Sunday meditation 4-22-18

Once a week isn’t enough to show that I love God, to remind me that I am a servant of God. But it isn’t just at a church service that you do that – but life. The church service should give you fuel and marching orders – and the rest of the time you are out in the field – working – planting seeds of hope and love, and reaping joy.

It is where you put into practice what you learned.

I like what monasteries do – you meet at least three times a day to pray. This reminds me of how AA works – you go to as many meetings as often as you would have gotten drunk. So now that you are sober, you pray instead. This keeps you from slipping into sin (of whatever sort) and you stay on the path. It keeps you on the wagon, on the Way.

Sin and addiction are closely related – and are cured the same way. Turn away from your own way of doing things, because those obviously weren’t working. Turn away from the world’s ways of “fixing” problems, which often end up causing more. Turn towards God – the One who is the true Healer. Work out your problems by yoking with God.

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Following immediately

Look at these two different verses, one from the Christian scriptures, and the one it echoes from the Hebrew scriptures.

Luke 9:56-62 (TLV)

56 Then they moved on to another village. 57 As they were traveling on the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 But Yeshua said to him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 He said to another, “Follow Me.” But that one said, “First let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Yeshua said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Then another also said, “I will follow You, Master, but first let me say goodbye to those in my home.” 62 But Yeshua said to him, “No one who has put his hand to the plow and looked back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

While all of this passage is interesting, this post is concerned with verses 61-62.

Now look at the parallel –

 

1 Kings 19:19-21 (HCSB)

19 Elijah left there and found Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing. Twelve teams of oxen were in front of him, and he was with the twelfth team. Elijah walked by him and threw his mantle over him. 20 Elisha left the oxen, ran to follow Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and mother, and then I will follow you.” “Go on back,” he replied, “for what have I done to you?” 21 So he turned back from following him, took the team of oxen, and slaughtered them. With the oxen’s wooden yoke and plow, he cooked the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he left, followed Elijah, and served him.

 

In the Hebrew scriptures (1 Kings 19:19-21) the prophet-to-be Elisha is allowed to go back and finish up his business.  Yet in the Christian scriptures (Luke 9:56-62), the unnamed follower-to-be is denied this.

Is it because he wasn’t chosen?  In the case of Elisha, God told Elijah that he was to be selected as his follower, moreover, as his successor.  He is not just a follower, but is going to be an equal to Elijah in status and power.

Yet the follower of Yeshua (The Hebrew name of Jesus) was not chosen.  He chose to follow, instead of being chosen.  There is a difference, and it is important.  He was at risk of turning away, of being distracted from his healthy choice, if he went to his family – his old way of living.  He had to follow immediately or he would be in danger of being distracted from the path that leads to life.

This feels like an echo of the Parable of the Sower.  Here is the Condensed Gospel version of Jesus’ explanation of it –

The parable of the sower explained

Jesus said “Do you not understand this parable? Then how are you going to be able to understand any of them? The seed is the word of God. The sower is the one who shares it with others. The people along the path are those who have heard the message about the kingdom and don’t understand it. Satan has snatched away the words that were sown in their hearts so they would not believe and be saved.”

As for the seed sown on rocky ground, this represents the people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. However, because they are not rooted in their faith, they believe for a little while but stumble when troubles come because of the word.

Regarding the seed sown among thorns, these are the people who hear the word but are distracted and paralyzed by worry and greed, and the word is not able to take root in them and produce any fruit.

But the seed sown on good ground represents the people who hear the word with honest and open hearts. They understand it, welcome it, and through endurance are able to bear much fruit, even up to 100 times what was sown.”

MT 13:18-24, MK 4:13-20, LK 8:11-15

Put God first, and everything falls into place

A friend and I were talking about this verse, and were wondering about how God directs our paths. Her translation said that God “will make our paths straight”, but I feel this translation is more helpful for this lesson. (All translations here are HCSB)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
–Proverbs 3:5-6

I was reminded of this from the prophet Isaiah –

Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy,
and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the Lord is a just God.
All who wait patiently for Him are happy.
For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”
—Isaiah 30:18-21

God will direct our paths, telling us which way to go. This will make our paths straight, because God is keeping us from straying to the left or the right. This phrase is used often in the book of Joshua. Here is one example –

“Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
–Joshua 1:6-9

Jesus echoes the most important part to how this works –

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
–Matthew 6:33-34

We must seek God first. When we follow God, we won’t get lost. This is how out paths, and our lives, will be straight.

Don’t make plans and then ask God to bless them. That is doing it in the wrong order.
Follow God, and God will fill you with God’s desires, and direct your way.
Then you will go in the right direction.

