613 Biblically Speaking?

The number of Biblical laws, 613 is rather ambiguous and there is no verse in the Bible that says this number is correct. In our search for these we are directed to the first five books of the Bible. The first five books of the Bible are known by Jewish people as the Torah, which in English means “the law.” So …the other point of view would be that these 613 commands, the most famous of which are the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. There is no agreement between Jews or Christians that the number 613 is the number given by God through Moses. Where did this number come from?  We start with the Talmud…

  1. Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend comprising the Mishnah and the Gemara which is a rabbinical commentary on the Mishnah, forming the second part of the Talmud.

B)  There are two versions of the Talmud: the Babylonian Talmud (which dates from the 5th century ad but includes earlier material) and the earlier Palestinian or Jerusalem Talmud.

 I have discovered that there are many theories as to how this particular number came into being. So I kept digging and it was worth the time. I will again post at the end of this blog the URL for a massive work…The 613 by Archie Rand.  “ The 613 refers to the 613 Jewish commandments (mitzvoth in Hebrew) extracted from the Old Testament. This immense work by Archie Rand includes one painting for each one of the 613 mitzvoth.” Mitzvoth being a a precept or commandment or a good deed done from religious duty. All of these Laws, Commandments…can and has added to a great deal of debate, confusion and adds fuel to those who would profane them and use them as a distraction to mislead God’s people. I can assure you as a Layman the more I search for what is God’s Law, which is in reality the way God wishes us to live, the more I want to know. To me it is not a laundry list of must dos’, it soon comes down to a matter of what is in our hearts…and our hearts often rule our minds. Scripture tells us God knows what is on our minds and in our hearts. Consider this…keep things simple, Theology for a layman can become a series of trails ending in another rabbit hole. What is it that God wants of us? 

Micah 6:8  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Looking to Jesus we might because of Matthew 5:17 become confused… “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” To keep it simple read Matthew 5:17-20. There is so much here in this chapter, there is not enough time and space to do it justice at this time. In the time of Jesus and Paul there were thousands of legalistic rules and regulations, ( those made by the Pharisees) many just petty and somehow they came to be literally matters of life, death and eternal destiny. The truth is that both Jesus and Paul broke them repeatedly and condemned them. So the Law being our focus this week what then did Jesus mean by the law? We know what he said in Matthew, some say take that to mean He came to bring out the real meaning of the law. All that scribal and oral law left one thing unsaid. One great principle which the scribes and the Pharisees had been unable to understand. That in all things people must seek God’s will but they would not find it in their man-made hordes of rules and regulations. The blood of Jesus on the cross freed us from all of that. Jesus was asked once which commandment of the Law was the greatest.  

 Matthew 22:37–39

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 first commandment. 39 And  a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 God gave the Law to define sin and demonstrate our need for a Savior. Jesus is the only one who has perfectly obeyed the Law. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He fulfilled all of God’s righteous commands (Matthew 5:17–18). Be sure if time allows to read some of those 613 laws, go to the link at the bottom. I will close today with a simple view of a very long and complicated process of Biblical Law / God’s Law. 

“With the coming of Christ, God has established a new covenant with mankind (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, Hebrews 8:8-13, 9:11-15). Jesus and His apostles gave us a radically new understanding of the true intent of the Old Testament Law; they brought a new era of the rule of love for all people and spiritual truth instead of rule by law (Luke 10:25-28, John 13:34-35, Ephesians 2:14-18).”

 http://www.christianbiblereference.org

Life is Good

jk

613 Link

https://www.jmu.edu/dukehallgallery/exhibitions-past-2018-2019/the-613-mitzvot.shtml

Might Be A Law….I Don’t Know

 The past few weeks of all this blabbering about the two most contentious rulings of the Supreme Court has encouraged me to look at the other side of, or as I am found of saying the rest of the story…those other laws. God’s law, Biblical law, the Law of Moses, The Ten Commandments and also 613 additional commandments or laws and let us not forget the Seven Laws of Noah.

