Do I Believe?

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1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39
Psalm 96
Galatians 1:1-12
Luke 7:1-10

 

There is a simple test of faith. We always find time to do what we want to do.

Think through your week; what did you do and what did you fail to do? Helping your child with his homework instead of going out with a friend? Spending time with a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on instead of watching the game? Making do with an old TV to send a check to an important charity?

If I love God and His Son, I need to watch for all those little moments when I can do what Jesus would do. It really is the long list of little things that tells me how healthy is my faith.

The Centurion is a good example of true faith. He was a Roman citizen and an officer loyal to the Emperor, yet he knew that God could heal his servant and he knew Jesus was God’s “officer” on earth. Even in the reign of Emperor Tiberius, he might have been punished for such actions. He was willing to take the risk based on his faith.

The image of Elijah calling down fire is too MEGA for words. Can you imagine seeing it? How could anyone ever doubt God after that? Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. ‘How long’ he said ‘do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If Yahweh is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.’ NJB

We cannot follow both.

If I allow TV to babysit my children while I do other things; if I spend $2,000 on a week-long mission trip to Mexico and do nothing else for the year; if I wait until Saturday night to prepare my Sunday school lesson; if I party every week, but help other people occasionally—Baal it is.

Paul had a similar problem.  I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning ChristNLT

This is really the same problem. The Galatians were turning to Baal. They were starting to say, ‘I can worship while fishing; I am working for the money to put my children through college; God doesn’t want me spending time with Jews-Moslems-Irish-Blacks-Asians-Whites-Gays-Communists-Democrats-Poor-Rich-Those People. It is too easy to back away from doing what Jesus did, and from what he wants us to do.

Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to youNLT

Find time to do what Jesus would do.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Many Things You Cannot Yet Bear

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

 

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

This is the greatest hearsay of Christianity, and the essence of its truth. Many religions believe in multiple gods; Jews, Christians, and Moslems all believe there is one God only. Yet, we Christians argue that the one God has taken three forms. Can God really be in Heaven and on earth as a human at the same time?

Think what it must have been like for the Twelve who followed Jesus for three years and heard him say things that sounded like he was claiming to be God. Jews had spent too many centuries learning the hard lesson that God is one, and only one, to tolerate any man making such a claim. Even so, the Twelve stayed with him when hundreds of others fled at some of his words.

Yet, John records, I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them nowCJB

How will they know; how will they understand? Proverbs gives us some understanding. Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? NIV

Yes, but it is a still small voice. It is difficult to hear, even when we are quiet. Why is the Holy Spirit not more aggressive? Why does the Spirit not strike us the way Paul was struck?

Origen, writing around 230 AD, had this to say about the Spirit: By my regeneration [baptism] I have received the faith, but I am still ignorant. And yet I have a firm hold on something that I do not understand. I am born again, capable of rebirth but without conscious perception of it. The Spirit abides by no rules. He speaks when he pleases, what he pleases and when he pleasesACCS While Origen professed that God lived in three forms, Origen died before the doctrine of the Trinity was fully developed a century later.

How does the Spirit speak to you? Each of us receives the Spirit differently, based on our individual needs and personalities. The rustling of leaves in a breeze, the crashing of the surf, the words of the Bible, the memories of loved ones, the thoughts and writings of good people of God, the awareness as we sit in complete silence. Nor is there only one way for the Spirit to speak to you. You are filled with his presence in one way, only to have a singular visit in a dream or a clear voice as you walk through a crowd. As Origen said, he speaks when he pleases.

What if you never hear the still small voice? Perhaps you are tuned to the wrong station, or you expect to hear the voice in one way, but he is speaking in another. We must always be open to the Word no matter the source. Nor can we assume that the person speaking the Word will be Christian.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Whoever Has Seen Me Has Seen the Father

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Pentecost

Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17, (25-27)

 

Jewish rabbis have always read Genesis 11:1 as, Now the whole earth had one language and few wordsGenesis Rabbah The reason for that translation has to do with the Hebrew words used. The understanding of a Hebrew word depends on many factors, one of which is what words are closely related. As it happens, what we generally translate as, speech, may mean, lip.

Remember that the ancient Hebrews wrote without vowels or spaces. In English, 11:1 would look like this: Nwthwhlrthhdnlnggndfwwrds. That kind of text offered more opportunities to play with the words. Is, wrds, words or wards? More modern Hebrew has spacing and vowels, but they are jots and tittles. The sentence might look like this: N’w th, wh’l, ,*rth h*d ‘n, l*ng^*g, *nd f,w w’rds.

