Exodus 19, The LORD Visits Sinai - 18 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. 19 When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. 20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.” 23 Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 Then the LORD said to him, “Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, or He will break forth upon them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
Matthew 26 - The Garden of Gethsemane - 36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
Luke 4, The Temptation of Jesus - 1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.’” 5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 9 And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,’ 11 and, ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’” 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.
Imperishable moments occurred in the wilderness, on Mt. Sinai and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Many people have first believed from an awe-inspiring view in the country or along a path in the wilderness - imperishable moments. Around the world baptisms still occur in the river - imperishable moments. The Spirit stirs in church buildings, in homeless shelters and in our homes, but also under the shade of a tree or under the stars. God's light shines everywhere, but often we pass up the awe-inspiring views and ordinary trees for a seat at Starbucks or alone time in-front of a computer. Where would you rather do your devotion and prayer? Why not shake it up a bit in 2018?
This time of year my husband and I set goals and share them for the next year. I have long desired (but failed to implement) outdoor devotional time with God. 2018 is the year of implementing this goal, and from garden to park to my more noble quests into the wilderness, I plan to meet God at least 12 times in prayer and devotional reading outdoors. When we read the themes above, of Jesus in grievous prayer, Jesus tempted by the devil and the Lord making appearances at Mt. Sinai before Moses and the Israelites, something is revealed. Sometimes we fall asleep rather than climb the hill to pray, sometimes we cave in to temptation when we should remain strong, and sometimes we forget just how powerful the Lord God Almighty really is. In setting goals for 2018, remember to climb hills, resist temptation, remain strong and praise God. For me setting a goal to spend time in devotion to God outside in nature is just as important as any other spiritual or religious goal.
Some of the most important things occur through nature. Our forever reminder of flooding rain - the rainbow, our ancient time-tellers and navigators - the stars, the long historical relationship of fire and man, the indisputable sunrise and sunset, the relationship of seasons to agriculture, and water - an amazing source of biological life. God is the creator; we are the creation, and we are living in His creation - this is the awe-inspiring notion that brings many to have faith in a Creator. Some kind of order from the disordered life arises from time spent in nature. I remember many moments in my past having that place outside I go, and it's time to find that place again. I am going outside to meet God, out into His creation away from man-made things. I encourage you to consider the same. Maybe something imperishable will happen for us both.
Dear God, I've been re-aquainted with nature over the past year, but am still out-of-touch with Your Creation. The world of man-made things surrounds me; I used to feel so uncomfortable in it that I used to reach out and enjoy nature more often. It has been awhile since You and I have met on a hill or under a tree. And now I am even fearful of the dark, which must be undone - I do not want to live a fearful life. I pray over my goals for 2018, including this one to meet You 12 times in devotion and prayer somewhere in nature. I have held that goal so long, but not followed through with it, and I can see I have been tempted away or entirely weak in my follow-thru. I ask for Your forgiveness and also confidence going forward. I pray my fears also subside as I get out into nature more this upcoming year. May I get out of myself and onto something imperishable - such as Your glory and Your love as the Maker. To the Almighty! Amen.
Quotes from Yoda, "Star Wars" -
"Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will."
"Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view."
"Try not. Do or do not, there is no try."
"The Butterfly Effect", Excerpt from Wikipedia - The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. The butterfly does not power or directly create the tornado, but the term is intended to imply that the flap of the butterfly's wings can cause the tornado: in the sense that the flap of the wings is a part of the initial conditions; one set of conditions leads to a tornado while the other set of conditions doesn't. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which cascades to large-scale alterations of events (compare: domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different—but it's also equally possible that the set of conditions without the butterfly flapping its wings is the set that leads to a tornado.
Matthew 26, Verses 14-16 - Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.