What is the definition of the word law?… To me I always first ask which Law? To a Christian, or more directly…to God’s people, those who obey God’s Law, there will the always be a state of conflict of interest. It has been said that obedience is the first law of heaven. Why is that important? Well, Biblically speaking it has been established that to obey God brings blessings to those who do so and to love God one is assured everlasting life. That is scripturally correct. Obedience has always been a part of any Covenant  between God and his people. God is the controlling authority and enforcement is His exclusively. Here then lies the conflict… Secular law is made of course by Man, who even at the best of his intentions is never perfect. So the other definition would read as such, law is:

1a(1) : a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed (see prescribe sense 1a) or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority. (2) : the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules The courts exist to uphold, interpret, and apply the law.Jun 13, 2022

 https://www.merriam-webster.com › dictionary › law

What is God’s law?… That is a question of faith, source and discussion among God’s people. A little reminder here that Christianity is not a democracy and never even in the time of Christ was it meant to be a Theocracy either. My view is that accepting Jesus Christ as your savior is the initiating factor of the Covenant between you and God. God’s word today is the same as yesterday and the days to come. Cliché, I guess it could be labeled as such…but we have had well over 2000 years to prove that its true. What makes God’s law different? A rather simplistic answer… It has only one source… There are no committees, no political parties, no social justice warriors or special interest groups and no pressure to change due to evolving cultural enlightenment. There is only one God, the Alpha and Omega, First and Last….Point made…God’s law is the final decision in any situation. 

We can’t stop just yet at this point. There is another law we should be concerned with. Biblical law refers to the legal aspects of the Bible, the holy scriptures of Judaism and Christianity and Mitzvah which is a precept or commandment. A good deed done from religious duty or a divine commandment. We also have references to the Law of Moses, The Ten Commandments also 613 additional commandments or laws that include “positive commandments”, to perform an act (mitzvot aseh), and “negative commandments”, to abstain from certain acts (mitzvot lo taaseh) and lastly the Seven Laws of Noah; laws applicable to all of humanity, including non-Jews. Those 613 we listed above, here is a link to them…every last one. When you have time have a look.

https://www.jmu.edu/dukehallgallery/exhibitions-past-2018-2019/the-613-mitzvot.shtml

I do not know many Laymen who have read each one of these, I have not, but a quick look has got my interest up to do so. In the sixth century BC the Hebrews started to put these commandments and other legal principles in writing. They were contained in the Torah and some time later they became the first five books of the Bible. The Torah (teaching) provided the Hebrew people with a basis of religious and moral laws. The Ten Commandments are often looked at as moral laws…dealing with murder, honesty, adultery and such. Pay attention to the Moral aspect of this history. We are people who are constantly looking for ways to minimize morality and justify our disobedience to God. We are always “looking for loopholes” The Mosaic laws have three areas…Moral, Civil and Ceremonial.

Let’s fast forward a bit. What did Jesus say about Old Testament Law? 

In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 

Romans 15:4-5 NIV

 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Paul)

The roads are many and sometimes confusing…Hear what Jesus said as to law and commandments when asked which of these laws are the most important?

Matthew 22:37-40

37 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 greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

The simplicity of scripture is often hid among the constant noise and blabbering of people who are always looking for a “loophole”. We don’t like or agree with that law, therefore we will not obey. It is not compatible with our lifestyle. 

I have so much more I could share with you and if you have been paying attention you will have noticed that I did not overburden you with scripture. All that is happening in our world… “don’t worry about it.” It is really quite simple… The gospel truth is His will be done… My hope is not of this world. 

jk

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow… John 16:4-5

John 16: 4-5 ‘I did not tell you these things at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going away to him who sent me, and none of you asks me: “Where are you going?”

