fear. 1 John 4 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
  5. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    God handles our doubts

    Elijah had hit rock bottom. After seven years surviving on the run, he had had that confrontation with King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel and 850 prophets of Baal and of the Asherah on Mount Carmel, when God answered His simple prayer for fire to come down and consume the sacrifice. You remember the scene in 1 Kings 18. It was a thumping victory. All those 850 false prophets had been executed. Yet when Jezebel swore to kill him in the next chapter, he went on the run again and eventually wound up hiding out in a cave on Mount Horeb.

    It was there that God met Elijah and talked with him. 1 Kings 19: Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

    You can just about hear the tiredness, the discouragement, the doubt in Elijah’s voice as he answers:

    10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

    After that terrifically exhilarating spiritual victory on Mount Carmel, Elijah was completely drained, discouraged, and doubting whether God was still able to protect him.

    The same kind of thing happened to John the Baptist after an extremely successful evangelism campaign. He had baptized Jesus in the Jordan, saw and heard the Father’s endorsement of Jesus there in Matthew 3: 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

    He had introduced the world to Jesus, the Lamb of God, there in John 1: 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’

    He had eventually been imprisoned. Surrounded by the darkness of prison, he too got discouraged, began doubting God’s faithfulness. He sent messengers to Jesus in Luke 7: 19 Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?”

    That could sound crazy. If anyone should have known God’s Son, it should have been John, Jesus’ cousin, the one who has spent the last few years preparing the way of the Lord. Yet here he was, asking if Jesus was really the Christ, or is someone else coming?

    Friends, we are human. We get tired, discouraged, even in the face of some of the most wonderful experiences we can have with God. It happens.

    And God is right there, ready to pick us up. See what happened with Elijah. 1 Kings 19 15 The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall…

    God gave Elijah a new task. He was to be God’s agent in bringing about a regime change in Judah and Israel, and select his own successor. God's work would continue, even after Elijah was gone.

    Jesus gave John reassurances. The experiences John had there on the Jordan with Jesus may have faded in the shadows of the prison he was in, but Jesus brought him new light. Luke 7: 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

    When we get discouraged, when we begin doubting God’s ability, His power, His love for us, He has a way of meeting with us, of getting the message to us that He is still in control, and that our faith in Him is a valid faith. He doesn’t cut us off if we feel low, or begin doubting Him. He reassures us. He brings healing to our broken hearts.

    Isaiah 42 3 “A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.

    Psalm 147 3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.

    We just need to cry out with that boy’s father in Mark 9 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
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  6. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Drifting into disaster

    A little over a quarter century ago, on January 5, 1993, the oil tanker Braer lost power in a storm 10 miles south of Shetland. She was en route from Norway to Canada with 85,000 tons of crude in her hold. The coast guard was alerted at 05:19. The winds eventually drove it into Quendale Bay, on the southern end of the main island of the Shetland Islands, where it grounded around midday, breached, and lost the entire cargo into the North Sea and onto the Shetland mainland. The crew was rescued by helicopter, so nobody was killed. Fortunately, the winds kept up a gale force storm for about a week that dissipated most of the oil.

    Now we get into the “ifs” that could have prevented the disaster.

    If the ship had managed to avoid the storm, or waited to sail until the storm was past.

    If the captain had been a better seaman.

    If the engines had been better maintained.

    If the rescue tug had gotten there sooner.

    If she had managed to get an anchor to hold.

    And there are a lot of other “ifs”.

    Now, the same thing can happen to us as Christians; the same thing is happening to our society and is happening in churches around the world.

    I just saw in an article that the Episcopalian church is going PC by eliminating all reference to men, women, husband, wife from its wedding liturgy. It then goes on to trace the failing congregations back to how the church has drifted away from God’s Word.

    We see daily the effects of going adrift from God’s Law, His Word, in society around us. London Police officials say “Violence has no place on our streets”, but the number of homicides in London had surged by 44% in the last year. London, while trying to maintain safe streets, is making them worse by trying to drive the God of Peace out of the city.

    Christians compromise their relationship with God. Paul warned Timothy about that in 1 Timothy 1: 9 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.

    The same “ifs” that could have prevented the Braer disaster apply to us as Christians, to churches, and to society.

    I’m going to stick with “us as Christians” for now, but the same kinds of “ifs” apply to churches and society.

