The Purpose of Praise

Posted in Sermons, Uncategorized on January 3, 2016 by rundalel

This morning I was given the opportunity to present the sermon at my church – Christ’s Church of the Valley in Palmdale, California. Here is my text:

Praise the Lord Church! …..

The first time I heard Mykel stand up here at 10 am and yell out “Praise the Lord – Church!” – I don’t remember what I did… I know what was thinking –I was thinking, “don’t tell me what to do – I’ll praise the Lord when I’m good and ready” I probably you know, clapped, or said Amen…

You know what I missed? I missed it.  Mykel was giving me a reminder about something I already knew. The key to beginning a church service is to offer up praise!

This is supposed to be a “Worship Service” We start by singing “worship songs” Without praise, though, there is no worship…. So this morning I want to speak about praise. I want to focus mostly on Why we praise.

I will tell you the short answer now. We praise because it helps us to abide – or – when we praise we enter the presence of the Lord!

On the night that Jesus was about to be crucified, one of the last things that Jesus taught his disciples was that they were to abide in him. The key to their success as believers, and followers, the key to their success in spreading the gospel. The key to OUR success in any of these things is that we are to abide in him.

John 15:4 – 5 English Standard Version (ESV)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Side note: The Friday night study we do at our house on Fridays is about to begin a two part study. The second part is called “secrets of the vine” which really unpacks (as Bill would say) Jesus teaching about Him being the vine and we are the branches and how it is that we bear fruit…..

As I go further I want to look at the connection between Praise and abiding or remaining in God’s presence.

I actually want to start by looking at a very old Christmas song.  It is one of the Christmas songs I like to lead each year. When I listen to the words and hear the melody as it is traditionally sung, I imagine it being sung by monks – ancient monastery choir. Indeed the text goes back to as early as the year 800 and the song itself seems to date back to the 1200s.

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here,
until the Son of God appear!
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
shall come to thee O Israel,

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Messiah, Son of God, appear
and free us from the guilt of sin, and fear.
Restore us, come and walk by our side,
For in Your Presence we long to abide,
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Has come to thee, O Israel.

Another side note – We all realize that “Israel” refers to everyone, not just Israel. Israel did not even exist when the song was written. The text laments about the lost state of Israel and in extension… all the rest of us.

 

The imagery of the song is pretty gloomy:

a “captive Israel”,   in “exile”,

under “Satan’s Tyranny”,

in the “gloomy clouds of night”

in need of saving from the “grave”

in need of saving from the very “depth’s of hell.”
The song describes a bleak and desperate situation. The song describes a people at a time when they were very lost. Indeed before Christ, we were very lost! We were like goldfish that had jumped out of our bowl and we were flopping around on the counter waiting to either die or be rescued.

One time I had a goldfish. Its bowl was on the counter between the kitchen and dining area. One day after coming home from being gone all afternoon I noticed the goldfish bowl empty. I looked around on the counter and on the floor and could not find the fish. It was a mystery. We did not have a cat…  Hours later I went over to the sink and moved a dish and the thing started flopping! I scooped him up and threw him back in his bowl. He lived a good long while after that.

That goldfish, laying under the edge of dish in the kitchen sink was just like all of mankind before Christ came to us. Before Christ rescued us. Now the goldfish, out of the water was unable to breathe, he was going to die.  But why exactly where we just as desperate? How were we captive? What were we lost from?

We were lost from God! On the way to the cross Jesus taught the disciples to abide… To remain in HIS presence… He was about to make this possible. Without him, before Him…. we were banned from His very presence!

Let me back up from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden of Eden….

Ever wonder about what was so special about the Garden of Eden?

I imagine it was spectacular. It had to be beautiful and green. There were four rivers. Perhaps waterfalls! Birds singing in the trees! But do you suppose it was the ONLY beautiful spot God made on the entire face of the earth? I don’t think so. The things that made Eden special were the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree of life, and the fact that GOD was there! Eden was the place God made for Himself – to share with Adam and Eve. In fact, Ezekiel and Isaiah both refer to Eden as the Garden of God!

God made Adam and Eve and God placed them in His Garden. He placed them where He was… In His Presence. So, Jesus taught that we are supposed to abide He was teaching us to get back into His presence….. Just like we had been way back “In the Beginning.”

Now here is a thought that may not have occurred to you….. When a designer or manufacture makes a produce he makes that product for a particular purpose and to work within a particular environment. He places the product within its intended environment and he expects it to fulfill its purpose! He realizes that the product will only function correctly and will only fulfill its purpose if the product stays in the environment it was designed for!

We were designed to abide! We were designed to remain in the presence of God. If Man had procreated and never sinned we would have spread out over the surface earth and God would have continued to walk with us. His spirit would have always been with every one of us!

Allow me to emphasize this some more. God designed us to function in the environment of HIS PRESENCE! We were not designed to function correctly apart from HIS PRESENCE! A human, outside of the presence of God IS INDEED just like:

  • the fish flopping around, about to die, outside of its bowl.
  • A car attempting to drive across the ocean.
  • A boat attempting to make its way across the dry land.
  • A water lily trying to survive on a sand dune.
  • A rattlesnake trying to survive in Antarctica.
  • A Joshua Tree plant trying to live on top of Mt Everest.
  • Me trying to run to Australia

You get the idea, if you take any item or being that has been designed for one particular environment and you put it in another environment. The being or item is bound to fail.

Another side note….. when the product fails, you can’t blame the manufacturer…

Going back to the garden, you know the story. You know what happened. We chose to listen to Satan – or the worm, we tried to exalt ourselves. We sinned. We became mortal, and we got banished from the Garden of Eden. Now, the worst part of being banished from the Garden was that we lost the right to be in God’s presence. We were kicked out of the environment that we were designed for. We were doomed to failure.

Why did God have to remove us from His presence? It has to do with the very nature of God. God is not mean or vindictive. God is perfect, God is Holy, and to be exposed to anyone or anything that is not perfect would make Him unholy, or imperfect. If God were not perfect He would no longer be God, therefore for His sake and in extension our own sakes He had to separate himself from us. His angels actually guard his presence to protect His Holiness. Throughout the Old Testament there are stories about God coming down to be near to us, but we were never allowed to be too close. If someone accidently came too close they died.

But let’s look at that 4th verse of the song, once again:

O come, Messiah, Son of God, appear
and free us from the guilt of sin, and fear.
Restore us, come and walk by our side,
For in Your Presence we long to abide,
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Has come to thee, O Israel.

The song uses two names for Jesus. Jesus or in aramaic Yeshua means God Saves. The song identifies Him as Messiah – which means “the promised person sent to do the saving”. The song also calls Him Emmanuel which means God with us.

Jesus who was the Messiah, carried out God’s plan of salvation. He freed us from the guilt of sin. As sinless beings we can once again be Holy! Through this salvation Jesus made it so that He could be “God WITH US” – Emmanuel. He restored us so that we could once walk by His side. Through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ and the work He did for us on the cross, we can once again be in God’s presence.

Amen…. That’s the Gospel!  So, What has this to do with praise?

God’s original plan for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was that He have a relationship with them. He wanted them to be like sons and daughters. They were to have dominion over the earth. Through salvation we are offered forgiveness and He offers to restore to us this same relationship!

God still wants the relationship. God wants that relationship NOW! Jesus did not save us so that we could be in His presence SOME DAY! He did not save us so that we could believe and then hang out here on earth and wait until the roll is called up yonder, one fine day, when we’ll fly away and meet him in the air – SOME DAY!  Jesus came and saved us and sent His Holy Spirit so that we can abide with him so that we could be in His presence, so that we could restore that relationship HERE and NOW! Jesus has restored our environment so that we can restore the relationship!

Here is where praise comes in.

The Holy Spirit is a spirit. He is a presence that we cannot experience with our senses. We cannot touch, see, or hear him. Jesus promised that He would be with us, and He is, but how do we go about realizing HIM?  How do we sense His presence?

PRAISE THE LORD CHURCH! 

