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The Stumbling Block Prayer

“Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

Image result for plate of moneyAgain, Jesus reaches back into the Old Testament and produces a heavenly gem for His hearers to reconsider. They would’ve know the Proverbs, studied the wisdom sayings to apply in their everyday life as was their practical purpose. But did they really think about the heart-level meaning of them?

Maybe some did, but Jesus knew what these listening hearts needed. He spoke to the gap in their understanding.

And He quoted from a man named Agur, who was, like Job, a wise man though probably not an Israelite. The full context of the phrase, Give us today our daily bread, is worthy of consideration. Agur prayed:

“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:7-9

When Jesus instructs us to pray for our daily bread, it is so that we will learn to depend on God once again. In the Garden of Eden, God provided for everything that Adam and Eve needed [1:29]. When sin–the decision to be their own gods–entered the world, they had to begin to provide for themselves, and the ground didn’t cooperate because humans do not have the power of God to control the earth as He does [Genesis 3:17-19].

But He didn’t leave them without sustenance [Genesis 8:22]. God desired to reconcile them to Himself and to be their provider–if only they would trust in Him. And He desires the same for us.

Ironically, so fallen is the sinful nature that even God’s provision can become a stumbling block to the life of faith. As Agur notes, when times are tough we might turn to God or we might turn to self-as-god and steal our needs for ourselves. Yet, when times are plentiful and God provides in abundance, again we get cocky and pat ourselves on the back–Look how good I’ve done for myself. God warned the Israelites that they would face the self-same temptation when they entered the Promised Land [Deuteronomy 6:10-12] and assumed the homes, vineyards and riches of the people they drove out.

Both extremes, poverty and riches, turn our hearts from God. Instead, Agur prayed that God would keep him on the straight and narrow path that leads to life [Matthew 7:13-14]. And Jesus said that we don’t live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God [Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4].

In the scheme of temptations, Satan doesn’t care which extreme he lures you to accept. So long as he keeps you off the path that leads to life. His only desire is to steal from you, kill you and destroy your eternal life [John 10:10].

Are your prayers filled with requests for abundance or provision of wants rather than basic needs? Ask the Holy Spirit to tune your heart to God’s. Trust Him to provide exactly what you need at exactly the time you need it. In all things, seek the advancement of His kingdom first, then trust God to provide the rest [Matthew 6:33].

KCS

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Justice Now

“There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths…They prey on the barren and childless woman, and to the widow they show no kindness. But God drags them away by His mighty power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life. He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but His eyes are on their ways. For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like heads of grain.” Job 24:13 & 21-24

See the source imageGod is just–but He is also eternal, infinitely good, loving and gracious. When we as people question God’s justice, it is because we see wrong in the world. We see people living–and not only seemingly getting away with but being promoted for–their sinful lives. And we ask, Why is that fair?

When we sit in judgment on God’s justice, it is a sign to us that we have accepted Satan’s lie to be our own god [Genesis 3:5]. We believe that our version of justice should be meted out in our timeframe. We believe that God should adopt our grey scales of sin levels. We forget that we ourselves are also sinful and deserving of God’s judgment.

The wages of my sin is death. The wages of your sin is death. The wages of everyone’s sin is death [Romans 6:23]. Adam sinned despite God’s warning that it would bring Him death, because Satan said he wouldn’t actually die. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years! But then, he most assuredly died because of the wages of sin in his life [Genesis 5:5].

You and I sin, but God is patient with us, not wanting us or anyone else in the world to choose to lose life eternal [2 Peter 3:9]. The same hand of mercy that stays the swift fell of judgment in our own lives, is the same hand that patiently awaits meting out judgment in the lives of everyone else.

When we see the wicked flourishing for the short breath of this life [Matthew 6:30; James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24], and we get indignant with God, we bring judgment down on our own heads [Matthew 7:2]. Because God is for us and He is equally for every other person on the planet for all of history. He does not favor me over others or others over me [Romans 2:11].

When we gripe about the sins of others and demand God deal with them right now–in our timeframe and according to our perception of justice–then God stands before us, saying, Let the person who has not sinned throw the first stone to end this person’s life [John 8:7]. Just as He stands mediator between me and those who would demand immediate justice for my sins.

God’s justice is also good. God’s justice is also merciful and gracious and loving. God’s justice is also eternal. God’s justice has provided a substitution for your death penalty–His Son, Jesus, and Him crucified [1 Corinthians 2:2]–and is patiently giving you every opportunity to accept–to redeem your life by His grace and through your faith.

Will you demand justice now and so condemn yourself? Or will you live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God [Micah 6:8]?

KCS

An Impossible Challenge

“Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 38:32-36

Image result for man pushing a boulderGod asks Job so many questions leading up to this moment. Not because He needs Job’s counsel but, in true God fashion, because He wants to instruct him. In response to His own questions, God challenges Job further. Show yourself to be the God Satan told you you could be [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Go ahead.

Except that Satan lied, and even Job knows it.

