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ON THE MOUNTAIN

We don’t know exactly what Jesus did when he took off by himself for a few days every now and then. Scripture just says that he went up to the mountain to pray, so I guess we should take that at face value. Except I won’t, because I think whatever Jesus did on the mountain when he, according to scripture, went off by himself to pray needs to be talked about. Because we also need to be making our little escape trips every now and then, and what we do up there on our mountain should reflect what Jesus did on his.

Ministry work is oftentimes like performing – exhilarating and draining at the same time. It also puts you constantly in fast-forward mode, so that you’re never really you and never really in the moment. You’re always anticipating, always considering the impact of this or that word, this or that gesture, always aware that the spotlight is on you, exposing you, and that even as some people hang onto your every word, others are lurking in the background waiting for you to mess up. It’s like a tightrope act that requires you to be assiduously careful even while appearing to be carefree and spontaneous. Only there’s no safety net under you in ministry work, and when you fall, you may take others down with you.

It’s no surprise that Jesus needed to get away from the performance pressure every now and then, to realign himself with himself and with God. I think the Jesus who taught in the synagogues was not the same Jesus who taught his disciples privately and also not the same Jesus who spent time with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. These were all different Jesuses. I think the real Jesus is not in scripture and only appeared on the mountain when he was alone with himself and with God.

That is the Jesus that I want to get to know and that I’m getting to know – the Jesus on the mountain. There are flashes of him in scripture, but the real Jesus – the one God knows inside and out – is elusive because he can’t be captured in words. Imagine that – the Word can’t be captured in words! You need to get to know Jesus one-on-one, and only when you’re on your mountain, and only when you’re you.

It’s tempting to want to stay on your mountain, to just go there and stay there. I’m sure there were times when Jesus wanted to stay on his mountain and not go back down for the next performance or the next work shift. Remember that ministry, if done properly, is work. It’s not play. If you approach ministry work as something that should always be enjoyable, you’ll eventually give it up, and likely sooner than later. Jesus was very clear that he was doing his father’s work, not his father’s hobby or his father’s playtime. He was doing God’s work, and work is by definition mostly hard, tedious, and frustrating, even when it’s for God. It’s also done mainly for the reward, not for the work in and of itself.

Very few ministers talk about this, about how tedious and frustrating ministry work can be at times, and how the only way you can get through those times is to focus on your reward. In Jesus’ case, his was a Heavenly reward, and so is ours. Our reward will not be given to us on Earth for doing God’s work. Certainly, God will provide for us, in the same way as companies provide their employees with food, shelter, medical care, and other necessities when they work long shifts in remote locations, but our reward for our labour is in Heaven. Our paycheck is in Heaven. That’s what we’re aiming for and what we’re working for. Whatever God is providing for us now is not our reward. It’s our room and board.

There were times on the mountain when Jesus met with others from Heaven besides God. This was also one of the reasons why he went up to the mountain. He took a few of his disciples with him once to show them what he sometimes did there. The so-called transfiguration wasn’t a one-off event. I believe it happened many times, but only once was it witnessed by the disciples. Moses shone when he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, just like Jesus shone during the transfiguration. The remoteness of the mountain is ideal for meet-ups with Heavenly emissaries.

The different things Jesus might have done during his time on the mountain (and why he went up there in the first place) is something we need to think about because we need to be doing whatever he did if we’re to succeed at our ministry work. We need to take time every now and then (and we’ll know when it’s time to take time) to get back to ourselves as God knows us, not as the world knows us. We need to take time away from the performance exhilaration and the work tedium so that we can again, for a time, be who we are. We must never lose touch of who we are, as it is the true measure of our soul. We need to know where our soul is in relation to where it needs to be if we’re to be fit for Heaven.

So the next time you feel called to go up to the mountain to pray, make sure you go by yourself and make sure you be yourself. It’s a very great privilege and honor to be called exclusively into God’s presence over a period of days, to recoup and regroup as only can be done with God’s help and guidance. And who knows – you might even meet with a surprise guest or two while you’re up there.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance, and give thee peace.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 22 REFLECTION (PROVERBS 26 – ISAIAH 16:14)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 22: AUGUST 13

PROVERBS 26 – ISAIAH 16:14

LOVE ME SOME ISAIAH! You know it’s coming straight from God’s mouth when it feeds you in the way that only God can. That’s why Jesus was so effective in teaching and preaching – God spoke directly through him to the people in real-time. Isaiah was one of the “thus saith the Lord” prophets who heard from God first and then relayed what he heard later, but his words still have much of the same immediacy as Jesus’. You get the sense that they were written down as soon as God spoke them to him. That’s why they’re so fresh even after nearly 3000 years.

