Songs for Sunday: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Chorus
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

This is one of my favorite hymns. I love the music (especially the harmony), and I love the message. If you read my last post, you probably noticed that parts of this song come directly from some of the scriptures I shared with you then. Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960), who wrote the words, felt he should include “as much scripture as possible” in his songs (Hymnary.org).

Chisholm was born in Kentucky and raised on a farm. He came to the Lord when he was 26 years old. He became a Methodist minister, but his health prevented him from keeping up with those demands.

He wrote 1200 poems and songs, including Great is Thy Faithfulness, which he wrote in 1923. He sent it to his friend and fellow minister William Runyan (1870-1957), who set it to music. The song was published that year. An interesting side note is that according to Songfacts.com, it became popular for Christian weddings. That is not one I would think of as a wedding song, would you?

William Runyan, the man who wrote that beautiful music, was born in New York, but graduated high school in Kansas. As I already said, he was also a Methodist minister, and served in that capacity in Kansas for about 20 years. Eventually, he went to Chicago, working with the Moody Bible institute as well as Hope Publishing Company, which is the company that published Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Runyan retired from Hope in 1948. He spent some time as a professor at Baker University in Baldwin City Kansas, and his family endowed a scholarship at the university in his name with the royalties from Great is Thy Faithfulness. (Hymnary.org) Of the song, Runyan said “This particular poem held such an appeal that I prayed most earnestly that my tune might carry over its message in a worthy way.”(Lifeway.com)I think God granted that request.

As for Chisholm, in 1941 he said,

“My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.” (Lifeway.com)

The song has been recorded many times, by many different artists including Michael W. Smith and Josh Turner. Billy Graham used to include it in his crusades. In 2015 Jordan Smith performed it on “The Voice”.

For me, I just love to hear a choir, or even better, a congregation of believers singing this hymn of praise. Here is a video of something like that uploaded by Dutchforward. I’m not sure who the singers are, but I liked their performance.

 

See you in church!

Connie

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Morning

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

I love early morning! Even though I usually have to force myself to get up, I still love it.  I love the quiet when everyone else in the house is asleep, and I can just sit with my coffee and enjoy the stillness of it. It’s also the time I miss having a front porch, where I could go out and watch God’s amazing sunrise, although I wouldn’t have done it today. It’s a little chilly.

Still, morning gives me the feeling of starting over; of starting fresh.

Mornings, as they relate to scripture, have been on my mind for a few weeks, ever since Ed shared the verse above with me. Then it appeared the next day in something else I was reading. Usually that means God wants me to pay attention. That verse reminded me of another one that I had committed to memory some time ago.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

In the NIV, the word “morning” is used 211 times. The first six times refer to the “evening and the morning” that were the first days of creation (Genesis 1). There are many references of “morning” in commands from God, such as not letting the manna sit till morning (Exodus 16:19), or a certain sacrifice was to take place morning and evening (Exodus 29:39). Other references deal with things that happened early in the morning, such as,

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)

which was a very important morning for us.

But there is another use of the word morning which indicates a time of renewal, or starting over.  David refers to morning often in the Psalms as it pertains to his relationship with God as in the two verses I already mentioned. Let’s look at a few more from David and Isaiah.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress (Is 33:2)

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. (Is 50:4)

And my favorite from Jeremiah:

Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations: 3:22-23)

I love this because when Jeremiah wrote these words, his whole world was in chaos. His prophecies were met with scorn and anger, often putting his life in danger. Then his prophecies came true and Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. Even with all that, Jeremiah had infinite trust in God and that is what sustained him

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Photo by Kyle Cottrell on Unsplash

.

So whether we are a “morning person” or not, we can still wake every morning knowing that God is faithful, compassionate and merciful. He loves us, provides for us, listens to us, and holds on to us. What a great way to start the day!

Connie

God’s Amazing Plan, Part 5: The Holy Spirit

Last week, we learned that Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s promise. Then He ascended to heaven. The angels told the disciples that Jesus would come back the same way he left. The disciples went back to Jerusalem, rejoicing, to wait like Jesus had told them.  They spent a lot of that time in the temple.

Let’s back up a little and look back to what Jesus said to them before His arrest. We’ve looked at them before, but lets take another look.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.(John 14:16-17)

the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,will teach you all thingsand will remind you of everything I have said to you.(John 14:26)

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. (John 14:26)

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness,because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”(John 16:7-13)

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)

Then right before He ascended to heaven, He said,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

All these scripture references are from the NIV. The King James uses the word “comforter” instead of advocate. The Amplified Bible offers “Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—” In John 14:16.

