Pray for our Nation

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

“If you search for good, you will find favor.  If you search for evil, it will find you.”  (Proverbs 11:27)

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“The Kingdom of God … ” (Explained)

“The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

 

Walk into your local Christian store.  Chances are you’ll see this passage printed on coffee mugs, T-shirts, plaques, etc.

What does it MEAN?  What does it truly mean to have “the kingdom of God” within a person?

 

“The Lord shall reign forever and ever.” (Exodus 15:18)

 

In Hebrew, Exodus 15:18 can also be rendered as, “The Lord is King forever and ever.”  If there is a King, one must assume that there is also a Kingdom.

If God is the Lord of your life … if you have Christ within you … then it follows that God’s KINGDOM lies within you.  Hallelujah!

 

“The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.” (Deuteronomy 10:17)

“He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  (Revelation 19:16)

 

 

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God Won’t Move Until YOU Do

When the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them.  Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

— Joshua 3:14-17

 

If there is work to be done, SOMEONE has to take that first step.

God halted the flow of the Jordan River for the Israelites (notice how it echoes God’s parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14).

If that wasn’t miraculous enough, the water level was at flood stage!  Any attempt to cross the river would’ve been dangerous at this point in time.  (The Israelites risked drowning.  The rushing water would’ve easily swept them away.)

Notice verses 15 and 16 of this passage (“As soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.”)  In order for the people of Israel to cross the Jordan and into the Promised Land, SOMEONE had to first stick their toe into the water

What Jordan River is in YOUR life?  Are you hemming and hawing, putting off making a major decision?  Are you waiting for someone else to make the first move?  Are you waiting for someone else to stick THEIR neck out?

 

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. —

 

Perhaps God is waiting on you to step out in faith.  The same God who parted the Red Sea and held back the Jordan River can work a miracle in your life.

The Bible is filled with people who ran for the hills when called upon by God to do a great work:

  • Isaiah tried to get out of being a prophet by saying that he was a man of “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
  •  Jeremiah tried to dodge God’s call to be a prophet by saying that he was too young (Jeremiah 1:6).
  • Moses offered up excuse after excuse as to why he couldn’t lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:13; 4:1,10).

The same God who was with Isaiah, Moses, and Jeremiah can walk with you today, if you’ll let Him.

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A Sad Commentary On Our Society

Ringly

This company produces a line of jewelry that notifies you whenever you receive an “important” phone call, text message, Facebook post, Tweet, etc.

This a sad commentary on our society.  However did we manage back in the 1970’s and 1980’s to get by without being constantly available?

The Answer:  We got things done … EVENTUALLY.  It might have taken 2,3,4 … 5 hours to reach us … but reach us, people did.

 

  • If your house is on fire and you and your Beloved are eating  dinner at a restaurant that’s twenty miles away, there’s really not a whole you can do AT THAT MOMENT to save your house (other than hope that the neighbors called the fire department).

 

  • If you and your Beloved are at that same restaurant that’s twenty miles away and your kids are coloring on the walls … once again, there’s really not a whole lot you can do at the moment.

 

Back in the 70’s and 80’s (before everyone was SO interconnected), we got by by setting priorities (I realize this a foreign concept to some of you out there).  Some things were deemed more important than others (back then, spending time with the kids was deemed more important than going to a club).

No matter WHAT you do, there are always going to be things that you’ll “miss out” on.  That’s life.  You’re a human being — you can’t be in two places at once.

This product is a symptom of the self-indulgence and narcissism that is plaguing our society.  Are you truly SO important that you can’t be “disconnected” long enough to spend time with your family and/or loved ones?  Are they not worth your COMPLETE and TOTAL attention?

What are your priorities?  Where do they REALLY lie?

 

 

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Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.  The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.  (Mark 6:30-43)

If the idea of Jesus feeding 5,000 people isn’t impressive enough, consider this:

In ancient times, it was the custom to only count MEN in official records.  Archaeologically speaking, if women and children had been included in this total, the number of people that Jesus fed would’ve been closer to TWENTY-FIVE thousand.

Imagine for a moment Jesus feeding those same five loaves and two fish to a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York (with an overflow crowd of five thousand people lined up out the door and around the block)!

It’s trendy nowadays to discount Jesus’s miracles.  Many scholars today seek to argue, “The people there simply shared their lunches with their neighbors next to them.”

Let’s return to the passage for a moment.  Consider Mark 6:33 (“But many who saw [Jesus and the disciples] leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them”).

Imagine the scene:  on impulse, the crowd dropped everything, stopped whatever it was that they were doing, and ran to meet Jesus.  Those five thousand people (or twenty-five thousand, depending upon which interpretation you follow) wouldn’t have had TIME to prepare a lunch!  (This pretty much shoots the whole “sharing” notion right out of the water.)