  • Compared to yesterday’s proverbs, Solomon really switches gears here in Ecclesiastes and then again in the Song of Solomon. I find Ecclesiastes very approachable and always learn from it, but the song leaves me scratching my head. There’s also a deep sadness that pervades Solomon’s writings. This is particularly evident in Ecclesiastes. I hesitate to call it depression, but it seems that even with all his wealth, power, wisdom and wives, Solomon was not a happy man. Maybe he had too much of everything. And maybe, judging from some of his words, he knew it.
  • I also find it very telling that many of Solomon’s proverbs mention how it is better to be poor with few cares than wealthy with many. He seemed to romanticize material poverty the way most poor people romanticize material wealth. In any case, something ultimately drove him into the arms of countless strange women, to be seduced there by their strange gods. This is not a happy ending. Solomon was renowned in life not for his joy and faith, but for his wealth and wisdom. His legacy is the same to this day. A tribute to Solomon in song is below the read-through schedule.
  • It’s no secret that Isaiah was Jesus’ favourite Olde Tyme prophet. When he came out as the Messiah in his hometown synagogue, Jesus stood up and read a passage from Isaiah as evidence that God’s Kingdom had come. For his trouble, he was immediately run out of town. We can see even from the few chapters we’ve read of Isaiah today that Jesus is all over it, as are descriptions of the Kingdom as a spiritual realm. Isaiah more than any other prophet made it very clear that Zion was a spiritual safe haven, not a geopolitical one. Jesus’ famous phrase “my kingdom is not of this world” is in large part premised on the writings of Isaiah.
  • Jesus learned from God directly what it meant to be the Messiah and what he had to do and accomplish and endure as the Messiah, but he also learned at the feet of Isaiah. Now we’re sitting there learning, too.
  • I find the passage about what it means to live in Zion (another name for God’s Kingdom on Earth) particularly inspiring:

16 And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left… like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.

12 And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.

Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

Isaiah 11:16-12

  • Jesus quoted and paraphrased Isaiah throughout the Gospels. For instance, Matthew 24, which is about the time of tribulation and judgement, includes verses from Isaiah 13, some word for word. We can know which of the prophets most heavily influenced Jesus by how often he quotes them, and Isaiah wins that prize hands down. I’m so looking forward to the next few days of Isaiah readings!

What are your impressions of today’s scripture? Does the Song of Solomon leave you scratching your head, or does it make sense to you? And what jumped out at you in Isaiah? For me, every time Isaiah mentions the remnant, I see him waving to me. We born-agains are the prophesied remnant and we live in spiritual Zion, which is God’s Kingdom on Earth. Jesus made that very clear, and so does Isaiah.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 13 REFLECTION (1 KINGS 12 – 2 KINGS 13:25)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 13: AUGUST 4

1 KINGS 12 – 2 KINGS 13:25

The back-sliding of Israel and Judah is vividly on display in today’s reading. I haven’t done a head count, but I’m pretty sure if I compared the number of kings who “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord” with those who “did right in the sight of the Lord”, there would be more doing evil than doing right. What happened to the children of Israel to make them turn from God and embrace demons?

  • A bit of a theme is developing of women leading men astray. We saw this in earlier readings all the way back to Adam and Eve, but it’s here again, most prominently with Jezebel leading Ahab astray. What is it with so many strong and beautiful women that they turn from God to follow demons, and what is with men that they are so easily swayed by these women? Is it just their beauty, or is there something else involved? I ask this as a woman. I sincerely ask this as a woman. I thought the children of Israel had set up a patriarchal social order? I thought women were considered inferior to men and incapable of ruling? And yet time and time again in scripture we see them ruling over their husband-kings, and not for the better.
  • Always a joy to read about Elijah and Elisha! They were both so matter-of-fact about slaughtering the demon-channeling prophets and getting ‘er done all in a day’s work. We have baalim worshipers today that bend the knee to Baal, only they go by the name of BLM supporters. (BLM = BaaLiM.) Steer clear of that temptation wrapped up as an alleged social justice virtue. God will deal with it and all those who follow it, after he gives them due time to repent. Nonetheless, it’s yet another clear indication of how far we’ve fallen as “former Christian” nations and how blind people are nowadays to the devil’s work.
  • Lots of miracles in this reading, especially by Elijah. Love how he made fun of the Baal prophets (the only way to deal with them) when Baal was M.I.A. no matter how much they cried out and cut themselves to get his attention. And how Elijah drowned the altar in water to make it impossible for any kind of natural fire to take hold. It was like Elijah saying to the Baal prophets: “See? I give you a head start and you still lose, and then I make it impossible for myself, but I still win.” He rubs their noses in their failure, and then he slaughters them. That’s how examples were made in those days. And it worked, because the people (other than the Baal prophets) who witnessed this miracle repented and acknowledged that God was Lord.
  • The Spirit of God stayed strong in the prophets even when most of God’s people strayed from him. God says he’ll never leave or betray his children; it’s his children who leave and betray him, and he lets them go. Those who choose to remain God makes stronger and stronger with his Spirit. It’s like they get the portion of his Spirit that the others rejected.
  • The scripture in this reading mentions several times that the same material is also presented in Chronicles, which we’ll start to read tomorrow. Chronicles goes into more detail about those who “did right in the sight of the Lord”, including, of course, David. (yay!  :D) The repetition helps in both the teaching and learning processes, and the greater detail fleshes out what we already know about these kings. Not just today’s reading but many sections throughout the OT make reference to and reflect other sections in the OT, and the NT does the same. In fact, much of the NT doesn’t make much sense without at least a passing acquaintance (such as what we’re doing now) with the OT. How many prophecies about Jesus have you found so far in the readings? Always a little jolt of pleasure to come across those!
  • Remember that, for centuries, people were not only discouraged but prevented from reading the OT by the same organization that today considers itself to be the “one true church”. The so-called dark ages was a concerted effort on the part of the papacy to keep people literally in the dark about the Bible by keeping them illiterate, so that the only things they learned about Jesus and God were from the papacy. Reading through the OT, we can see why the papacy didn’t want their people to read the OT – because many of the things that the papacy did and Roman Catholics were taught to do are in direct violation of what God told his people to do. You’ll see more of these direct violations in upcoming readings.