    Avoid the storm. Stay out of the wrong places, stay away from the wrong crowd. Proverbs is full of admonition to choose your friends carefully. Make sure the influence goes from you to the world, not from the world to you. James 1: 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

    Have the right captain in charge of your life. Jesus Christ is the only one who can successfully pilot us through life’s storms. Psalm 23: 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;

    Maintain the engines, the power plant in our lives. That’s our relationship with God. We need to keep feeding ourselves the rich fuel of God’s Word on a daily, even minute by minute basis, and strain out the impurities satan keeps trying to slip in. We need to keep our machinery well maintained: open lines of communication between us and God through prayer, clear conscience (confessing sin and asking forgiveness). Hebrews 2: For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.

    We must be ready to receive the towline from God’s rescue tug. 1 Corinthians 10: 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

    We must get our anchor well and truly stuck into the Rock of God and His Word. Read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it. Psalm 119: 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

    Drifting is so easy to do…one compromise at a time. And it leads to shipwreck of our lives, of our faith, of our relationship with God.

    May God bless us richly as we avoid making a shipwreck of our lives by sticking close to God.
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  7. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Bloom where you’re planted

    What would you do if you were in their place?

    The ultimate disaster had happened for Israel. They had turned their back on God, and He let them have what was coming. He had warned them that it would happen through the prophets, and the Israelites had ignored His warnings and kept on rejecting Him. They turned a deaf ear to God’s warnings.

    Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet” had been one of God’s mouthpieces. Jeremiah 25 has the prophecy: 8 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, 9 behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.

    And that’s exactly what happened. Babylon laid total waste to Israel, and the Israelites were hauled off wholesale to Babylon, 500 miles away as the crow flies, more like 1000 miles by road.

    Just in passing, did you catch what God said about Nebuchadnezzar? Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant,

    Strange title for a pagan king who didn’t care two cents for the God of Israel. But God was going to use him whether he knew it or not to carry out his judgment against Israel.

    So God told Israel to cooperate with their captors. That’s what Daniel did; that’s what Ezra and Nehemiah did, and God used them mightily in the household of the Babylonian emperors. Because of Daniel’s witness, it appears Nebuchadnezzar became a Christian. See Daniel 4: 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” That’s about as close as people could get in the Old Testament to saying “Jesus is Lord”.

    Here’s what God told Israel to do once they were relocated to their exiled land: Jeremiah 29: 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7 Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

    That’s completely the opposite of what some people would try to do. They might try to start an underground revolution movement to overthrow the government. They might try to sabotage the society any way they could.

    But God told the Israelites to settle in, make themselves at home, and far from setting up opposition to their conquerors, 7 Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

    That’s a tall order. Seek the welfare of the enemies who have just wiped the floor with us and hauled us off into exile? Pray for them?

    Well, Jesus did tell us to pray for our enemies, and for those who persecute us.

    The key is in that simple phrase: where I have sent you.

    Even when things seemed to be wildly out of God’s control, He was still in charge. Jerusalem, and all Israel was in ruins, but God had said that would happen. The Israelites were being sent as prisoners and slaves to a foreign land. Nebuchadnezzar may have thought he was dong the taking and the conquering, but he was merely God’s catspaw, doing the things God allowed, or wanted him to do. God was doing the sending. God was sending His people into exile, away from their beloved Israel. God was sending His people into Babylon.

    And He was telling them to seek the good of the place.

    Now, here we are in a “Babylon” of a world. We are in the communities where we are because this is where God has placed us. And His command to us is still the same…seek the good of the community where you are. Pray for those in authority. Even in California and New York, and Edinburgh and London. Pray to the Lord on behalf of your city. Ask for great and good things to happen for our communities and cities and states and countries, because our welfare is bound up in the welfare of where we are.

    And always remember…we are not permanent residents in this world. We have a permanent home with the Lord. We’re just passing through this earth. Our permanent citizenship is in Heaven.

    Our task here on earth, the best way we can help our communities, is to draw them back to God’s standards; to see as many of our neighbors become citizens of God’s Kingdom as possible.

    We need to bloom where God has planted us so we can attract as many people into God’s Kingdom as possible.
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  8. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Are you up for the challenge?

    When I was in university the Vietnam war was beginning to wind down, but the draft was still in full swing. I decided that if I my number came up I would enlist in the Marines. I figured it was better to be part of The Few, The Proud, The Brave, The Marines. My number never came up, so some might say I missed out; others might say I lucked out. I knew the Marines had a much harder boot camp and training regime than other branches of the service, but if I had to fight, I wanted to be part of a motivated body of men.