All his life, Job faithfully praised our Creator God. Even when he lost everything and his wife told him just to turn his back on God and die [Job 2:9], Job held firm to his trust in the Almighty. His friends came with less than Godly counsel in his time of greatest loss. And at the end of very long, very judgmental tirades against their buddy, God had something to say.

Show yourself as mighty as I AM. And if you succeed, then you can be your own god. An impossible challenge.

All human strength–whether the might of brawn or sword or schemes–together cannot scratch the omnipotence of God.

Though we can observe God’s steadfast power at work in nature, we can only comply with His laws to maintain the life He created. We cannot create new plants out of nothing. We cannot make plants act other than He designed them to act [i.e. make oak trees grow underwater]. Though we have noted how life reproduces, science can never explain why life generates more life. But God made all things out of nothing [Genesis 1:1]. He designed their every attribute. And He knows the why behind life.

Though we can enjoy the beauty of the sun and stars, for danger of incineration and for sheer distance, we cannot even approach them. But God hung each in place. He knows their blueprint as intimately as He knows each and every one of us [Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7; Hebrews 4:12], and He alone fuels their light.

Though we build ships and airplanes to cross the seas and have circumnavigated the globe and dove to great depths, what human being can control the ocean? God not only reigns it in, regulating its tides, but He dug its depths with a Word.

Every creature, save one, obeys the Creator. Bees pollinate and make honey. Trees and grass scrub carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Cats keep mice populations in check. Ecosystems with their communities and food webs all work together in God’s design. All except for human beings.

We choose not to obey the stewardship commands given at the Creation [Genesis 1:24-26]. We choose not to love God and to love one another as ourselves [Matthew 22:38-29; Mark 12:30-31]. We choose to deny God’s power–though it is evident all around us–in an effort to try to usurp the control for ourselves.

But who are we that God should fear or answer to us?

Does your life flow out of a reverence for God’s omnipotence?

KCS

Seeing God with Human Eyes

“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'” Exodus 33:19-22

Image result for man sitting in rockIt is not permissible to see God’s being with our human eyes, because He wants us to live to tell about Him, and our sinfulness would altogether overwhelm us in His holy and glorious presence.

But Moses boldly petitioned to see God’s glory. And God, in His sovereign mercy and grace, granted that Moses see just His back. In fact, God covered Moses with His hand and only removed it at the first moment when it was safe for Moses to look upon Him.

Why would God not want everyone to see His face?

Can you imagine the world of trouble that human beings would cause creating and recreating the face of God? Painting. Sculpting. Duplicating. Publishing and posting. Especially in our very visual generation. The face of God would be reduced to an all too familiar, flawed representation that in no way compares to who He truly is. And people would come to replace the real God with a mere likeness.

Just the chapter before, the people of Israel demanded Aaron make them a golden calf to worship [Exodus 32]. They sang and made offerings to a piece of over-sized bovine jewelry!

The same danger existed with God showing His face to them. Wouldn’t these same hard-hearted people have desired to sculpt God’s portrait in gold and precious stones? But to whose glory and honor?

Not God’s.

He didn’t want an empty self-portrait. He didn’t need their offerings or to enslave them in religious rituals, prostrating themselves before His image. He wanted their hearts full of love for Him. Just as He wants us to passionately pursue a personal relationship with Him.

In every other world religion, the false god has a face, an image that the followers associate with their worship–because they are no god at all, just an image made by human hands. But the One True God is high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1 & 57:15-17].

He is holy [Leviticus 19:2; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 2:2; et al].

He is beyond understanding and compare [Exodus 15:11; 1 Kings 8:23; Job 36:26; et al].

And we will behold God when we stand redeemed before Him in heaven one day [1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2].

Are you living to see God face to face?

KCS

Shards of Heaven

“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. This first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:18-21

See the source image

Walls made of jasper–the stone of the tribe of Benjamin–meaning son of my right hand [Genesis 35:18], or honored son. The New Jerusalem is the city of God’s Son. A city of pure gold–His people refined in the fire [1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18]. Pure as glass–transparent. Nothing sinful. Nothing hidden [Genesis 3:8 & 10].

The first foundation, also jasper–the last son of Jacob, the last Adam–Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:45]. Look at how the last shall be first [Matthew 20:16]–the tribe of Benjamin before all his brothers and Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega before the first man Adam.

Each foundation stone representative of the tribes of Israel as was worn on the priestly ephod when they ministered before the Lord in the Tabernacle and the Temple [Exodus 28:17].

Reuben: carnelian [aka sardius or ruby]

Simeon: topaz/chrysolite [aka peridot, emerald or topaz]

Manasseh, Levi, Judah: beryl [aka carbuncle or emerald]

Judah, Zebulon: emerald [aka carbuncle or beryl or diamond]

Issachar: sapphire

Nephtali: jacinth [aka ligure]

Gad, Ephraim: chalcedony [aka agate or onyx]

Gad, Ephraim: chrysoprase [aka calcedony, agate or onyx]

Asher: amethyst

Ephraim: sardonyx [aka onyx alternated with sardius]

Benjamin: jasper

The book of Job tells about how we human beings plumb the depths of the earth for hidden riches [Job 28:1-19]. In the name of beauty, wealth and greatness, we ferret out every nugget of gold and precious gem the ground produces.

