Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is a striking story, regardless of which Gospel account you are reading, Matthew, Luke, or Hebrews. Jesus fasted for an unusually long time, without any food, not like a Daniel Fast. (Moses was known to have fasted that long.) But, quite obviously, Jesus must have fasted frequently in His life before this, because you can’t start out with a 40 day fast. You have to work your way up to that.
So, you can imagine there must have been a lot of fireworks so to speak. The devil himself showed up to tempt Jesus. Jesus finds Himself at one point, suspended over the temple in Jerusalem, tempted by Satan to jump. Talk about strange visions! I would never thought of jumping off a temple. About 50% of my visions during a fast involve hamburgers. Of course, the other half are less carnal and often heart changing.
This field trip Jesus took, from the wilderness to the temple in Jerusalem, transported in a vision it seems, is much like the trips Ezekiel took in chapters 8 and 37 of his prophecy. John the Revelator and Apostle Paul took heavenly journeys, as well. But, all of them were transported by angels. Jesus was taken by Satan.
I don’t have anything to comment on this, mostly because it is just one of those strange stories that leave you sitting there for a long time, staring at the words over and over. I don’t know what to make of it.
Less happens by chance than we think. Some things we attribute to coincidence because our minds can’t grasp the unexplained. That’s why He is God, and we are clay.
The Old Testament prophets describe the problem of the fall of the nation of Israel- God’s people, and God’s plans for punishment and redemption. The advent of Christ and the future outpouring of the Holy Ghost are even described in prophecy. Through these prophecies, we living in the dispensation of Grace learn of God’s holiness and aversion to sin. We see concrete examples of God’s judgement on those who do not follow His plan. We also see God’s forgiveness and restorative acts in repentance. We see concrete examples of God’s love for His people.
The prophets are a picture of the rejected mercy of God. We hear God repeatedly cry in Isaiah, “Thou hast not known me!” In Jeremiah 31:3, God proclaims, “…I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” In Lamentations 3:22, it is said of God, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” In Ezekiel 22:30, God seeks for someone to stand in the gap for the sin of the land, and does not find a single person. But God gives us a purpose for the prophecies in Daniel 12:10: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”
If we throw out the prophets, we would lose a vast portion of our church teaching and procedures today. We might want to hang onto these 17 little books inside of the Good Book. Isaiah is known as the messianic prophet, for all his predictions of the coming Messiah. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, because he lamented the impending fall of his people. Amos was the country preacher who had such a strong grip on who God is. Ezekiel was the prophet in captivity who saw where God's people were and where they should be. There is so much to gain within the pages of the book. Whether prophets, or kings, or wandering shepherds, the characters of the Bible point us in the direction of the living God.
If you are interested, give these questions about the "three kings" of the unified nation of Israel a try.
1. Why did God give Israel a king at the time He did?
2. Was it God’s intention for them to ever have a king?
3. How did Saul qualify to be king?
4. What caused Saul to lose his kingdom?
5.How was Saul constantly humiliated?
6. How was David different from Saul?
7. Why was Saul jealous of David?
8. What was David’s great desire, and when did it come to pass?
9. What books authored by Solomon reveal the downward progression in his life? Put them in order.
10. How many Proverbs and songs did Solomon write?
My answers to these thought questions are below. (Possibilities vary.)
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I'm falling asleep at the keyboard this evening. That is not a good place to rest. What do you think of as a resting place? When I hear the word restingplace, I usually think of death, because the grave is usually spoken of as "our final restingplace." But, most of us hope to find a place of rest here on this side of the dirt, eventually. It takes some of us longer than others.
Why would the sheep and shepherd in Jeremiah 50:6 move from a mountain to a hill. Doesn't seem like the normal progression of matters does it, now? Once you've been on the mountaintop, you would prefer the expanse to the hills. Acts 2:26 promises a rest in hope.
