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Friday, August 12, 2011

There are consequences, aren't there?
consequences.jpg

"Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices."
Alfred A. Montapert





      Our lives can be lived focused on our needs, our pleasures and our intentions.

 Alternatively we can focus on God’s needs, pleasures and requests.

 Then, some would say we could focus on others needs, pleasures and planning.

 The truth is we all do a bit of each of these.

 Often we consider this to be the way of life and we select our specific variations and intensities when combining these.

 Some people consider God unnecessary and so this limits them to their own and others needs and in that equation, without God’s request to love others as themselves the tendency of most is to be more selfish and self focussed than selfless and other focussed. This does not always happen but is more likely to happen!

 As Christian’s we get clear instruction in this balancing of our lives and most can tell others that Jesus says when asked(Mark 12 NIRV);

 “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 

 Notice when asked about the greatest Jesus doesn’t answer with the greatest but with the TWO greatest. This is because if we are to love God, we have to love ourselves AND our neighbour.

 Often people think this commandment is only about God and others, but it is not, it is about God, others and ourselves!

 We need to ask about how we love ourselves!  This is fundamental to loving others!

 Loving God is necessary independent of how much we love ourselves. This is an absolute love that is to be our focus in everything. In fact, only by loving God and letting him into our lives do we start to understand our self-worth.

 The God of the universe wants to have us talk to him, have a great friendship with him that turns to pure love! That supreme love that overcomes all boundaries!

 Understanding this builds our self-worth and enables us to be gentle and respect ourselves, but not in excess! We are not to be selfish, nasty or ignorant in this love.

 Then, our love of God directs us to want to extend this grace to others. We want to love others just like God loves us.

 God makes such a difference that we want others to have this same availability of this love.

 Now, there is a respect that must be maintained in this process.

 We need to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. On helping others we must be respectful, not pushing help at people who would rather not have it, or overdoing the help when they ask for it.

 Loving them is the right thing to do but this means not overwhelming them as well. Love knows when and how much needs to be done to assist others.

 Finally, it is time to speak to others about Jesus only when they are ready to ask us to speak not before. (They may hint rather than ask and that indicates it is time to speak).

 Let us look at the guy who was healed at the pool at Bethesda. He doesn’t even know Jesus’ name, finds it out only much later when Jesus comes to him.   Only once he has accepted Jesus for who he is, and only when he has established his relationship with Jesus, does Jesus give him some advice. Here is what it says in John 5,

 
The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
 
 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

 He warns the guy to stop sinning and says the reason is that if he doesn’t something worse may happen to him.

 Sin is those selfish, ignorant and nasty acts we perform or consider.

 Once we know Jesus, it is time to stop them. Why? For Jesus?

 Not really! It is more because Jesus doesn’t want us to get hurt! He wants us to grow in maturity and strength in ourselves and in helping others. Mostly Jesus wants us to grow into loving God more each day!

 That’s why he gives us the guidelines (the bible calls them commandments) to show us how to live the right way.
 
 When we live life God’s way we find the perfect balance in life!

 Then our lives can be lived focused on the combined needs, pleasures and intentions of God, others and ourselves simultaneously.

 The balance is perfect and the joy complete.

 Should we not go and enjoy a balanced life today?
Fri, August 12, 2011 | link          Comments

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Legalism and tradition vs. following truth
     
whip.jpg

"When you can whip any man in the world, you never know peace."
Muhammad Ali




 

  
Ever come up against those stodgy religious types that seem stuffy and full of rules and regulations?


 The more serious of them say things like. . .

 “you must not wear jeans to go to church”,

 “Tattoos and piercings are a mark of the devil so don’t be friends with people with tattoos or piercings”,

 “We use hymns and that modern Christian music is of the devil”,

 “You must say the sinners prayer at a church meeting to be saved”.

 What would Jesus say?

 Yesterday I was blogging about the healing Jesus did at the pool at Bethesda.

 This guy lying alongside the pool was told to pick up his mat once his lameness of thirty-eight years was healed.

 It says. . .

 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

    The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

  So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

  The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well 

 A few things we could get out of this piece of scripture are;

 Jesus didn’t even tell the guy who he was or why he was on earth when he healed him. He simply healed a stranger and left. The guy didn’t even know who Jesus was!

 We are not always to speak to those we help about Jesus until they want to know. It’s only after the guy found out he didn’t know and couldn’t tell others who Jesus was, that Jesus gave him the change to know this.