    Christ calls us to be motivated in our relationship with Him. He doesn't make it "easy" to be His disciples. He demands a high price.

    Mark 10 shows some of that price, and the rewards for paying that price: 28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

    It's an all or nothing commitment. A lot of people said they wanted to follow Jesus in Luke 9, but first they wanted to do this or that. Jesus' response was direct: 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

    So Jesus did not make it easy for people to follow Him. That shows up in the first verse of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5 it says When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them,

    The people had to come to Him. It took effort to climb the mountain. Only those who really wanted to listen to Him, to learn from Him, would make the effort to go up. It says His disciples came to him, not necessarily the multitudes. On that mountain He was going to impart some training to those who wanted to be part of His elite corps of disciples.

    A number of years ago I was meeting people individually or in small groups for some intensive Bible Study, aimed at helping people develop their relationship with God. We met at 0630, at their home, at a restaurant, in a park, wherever we could get together. It took effort, but as the saying goes, "you value what you pay for". The benefit is directly proportional to the effort invested.

    As we read through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, we see how people paid the price of discipleship. Remember Abraham. He left his familiar surroundings there in Haran to go where God would send him. Elijah called Elisha to follow him; Elisha left his farm and family to take up Elijah's mantle. The Twelve disciples paid a high price to follow Jesus--they left their livelihoods, homes, families, possessions behind in order to follow Jesus. They endured persecutions, the crowds mocked them, lied about them, and even tortured, imprisoned and killed them.

    God rewards them for paying that price. Jesus said in Mark 10 30 ...he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. I've seen that kind of thing happen in my own life.

    Too many times churches try to make it easy to make people "feel" like they are becoming disciples. Jesus demanded a real commitment from His disciples. He wasn't interested in getting a large following of mediocre people. He wanted what the Marines want: The Few, The Proud, The Brave...the ones who would pay the price for the honor of being called Jesus' Disciple.

    So Jesus started the Sermon on the Mount with a challenge: meet Me on My terms. Pay the price to come and follow Me. Put the effort in to come to Me, and you will be greatly rewarded in this life and in the one to come.

    Those who took the challenge and went up the mountain to meet with Jesus received a concentrated course in what it means to be a Christian.

    May God bless us abundantly as we pay the price to be His disciples.
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  9. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Poorest of the poor, yet richest of the rich

    One of the things recruits learn in boot camp is attitude. “I can do this”, “keep going” becomes part of their mentality. We talk about a survival mentality, about a “never give up” mentality or mindset that we need to have if we are going to survive in a grid down situation or in a fight. That way of thinking is as much caught as taught.

    In Matthew 5 Jesus starts his "boot camp for disciples" with the Beatitudes, or Be-Attitudes--the mindset we need to have if we are going to be part of His elite followers. The first Be-Attitude is

    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    That term "Blessed" occurs all the way through these Be-Attitudes. It means happy, fortunate, prosperous. What a way to start out...almost a contradiction in terms. How rich we are, how happy we are when we are poor...in spirit.

    It makes sense when you stop to think about it. A person not poor in spirit is proud. He going to be looking all around to try to be sure others look up to him, and he’ll be unhappy if he sees someone that seems to not give him the honor he thinks is due him. He’s proud, and nothing really satisfies him.

    But the poor in spirit are the ones who look to God to give them credibility, value, honor.

    The Greek word for poor is πτωχοs, ptwkos. It means dirt-poor, a beggar. When you say it, it almost sounds like you are spitting. So the proud and rich consider the poor with contempt and when they say "poor" they can almost spit at the same time.

    So what Jesus is saying is that we are rich and happy when we consider ourselves poor in spirit. We are not spiritually arrogant. Do you remember the story He told about the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector) in Luke 18?

    9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

    13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    I like that...the Pharisee was praying to himself, not to God. Religious people tend to trust in themselves and their religious observances, their liturgies, to earn their salvation. He considered himself rich in spirit because of his religious accomplishments and his self-righteousness. He was proud of his activities. Every day he would look into the mirror to see how virtuous he was. And God ignored this man.

    But the spiritually poor tax collector threw himself on the mercy of God. That's all he could do. He didn't have a high-church religious background to use to try to lever himself into heaven. He may have had lots of money and things, but he knew he was a spiritual pauper, and in God's eyes, worth absolutely nothing. He knew he was spiritually dirt-poor, a beggar.

