Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Grinch stole Christmas?



We have all heard of the Grinch who stole Christmas and I have not talked to anyone who admits to being his friend.  He is rather universally recognized as the one who steals what we love about Christmas ...

Let me do a little play on words ... yes.. the Grinch steals the joy of Christmas but what if we allow a 'Grinch' to be our in-house guest all year round ?   And give him not only the joy of Christmas but also the joy of every day?

Who is this 'Grinch' ?  We know him by the name of Grudge.

We have all entertained grudges at some point in our life, I'm sure - but maybe you never realized what a destructive thief a grudge is.

Who doesn't love babies ?  They are such adorable little joy-givers - that one smile just melts your heart. Who can walk past a fresh-faced, wide-eyed baby in the grocery aisle and not smile and coo at them?
For those of us who are mothers we know all about carrying them for nine months, then bearing them -giving birth, then holding them close and nursing them  - giving them the nourishment they need to grow and flourish.

Now consider the key words in my comment about babies -- and see how we use all of them when we refer to grudges.

  • we carry a grudge 
  • we bear a grudge 
  • we hold a grudge 
  • we nurse a grudge 
What does that tell us ?  Think about when you first held your newborn.  It immediately captured your all-consuming attention and became a 24/7 focus and priority, did it not?   Everything else in your life was decided upon only after you considered how it would affect your baby. The child's well-fare - truly, his very life- depended on you. The responsibility was huge. 
Other needs became secondary to the needs of your child.  No penny spared, no effort too costly. 
And .... how many sleepless nights did you endure trying to pacify your restless child?   

Hmmmm ...   all too applicable to that 'grudge' we hold so dear, are they not?   

A grudge has a 'feel-good' aspect to it, because it makes us feel justified - we have been ill-done-by and we are entitled to being vindicated. We can't just let the offender think he did nothing wrong! 
Once we 'bear' a grudge, we hold it close and nurse it in our thoughts and through sleepless nights when we focus on the offence over and over and it grows as we nurse it. What we may not realize is that we can't really hide a grudge - just like the baby in the grocery aisle, our grudge shows where others can see it. 
Yet... what does it do for US?   Like the Christmas Grinch,  it steals our joy, it steals our peace, it steals our love and its steals our contentment and our thankful heart.
And most importantly of all, it steals our sweet relationship with the Lord.  

We read in James 3:9,  "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!"   (the Greek word translated 'grumble' is also translated 'grudge'. )

Jesus also speaks to our human weakness to carry grudges. 
In Luke 6:37 He says ... "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."


So often a grudge is based on a faulty judgement on our part and we withhold our forgiveness without just cause. 
Someone wise once said that if we walked in someone else's shoes we would probably do the same things they do. 
A person might offend us with a sharp remark or criticism but we are unaware that their day has been filled with unbearable pain. A person might respond or act in a way that wounds or angers us because it was totally uncalled for, inappropriate or extremely hurtful ... but if we really knew or understood what caused them to do what they did, would we judge them in the same way we did?  

We hold our children tight and are fiercely protective because we know no one else can or would care for them they way we can.  We feel the same way about our grudges. We feel if we let them go, justice will not be served, the guilty one will go free unpunished,  we will be left as the victim, paying the price,  and the guilty one rewarded. 
But we forget ....  letting go of a grudge sets US free and returns to us the 'good things' we let that grudge steal from us.   But we are not abandoning our 'baby' any more than a teen-aged mother who gifts her child to good adoptive parents.  No .. .when we 'give up' our grudge we surrender it to God who  will not only be our defender and healer  but will also make sure that righteous judgement prevails.  If I forgive someone's offense against me, I set myself free, but I do not set them free before God.   
Consider this ... do you want God to judge you according to what other people say or think about you?  Or would you prefer that He judge you according to how HE sees and understands you.  I know I prefer to stand before God without any accusers. Should I not extend that right to others as well?  When we let God judge those who have hurt us, He does not make the mistakes we make when we judge others. 

My Challenge --  Let us celebrate this Christmas season without any Grinches or Grudges in our home or heart.

****************

From my heart to yours --  
May you fully enjoy the blessings of Christmas and experience the love, hope, joy and peace our Savior's birth gifted to the world.  .   