Exodus 4, Verse 21 - The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Romans 8, Verses 26-30 - In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Matthew 6, Verse 26 - Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Excerpt from Chapter 3 of "The Faith Once For All", by Jack Cottrell - A second relational attribute is divine sovereignty, which has to do with the way God rules over His creation. God's sovereignty may be concisely summed up as "absolute lordship". It is equivalent to kingship or dominion: God has absolute dominion over all things; he is the God of gods, King of kings, and Lord of lords (Deut 10:17; 1 Tim 6:15-16; Rev 19:16). He is "the LORD Most High over all the earth" (Ps 97:9), the "great King over all the earth" (Ps 47:2). He rules over all flesh (Her 32:27), all mankind (Dan 4:25,32), and all nations (Ps 22:28). "God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne" (Ps 47:8).
Do we have free will? The answer is yes and no. According to Wikipedia "free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded". We are certainly impeded by so many things that our decisions seem to never be without constraint (I cannot think of one totally free example), but certainly mankind believes in some element of free will. Our systems of justice reflect that. When someone commits a crime, that someone is held accountable; we believe they chose to commit that crime. If someone were to forgive you, or give you a nice gift or a hug, you would ascribe that action to the person's good will. Our systems of justice and good will come from God's laws and Word, and so yes I believe we all have a certain element of free will in our decision-making and doings. The discussion of free will in some sense is beyond philosophical debate - it is common sense and everyday perception this thing we call freedom.
So then how does God act in this world? Well, he determines things as the Father directly and indirectly, and the Holy Spirit inspires us into action or certain thought, and the Son intervenes on our behalf. And so He may meet us when we bottom out and get on our knees, or ascribe control over our action through other people or directly, or He may answer someone's prayer; He may even harden a heart. In the case of Judas in the New Testament and also Pharaoh of the Old Testament, God uses them to accomplish His will - and He acts upon them or sets them up for certain action. But for the thousands of free actions, free thoughts and free heartfelt feelings these two had up until that intervention, they had already arrived into a debased state; so God made a final decision and forced certain outcomes via these persons. It was not against their will, but in accordance with their typical will that they acted to turn against Jesus and reject God's warnings.
According to mathematics, a butterfly can flap its wings and affect something entirely different on the other side of the planet. God can act directly, but also through butterflies. We have less freedom than we realize; we are certainly constrained in many ultimate ways. Most of our biological functions work automatically, we are bound by the laws of physics and reality, and many of the choices we make are repetitions from the past or ingrained by patterns within our minds and hearts. It may be rare that we choose to eat something new, unless we are a person that tends to eat new things; we may give gifts and hugs, but we will likely be the type of person to give gifts and hugs. Some Christians also believe we are predestined to become followers of Christ and that we have little choice in the matter except to be compelled to do so. I do not know if I agree or disagree with that form of predestination, but yes many things are predestined in our lives. And it is important what we ingrain into our minds and hearts. Also, the spiritual world that lies above our physical world has more influence than we usually perceive. I do believe we are sometimes surrounded by angels, the army of God. And I do believe in the present-day existence of demons. Is there any free will or freedom left for us?
God resides in Heaven and exists outside of the constraints of time and space - another constraint to us humans. He "knows" what will happen in our futures; He also "predestines" certain things to happen; He "allows" us to make choices when He wills us to choose. Prophets have received inspiration about what is to happen in the future, but sometimes that prophesy comes with a choice and the future is not fixed (e.g. return to God or continue to act in wickedness). God always determines the building up or destruction of kingdoms. God's kingdom always has the ultimate rule and can decide for us or constrain us whenever it is willed by Him. The loops of cause and effect, or of action and consequence are ultimate in God's kingdom; these are binding laws and they have influence in our world. And so, even when men or women have choices in matters within their sphere of influence, their decisions do not go unchecked by God - if not checked in this life, then the next (but their is also grace). Evil doers are given over to debased minds, and those who strive towards Godliness realize blessings - it is all for God's purpose. God's sovereignty triumphs everything, but He has assigned to us the ability to have a bit of freedom ourselves - it is a part of how were were created in His image (we are soiled versions through Adam). We are more than just a summation of our instincts; our Father looks after us like a child, and I think we have the freedom of a child. "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"
ps.... This is my best effort in a highly debated topic. I am not an authority figure on this subject and I may have erred in some way in my teaching and devotion to the subject; I tried not to do so. I am one who has reflected upon the nature of things more than the average person, and that is all I can offer in my message above.
