630.) 1 Thessalonians 3

September 30, 2011

I never promised you a rose garden.

1 Thessalonians 3 (English Standard Version)

Paul loved the Thessalonian Christians.  After all, he had been instrumental in leading most of them to Christ.  He and Silas and Timothy had organized them into a church.  They were Paul’s spiritual children.  Naturally he was concerned about their well-being.

While he was away from them he began to think about them.  He decided that he just had to know their true condition, so he deputized Timothy to visit Thessalonica and learn firsthand what their situation was.  He also wanted him to encourage the Thessalonian Christians to remain faithful in serving the Master.

When Timothy returned with the word that they were remaining firm, that they were faithful, and that they wanted a reunion with him, Paul was filled with happiness.  He realized that his labor among them had not been in vain, that it had paid dividends the value of which only eternity would reveal.

–Harold L. Fickett, Jr.

1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

1 Thessalonians 3:3 — That none of you might be unnerved by your present trials: for you yourselves knows that they are our appointed lot.

Have you difficulties?  They are our appointed lot.  Have you trials?  They are our appointed lot.

These five words were written to people who might any day find themselves in prison, tortured, lonely, oppressed.  Here if we have to have a tooth out, we have an injection.  There was no injection for the Christians of Thessalonica.  Let us not forget that when we are tempted to fuss over trifles, and call things trials which are mere nothings.

Still, there are trials sometimes, and they may look very big.  But they are our appointed lot — we were never promised ease.  The early Christians were not taught to expect it.  Don’t let us slip into the expectation of the easy.  It isn’t our appointed lot.

But for us there is always another word (2 Corinthians 12:9):  My grace is sufficient for thee.

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4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (New International Version)

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

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Timothy’s Encouraging Report

6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

A little boy was once asked what a saint was.  Thinking about the stained glass windows in his church, he replied, “A saint is someone the light shines through.”

Matthew 5:16 (New International Version)

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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Music:

“Hear the Call of the Kingdom” by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  I do like this song!

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Rose garden.  http://soochasfineart.com/graphic%20redo/GARDENS%20convert1/TheRoseGarden.jpg
big girl panties.    http://cn1.kaboodle.com/hi/img/b/0/0/5e/0/AAAAC7rzyhsAAAAAAF4L5g.jpg?v=1248246390000
roaring lion.    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_RxNIzzbK15o/TIcqTBPbmaI/AAAAAAAAA0g/euudBHVcmq0/s1600/roaring-lion.jpg
stained glass window.    http://www.religiousintelligence.org/churchnewspaper/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/stained_glass_window470_470x353.jpg
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629.) 1 Thessalonians 2

September 29, 2011

1 Thessalonians 2 (English Standard Version)

Criticism is a fact of life with which every Christian has to contend.  We are never far from it.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the only perfect person who ever lived, continually faced verbal barrages which ultimately led to his crucifixion.  God’s choicest servants have through the years been objects of ridicule and slander.  The apostle Paul was no exception.  In chapter 2 he answers several implied criticisms leveled at him by the enemies of Christ.

–Harold L. Fickett, Jr.

Paul’s Ministry to the Thessalonians

1For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.

Our message and our time among you was not worthless or irrelevant.

2But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,

We were not trying to spread crazy talk, corrupt you, lie to you, or lead you astray.

4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

We were not trying to get ahead in this world.

5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.

We were not trying to be the big cheese and lord it over you.

8So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

9For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

We were not trying to get rich at your expense.

10You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

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Music:

“how like a father with his children . . “

“I want to be just like you”  by Phillips, Craig and Dean.

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13And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

We did encourage you to be transformed by Christ!

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (New International Version)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

14For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind

We did warn you that you would face opposition as you follow the Lord Jesus!

John 16:33 (New Living Translation)

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!

Paul’s Longing to See Them Again

17But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20For you are our glory and joy.

We did invest our lives in you, for the sake of God’s eternal kingdom!

Proverbs 11:30 (King James Version)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life;
and he that winneth souls is wise.