Consider Mark 6:35 (“It was late in the day”).  The people who were gathered around Jesus probably hadn’t counted on staying with him for so long.  The disciples had probably only brought enough food — five loaves and two fish — to feed themselves and Jesus, their teacher and Lord.  One must also consider that had the people in the crowd brought enough food to feed themselves, the disciples would not have felt the need to tell them to ‘go and buy something to eat’ (Mark 6:36).

Given the circumstances, what else BUT a miracle could explain Jesus’s ability to feed five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fish (leaving twelve basketfuls of bread and fish to spare)?

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Jesus’s “Lost” Years?

When [Jesus] was twelve years old, [Jesus, Mary, and Joseph] went up to the festival [in Jerusalem], according to the custom. After the festival was over, while they were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but [Mary and Joseph] were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.   And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.  (Luke 2:41-52)


Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.  (Luke 3:23)

 

Much has been made about Jesus’s supposed “lost” years.  (What happened to him when he was a teenager?  What happened to him when he was a young adult?  What happened to him during those years?)

That said, much has been speculated about what happened to him during those supposed  “lost” years (at times, people have suggested that he traveled to Egypt and India, lived with the Essenes, traveled to Persia and Atlantis, etc.).

In order to answer this question, we need to consider how the ancients defined what we would call a “biography”.

(n.b., our modern word “biography” is derived from two Greek terms:  bios, meaning “life”, and graphia, meaning “to write”.  It goes without saying that a biography is a written account of a person’s life.)

Getting back to what the ancients regarded as a biography, they had a completely different concept of it than we do today.  Most of us today tend to define a biography as a written, sequential listing of the events of a person’s life (“This event happened … after that, this event, this event, this event, and this event happened, followed by this event”).

The ancients, on the other hand, were much more interested in the character of a person (What did they believe?  How did they live?  What did they teach, if anything?  What made them tick?).

This is why the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) have long stood as biographies of Christ, even though none of them agree with each other (Christ names Peter the head of the church in the gospel of Matthew, but not in Mark, Luke, or John.  Christ re-instates Peter as the head of the church — this after Peter denied knowing Christ three times prior to his crucifixion — in the gospel of John, but not in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Matthew and Luke contain nativity narratives — both of which differ significantly — while Mark and John do not.  All of the gospels contain wildly differing accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.)

The short answer to the question that I posed above (What happened during Jesus’s “lost” years?) is thus:  nothing that the ancients would’ve found particularly interesting.  In all likelihood, he grew up living the typical life of a Jewish boy of that era, working alongside his father Joseph and going to the synagogue, where he learned the Hebrew scriptures that he himself — as a grown man in his early thirties — would someday preach.

 

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What Have We Wrought?

 

I’m sure you’ve heard about the arrest of Martin Shkreli, the now-former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who raised the price of a lifesaving medicine from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill literally overnight.

The company was fine with charging $13.50 per pill on Monday.  What happened?  What changed?  What could possibly have motivated them to raise the price of that same pill 4,000 percent on Tuesday, other than pure greed?

Is this what our society has come to?  Are we now raising a generation of young people who have absolutely no moral compass whatsoever?  Is a person’s worth as a human being now to be determined by their capacity to generate a fortune for someone else?

Mr.  Shkreli has done more in these past few weeks to hold up a mirror to our society than any theologian or philosopher has been able to do in the past thirty years.

Let’s be honest with our kids … Let’s be brutally honest:  Forget science and technology … forget our society’s endless pontificating about the importance of STEM (Read:  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  It seems that our young people have learned all too well what our society REALLY values:  Grab The Cash and Go.  It doesn’t matter HOW you make your money or who you step on (or over) in the process, just so long as YOU make a pile.

Grab the waterfront house, the Porsche, and the sole existing copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s latest album.  Your “stuff”, the bling, what people see on the surface — that’s what REALLY matters (and if you should be caught making your fortune illegally … hey, that’s what lawyers are for).

Had Mr. Shkreli not been caught (allegedly) engaging in securities fraud, certain sectors of our society would be praising him to the heavens as a savvy businessman.

Man is more than a mere animal that lusts and grabs for its existence.  To be human is to possess a conscience (I wonder if Mr. Shkreli himself would mind his being deprived of a lifesaving drug for want of his ability to pay its exorbitant cost).

The mere fact that we as a society CAN do something … that we are CAPABLE of doing something … does not in and of itself necessitate that we SHOULD do it.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have”  (Hebrews 13:5).

 

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Can You Handle The Truth?

Lt.  Kaffee:  “I want the TRUTH!

Col.  Jessup:  “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

— A Few Good Men (1992) —

 

 

Those who preach the “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” gospel enjoy trotting out Matthew 7:7 :

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The truly ambitious ones will trot out John 14:12-14 :

“[W]hoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

“I will do whatever you ask in my name” … as if Almighty God can be commanded like a genie in a bottle! (“Hello, God?  I’d like a BMW, an iPhone 6, and a waterfront house.  Oh, and can I have it all by next Tuesday?  Thanks!”)