Hold your Bible tight and cherish every word! We are greatly privileged to live in an age and a nation where we can openly read and discuss God’s Word, but this privilege will likely be revoked in the years to come. Some people bury money and gold; some people hoard food and water (and toilet paper); and yet others stash away seeds. But we, as born-again believers, need to prepare for a day when Bibles will be outlawed. If you prep for nothing else, prep for that.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF is directly below:

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 12 REFLECTION (2 SAMUEL 18 – 1 KINGS 11:43)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 12: AUGUST 3

2 SAMUEL 18 – 1 KINGS 11:43

Today’s reading sees the waning of David and rise of several of his sons, the most prominent being Solomon. Like Moses gave “the talk” to his people as he was nearing his end, David also gave the same talk, slightly abridged, to Solomon just before his death. It’s a talk we should all hear every day as a reminder of our priorities.

  • As I mentioned yesterday, despite his many blessings, David had a hard run of it in life. The tests and temptations never let up. When he was a kid, his brothers treated him badly; as he grew older and matured, he was hounded by Saul; after God had dealt with Saul and David became king, various heathen nations rose up and had to be destroyed; finally, after David had conquered most of those, his sons started in on him. The plague of his sons must have been the bitterest of all for David. Even so, he loved them and protected each of them to the end.
  • Absalom was one of David’s sons. He is described in scripture as being the most beautiful man in Israel – not one of the most beautiful, but THE most beautiful. Eager to take his father’s place on the throne, Absalom rallied some troops and priests around him (beautiful people, whether male or female, can pretty much command others to do their will: beauty casts an immediate, deep, and lasting spell on those who are susceptible to it). David refused to have Absalom killed, even after Absalom himself killed another of David’s sons and stole the kingship out from under his father. David instead chose to flee and live in exile rather than to have Absalom executed.
  • As God would have it, Absalom eventually hung himself on a tree in a freak riding accident. David mourned his beautiful but treacherous son so excessively that he had to be snapped out of it by one of his loyal ministers (Joab). After that, David again reigned as king of all Israel until Solomon took over at his death.
  • Solomon is an interesting character. If you recall from an earlier reading, he was conceived on the same day that David and Bathsheba’s first child died. Solomon grew up surrounded by great wealth and privilege, but none of it seemed to matter much to him as a young man. What he wanted instead more than anything was to rule and judge wisely as king, so God granted him his wish.
  • Along with wisdom (and precisely because he has asked for wisdom rather than long life and riches), God also gave Solomon excessive wealth and the directive to build his temple. God promised Solomon that he and his offspring would remain blessed as long as he kept his Commandments.
  • Unfortunately, like his father and countless men before him all the way back to Adam, Solomon was beguiled by his heathen wives and strayed from God’s path. Wanting to please his wives, and likely for a few other reasons that don’t appear in the Bible, he started to build altars to their demon gods. Not a good thing to do if you want to stay on God’s good side. God gave Solomon time to repent of his sins, but when he didn’t do that, God informed him that his son would lose the kingship over Israel, retaining only one tribe for the sake of the promise God had made to David.
  • You have to wonder how Solomon, whose wisdom is fabled to have exceeded anyone else’s at the time, could have lost the plot to such an extent that he began worshiping demons. Again, beauty casts a strong spell over most people, and his 700 wives and 300 concubines must have been a force to be reckoned with. Whatever happened, Solomon ended up going down the wrong path in old age, and he paid the price for it. Like I said earlier, it might have been a good idea for Solomon to review daily the talk his dying father gave him. We should all review that talk daily:

Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:

1 KINGS 2:3
  • Just a note on the temple to end this reflection. I pretty much skipped over most of the building specs, as they don’t interest me. The problem with temples (churches, cathedrals, etc.) is that people get so caught up in the beauty and majesty of the place, they tend to worship and defer to the building and all the stuff in it rather than the one it was built for (God). Jesus talks about this later in the Gospels. That’s the main reason why I don’t much care about the temple description. It just seems so over-the-top and suspiciously grandiose (like Solomon getting 666 talents of gold as his annual allotment as king; that’s an intriguing detail I hadn’t noticed before!).
  • Whatever purpose this temple played in God’s economy, it didn’t prevent Solomon from straying down the wrong path, and it didn’t appear to have inspired his foreign wives to convert to their husband’s faith, either. In the end, it was just a big fancy building that ultimately got destroyed for the wickedness of Israel (as we’ll see in the coming readings).
  • As for the chief architect (Hiram), he later became almost a godlike figure in the masonic orders and is still revered today by masons the world over. If you know anything about masons, you know that the entity they worship is not God, and that’s all you need to know about them to know that you should have nothing to do with them. So the lasting legacy of the first temple is that the builder became symbolic of a demon worshiping cult, and the person who footed the bill for its construction also fell prey to demon worship.

No wonder God later ditched buildings and switched to people to house his Spirit.

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What do you think about today’s reading? What jumped out at you? What do you think happened to Solomon that he ended up straying from God, despite all his wisdom? Was it just the beauty and persuasion of his wives that beguiled him, or do you think something else was at play? Can one man have so much wealth and power and still stay loyal to God?

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For a schedule of the remaining readings, click on the links below:

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 10 REFLECTION (RUTH 1 – 1 SAMUEL 19:24)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 10: AUGUST 1

RUTH 1 – 1 SAMUEL 19:24

For those of you who want to keep track of our physical progress during the read-through, we are now approximately one-third of the way through the Old Testament and about one-quarter of the way through the entire Bible. Not sure if that qualifies us for any prizes, but at least we’re on schedule!

  • Very interesting that the lineage leading to David (and then on to Jesus) involved a convert. Ruth was not a child of Israel, but she’d married one and then remained with Naomi (her Israeli mother-in-law) even after the death of her husband. Ruth didn’t have to stay with Naomi; she was under no obligation, but she wanted to serve God, and so of her own free will left her Moabite people and heritage behind and remained with the Israelites.
  • God is very clear in scripture that those who willingly choose to serve him are the same in his eyes as the children of Israel. He puts no difference between his genetic children and his adoptive children. On the other hand, the children of Israel (or by extension, Christians) who turn their back on God are no longer part of the family. God draws a clear line between those who free-willingly serve him, regardless of their heritage, and those who refuse to serve him, regardless of their heritage. Jesus talks extensively about this in the gospels, but the concept is already clearly delineated in the OT.
  • Nice to see the rise of some good guys in this reading (Samuel, David, Jonathan) and somewhat of a return to order for the Israelites. A nation without a good strong leader is like sheep without a good strong shepherd, as we saw in yesterday’s chaotic and violent reading. Unfortunately, though, Saul wasn’t entirely up to the task of being king, since he had a problem with following God’s orders. He said he’d do what he was supposed to do, and then he’d veer off on his own course, doing what looked good in his eyes and in the eyes of the world rather than following God’s explicit directives.
  • Samuel genuinely loves Saul and has his hands full trying to keep him on track. But even with Samuel’s constant interventions, Saul’s disobedience ultimately cost him God’s Spirit, which is a death sentence right there. Even so, Saul lived on for a while, plagued by a demonic spirit, just as the disobedient Israelites in the wilderness lived on for a while after being told they weren’t going to enter the Promised Land. God needed Saul to keep on being King while he was preparing David to take his place. God also used Saul as a means to test David to make sure his heart was in the right place and that he would be obedient under every situation. As Samuel mentions, “to obey is better than sacrifice”.
  • The story of David and Goliath is one of the Bible’s most famous. It highlights David’s profound faith even as a youth, and shows how God can work through something even as flimsy as a slingshot and a stone if the person wielding them has unswerving faith. As the youngest son, David was ridiculed and dismissed by his family as inconsequential, but God, as we’re told in scripture, looks on the heart, not on the exterior. The world is almost always quick to judge and dismiss based on looks, age, wealth, education, etc., but thank God that God looks on the heart instead, so there’s hope for everyone!
  • The deep friendship developing between Jonathan and David in this reading is very touching. In choosing to support and protect David rather than go along with his father (who is also his king), Jonathan demonstrates what Jesus later teaches us about the importance of doing God’s will rather than that of your family or your earthly ruler. If the two conflict, you should always choose to do the will of God, even if it means disobeying your mother and father (or local/state/federal laws).
  • I love the whole Bible (as you’ve probably noticed), but I especially love reading about David. He’s just such the “whole package” – profoundly faithful and obedient to God, incredibly brave, a king, a warrior, a father, a husband, a poet, a musician, a singer, a dancer, etc.. There’s no-one else quite like him in all of scripture. Whatever he puts his mind to, he aces, and with God’s blessings. Plus, he’s really really good-looking (lol). Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but dang, that guy sure pushes all the right buttons! Can’t wait to meet him up close and personal, if and when I make it home to Heaven. I want to see him dance the dance he danced when he was leading the Ark of the Covenant into the city of David (sneak peek at tomorrow’s reading!).

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I hope you’re enjoying the read-through as much as I am. I’m seeing things I hadn’t seen before, which is what always happens during a read-through (or any Bible reading). What are you seeing that you hadn’t noticed before? Feel free to leave your reflections in the comment section below.

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Wondering what’s coming up next? Click on the “Download” button for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH schedule on PDF:

CARITAS

When God tells us he’ll never leave us or betray us, we need to pay attention.

Jesus says we’re to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength. If we love God like that, we won’t have any love left over for anything or anyone else. What we’ll have instead is caritas, which is the cup-runneth-over kind of love. Caritas enables you to be kind to everyone, regardless of how they are to you, and to treat others as you want to be treated. In other words, caritas enables us to keep the Commandments, including the one Jesus gave us to love our enemies.

Caritas is the by-product of receiving God’s love in return for loving him. When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, so much of his love pours back onto you that you can’t contain it. That’s where caritas comes from. This overflow love is then meant for you to pour onto others.

The notion of caritas has been bastardized by the world and by the blind to refer to an obligatory form of giving (charity), but real caritas is God’s love overflowing you. You can give caritas to anyone indiscriminately, regardless of whether you know them or not and regardless of whether they hate you or not. God’s love fills you so much that you don’t require love from other people. If everyone in the world hates you but you know God loves you and you feel his love, you have more than enough love for yourself and to share.

When we love God the way scripture invites us to love him, we have no need to look for love in anyone or anything else. People who don’t love God are constantly looking for God-love substitutes, usually in other people, though sometimes also in material things or pursuits. But God made us to love him; we’re hardwired to love him; so if we try to rewire ourselves or override the wiring, we fail. We were built to fail if we try to find love in anything or anyone other than God. This is the failsafe that both drives us toward and brings us back to God, even if we don’t believe he exists.

As an atheist, I believed in love and I believed in truth, but I didn’t believe in God. I thought if I kept looking for love and truth, someday I would find them, though not necessarily in the same place. What I didn’t realize as an atheist is that God is Love and God is Truth, so the desire that drove me to find love and truth was actually the inborn desire for God that was hardwired into me by God himself.

God will never leave us or betray us. These are huge promises. No-one and nothing on Earth can give us these promises and keep them. Only God can. People will always leave you and betray you, just as you will always leave and betray them. You may look the other way and pretend they’re not leaving or betraying you, but you’re only fooling yourself.

Women are very good at this, fooling themselves. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of women I know who haven’t looked the other way while their significant other betrayed them. Most women would rather be betrayed and look the other way than lose their man, and that is just sad.

God will never betray us. HE WILL NEVER BETRAY US. He will neither leave us nor betray us. Imagine the enormity of such promises, and yet you don’t have to imagine, because these promises are real and unbreakable. God cannot break his promise to us. When he says he’ll never leave us or betray us, he won’t. When he invites us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we should. The rewards of loving God are infinite and nothing on Earth compares to them.

God is standing there with his heart on his sleeve saying “I love you, and I’ve made you to love me.” He’s not begging you; he’s reminding you that he loves you and that he’s made you to want to love him. The desire you feel to give and receive love is at heart the desire to love God and receive his love in return. You have been hardwired to love God and to receive his love.

In loving God and only in loving God can you find your peace and fulfillment. You’ll have no desire to look for love in others or to expect love from others.

In loving God and only in loving God can you truly give caritas.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 9 REFLECTION (JOSHUA 22 – JUDGES 21:25)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 9: JULY 31

JOSHUA 22 – JUDGES 21:25

Remember when you were in junior high school, and the teacher got called out of the class, and she went out to the hallway to talk to someone and closed the door behind her, leaving the class to its own devices? Remember what the class got up to when the teacher was out of viewing and hearing range? At first it was quiet, with just a few whispers and giggles, and then someone would make a wisecrack, and then someone else would start talking in a normal tone to someone else, and then more people would start talking to other people in a normal tone, and some would get up from their desks and wander across the room to talk to a friend, and then someone would throw a paper airplane, and then someone else would throw another one back until a paper airplane war broke out and there were things flying through the air, back and forth, not just paper airplanes any more, and then someone would go up the chalk board and start drawing pictures on it, usually a caricature of the teacher, and then someone else would start drawing “body parts” (lol)… and in the meantime the talking back and forth had turned into shouts and roars of laughter and a desk gets pushed out of place and a few guys at the back start shooting spitballs at each other and someone gets hit in the eye and starts crying and the friends of the girl who got hit in the eye start yelling at the spitball guys who yell back and before you know it more desks are being pushed around and knocked over and THE SPITBALL GUYS ARE STANDING UP AND YELLING AND THE GIRLS ARE STANDING UP AND YELLING BACK AT THEM AND NEARLY EVERYONE ELSE IS STANDING UP OR SITTING ON TOP OF THEIR DESKS SHOUTING “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!” AND BANGING THEIR FISTS ON THEIR DESKS –

And then the teacher walks back in.