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Actions speak louder . . .    http://zachkvet.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/actions-words-1.png

628.) 1 Thessalonians 1

September 28, 2011

Ruins of the ancient marketplace (agora) of Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 1 (English Standard Version)

(To subscribers who have trouble getting the links to work or who do not see the pictures, here is a suggestion.  When you open your new email of DWELLING, click on the top line, which is the number and text of the day’s posting — today’s is  628.) 1 Thessalonians 1.  It will take you to the DWELLING site.  You will find the page looks better, all the links work, and you can make and read comments!)

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The story of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica is recorded in Acts 17:1-10 (DWELLINGintheWord #452).  Even though his stay there was probably no more than three to four weeks (see Acts 17:2), his efforts were crowned with success.  Many people turned to Christ as Saviour and Lord; the Thessalonican Church was organized and despite the opposition from the pagan culture around them, the members of this church continued the ministry for the Saviour in the city.  Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians were addressed to them.

Naturally Paul was concerned about the well-being of this infant church.  After leaving the area, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to investigate what was taking place there.  The news that Timothy brought back was most encouraging and heart warming.  Paul’s response was to write the church a letter of encouragement and praise.

But along with the encouraging news there were some disturbing facts brought to light.  So along with Paul’s praise he answered questions which were disturbing them and admonished them to correct the evil trends which were apparently developing.

–Harold L. Fickett, Jr.

Greeting

1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example

2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

They were a faithful and loving and hopeful church!

1 Corinthians 13:13 (New International Version)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Genuine love is so contrary to human nature that its presence bears witness to an extraordinary power.

–John Piper

 

4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,

They were an imitating church!

1 Peter 2:21 (New International Version)

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Martin Luther asked:  “If Christ wore a crown of thorns, why should His followers expect only a crown of roses?”

for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

They were a joyful church!

Romans 14:17 (Good News Translation)

For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives.

A poster that was popular during my college days:  Let nothing so fill you with sorrow that you forget the joy of Christ risen!

7so that you became an example to all the believers

They were an exemplary church!

Titus 2:7 (New International Version)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good.

A little boy’s over-protective mother went with him on the first day of school, and she insisted that she speak with her little boy’s teacher before she left.  His mother told the teacher that if her son misbehaved, the teacher should punish the boy next to him.  The teacher asked why.  And the mother replied, “My little boy learns by example.

in Macedonia and in Achaia.

Thessalonica (modern Thessaloniki, also called Salonika) is located about 190 mi. north of Athens.  In the days of the apostle Paul it was the capital of the province of Macedonia and was a “free city.”  Today Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece (750,000).  Most of the remains from the New Testament era are either destroyed or covered over by the modern city.  However, recent excavations in the center of the city have revealed the remains of an ancient forum (agora).

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8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

They were an evangelizing church!

Acts 1:8 (New Living Translation)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I have but one passion: It is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.

— Count Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf (founder of Daily Texts in 1731)

9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you,

They were a welcoming church!

Romans 12:13 (New International Version)

Practice hospitality.

Here are some examples:

  • Take food to someone you don’t know.
  • Invite someone to our home that you don’t know very well — maybe someone who just moved to town, your neighborhood, or who may be new to the church.
  • Visit the hospital or nursing home and talk to patients you don’t know.
  • Pay for a stranger’s meal at a restaurant.
  • Help provide food or clothing for the homeless.

and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

They were a waiting church!

Acts 1:10-11 (New Living Translation)

As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

The ancient confession of faith:  Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

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Music:

As I read the compliments Paul bestows on the church at Thessalonica, I wonder how well I am doing in those very departments.  How faithful, hopeful, and loving am I — to my family, to strangers, to those who annoy me?  How diligently do I imitate Christ — or do I just fall back on the same old tired excuses for my poor witness?  How joyful am I — especially when my circumstances are not what I wish they were?  Am I asking the Lord to put people in my path so I can tell them about him and his wonderful salvation?  Is my house an open house to those who need help or a hot meal?  Am I living in expectation that “Christ will come again”?

Help me, Lord, to live for you in every detail of my life!

“I Offer My Life” by Don Moen.