 Now a second aspect, Jesus told the guy to do something forbidden by the legal and religious rules of the day!

 Jesus is anti-religion, pro-God, pro-helping and loving others!

 Legalism has no place with Jesus.

 Today’s churches are steeped in legalism and religiosity.

 We need to take care to make sure we don’t promote this type of thing and instead promote truth, helping others whoever they are and whatever they have done or dress like, loving God and them.

 We are not asked to judge others but to love even our enemies.

 Let’s develop ourselves into great lovers, eradicate selfish, nasty and ignorant practices from our lives and expend ourselves in the service of the great God.

 That’s my plan today, what’s yours?
Thu, August 11, 2011 | link          Comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grace. . .do we even know what it means, or is it a forgotten word?
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Grace_enabled.jpg


"Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live."
Jackie Windspear


        
Thinking of “grace” as a word, I was considering that it would perhaps have disappeared from our western culture if it was not for its usage in our bible.

 

What do you think?

 Perhaps when we think of grace we tend to think of elegance or refinement, or even charm. Today the most typical word similar to grace we use, is “gracious”. We use it for a polite person who considers others in what they say and do. Who is warm, condescendingly courteous, and has elegance and good taste.

 
Is this grace?

 

No!



 That’s why I think we have lost the biblical meaning of the word!

 We have watered it down and made it a simple easy word to use.

 We have removed it’s fire and power and made it weak!

 At best, we think of it as having a quality of mercy and helpfulness. These only start it’s true meaning!

 John, the Hebrew guy who walked around with Jesus, says

“John 1:17
 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (I am using NIV version of the bible today)

 Here is a usage of grace that includes mercy, helpfulness, but doesn’t refer to elegance and refinement.

 From the words I have read in our bible, Jesus was not elegant or refined.

Rather I would say he was more regular and rugged.

He was direct and didn’t talk with innuendoes, but rather in truth.

 What is pleasant and elegant about calling others “white-washed tombs”? Particularly when touching or being near the dead was taboo!

 No, elegant and refined is not a description of Jesus!

 Grace is an attribute of Jesus!

 This means these words cannot be part of the meaning of that word “grace”.

 Let’s look at another usage of the word grace. . .

 It occurs in Acts 11;

 “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”

 So, here we have a statement
 
 saw what the grace of God had done”

 
 that refers back to the statement

  “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

 Grace had to do with enabling those who were lost to God, turning their lives around and giving their lives into God’s hands.

 
 Grace enables people who cannot help themselves to overcome the inertia brought on by the weight of sin and flip the switch in their lives.

 
 It enables them to gain the power of Holy Spirit,
 
 It activates and rejuvenates their spiritual being!

 This is grace that is transforming!
 
 It overcomes the worse evil in the world! It is extended to those who do the vilest crimes against humanity. There is no softness in this grace!

 Okay, now another occasion where grace is spoken of;

“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders

 Here grace is again linked to the enabling of people to believe, but the power of grace which is a spiritual aspect was demonstrated physically through wonders and signs that the people themselves did.

 God was showing them that the power of grace in the spiritual world was as true as their abilities to perform miracles and signs in the physical!
 
 Grace is a spiritual power owned by God himself and given to men to enable them.
 
 Grace is received from God
 
 “Romans 1:5  Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.”

  here it is given by Jesus, and grace can then be passed on by men,

 “Romans 1:7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 Grace increases in proportion to the evil it encounters
 
 Romans 5:20
 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more

 For men to pass on and use grace they must have righteousness,

 Romans 5:20  The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more

 Grace is the thing that does away with rules and regulations,

 “Romans 6:14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

 Grace not anything we do brings us into the power of the relationship with the God of the universe,
 
 “Romans 11:4-6 . . ., at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

 Nothing we can do can EARN us the right to be part of the spiritual family of God.

It is a gift!

 However, after we have received the gift, if we really appreciate it, if we really love the giver, if we really want to gain spiritual life and power, we do what God wants!

 That is the outworking from grace, it brings me to the reason I discussed grace in the first place, “Bethesda”!

 Bethesda means “house of grace” and it was the name given to pool around which lame, blind and physically challenged people sat.

 This was when Jesus was alive. The reason they sat there is that it was known that if the water suddenly moved on the pools still surface, then by washing in the water one could perhaps be healed of an incurable ailment.

 Jesus walks into the disabled group of people. Turning to a man who has no chance of being able to get to the water, Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed.

