Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In His Image and Likeness 5/27/2014

"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” Genesis 1:26

Despite the fact that we are always searching for our origins, it is difficult for some to imagine that we are, in fact, created beings.  Further, we are literally created by the hand of God.

Most believers understand that we are created in the image and likeness of God but do we understand what that means?  The word "likeness" comes from a Hebrew word that involves our make up and content.  Otherwise put, we know that God is Spirit.  We also were made of Spirit.  It is true that we were formed by God's own hand from the dust of the ground but our most important component is the breath that he blew into that dust (Genesis 2:7) that caused us to be living souls.  In so doing, part of Him became part of us.  Further, it is written in Ephesians 4:24 that we are to "put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Is God not holy and righteous?  We are not gods but we were created to consist of some of the "stuff" of God.

Regarding image, the Hebrew word used here speaks to the fact of our appearance.  It is important to note once again that God is Spirit and cannot be confined to any boundaries or manifestations.  That said, we are told throughout Scripture that we resemble Him.  Though it is done as much for our ability to mentally grasp as anything else, He is always spoken of in anthropomorphic (of or having to do with humanity) terms.  And of course, when he took on flesh in the person of Jesus (John 1:18), it was not as a plant, or beast, but as human.  Though He spoke everything into existence, the one being created by His own hand was the human.  Man and woman were formed by Him and resemble Him.  Thus, the definition of the Hebrew word revealed, "resemblance; representative figure" comes into focus.

Beloved, as we go about our lives, it is critical that we understand from whence we come.  We are nothing less than the creation of God with some of the consistency of God, made to look like God.  It is similar to our own children.  They have the same make up as we do and they look like us, but they are not us.  However, they are ours just as we are His.  And when you know who you are, what you are and from whom you come, that ought to affect your life.  Amen?



Friday, May 23, 2014

Believing in God vs. Believing God 5/23/2014 (rp)

"Then Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.'”  Judg 3:8

The context of this admittedly obscure passage of scripture is that a man by the name of Barak was told by God to take ten thousand men to a pre appointed place where He would deliver the enemy of Israel into his hand.  This information was delivered by Deborah, a prophetess and judge of Israel.  God was setting him up for success.

Beloved, it is easy to say that we believe in God.  In fact, if you ask most people in this country whether they believe in the one true God, the answer would be a resounding yes.  Unfortunately, that is where it usually stops.  Believing in God is easy because it is conceptual.  It requires no effort whatsoever to believe in an idea, a perceived fact or even an individual.  Believing God, however, is an entirely different matter.  Believing God means not only accepting as true His existence but conducting your life in accordance with this fact.  It means accepting that if He can create the universe then He can most certainly take on flesh, walk on water, still storms, feed five thousand with a few fish and pieces of bread, call the dead to life, forgive our sins and save our very souls.  It means having confidence that He can and will do what He says and it means conducting our lives in a manner reflective of that. 

It is recorded in scripture, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" James 2:19.  Essentially, believing in God is something even the devil can claim but do we believe Him enough to do what he says?

It is clear that Barak believed in God.  He was of the house of Israel and he gave credence to the words of the one who God placed in a leadership position over them.  It is just as clear that Barak did not believe God would deliver the enemy into his hand, opting instead to allow Deborah to have the preeminence in the situation.  She, on the other hand, believed God would do what he said: "She said, 'I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.' Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh" Judg 3:9.  The enemy was in fact delivered into the hands of a woman.  Believe God.



Monday, May 19, 2014

The Treasure in Subtleties 5/19/2014

"Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established."  Proverbs 16:3 (NKJV)

There are subtle nuances in the words we read in today's bible.  Most, however, escape us completely.  The reason for this in large part is due to the fact that we are reading an English translation of another language.  And though translators do the best they can to capture either word for word or thought for thought translation, depending on the version you use, there are times when meanings can only be approximated.