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
agora of ancient Thessalonica.   http://justinimel.com/1thessalonians/800px-Thessaloniki-Ancient_Agora.jpg
thumbs up.   http://www.openclipart.org/image/250px/svg_to_png/skotan_Thumbs_up_smiley.png
ap showing Thessalonica.    http://holylandarchive.com/section_images/283_ThessalonicaMap4.jpg

627.) Psalm 75

September 27, 2011

Yes, God will judge each one of us, according to righteousness, and his grace.

Psalm 75 (English Standard Version)

God Will Judge with Equity

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

1We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

2“At the set time that I appoint
I will judge with equity.
3When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its pillars.
Selah

1 Samuel 2:8 (English Standard Version)

He raises up the poor from the dust;
   he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
   and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
   and on them he has set the world.

4I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
5do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.'”

6For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.

Years ago when I was an Army wife, I was introduced to this verse by a sergeant-major’s wife during a Bible Study.  The promotion list was soon to come out, and many of the women in our study were eagerly / anxiously / hopefully waiting to see if their husband’s name would be on it.  Promotion depended on so many factors, but a large one was the evaluation of the service member’s immediate commander.  This means, of course, that if one’s husband didn’t get promoted, one could blame it on his boss.  (As we progress up the military ladder, however, the coin shows another side — that if a person under your husband doesn’t get promoted, the wife could blame your husband.)

So that particular morning, as women were sharing horror stories of what their husbands had to put up with under terrible bosses — this woman opened her Bible to this verse.  It is not from the Army that promotions come, she said to us.  It is God who chooses who will get promoted and when.  Then she added, since we know that God is a loving father, we can trust him to do the right thing for us on the promotion list.

My husband was eligible for promotion that year — but his name was not on the list.  He was very discouraged amid the public “humiliation” that comes with being passed over.  But the next year he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and right then his #1 choice of a battalion command came open.  Had he been promoted a year earlier, he would not have been free at the right time.  So we spent two wonderful years at his dream job — leading the 313th Military Intelligence Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Wonderful years!

Yes, the Lord knew what he was doing.  “We give thanks to you, O God;  we recount your wondrous deeds.”

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8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.

9But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

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Music:

You could think horns of bulls, I guess.  But I prefer French horns!  Steve Park, a horn teacher at Utah State University, plays his French horn beautifully for this, Noctorno Op. 7, by Franz Strauss.  If you are a lover of French horn, as I am, you can find many more pieces recorded by him on youtube.

“We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks” — the first words of this psalm.  As you listen, give thanks to God!

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Only God can judge me.    http://www.mytinyphone.com/uploads/users/sexyflakita/280420.gif
82nd Airborne Division patch.   http://www.clevelandseniors.com/images/events/airborne-2007/82nd-airborne-shoulder-sleeve.jpg

626.) Zechariah 14

September 26, 2011

Zechariah 14 (New International Version)

The LORD Comes and Reigns

1A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. 2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.

The Mount of Olives is actually a series of four hills, two of them directly east of the Temple Mount, rising up from the Kidron Valley.  Here is located the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus, in fervent prayer, counted the cost before he went to the cross.  Here also is where Jesus said farewell to his disciples before he ascended into heaven.  The picture above is facing west, looking across the Kidron Valley to the walls of the temple area; directly below the Dome of the Rock, note the Golden Gate / Eastern Gate, inaccessible and blocked shut.  Jews associate this gate with the coming of the Messiah.  Muslims believe the final judgment will occur here.  Christians remember Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and look forward to his return in great glory!

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5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

6 On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique day—a day known only to the LORD—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.

Revelation 21:23-25 (English Standard Version)

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.

8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.

Today, the bare shores of the Dead Sea are dotted with ruins: Herod’s desert palace of Masada  where the Romans battled the last of the Jewish Zealots after Jerusalem fell, only to find upon their “victory” that the Zealots had opted for suicide rather than Roman captivity; Qumran, the ancient religious Essene commune near which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; and the shattered homes of the old Beit HaArava kibbutz, where in the 1940s Zionist pioneers tried to create a life for themselves and their children on land no one else wanted.