In discussing the meaning of this story, rabbis arrived at: He [God] does not have the power to select the heavenly spheres for himself and hand over to us merely the lower world. So come, let us make a tower for ourselves and put an idol on top of it, and put a sword in its hand, so that it will appear as if it carries on warfare with himGenesis Rabbah

While we may wonder at the creative license, this statement sums up the story nicely. Humans have always wanted to play at being God, just as children pretend to be adults. God is not threatened by that, but He does want us to learn from this simple story that we can never hope to reach Heaven by our own efforts.

The response of Jesus to Phillip tells us that a reverse tower of babel came to earth. We do not have to try to reach Heaven, Heaven reached us. God filled the man Jesus and gave him the words and the power to represent God. Every action of Jesus, every word of Jesus is God in the world. We do not need to build a brick tower to reach God.

Further, Jesus said, If you really love me, you will keep the commandments I have given you and I shall ask the Father to give you someone else to stand by you, to be with you always. I mean the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, for it can neither see nor recognise that Spirit. But you recognise him, for he is with you now and will be in your hearts. I am not going to leave you alone in the worldPhillips Paul writes in Romans: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own childrenNLT

Jesus commandments? Love God and love one another.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Midnight Deliverance

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Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

 

Yes, the time is coming when a man who kills you will think he is thereby serving God! Phillips John’s Gospel uses several chapters to prepare the disciples for the end of Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of theirs. It is a summary of what they have learned over the three years, but is filled with the tools needed for the hard days to come.

We know that of the Twelve, only John died of old age. Even he spent many years in prison. Back in John 16, Jesus told the disciples, they will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myselfNJB He was saying that the synagogue leaders and the Temple leaders did not know God. He is also saying that many church leaders today do not know God.

How is it possible to attend synagogue or church for years—reading the Bible—and not know God? How is it possible to say, “I believe in Jesus,” and not know God?

By misreading the Word, misunderstand what is said, and mistrusting what we see. To hear God, we must be listening for God. To hear what the world says we listen for the world. Even as we read the Bible, we must focus on the presence of God, not on the world. If we read about the wrath of God, we need to understand what that really means, and it is different in many cases. As an example: 2 Kings 24:4—the Lord was not willing to forgiveNIV Yet Jesus made it clear that the Mercy of God is so vast that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.

As John says in Revelation: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Let everyone who hears this also say, “Come!” Let the thirsty man come, and let everyone who wishes take the water of life as a giftPhillips In the Gospel, John writes, May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent meNJB

To be one in Jesus and in God requires faith. The faith of the jailor who witnessed God’s power as he released the imprisoned and understood it to be from God and not man. The faith of the jailor who at once knew who was a servant of both Jesus and God, and went directly to Paul to ask, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? NIV Paul said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be savedNIV

We try to make it difficult to join this club. We don’t want “those” people to gain entrance. We have a country club mentality instead of a street ball pickup group. Ye don’t like it when Jesus says that anyone can follow him. We don’t want to have to spend eternity with the likes of ___ (fill in the blank).

But Jesus does.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. AmenNIV

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Anyone Who Loves Me

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Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

 

Our neighbor said of our dog: “I know she loves Jesus, but she is a thief.” That may work for dogs, but what about people? Can I love Jesus and be a thief?

The short answer is, yes, but it is more complicated than that. Jesus did say, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” It seems then that the crux is, “obey my teaching.” What did he mean?

It is easy and tempting to turn to the Ten Commandments, but that will not get us very far. Jesus dismantled them to some extent by saying that we all cheat, steal, and lie. Yes, we should not murder, but we all murder by thinking bad thoughts about others; by wishing that someone would just go away; by saying less than good things about a person.

If I am guilty of murder, can I still love Jesus? Yes. I need to recognize that my bad thoughts and words are murderous and that I need to cease such thoughts and words. When I murder again with someone else, or in some other way, I need to work on it again. Following Jesus is a life-long process. If I love Jesus, I will want to work at doing and acting as he did.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” NIV While Jesus lived a perfect human life and encouraged us to follow him, he knew that we would continue to fall short. He also told us numerous times that forgiveness was always available. God is a God of mercy, not punishment. Jesus always stressed God’s forgiveness.

When we go to live with God, we will no longer have to work at following Jesus, for, Nothing that has cursed mankind shall exist any longerPhillips Our sins are not allowed to enter heaven; we have to leave them at the entrance. That is only possible because Jesus will tell God that we have done our best to follow him in the path of love, and he will ask God to forgive us by His mercy.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence