Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Good Bible Study: God's Passionate Love for you

Photo by Dan, courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Good to see you again - In A Good Bible Study we are continually blessed by the discovery of God's passionate love for you, and for me.

We think of passion as a human emotion, focused on pleasure and success, but for God, passion is just one of many descriptions of His incredible love for you, His pure desire to be in relationship with you, and Hiis intense kindness and grace towards you. But is this a flowerly, meek and mild sort of love? Hardly.

Look at Jesus. Jesus is God-with-us. Everything that God is, Jesus is. Some of us think Jesus was mild mannered and passive, spreading peace, love and flowers, to all the world. Get ready for a wake up, ladies and gentlemen. Jesus, our God, was  no pushover. Not when it came to insulting His Father's name or bringing shame to His house. 

During the Passover, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. He found the merchants were selling sacrificial animals right in the temple grounds! Jesus was filled with righteous anger and turned over their tables saying, "Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

If you were a Jew, and if you were in the temple then you were, you knew Jesus was fulfilling the words in Psalm 69:9 “Zeal for Your  house has eaten Me up.”

His disciples immediately remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: "Passion for God's house will consume me."

Passion, righteous anger, spiritual indignation, had risen up in our Lord because of the disrespectful manner in which the religious folk were treating the earthly house of God.

God is passionate, and Jesus is His Father's Son. He was passionate about respect for His Father in this instance, but He did not sin in His anger. He did not allow His passion for reverence of His Father’s house to move Him to sin.

I love this example for those of us who believe we should always back down, even when we know what is happening around us, to us, or to those for whom we are responsible to and for, is wrong. Standing up for what is right is not sinful. It's all in the delivery. Hear that ladies?

Jesus had the right and responsibility to stand up because He is who He is, and Who He is responsible to, and who he is responsible for. For the first time, those in power were getting hit at home with the message.

According to the Nelson Study Bible, NKJV, 1997 this was Jesus' first public presentation of Himself as Messiah.

"The Messiah's ministry began in the Temple. He came to purify. The expression 'My Father's house' was a distinct claim to messiahship. At the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) Jesus demonstrated His deity and power; here He showed His authority."

Oh yes, the Jewish leaders got what Jesus was saying by, "My Father's house."So, how did the Jewish merchants and religious leaders respond? After all, Jesus was accusing them of a misuse of their positions for financial gain, of taking advantage of the people coming to worship, and of reducing the very House of God to a pawn brokerage.

They pushed out their chests and challenged, "Oh, yeah? Prove it."

They wanted a sign. What they got was a prophesy of what was coming up in the very near future, but they didn't get it. They didn't want to get it.

Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” 

He wasn't referring to the building, He was referring to Himself. He would be killed and on the third day resurrect Himself.

Shortly after, some of the religious leaders had Jesus arrested, just as predicted, and pressured the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, to have Jesus publicly humiliated, beaten, and crucified on a cross to die. It was verified unmistakeably that Jesus did die on that cross, and believe me, those in power were taking no chances. Dead is dead. Now, that was Fri., the first day (per Jewish tradition.)

On Sunday (the third day), the heavily guarded and sealed tomb was empty.

On that very day, Jesus resumed His ministry on earth for another 40 days, teaching to thousands of people, preparing His apostles for their continuing ministry, and fulfilling every single prophecy ever written about the Messiah, the Son of God, your Savior, and thankfully, mine.
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Thank you Father for sending Your Son, Jesus. Thank you Jesus, for coming. Thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit to love us, guide us, listen to us, help us, and comfort us. Amen.

Love, Karen

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Good Bible Study: A Passionate Love - encouragement, and hope for your future

Photo by Shock. Courtesy
of www.photoxpress.com
Hello again! I am so glad to see you back in A Good Bible Study! We've been talking for weeks now about A Passionate Love: The Relationship Between God and You, and I will tell you - I am just about head over heels in love with God by now!

How about you? Are you getting the reality of God's zealous, fervent, passionate desire for your heart?

We are discovering just such a love in the book of Zechariah today. In fact, the whole theme of Zechariah is the passion of God, as well as His expectation, and offer of hope, for the future of His people.

Now, Zechariah picks up the story after the Israelites have come out of 70 years of Babylonian captivity. They were free, but for what?

Although they had their physical freedom, these brokenhearted people returned to a homeland ravaged by war. Everything they had built was destroyed. Their temple was in ruins; homes a pile of rubble; and hope a distant dream. These people needed serious encouragement and hope; and a little bit of a wake-up call.

See, even though the Israelites knew their captivity came about as a result of their stubbornness and rebellion against God, and true to His word, He provided for their freedom on the very day He had promised He would 70 years previously, they weren't exactly singing His praises as they plodded out the gates of Babylon and across the desert. Did I tell you the Israelites were known for their stubbornness?

I've got a little boy just like that. Thankfully he is learning what the People needed to know: to stop fighting for the sake of fighting, and come and get some loving!

The Israelites weren't there yet. In fact, as far as they were concerned, things might have just gone from bad to worse. They saw how much work it would take to rebuild their lives, and knew on their own, they just couldn't do it. So they did what all of us do at some time or other: gave up.

For 16 years afterwards the people lived physically free, but spiritually in bondage, as they refused to rebuild the temple, and their lives. Their chains were gone, but they remained impotent captives in their hearts. Blaming God for the consequences they brought on themselves, they wouldn't accept God's blessing, His help, or His love, and as a result, lived passionless lives in which the barren land reflected their barren hearts.

Can you relate? Have you accepted Jesus as your own Savior but still are living like you are under a curse? Have you accepted freedom from death and hell, but continued to live like a prisoner of your past?

We are not so different today.