             

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Melchidedek - a Type of Jesus


In a court of law if a person is charged with 1st degree murder, evidence must be found to prove the crime was premeditated. Should there be a lack of evidence the charge would have to be dropped.
For God to say that He knew the end from the beginning, and that His plans and purposes were indeed “From the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 13:8)….  then He would need to provide evidence of ‘foreknowledge’.  
Since the spiritual kingdom is not physically visible - our God cannot be seen with our physical eyes nor his works proven by physical laws, God had to find another way to provide  undeniable proof that He is indeed who He says He is  and that His promises are based on infallible proof of His ability to perform them.  And because He sits above time and knows the end from the beginning it was easy for Him to use types, foreshadowing, prophecy in His scriptures that would prove to us that we indeed have been given the TRUTH and we can trust every word that comes out of His mouth.
God’s creation is so infinitely detailed that scientists are still a long way from understanding all that creation is … and the more they discover the more they discover they do not yet know or understand and they discover  to a greater and greater degree how detailed our physical world is.
Would He not be as infinitely detailed in His word?  That His word would be an unparalleled work forever unmatched by any other book written or produced?   The more I study God’s word the more I find to amaze and delight me and show me how much deeper I can still go !  And in the same way that every one of the details and laws that rule our physical earth are needful and important (whether we understand them or not!)  so also every word of God is important …  and has meaning for us.
 Some of us were raised by ‘old school’ parents who followed up our ‘why’ questions by the standard… ”Because I said so!!!” and  -consciously or not  - we tend to transfer that experience to our perception of God.  And yet God is not like that at all.  
Our God is invested in revealing that He alone is God, that His word will always stand the test of time and come unscathed through all scrutiny. 
He truly wants to dialogue with us, reason with us, speak face to face - even as He did with Moses - so that we will have an answer for anyone who questions us. 

The more we dig, the more we find how true our God is and how absolutely amazing!  
The Bible is written in such a way its content and the way it is recorded provide all the information we need to understand who God is and how we are to live in  His kingdom. 
(see I Cor. 10:11, Rom. 15:4, Heb.1:10, Col. 2:17, Luke 24:25-27)
  One way that God provides ‘evidence’ that He indeed did premeditate the end from the beginning is by putting ‘types’ in the Old Testament. 
 A ‘type’ is a person who by some aspects of his life or character point to Jesus who is the ‘anti-type’.  A ‘type’ is LIKE the ‘anti-type’ it is pointing to.  
So a ‘type’ is a person who is always in the Old Testament and points to the ‘anti-type’ who is always in the New Testament.  
Some types are ---
 Moses -- (Hebrews 3:1-6)   God said He would send someone LIKE Moses Deut. 18:15 -- obviously pointing to Jesus who LIKE Moses ‘would be faithful in all His house’.
Adam --    I Cor. 15:45-49  --   Adam - the first man is LIKE Jesus in that both of them did something that passed on to all people  ---  From the first man Adam, we all received physical life , and also inherited a ‘sin’ nature that condemns us with Adam …   Adam points to Jesus whose substitutionary death gave us spiritual life if we are ‘born in him’ …  So from one we received physical life / condemnation but from the Second Adam, Jesus, we receive eternal spiritual  life / salvation.  As surely as we received from the first Adam , we can have confidence that we also receive from Jesus.
King David -- David was LIKE Jesus in that He was a King after God’s own heart and ruled over his kingdom … God promised in I Sam. 7:16 that David’s throne would be forever ….  Pointing to Jesus who was indeed a descendant of David and His throne is forever!!  Several times Jesus is referred to as “the Son of David”  
Joseph --  while Joseph is not noted as a ‘type’ of Jesus, he so obviously is as I have found 56 ways Joseph is LIKE Jesus …  as in neither have ‘any sin’ attached to them … and both sold for pieces of silver. 
So in our scripture of focus -- Melchizedek is another type that points to Jesus  --  in the ways he is LIKE Him…  
1.    Melchizedek  - His very name means “King of Righteousness”   …  Jesus is our King of Righteousness ….  (Heb. 7:2 , I Cor. 1:30)


2.    Melchizedek -- King of Salem --  Salem is the old name of Jerusalem and means ‘peace’ … and Jesus is our King who is our Peace and He rules  the Heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22)


3.    Melchizedek --  served Abram bread and wine ….  Jesus’ gave His body as ‘bread’, His shed blood ‘wine (Matt.26:28-28)


4.    Melchizedek --  has no mother, no father, no genealogy , no beginning or end…  in this he points to Jesus being more than a ‘man’ - that He was truly God come in the flesh  , as God having no mother or father or genealogy or beginning or end …  a very important LIKE that this Melchizedek type shows about Jesus … it is ‘key’ that we know Jesus, while having walked among us as fully man was also fully God !