Dear God, Thank you for making me in Your image - with some freedom. You are sovereign and influential/ultimate in outcomes we normally assign to ourselves. When something good happens we often praise our good will and good works; when something terrible happens we tend to question the meaning in it all, asking you, "Why God?" Today I know why and it's for 2 reasons: (1) because you do not intervene in every little thing, and (2) Your direction is in accordance with Your ultimate purpose for Your creation. If you dictated control over every aspect of my life I would have no control or freedom over my decisions in any way. I thank you for cause and effect, action and consequence, heart intelligence and logic, and laws of biology and physics; these are all of Your Creation. To be constrained to all these things makes for an interesting life if I really think about it. How it stretches one's imagination to think of Heaven or reality without time and space! You are certainly wondrous and I appreciate the sovereignty You have exercised over my life - from the faintest whispers to the stumbling blocks and exclamations. There are so many mysteries and wonders to Your ways and Your works. May I always abide in Thee and share the long-lasting life with You in Heaven. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Excerpt from art-book "Poems & Prayers for Women of Depth" by Michelle Nicole Murphy -
"I am not afraid to die.
I am not afraid to live."
Excerpt from Chapter 11 of book "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. - "A chance for peace may thus be found in studying the attitudes towards death in the leaders of the nations, in those who make the final decisions of war and peace between nations. If all of us would make an all-out effort to contemplate our own death, to deal with our anxieties surrounding the concept of our death, and to help others familiarize themselves with these thoughts, perhaps there could be less destructiveness around us."
Quote by Mark Twain - “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Genesis 24, Verse 67 - "Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death."
Excerpt from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare -
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd!”
I have a relationship with death. Twice I had allergic reactions to medications while in the hospital that caused me to go through processes I'll never forget. I can only relate those instances to passing on. In one instance my throat swelled and I couldn’t breathe. My mindset at the time was a fear of death, but also a wish for death. Facing it changed my life. When I couldn’t breathe my pulse seemed to slow down and time passed extremely slow; I could hear my heartbeat aloud. I had a vision in my mind of a young woman running forever on a beach, and I reflected the vision onto my life as if I was the woman and had been running for most of my existence. This correlation dawned on me and I was able to breathe again once the lesson was learned. I was forever changed by that moment. The event was spiritual, both in concept and in feeling. I felt light-weight as if I could float away throughout the entire process and I was extremely calm. I felt respite and relief. The other incident I again felt light-weight and detached from my body. I threw a blanket over my face to cocoon myself a bit and began to feel as if I might be passing out. The knit patterns in the blanket began to take on fractal-shapes and I had total mind-body-system relief. It was if one had a painful muscle tear and applied some Icy Hot to it, and feeling completely cured and beyond wonderful; I felt beyond wonderful in the over-drugged state of mind I was in. I had been out-of-body several times in my life and this was the most pleasant transition into that state of detachment. In some way, these two instances had an immediate affect of me desiring to make a full transition through death to something beyond death. In the long-run I feel prepared for death. I also have a bit of a new life and new perspective.
I visit the dying and my favorite patient is an elderly woman. She was exuberant during our first visit and insisted she worked at the nursing home. But by the second visit reality had set in for her. She didn’t talk much but colored beautifully in an art-book all day. She finally did speak of her husband who had died in this same way in a nursing home and how she missed him and that they were once a wonderful couple. She lamented. But despite her bad day and harsh reality, she was in the activity room doing an activity that very few will take on at that stage of a terminal diagnosis. She is a hero to me - she is thinking about her life, and about her pending death, the people she loves, while getting out of her room and creating beauty to give rise to something positive within her. This woman has not caved into death as she faces it - she is mustering the strength to live a little bit each day.