PRAISE is the action we do to REALIZE GOD’S GOD’S PRESENCE! Notice the word REALIZE… to make real.  We could say – Praise is the action we do to make God’s Presence real to us.

Here is what is often the missing ingredient; IMAGINATION. Yes, Imagination. Not like making up something that is not real. The actual definition of imagination is the faculty or action of forming ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

Praise is the action we do connected with active use of our imagination to experience the REAL presence of God. ……. We have been taught that we are to Worship God with all our Heart, all our Soul, and all our mind. Imagination is part of using our mind.

The action part of praise can take many forms: Here are some of the Biblical forms of praise.

  • singing,
  • speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,
  • teaching one another,
  • shouting,
  • making a joyful noise,
  • prayer and thanksgiving,
  • standing,
  • kneeling,
  • clapping our hands,
  • dancing,
  • uplifted hands,
  • making music on instruments,
  • tithing,
  • partaking of communion

 

Praise is anything we do to prepare ourselves to be in God’s presence. It is anything we do to recognize that fact that God IS IN OUR PRESENCE.

SO, the answer to why we praise is to return to God’s presence, our intended environment.  When should we praise?

It is critical that we constantly praise! As long as we praise, we remain in God’s presence AND we REALIZE IT. He will be there whether we praise or not, but if we do not praise we will not realize it. Furthermore, As long as we praise we are saints! Think about it. How can you choose to sin while at the same time choosing to think about praising God? Paul said, “Pray without ceasing!” The more you pray, the more you have an ongoing conversation with God, the more active your imagination of God walking with you through your day, the more difficult it will be to mess up. Sinning, in the realized presence of God would be like stealing a cookie from the cookie jar while having a conversation in the kitchen with your mother. How can you be in conversation with God one moment and the next choose to sin? In order to do so you have to deliberately choose to tune him out of your presence. “Mom, can you step out of the kitchen for a moment?” Of course you are only imagining He is not there!  How has that been working for you?

If we are to Remain in God’s presence we must PRAY OR PRAISE WITHOUT CEASING – we must learn to praise on our own.

When we come together on a typical Sunday morning we PRAISE. We gather together and sing, we clap our hands, we lift hands, we pray – we offer thanksgiving, we listen to the preaching of the word. All of these activities are activities we do which praise God.

But since I lead singing, I want to use the rest of my time here. When we sing we are opening up our hearts, our soul, OUR MIND’S – our imagination, to the fact that God is here. And I have learned over the last couple of years that there are different philosophies behind how this is done…

Being someone who is much more analytical than emotional I have always been drawn to songs primarily by their lyrics. I love songs whose lyrics somehow reach me. The make me think. There could have a clever way of saying something – like “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”  They could teach or remind of doctrine like many of the hymns or the Christmas Song. They could verbally build a sense of the power and might of God such as Shout to the Lord, How Great is Our God, or “This Kingdom” – the chorus says

And this kingdom will know no end.   And it’s glory shall know no bounds
For the majesty and power   Of this Kingdom’s King has come
And this Kingdom’s reign    And this Kingdom’s rule
And this Kingdom’s power and authority
Jesus God’s righteousness revealed

It is easy for me to use the words of a song to imagine His presence.

But our brains are not all wired the same. I am learning to appreciate songs aimed at drawing out an emotion. Many connect more easily to their emotional side and can use songs to do so.  Some songs can have a simple message that leads to highly emotional response:

This is the air I breathe, This is the air I breath, Your Holy presence, living in me,

This is my daily bread, This is my daily bread, Your very word, spoken to me.

And I am desperate for you…… And I am lost without you!

Music is a powerful tool. It connects to the brain in many ways. I have read some science behind how music combines more areas of the brain than just about anything else you do… but in order for it to be praise the participants need to realize that God is right there. He is inhabiting the atmosphere of His praises. Without the realization of God’s presence it is just music.

Psalms 22:3 says that God INHABITS the praises of His People. A PRAISE TEAM therefore, uses lyrics, melody, rhythm, harmony, emotion, the playing of instruments and the mood that these things create. The team and the congregation build an atmosphere – a place where God’s presence can and does abide. The words, the music, the facial expressions, the body language, the clapping and the raising of hands all work together. We emphasize God. We imagine His presence.  Together we REALIZE the very presence of God. We praise God – We Worship God.

I want to wrap this up with by attempting to differentiate the words praise and worship. Webster defines worship as the act of showing respect and love for a God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God. Sounds pretty much like what we have been talking about. Praise and Worship are almost interchangeable. Dr. Myles Munroe, from whom I have stolen the “presence” idea for this sermon, defines a subtle difference.  Praise is the act we do to recognize God’s presence. It is a mind thing. Worship is when we feel God’s presence – it is more of a heart and soul thing.

Funny thing, while I love to praise by singing, for me worship can lead to silence. When I have been free to relax and really just sing, it sometimes leaves me unable to sing. It typically happens for me when I am not leading. This stoical guy gets pretty emotional. I’ll be in some place, the band will be playing one of my favorite songs, I’m free from worries about all the stuff that goes on up on the stage, my arms may be raised up in the air, I’m probably off to myself a bit. I’m definitely singing as loud as I can..…. then God strikes me dumb. I get all choked up. I can’t sing. I just stand there and tear up and pray, “God, please let me sing to you.” He restores my composure and I get to sing again for a while… Worship can be powerful.

 

SO GO AHEAD, PRAISE!

SING, SPEAK, MAKE JOYFUL NOISES, STAND, CLAP, RAISE YOUR HANDS, PRAY, EXPRESS THANKFULNESS, DANCE, PLAY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, TITHE

DO THESE THINGS WITH YOUR MIND REALIZING THE PRESENCE OF GOD!

YOU WERE DESIGNED TO DWELL IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD.

IN HIS PRESENCE YOU CAN’T SIN.

IF YOU HAVE NEVER ACCEPTED JESUS DO SO NOW, THE PASTOR WILL SOON GIVE AN INVITATION TO DO SO. YOU WILL HAVE YOU SINS FORGIVEN YOU’LL REGAIN THE ABILITY TO GO HOME, TO GO BACK TO THE ENVIRONMENT YOU WERE DESIGNED FOR, TO GO BACK TO GOD’S PRESENCE.

ONCE YOU HAVE SALVATION, and for those of us who already do, REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE TO ACT OUT GOD’S PRESENCE. HE IS WITH YOU, BUT IF YOU DON’T THINK ABOUT HIM, IF YOU DO NOT REALIZE HIM, FOR ALL PRACTICLE PURPOSES, YOU HAVE LEFT HIS PRESENCE! WHAT GOOD IS HE THEN TO YOU AS YOU GO THROUGH YOUR DAY!

SO GO AHEAD! PRAISE THE LORD CHURCH! STAY IN HIS PRESENCE.

 

Truth Project III

Posted in Truth Project on June 8, 2014 by rundalel

In 2009 my Friday night Bible study went through the Truth Project….. twice….. in a row….. We considered it to be so deep, so extensive and so important that we went through it twice to ensure we could glean as much as possible out of it. Last night, almost 5 years later we have begun The Truth Project Again…..

The speaker begins making the point that his goal is for us to come face to face with the Living God! This is quite a goal. Funny how my blog write up of the previous viewings does not include this point. This was his “fundamental point” and I failed to include it. The lesson begins with the question, “For what reason did Jesus say that He came into this world?”  The teacher asks his students and they give all kinds of good, but ultimately wrong answers. Jesus told Pilate, during his trail that He came into this world to “Testify to the Truth!

The goal of The Truth Project is to see the truth claims of God and compare them to the lies put forth by the world. These truths will be in every area we can imagine. We understand that the world does not believe Christianity’s truth about such theological questions like is there a God, who is Jesus, what must one do to be saved, or is salvation even necessary. But the truth claims of God and the corresponding lies of the world are not restricted to the field of religion. The Bible has much to say about family, economics, science, history, sociology…. etc. and the world is doing its best to present opposing beliefs in EVERY area. This will be very interesting to see..