Peg

The “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” concept only works so far.  How do you deal with the situation when they don’t return the favor?  I feel like I’m constantly giving out 20 dollar bills, and not getting anything back – not even a thank you.

I have often felt like a square peg in a round hole. How people treat me is often at odds with how I feel they should treat me. I asked God about this and God said that perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I need to change my expectations of the world.

God says “My ways are not your ways.”

Jesus asked his disciples to stay in the world but not to be of the world.

Jesus said to forgive people without count.

Jesus said that we should treat our enemies with kindness, and in so doing we will prove that we are children of God.

God says to me that I am supposed to stay the way I am and stay in the world as it is,

and feel that hurt

feel that pain

feel that dissonance.

…in part, so that I understand and can empathize with people who are excluded and left out. But also so that in holding my ground I can teach others how to act in a Godly way.  Sometimes we are to be teachers through our actions.

Many years ago,

I had asked God to be able to spread the messages he gave without attention to me. I want to be anonymous, and live my life without fame. This way I can go to the gym or the grocery store and live like a normal person. In the meantime God uses me as a conduit. I want to be a good steward of the gifts that he gives me.

 

So why am I upset when a message I share is taken up and adopted (stolen, in my mind) by someone who acts as if it is theirs? I don’t want fame or money, so it doesn’t make sense for me to be upset.

I brought this to God this week and got a lot of peace.  That feeling I had is the human part of me, rearing its ugly head.  It is important that I felt it, and brought it to God.  That is what God wants – to heal all of our brokenness.  But we have to take it to the Healer to be healed.

Here is what it means to be a child of God: It isn’t natural, but spiritual.  We are all created by God at birth but the true children of God, once they are spiritually awake, then choose to be further formed and shaped by God. They choose to align themselves with God and then let God work through them.  It is a two-way adoption.  God wants all of us to choose to follow God’s ways, but not all of us do.  It is our choice.

I need to give my immature feelings of jealousy (because these messages are not mine, but God’s) to God, so God can transform them into selflessness.   I need to do this in order to become a pure vessel for God’s Spirit in this world.

Sometimes for healing to take place, there has to be a reconciliation – a balancing of the accounts.

It is important to let other people know how you feel.  They can’t read your mind. It is like being a bill collector who issues the bill (with interest) ten years after it is due.  It is better to issue the bill early, to get it over with and have the accounts settled as soon as possible.

Jesus says that if we have an issue against someone, to not take our offering to the Temple, but to leave it and go make peace with that person first.

So today I wrote sent this message to a lady in a head covering group I belong to:

“Hello!  I thought it would be important to write you.  At least a year ago I mentioned something on the “Cover me happy” Facebook page about how it would be a good idea to focus on the idea of covering, instead of covering with a lot of fancy wraps.  I said that too many fancy wraps would make it difficult for the beginner, or someone who is poor and can’t afford a lot of scarves.  I also pointed out that modesty is an important part of covering, so calling attention to it with fancy wraps didn’t make sense.  Not long after I said that, you posted on the Wrapunzel page this very idea, saying that you’d read it in another group but wasn’t sure who said it.  Then it became a thing, where people were posting their single scarf wraps and tagging you.  I felt very hurt by this, since I am the one who suggested it.  I said nothing at the time, but now that something like this has happened to me in a different context, I think it is important to speak up and set things right.  I don’t want fame for the idea – it was just an idea.  I don’t want to be tagged when people post when they wear one scarf.  But I also don’t want my ideas claimed by someone else.  I think it is important to make things right, so that is why I am writing, to let you know how I feel.”

I have no idea how she will respond to it.  She probably doesn’t even remember.  Because of the message system on Facebook, she might never see it.  But I needed to write it.  It is important to balance the accounts.

Yesterday I wrote to the administrator of a group I’d been submitting newsletter offerings to, saying that she could not claim that she was writing the posts.  My first several posts were given the anonymous “from a member” credit.  I wasn’t sure about this – there was nothing saying that what we submitted would be anonymous.  But now it didn’t even say that, and at the bottom I noted that she’d said the contents were copyright (to her group – not to me).

Perhaps it was good for it to be anonymous – that way one member wouldn’t stick out.  I was also still wrestling with the idea that at least my messages were getting out.  I still don’t want fame or attention.  But I also don’t want my work to be claimed by another.

It is why I say that anyone can use anything I wrote for “The Condensed Gospel” for free, but they cannot claim that they wrote it, or charge money for it.  I don’t want money for it – but I also don’t want someone else to make money on it.  I now feel that credit is a sort of money in a way.

So now I’m holding my ground and speaking up. I’m telling people that they have hurt me as soon as I realize that they have, without “charging interest”.