    Instead of looking in a mirror to see how righteous he was, he was looking to God and seeing how poor he was. Yet because he considered himself worthless in God's eyes and asked for God's mercy, God prized him and justified him.

    Time and time again throughout the Bible God says He hates the proud, but He loves the meek and lowly. Proud people don’t think they need God. Humble people realize all they can do is throw themselves on God’s mercy. And these are the ones God gives His Kingdom to.

    Peter says in 1 Peter 5: 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

    That's part of what it means to be poor in spirit. We need to see ourselves as spiritually bankrupt, regardless of our bank balance and other physical circumstances, and religious activities and background. In God’s sight we are indigent. He is the One who will justify us. He will exalt us in His time. When we see ourselves as God sees us, totally spiritually bankrupt in God’s sight, He will give us His Kingdom. He will justify us, make us right in His sight. He will exalt us, just as He did that tax collector.

    May God bless us with eyes to see ourselves as God sees us, spiritually indigent, so that He will make us spiritually rich in and by His grace.
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  10. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Gladness in sadness

    Jesus turns our logical way of thinking upside down and inside out. Here is another seeming contradiction in terms in this second Be-Attitude.

    Matthew 5 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    Remember, the Greek word for "blessed" can mean rich, fortunate, happy. Now Jesus is saying we should be happy when we mourn. And yes, "mourn" means just what it says on the tin. The people at Lazarus' tomb were mourning, grieving, over the death of a good man in John 11. Mark 16:10 describes how the disciples were mourning and weeping after the death of Christ.

    We mourn, we grieve, over various things. Death of a loved one, loss of possessions, loss of health, loss of a job, loss of a pet, any of these things can throw us into a tailspin of grief. Lost business opportunities or doing poorly in a competition can cause us to be sad.

    When we are poor in spirit, we see how bad we are compared with how righteous God is, and that should also cause us to grieve because there is no way we can match up to God's standards. When we look at the evil in the world around us...in government and politics, in the business world, in the atrocities that are being carried out on Christians at home and around the world, that causes us grief.

    So how is it we can be happy when we are mourning?

    The second part of the statement says we shall be comforted. That's a dead certainty that you can take to the bank. God has made a promise that we will have His comfort. And He keeps His promises.

    One exciting thing is that the Greek word for comfort is directly related to the word for the parakletos, the Comfortor that Jesus said He would send us. At the times we are mourning the most, we can be sure that He is closest to us, whether we feel like it or not. As that "footsteps in the sand" poem puts it, He is carrying us through the toughest parts of our lives. Psalm 23 says He leads us through those bad times.

    We may feel like God is a long way off, as David did in Psalm 42 when he said 9 I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
    11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

    That last statement is what sustains him. Things look dark, he feels in despair, but he doesn't let his feelings rule. Faith rules. He commands himself to believe God's promises, not his feelings. God is his rock, the stable, unmoving foundation of his life, not his feelings that come and go like the weather.

    When we mourn over our personal sin, our shortcomings, our failures, we can know His comfort. We go like David did in Psalm 51, throw ourselves at God's feet in repentance, and ask His forgiveness. And He grants us that forgiveness, and we find the joy of freedom from guilt.

    I like what Psalm 30 says because it looks back at the way God has comforted David, and He does the same thing for us:

    5 For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime;
    Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning…
    10 “Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.”
    [There’s that Parakletos idea again.]
    11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
    12 That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

    God Himself is our comforter. I love what Revelation 21 says: 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Now, sure, that’s going to happen at the end of time, but it happens now, while we are still alive, here on this earth.

    Check out 2 Corinthians 1. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

    God allows us to go through (not just into) times of mourning so that He can comfort us, so that we in turn can pass that comfort on to others. We become part of the comfort God uses to bring people out of mourning, and that becomes a source of joy for us as we see God using us to help others find His joy.

    May God bless us as we learn to look beyond our mourning that lasts a night to the permanent happiness that comes from His comfort.
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  11. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Velvet covered bricks

    The next Be-Attitude builds on the previous two. First, we need to be poor in spirit, not proud of our ability to be holy.