In this introductory lesson there were a couple of other ideas that stood out. He discussed faith. Lots of people say that they have faith. I know someone who once got a tattoo saying faith. The important thing about faith though is the One you have faith in. To the world it seems sufficient to have faith in anything or even to have faith in faith itself.  This is nonsense. Faith is trust. What exactly do you trust? What exactly is your faith in? If it is in God and the Truth He has presented your faith is meaningful and powerful. If you have faith in faith itself , you are trusting in the concept of trusting something without anything actually there to support that trust. There was a video of a child jumping into a pool to the arms of his waiting mother. Faith, like a child, placed on something dependable, something substantive – mom. We also must have faith, simple, and sure, placed on some One dependable, someone ultimately substantive – God.

The teacher then asked do we really believe, that what we believe is really real? Do we really believe God? Do we really believe what He has to say? Do we really depend on Him for the things He has told us to depend on Him for? Do we know he is our Author, Creator, Provider, Healer, Savior….. and much more? Too many Christian, I believe, have faith in Jesus to be their Savior, but do not understand or trust Him to be everything else….

Can’t let it go? Lost Sheep and “Free-Willers”

Posted in Bible Study on May 18, 2014 by rundalel

Funny, I write here how I am going to let the Sovereign God /Free Will debate go and in less than a week it is thrust back into my face.  The subject came up at least 3 times this week. Friends of my daughter made a couple of statements regarding our inability to believe unless we are called (implying that unbelievers are therefore not called.) My family met to celebrate my dad’s 85th birthday and somehow it came up again. I do not recall how, or why, but I remember stating that I simply do not see or understand the point of it…. that is Calvinism and its 5 TULIP points of doctrine. I do not see it taught in scripture and no one has shown me a single scripture that has led me start to think along those lines. (See previous posts for my discussion of the scriptures I have investigated.)  Finally, I am sitting at my computer minding my own business when my wife asks a question she is reading from hers.  She was reading something someone had written declaring that a “free – will” believer (I believe she used the word “free-willer”) could have no answer to Matthew 18 – the parable of the lost sheep.

My first thought was why WOULD a  “free-willer” need an answer to the parable of the lost sheep?  What does that parable have to do with free will?  I tried not to engage, but my wife clearly wanted my thoughts so I gathered my first thoughts and they were as follows:

1) Jesus leaves the 99 sheep to go after the 1 who has gone astray. All of the sheep are his. All 100 sheep are His. One of His sheep is lost and He is going after it.  These sheep, all 100 of them are obviously already his, they represent those who are already believers.  The parable says nothing about how Jesus chooses sheep for His flock or about how a sheep chooses to join it.

2) Furthermore, if you are going to read into the parable that Jesus going after the one is His calling of the one, that it is His choosing of the one for grace, belief and salvation; IF you read into it that way you are left with the implication that there are other sheep who have gone astray and Jesus does not go after them.  This is my biggest problem with the reformed doctrine. The 5 points lead to the one point – limited atonement – that is that God chooses not to save some – that God creates people, born into sin, helpless to keep from sin, and then condemns them for it.  The Bible clearly teaches that God is just and loving to all. He cannot be unjust and unloving in this way.

Today, I have obviously chosen to write about this. I went searching for what my wife was looking at. I found it on the Facebook wall of a friend. A friend who disagrees with me on all of this, but who is still my friend.  I also opened the scripture to investigate it a little more clearly.

Let’s look at the context.  You cannot learn from a parable without knowing why Jesus taught it. The context of this parable stretches from the very beginning of Chapter 18. You can tell because of Jesus use of the phrase “little ones.”  Here is a synopsis of the parable in its context:

The disciples ask Jesus who would be greatest in the kingdom. Jesus replies that to be great in the kingdom you have to become like a little child. He then goes on to talk about those who would make the “little ones” stumble. He gives a stern warning to anyone who might do something to cause a “little one” to stumble. He then says that He would leave the 99 to go find that one.  He concludes His thought with the promise that God is not willing to let any of these “little ones” perish (Matthew 18:14)

So, my first thought on this parable seems to be correct. Jesus is talking here about how He seeks after those who are already His and have been led astray. The “lost sheep” portion does not address how to become one of His sheep. Earlier in the passage it says that we have to become like a “little one” to enter the kingdom of heaven. So, to become one of his sheep we have to become child like. We have to have a simple faith, child – like, trusting.  We also have to be willing to humble ourselves to the lowly position of a child.

