The Hope of Peace

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Good Morning!

Did you shop the Black Friday sales this weekend or were you like me and your fingers did the shopping online? The hustle and bustle of the season can really wear and tear on the body. All the wonderful, messy stress of baking, cooking, cleaning, and eating over Thanksgiving combined with binge shopping and family, leaves me with brain drain. The days following Thanksgiving and into December can quickly feel like I’m the one run over by the reindeer instead of Grandma. I crave peace.

Increasingly, our circles of exposure grow ever wider with the internet and social media. We hear daily of wars, violence, terror, and natural disasters. Unrest rules the nations, poverty proliferates, and chaos swirls. Via these means, we’re often spectators watching others endure hate and abuse. Some days the darkness in others appears to grow deeper. Like a pressure cooker, fear builds within us from the constant presence of despair, disillusionment, disappointment, and dread. Don’t we long and hope for a world of peace, a world where all is calm and all is bright?

Isaiah lived and ministered in a time when his people were rebellious, sinful, guilt filled, and corrupt (Isaiah 1:3-5). Their lands were invaded, burned, and robbed of their resources (Isaiah 1:7). They were led by corrupt rulers. And so the people began thinking only of themselves and their own survival. They forgot to uphold the cause of the fatherless and the widow. They forgot about peace and their hope seemed illusory. Their hearts sought comfort and solace in places that offered none. But into their world, the Lord beckoned a return to Him.

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains,and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, [a]and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2: 1-4

Isaiah experienced a vision from God. He saw a time when all nations would flow upstream seeking out the Lord God on His mountain. Not to see the sights or to grab a selfie with the Big Guy to post on Facebook but, to learn from Him. These people of the nations will come wanting change and desiring knowledge of God, His ways, and to walk in obedience to Him. During this time, God’s wisdom will trigger a 180 degree turn in behavior. Fighters will become farmers and justice will rule the land. Disputes will be settled because God is the Peace Maker. Isaiah saw that in these last days no one will need to be taught warfare tactics or learn hate because peace will be the rule. The common folk longing and desiring peace will find it.

“O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Isaiah 2:5

Isaiah gave the people a directive. He didn’t issue this command after the last days arrived but into their present moment. A moment looking toward the fulfillment. Because the vision hasn’t yet come to pass, the command is also a call to you and me. A call for us to remember that the darkness seeks to destroy but the light of Christ has come into the world. Christ is, Christ came, and Christ will come again (Hebrews 13:8). Into our shopping stupors, our hectic holi-daze dash to school programs and parties, to grandma’s house and friend gatherings, and into a bleak world that threatens the fear to grow in us, the Father beckons and calls us to hope. He calls us to lay down our weapons, settle our disputes and leave the paths of sin behind us. He calls us to leave the darkness behind because a great light is ahead of us. Advent is the time to redirect our thoughts and to walk now in the light of hope bringing peace.

Blessings,

Mimi

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Hopeful Longing

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Good Morning!

Today, I have a construction crew at my house. The dust is swirling, the hammers are banging, and the tools are whizzing as the men reconstruct my house. Life is pretty crazy here. Not the ideal time to have a work crew in your home when you’re wanting to decorate for Christmas but sometimes, we don’t have a choice. Unexpected happenings take us by surprise.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

We have longed for this renovation for years. We saved our pennies, looked at gazillions of pictures for ideas, and watched endless hours of HGTV. All of our hopes and dreams, preparations and planning couldn’t have anticipated that we would be a construction zone through the holidays. A window of opportunity in the workmen’s schedule brought the day unexpectedly.

In ancient times, the Jews hoped for their Messiah. They waited in great anticipation for a king like their beloved King David that would bring restoration and unity to the nation. Then their hope came unexpectedly indwelling flesh. He didn’t arrive as they had imagined. So they continue to hope and wait.

“Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring … ” Charles Wesley

The season of Advent began yesterday. This season is a time of celebration, of anticipation, and of remembrance. I will spend the days preceding Christmas celebrating the birth of Christ as well as remembering and rejoicing over all Jesus fulfilled in His first coming. Like the Jewish people that yearn and long for their Messiah, I am also reminded during this season to yearn for His Advent -‘the coming‘ –  of Jesus’ reign in glory as I look forward with hopeful longing to His second coming. I will also celebrate the continual presence of Jesus in my heart and life.

Blessings,

Mimi

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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November 23, 2016 · 2:54 pm

Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin: Week 9

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Good Morning!