5.    Melchizedek - a Priest of the Most High God -  a priest that was not from the tribe of Levi (all Old Testament priests had to be)  Here Melchizedek is LIKE Jesus in that he was of a different kind of priest …  Jesus was not a priest according to the old order of the law, but of a higher order .. a new order that allowed for there to be a change in the law … Had Jesus been a priest of the Old Covenant order then we would still be under the law …  but now we are under the New Covenant of grace that Jesus established in His kingdom!


6.    Melchizedek - blessed Abram who had the promises of God --  so Jesus blessed us who have the promises of God …. 

7. Melchizedek received tithes from Abram …  without this detail we might wonder who was greater, Abram who was chosen by God to be the one through whom God would from His nation … or this Melchizedek who was a priest living somewhere in Abram’s area and time.
But Hebrews tells us  - so we are left without doubt -- that the one who receives the tithe is greater than the one who pays it, and the one who is greater blesses the one who is lesser.  (Heb. 7:4 and 7)
So we see that Jesus is pointed to as being the greater -- the one who blesses us, the one to whom we owe our ‘all’ ...not of what we have ‘earned’ but to give back to Him what we did not earn .. (Micah 6:8)
Note - that Melchizedek did not receive tithes from what belonged to Abram but rather from ‘the plunder’ that was in his hand 

8. Melchizedek - the only Old Testament character who was BOTH priest and King … in that he was shown to be LIKE the coming Jesus who would be both High Priest and King ! 

9.  Melchizedek --  lived before the law , therefore not under the law to obey the law …  in that he was LIKE Jesus in that Jesus came to fulfill the law and bring in a NEW law ...that freed us from the obligations of the law ..and put us under the law of ‘love’ that defines the obligations of the New Covenant. 

So we can see the evidence shows that Melchizedek is a type of Jesus and points to what God foretold that the Messiah would be LIKE.  
Not a single person in the Old Testament believed that the Messiah would be other than a man  called and chosen by God, as other godly men had been, so it is important for us today to see that God revealed thousands of years before Jesus was born,  that the coming Messiah would be GOD in human flesh and offer His body as 'bread and wine' for our salvation..  

Interesting to note that even today, there are still many who believe that Jesus was a righteous man but was not ‘God’. 
If they would but look at the ‘evidence’ they would see that it would easily stand in a court of law!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Character Study - King Asa

King Asa was so enraged with God’s message that he put the prophet Hanani in prison. He became arrogant and brutally oppressed some of the people he ruled over. – Slide 12

I love character studies - looking deeper than the physical description of what makes a person visually recognizable.  Digging deeper into what defines their character and how that determines their choices and decisions is much more interesting and revealing.
And when the character studies are bible characters we have the advantage of God's opinion which far surpasses even the most perceptive analysis by any human being even though they knew the character personally.

There is a reason we have a record of the lives of many Bible characters.  We may judge them favorably or otherwise, but always we can hold them up as a mirror to our own life and learn from what we are told about their failures and/or successes.  Taking a look at what God praised and what God judged as 'evil' can be very enlightening in looking at weaknesses we commonly share, but too often are blind to recognizing them in ourselves.  Being willing to learn from others'  experiences, saves us  the pain and consequences of missing the mark in our own life.

One Bible character that I have looked at recently is Asa - one of the kings of Judea.  I find him especially interesting in how he reveals a character flaw that I think tempts most of us ... and, hopefully, looking at his life will insulate us from following his example.

Asa was born in a time when God's people indulged in following the customs of the heathen nations around them, borrowing their gods and justifying gross immorality.    In the name of 'worship' everything was justified including orgies at the temples of the false gods they embraced, rejecting God and His commandments.

A quick look at Asa's family tree, to understand where he came from.

His grandfather was Rehoboam, who was Solomon's son and successor.

Rehoboam was a weak man, who followed his father's 'end-of-life' bad example. He has one 'good thing' reported about him in II Chron. 11:23 that  he was wise in dealing with his sons. Recognizing that being indulged in a lazy, affluent, unrestrained  life-style, as he had been, was not the best upbringing and so he made sure that his sons were given responsibilities and duties to preform. In other areas of his life he displayed his instability and weakness of character and God's opinion of him is ... "he did evil, because he fixed not his heart to seek the Lord." (II Chron. 12:14)

A huge influence in Rehoboam's life was his favorite wife, Maachah - who was the daughter of Absolum. Rehoboam was content to let her rule the Court.  She was 'evil' in that she leaned toward all the revolting practices of idolatry. (I Kings 15:13) She built altars to strange gods and to Asherah for her worship ceremonies, which Rehoboam did nothing to deter, even openly supporting her.