Here's my tough love take on humanity, myself included:

We want to run our own lives no matter the consequences, then call on God to save our skins. Even after we are brought out of what pit we dug for ourselves, we still want to live our own way, even if it means living half a life. At least we are in charge, right? And when things don't work out, we can still plead for help from God, or . . . blame Him . . .

If I was God, I think I'd reach a point of saying, "Have a good life, see ya." And to some point, God does let us have our way if that's what we really want. You can't help someone who doesn't want it, won't accept it, doesn't value it. You can't "throw pearls after swine."

But for some reason, no matter how long we turn our backs on Him, God is always there, ready for us to be sick and tired, of being sick and tired. Ready to do things His way, and reap His love, His blessing.

The truth of it is, as much as I want my own way, sometimes I think I don't even know what I want, or what's good for me. Or, I know what I want, but I only want to get it on my terms. In other words, with no pain or sacrifice involved. Know what I mean?

I kick and struggle as God drags me into His blessing, insisting all the while that I know best, I know how the story should go, I know who are the bad guys and which way the story ends. Yet, 99 times out of 100 I let the dust settle and realize God was bringing me into something better, just as soon as He could rip my clutching hands off what I thought was shiny and good.

Most times I realize getting what I wanted without going through what I went through to get it, would have given me an empty victory. Because, God knows He needs to work some things out of my heart, before I can even enjoy His blessings, or recognize what is really, truly good, as compared to what only looks shiny on the surface. Ya feel me?

Do you know what's it like to love someone so much, to want to give them so much, and have them not even get it, at all? Have them not appreciate what you offer, not understand the value of what you have suffered for them, not care that all they really want in their heart of hearts is just waiting for them to get over themselves and accept it?

Yeah, you know what I mean.

Read Zechariah 8:2
2“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Mount Zion is passionate and strong; I am consumed with passion for Jerusalem!

The book of Zechariah is a passionate plea for the people of God to return to Him, just as they were returning to Israel after their long captivity. God was setting them free physically, and now wanted to set them free spiritually: to be cleansed of their sins and be blessed. He wanted them to get over themselves and get on with the business of living!

They might have forgotten who they were, but God hadn't. They were His.

Do you know what the name Zechariah means? "Yahweh remembers."

God gave Zechariah two prophesies for Israel (Zion.) The first was a promise that as they returned to Him, God would again bless their lives, comforting their hearts, and restoring their zeal for living. He made them a second promise as well. He promised to come and live among them.

"Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,' declares the LORD. 'Many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.'" Zechariah 2:10-11;

"This is what the LORD says: 'I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.'" Zechariah 8:3;

and "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'" Zechariah 8:23.

God fulfilled the first prophecy in this people's lifetime. He fulfilled the second prophecy for all our lifetimes, in Jesus Christ.

"Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" Matthew 1:23.

 Immanuel was not Jesus' name, it was a description: God, with us.

God set aside Israel as an example for all of us. As a beacon of light to show us the way to God. Not because the Jews were perfect, or even extra good. In fact, they were chosen just because of how stubborn and willful these people could be (sound like anyone you know?)

Through the Jewish nation, God showed us that He doesn't just love those of us who know how to do everything right, look good, keep things pretty. He loves us at our worst. He always has a plan no matter how many times we screw it up. He is always waiting for us to stop holding onto chains that He has already broken, and stop living it our way, and pretending that's how we like it.

We claim God is holding scales and rewarding us or punishing us with every slight raise or lowering of the balance. That gives us permission to turn our backs and decide since we can't be perfect, we won't even try. Now who is judging whom?

I want good things in my life, but I want to be the judge of what is good, what is right, as well as who should be blessed (me) and who should suffer (them.) God let me have it my way for years, and you know what I found out? I didn't know squat.

Look, I realize it takes time to learn to trust anyone, even God. That's the point. Give it time. Time to go through a few tough spots and to make a decision to say, "This doesn't look good for me, but I am going to do things to honor God, to respect myself and others, and I'm going to believe God is working this out for my good, even if it doesn't look like I am getting what I want." You know what that's called? Faith building.

Give God a chance. Trust Him with a few small things, then let Him bring you through something a little tougher. He is not creating situations to test you - that is Satan's job and honestly, we do so much of Satan's work he doesn't have much to keep him occupied, I often suspect.

He will bring you through it, not necessarily around it, but through it and stronger for the process. You are right, you might not always get what you want, when you want it, but who does? And honestly, if you are like me, you might have to go through the consequences of what you got yourself into before you invited God to intervene, but you won't be alone. Not anymore.

Keep on trusting, and you will start to notice that you are not sweating the small stuff anymore, and that's right, you find out 9 times out of 10 that it's all small stuff in the big scheme of things.

Build your faith, because I can tell you from experience, there is going to come a day when you are going to need it. Life is going to dish you out something that is going to rock you to the core, and if you have spent time trusting God with the little things, it just might enable you to trust Him when what is going on makes no sense in this world what so ever.

What am I talking about? When you lose a child. When you lose a parent. When you lose a spouse. When someone who doesn't even care about God and all you are doing to change your life and serve Him, decides to try and destroy everything in life that you care about. When people are so unfair and cruel it makes you wonder how God can even bear to watch it and seem to do nothing at all.

When you have been in captivity in Babylon.

Let's pray:

Lord, I want to see who You are, and who I am in Your eyes. I want to appreciate Your blessings and good gifts in my life. Help me to see that what You offer is so good, so precious, so much better than anything I could have planned. I am going to trust You will bring me through anything this life can throw at me, and ultimately, you will bring me into a world in which the word "unfair" does not exist! In Jesus' name, amen.

Love, Karen