A short preface to this weeks blog. With all that is happening in the world around us we need a rock to stand on. There is no greater one than God’s word in a time of uncertainty it will comfort, teach and inspire while challenging us to stand firm in the uncertainty of the times. The disciples find themselves facing the challenge of taking the word to the world and doing so without the  physical presence of Jesus. 

Never easy to leave those we love behind even if we know it is necessary and will be better for them. It is hard for us to accept that these simple men after all this time with Jesus were still in some respects confused by the things that were happening around them. At this point in our scriptures we find these men bewildered and grief stricken. The simple truth was that Jesus was somewhat constrained in his present state. The disciples had only a snapshot you might say of what’s about to happen….They were going to lose Jesus. He told them this must happen so the Holy Spirit, the Helper could come. They had yet to see the bigger picture. The time of hello’s and goodbyes were over. He told them that in this body I cannot be everywhere. As it were now he was confined, but there will be no limitations in the Spirit, everywhere you go the Spirit is with you. I am sure they struggled to understand what he was saying. Matthew 28:20 ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ The Spirit would bring to men and women an uninterrupted fellowship forever. It would bring to the preached word a power that would change the people who heard it and the world they lived in. 

As with all biblical scripture we sometimes find words that can’t be fully translated and this is the case here with a word John uses to speak to the work of the Spirit…elegchein, which is translated in the Revised Standard Version as convince.  This is as good a time as any to ask this question. Why does the crucifixion of, in their minds a criminal 2000 years ago, still through all this time   weigh upon the hearts of people all over the world? It is nothing less than the work of the Holy Spirit! 

 (1) The Holy Spirit will convict people of sin. 

(2) The Holy Spirit will convince people of righteousness.

(3) The Holy Spirit convinces people of judgment.

One last point to be made here is this simple truth. When we believe with certainty that on the cross of Christ is our salvation and that with Christ we are forgiven, and saved, this too, is the work of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we are convicted of our sin and convinced that our savior will forgive us of our sins.

 Life is Good

jk

Reality… John 16 … Warning and Preparations

Last blog we spent some time in John chapter 14 and equated the uncertainty of the times the disciples were living in and how in some ways it mirrors  the times we as the church and nation are facing today. This week we move to chapter 16 and explore the warnings and challenges Jesus spoke of with his disciples. Jesus continues to teach the disciples after the Passover Meal about the things He wants them to be aware of and prepare for. There are some hard times coming that will test their faith and endurance and that is an appropriate thought now, in our day and time. I should make it clear that I am not of the doomsday mindset. A wise man looks to the future with a clear eye and seeks God’s guidance but there are always those that seek the comfort of the day and wear those rose-colored glasses. I don’t intend that remark to be disrespectful but let’s all admit that there is a bit of serendipity in most of us, not a bad thing, unless we let it blind us to reality.

At the time John was writing this there was a predictable falling away of many Christians as the persecution of the Church  intensified. In the first four verses Jesus makes it clear that there will be times of trouble for those of the faith. Jesus even says that many will do them harm, believing they are doing a service to God. He evens instructs them that when this happens remember ‘it was I that spoke of them to you.’  In Revelations 21:8 we get a warning of what is in store for those who fall away from the faith.

Revelation 21:8    

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’

We do not want to put aside or forget the heroism of the early church but must take note that there were many who whose faith was not great enough and thus unable to resist the constant persecution and their endurance was not strong enough to keep them from falling away. Jesus wanted all of His followers from the very start of the ministry to never be able to say they didn’t know the cost. There was a certain glory in following the way but there was also a cross as well. We as the church today would do well to remember and understand that. Jesus said there were two ways his followers would be persecuted. Being excommunicated from the synagogue was one way. This was particularly painful for a Jew. To the Jew the synagogue was life and the Rabbis were always saying that unless prayer was offered in the synagogue it was not effective. One point to remember and often misunderstood is that the synagogue was the center of Jewish life and fellowship. Jews tended to stay together and did much of their business among themselves. To be excommunicated  was a big deal. There are some people that feel they do not need human company but these disciples were simple men and they needed the fellowship, they needed the synagogue and its worship. Joan of Arc said, ‘It is better to be alone with God.’ Sometimes, loneliness in society is the price of fellowship with God. (DBD) It does not exactly jump out at you but there is a plea, subdued as it may be…for unity of spirit, a coming together. We see it today if we look closely at the Christian Community.  Many things are done in the church community in the name of God but in actuality it is their own idea of religion. In their minds they believe they have sole possession of God’s truth and grace. This lack of unity in the faith leaves us with a barrier of unity between believers and churches. While today it does not always lead to exclusion from God’s house, we still are faced with those who believe there is only one way to Him. To put these first four verses in simple laymen’s terms…Jesus is saying to the disciples….I am offering you the hardest task in the world… Are you big enough to accept it?