The passage in Jeremiah reminds me of the parable of the Lost Sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who will not lead us to poor pastures. Psalm 23:2 The parable shepherd had a hundred sheep, but one wandered off. So he left the ninety-nine and went in search of the lost lamb. That is such a refreshing fact about the loving nature of God's heart. He will not only provide a resting place for you, but when you have lost your way, he will come find you. God heard your prayers before you ever asked. Daniel 10:12 God hears and God answers. He has a plan for each of us. This incident with Daniel was not a token favor of God for His favorite Lamb, though He was partial to Daniel. Ezekiel 14:14 He would do that for any particular sheep who called for Him. Matthew 11:28, 29, 30
I was teaching 5th Grade Language Arts until the last four days before I went back out of work on disability. My job entailed teaching Grammar and Writing. Before the first of five surgeries, I hosted Writing Contests every couple of months to encourage students to produce better quality essays and stories. The prizes I gave averaged out to a cost of between $75.00 and $125.00 total outlay per contest on my part. But, I felt like the children would gain the pride of being paid for their Writing. I wanted them to feel like their writing was valued. So, it was definitely worth the expense. And, I got some extremely good stories from children who had performed poorly in the past. I'm not bragging, mind you. It would be bragging if I said it was appreciated. That doesn't appear to be the case now, though it did seem that way at the time. Favor is deceitful and comes and goes like the tides. Proverbs 31:30
But, the first place paper from one such contest I hosted on the topic of disability has been on my mind for the last few weeks, because I now find myself in a disability situation...ironically. We have a schoolbased network system of folders where we are able to upload everything we design, powerpoints, documents, pictures, etc online to be used and accessed from anywhere: at work, at home, whatever. This was a great thing when I first began work there, because it takes away the need to carry around cd roms and/or thumb drives. But, after being out of work for much of the last two years, the system has updated a few times, and the interface is not funtioning the same as before. Though I can still get in, it doesn't seem to allow me to download anything to my computer from my folders online.
But, now with so many places online available to store data, I was able to copy mass quantities of data to a third party site today as a middleman site for about thirty minutes, and then download them from there to my computer here at home, before deleting them from the third party site. Nice!
So, I found the winning disability essay. And, I cried reading it all over again. I had loved it when I first received it. The little girl had shown such sensitivity to the idea of the possibility of herself having a handicapped Mom. She had expressed so much acceptance and love for her Mom, even if she were to be in a wheelchair totally paralyzed; unable to say "I love you," anymore. The idea in my mind when I assigned the topic had been human worth, what is it about a person that makes them loved? Is love neccessarily performance based. Ironically, I found my answers for myself.
Now, looking back, and reading these words of love and acceptance that I think I paid an mp3 player for; I feel like I got an extremely high return. As I've always said, children are my reversed heritage. I invested myself heavily in my students for 30 years. The dividends are just starting to come in now.
There is so much noise; so much distraction sometimes. 1 Corinthians 14:10 Everything means something, of course, but not everything is significant. And, sometimes you are faced with choices for your ear. There will be tradeoffs, you know.
Revelation 22:17 Have you ever heard God call your name? He speaks more than we hear. We call it "selective perception." We tune out what we don't really want to listen to often. I find myself peering at the words in my Bible sometimes calling the words, pronouncing the syllables, without my mind focused on making meaning. Going through the motions only gets you going with wind up toys. Twist the little gadget around and around, and release, to see it fly, wobble, or dance across the floor. That never gets you far with God. You just end up going in circles.
I like numbers... they are so clean and pure and honest. Math is fair. Social Studies is filled with conflict, civil rights struggles, wars. Reading itself is a struggle for many students. Much of what we read is fiction. And, Science can be a twisty path of theories, all of which have their proponents and opponents. Wishes, lies, and dreams! But, Math, Math is. Math is fair for all. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, two plus two equals four. That's equal rights. There are no wars, conflicts, or battles fought over the greater than less than decision. There are some numbers that are perfect. No Science theory is perfect. No historical fact is perfectly true. All books are written from someone's perspective, or limited imaginings. Numbers translate into any language.
Show me a student who is poor in basic Math, and I will show you a student who has not been taught Math. That is not always the case with children who can not read. But, much of recreational Math is just that, amusement. You go around in circles. Math mazes, Math finds, Number sequences, though enjoyable to follow the logic, the meaning fails. Have you ever had your child come home from school and say, "Guess what Mom, Dad! We added five and four today, and you'll never believe it but five and four make nine!" No, they don't say that, because those are just bare, naked numbers. Bare, naked numbers are meaningless. If you've seen one, you've seen ten and forty-nine. The "point" of Math, it would seem, is to find the answer, so you can plug it into some larger situation and make sense of that situation, by measuring, quantifying, or figuring.
When was the last time you recited your time tables, "just for fun?" That would be about as exciting as alphabetizing your grocery list. So, what's my point? My point would be that so much of what we do is pointless. That's why it's called "a-muse-ment." To muse means to think. Amusement means spending time not thinking. I don't know if they had Math puzzles in Paul's day, in the Bible. But, Paul found a much higher level of things that can be pointless in his life.
Try this quiz. Which of the following did Paul think was pointless?
1. Talking in Tongues
5. Giving to the Poor
6. Dying for a Friend
7. All of the Above
8. None of the Above
The correct answer is ....
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It is raining today, here, so the power just went out again. :-/ Glad we will be moving in a few weeks. As my battery is draining, I decided to get cracking on tonight's blog...about the Kingdom of Heaven. If you've known me long you've heard much of what I talk about before. I've definitely spent a lot of time talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, as this article and the study of the topic was first shared a decade ago on my now ancient Geocities website. I discovered the articles online recently on a site that rescues, catalogs, and archives "sites of interest" from the nineties now defunct websites. I was pleased to see some of my writing was available and retrieved it that way. I don't have much, proportionately speaking, of my old Reason2believeHim blog saved either, that I was publishing after the Geocities site closed. I only have the hardcopies of what I did print. If by some chance you were reading then, and you have ventured my way again, and you have copies of my old blogs, I would be grateful if you shared them with me. Of particular interest would be some of the fictional writing, such as "Hi Tech Joe Finds the Light on Quad." I don't have a copy, and doubt that I could
re-create it. Just goes to show, you should never stop when you are working for God. Don't throw it all away. I am human and my faith has been known to fail me. Sometimes we all need a recharge.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the kingdom of God, during His earthly ministry. He was literally obsessed with talk of it. "Kingdom of Heaven" this, and "Kingdom of God" that!" He saw the kingdom as a work in progress..."The kingdom of heaven is like...," and he saw the kingdom as a place to look forward to arriving at one day soon. Paul, like Jesus, seemed to have in mind an
"eschatological dualism" when talking about the kingdom. This term refers to the two sided coin of our Kingdom Ministry. The Kingdom is here in our hearts, and the Kingdom is yet to come in its fullness. He talked about what it would be like in heaven, while spreading churches across Asia minor and writing two thirds of the New Testament.
Since I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, I am a stranger to this world. Yet, I am in this world. I am on a journey. But who starts a journey without the destination on their mind and the road beneath their feet? When I was young, I kept watch on the road signs to see if we were almost there yet. Now, when I travel, in the driver's seat, I still calculate the miles left to home every ten miles along the way. Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth. But, one day the earth will be consumed with fire. I'll pass on that one. I put my investment in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 11:12
“Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my arrows of desire;
Bring me my spear; O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!”
William Blake wrote these stirring words. I don’t know what to think of the Apocrypha or its claims that Jesus toured England as a young man. Theologians through the ages did not accept the Apocryphial books as inspired, therefore they are not included in our Biblical canon.
Regardless of whether or not Jesus ever walked on England’s soil in flesh, His Spirit walks the hills even of North Georgia, and I think that was certainly Blake’s intent with the poem, which was made into the Anthem Jerusalem, and in turn featured on the later movie Chariot’s of Fire. The movie is a story of two runners and their faith in God, and their pursuit of excellence.
John referred to heaven as the “New Jerusalem” in the glory of his penultimate vision. Blake’s words approach the beauty of John’s, even if they aren’t divinely inspired. The New Jerusalem is being built in the hearts and minds of God’s children here in the spirit world, by the approach of Jesus’ Kingdom. And, He’s not hitting the brakes yet.
I certainly can see my God driving a Chariot of Fire! :) Psalm 68:17 This passage in Psalms can give you the idea that God drives chariots. The chariot metaphor in the anthem is definitely an allusion to the rapture of Elijah. And, obviously if God wasn’t in the driver’s seat of that Chariot, it definitely came from His Angelic Fleet, and He certainly sent the whirlwind that snatched up Elijah! 2 Kings 2:11
God can and does choose to reveal Himself gloriously to the eyes of man, and He most certainly can and will use miraculous intervention to perform His divine will. But, it’s a given that more of God’s will is carried out by these feet of clay God calls "Adam" than through miracles.
Think about it…God wants most to use me and you as His chariots of fire. We all have our limits and failings, but what do you think brings God the most glory, driving Golden Chariots or using our limited flesh to move His Spirit? We are the body of Christ, we are His hands and feet, and (if the angels are his chariots) we can be His chariots as well.
Oh, but don’t you find yourself consumed with His fire? Like Jeremiah cried after a night in jail for merely speaking the truth, it’s like fire in my bones. Jeremiah 20:9 Here is a larger part of Blake’s epic poem titled Milton: A Poem (1804.) The tune Jerusalem is now playing and the video is a segment of Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee known as “the blade runner.” He reminds me of the dichotomy of God running on feet of clay...we chariots of fire. Oscar embodies the spirit of a Chariot of Fire. He houses fire in his soul that will only be satisfied by running. May I yet be more contemptible than this before the Lord. 2 Kings 6:17
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.
God knows exactly what he is doing with your circumstances. When things are happening, that's a sure sign God is working in your life. Remember how Paul felt in prison? Yes, he had visitors, but he sent them out to preach the gospel, not being satisfied with his own quota of words spoken for Jesus' account. Apparantly, he couldn't say enough to satisfy the fire shut up in his bones. Jeremiah 20:9
The aged Paul was incarcerated, yet carried on a ministry from prison. 2 Timothy 4:10:17 He had Demas, Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus, all young ministers responsible to him, stationed at different communities nearby, spreading the gospel. He appeard to be very lonely, as anyone would be sitting in a nasty jail cell. And only Dr. Luke was in town with him at that point. He would have probably sent him out preaching if he hadn't needed a doctor for his frequent ailments. (And, Luke did often preach... an evangelist.)
But, more than Paul's lonliness comes out in this little passage. The Coppersmith, along with the other craftsmen, were the ones who stood in court against Paul, since he was bad for business. Much of their craft was in the production of idols, and Paul revealed the ignorance of worshipping idols in his sermons, thereby cutting demand. It seems that the would-be witnesses for the defense were in short supply as Paul stood trial and gave his answer. But, notice he listed the Lord as the only witness who stood up with him, giving him strength to reveal the Gospel on trial.
It was getting cold weather, and Paul was often cold at night, to have thought about the cloak he had left at Troas the previous Spring. You can almost hear the sweet fatherly pleading in Paul's voice for his "son-in-the-gospel" Timothy to bring him his cloak and his books. He missed having those books, and especially the nice parchments. How nice it would be to have something to read here in this dark cell all alone. The Bible parchments would be wonderful!
Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:9 that though he was locked up, the word of God was not locked up with him. Psalm 147:15 God's Words can run from a cold, lonely prison cell, and reach the corners of the earth. When you face trials and struggles, remember the purpose of God behind your suffering. Jeremiah reminds you that God has been thinking about you, and He's got a plan... Jeremiah 29:11
But, the biggest gem here in Paul's plea is that he asked for Mark to be brought into his service of the gospel; John Mark, who apparantly ran away naked the night Jesus was arrested. (The soldiers tried to arrest Mark too, but he ran so fast he slipped out of his robe the soldier had grabbed.) Mark 14:51-52 Mark had also gone with Paul and Barnabas on their first Missionary journey, but turned back when they reached the mainland, for what reason we can only imagine. (It may have had something to do with the stoning and beatings Paul so often received by people who heard him preach, or maybe the "wild beasts" they encountered.) We do know that Paul was angry about Mark deserting the field, and later when Barnabus wanted to take the repentant Mark on the second journey with them, Paul and Barnabas came to a head about the matter. Both men stubbornly refused to give in, so Barnabas took Mark and went one way, and Paul took Silas and went another, splitting the field in half, doubling the path of God's word. My how the Gospel runs! Imagine how God can take even our petty squabbles and multiply the Gospel through them.