Shakespeare refers to the land of the dead as undiscovered country. He says perhaps it is more like a dream than to contain some of the dreadful things of the living. Mark Twain says to live a full life is the best preparation. God tells us how to prepare in this life for the afterlife, with the greatest commandment being loving others. One of the greatest examples is Jesus Christ's sacrifice for all of us. Mourning death is altogether complex and Isaac sure has the best medicine after the loss of his mother Sarah - the introduction of Rebecca his wife into his life. Life is a revolving door sometimes, rife with pain but also containing opportunity and blessing.
I think passing is peaceful for those that are prepared. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., a death expert, speaks of so many patients that have near-death experiences, and that may be the best evidence we have for the undiscovered country outside of religious teachings. But the religious teachings are aligned with the experiences and not opposed in any confrontational way. Elisabeth is also right that we have leaders, along with the masses in general, who feel immortal or deny the experience of death. Yet governments are very adept at killing, and it is easy for one to say, "well it wasn't me". Let's not cave into death that way; non-personal deaths ordered from remote places, happening in remote places, with little remorse or attention are a terrible thing. We must all become familiar with death.
Dear God, I pray for the strength to be like this woman from the nursing home - lamenting on a bad day and creating beautiful artwork at the same time. Whether I may feel severely depressed on any given day, the right thing to do is to pick myself up and force the situation into the best that it can be. I know the drill and it comes across my plate on a regular basis. When I am terminally ill, or facing death, or mourning a loved one, my reaction to the situation will be built upon the legwork I put in now for everyday troubles. May I always find a blessing or create a blessing for someone else. It is certain our birth and our passing is determined or pre-determined or known by You God. I do not want to pray out of fear, but I do hope it is Your will that my husband and I both live out the majority of our lives, and that not one of us has to carry on alone for a long period; but Your will be done. So many in my extended family have had to walk that line of losing a spouse in mid-life, including my mom. Just like Isaac, new opportunities have made their way into her life. So far the blessings have outweighed the gut-wrenching pain of loss and we can all move forward; thank you Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.
Matthew 5, Verses 1-16
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Believers Are Salt and Light, Christ Fulfills the Law
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 6, Verses 1-15
Giving to the Poor and the Lord's Prayer
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
The Beatitudes & the Lord's Prayer - I often think of the Beatitude, "bless are the meek for they shall inherit the earth," in correlation with the Lord's Prayer and God's judgement. I imagine a new earth where the Beatitudes are carried out in the flesh, as well as in the Afterlife. In the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 it says, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven." I long for the days when the earth is filled with meekness and blessedness. Man's ability and freedom to sin and do evil and mess things up will finally be resolved one day. But I must remember that God's blessings are already upon us, and that his mercy, grace and justice are active in the world today according to His will. His judgements are also upon the earth and mankind today. His spiritual kingdom reigns here and a life in Heaven is obtainable. The Beatitudes show us what God and his Son embrace, and also teach what we humans should value - "shall" is a very strong verb and each Beatitude expresses God's will. This is one of the most beautiful teachings of Jesus Christ.
Believers Are Salt and Light & Christ Fulfills the Law - Salt increases the existing taste of food. It also serves to preserve meat and poultry and keeps it from spoiling. Salt was a high commodity during the time of Jesus when he referred to it, as it was highly useful and delightful. Light provides life, warmth and sight for ourselves and the world around us. So as followers of Christ and fellow humans we must find ways to make increases towards the good, preserve morality and the Law, and shine before others to glorify God as Jesus said. In this section he also says we shall teach righteousness and not pick from the Law only what we like. When Jesus says we must surpass the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees to enter the kingdom of heaven, we might wonder how. They were higher class citizens who taught righteousness. However, they failed that task and Jesus was very upset with them in his day. We can learn from those interactions in the New Testament, and go to task with more success.