From across the centuries  there comes that question again but phrased differently… Are We? The way of the cross is not one of ease but it is the way to glory. Jesus wants men and women who with eyes wide open are ready to venture forth in His name. Next week we will move on to verses 5-11…Hope you will join us then, in The Pew. 

Life is Good

jk

Sometimes We Forget The Promises…John 14:18-27

As a nation we are uncertain about our future. The cultural and societal changes being driven by the social justice warriors and generational culture changes have brought this uncertainty on us. The uncertainty has found its way into our churches as well.

For the disciples this was a time of great uncertainty. Taking some literary liberty I get the impression that they were confused and uncertain about what Jesus is saying to them in this chapter. Consider this…there are many things happening in our world today that impact our life and not always in a good way. I try hard to keep the blogs from “The Pew” out of the politics of the day. If you are a Christian and have done your homework you know that from the Garden to this very day sin and the cost of it have always been with us. As an example…Leviticus is a book of the OT that is mostly about laws that kept the Hebrew people safe, healthy and peaceful. The laws found here were applied from 1445 bc until shortly after the death of Christ and the Temple being destroyed in 70AD. It is an important book because of the many laws contained in it are for the Jewish People and are seldom studied by Christians because Jesus freed us from the letter of the law. Scripture is always easily applied to situations of the current day. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

I believe we all would welcome some good works right now. I find it hard to believe that most Americans are satisfied with the “State of The Union” at this point in time. Let’s go back aways to the conversation Jesus was having with his disciples in Chapter 14. The ministry had never been an easy one and as time went by and His following increased, the pressure from both the Roman Government and Jewish influencers was I am sure felt by Jesus, the disciples and followers. Allow me to make another point…These 12 ordinary men were walking, talking, being instructed by no less than God incarnate …. How awesome is that! Jesus is slowly bringing them along on His journey to the cross and they fail to see not just a promise but a revelation! 

John 5:6-7

Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

In verses 15-17 of chapter 14 Jesus promises to send a helper to the disciples…

John 14:15–17  ‘If you love me, keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, I mean the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot receive him, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him because he remains among you and will be within you.’ 

Notice, Jesus equates their love for Him by keeping His commandments. One test of love is obedience. Jesus showed his love for God by His obedience to him.A bit of trivia here. Jesus knew we were weak and he prepared us for that weakness he knew would lay heavy on us after he was gone. The authorized version gives it as the comforter. The Greek word is really untranslatable…one early theologian translates it as helper. If that does anything for it, it certainly adds a richness to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit…it simply means someone who is called in. Works for me. How often in the turmoil of this world do we have to call in the spirit to strengthen and lift us up in times of uncertainty? 

John 14:18-24

18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ 23 Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

Here is yet another promise to not forget. We wrap this blog up with verses 25-27 chapter 14, another promise.

John 14:25-27

25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 

There is much in this world to cause us to fear the day or hesitate to give thanks for all we have…just remember the Promises. 