That’s kinda like today’s reading, only there’s no teacher walking back into the room. Moses and Joshua are long gone. There’s just “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!” and more of the same, with the children of Israel fighting against the heathens and against the other children of Israel, and all of them fighting against God.

What a mess!

They were warned by Moses and Joshua what would happen to them if they didn’t love God with all their heart and all their soul. They were warned what would happen to them if they intermarried with the heathen and started worshiping heathen gods. They were warned that the result would be chaos and confusion, with paper airplanes flying every which way, dirty pictures scrawled on the chalkboard, and spitballs taking out an eye (or in Samson’s case, both eyes).

Maybe it’s easy for us to sit back and judge the disastrous goings on in the aptly-named book of Judges, but WHAT THEY HECK WERE THEY THINKING???

My only comment is that this is what happens when there is no strong leader: The sheep go astray. As scripture says, there was no king in Israel in those days, so everyone just did what was right in their own eyes.

Poor God!

Even so, we’re not much better today. Can’t really talk about the specks in the eyes of the historical children of Israel when we’ve got beams sticking out of our own. Mainstream formerly Christian society is not much better than the society we read about today. In fact, mainstream formerly Christian society is probably pretty much on par with the society we read about today. The only real difference is that we’re sugar-coated with high tech and good hygiene.

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I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s reading. I skipped ahead to see what it was, and I spied David in the pages.

YIPPEE AND THANK GOD!

See ya tomorrow!  😀

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The PDF schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below:

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 8 REFLECTION (DEUTERONOMY 28 – JOSHUA 21:45)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 8: JULY 30

DEUTERONOMY 28 – JOSHUA 21:45

  • I always get a little teary-eyed when I read the passages where marquee characters like Moses leave the earthly stage. Moses had grown from a young man who was so skittish that he’d fled the country in fear of a murder charge, to a strong and godly man who fearlessly led millions to freedom. Nothing cowed Moses in the end, not even an angry God confronting him about his wayward people; Moses simply (and always successfully) intervened for them. In this, he was the prototype of Jesus.
  • The death of Moses remains a mystery that can’t necessarily be solved by referring to the Bible. We read that Moses went alone to the top of the mountain to die, but scripture doesn’t tell us how he died. We are only told that God buried his body in the valley below and that no-one knows where his grave is.
  • I’m wondering if no-one knows where Moses’ grave is because the grave is no more? I’m wondering if perhaps Moses ascended to Heaven like Elijah and like Jesus later ascended? In the transfiguration, Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah. Elijah ascended without dying, and Moses was supposed to have died and be buried, but maybe God instead brought him home the way he brought Elijah home. That would make sense, since both Elijah and Moses were obviously up and about on Heavenly missions (such as informing Jesus of how and when he was going to die), not dead and buried and awaiting resurrection on the last day. It’s possible that Moses died and was buried and then rose to Heaven a short time later in an ascension (like Jesus), or the story of him being buried in an unmarked grave in the valley might just be a deflection from Moses ascending to Heaven straight from the mountain top.
  • Moses and God were very close. Few other characters in the Bible were as close to God as Moses. I’m sure God told Moses a lot of things that Moses didn’t tell his people (not even Joshua, his minister), the way that Jesus kept a lot of things to himself, knowing that even his closest disciples weren’t ready to handle the Truth. So it’s highly plausible that God took Moses home the same way he took Elijah home or the same way he took Jesus home, but I guess we’re going to have to wait until we get to Heaven to find out the Truth about that! However, that Moses and Elijah appeared together to Jesus is to me a huge tip-off as to what happened to Moses either at or shortly after his death.
  • I don’t know about you, but Moses’ final reminders to the children of Israel sear straight into my soul. He didn’t mince his words. He said if you do a, b and c, things will go well with you, but if you do x, y, z, you’ll lose everything. He couldn’t have made it clearer to them or us.
  • It’s hard not to look at our own lives and the lives of those who well know Moses’ words and see where we fall, whether on the side of blessings or the side of curses. It’s also worth noting that those who appear to be blessed (worldly wealth) but are not following Jesus are likely under the protection and reward of Satan and being given the same “greatness” that Satan promised to Jesus if he would fall down and worship him. My grandmother used to say “the devil is good to his own”. You’ll know who is being rewarded by God, because their lives will look like Jesus’ life.
  • The crossing of the children of Israel into the Promised Land, with the parting of the River Jordan to let them cross on dry land, is like the parting of the Red Sea 2.0, but without the Egyptians pursuing after them. It doesn’t get as much press as the parting of the Red Sea, but it’s just as miraculous. I’d love to know where those twelve stones are, but I guess I’m going to have to wait until I get to Heaven (if I get to Heaven) to find that one out, too!
  • The fall of Jericho always gives me goosebumps at the part where all the people, who’d been cautioned by Joshua to stay completely quiet (except for the blowing of the trumpets), suddenly erupt in an earth-shattering cry. How that must have sounded in God’s ears! And how that must have terrified the people of Jericho, who would then have been even further terrorized when the only thing standing between them and certain death (the walls) came a-tumblin’ down.
  • Love the story of God rewarding and protecting Rahab and her family. Interesting that they all stayed with the Israelites after their rescue from Jericho. That would mean they were converted. Scripture mentions “strangers” quite a few times, and cautions the children of Israel to accept and be kind to strangers who choose to live with them and follow God’s Commandments. This foreshadows the conversion of the gentiles to become followers of Jesus.
  • Spiritually, all those who are obedient to God are kin. Being obedient to God now necessarily includes following Jesus, too, as Jesus and God are a package deal; you can’t get one without the other.
  • From the perspective of our more delicate 21st century sensibilities, it’s sometimes difficult to read about the slaughters carried out by the Israelites. They didn’t just mow down the fighting men, but also killed all the women, children, and elderly. Everyone in the path of the Israelites was killed and their cities burned to the ground. All that escaped were livestock and a few items that could be melted down and used in the tabernacle.
  • When we read this part of scripture, we need to remind ourselves that the Israelites were doing God’s will, and that the people who were slaughtered had it coming. God’s justice was just as perfect then as it is now. The Israelites were bringing God’s justice to those who hated him. I guess the moral of this story is that you want to be on the same side that God is fighting on; you definitely don’t want to be on the side that God is fighting against, because you ain’t never gonna win that battle.