 
Think about that!

 It’s a strange question since everyone was there for that one specific reason!

 So why ask? Why force the man to respond?

 God wants us to respond.

 God doesn’t have to ever ask us our permission for anything, yet he does.

 Why? Why pray? God knows everything!

 God for some reason, that is ultimate and spiritual, wants our permission and agreement to give us grace!

 This man was not lacking in the want to be healed and Jesus even knew about how long he wanted to be healed before he asked.
 
 It says. . .

 “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’”

 
Turns out the guy had been there thirty-eight years!

 I want us to realise not everyone gets grace before we endure a tough life, some get it early, some late, but if you get Jesus asking the question, you need to answer fast.

 The man doesn’t say “yes”. Hhe explains why he has not yet been healed!
 
 He had seen all the healings in his thirty-eight years and has no question as to whether it worked.

 
The reason he was not healed in thirty eight years was because others were selfish!


 Are we selfish?
 
 How many people are waiting for help to get to healing and we fail to extend them the service of our own help and so hold them back from grace?

 Grace is the objective, but service enables it to occur!

 Jesus’ compassion for the man was deep. He healed him right there!

 No need for the pool!

 This made the statement for all Jews to hear, that Jesus supplanted the pools grace from his own.

His grace was more powerful, more freely given, and more desirable.

 Now, notice how he gives the man the option to be healed, but the man needed to respond.

 Jesus’ instruction “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk,” was not supplemented by Jesus pulling the man to his feet. No! The man had to get up himself!

 In addition, he expected the man to do his own work and carry his mat now that he had been given grace.

 Others had failed to pick him up, but now he needed to learn that he now had to pick up things around him.

 Was Jesus perhaps pointing out that if this healed man could pick-up his mat, he could be now a conduit of grace to those he had sat amongst for thirty-eight years?

 What are we doing to help those who cannot necessarily help themselves?

 Can we by helping enable them to get to the point that God’s grace can make a difference in their life?

  We don’t need to say anything special, but perhaps we just need to be a shoulder to lean on, an ear to accept words that need to be said, transport to those without ability to transport themselves, and food for the needy.

 I plan to focus on these activities today, what about you?
Wed, August 10, 2011 | link          Comments

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fourth day, God of Genesis or the Egyptian Gods?
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People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross




God made two great lights
—the greater light to govern the day
and the lesser light to govern the night.
He also made the stars.
God set them in the vault of the sky
 to give light on the earth,
 to govern the day and the night,
and to separate light from darkness.
 And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening,
 and there was morning—the fourth day.


 
This is from Genesis (NIRV), but the Egyptian creation follows a different path. . .

 The sun god Ra appears to come out of a lotus flower on the surface of the primeval water. Ra is the one who gives light to the universe. Then, against Ra’s wishes and directions the god’s Geb and Nut marry and Ra furiously orders Shu another god to separate them, even though Nut was already pregnant. The moon is provided by Thoth, a god of learning, to help out Nut by giving her a few days of extra light. During those days Nut gives birth to Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys.

Osirus        – King and merciful judge of the living dead in the afterlife

Horus        – falcon god of living
Seth          - god of the desert, storms, and foreigners
Isis            - goddess of magic and Life
Nephthys   - a nursing mother goddess


 What I find amazing is that the Egyptians were willing to have all these various Gods and their imperfections!

 

What I find even more amazing was that the Israelites needed to have Moses write the words of Genesis to warn the Israelites not to follow these gods.

The Genesis is succinct and really rings true compared to this mix-up of mythologies in the Egyptian world. I am however glad Moses took the time to write the words (or have them written).

 Maybe we should consider another sun god of the time, Marduk, the Ba’al god.
 

“Marduk represents the forces of order, the coming of spring with its renewal of life and the end of the reign of the chaos and death of winter. Marduk is the spring sun that gives life and renewed energy to the earth.”
[1] This God was worshipped cultically each year by those who waited for the new spring.

 I have often said a true religion would be an old religion! [God must have existed before us right?]

A true religion would present truth better than other religions wouldn't it?

Looking at the Genesis account of the creation of the sun, it appears to far better explain what we now know, than anything else at the time.

 I think the true God helped Moses write those words don’t you?


Today as we look forward to our activities in the sun, we need to appreciate that this huge energy source that burns more energy in six seconds than the whole USA does in one year, is put in place and sustained by our God, and thank him for this! 



Have a great day! 