Consider how the above Scripture might be interpreted.  Paul once said, "For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing," Romans 7:19 (NIV).  We can all identify with this sentiment.  We were raised to know right from wrong.  Our bible teaches us the difference.  The laws of the land are designed to communicate and enforce behaviors associated with society's definition of right and wrong.  We still, however, find ourselves nudging our cars just over the speed limit.  We still sin, sometimes willfully.  And we still wonder why we do these things when we know better.

The word of the God says that if we just apply our minds to doing the things He has set before us to do, this will give us something good and beneficial to focus on, thus crowding out the desire to do otherwise.  Done long and well enough, it becomes second nature and many unrighteous desires within us will simply fade away.

The word translated as "thoughts" can also be translated as "plans."  Do you have a desire to be successful in any or all of your endeavors?  How do you go about them?  Is God a part of your plans?  Did you seek Him out in prayer?  Are the plans themselves godly?  The word here also says that if you would focus on Him, align your will with His and submit to His commands, He will make your plans successful.  How can you lose with God on your side?

Beloved, the subtleties dovetail in the most delightful ways.  From this short verse alone, we can see the loving kindness of our benevolent God.  We can see the purpose for which we were created.  We can see solutions to our sin problems.  We can see how to regulate our minds and gain focus.  And we can see guarantees of success in whatever we purpose to do that is in keeping with His will.  Just imagine the assurance that can be found in all of the other subtleties that exist in the Scriptures.  We are barely scratching the surface.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We Are Family 5/13/2014

"While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.  Someone said to Him, 'Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.' But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, 'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?'  And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, 'Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.'” Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus' fame had now grown so much that wherever he went, a crowd gathered.  It is easy to imagine how controversial some of the things he said were because they still are today.  In this case, his adversaries challenged him at nearly every word, even accusing him of being possessed by Satan, yet the crowds still came.  This caused his own family to think that he had literally lost his mind (Mark 3:21) so they went to retrieve him.

Beloved, do members of your blood family think you have lost your mind because of your faith in Christ?  Just as there were those who stood against Jesus and his teaching, there are those who stand against us for our adherence to it.  Today, however, you are encouraged to take heart.  Jesus famously said,  If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you," John 15:18.  In other words, we are in good company.

Further, this common love of our common Savior and our common performance of his word makes us a family whose bond is stronger than blood.  Jesus triumphantly declared that all who believe are in fact, his family.  And if we are his family, we are most assuredly children of the living God.

This is not to say that our blood families are to be disregarded.  There are ample Scriptures that address the fact that we are to honor mother and father and love brothers and sisters.  We are even to love our enemies.  We are uniquely positioned to invite them into the family and have an obligation to do so.  It is, however, of primary importance that we seek, obtain and maintain membership ourselves in the spiritual family.  Let us earnestly desire to be counted among the Savior's brothers, sisters and mothers.



Monday, May 5, 2014

We Need Each Other 5/5/2014

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." Eccl 4:9-12

Today it seems that all of life is about the individual.  It is all about what "I" think and how "I" express myself.  People are going to greater and greater lengths to distinguish themselves from others.  This neo-individualism manifests itself most tragically as selfishness.  We can become so consumed with satisfying ourselves that we begin to do so at the expense of others.  Adultery is an act of selfishness.  Murder is an act of selfishness.  Theft is an act of selfishness.  And getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an act of selfishness.  The opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness.

Beloved, God's design for humanity is togetherness and selflessness.  It was God who looked down on Adam and decided that he should not be alone.  It was God who told Adam and Eve to populate the earth.  It was God who gathered to himself a people who would carry forth his message of reconciliation to himself and to one another to all peoples.  It was the Lord who said that we should love God with all of ourselves and similarly, love others as we love ourselves.  We have been taught that it is better to give to others than to receive from others and to prefer others over ourselves.

The fact is we need each other.  None of us were designed or destined to be alone.  We heard the good news of the Lord's love from someone who cared and as a result are called to share that same good news with someone else.  The benefit is that we all benefit.  If we would all strive to take care of others, we ourselves would be taken care of by others and we would cease to know need.  More so than ever we must bind ourselves together in the love of the Lord that we might live out his will for our lives and accomplish his good.