Faith to Forgive.

Sycamore Tree in Israel.

One of my problems in reading the Bible is that I take many things Jesus said as being literal. The disciples had this problem too. When Jesus said to sell your cloak and buy a sword, it sounded like advice to have a sword in case people persecuted you. But this flies in the face of the other things Jesus said about turning the cheek and loving your enemies.

Most commentators of the Bible say Jesus was not being literal. And I believe they are right since when Peter cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus healed the man and told Peter not to use the sword.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:

 “At the time the apostles understood Christ to mean real weapons, but he spoke only of the weapons of the spiritual warfare. The sword of the Spirit is the sword with which the disciples of Christ must furnish themselves.” 

Whenever I would read what Jesus said about moving a mountain into the sea if we had enough faith, I would wonder what he really meant. Then I read someone say the mountain represented difficulties in our lives. They said in the Old Testament, mountains represented difficulties,and that made sense.

Today, I was reading Luke 17 and Jesus spoke about the Sycamore or Mulberry tree. He said, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea and it would obey you.’”

He said this in answer to his disciples who had asked him, “Increase our faith.” And they asked him to do this after he had spoken about forgiveness, the kind of forgiveness they thought impossible for them.

“Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn to you, you shall forgive him.”

So, uprooting a sycamore tree is impossible for anyone to do; therefore, if you think it is impossible for you to forgive over and over, you are wrong. Faith in God will make it possible for you.

This is what I read in some commentaries this morning:

Pulpit Commentary

“The Lord signifies that a very slight real faith, which he compares to the mustard seed, that smallest of grains, would be of power sufficient to accomplish what seemed to them impossible. In other words, he says, “If you have any real faith at all, you will be able to win the victory over yourselves necessary for a perpetual loving judgement of others.”

Barne’s Notes on the Bible

“This sycamore is a remarkable tree. It not only bears several crops of figs during the year but these figs grow on short stems along the trunk and large branches, and not at the end of twigs, as in other fruit-bearing trees. The figs are small and of a greenish-yellow color.

It is easily propagated, merely by planting a stout branch in the ground and watering it until it has struck its roots into the soil. This it does with great rapidity and to a vast depth. It was with reference to this latter fact that our Lord selected it to illustrate the power of faith.”

Thinking of all this reminds me of the fires of hell preachers talk about. I believe the fire is symbolic of something else.What would be the point of God burning people who are lost? Punishment? Punishment is supposed to be restorative. Actual, physical burning? I don’t think so. Being burned is very painful, and I think when the wicked realize they are lost,it is like a burning in their soul. A terrible pain in their heart at seeing what they have given up because they loved darkness rather than light.

Don’t Follow the Crowd to See Jesus on Earth.

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When I am on Christian social media, I have noticed many believe Jesus will come to earth and appear in his temple. I have read some say Jesus will walk upon the earth again for the thousand years mentioned in Revelation.

I feel inside me Jesus saying, “Warn them, warn them.” I could be wrong, but these are the thoughts I had this morning. Jesus warned us there would be false Messiahs and false prophets.

“…Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light.”  2 Corinthians 11:14  

“It (the beast) performs great signs to cause even fire to come down to earth in the presence of men.” Revelation 13:13

Like Israel misunderstood Jesus’ first coming, many Christians misunderstand Jesus’ second coming. The disciples thought the Messiah would come to fight their enemies and make Jerusalem powerful. They were taught that and they believed it.

Even when Jesus returned to heaven, the disciples were expecting to be rescued from Rome.

Acts 1:6

Then they gathered around Jesus and asked him, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He told them it is not for them to know times and dates the Father has set up.”

The teachers back then read the verses that apply to the new heaven and new earth, where righteousness dwells. They thought the Messiah would bring that to pass. God will indeed rule earth and the universe. But that will be after the holy city comes down from heaven and lands on earth, as it says in Revelation. That will be the great judgement day when the wicked are raised and punished for what they have done. The Bible says what they have done to others will be done to them. Then they will all die the second death. They will hurt others no longer.

Jesus’ followers asked him about his second coming. This is found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. I haven’t put every verse here. We all need to read and understand for ourselves.