Thirty years ago the Dead Sea, one of the world’s saltiest lakes, had two basins — a deep northern one and a shallow southern one. But by the mid-1980s, the southern basin had dried up, leaving a large area of salt flats.  Now the northern basin is drying up as well.

The Dead Sea is obviously shrinking, falling a yard in depth every year.  The Dead Sea relies on the fresh water of the Jordan River as its source.  But that once-wide Biblical river, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, is now just a contaminated trickle.  Israel, Jordan and Syria siphon off 95 percent of the water for drinking and for irrigation. Over the past century, the water’s surface has dropped 80 feet; in the last two decades, the Dead Sea has shrunk by a third.  As the Dead Sea’s water disappears, it creates large sinkholes that make it dangerous even to approach the sea in certain spots.

Romans 8:22 (English Standard Version)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

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9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

10 The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up high from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses, and will remain in its place. 11 It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.

12 This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.

This “plague” reminds me of the descriptions I have read of the victims of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

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13 On that day people will be stricken by the LORD with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another. 14 Judah too will fight at Jerusalem. The wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected—great quantities of gold and silver and clothing. 15 A similar plague will strike the horses and mules, the camels and donkeys, and all the animals in those camps.

16 Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. 17 If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. 18 If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. 19 This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.

20 On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. 21 Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty.

In the Old Testament, holiness is expressed in strict separation—what was clean was to be separated from what was unclean.  Remember reading Leviticus?!  In the New Testament however, the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ brought a new emphasis and understanding to what is holy.  Jesus himself associated with the first-century scum of the earth, one could say.  And Paul gives these instructions:  “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world . . . ” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Holiness now is not to be rigorously distinct from common life, but woven throughout our lives in every aspect.

“God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship . . . that take place in the kitchen and workplace and on the streets” (Hebrews 13:16).

” . . . but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY”  (1 Peter 1:15, 16).  Moral purity is not separate, not distinct from what is “common” or “secular.”  We are called to live HOLY lives within the world in every regard.

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Music:

Chris Tomlin sings “Holy Is the Lord.”

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New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
HOLY to the Lord.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Do1n17LGJVs/TGG59ZK2yHI/AAAAAAAAA-M/XAaYgGTahM0/s400/arab_flat_text.jpg
Mount of Olives.   http://www.ilibros.net/images/MtOJeru6.jpg
Dead Sea.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_xs9T-jlzwhA/Rrg-i4HBSOI/AAAAAAAAA-Q/1thtWahzfkE/s320/Dead%2BSea.jpg
nuclear danger sign.    http://www.clker.com/cliparts/0/5/4/5/12456932322116189065cherrypie_Nuclear_warning_sign.svg.hi.png

625.) Zechariah 13

September 23, 2011

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago. (Perhaps not the kind of fountain Zechariah saw in his mind’s eye!)

Zechariah 13 (New International Version)

Cleansing From Sin

1“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

There is a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;

And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,

Lose all their guilty stains.

–William Cowper

2 “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. 3 And if anyone still prophesies, their father and mother, to whom they were born, will say to them, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the LORD’s name.’ Then their own parents will stab the one who prophesies.

4 “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of their prophetic vision. They will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. 5 Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ 6 If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’

The “wounds” that are spoken of are wounds that the false prophet inflicted on himself in the throes of his idol worship (see 1 Kings 18:28 for an example of this).  The false prophet described here denies that the wounds had anything to do with idol worship. He gives the somewhat implausible explanation that the wounds were given him “at the house of his friends.” 

The picture is clear.  To be a false prophet is so terrible, the parents would kill him.  At the very least, he would pretend NOT to be a prophet.

The Shepherd Struck, the Sheep Scattered

7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is close to me!”
declares the LORD Almighty.
“Strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered,
and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

“The Lord Is My Shepherd” by Morgan Weistling, 1999.

Matthew 26:30-31 (English Standard Version)

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'”

In the context, and especially in light of the quotation of this passage in Matthew 26:31, we understand that the Shepherd is Jesus the Messiah — and it is God the Father Himself who calls for the Shepherd to be struck.