Rehoboam and Maachah had a son named Abijah, who - no surprise considering his parents - followed in his father's example and did nothing to encourage people to turn back to worship the God of Israel. All the evil involved with worshiping false gods, continued through his reign and his mother Maachah  real ruling influence in the court was not hindered.  She focused the people's worship on the degradation and moral evil  of the religious ceremonies held at the sacred groves and temples that she delighted in.

Abijah had a son named Asa - the focus of our study- who became King of Judah when his father Abijah died.
Considering his family heritage and the dominance of evil in and around him, it would be expected that Asa was strongly influenced to follow in that same direction.
But he didn't !
We are not told what influenced him toward the good.  Perhaps he was a sensitive boy who hated the wickedness connected with the prevalent  idol worship. Perhaps it was something randomly simple, a godly nurse that he had in his childhood?   Or something he read or heard of the God that had called Israel His people?  We don't know ...  but we do know that Asa in his growing up years made choices and decisions that molded his character toward godliness.
He was only twenty years old when he became king, but he showed wisdom that belied his youth.
He determined that his reign would be marked by an adherence to the 'old faith' and a  rejection of the idolatry and heathenism practiced by the three preceding kings.

He removed from the kingdom every trace of heathenism - as much as he possibly could, destroying the places of idol worship and removing the images and idols.
To be able to do this he had to first deal with his grandmother, Maachah. who still had influence and presence in the court.  He degraded her position and deprived her of all authority that she had exercised for so long, through both her husband's and son's reign. But no more - not on his watch !
God gave Asa a period of 10 years of peace during which he 'cleansed' the land of evil and focused on re-establishing a godly reign.

Then, came the day when an enemy army threatened his kingdom -   a huge Ethiopian army under the command of Egypt, Asa gathered his comparatively small army to meet his enemy..II Chron. 14:11 tells us that he prayed to God asking for His help and victory, a lovely prayer in which he acknowledges God's strength to help, and his declaration is of trust and reliance on his God ! It needed to be a God-work since only with God fighting for him could he possibly have won the battle.
After an amazing victory, he was  surely elated and relieved ! 
On his way home he was confirmed by God who sent  a prophet of God  to him with a message. The message was that he and his people were under God's favour and would continue to be as long as they continued to be faithful servants... to not be lax in their efforts but to be strong and determined !

That must really have encouraged Asa, since his desire was to serve God with all his heart , and to have God's praise publicly proclaimed must have been heady stuff.  Under his influence all of his kingdom loudly confirmed their intent to 'seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul.' (II Chron. 15:13)

When the northern kingdom saw what was happening in Judah, many came over to join them.
The king of Israel, Baasha, of course, was hardly pleased that 'his' people were defecting to the kingdom of Judah. He determined to put up a huge fortress (or wall?) at his southern border that would block the entrance into Judea and put a stop to the emigration from Israel to Judea. Baasha proceeded to fortify this position.
Asa realized that the enemy must be dislodged - they could not possibly tolerate having a hostile force in Judea, it was a threat to Jerusalem.
Asa knew that he had to do something but did not trust his own ability or the strength of his own army to defeat and remove the enemy at his border.

Something happened.
Asa to this point had 'done was right in the eyes of the Lord'  and the Lord had even sent a prophet to confirm to him that God was pleased with him.
He had 'prayed' about a previous battle,  and the Lord had answered and given him a resounding victory ... but now he seemed to forget that.  Instead of again calling on God's help, he sought the help of the Syrian king Banhadad, the most powerful monarch in the region.  He purchased his friendship with gifts of treasure from the temple.

Asa was again successful in battle, with Benhadad's help, and he tore down the wall that Baasha had erected.
On his triumphant return home, he was again met by a prophet of God, with another message.  But this one was not as favorable as the first.
The prophet, Hanani,  rebuked him for his lack of faith in calling Benhadad to his aid, instead of trusting God.  God told him he had done 'foolishly'.  (II Chron. 16:9)

He lost his temper with Hanani, who had effectively destroyed his pride in how easily and well he had gained the victory, without losing a single drop of Jewish blood.
But God saw a turning of Asa's heart - away from trust in Him to trust in the arm of man. Asa felt his success justified his actions.  His reaction is recorded in II Chron. 16:10)  He was angry!
He had Hanani arrested and thrown into prison.
About this same time Asa also "oppressed some of the people" (II Chron. 16:10)

And again, we are told in the end of his life he was 'diseased in his feet' and once again he did foolishly in seeking the help of physicians instead of asking help from God.
An interesting side-detail.  The meaning of the name Asa is 'physician' . At the end of his life he proved where his trust lay.

