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July 2020

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Books for the Journey:

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The Philistines may have placed the ark in their place of worship to honor the god that had apparently abandoned their enemy, but they were certainly not ready to submit to it (being polytheists). In Canaanite mythology, enemy heads and hands were taken as trophies by the goddess Anat. The imagery here clearly shows that Yahweh and Dagon had fought and that Yahweh had been triumphant. After the return of the ark to Beth Shemesh the people were yet again under judgment for irreverence in worship and approach to a holy, righteous, and almighty God. We should consider our own seriousness when adding black lights and mood music to Sunday’s service when reading stories like these from scripture.

If the events of John chapter 5 occurred at the Feast of Tabernacles and chapter 6 was during Christ’s second Passover of John Gospel, then half a year has passed between these two chapters. Christ feeds 5,000 (only miracle recorded by all four Gospel authors except for the resurrection, although only John describes the bread as barley denoting a poor bread – reminiscent of when Elisha multiplies such loaves in 2 Kings 4:42-44) and later walks on water. The leftover food may suggest that there was also enough spiritual food to satisfy them forever (like the manna previously given in the wilderness) and the specific counting only of men may suggest four times the 5,000 in total. “Man does not live on bread alone” (Matt 4:4) because human beings are more than mere animals. Christ reminds the still spiritually immature and insensitive disciples to “not be afraid” but rather “believe” during the storms on the lake and in life. Jesus is whom sinners persecute and saints adore – nothing could be more alarming or comforting. I am often surprised to hear Jewish and Christian friends say that neither of them think they worship the same God.

During the times of Christ there was a multitude of supposed miracle workers (including those who claimed to be able to walk on water), but only Jesus focused on teaching (rather than on overthrowing the Romans – what the customers wanted). The distinction is made clear: “Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” And, Jesus departed when the crowds came to take Him by force and to be their king. In the OT, Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha all parted bodies of water, but only God trod upon the water (Job 9:8). After Jesus walked across the water to join them in the boat, it immediately was beamed to the shore as the Spirit did to Philip from the Gaza road in Acts (also compare with 1 Kings 18:12). Matthew tells us that Peter left the safety of the boat and began to sink when his attention was drawn away from Jesus and onto the wind. This is a great example of how those who respond to Christ’s call are still vulnerable to doubts.

In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus describes the spiritual condition of the generation of His day after saying how they would be condemned by the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:41-42). Jesus warned it is not enough just to go through the process of having one’s sins forgiven unless reformation continues and something positive is put in the now-cleaned house (where the end might prove worse than the beginning). We must replace evil with good. In our heart can reside things that produce harm (Matt 15:19) as well as be the source of good (Matt 12:35). Our “house” can be cleaned (like in Hebrews 10:22 and Acts 15:8-9) to serve God (Heb 9:14) but we are expected to “fill” our home with Christ (Ephesians 3:17), God’s peace (Colossians 3:15-16), and the law (Hebrews 8:10). Nature abhors a vacuum, though, and our good home is likely to see evil return with a vengeance! Consider the Corinthians that had been washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Cor 6:11) and yet were later engaged in sinful conduct again (2 Cor 12:20-21) or the false teachers mentioned by Peter who had been bought by the Lord (2 Pet 2:1) but had become entangled again and, “the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Pet 2:20-22). In the case of he false teachers, they had become worse by forsaking the right way (2 Pet 2:15), adultery and covetousness (2 Pet 2:14), and even denied the Lord who bought them (2 Pet 2:1). In our case, our hearts can become “hardened” (Heb 3:12-13), insult the Spirit (Heb 10:26-29), and eventually reach the point of no return (Heb 6:4-6). How important, then, that we do not let the home of our heart remain empty and thusly invite worldly things to take up residence only to discover, “the last state of that man is worse than the first!” Follow instead the example of David (Psalm 101:3-4), renew your understanding (Romans 12:1-2), study God’s word (1 Pet 2:1-2), allow yourself to be filled with the Spirit (Colossians 3:16), be selective about your environment (Philippians 4:8), and chose friends carefully (1 Cor 15:33, Prov 13:20, 2 Cor 6:14-7:1).

I seemed to provide conflicting opinions yesterday when suggesting that we should focus less on other’s sins and more on our own and then saying that we should also focus less on our own sins as well. This is because I think we should focus on grace (or forgiveness for our sins – not others). Christ did not suggest we first pray, “God stop me” but “God, be merciful to me.” People often assert high grades on unselfishness and pronounce their health and wealth as the just reward (since, “what goes around, comes around”). All of the students in one of my college classes, for example, once even claimed their choices in life were honest and selfless no less than either 90% to 100% of the time. Persons of great spirituality (like Mother Teresa), on the other hand, state that they know their decisions are SELFISH 100% of the time. Apostle Paul even said, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) Psalm 106 is specifically about God’s people forgetting His mercies and calls for the praise of God despite these short memories. “Remember me” seems based on the remembrance of Israel’s history in the previous Psalm and is a strong contrast with “they soon forgot.” We read last week the most famous line of the Bible that starts, “For He so loved the world…” How would you finish the sentence, For the world so loved their God … ? “We have sinned with our fathers,” “They soon forgot,” “He gave them their request,” the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram, the story of the golf calf, “they despised the pleasant land,” and so forth is about the great need for community penitence for forgetting. There isa long history of rebellion in the face of God’s love and provision even though He has always remained faithful.