    Then when we see how bad we are it should send us into mourning, yet we receive the comfort of God's forgiveness. He covers over our sinfulness with His righteousness, like putting a fresh coat of plaster and paint over the dirty, cracked walls of a room. Only it’s more than that. He cleans up our lives, our dirty, cracked room walls. When He looks at us He sees His righteousness, not our sin. He has forgiven it, made it right through Christ's death on the cross. When we realize how good God has been to us it should cause us to be humble, gentle, meek. There should be no room for pride, arrogance in our lives when God is so good to us. Yet we have all the authority of God backing us in our words and our actions when dealing with people.

    So Jesus sets out the next segment of His training in Matthew 5:

    5 “Blessed are the gentle [meek], for they shall inherit the earth.

    That root word for "gentle" is often rendered "meek", but don't take this to be someone who is servile, weak, timid, a Casper Milquetoast. A meek person is strong from the inside out. You could describe a meek person as a velvet covered brick.

    God calls Moses the meekest man on earth in Numbers 12, yet he confronted Pharaoh. He thundered out judgment on the Israelites when they ate and drank and rose up to play while he was up on that mountain receiving those two tablets from God in Exodus 32.

    Colossians 3 illustrates meekness, gentleness in action in the Christian community: 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

    It takes real inner strength, toughness, to be gentle with people around us without compromising our relationship with God, and without compromising the convictions He builds into our lives. Gentle, but unbending. 1 Peter 3 says 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

    Paul was meek. See how he appealed to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 10: 1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

    Yet he stood there in Philippi and publicly called the town magistrates to account for their illegal actions when they beat him and threw him in prison without a proper trial in the last verses of Acts 16. His meekness did not mean he wasn't afraid to confront wrong. His meekness did not mean he was timid. He was bold when He confronted people.

    And then check out Psalm 45:

    3 Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty!
    4 And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
    5 Your arrows are sharp; The peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

    The king rides out fully armed, ready for war, for the cause of truth, meekness, and righteousness. No sign of someone who just rolls over on command. No sign of weakness here.

    I suggest reading through Psalm 37 to see a more complete definition of a meek person. Jesus may have been thinking of this when He spoke this Be-Attitude.
    7 Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
    8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
    9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land...
    11 But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity...

    22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, But those cursed by Him will be cut off.

    OK. Humble, meek Paul didn't have a lot of denarii to throw around; he didn't have a life of luxury. It sure didn't look like he inherited the earth, but he was able to say from personal experience, "19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

    Psalm 37 says 25 I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.

    We can afford to be meek because God is the One who makes us strong, not us. God is working in us and through us. As we wait on God, serve Him, He will give us the earth. We can afford to be meek because God is in control, not us.

    May God bless us with His spirit of meekness, and make each of us velvet covered bricks. May God make us gentle, yet strong, unbending, bold.
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  12. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    In these Be-Attitudes Jesus is describing how He builds His attitudes, mind-sets, ways of thinking, into us. It's almost like building the foundation of a building. First course of building blocks is being poor in spirit. We realise we don't have a leg to stand on before God and we depend on Him completely for anything good in us.

    Second course is mourning, as we realise how detestable we are and how wicked the world around us is compared to the glory and goodness of God. And He comforts us as we go through rough times, times of personal hurting, grieving, maybe some fires, to refine us, to burn out the impurities so we hurt, we mourn.

    The third course of this foundation is meekness, gentleness, kindness, as we respond to others in a way to build them up, the way God has helped us.

    Now Jesus lays the next course in this foundation in Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    That word for "righteousness" means righteousness, equity, justice. David ruled Israel with this kind of righteousness. So did Solomon. But God condemned later kings of Israel because they led the nation astray, and it got so bad that 2 Kings 24 says 3 Surely at the command of the Lord it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, 4 and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive.

    Don’t we also long for righteousness in our nations? We long for courts that would give just, righteous rulings instead of trying to push their own political agendas. We long for government agencies that would promote equity, rather than throw their weight around in power grabbing exercises and edicts. We long for lawmakers that would pass good laws that would promote righteousness in the nation.

    But we need to long for righteousness in ourselves first. Think of being able to stand before God, under His piercing gaze, unashamed. He looks right through our human motivations and excuses for our actions and our words. Sure we have fallen short of God’s standards. We have sinned. We have also been forgiven, our sins covered over by the blood of Jesus on that cross. God sees Jesus’ righteousness when He looks at us, if we have received Jesus. Our appetite, our hunger and thirst, needs to be to become righteous, to be as much like Jesus as we can.