Life is Good

jk

Putting Things in Context…

2 Chronicles 7:14 New International Version (NIV)

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The word of God cries out to us as never before. Just as our scripture today demands to be contextual it is abundantly so that this tragedy in Texas be treated in the same way. There will be many theories as to why and how that day came to be, none will do justice to the tragedy and in all probability will be nothing more than and exercise in placing blame. Truth is, we all share in the blame and the shame of allowing our nation to have fallen so far from God that our Morales have become nothing more than slogans and our faith in God a matter of convenience to often influenced by cultural and societal agendas.  

Here is 7:14 in its context…

12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

This verse 7:14 is tied to the Temple and to Israel with a warning that from time to time it is possible that God could come against them. If we read on we have more insight into the context.

2 Chronicles 7:19-22 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’ ”

In Deuteronomy 28 God entered into a Covenant with Israel. God tells them he will take care of them and they will prosper as long as they obeyed Him. You can view it anyway you want but the simple fact was their prosperity was dependent on their obedience to God. 

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. (ESV)

Solomon would have recognized that the divine blessing and divine punishment on Israel were conditional on their obedience or disobedience. It is at this point that we must acknowledge that covenant with Israel was much different from what we have today. The covenant was to the nation of Israel…en masse…the nation as   a whole. We are in a completely different situation…we are not a theocracy. Now I am sure that not every Israeli went to their knees in prayer but the plea went to the nation as a whole. There are some  scriptures involved here that would be of some help.  

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Biblical history reminds us of those who came before us carrying high the Cross of Christ. We should turn from our evil ways, pick up the Cross and continue the race.

1Timothy 2:1-2

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

It is only right and just that as a nation we turn to our God in humble prayer.

Romans 8:1

8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

We serve a God of restoration…not condemnation. 

We will find no comfort in those who rail, accuse and condemn in pursuit of their own agendas…But know this…All across this great nation there are those on their knees in their churches and the privacy of their homes that may be assured that any loss of his creation is felt by our Father in Heaven. Sometimes there are no words…just the groaning of the believer that only God can understand. Sometimes life ain’t all that good but…

God is Good

jk

Resource:  gotquestions.org

I Believe…

There are many times in our life where we apply the phrase I believe, most of the time it is a general statement to any issue that crosses our path in living our everyday lives. I believe it to be one of two things, truth or opinion or a commitment or a thought regarding a certain situation. Looking back there was a song sung by Elvis Presley in his early years, it was on a gospel album he recorded. The title of that song was I Believe. The lyrics are below….

I believe, for every drop of rain that falls, 

A flower grows…

I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, 

A candle glows… 

I believe for everyone who goes astray, 

Someone will come, to show the way,

I believe, I believe…

I believe, above the storm the smallest prayer, 

Will still be heard… 

I believe, that someone in the great somewhere, 

Hears every word… 

Every-time I hear a newborn baby cry, 

Or touch a leaf, or see the sky, 

Then I know why, I believe! 

I believe, above the storm the smallest prayer, 

Will still be heard . . . 

I believe, that someone in the great somewhere, 

Hears every word…

Everytime I hear a newborn baby cry, 

Or touch a leaf, or see the sky, 

Then I know why, I believe!

Written by: AJA VOLKMAN, DAN EPAND, DANIEL COULTER REYNOLDS, RICH KOEHLER

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC  Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

Back in the day I volunteered at the US Parks Service, White Water center in Polk County Tn. I remember when I entered the Cherokee National Forest on my way to the center how majestic and peaceful were the mountains and my thoughts were always how great is my God who has created this wonderful place. There are many reasons all around us to make our hearts sing…I Believe… The lyrics of this song do a good job sharing some things that lead us to believe. Savor the words of this song…then take the time to ask yourself….Why do I Believe?