Giving to the Poor and the Lord's Prayer - Hypocrites are mentioned more than once in Matthew 6. We hear the allegations of hypocrites in unison with Christianity often. Jesus says that a hypocrite prays to be noticed, or gives to others to be noticed. Jesus mentions that giving to be noticed by others is not rewarded by God. God knows what we do in private and he knows our hearts. Oh my! Jesus provides us with His Lord's Prayer so we know how we might pray before God. This prayer brings Christians together from all denominations and faiths - it is even recited at AA meetings even though many at AA do not even profess Christianity. It is that popular, and I remember reciting it every Sunday at the church I attended as a youth. At the core of that prayer is a willingness to be forgiven by God in the same manner we forgive others. Given what Jesus did for the forgiveness of our sins, is it much to ask that we may follow suit in having a strong forgiving attitude towards others? I should be careful not to skip the core messages of the Lord's Prayer when I speak it or think it. I will review this prayer in depth and understand its meaning more. Then it is key for me to remember that when I pray my own prayers before God what core message I want going up for His ears to hear. Learn from the example of Jesus.
During the Christmas season we commemorate traditions, music, and decor from several sources and places. We adopt several traditions from Roman winter festivals, and add new traditions surrounding Santa Claus and giving This season's giving is based on what we are blessed to have ourselves, and most usually blessings abound. I love Christmas trees, hot chocolate and giving that perfect gift, but I am reminded of You in the midst of what seems an overdone holiday at times. Christ is the most important reason for the season, and today I remember his words. Some of my favorites are: "the meek will inherit the earth" and "that Your will be done on earth like it tis in Heaven" - those two statements go together. Jesus was born this time of year, and He was the light that came into the world over two thousand years ago. That is as relevant now as it was at the time of his birth. Joy to the world! Jingle bells! May your season be merry and bright! Merry Christmas! In Jesus name, the Great Redeemer, Amen.
Genesis 2, Verse 2 - And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
Exodus 20, Verses 9-11 - Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Proverbs 31, Verses 10-31, The Virtuous Woman - Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar. 15 She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants. 16 She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle. 20 She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet. 22 She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants. 25 Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.
2 Thessalonians 3, Verses 10-12 - For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
Matthew 11, Verses 28-30 - “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Luke 15, Verses 11-32, The Parable of the Lost Son - 11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. 25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ 28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”
Since Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden, men and women have understood good and evil, and also mankind has had to toil and labor to make a living. We are not like the birds or the deer or the monkeys who frolic and eat from the ground and the trees in their nakedness. We must make for ourselves our own way. God Himself labored in his creation for six days before he rested, establishing the Sabbath of the Old Testament and working days for mankind. We no longer frolic, but labor for survival, needing to eat, have shelter and clothe ourselves. As pointed out in the "The Parable of the Lost Son" sometimes we use the fruit of our own labor (or someone else's labor) and spoil it on sinful desires. This is an American temptation as we live in the world of advertising at every turn, instant access to on-line shopping, easy credit and loan opportunities, and easy income from government subsidies. I myself plead guilty. Sometimes I am amazed at how much I have spent on-line; I have a definite tendency to give-in to temptation and desire.
(1) Working willingly, (2) working hard, (3) being dedicated to work in time and passion - these 3 things are all praised in the Bible and recognized by God, for both females and males. I have done these 3 things off and on in my life because of my schizo-affective interludes, and I am rededicating to longer hours and harder work now again. If you are in an off period I ask you to consider the same. We can labor at many things including raising children, volunteering or spreading the gospel - keep that in mind. Do not be idle, but work.
Matthew 11, again says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We are often tired in life, often from our labors. It could be a combination of a paid job with raising a family, or tending to a sick one and helping others in need. There is so much work for Christians in this world and we can get overwhelmed - our yoke can become heavy. Jesus, who speaks here in Matthew, wants us to know that He is the answer. Laying our anxieties and woes on God, offering up concerns in prayer, reading and studying His Word to determine His will for our life, taking action to strengthen our spiritual muscles - all of these will lessen our yoke and make our burdens lighter no matter how daunting they seem. Knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel because Jesus died for our sins will help us surmount this life with a real hope. As we work, toil and labor, we should walk in the light and keep our hearts hopeful.