    Think of the difference between a genuine item and a counterfeit. Genuine parts cost more, but are reliable. They do what they are designed to do. Counterfeit parts look fine, generally don’t cost as much, but when put under stress will fail, usually at a critical time.

    God’s righteousness is genuine. It costs more in so many ways, but it gives us the character to not fail under pressure. Man’s counterfeit righteousness…well we see the results coming out all too often in politics and politicians, in business, in education, in all walks of life. It’s easy to go with the flow, take the easy, popular way out, but that counterfeit righteousness shows up in bank collapses, injustices being carried out through courts, in people melting down when put under pressure, confronted with facts that disagree with their wishful thinking.

    We hunger and thirst for righteousness, equity, justice. And that needs to start within our own lives. Psalm 42 describes that craving, that desperate thirst, that longing for righteousness that Jesus wants us to have: As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

    Proverbs 2 says
    4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;
    5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God.

    We need to have that insatiable appetite for God's food, God's Word, God's righteousness in our own lives first, and then we long to see it in the world around us as we see how evil is ruling so many places in the world around us and ruining the lives of people around us. We long for God's righteousness to rule the world. We see in real life what Proverbs 29 is talking about:
    2 When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.

    And that longing for God's righteousness goes right through the Bible. Psalm 90 says
    13 Do return, O Lord; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants.
    14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
    That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
    15 Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil.

    We cry out "How long O Lord" with the Martyrs in Revelation 6 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

    God promises we will be satisfied. Our appetites will be appeased, our thirst slaked.

    For ourselves, see Psalm 34 :
    8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
    9 O fear the Lord, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.
    10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
    But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.

    For the rest of the world, God promises that Jesus will return and rule with righteousness. Maranatha!!

    May God grant us His happiness, His blessing, with lives filled to bursting with His righteousness as we feed off His Word.
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  13. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011

    Matthew 5 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    Jesus is continuing to build this foundation in us, layer by layer as He helps us learn to have God's Be-Attitudes. First, we are utterly dependent on God, poor in spirit and He makes us part of His Kingdom. Then we grieve, we mourn, over our wretched state, and the state of the world around us, and He is right beside us, comforting us, helping us, encouraging us. We crave to have His righteousness, so we can know and live the way He wants us to live, and He will satiate that hunger. Now we need to learn His mercy.

    As we are filled with God's righteousness, we begin to see the world through a new sense of justice and equity. There are wrongs to be righted. It could be tempting, as we start looking at the world through our newly acquired eyes of righteousness, to start behaving like the scribes and Pharisees, or the stereotypical judgmental "religious" characters that call down fire and brimstone on anyone that doesn't toe their lines.

    We need to temper God's righteousness with God's mercy, His compassion, His pity. As He has had pity on us, so we must have pity, compassion, mercy on those around us. In the pattern for prayer Jesus taught us to use in Matthew 6 we are asking for God in His grace and mercy to provide for us, to forgive us, and to protect us: 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

    When we ask God to be gracious to us and forgive us our sins, receiving God's forgiveness depends on how we forgive others. Do you remember the story Jesus told about the two debtors in Matthew 18? One man, let's call him Joe, owed his master ten thousand talents. That's more money than the average worker could earn is multiple lifetimes. There was no way Joe could pay that back and he pleaded with his master to let him off the hook. His master had mercy and wrote off the debt. So Joe turned around and found a fellow slave who owed him a hundred denarii and tried to squeeze the money out of him. The master got wind of this. The end of the story is not pretty for Joe.

    32 Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

    Joe hadn't learned that lesson on mercy or forgiveness: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. We are to be merciful to others in the same way we have been "mercied" to.

    And how desperately we need His mercy. Remember Lamentations 3: 22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
    23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

    If God gave us what we deserve, we would never come out from under that debt of sin we owe to God. But His lovingkindness, His mercy, is new to us every morning. In the same way then, we need to show God’s mercy to those around us. We offend God every day. We can’t help it. It’s part of our genetic make-up. But God’s mercies are new every day. He forgives us anew every day. Remember how Jesus told Peter in Matthew 18 that forgiving his brother a mere seven times was not enough? 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

    [By the way, forgive does not equal forget. I forgive a person, but I may be wary of repeat offenses. If someone "borrows" money from me, but doesn't pay it back, I'd be a fool to lend him more the next time he asks. If he deliberately hurt me, I'll be on guard whenever he's around, even though I forgive him and give God the task of avenging the wrong. That was inherent in Paul’s warning to Timothy about Alexander the coppersmith in 2 Timothy 4: 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.]