According to the Prosperity gospel, the poor simply lack faith.  If they just click their heels and keep affirming that they’re wealthy, all the treasures that this world can offer (expensive cars and house, vast fortunes, expensive jewelry, exotic vacations, etc.) will be theirs for the asking.

As far as preachers of the prosperity gospel are concerned, such things as the overall economy and world events have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with a person’s earning capacity.  They enjoy trotting out such bromides as “If you can believe it, you can achieve it!”

Is this something that we should really be encouraging?  Would Christ encourage His followers to wallow in the things of this world?

The prosperity preachers hardly ever mention Luke 6:24-25, where Jesus says:

“But woe to you who are rich,  for you have already received your comfort.

“Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

Or His advice to the rich young man in Matthew 19:21 (“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”).

Or further down the same chapter in verses 23 and 24:

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

How does one reconcile the Jesus of Luke 6:24-25 and Matthew 19:21 with today’s trendy “prosperity” gospel?

To make matters worse, not even pastors — those whom God has chosen to preach His Word  — are immune from this sickness of materialism (Pastor Creflo Dollar recently appealed to his congregation for money to buy a $65-million Gulfstream jet).

(Seriously?  Are you and your wife Taffi too good to fly Coach just like the rest of us?  When the shepherd is flitting about the world in his private jet, who’s tending the FLOCK?)

The man whom we serve, Jesus of Nazareth, WALKED wherever He went (He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as He was on His way to Calvary, but that ranks as an exception).  He was born in a manger and had no need of horses or fancy carriages during His years in ministry.

His successors in ministry — those whom God has appointed to prophecy and act in His name — would do well to emulate His example (at the very least, let us emulate Pope Francis, who is content to drive around Vatican City in a Ford Focus).

 

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“Love is Patient … ” — What Paul REALLY Meant

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

More than a few couples have tied the knot to these words that were penned by the Apostle Paul.

One could easily conclude that Paul intended this to be a meditation on love … a paean to wedded bliss.

Contrary to what one might see inscribed on the decorative plaques staring back at you from the shelves at your local Christian gift store, that was NOT Paul’s intention at all.

Consider Paul’s audience:  the Corinthians.  Back in Paul’s day, Corinth was Sin City.  If there was a rule, the people of Corinth broke it.  If there was a sin, the people of Corinth committed it.  (Drunkenness?  Check.  Incest?  Check.  Idol worship?  Check.  Sexual immorality?  Check.  Jealousy, Quarreling, and Infighting?  Check, Check, and Check.  The list goes on … )

Earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul vents his frustration with the church in Corinth:

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.

If 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 should be read as anything, it should be read more in the manner of an exasperated teacher having to correct a group of wayward schoolchildren than as an ode to romance.

Paul is REALLY having to get down to basics here (“A is for Apple, B is for Banana, C is for Cat … “).  Anything more advanced would completely go over the heads of the sinning, stubborn, recalcitrant church in Corinth.

Something to consider the next time you hear this scripture passage recited at a wedding ceremony.

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New Cloth For Old

nativity

[Jesus said], “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.”

Luke 5:36

 

When Christ said this, he was referring to himself.

Jesus Is the New Cloth.

A little history:  centuries prior to Jesus’s birth, the old House of David was irretrievably broken.  Almost to a man,  the books of 1st and 2nd Kings describe the kings that comprised the Davidic line — Saul, David, Solomon, Ahab, et al. — as having done “evil in the eyes of the Lord”.  (They took pagan wives, worshiped pagan gods, performed pagan rituals. etc.  If there was a commandment, the House of David broke it.)

King David himself had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers (David went so far as to order Uriah killed on a suicide mission).

Prior to Jesus’s birth, the throne of David (and the kingdom of Israel) had long since ceased to exist.  It was now nothing more than an isolated province of the Roman Empire (long after it had been conquered by the likes of Assyria and Babylon).

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Luke 1:30-33, 35

When the Holy Spirit entered Mary’s womb on that fateful day, God was making a clean break with the past.  Gone was the sin, the evil, and the corruption that had plagued the old Davidic line.  God himself was re-establishing the line that would ultimately produce Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Even though Joseph was descended from the House of David (Luke 1:27), Jesus the Messiah could not be fathered by him (the preceding bloodline was simply too corrupt).

Joseph himself was now nothing more than a humble carpenter — there was absolutely nothing about him that gave any hint of royal lineage.

God — The Holy One Himself — was wiping the slate clean.  He was starting over with a whole new, sacred, pure, and undefiled  piece of cloth (trying to physically attach Jesus to the old bloodline would’ve been impossible; as Jesus himself said in the passage from Luke that I quoted from above, “the patch from the new will not match the old”).

What God for the world on that fateful day, he can do for you as well.  During this holiday season, turn to Him.  During this season of new beginnings, let God give YOU a fresh start (“Behold, I make all things new!” — Revelation 21:5).

Merry Christmas and God Bless.

 

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