Dear God, I am brushing up my resume and applying for work with a regular full-time position, which I have not held since 2014. My mental health flared up to the point I could not keep a job and I threw together a small part-time business which has flourished monetarily but now runs on its own. I often refer back to Proverbs 31, "The Virtuous Woman" and reflect that I fall short, especially in my laboring. During winter my husband wakes when it is still night outside while I soundly sleep; we woke together for 11 years and I praise him for his continued hard work. We were never blessed with kids and that eases my situation a million times over. I have too much time to be idle, and more rest than I need. I am becoming lazy. Yes, I have passions, accomplishments, I cook and clean well, and volunteer, but there is a void in my labors for I do not labor enough and my mind wanders. I ask for your blessing in my job search as I am not settled on a simple return to what I worked at previously. I am willing to work, want to work hard, and dedicated to working long hours and with passion. I ask for your blessing that my mental health remain stable, as I am anxious about it and the demands of a full-time career. I pray that I can be more self-less than selfish. You are my forever hope, You and Your Son. In Jesus name, Amen.
Is it true we are only human?
That we must crash and break down, fall and bleed,
as Christina Perri in this song says?
The promises of AA are as follows: If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
1 Timothy 1, Verse 5 - Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.
Psalm 24, Verses 4-5 - He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Matthew 5, Verse 8 - Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
2 Timothy 2, Verse 22 - Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
When we get any kind of undesirable intrusive or anxious thought, and we don't want it to progress (or it shouldn't), what can be our plan then? Think action - How will I act and behave? Just because I am thinking about something bad doesn't mean I have to act on that thought, or say something out loud related to that thought. Act with purpose instead of reacting with little planning or logic; act with purpose instead of overreacting; act with purpose instead of being manipulative to gain something desirable that is not good for ourself or others. We are not to be just our human desires added up like Mt. Desire; we should lace our actions with spiritual truths. That is how one can lead a meaningful fulfilling life. So longterm - think spiritual strength - then right actions will more easily follow.
Why? We are SPIRITS and we are HUMAN. For some of us, our inherited or current conditions of a physical nature are not so good. Our spirits may also be weak and this is a problem.
For if we approach God with more spiritual mindsets, he will answer us and he will protect us as one of His children. Our spiritual self is more pure than our human self when it is strong. Strengthening our spiritual muscles is important to accomplish; it helps us to be confident instead of fearful and weak when facing the difficult and challenging. Often there is not much we can do to strengthen our human selves, as we may be bogged down with various natures - the reliance and strengthening of our spiritual selves is within our control. The AA Promises address those with a physical desire to drink, who overcome by dedication to spiritual truths. These promises are the same for anyone who overcomes the human self with the spiritual self. They speak loudly to me because I've had some addiction crises before and I have schizo-affective disorder - I must be spiritually strong.
Spiritual truths come from God and are relayed to us today from ancient people. They have been passed down to us, so acknowledge them with respect and study them with excitement. We also have an innate compass within our soul that may direct us when we are heavy in prayer, meditation, or pure in heart. We must seek God and we must seek to strengthen our spirit, for our human bodies will fail us without that component. Do this through study, fellowship, prayer, and by demonstrating your faith. Good action towards others will help ourselves heal and grow. This I promise will improve your life.
Dear God, I know I am burdened from time to time with intrusive and anxious thoughts. Somehow the help I need has come into my life when I needed directed to higher truths. I can identify spiritual strength and right action as my best allies - I see the pattern throughout my life and in others. I am focused now on achievement for the next 6 months - because if I am achieving the right things others will benefit - I see this as Your will for my life. Forgive me for my past when I have easily bled when I fell down, or created my own Mt. Desire because I gave in to human nature and was spiritually weak. My heart has been pure, but my heart has been dirty black - I ask you to restore my heart always and that you never leave my side. I am God fearing, but I am also fearful of many things from time to time - send your Spirit to quell those anxieties. Peace, Love and Amen, Michelle.
Michelle is a woman of depth whose faith has pulled her through some difficult times. She finds beauty and inspiration from life experience and literature, sourced from all ages and walks of life. Michelle seeks to inspire other women in their personal journeys, especially those who struggle. Michelle is also a mental health advocate, writer & engineer. Her other website is www.freemindbooks.com.