Zechariah relates a thought also said in Isaiah 53:10:  Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.  The prophets Isaiah and Zechariah gloriously and emphatically, state that the suffering of the Servant of the Lord was ordained by the Lord.  This was God’s doing!  He gave the command to strike the Shepherd.  Jesus was no victim of circumstance or at the mercy of political or military power.  It was the planned, ordained work of the Lord God, prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before it happened.  This was God’s victory, not Satan’s or man’s triumph.

 As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:19, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  The Father and the Son worked together at the cross.  Though Jesus was treated as if He were an enemy of God, He was not.  Even as Jesus was punished as if He were a sinner, He was performing the most holy service unto God the Father ever offered.

–David Guzik

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8 In the whole land,” declares the LORD,
“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.
9 This third I will put into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”

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Music:

“Rock of Ages” is sung here by the Antrim Mennonite Choir.  Note the fountain imagery in verse 3.

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New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Buckingham Fountain.    http://v4.cache6.c.bigcache.googleapis.com/static.panoramio.com/photos/original/20896265.jpg?redirect_counter=1
Weistling.    http://www.christcenteredmall.com/stores/art/weistling/the_lord_is_my_shepherd.htm

624.) Zechariah 12

September 22, 2011

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Zechariah 12 (New International Version)

Jerusalem’s Enemies to Be Destroyed

1A prophecy: The word of the LORD concerning Israel.   The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares: 2 “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem.  3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations.

Damascus Gate, Jerusalem

“The very fact that Jerusalem is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible makes it worthy of special attention.  This unique city is the only one upon which God has bestowed His distinctive blessing and protection (Psalm 132:13-14), and the only city for whose peace we are commanded to pray (Psalm 122:6).  God says He has chosen Jerusalem as the place where He has put His name forever (2 Chronicles 6:6; 33:7; Psalm 46:4; 48:1-8; 87:3).  The new heavens and new earth will contain ‘the city of my God…new Jerusalem’ (Revelation 3:12; 21:2).  That there will be a ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ (Hebrews 12:22) but no ‘heavenly’ New York, Paris, London, Damascus, Cairo, etc. speaks volumes.”  (Dave Hunt, The Berean Call – September 2000)

–David Guzik

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All who try to move it will injure themselves. 4 On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness,” declares the LORD. “I will keep a watchful eye over Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations. 5 Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the LORD Almighty is their God.’

6 “On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot in a woodpile, like a flaming torch among sheaves. They will consume all the surrounding peoples right and left, but Jerusalem will remain intact in her place.

7 “The LORD will save the dwellings of Judah first, so that the honor of the house of David and of Jerusalem’s inhabitants may not be greater than that of Judah. 8 On that day the LORD will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD going before them. 9 On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.

Mourning for the One They Pierced

His head was pierced with thorns, his hands and feet were pierced with nails, his side was pierced by a spear.

 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.

Acts 2:1-4 (English Standard Version)

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

They will look on me, the one they have pierced,

Romans 11:25-26 (English Standard Version)

The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

    “The Deliverer will come from Zion,
   he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”

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and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.

This refers to the mourning over King Josiah’s death (2 Kings 23:29 and 2 Chronicles 35:20-25). He was such a godly king that the whole nation wept bitterly at his death.

12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13 the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, 14 and all the rest of the clans and their wives.
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Music:

One of Isaac Watts’ finest hymns, one that has touched my heart many times — “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” — sung here by Kathryn Scott.

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New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.   http://cdn.elev8.com/files//2009/06/hasidic-jew-praying-500.jpg
Damascus Gate.    http://www.holidayinisrael.com/UserFiles/Wall,%20Damascus%20Gate%20IMG_0354%20copy.gifB.gif
star of David and cross.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_y8ag4VGcCHo/Syi-wO3g2FI/AAAAAAAAD_8/qnYU8hIK5TE/s200/star_of_david_cross.jpg
Jesus on the cross.    http://dvrbible.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/jesus_on_cross_crucifixion-full.jpg