So this promised Holy Spirit that they were to wait would bring power with Him (we often refer to the Spirit as an it, but Jesus says “he”). He will be an advocate, counselor, comforter, reminder and guide. He’s a big deal.

Now, let’s back up a little more and talk again about Jewish feasts. We’ve talked about the Day of Atonement and Passover, but there were several other feasts the God ordained for His people. In Leviticus chapter 23, God gives instructions for all the feasts. This one, called the Feast of Weeks. On the second day of Passover, they were to count off seven weeks (49 days). Then on the feast on the 50th day, They were to present an offering of new grain as well as sacrificial animals.

Greek speaking Jews in Jesus day called this day Pentecost (50). It was one of the festivals during which all men were required to come to Jerusalem. Ten days after Jesus ascension to Heaven, Jerusalem was full of Jews from all over the world there to celebrate Pentecost. Of course, the disciples were there too, just like Jesus had told them to be.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (Acts: 2:1-13)vAct0202Dore_TheDescentOfTheSpirit

There are some who say that they disciples were in the upper room at that time because of the word “house”, but that doesn’t make any sense. That would have been where they slept. They wouldn’t have been there at nine in the morning. They were in a public place, most likely in or near the temple. Where else would all those people been able to hear the disciples speaking the wonderful works of God in their native tongues? And some people thought they were drunk, I would assume because they didn’t understand what was said, and felt the need to respond. You know there is always somebody like that. Peter had an answer for them…Peter, who had denied Jesus, then ran and hid, stood up and addressed the crowd.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. “These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.(Acts 2:14-41)

The day of Pentecost marks the birth of the church, and with the help of the newly received Holy Spirit, Peter preached the first sermon. Three thousand “came forward”.

That day the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, and Peter told the crowd that they too, could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So what does the “gift of the holy spirit” mean?

When you ask people today that question, many people talk about speaking in tongues, prophesying or gifts of healing, and those things certainly have been manifestations of the spirit (1 Corinthians 12), but that isn’t what it’s really all about.

Jesus replied,“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

How does He he do that? Guess?

By sending the Holy Spirit, God sent part of Himself.

In Romans 8 (which is an amazing chapter), Paul says,

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Rom 8:9-11)

In his letter to the Colossian church, he says,

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you,the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

So what is the point of having Christ in us? Well, for one thing, He reminds us of the things we have been taught in God’s word. He tells us when we are doing wrong, He encourages us to do right. He proves we are children of God (Rom 8:15-16). He intercedes for us, when we don’t know how or what to pray (Rom 8:27-28)

So God’s amazing plan wasn’t just that he would come to earth as a human being and die for all our sins, it was also that he was going to leave a piece of Himself in each and every one of us who accept his gift. The gift is not only to help us while we remain here, but also to empower us to share the good news so that others come to Him too.

But there’s more.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Cor 1:21-22)

So what is to come?

Remember what Jesus said in John 14:2-3 and what the angels said in Acts 1:11?

He’s gone to make a place for us. He left His Spirit with us, to help us while He’s gone. He’s coming back for us!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess 4:16-17)

So God’s amazing plan was that He would come as a human, and live a sinless life so that He would be the perfect sacrifice for sin. That way we would be able to fellowship with Him like Adam and Eve did in the garden before they sinned. For those of us who accept His gift, he seals the deal with His Holy Spirit which He put in us to help us know Him and lead others to Him. Then when it’s time, He is going to come back and get us, so that we can live with Him, in His presence for eternity.

We could say a lot more about that, but we’ve gone long here. We may do another series just on the subject of eternity…or at least the little bit we know about it.

I have to ask. Do you know Jesus? Have you accepted the gift he freely offers? If not, please don’t wait. Accept Him as your savior and your Lord today. Get buried in the waters of baptism and rise up to walk in your new life! Will your life be perfect? Of course not, we still live in a broken, fallen world, but you’ll be able to say with the apostle Paul:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers>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 (Romans 8: 35-39)

Hallelujah!

Connie

God’s Amazing Plan: Part 2

Last week, we started looking at God’s plan to redeem mankind.  We read that God told the serpent that Eve’s offspring would crush his head. We read that God told Abraham all nations would be blessed through him. Israel (Jacob), when blessing his sons, said that the “ruler’s staff” would remain with Judah’s descendants until its rightful owner came for it. Moses told the Israelites there would be a another prophet like him, and that they should listen to that prophet.

We also looked at the feasts God instituted, particularly Passover and Day of Atonement.

If you missed last weeks post, you can read it here.

So what’s next?

After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:6-9)

So, apparently, that whole generation had failed to teach their children about the Lord. Things went downhill from there.

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. (Judges 2:16-19)

It was a real mess. The book of Judges ends by saying,

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Judges 21:25)

Israel had no king because God was supposed to be their King. Not only did the Israelites completely ignore God’s law, they also decided they wanted an earthly king to rule over them. God told Samuel that the Israelites were not rejecting Samuel as judge, they were rejecting God. He told Samuel to give them what they wanted, and make Saul king. g1Sa0921Dore_SamuelBlessingSaul

Saul would prove a disappointment, but that was part of God’s plan too, because He had someone else in mind.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Sam 16:1)

Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have? There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.(1 Sam 16: 1-13)

Years would pass before David actually became king, and we’re not going to through all of that now, but once he was king, and reigning in Jerusalem, he wanted to build a temple for the Lord. The Lord said “no”, but He also said this:

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Sam 7:11-16)

Do you seem some similarity between that and Israel’s blessing on Judah? Oh, if you didn’t already know; David is a direct descendant of Judah. According to this post at Bible.org, it was from this point that the Messiah, was called “son of David”.

Well, David’s heir to the throne was Solomon, and you can read all about him in 1 Kings.

 

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Unfortunately Solomon had many wives and they turned him away from the Lord. Once again, things went downhill. The kingdom was divided, with ten tribes still calling themselves Israel, and two calling themselves Judah. The books of Kings and Chronicles follow both kingdoms, until Israel is taken by Assyria, and pretty much disappears. Later, Judah is taken by Babylon, who is in turn taken by Persia. In time, the Jews (as they were then called) are allowed to return home. The chronological history of the Old Testament ends with the book of Esther, the story of the Jewess who becomes Queen of Persia, and saves her family from annihilation.

lEst0705Dore_EstherAccusingHaman

What about God’s plan?

A little longer, please.

David wrote the majority of the Psalms and his son Solomon wrote most of the Proverbs, as well as Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Today, the remaining books of the Old Testament are called the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. Some prophets lived during the time of the kings of Israel and Judah, some during the time of the Babylonian exile and some after the return from exile.

Psalms and the writings of the prophets contain the main portion of what we call the “messianic prophecies”; those which foretell about the one who would come and rescue Israel. There are well over a hundred of such prophecies in the Old Testament. No, we aren’t going to list them all here, but this article has a good list, as well as fulfillment scriptures from the New Testament.

Here are just a few.

Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
(Psalm 22: 16-18)

nIsa0608Dore_Isaiah

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Is 7:14)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
(Is 9:6-7)

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Is 53:4-6)

oEze0103Dore_EzekielProphesying

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken (Ezek 34:23-24)

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)

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Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech 9:9)

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. (Mal 3:1)

These are just a few of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He was to be from the family of Judah, a son of David, from Bethlehem, born to a virgin, righteous, victorious and sovereign. He would rescue Israel, and rule forever.

Is that your plan God? Awesome!

Wait a minute. What about redeeming mankind?

There has to be more.

There is. For a hint, scroll up and look at Isaiah 53:4-6 again.

When the New Testament opens, about four hundreds years have passed since the writings of Malachi, the last prophet. What was once the mighty kingdom of Israel is now a Roman province called Judea, where Herod the Great is King. Caesar Augustus is the  Emperor of Rome.

It’s time.

Until next week

Connie

God’s Amazing Plan: Part 1

Last week, I said,
“So we know that sin (transgression, offense, trespass) is disobedience to God, and that disobedience makes us unfit to be in His presence. If we remain in that corrupted, defiled state, all that remains for us is the eternal spiritual death called Hell.”

Then I said God had a plan.

God had a plan from the beginning. He knew Adam and Eve would sin, and He knew that He would make a way to reconcile mankind back to Himself.

I don’t know why He even bothered, but I’m glad He did!

Remember what He said when He cursed the serpent?

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Gen 3:15)

Did you notice that God’s reference to Eve’s offspring is singular? He and his, not they and their. Did He have a particular offspring in mind?

God’s plan was to send His Son, but He needed to wait for the right time, the right place, and the right family.

Abram was a descendant of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons who survived the flood by entering the ark.aGen1201Dore_AbrahamJourneyingIntoTheLandOfCanaan

Beginning in the 11th chapter of Genesis, and running through the end of the book, we learn of how God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, promised to make him a great nation (when he was childless) and gave him a child in his old age. God told Abraham that “all nations” would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). The story continues with Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Jacob had twelve sons, one of which was sold to slave traders by his brothers. That son was Joseph, and he would rise to be the right hand of Pharaoh, and save his family’s life during a great famine. Israel and his entire family moved to Egypt. aGen4605Dore_JacobGoethIntoEgypt

Before he died, Israel blessed his sons. The blessing on Judah is particularly interesting.

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. you are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:8-12, bold emphasis mine)

Genesis closes with the death of Joseph.

So what does all this have to do with God’s plan? Well, we know God told the serpent Eve’s offspring would crush his head. We also know that he told childless Abram that “all nations” would be blessed through him. We also know that Israel said that Judah would have the “ruler’s staff” and he would keep it until the one to whom it belonged came for it.

Who was the rightful owner of the staff?

Wait. There’s more.

Exodus continues the story of Israel’s descendants, only now they are in trouble. They have become numerous in Egypt and the current Pharaoh doesn’t remember Joseph. He only knows that there are too many Hebrews and they might try to overtake his kingdom. So, he made them slaves and went so far as to make them kill their newborn sons. That was about the time Moses was born. Moses’ family were descendants of Israel’s son Levi. God had a plan for Moses. He would use Moses to get His people out of Egypt and back to the land He had promised Abraham. Because Pharaoh was so hardhearted and stubborn, God sent ten plagues on Egypt.

The final plague in Egypt was the death of the first born.bExo1229Dore_TheFirstbornSlain

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. (Ex 12: 1-3,5-8,11-14)

This is the first of seven annual feasts God established for the children of Israel. He would use them to set a pattern for future events. Their observance always required several sacrifices.

One feast came in the fall of the year. It was called the Day of Atonement. You may also recognize it for it’s Hebrew name Yom Kippur.

Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat. (Lev 16:6-10)

The high priest was required to make a sacrifice first for himself, then one for the whole nation. The whole process is outlined in Leviticus 16.

Just in case you were wondering about the necessity of blood sacrifice:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Lev 17:11)

Hold that thought. It’s important.

We’ll get back to the feasts later. They figure into God’s plan

We’ve talked about Moses and the Law before. We’ve also talked about how Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land and how Joshua would take his place. Before he goes, Moses tells the Israelites about someone else.

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. (Deut 18:15)

Eventually, this prophet would be identified as “Messiah” or “anointed one”.

Like God promised, the children of Israel, led by Joshua entered and took control of the promised land of Canaan. Then Joshua died, and everything went down hill from there.

What about God’s plan?

We’ll we’ve already gone on long today, so come back next week and we’ll learn more about God’s amazing plan.

All Have Sinned

We’ve talked about the literal definition of the word translated as “sin”, and we’ve talked about how Jesus came to save us from sin by dying on the cross. If you missed them, you can find them here and here. There are a few more things we need to clarify about sin and salvation. Why did Jesus need to save us from sin? What’s the big deal? What exactly constitutes a sin

We know “sin” can also be described as offense or transgression, and with a more literal meaning of “missing the mark”. The latter refers to aiming at a target as with spear, or an arrow. I think we can all understand the concept of missing that bulls eye.

Well, after God created human beings, he set down some rules. It was pretty simple really. God gave Adam “dominion”, which generally means control, over all the earth. God would come every day and walk with Adam and Eve in the garden. How cool is that? The Creator of the universe coming over every night to just hang out.

However, He told them they could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or the tree of life. He told them if they did, they would surely die.

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Image from page 18 of “The Bible panorama, or The Holy Scriptures in picture and story” (1891) Downloaded from Flikr

Well, without getting into the whole conversation between the serpent and Eve (we’ll save it for later), lets jump ahead to the fact that they, both Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they were cast from the garden The whole earth was cursed, and death entered the world.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent,

Because you have done this,
Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said,

I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said,

Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, You must not eat from it,’

Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:7-19)

aGen0324Dore_AdamAndEveDrivenOutOfEden

Their sin infected all of us.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23)

Everything we do has a consequence. The long term consequence of sin is death.

The one who sins is the one who will die… (Ezekiel 18:20a)

The wages of sin is death…(Romans 6:23a)

It doesn’t mean immediate death, although sometimes a person’s sin leads to the end of their (or someone else’s) physical life here on earth. This death is even more permanent than that. It is a spiritual death that makes separation from God permanent. Jesus called this place the darkness, as well as the blazing furnace, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 8:12, 13:41-42) It is also called the lake of fire and Hell.