1 Samuel 5-7:17

For me this entire story of the capture of the Ark and its return can be played out today in our dealings with God either individually, as a congregation, a community and a nation. The Ark was captured because Israel used it as a “good luck” charm. It had become a symbol of God, something to carry into battle because they had lost a previous battle and not because they trusted God, they had put God in a box and kept Him there in the reasoning of their minds.

The Philistines now had the God of Israel in a box and took Him to their temple where their god, Dagon, fell before Israel’s God. [(I have sworn by Myself, the word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness and shall not return, that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear [allegiance] Isaiah 45:23); (It is written: " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' " 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:11-12)]

Instead of getting a clue and either being too stupid or stubborn to buy one, the Philistines kept their god and tried to reason and placate the God of Israel. Their means and methods of dealing with Israel’s God, placing it in a chart being pulled by cows that had given just given birth to calves that were not allowed to travel with them and the gold idols, were about “blind” men searching in the dark for God. In the natural new mothers don’t leave their babies. Israel took this as a sign, which it was; however, they misinterpreted the “sign” because they failed to seek God’s direction. They went by how things appeared to them instead of what God said because they failed to have fellowship with God to find out what He required, they failed to adhere to the Laws handed down by Moses so they went by it kinda-sorta-seems-like-to-me.

We still do that today. We try to keep God in a box and only bring Him out in crisis, then only to cry, “Why God, why?” When we don’t have God in our lives, His Presence, when manifested, defeats the gods in our lives and instead of asking questions and examining the reasonableness of the gods we serve, we send the true God back. When the God we say we serve out of tradition shows up in our lives in a powerful way, we then forge a worship method based on what we think we have seen instead of drawing closer to Him in fellowship to find out what He requires. We then begin to forge a worship system formed out of the ignorance of our own minds based on traditions formed from the lifestyles of unbelievers, a deadly formula.

John 6:1-21

This sentence/verse has caught my attention,
2 And a huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miracles as he healed the sick.

Am I following the pattern of the crowd? Am I following Jesus because of His miracles, because he “fed” me? Am I looking for a feeding program? When we read through the Book of Luke we came across the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31). At the end of that story there is a punch line which was, 31"But Abraham said, `If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead.' " Signs and Wonders do not bring belief and faith, signs and wonders just make us wonder, “Hmmm” Hopefully our curiosity will send us on a journey to find “Truth.”

What the now well-fed crowd wanted was a king to keep them fed. This desire not only indicted the crowd back then but it indicts us today. We seek the “right” politician or leader not for what is right and moral but for what they can do for us and at the same time not give to the other guys living across the tracks or the other side of the political spectrum. Like us, they wanted a prophet/king to give them “stuff” but they didn’t want the Messiah part because they, like, us, don’t really want to submit to anyone however we do just want the “stuff.”

Psalm 106:13-31
24 The people refused to enter the pleasant land,
for they wouldn't believe his promise to care for them.

25 Instead, they grumbled in their tents
and refused to obey the LORD.

I am always fascinated by how the readings from different books written at different times parallel and compliment each other. This division of the Book of Psalms, at least to me, clearly shows the fickleness of “us folks.”

Proverbs 14:32-33

32 The wicked are crushed by their sins, but the godly have a refuge when they die.

Our bodies were never created to withstand the weight of sin. For those who are “saved” go get a B.S. (Before Salvation) picture and one now and see the difference on your face. Salvation lifts burdens.

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Grace and peace,

I'm keeping up here with everyone. I must say that I am becoming very educated while I'm on this journey and at the same time, I'm wondering what took me so long to actually read the Bible.
I find it comforting while at the same time seeing many parallels between then and now and human nature. As I continue to read, I ask myself are we so different now? The killing that occurred, take of countries, towns, cities, leaving no one alive...
Then jumping ahead to actually visualize Jesus speaking and trying to connect this.
I have asked myself these questions:
Are we as human beings so different now than they were back then?
And how can I as one person make a difference?
And how can we all as a community make a difference?
It seems we keep making the same mistakes over and over again, taking one step forward and two back.
I've never been closer to God than I am today, even though at times I am a bit confused by it all, but I suppose that, too, will become clearer to me.
Judges was a real eye-opener, especially at the end.
I do know that the more I read the more strength I draw and the more determined I am to make right my life and to adhere to God's teachings and to share that with my family by living that way.
I ask myself questions and I am finding the answers.
Thanks for taking so much of your time to share with us your views and opinilons, and the questions you ask to ask ourselves.
You've got me thinking!

Is there any evidence to indicate the rock of Beth-shemesh? I would like to see a picture of that.

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