But before Adam and Eve ushered sin into the world, riches like these were abundant, even laying on the ground as commonplace as gravel or river rock [Genesis 2:12]. After sin, though, all of Creation was broken. The truth of eternity hidden from human understanding.

What does this have to do with the foundations of heaven? As aliens and strangers in this world [Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11], we are naturally drawn to the wonder, beauty and riches of our heavenly home. We dig into the earth seeking treasure to fill the need for something that we are missing. It is the natural response of the eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. Yet because of sin, we do not recognize the shards of heaven when we find them. Rather they become the impetus for greed and the root of all kinds of evil [1 Timothy 6:10].

Beauty is fleeting [Proverbs 31:30]. Earthly wealth will pass away [Proverbs 13:22]. Greatness belongs to God alone [Psalm 145:3]. True wonder emanates from Him alone.

Do you search for God as for hidden treasure [Proverbs 2:4]? Do you seek Him while He may be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

KCS

Foundation for Life

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more–cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; bodies and souls of men.” Revelation 18:9-13

See the source imageFalse religion. Earthly governments. Economic pursuits at any cost. Misplaced worldview or life perspective. All are temporal. All will come to ruin.

And when the time of the end comes, when judgment comes, those who placed their hope, faith and trust in such temporalities will grieve their error.

Babylon trusted in her self-ascribed power. Rome too. And how many others? Yet their empires were short lived in the expanse of eternity–naught more than an hour. A breath–like the vaporous, rapidly withering human lives that constructed them [Job 7:7; Psalms 144:4; Matthew 6:30; James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:9 & 24]. Bankrupt systems brought to further ruin by the truth of heaven.

Earthly gold, silver and precious stones will pass away in the fire [1 Corinthians 3:12-13], yet heaven will be paved with and foundationed on them [Revelation 21:18-21].

Earthly pearls will also pass away, yet heaven is analogized to their worth in the human heart [Matthew 13:45-46].

Earthly fashions, wealthy wardrobes, stately furnishings and trendy trinkets will all pass away, many ensnaring and dragging their owners into the fires with them [Matthew 19:24; Mark10:25].

Even the earthly gifts presented to baby Jesus that helped support his family in Egypt [Matthew 2:11] and God’s merciful restraint in the Revelation plagues [Revelation 6:6] had and will have no eternal value.

Animal and human trafficking was never God’s intention and will have no place in heaven.

All these financial and flesh indulgent snares for which human beings trade away their souls. All temporal. All carrying the world away to ruin at a breakneck pace.

Is your heart set on the things of this world? Are your building your life on the things that are passing away?

KCS

From the Student Question Board: Are Ghosts Real?

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your mind? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:37-39

Image result for walking in mistAfter Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples–alive! And not just alive, but in bodily form–flesh, blood, hair, fingernails, you name it. But the disciples couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t wrap their understanding around Jesus’ appearance. He didn’t come through the door, He simply stood before them. A dead man. Standing before them. Not even a little bit dead. With all the same human body features that they themselves had. It blew their minds.

The English translation here is problematic in our culture, because the Greek word pneuma or spirit is rendered as ghost. To be clear, there is a spiritual world all around us–angels and demons at war for our souls. Sometimes we can see this spiritual dimension. But ghosts, the supposed spirits of deceased humans, are not a part of it. It’s kind of like the popular myth that when people die they become angels. Like humankind, Angels are uniquely created beings [Hebrews 2:7]. So when we die, though we go to heaven, we do not morph from human to angel. The saints will still be the saints and the angels will still be the angels in heaven [Revelation 7:9-11]. Similarly, when people die, our spirits do not join the spiritual warfare of the angels and the demons, nor we do not haunt those still living.

Rather, just as Jesus told the thief on the cross–who acknowledged Him as Lord–that he would be in heaven with Jesus that same day they died [Luke 23:43], so we believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And for those who are not believers, their souls sleep with their bodies in the ground until the judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].

Christians are often spiritually sensitive, even from a young age, sensing the spiritual battles around us. But we do not need to be afraid. God reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light [Job 12:22]. He is our lamp that turns our darkness into light [2 Samuel 22:29]. Where He is, darkness cannot be because darkness cannot stand in the presence of light [John 1:5]. That is, darkness cannot overcome or overtake the light.

When spiritual fears and worldly superstitions threaten to overwhelm our senses, we need only to call on the name of Jesus. If we remain in Him, He is with us. His authority will drive out every demonic spirit that tries to come against us [Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 1:21-34 & 5:1-17] and, at the same time, He will fill us with a peace that beyond anything we could understand [Philippians 4:7].

Is the Lord your lamp? Does the truth of His word light your way [Psalm 119:105]?

KCS