Life is Good

jk

A Time To Remember…Acts 7:1-8:1

We travel back to a time in the early church and here in Acts 7 we meet Saul, who would soon become Paul, a driving force in  establishing  the early church. But on this day we see Saul stand by while the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul…and scripture says,

 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

The him they were killing was Stephen.One of many who answered God’s call.  Stephen is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to distribute food and charitable aid to poorer members of the community in the early church. Other than the scripture as a guide in writing this blog I will look to one of my favorite commentaries…DBS, William Barclay. We have met Saul and now we shall meet Stephen, THE MAN WHO ANSWERED GOD’S CALL. The bible tells us that Stephen was full of grace and power and did much good among the people. There were some who argued with Stephen because they did not understand the wisdom and spirit he possessed. They contrived to get some other men to say they heard him blaspheme through spoken word both Moses and God. All of this stirred up the people and he was arrested and put on trial before the High Priest and the council. Stephen then stood up before them and defended himself. 

Stephen chose history as a means of defense and cited certain truths as condemnation of his own nation. He reminded them that  the people who heard God’s command were a great part of Israel’s history. He pointed to the fact that they, the Jews of their time , now at this time were afraid to step out. Their desire was to keep things as they were and regarded Jesus and his followers as dangerous innovators. Stephen reminded them that people had always worshiped God, even before there was a Temple. Now to the Jews the Temple was the most sacred of all places. Stephen believed that God dwelt everywhere the people would gather to worship and that did not sit well with the Jews. Then he made an astounding statement. All through the ages they had persecuted the prophets and abandoned the leaders whom God had raised up, including Jesus Christ, it was a natural conclusion to a disagreement. They were angered even more for these were hard truths for those people who believed they were chosen by God.  

Standing before the High Priest and the Council Stephen proceeds with the history lesson and he starts with Abraham, it is with him that Jewish history began. Abraham was a man who answered God’s summons. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, Abraham left home without knowing where he was to go. Abraham was a man of faith. He did not know where he was going, but he  trusted God’s guidance.  Even though never seeing God’s promise fulfilled Abraham was a man of hope. As with Abraham we should be a people ready to answer God’s command, to move forward and not cling to the past. Stephen then moves on to Joseph his family which had sold him into Egypt. Joseph did well in Egypt and rose to a position of power there. When the famine struck the land Joseph’s father sent his brothers there to look for food. You know the story when they came before Joseph they were afraid he would kill them because of what they had done to him. He did not. He brought all his family there to be with him and gave them all they needed to live. Stephen sums up the characteristics of Joseph in two words – grace and wisdom. His grace transferred to a generous charm that put their fears to rest. Wisdom simply put for a Christian is the ability to see things as God sees them. It is as if Stephen is saying to these Jews…you are mired in the past and prisoners of your own law. Yours is not the view God sees of the future. Stephen continues on with the example of Moses. This was the man that answered God’s command to go out. It is said that this was a man that literally gave up a kingdom to answer God’s summons to be the leader of his people. Stephen now begins to raise the tempo of his defense….He says there is the continued disobedience of the people. He reminds them that they have been blessed with an abundance of the most amazing privileges. Their condemnation is justified because they had every chance to know better, they continuously rebelled against God. They had limited God to a Temple….his reasoning was they loved the Temple more than God. Their God was a God of all people and his Temple was the whole universe. Now comes the end…You have consistently persecuted the prophets…and then he slams the door in their faces by telling them….you have murdered the Son of God. For Stephen there is the sorrow that sees a people who have refused the destiny that God offered them. 

I hope you will read Acts chapter 7 in full. We need a Stephen today to remind us to remember our Christian history, to look back at the courage of those whose willingness to step out gave us hope, courage, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Life is Good

jk

 

Pondering…Life…Whose is It?

I always enjoy the times I step out of the Pew and just ponder, I view pondering as a poor man’s think tank. But for the sake of today’s pondering, here is the proper definition of that word. 

pon·der | ˈpändər |

verb [with object]

think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion:  

I always equate pondering with us old folks, a porch, a rocking chair and the comfort of a well thought out opinion without the stress of a debate. This usually happens in the quiet of  late evening or in the morning before the hassle of the day engulfs us. I have solved many a problem while just pondering… at least for me. Been pondering this ABORTION thing and it is not the first time my thoughts have wandered there. 