The study, Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin, concludes today. All of the posts for this series can be found under the Bible Studies Archive tab. Our journey began with Jesus teaching a litany of blessings available to those who choose to live humbly and obediently to God. And now at the close, Jesus concludes his sermon with a series of contrasts that challenge the listener to choose which path their life will take and the type of faith foundation that endures.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13,14

In this passage, we are presented with two gates and two roads. The similarity between the two, however, ends there. Jesus encourages us to seek the entrance to the small gate and to walk the narrow road but warns that few find the entrance. Instead, he states most will enter through the wide gate and walk the broad road leading to destruction. We are given a choice to choose who we will become and how we will walk out our faith. Ms. Wilkin taught on the video that the Father is most concerned about the changing of our hearts and the process of becoming people who make right choices. She stated that the person who walks the narrow path is the one who makes right decisions based on wisdom. In walking this narrow road of sanctification, she also taught that we should expect to be in the moral minority. We considered many cross references this week in regard to this portion of scripture. One of the verses we read is found in John’s gospel. In John 10:9, we read that Jesus is the gate. The opening that few will find. Salvation can only be found through him (Acts 4:12). He alone is the path to life.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15-20

A prophet’s job is to act as an intermediary by sharing the message(s) given by God to him/her with others. Jesus warns his followers that some prophets will appear to be God-people but in reality they’re false. The root of their faith and their inward life is far from Him. By their message, they can influence and prevent others from entering the narrow way  which leads them astray. These verses reflect back to the passages from last week on hypocrites. However, these deceivers are more dangerous. Unlike a hypocrite who may or may not realize how they’re behaving, the false prophet, who is actually a ferocious wolf, may know their intention. The Arabian wolf, according to Wikipedia, doesn’t live in a large pack but hunts in a group of no more than four. They don’t howl so their presence is not detected. These creatures are known for their treachery, ferocity, and bloodthirsty nature. A false prophet may have an agenda that they seek to achieve which reflects the predatory nature of the wolf.

Jesus gives us an insight into detecting their true nature. In these verses, he tells us that these false prophets can be recognized by their fruit. Ms. Wilkin shared that not having first hand knowledge of scripture primes a person for the acceptance of false teaching. Discernment is a necessary tool in the arsenal of a Christian. We should know truth so we can recognize when truth is twisted. As we learned in our reading from Hebrews this week, we need to feed ourselves on solid food, train ourselves in righteousness, and become mature in faith to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:11-14). Bad fruit can not stand against the word of God. I highly encourage the weighing and testing of all teaching that you hear. An excellent biblical example is the Bereans who tested everything they heard (Acts 17:11).

True followers of Christ sometimes make mistakes but they have no desire to lead anyone astray. On the other hand, the fruit of false teachers can be recognized in several ways: the distortion of the word of God, the relaxation of obedience to God and living right before Him, the denial that the broad way leads to destruction, and the lack of acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord and Savior. These persons may make the claim of Christianity but the actual practice of living faith is not seen in their lives. One school of thought that the disciples contended with as they sought to establish the early church was gnosticism. John combats this heretical line of thinking in his epistle 1 John. As Jesus states in Matthew 12:34,35; “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus reiterates and warns his listeners that a relationship with him is the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven. We are responsible for our own faith and our own choice. The faith of a teacher, friend, or family member will not give us entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Entrance can only be gained through a relationship with Jesus and doing the will of God. Actions do not guarantee access. To know God, to do good deeds, and to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior puts us on the right narrow road to enter into his kingdom. But to know God, to do good and then to reject Jesus, prevents a person from entering.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

Both of these builders were building spiritual houses and heard the words of the Lord. Only one, though, acted upon the words heard. This builder had a strong foundation built upon the rock of Jesus ( 1 Peter 2:4-10). The other had a weak foundation built upon shifting sand. Both houses and builders appeared strong until a time of trial and crisis came. Then, their true quality was revealed. In our lifetime, we will face many obstacles, difficulties, trials, and suffering. We might face disappointment, illness, fear, doubt, and persecution for our faith. We might also experience good times filled with busyness, accomplishment, and wealth that could distract us becoming an obstacle in our life. How we endure these moments will reveal our faith’s foundation.

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:28,29

The teachers of the Law shared their knowledge and understanding of the Law with one another and then taught that understanding to the people. They had a collected authority. When Jesus went up the mountain, sat down, and began to teach, he taught with personal authority. He, as the Son of God, had the divine right to teach given by his Father. Jesus said of himself; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:7). He could teach truth because he is truth. The crowds were amazed. The disciples’ lives forever were changed. These words of Jesus recorded by Matthew are presented before us. How will you and I respond to the message of the Sermon on the Mount and to all we have learned? Will we be citizens of heaven or citizens of the world? Will we have a faith that lasts built upon a firm foundation? The choice we make has eternal consequences. By seeking a life of deeper obedience to God and loving others preferentially, we can live a life of righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through the study, Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin. I have learned much about pursuing a deeper obedience in my walk with Jesus. I hope you have too.