But, here Paul the prisoner has reached the point of forgiveness and called for Mark to come to him. What changed his mind? Why did he decide Mark would now be profitable for the Gospel? Mark had worked in later years as an assistant for Peter, and had transcribed the book of Mark from not only his firsthand memories, but from what Peter told him, during their later work together. Since Paul and Peter's imprisonment was closely concurrent, Paul would have known about the work Mark did for first Barnabas, and later with Peter. And, I imagine he had a lot of time to think about Mark, all alone there in that cell. Paul suffered greatly, but performed a great ministry for the Lord. His work and words have multiplied throughout the world. We have two-thirds of the New Testament from his pen. We also have most of our procedures for church government, family relationships, and personal conduct from his writings. History records that when Paul was finally condemned to death, and was led across the field to the chopping block on the Ostesian Road, he broke into a run, laying his head down readily for the blade. It seems he had somewhere to go in a hurry.
Do you ever sit outside and watch the rain...the wind...the thunder...the lightening? The reverberating booms, like cannon shots, can shake your soul, especially when you think of the power of God to display such majesty. You hear the thunder, you see the lightening and rain, you feel the wind. God's own "surround sound!" But, you can't see the wind... only the force of the wind. The windstorm from the tornado not only broke our storm door, but it ripped a couple of my windchimes to pieces, and damaged my coke-can wind plane. The elements can present quite an intrusion. Now the storm door won't close.
John 3:8 The Greek word pneuma means both "wind" and "Spirit." The Greek word phone (pho-nay) means both "sound" and "voice." So this verse is a play on words that not only literally says the wind blows and we can hear the sound of it, but it also literally says the Spirit blows and we hear its voice. But, we don't know where the Spirit comes from or goes. It goes whereever it wants to go. We only hear its voice and register its presence, like the wind.
Psalms 66:16; 68:11 These references to the great company of those who publish the word of God is used in the sense of quantity...plurality...of people, not in the quality of the people. Two words I remember learning how to spell in third grade are friend and Jesus. Ironic, I know. I immediately registered them both in my brain as words I would continue to need. Not only have I continued to need these two words in my writing, but I have continued to remember the happy occasions that brought me to the point of learning those words that year. I have continued to need friends, and I continue to need Jesus throughout my life.
Lisa and I were best friends in third grade. I remember the happiness that surrounded the friendship.I remember us passing notes to each other. I remember making Christmas cards in class for special people and writing "Happy Birthday, Jesus" as the expression of my heart directed. The feeling of the love of God made me feel full, even though I didn't know God yet. I knew of Him, and I knew He loved me... even though I couldn't find Him yet. Kids still do that, kids who don't even go to church or know much about God, they write about Jesus and His great love. The desire to express that life-changing love is common among humans.
Charles Spurgeon said of the name Jesus: "It is the sum total of all delights. It is the music with which the bells of heaven ring; a song in a word; and ocean for comprehension, although a drop for brevity; a matchless oratorio in two syllables; a gathering up of the hallelujahs of eternity in five letters." Psalm 63:6
We remember YOU God.
Not only do we remember God, but God remembers us. God took notice of the affairs of men, just as in, "And the Lord came down to see..." Genesis 11:5 God must have plenty to do in His realm beyond Earth's sphere, for it to so occupy His time that He must REMEMBER Noah. Genesis 8:1
Apparantly He was busy. Only five other God "memories" are mentioned: Rachael, Genesis 30:22 and His covenant, Exodus 2:24 Abraham, Genesis 19:29 His mercy and His truth, Psalm 98:3 accumulated iniquities, Revelation 18:5 and Hannah. 1 Samuel 1:19
But God is strong enough to take care of each of the needs He sets His eyes or mind on. Jeremiah 32:27 God is able, able to give grace for the depths of your need. Romans 5:2 Grace is defined as a favorable disposition, or kind feeling; and especially love, as exercised towards the inferior, dependent, or unworthy. (Hodge v. II, Systematic Theology.) Hodge refers to the conspicuously displayed grace of Jesus. Romans 5:17 I feel Him pouring rivers of grace in my life. Sweet grace of God!
Oh, such sweet abundance,
The grace Christ poured on me
When I could not compare
To the woman kneeled at His feet.
She poured out her oil,
And, washed the Master's feet,
My cup only held sin,
But my gift He held as sweet.
(My memory fails me ...I can't remember where I heard this. It could be a hymn lyrics, or perhaps something I read in a volume of the Interpretor's Bibles, or elsewhere. But, it is not mine. Incidentally, I noticed recently the full twelve volumes are scanned and available to read online, with voice audio read-aloud option.)