ABORTION –  noun

1 the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy: 

Medicine the expulsion of a fetus from the uterus by natural causes before it is able to survive independently.

  • Biology the arrest of the development of an organ, typically a seed or fruit.

My thoughts this day by-pass the medicine and biology area and focus on the first part of this definition. Abortion as an issue has become the darling, the top of the list concern, for the social justice warriors in our world today. Since 1973 it has always been a hot button issue but the leak of a yet to be finalized opinion from one of the Justice’s position papers has, so to speak, brought out the knives. The first causality being reason, that’s not on the table anymore and its cousin civility, is in critical condition. Before I go any further I must disclose to you that I am a Christian, why would I say that? Because I have no other view than what I believe to be Godly grounded…I am convinced…

Romans 8:38-39

New International Version

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

So, as a disclaimer up front, I am prejudice. The truth is as a Christian it is not acceptable to do anything other than love others, the old adage of hate the sin but love the sinner…as Christians that’s out the door…we do not have that option. Jesus himself said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ‘ ” (Matthew 22:37-39, ESV). 

Genesis 2:7, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Consistently throughout Scripture God is portrayed as the giver of life, which distinguishes living organisms from inanimate things (biblestudytools.com) 

My God is a God of life.

Romans 4:17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

Pondering this Abortion thing I chose to travel a different road. Here in the South I guess some would say…ain’t no rights thing. Abortion is a God thing because it is about life…all life. God created life… he willed it, he gives it. And he sustains it…period.

Psalms 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Romans 1:20-21 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

God demands a reverence for human life and forbids murder.

 Psalms 139:13- For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

It is about life, anything else is fodder for debate. I serve a God of life…I cannot say that enough. My God creates life, life to God is precious and his enduring love and care for his creation…all…is beyond the understanding of mortals. I turn to of all places the Book of Job, chapter 38. Job has questions for God and he struggles with his need to speak to God. In chapter 38 God answers Job. I of course suggest you read this chapter, the following is from Clark’s Commentary and is a brief summation of the contents of this chapter.

The Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and challenges him to answer, 1-3. He convinces him of ignorance and weakness, by an enumeration of some of his mighty works; particularly of the creation of the earth, 4-7. The sea and the deeps, 8-18. The light, 19-21. Snow, hail, thunder, lightning, rain, dew, ice, and hoar-frost, 22-30. Different constellations, and the ordinances of heaven influencing the earth, 31-33. Shows his own power and wisdom in the atmosphere, particularly in the thunder, lightnings, and rain, 34-38. His providence in reference to the brute creation, 39-41.

In a layman’s language God asks Job who are you? What knowledge do you have that allows you to ask these questions of me? Man up and answer these questions I have for you. So…Life…Whose is It? That is where I am at in this national debate and questions about Abortion. I take a very simple path. Life is a work of God and who among us knows the mind of God? At what point does conception take place? Adam was dust until God breathed life into him. Were you there when God gave the breath of life to Adam? I have little patience for those who rail in the streets and threaten others. Sometimes truth is hard to accept for all of us. My thought is simple…Life belongs to God and the moment that breath of life  is taken from us, that is a God Thing. Who are we to decide such a thing? 

Closing thought for your consideration. I close every blog with the tagline Life is Good…indeed it is and whom am I to take what God created? You of course will make your own decision and free will  is also of God, we have been given that. I make this statement with love…Do as you would but never allow yourself to forget there is a Judgement, the Lord’s Day will come.

Life is Good

jk

Looking For Loopholes…Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?