There is one interesting side note within the parable. It says “IF” He finds the sheep, not “WHEN” He finds the sheep. He has left open the possibility that that sheep is never found.  How can an all powerful God fail to find something? He can’t. The only way God can be all powerful and not find the sheep is for God to choose to give the sheep the choice of being found……

Here is the heart of the problem. Reformed thinkers cannot reconcile God willing people to have will.  They equate man’s choice with a reduction in God’s power.  I don’t get it.  I see no problem with an All Powerful, All Knowing, All Loving God CHOOSING to let His creation have a choice.  It seems to me that God displays even more power, knowledge and love by letting us have our choices, letting us do the things we are designed to do, yet still working out the billions of billions of things that could happen to actually happen in a way that suits HIS purpose.

Amazing God

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2014 by rundalel

I have not adding anything to this blog in quite some time…. Its main purpose so far has been to serve as a place to deposit my thoughts and research on free-will verses the sovereignty of God doctrine. This has probably not been so beneficial for me. It has left me a little frustrated. I don’t understand why there should be such confusion and disparity among the ranks…… but for now, I am going to let this go…..

God is Amazing. As a science teacher I enjoy teaching basic astronomy as part of the 8th grade curriculum. I enjoy it because it points to God. It is patently obvious. You have this theory that I have heard described as “the most well supported theory in all of science” and it points to a creator God. Let me interject a definition here: Theory – hypothesis that is supported by evidence. This is the definition we use in class. So, we have this theory, the Big Bang theory, and they say it is the most supported theory in all of science. And that theory says that there was a beginning. The universe has a beginning and science has no theory to go any further. Sure, there are hypotheses, like multiple universes, which try to explain the beginning of “our” universe, but the evidence remains. Our universe had a beginning and science has no theory to explain its cause.  As a believer, though, God is obviously the Cause. The whole universe and everything in it makes sense if you simply believe that there is a God and that God meets two criteria. God is eternally self existent (no one created this God and this God has existed forever) and God is capable of creating everything (matter and energy) from nothing.

I look at nature and I see the amazing creativity of this God! I went to San Diego this last weekend and visited Sea World. I saw Penguins and Puffins. I saw sharks and I saw fishes. I saw whales and I saw dolphins. I saw flamingos. Is there any other bird who’s knees bend backward? I saw an aquarium full of freshwater fish. It was beautiful. These fish came in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and patterns of colors. All the fish were designed (or some would say adapted) for the same environment. It struck me….. if one fish came upon one environment and evolved. It would remain one type of fish. If multiple types of fish were competing to evolve into the same environment, survival of the fittest would say that only the best adapted would survive. How would we get such variety out of this? I do not claim to be an expert on biology or evolution…. but variety does not make sense.

We also went whale watching. We saw dolphins play in the wake of the boat. We saw Sea Lions sunning themselves on the rocks. We did see a mother and calf gray whale, at a distance. The behavior of the animals was thought provoking. Mom kept her child at a distance. The Sea Lions were near to the boat and to people. They seemed like people just wanting to lay out in the sun. The dolphins were even nearer to the boat and to the people. What “survival instinct” would cause them to come and play with the boat. At first I thought that they were simply smart enough to take a free ride on the boat’s wake to get wherever they were already heading. But the boat circled and criss crossed the group several times and the dolphins mostly stayed with the boat. The seemed to be enjoying their time racing with the boat. Once again, what survival instinct could this be? No, it seemed to be for fun. Perhaps like the humans surfing or skiing enjoying the thrill of the fast motion of the bodies through or on the water.

On Sunday we visited Carlsbad’s Flower Fields. I was reminded of a line from a Sandy Patty song back in the 80s. The line said something about the fact that God could have made our world black and white, and we’d have never known…. But no, our Amazing God made things with great variety and He made things in COLOR! I believe He intended it for His and our enjoyment.  Hallelujah (Yeah God!)