    I like what Psalm 103 says:
    8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
    9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
    10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

    As we see the world from God's perspective of righteousness, we need to also see it through His eyes of compassion, the way He sees us. When Jesus looked out over the crowds of people clamoring to get close to Him, he didn't see dirty smelly rotten sinners. Well, maybe He did, but it says in Matthew 9 36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

    They may have been dirty smelly rotten sinners, but they were distressed and dispirited. Can we see those around us who are trying to "get a life" by doing all the wrong things, in the same way Jesus sees them--milling around, directionless, purposeless, getting hurt with no one to heal them...like sheep without a shepherd?

    He looked at that woman caught in adultery in John 8 and said "11 ... “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” He didn't just turn her loose. He gave her a direct order to repent, turn her life around. That is justice, righteousness, tempered with mercy.

    May God bless us as we "do mercy" to those around us, the way that He has been merciful to us.

    As we do, we will continue to receive His mercy day by day, from now on into eternity.
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  14. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Cleaning house

    It's May. Many people are giving their homes a "spring cleaning", opening windows and doors to exchange the winter's stuffy atmosphere for spring's fresh air. They sweep the last year's accumulation of dirt and debris out the door, dust the furniture and shelves, wash the windows, throw out things that are worn beyond repair, and perhaps get ready to redecorate.

    In the next Be-Attitude we think about how God can give our lives not just a spring clean, but a deep clean.

    Matthew 5 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    The next stage in our development as Christians is having a pure heart. Right up front, we can't make our own hearts clean enough to stand up to God's inspection. God has to do the cleaning, the purifying. Without that, two things are true. First, God cannot stand to look at us, because He is holy and cannot tolerate any impurity in His presence. Second, we could not bear to see God in His holiness.

    Remember what happened to Isaiah in Isaiah 6? He was suddenly confronted with a vision of God in Heaven. His response was 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."

    But God cleaned him up, made him worthy to see God. 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” And God cleans us up so He can stand to see us, and so we can bear to see Him.

    That word "Pure"... The Greek word is the word from which we get catharsis, or cathartic. It also means clean. People say that drinking sassafras tea in the spring is a good way of cleansing the body of the impurities that have accumulated over the winter. It acts as a cathartic.

    That Greek word is closely related to the word for demolition, clearing out old buildings to make way for new development. The two ideas--cleaning and demolition--come together in John 15 when Jesus says 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. "Prune" comes from the same word as "Cleanse". God prunes, or cleans, the fruitless branches out of our lives; He purifies our lives of those worthless, wasteful things that keep us from reaching the full potential He has in mind for us. He clears out the old clutter, demolishes the things that get in the way of what He wants to build into our lives.

    This cleansing is exactly what David prays for in Psalm 51 when he says
    6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
    And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
    7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow...
    10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

    So we are blessed, we are happy, we are rich, because He makes us worthy to see Him, because He cleans us, makes us pure in heart. We just have to cooperate with His cleaning operation.

    David says in Psalm 66 18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear. When God prunes a branch out of our lives we should not try to hold onto it or grow it back. That sin we harbor in our lives comes between us and God, breaks the fellowship and communication we should have with Him.

    Go a step further. God cleans us up for a purpose. Go back to John 15. God prunes us so that we may bear more fruit. He is clearing the junk out of our lives so that we can be fit representatives of His Kingdom. He cleans us up so that we can be clear, bright lights that would shine out into the world and draw people to Him.

    Back to Isaiah 6. Once the angel had sterilized his unclean lips with that hot coal, his iniquity taken away and his sin forgiven, Isaiah was fit to do God’s work. “8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people:

    We’ve driven through neighborhoods where the houses have old cars rusting in the driveway, trash strewn across the yards, the windows are cracked, paintwork is flaking off, and the whole place is generally run down. Then we go past the house that shows some TLC. The fences are in good order, the paint is fresh, the shrubbery is neatly trimmed, the roof is in good repair, someone has planted flowers, and the whole place is attractive. God can make our lives like that house in a neighborhood of dowdy run-down lives, if we let Him.