Home is where the heart is…Some people wear their hearts on their selves, are just a couple that come to my mind…here are a few others from  https://www.liveabout.com

François de la Rochefoucauld: “The heart is forever making the head its fool.” Kahlil Gibran: “Beauty is not in the face; Beauty is a light in the heart.” Confucius: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” James Earl Jones: “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”Jan 14, 2020

The Bible has a lot to say about the heart…  Proverbs 3:5…Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

Proverbs 4:23…Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Psalm 51:10…Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 19:14…May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Matthew 5:8…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

God looks into our hearts, into the very being of our souls and it is not unreasonable to suggest that recognizing our sins and our need for repentance cannot become a matter of the heart. We often associate the heart with emotions…for instance it’s with heart felt sorrow or my heart is broken…and there are many more. The point being that emotions can be of God, sincere and deeply felt…but emotions don’t always tell the truth. 

Jeremiah 17:9

 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?

Sin can be a matter of the heart. One thing is common among the human race, we all have a problem owning up to the sins in our lives. My experience has been that most people don’t like, rules, discipline or accountability. We can be exceptionally stubborn to acceptance of any of the three. As Christians we can accept all three from a biblical context…well most of the time. When we sin and recognize what we have done or God lays it on our heart what we have done, we own up to it and seek forgiveness through repentance and the mercy of our Lord and Savior. A word that means one thing…the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse. The definition leaves no wiggle room. Some would say it is a Heart thing. It is sometimes in this process that another trait of we mortals comes into play…excuses. I have written in the past about this trend which I call a “Religion of Convenience” and I believe that we may have also developed a repentance of convenience. Owning up is hard to do, accountability is not easy to accept and most all of us have a hard time doing that. We look for the easy way out or at least a way to lessen the sin and avoid true repentance. One of my favorite short stories is as follows.

W. C. Fields (1879-1946) Friends were surprised to discover Fields on his deathbed searching through the Bible. He explained: “I’m looking for a loophole.”

Will Anderson wrote an article in Christian Living, June 5, 2019, I would like to share some of his thoughts with you. He wrote about the loopholes we use to excuse sin. There is that in the moment thing, the heart thing when we are overcome by emotion. Mr Anderson writes that emotions don’t always tell the truth. My take is a kid playing in the mud realizing mom will not be happy with this mess…he cleans himself up but never commits to not doing that again. For the moment we are sorry but the emotions of the moment led us to start looking for loopholes…you know, it wasn’t all that bad, could have been worse.

The next one I found interesting, “The Percentage Plea.” The ole I ain’t a bad guy thing. My obedience far outweighs the sin in my life. I ran the numbers and they don’t look all that bad. There is a case of deception here. We hope good outweighing the bad, God will excuse the little wrong in our lives. 

Ephesians 2:8-9 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Well, that won’t work. When we search for loopholes we guarantee sin will grow. 

The next one… Institutional Cynicism, for Christians it is the legalism involved in the don’t or can’t do list. Just like the secular world, you can’t legislate what’s in a person’s heart. Mr Anderson points out that no one wants to be told how to live. Thus creating an excuse for us to find fault with the church laws and an excuse for our behavior, a very convenient loophole. Read Matthew 23 for a better understanding of his point.

I love this next one….there is safety in a crowd. The fourth one is Hiding in the Herd. 

This one rung a bell with me, a simple truth often overlooked but a strong influencer in our lives. Does the old saying…birds of a feather… ring a bell? Yes, we can grow in community or be stifled.  There is room for growth but it can become the wrong kind. Judgmental, exclusionary and lacking in tolerance toward those who don’t meet our standards or rules. I have another name for this…Cultural of societal norms and customs. Another loophole to lessen our perception of wrong and the need for forgiveness. Well, it seems everyone is doing it.

The last one is in some ways the most dangerous. We can become so enamored with ourselves that we see only the good and then start thinking we have become indispensable to home, work and even the church…or even more disturbing the work of God’s kingdom. Might be a little loophole here for us to as Mr Anderson says, dabble in a little rebellion. God’s eyes are fixed on our hearts…does what we do in public reflect our private habits?

Loopholes…there are none but there is a door. Jesus Christ is that door, he is the door keeper you might say. He has the keys to Heaven and Hell…There is no loophole.

Life is Good

jk