And yet. he was given the positive epitaph  that he 'did right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father"  and 'his heart was perfect all his days" ( II Chron. 15:17)  and it is said about his son Jehoshaphat, that "he walked in all the way Asa his father, he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the sigh of the Lord."( I Kings 22:43)

Asa died in the 42nd year of his reign - he was about 60 years old.

I think the lesson Asa would teach us today is how easy it is as we grow in successes to begin to trust in ourselves and our own ability instead of trusting wholly on God.

While no fault is found in Asa's deeds and his rule over Judea, it is sad that fault had to be found in his heart.  How sad that suddenly it seemed to him that there was no need to bother God when human resources were readily available to him.

If we are honest, are we not the same? 
Like, Asa, do we love to hear the praise and compliments and affirming messages, but then reject any message that doesn't sit well with us?  A message that is critical rather than positive?   If Asa had accepted the criticism it would have had good results in his life, would it not?  Sometimes we can learn more beneficial truths from criticism than from praise -- although, of course, the praise is always welcome!
Do we not call for God's help only if  we can't figure out something on our own?
The most precious thing we can offer God, in fact, the only thing He does not have if we don't give it to Him, is our trust in Him.  And scripture tells us that to God our faith is indeed precious. (I Peter 1:7)  God brings circumstances and trials into our life to test us ... how much will we trust God?  How solid is our faith in trusting Him to guide us in all our ways? 
We can trust God too little, but we can never trust Him too much !

Let Asa's life-story inspire us to not fall into the 'self-reliance' trap that moves our faith from being God-focused to man-focused or self-focused.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Don't do this ... Don't do that !"

Mother Scolding Child Image
The above image is copied  from a very old vintage catalog. Even in black and white the body language speaks loud and clear  !  

 The mother struck a match to light the candles on her festive dining room table.
She looked up to see the gleam in her 5 year old son whose wide-eyed attention was focused on what she was doing.  Replacing the match box in the cabinet drawer, she looked up to note the intensity of his gaze  riveted on the drawer as she pushed it closed. Knowing her son, she easily discerned his intent .
Wanting him to focus on the 'right' things, she said , "Bobby, there is a lovely set of trains in your toy box. Play with them, or, Call your little friend next door and ask him to play in the pool with you."

As experienced parents, we shake our head at her lack of 'mother-wisdom'.    Bobby heard not a word about the 'good commandments'  his mother gave him - his mind and will was focused on those matches and the fun he could have playing with them.
We easily guess the end of that story !

I often hear people complain about God's commandments.  "Why are they all so negative ?  'Don't do this, don't do that'."
God, being a wise parent who fully understands His children, knew that the human race was more inclined toward disobedience than toward obedience.  So He  gave His commandments from the perspective of our fleshly weakness.
We do wrong before we do right;
We sin before we seek righteousness;
We indulge the fleshly desires before we exercise ourselves in godliness.
We are selfishly inclined before we learn to consider others before ourselves.

How easily God could have thought - and rightly so - that man was sinful in all his ways, and whatever bed man made for himself he could just lie in it. 
No, we do not serve that kind of God.
God loved / loves every person  and desires the best for him.  So while He desires that we do right, He understands that first we will tempted to do  the 'wrong', so God gave us a list of 'wrongs' to avoid.
We try to hide our sin from others, and oft from God Himself, but if you read through His Ten Commandments, you will see that God knows exactly where our heart inclinations lie. He knows  the temptations that we so easily give in to. He understands the weakness of our flesh.

It is tempting to read through the commandments and soothe our consciences by judging ourselves not guilty -- especially of the 'do not murder' one.   But Jesus puts His finger on that one and points out that every murder is birthed in feelings of hatred.  And if we hate, we have already murdered in our heart. 
I recently gently chided a friend when she expressed her hatred for someone in her life.  She stopped for a moment, considering my admonition, and then replied, "Okay, I don't hate them, I just can't stand them."    We may smile - but wait -- are any of us really innocent?  Do we not all at some point or another just 'relabel' our emotions / feelings , even actions, and then declare ourselves innocent of disobeying God's commandment?

I find it so comforting - so freeing -  that I don't have to be afraid that God will find our what I am really like.  He already knows and loves me anyway.  That sets me free to rush into His presence where I will find the grace to grow more like Him.  Being in His presence turns me away from the sin 'that so easily besets us' and I desire much rather to  pursue goodness and righteousness.

 In Jesus' words ... "There is no other commandment greater than these ... Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength .....  and love your neighbor as yourself." Mark12:30,31
Love covers and fulfills every commandment God gave ...  the do's and the don'ts.
 If  we whole-heartedly love God and love each other  ... then there will be no cause for stumbling in us. (I John 2:10)