    May God bless us with pure, clean hearts so we can see Him, hear Him, have fellowship with Him, and be attractive representatives of His Kingdom to the world around us.
    reflex1 likes this.
  15. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Unending happiness

    Did you know there is an “International Happiness Day”? The UN declared March 20, 2018 to be the day on which everyone should focus on being “happy”. The organizers have listed “10 steps to happiness”, including such things as talking about your problems, listening to music, focusing on diet, drinking lots of water, exercising, getting creative, complimenting yourself, get help from online support groups, talk to your doctor, and take drugs—er—medication.

    Well, I hate to burst their bubble, but rehashing your problems with an online community or friends won't make you happy. Taking drugs is as ineffective as alcohol. The problems don’t go away, they just get numbed over for a while. Lying to ourselves about how good we are? That’s a non-starter. Physical things like diet and exercise may increase the right hormones that make us feel physically better, but the real problem is deeper than human psychology can reach. The real problem is that man has a God-shaped vacuum in his life and no amount of human compensation can fill that void. The real problem is spiritual, separation from God.

    Jesus gave us the recipe, the “steps” for how to be happy when He started talking on that mountain about 2000 years ago and gave us His Be-Attitudes.

    He made nine simple declarative statements in Matthew 5, each starting with "Blessed are they". For "blessed" read "happy". And Jesus tells us how we can be happy even in the worst of circumstances, something the world can never do. We can be happy, we are blessed, when we are poor in spirit, when we let God promote us, instead of blowing our own trumpets, because God promises He will give us a place in His Kingdom.

    We can be happy even when we mourn, because God is right there with us, holding our hands as we go through tough times. We can be happy when we are meek, gentle, because He will provide for us all we ever wanted, and far more: we will inherit the earth. We are blessed people when we yearn for righteousness, because He will see to it that that craving is satiated. And so it goes.

    God brings us happiness, blessedness, in ways that developing purely human relationships can never begin to touch. The world's happiness is, as Ecclesiastes puts it, "under the sun", without God, and only lasts a moment. It’s temporary. Lose that circle of friends, and the happiness leaves. Lose the drugs, and it’s instant depression. Lose the exercise and it’s right back to the same glum outlook on life and feelings of failure. God's blessedness lasts for eternity and is of a much deeper quality than the superficial happiness the world can offer.

    The Psalms were written long before Jesus talked to those people on that mountain, and give the same message. Just like the Greek word in the New Testament, the Hebrew word in the Old Testament for “blessed” means “happy”.

    Psalm 128 is just one of many:

    How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways.
    2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you.

    Psalm 84 says
    4 How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. Selah.
    5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion!...
    11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory;
    No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
    12 O Lord of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

    The world's offer of happiness is as superficial as the old Soviet treatment for headaches and brain tumors: paint iodine on the sufferer's forehead and tell him that will make him better. If it doesn’t, it’s all in his head. He needs to make himself have a better outlook. It’s like taking aspirin to ease the pain of a broken leg. The pain is eased, or goes away for a while, but it doesn’t fix the underlying problem of a broken bone. As human beings, we all have broken hearts, and only God can heal a broken heart.

    The world says we are unhappy because of our circumstances, because of our environment, because of how people around us treat us, or because we are deprived of things. It tries to bring happiness from the outside in. The trouble is, if a person is unhappy here, in these circumstances, he will likely become unhappy there in other circumstances. The place may have changed, but he hasn't. Wherever you go, there you are and you take your baggage of unfulfilled expectations and unhappiness with you.

    God's happiness goes right to the root of the problem, our hearts, and He heals our hearts. His surgeon's scalpel cuts away the wrong desires and attitudes. His balm sooths our spiritual and emotional wounds. Psalm 147 says 3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.

    His medication heals our spiritual diseases. His therapy eases our aching hearts and lives. As we fear (reverence, respect, honor) Him, and obey His commands, live by His standards, His Be-Attitudes, He brings true happiness into our lives. He becomes a well of life-giving happiness springing from inside us. And that happiness is completely independent of our circumstances. Paul and Silas were in anything but happy circumstances in that Philippian jail there in Acts 16, but they were still able to sing and praise God.

    We'll get back to God's Be-Attitudes tomorrow. I just had to note the difference between the world's idea of happiness, and God's blessing that gives real happiness.

    In the meantime, may God fill us with His blessing, His happiness, as we learn to put all our trust in Him.
    reflex1 and One Shot like this.