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What are your thoughts on this reading? Did something jump out at you that you hadn’t noticed before? Or if you’d noticed it, does it seem to have particular relevance this time around, either for your life or for the world in general? What is God highlighting for you? Share it with us in the comments below. Don’t be shy!

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Full schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF:

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 7 REFLECTION (DEUTERONOMY 1-27:26)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 7: JULY 29

DEUTERONOMY 1 – DEUTERONOMY 27:26

Today’s reading is the final (fifth) book of Moses’ contribution to the Old Testament. It’s essentially a summary of the highlights of the Israelite’s 40-year trek through the wilderness, as delivered in a series of speeches (or sermons) by Moses to the children of Israel just before his death and their entrance into the Promised Land. Don’t blink in this reading, because you’ll miss something important.

  • What I find compelling is the repetition of important points that Moses obviously wanted to drive home to his listeners and future readers (that would be us!). When I first started reading the Old Testament years ago, I would occasionally think I had lost track of where I’d stopped reading the day before and was going back over the same text, but that wasn’t the case. It was different text but the same topics. The repetition serves the purpose of hammering into us information that needs to be so familiar that it becomes second nature or part of us, and the way to do that is stating the same things over and over but using slightly different words.
  • Here are some of the main topics that are repeated by Moses: 1) We need to be obedient to God or we’ll end up like the heathens and get the same punishment as them; 2) we need to remember the children of Israel’s slavery in Egypt and how God brought them out with miracles; 3) we need teach our children and others about the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt and how God brought them out with miracles; 4) we need to keep the Commandments and all relevant laws, statutes, and holidays (note that for us born-agains, most of the laws, statutes and holidays are no longer relevant, other than for the Ten Commandments and the Passover feast, which Jesus commanded us to celebrate in the way he showed us on the night before his crucifixion. But we do – without exception – need to keep the Commandments); and 5) we need to separate ourselves from the heathen (no intermarriage) and not adopt their demonically-inspired sinful ways.
  • The fifth point mentioned above became a major trap for the children of Israel. They end up intermarrying with the heathen, which then made them susceptible to adopting the culture of the heathens, which then pitted them against God. I like how God tells his people to utterly smash down the demon-worship pillars (that is, the obelisks) in the heathen cities, and yet today we see obelisks everywhere in supposed Christian nations, including and especially in Vatican City. Some of the abominations in that alleged Christian enclave have even been brought from Egypt at great financial and human cost (with several people dying in the transport of the abominations). It’s like no-one in Vatican City has ever read the Bible, or if they have read it, they decided to do the opposite of what God tells his people to do.
  • I have to laugh a little bit at how God reminds his people through Moses (who, by the way, appears to be speaking for himself now that Aaron has passed away) that they were not chosen because they were such a great (i.e., populous) nation or because they were so righteous. In fact, God tells them that the only reason they were chosen is because the heathen were even wickeder than they were. So it’s like God gave the Israelites a D- for their righteousness, but because the heathen got an F, the Israelites win the prize. But a D- is nothing to crow about! One of the prophets later says that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and Jesus says that none is good but God. So God isn’t actually expecting us to achieve righteousness, though we still have to try our hardest to achieve it. No dropping out or quitting, even for ‘mental health’ reasons. The harder we aim for righteousness, the more God blesses our efforts.
  • Why did God make the children of Israel wander for 40 years in the wilderness? There were actually a couple of reasons, and Moses mentions them in the reading. The first is that the generation that sinned early on in the wilderness trek needed to be killed. God didn’t want to kill them all at once, as they had their uses, but none of them were allowed to cross the River Jordan into the Promised Land. So it took 40 years for them to die in various ways, most of which were natural causes.
  • Another reason for the 40-year wander is that God needed to pace the overthrow of the heathen nations. This couldn’t be done all at once. So he organized for them to sack a certain place and purge (i.e., kill) all the inhabitants but keep the food and cattle, and then live there for a while until he told them to sack the next city and purge all the inhabitants but keep the food and cattle, etc. In this way, the Israelites were provided for but didn’t overextend their military resources or take on too great a burden (too much booty).
  • But the main reason for the 40-year wander in the wilderness is that God needed to prove the Israelites, to humble them, to know their heart, and to see whether or not they’d keep his Commandments. If you’re born-again, you know exactly what this means. God is proving you and humbling you, even as he’s providing for you, in order to see what’s really in your heart and whether or not you’ll keep his Commandments (especially under duress). In other words, the Israelites’ 40 year-trek was a training time and a testing time as well as a filtering-out phase for what didn’t belong in the Promised Land. As a born-again believer, I 100% identify with the children of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, because I’m living them now. All born-again believers live them. It’s our earthly reality until we make it to our Promised Land of Heaven (that is, IF we make it to our Promised Land of Heaven).
  • I’m going to include most of a passage here, because for me it sums up everything we should be and do as inheritors of God’s promise and followers of Jesus. God, through Moses, is speaking directly to us:

12 And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

13 To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?….

16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

17 For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:

18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.

19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

20 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.

21 He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.

(Deuteronomy 10:12-21)

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I hope you guys are enjoying the read-through and getting out of it what you need to get out of it. Feel free to leave a comment below if something jumped out at you in this reading that you want to share. We all read the same words, but God highlights different ones for each of us at different times. In this way, God’s Word always stays fresh and always has something new to teach us, to cherish, and to apply to our lives.

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For the full schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF, see below:

REAL OR FAKE? TESTING THE SPIRITS ON REBIRTHS

There is a curious trend developing on online forums. Perhaps you’ve seen it yourselves: Someone will post a comment claiming to have been recently reborn, and the comment will be copied and pasted (spammed, actually) across multiple webpages by the initial person or account.

Like Jesus’ early followers who were understandably wary of Saul/Paul when he claimed to be converted to their cause, we should also be wary of anyone who makes such an announcement to strangers on public forums.

When people are genuinely born-again, they always start preaching the Word. They can’t help themselves: the Spirit is moving in them and moving them to do it. After regaining his sight, Paul immediately took to the streets and started preaching Jesus as the Messiah. He didn’t announce to strangers that he was reborn; he started preaching Jesus as the Messiah. The same with the disciples when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – they immediately went to the streets and started preaching Jesus as the Messiah to strangers in different languages (tongues). Foreigners in Jerusalem heard the Gospel being preached to them by the disciples, who had never learned foreign languages. But again, the disciples didn’t stand on the streets proclaiming their rebirth; they stood on the streets proclaiming the Word.

When I was born-again from atheism 22 years ago, I also didn’t run around proclaiming my rebirth to strangers. Instead, I called my grandmother thousands of miles away (I was in Australia, she was in Canada) to tell her I believed in Jesus, as I knew my grandmother was the only one of my family and friends who would understand what had happened to me. As for strangers, I offered them love and kindness and some passages from scripture (I had only started reading the Bible for the first time on the day I was reborn), but I didn’t feel moved to publicly proclaim my rebirth. I knew it would have no positive affect on anyone except those who already knew God.

Newly-reborn believers are bursting with the newly-infused presence of God’s Holy Spirit on their souls. This makes them overwhelmingly loving and merciful. They are also prescient in a way they’ve never been before, as scripture tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” New reborns who have a background in scripture see God’s Word in a whole new light (like when an optometrist testing different magnifications finds the one that is exactly right) and so are able to deliver God’s Word with force and conviction based on their new clarity of vision. Meanwhile, those who are newly reborn but don’t yet know scripture well enough to preach it spread the Good News in a different way – through acts of love and kindness. But no ego is involved. Newly reborn people are the most humble souls on Earth.

In the New Testament, the only people who ran around drawing attention to themselves by making out-of-place impromptu announcements were people possessed by demons. Scripture tells us that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit.  However, what I’m seeing now in these public announcements of spiritual rebirth is not an outpouring of God’s Spirit, but rather an attempt to deceive, knowing that many Christians will accept professions of faith (especially new conversions) at face value.

Paul says we are to test the spirits, and Jesus says “by their fruits shall ye know them”. There was a flurry of highly publicized alleged rebirths by celebrities a few years ago, but these celebrities have since, by their words and actions, walked back their professions of faith.

Be very wary of people who spam comment sections with news of their rebirth. Be cautious in following them to their website or elsewhere. “Test the spirits”, and if through discernment you find their rebirth to be genuine, celebrate with them and God and the whole host of Heaven, as “there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who need no repentance”. But if you suspect something other than the Holy Spirit has entered these people, pray for them and let them be.