Blessings,

Mimi

References: The New Bible Study Series Matthew Volume One William Barclay; The New International Version Study Bible; biblegateway.com; blueletterbible.org; Wikipedia

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A Taste of Honey: Matthew 5:14 The Message

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November 16, 2016 · 2:27 pm

Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin: Week 8

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Good Morning!

The Bible has impacted society and culture in ways we don’t often realize. Some of the verses covered today may be very familiar to you and contain phrases known by Christians and non-Christians alike. Jesus directs his listeners’ attention towards their treatment of others and concludes with a summation on loving God and loving others.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

In his message, Jesus greatly expanded the Law and called for a deeper obedience. Both brothers had something in their eye hindering their sight. Jesus employed the use of sawdust and a plank to illustrate his point about judging others. Both obstacles were made from the same basic material. Jesus used the wood figuratively for sin. The person with the sawdust needed minor adjustments. But when viewed by the one with the plank in their eye, they needed major adjustments. The person with the plank had their sight completely obscured so their viewpoint wasn’t accurate. This person needed to remove the larger obstacle from their eye to see clearly. Jesus called for judging others with a correct lens. In our cross references this week, we learned that some judgments are proper and necessary like restoring those caught in a cycle of sin (Galatians 6:1) or turning back those have have wandered away from the faith( James 5:19,20). We, however, have a tendency to judge others with the wrong lens. We use our own self justification. We need to consider if we are quick to condemn or find fault against another without checking our own intentions. Ms. Wilkin suggested we examine ourselves and gave the following questions; Are we righteous and fair in our dealing with others? Does this judgment bring about restoration or condemnation? Do I hold others lovingly accountable to live rightly before God? Or do I find fault with everyone? Do I want what is in the best interest for that person? Do I hold myself to a high standard and give others grace?

The disciples were instructed to love and care for each other, to accept their own differences and to show mercy. They were living examples reflecting the kingdom of God to others. These men were to live their lives carefully and guardedly against self-righteousness. When the crowds heard the message, some took these words to heart and walked faithfully. Others, however, fell away because of the sacrificial commitment to live as Jesus commanded. The scribes and Pharisees were the self righteous and the hypocrites of their day. Jesus called them to account while maintaining a great compassion for them.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

Jesus took direct aim at the scribes and Pharisees in this verse. Dogs deny truth and pigs twist truth. Sometimes, we don’t realize we’re in a tug of war with a dog and his bone until we hold the short end. Or, we don’t realize we’re dealing with pigs until we wallow in the mud with them. Jesus knew and understood what his followers would face. In this verse, he instructed them to not waste their efforts on those who refused his message. Jesus also emphasized the importance of the use of discernment to determine those who don’t want to hear the Gospel message. We need to value the Word. Dogs and pigs don’t appreciate the sacred or the holy. Once an attempt has been made to share the message of Jesus with them and the message has been rejected, move on. The phrase, “So many books, so little time, ” can be applied with a little retooling to this teaching: So many souls to save, so little time.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8

By this point in the Sermon on the Mount, the disciples would’ve become overwhelmed with all Jesus had taught. These words were major challenges and corrections to all they had ever known. Ms. Wilkin shared that some of the disciples may have felt the need for hope, patience, courage, or faith. Jesus reminded them that the blessed must turn to God. We are to build a continuous and ongoing relationship with him. Our persistence in seeking Him grows our trust and faith in Him.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9-12

Jesus often taught using elements familiar to his audience. A loaf of bread’s size during the time of Jesus compares to our modern day dinner roll. The appearance of the bread resembles the stones found along the seashore in Galilee. Perhaps Jesus motioned towards them on the ground during his delivery of these verses.

In this passage, Jesus compares and contrasts the actions of a human father towards his child with our heavenly Father’s actions towards His children. A good father doesn’t mock or cruelly tease his hungry child with things that can’t satiate the child’s hunger. A good father will do all he can to provide nourishment for his child and keep them free from harm. God, our good Father, doesn’t give only ‘good’ like a human father does, He gives greater. Because of my relationship with the Father, I have confidence to persistently ask for things in prayer knowing He will respond. Ms. Wilkin stated that Jesus takes the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) to a different level. He turned the focus from what wasn’t being done (which was reminiscent of the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees) to what was being done. Jesus focused on doing the good. Ms. Wilkin taught that we want preferential treatment not fair treatment. She ascertains that Jesus said to give others better than they deserve because that is how God treated us. How can God change the way we view others so that we treat them as we want to be treated? We ask Him to help us see them as He does and love them through Him. Loving God and loving others sums up the Law and the Prophets.

We move into our final week of lessons from the Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin today. Begin Week 9. If you’d like to start at the beginning or find a specific lesson, check under the Bible Studies Archive tab. Finish well- You can do it!

Blessings,

Mimi

 References: The New Bible Study Series Matthew Volume One William Barclay; The New International Version Study Bible; biblegateway.com; blueletterbible.org

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