 

Stay in the path that leads to life

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 Moses speaks to Israel at Mt. Sinai –

32 “Be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. 33 Follow the whole instruction the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.”

Joshua 1:6-7 The Lord to Joshua, Moses’ successor –
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.”

Joshua 23:6-8 Joshua’s final instructions as he is about to die –
6 “Be very strong and continue obeying all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you do not turn from it to the right or left 7 and so that you do not associate with these nations remaining among you. Do not call on the names of their gods or make an oath to them; do not worship them or bow down to them. 8 Instead, remain faithful to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.

Isaiah 30:19-21 The prophet Isaiah speaks –
19 For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. 20 The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, 21 and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”

(all verses are HCSB)

A Nation Under God

If we want to go with the idea of making America a nation “under God” – what does that mean? What does it mean when people say that they want America to be a Christian nation? Let us look at Holy Scripture for direction. I’ve selected some prominent ones and then boiled them down to the essentials in boldface. Read over all of it carefully, and see if what America does currently in the name of Christian values matches up with what the Bible says.

Ezekial 18:7-9 describes the actions of a righteous man –
7 He doesn’t oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. 8 He doesn’t lend at interest or for profit but keeps his hand from wrongdoing and carries out true justice between men. 9 He follows My statutes and keeps My ordinances, acting faithfully. Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live.”This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.

We shouldn’t oppress anyone. We should repay debts. We shouldn’t steal. We should feed the hungry and clothe the naked. If we lend money, we shouldn’t do it at interest. We should do only good things and act in a just manner. We should follow the rules that God has given us.

The whole of chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah tells us what to do –
“Cry out loudly, don’t hold back!
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Tell My people their transgression
and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 They seek Me day after day
and delight to know My ways,
like a nation that does what is right
and does not abandon the justice of their God.
They ask Me for righteous judgments;
they delight in the nearness of God.”
3 “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen?
We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You fast with contention and strife
to strike viciously with your fist.
You cannot fast as you do today,
hoping to make your voice heard on high.
5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,
10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.
11 The LORD will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.
13 “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath,
from doing whatever you want on My holy day;
if you call the Sabbath a delight,
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much;
14 then you will delight yourself in the LORD,
and I will make you ride over the heights of the land,
and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

God does not want us to fast in sackcloth and ashes, drawing attention to ourselves. God wants us to set people free of anything and everything that enslaves and traps them. God wants us to share our food with people who are hungry, share our homes with people who are homeless, to clothe people who have nothing, and to not neglect our families. We are to make sure that others have as good as we have, by sharing what we have with those who have nothing.

Micah 6:6-8

6 What should I bring before the LORD
when I come to bow before God on high?
Should I come before Him with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves?
7 Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams
or with ten thousand streams of oil?
Should I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the child of my body for my own sin?
8 Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the LORD requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

The only offerings God wants from us is to show justice and mercy, and be humble when following God’s commandments.

What are those commandments? They are in Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
3 Do not have other gods besides Me.
4 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.
7 Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. 11 For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
12 Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13 Do not murder.
14 Do not commit adultery.
15 Do not steal.
16 Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

In summation – know that God is the only God, and worship only God. Don’t use God’s name casually. Rest on the Sabbath. Honor your parents. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t want anything that your neighbor has.

Jesus boils it all down to two simple rules in Matthew 22:34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

If you love God and your neighbor (everyone else) then you will not violate any of the commandments. You won’t make idols, worship other gods, or use God’s name without reason if you love God. You can’t murder, steal from, or lie about anyone if you love them.

Jesus tells us more with a parable in Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ 41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!
42 For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’
44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’
45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We are to treat everyone as if they are Jesus – to serve them in the same way. This means that we are to give food to the hungry, something to drink to the thirsty, give shelter to the stranger, give clothes to the naked, and take care of people who are sick and/or in prison.

If we do all these things, then, and only then, can we say that we are Christian nation. Let us focus our efforts on being known for our love by serving others – feeding, clothing, welcoming. If we do that, we won’t have time for anything else which we’ve been deluded by false pastors into thinking we have to do.

(All translations are HCSB)

Blessing

Jesus says “Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

The apostle Paul says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

When we align ourselves with what Jesus wants us to do, anything is possible. But the important thing is that we have to remember that it has to be what Jesus wants. Remember he says “Take up my yoke” not “Yoke me with your plans.” We are to get in line with what Jesus is doing, rather than just inviting Jesus into what we are doing.

So often we try to do things backwards. We all too often tell God what we want to do and then ask God to bless it, rather than asking God to bless us by telling us what to do.

Remember the phrase “God is my co-pilot”? I saw a church sign recently that said it works better if we switch seats. Let God be in charge. You might not get where you want to go, but you’ll get where you need to go.