Here are a few pics from our trip…..

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Day 2 – Lord’s Prayer part 2

Posted in Bible Study on March 2, 2013 by rundalel

Day 2 is on the Lord’s prayer again. This time I read the passage from Luke 11: 1-12: One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father,[ahallowed be your name, your kingdom come.[bGive us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[cAnd lead us not into temptation.[d]’” Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

So in Matthew, the Lord’s prayer is preceded with instructions for privacy and brevity in prayer. In Luke, the Lord’s prayer  is followed by a call for persistence. It seems almost contradictory. Digging a little deeper, you see some interesting other scriptures. The Matthew text was cross referenced (in the Amplified Bible) to I Kings 18 where Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to “cooking” contest.  The prophets of baal “prayed” all day long, repeating themselves over and over again and baal never lit their sacrificial fire. Elijah’s prayer was one sentence: “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You, the Lord, are God, and have turned their hearts back” (I Kings 18:37)  I find it interesting that the recorded prayer does not even actually ask for God to light the fire. God already knew what Elijah wanted.

So Elijah, in comparison to the prophets of baal, shows a clear example of brevity in prayer. But Jesus’ words in Luke call for persistence.  more to follow….

Prayer #1

Posted in Bible Study, Uncategorized on March 2, 2013 by rundalel

I bought a new phone. I have been using a Galaxy S for 2 1/2 years now. One app on the phone was the YouVersion Bible app. It’s an awesome app but it was so big the phone could barely run it. Now I have a Galaxy 3. The app works much better. So I started a new reading plan. The plan chosen has a selection about prayer every day. I chose this reading plan because prayer is something I have been wondering about.

Prayer has been puzzling me for a few years now. I have had people around me emphasize the sovereignty of God so much that I wonder…. If God is sovereign as in,  “in control of each and every little detail of each and every little thing”, than hasn’t He already predestined everything anyway? If so, why does God want me to pray? What am I supposed to pray for? Do I ask for things, for me and my friends? God already know what I need.

What about group prayer? What is its purpose? How should it be done?  What about prayer chains? I am on our church’s prayer chain. I get more requests everyday than I seem to be able to deal with. I get requests and I pray. But, usually I just end feeling guilty because I usually don’t really know who I am praying for or what they really, really need. My prayer chain prayers end up being very short and I cannot help but suspect, ineffectual.

Even so, here goes: As I go through these verses on prayer, I want to ask myself 3 things:

1. What does this passage day about my private prayers to God?
2. What does this passage say about prayers in and with a group.
3. What does this passage say about something like a prayer chain.

Passage 1:
Yesterday I read the from Matthew 6, v 5 through 14

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,[abut deliver us from the evil one.[b]’ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  

This is the Lord’s Prayer passage. Jesus tells his disciples three things: first, pray in private, as opposed to praying for the purpose of getting others attention, second, pray succinctly, as opposed to repeating words or phrases over and over, and finally,  Jesus gave his disciples they Lord’s prayer.

Q1: Already I find it clear that Jesus wants me to pray. In fact, His apostles took this as a foregone conclusion. They were not asking if they should pray, they were asking how. Jesus tells them as outlined above.

I was happy to read about the use of few words. That is right in my wheelhouse. I prefer to keep things short and simple. I get impatient when others don’t get to their point. The passage also commented that God would reward us for what we do in private. Jesus didn’t say the reward was the answer we want from our prayer, He just said that God would reward us.

Jesus comments that God already knows what we need. Yet in his example prayer He leads them to pray for their needs: daily bread. I notice that there is nothing in here about praying for things I want…

Q2: and Q3: I cannot see how this passage would lead anyone to group prayer or a prayer chain. This passage is all about an individual getting alone with God to refocus that individual on who God is and how God provides with daily sustenance, protection from sin and forgiveness.

How to be one of Jesus Sheep….