Sin separates us from God. After they were banished from the garden of Eden, the Scripture never records another conversation between God and Adam and Eve. I imagine they missed those walks in the cool of the evening. Think of the regret. Sin brings that too. The Bible doesn’t say how long Eve lived, but Adam lived for 930 years. That is a long time to think: “If only…”

I don’t pretend to understand exactly how sin separates us from our holy and righteous God, but it does. It makes us unclean and defiled. We cannot stand in God’s presence. No matter how good we think we are, we can never be “good enough”. There is no such thing as being a “good person” in God’s eyes.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Is 64:6)

All sin, in all of it’s forms, boils down to one thing: disobedience to God.

What exactly does that look like?

In a nutshell? If God said “no” and you did it; that’s sin. If God said, “Do it” and you didn’t, that also is sin. How do we know what He wants? Look in His word, the Bible.

The Ten Commandments? That’s a good place to start getting an idea about what God had in mind.

Or this from Proverbs:

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community
(Proverbs 6:16-19

Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt 5:27-28)

But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matt 15:18-19)

There are sins of commission (the things we do), and sins of omission (things we left undone).

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them (James 4:17)

As far as God is concerned, there are no grades of sin. One sin is exactly like the other to Him. Human beings count one sin worse than the other, but God counts them all the same. If you have ever in your life had one bad thought (even if you didn’t act on it), you are just as guilty before God as someone like Charles Manson.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

Ok, so we know that sin (transgression, offense, trespass) is disobedience to God, and that disobedience makes us unfit to be in His presence. If we remain in that corrupted, defiled state, all that remains for us is the eternal spiritual death called Hell.

Thankfully, God didn’t want to leave us like that, and He had a plan.

God always has a plan, and His plan is always good.

Until next week.

Connie

God, The Father

This is one of my favorite pictures. It’s my dad and I when I was about six months old. We were visiting my Mom’s grandparents in Colorado. The picture was taken at the Big Thompson River. My parents got divorced when I was four, and Dad moved halfway across the country two years later. That was 1970. We talk every Sunday evening, but I haven’t seen him in eight years. I hope to change that this summer.

Fishing with Dad

This Sunday is Father’s Day. It is a day that we have set aside to pay tribute to our fathers, grandfathers, and father figures. So, what better time to talk about God, the Father?

According to Bible Gateway, the word “father” is used 1103 times in the Bible. As you might imagine, many of those uses are “this person was the father of that person, and he was the father of the next person, etc”. I wondered though, how many times scripture refers to God as “Father”. Yes, I actually counted them, so my numbers might be a little off, but here is what I got.

Of the 753 times the word “father” is used in the Old Testament, it is used a reference to God only fifteen times. In the New Testament, 230 of the 350 uses of the word “father” refer to God.

That’s quite a difference.

God is YHWH (I AM), Elohim (Creator, Lord God), El Shaddai (The Almighty), and El Elyon (God Most High), but He is also Abba (Father). Let that sink in if you can.

For some of us, thinking of God as our Father doesn’t help us much. Some of us had fathers who were absent, emotionally distant, critical, or abusive. So the idea of having God for a father either doesn’t mean anything, because was have no experience, or it leaves us with a sickening sense of fear and dread.

So how do we get past that?

First ask God to open our hearts to what he wants us to know. Then get into His word. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Find believers who can share their experience with God the Father. I’ve also discovered that learning from people who have good earthly fathers, or are good earthly fathers can help me fill out that picture of God, the Father too.

For me, reading scripture out loud can help the words sink in better. Try it.

Let’s start here:

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts
(Psalm 103: 1-18)

Wait, there’s more.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3)

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:9-11)

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”(Rom 8:15)

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.(Proverbs 3: 11-12)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Heb 13:5)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (1 Cor 1:3-4)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9)

Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts: 14:17)

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (Psalm 36:5)

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14)

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling (Psalm 68:5)

In this parable, often called “The Prodigal Son”, Jesus depicts God as a father who lets his son make his own choices and reap the consequences for those choices. Yet He waits for him to repent and come back; not so that He can say “I told you so,” or berate him for his mistakes, but to forgive him and joyfully welcome him Home.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32)

We could go on for days, but here is a final scripture.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14: 8-10)

I don’t know about you, but reading the first sentence of Jesus’ answer to Philip gives me goosebumps. I wonder how Philip felt? At the time, he probably didn’t really understand. He, and the other disciples, had been with Jesus for three years. They had seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead, bless children, and reach out to hurting people with love and compassion. They had been watching God the whole time!

God is a tender, compassionate Father, who loves us beyond measure, blesses us with good things, and disciplines us when we need it. He loves giving us gifts, and spending time with us. He wants us to talk to Him and He wants to comfort us as only He can. He is kind, patient, faithful, and He is Love.

Connie