Tue, August 9, 2011 | link          Comments

Monday, August 8, 2011

Is a coincidence a miracle or not?
WhosHand.jpg


  "A coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous."  
Anonymous
  
   


I often hear of people who say a biblical miracle can be refuted by giving a rational argument for it.

 Examples can be the parting of the red sea (they say it’s an equivalent to a variation of a storm surge), or that when we pray for someone and they start to get better, it’s the medicine and not the prayer.

 So many of these “miracles” seem to be “timely” coincidences to these sceptics and so they reject them.

 An example of this is when I am stuck at the side of a road, pray for help and then a mechanic stops to help. Is it a miracle, or is it simply that mechanics are more prone to stopping and offering help because they have the skills?

 This is an old question and I think the bible gives us one great example of how the event may be a miracle when others may consider it co-incidence.

 In John 4 (NIRV) there is this report of Jesus activities;

 
After the two days, Jesus left for Galilee. He himself had pointed out that a prophet is not respected in his own country. When he arrived in Galilee, the people living there welcomed him. They had seen everything he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast. That was because they had also been there.  Once more, Jesus visited Cana in Galilee. Cana is where he had turned the water into wine. A royal official was there. His son was sick in bed at Capernaum. The official heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea. So he went to Jesus and begged him to come and heal his son. The boy was close to death.

  Jesus told him, "You people will never believe unless you see miraculous signs and wonders."

  The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies."

  Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live."

    The man believed what Jesus said, and so he left. While he was still on his way home, his servants met him. They gave him the news that his boy was living. He asked what time his son got better. They said to him, "The fever left him yesterday afternoon at one o'clock."

 Then the father realized what had happened. That was the exact time Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his family became believers.

 There is quite a lot of interesting stuff to examine in this one story but I will be looking at the “co-incidence” or as I like to call them “God-incidences”.

 The man who was not a Jew and was an upper crust important person of the occupying forces. He would have had the ability to get the best of doctors his countrymen could provide, and yet his son was dying!

 There was obviously no cure!

 Like most parents who love their child he was willing to reach out to anyone who could help. It seems Jesus’ fame was out and about. This was the guy who made wine from water and helped out at the party!

 This was a man of exceptional abilities.

 Now, faith is a strange thing in that it is something you have or you don’t have. It’s not something you can have partially!

 This man for some reason had come to the conclusion that Jesus held the answer to his son’s problem.

 All he wanted was Jesus to come to his son. He didn’t get that!

 Instead the man gets an almost off-hand, “Your son will live”. Jesus doesn’t say he will heal him, only that “he will live”.

 Now when the guy finds out the timing is exact between his son’s recover and Jesus’ words, he does a leap of faith. He connects the healing with Jesus words and believes!  That is faith in action! Notice Jesus does provide him with his “miracle” but not the way he expected it!

 Those sceptics amongst us will say this was a co-incidence and that nobody today would accept that as proof.

 True!

 Does it prove it was not a miracle though?

 Does that statement saying it was a "co-incidence" make this report “untrue” ?

 Is it not equally possible that Jesus simply by being God could change a co-incidence into a God incident?

 Could he do this if he is who he says he is? Yes!

 So, like many situations presented to us, there is a need for God to clarify the situation.

 The bible report indicates Jesus was involved! As a Christian I accept this and I say that no-body can say otherwise since the alternative is equally improvable today.

 When Moses lifted his staff over the reed (red) sea and the waters parted, if it was a storm surge, the timing was really accurate. How did Moses know it would happen? How about his striking of the rocks and water appearing? Random chance?

 How about the fact that I get completely lost in a strange city the day I meet my wife to be for the first time.  A country boy, I randomly follow what I believe in my heart to be Holy Spirits guidance while riding my scooter into the dark of the night in a huge strange city.

 Turning left and right on the whim of Holy Spirit as I pray for guidance and ride through strange sub-divisions of homes, I miraculously arrive at a destination I didn’t know was there! I meet my bride to be (although I didn’t know her to be that person at the time).

 
Later when we compare notes, she had a similar leading!
 
 Two people who had prayed specific prayers, two coincidences, leading to a lifetime of love and companionship as we worship our God together.

 Is that co-incidence?

 Others may think so but I know different!

 Today as we go about our activities and pray about things, lets think about this.

 When the co-incident occurs and the prayers are answered, how about thanking God?

 I know I will!
Mon, August 8, 2011 | link          Comments


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