Posted in Bible Study on March 12, 2012 by rundalel

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows his sheep and they know Him. This is one of the ways that Jesus describes our relation as believers with Him. It is not the only way he describes our relationship. A couple of others that come to mind include bridegroom (Jesus) and bride (believers) or even to be yoked to Him as in a pair of Oxen.  But, let me get back to the sheep and shepherd analogy. If Jesus is the Shepherd I certainly want to be one of the sheep.

John 10:3 states that the Shepherd calls his sheep by name. Again in John 10:14 Jesus states “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  The parable ends at verse 21 without any clarification about how to become one of the sheep.

The next passage though, brings it up again. Some people ask Jesus to tell them plainly if He is the Messiah. He replied that He had told them but that they did not believe. He goes on to say that they do not believe because they are not His sheep. If they were His sheep they would listen to His (the Shepherd’s) voice. Jesus adds that the sheep were given to Him by the Father.

So, at this point you could look at it two ways:

1) God has selected certain people to be sheep. He has caused or will cause them to believe. Once they do they will be one of Jesus sheep.

2) Certain people believe, and others don’t.  God chooses to give those who believe to Jesus and they are His sheep.

Now, verse 26 states that they did not believe because they were not His sheep. So it may seem that selection has to come before belief. You cannot, however, come to that conclusion based on this one phrase alone. This phrase would be like President Obama saying that I do not believe (agree with) him because I am not an Obama supporting democrat (his sheep, if you will.) That statement makes perfect sense but does not explain my reason for being or not being a supporter of Obama.

To select from the two options we will need to look further. But, before we do let me clarify the consequence of the first option. If God selected those who were to be His sheep before they believed, and caused them to believe. Then one’s eternal position as sheep or goat is entirely up to God. If He eternally condemns those who are not His sheep, He is condemning those not based on their choice, but His. This would not, in my opinion, fit with the entirety of scripture where God seeks to save ALL. God Loves ALL.

Here is a supporting thought. As Jesus was dying on the cross He asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. The people crucifying Him would have included those Pharisees who were already told that they were not His sheep. Why would He do that? If these Pharisees (and most of the Roman soldiers for that matter) were not His sheep and they were never going to be believers than what would be the point of forgiving them? There would be no point! They are not His sheep and they do not hear His voice and they have no possible chance of ever becoming one.  No, the point of forgiving them would be in case they chose to believe – like the one Roman Centurion. Jesus forgave all and because of this one believed and that one was saved.

A better clarification of all of this come in John chapter 6.  The people ask what they must do and Jesus replies that they need to believe in Him. (John 6: 28 and 29)  The unbelieving people ask for a sign. They suggest something like the manna from heaven as in the time of Moses. Jesus replaces the bread with Himself. He states that “I am the Bread of Life.”  He goes on to flatly tell them that though He is right in front of them – they don’t believe. Now verse 37 is going to sound a lot like verse 10:26 we have discussed above. Jesus states: ” All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”   Here again it could look like God is selecting some and giving them to Jesus. Furthermore, in verse 44 Jesus  says that no one can come to Him unless they are drawn by the Father. But in this passage Jesus also states that it is the will of the Father that all who look to the Son and believe, they will be saved!  So which is it? Is it my belief or is it selection by the Father?  The people Jesus were speaking to continued to grumble so He explained it to them. In verse 45 Jesus quotes from Isiah 54:13 to show how God’s selection and our belief come together: It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.”

So when the people grumbled in confusion regarding Jesus accusations of disbelief, when the people did not understand Jesus teaching about His followers being given to Him by the Father, Jesus taught clearly that ALL are taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father AND LEARNED from Him will go to Jesus.   Do you see it?  All are taught, Period. But everyone meeting the qualification of having heard and having learned something, they are the sheep. I am a teacher. I make sure that all of my students are taught. I cannot however force them to learn. To learn or not to learn is the choice of  each student. I hold them responsible for their choice to learn from me and to believe that which I am teaching them.

One more time, Jesus said that it is God’s will that all believe yet some do not. It is God’s action that all are taught. He has done His part and has left the choice to learn or not to learn, and believe or not to believe, up to us.