Luke 21

Jesus said:

25“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Matthew 24

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[b]

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Revelation 1:7

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…”

Acts 1:11

“Men of Galilee, they said, why do you stand looking into heaven. This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Mark 14:62 At his trial Jesus said:

“…and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 

Years ago, I had a dream. I looked out my dining room window and saw it was a desert land outside. Then thousands of people were walking past my house. I went outside to see what was happening. I looked toward where the people were walking. There was a large, beautiful, white building with pillars. There were women in front of the building dressed in white. I decided not to follow the people.

I looked out my window again and all the people were gone. I went out the door and saw the building swallowed up by the sand. It was gone and so were the people.

 

 

 

From Robbing Banks into God’s Arms.

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Photo by: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:AgnosticPreachersKid

One of my followers has asked me to write about my family and how God worked in their lives. For many in my family, it has been a slow growth from child to adult, always believing in God. However, there is one family member who met God while he was in prison.

He doesn’t want me to share his name so I’ll call him Stephen. Stephen was raised in a home of physical abuse and neglect. His father beat him and his siblings, later his step-father did the same. Both fathers were alcoholics. They also beat Stephen’s mother. They were in great poverty and sometimes there wasn’t enough to eat.

Stephen started getting into trouble with the law and went to prison at 16  for the first time for robbing a postal office. He got a year hard labor for that. He never went back home to live. He moved from city to city, getting arrested and sentenced for assault. He was in lots of fights. He sold drugs.

When he was 24, he lived in a large city. He met a man who came from a small prairie town. This man knew when the town bank received it’s money. The nearest police were many miles away. It looked like a sure thing to rob this bank and get away. Stephen said he was in.

Another man joined them. They bought rifles and duffel bags for the money. They drove to the town. They got out of the car with the rifles and went through the first door. But Stephen said, “Something’s wrong.” He said he just felt something strange. He told his friends to follow him and leave. As they walked back through the front door they were surrounded by police and arrested. It turned out the third man had ratted on them to get a lesser sentence on a previous crime. The police had been waiting for them.

At the trial, Stephen expected to get 8 years. He was surprised to get only 2 years. Apparently, if they had walked through the second door, the sentence would have been much harsher.

Stephen was used to going to jail, but he hated it there. You had to be tough and fearless and make the other inmates afraid of you. He did that in every jail he was in. He was an expert fighter and would have killed someone if he had to.

The warden of this large prison was a Christian. There was a punishment room called, “The Hole,” that you were sent to if you caused trouble. Stephen was sent there for fighting in the cafeteria. The warden had a Bible put in each of these cells. That is all that was in the room besides a cot and toilet.

Stephen started reading the Bible and finished reading it the month of his detention. One night, while he was sleeping, he heard God call out his name, “Stephen, Stephen.”

The next day, he was back in population, but had been sent to a part of the prison that had a lot of Christians in it. A Christian said something to him and Stephen came towards him to hit him. He heard the same voice say to him, “Stephen, if you hit him, I will come down on you like a ton of bricks.”  (This is what Stephen would say to people.) Stephen stopped walking towards the man. He was stunned. He turned around and went to his cell and cried, “like a baby,” he said. He was amazed God would speak with him. He gave himself to God that moment.

So, that is the story of a man in our family. He got out of that prison and 40 years later is still a Christian. He had strong faith in God right away. He brought other inmates to Christ. Three of them were baptized when they got out.

Turn to me and be saved,

all you ends of the earth;

for I am God, and there is no other.   Isaiah 45:22

 

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD,

“Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.

If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.

I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Isaiah 1:18-20

Discontent Leads to All Sins.

I am writing on the book, “The Art of Divine Contentment,” by Thomas Watson. I’ve learned a lot about myself in this book and how I have let discontent sometimes rule my life.

Mr. Watson writes that the first sin in the universe came from discontent. Lucifer and his angel friends became discontented with their stations.

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—“ Jude 6

Lucifer (Satan) was quite dissatisfied with his place in heaven. His discontent turned into rebellion against God – though God had done nothing to him.

“How you have fallen from heaven,

morning star, son of the dawn! (Lucifer)

 You have been cast down to the earth,

you who once laid low the nations!

 You said in your heart,

“I will ascend to the heavens;

I will raise my throne

above the stars of God;

I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,

on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.

 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.”

But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,

to the depths of the pit.”  Isaiah 14:12-15

When Satan met Eve in the garden, he told her God was withholding a wonderful thing from her, the knowledge of good and evil. He said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

 

Eve must have felt some discontent in not having the same knowledge as God. She must have wanted what God had and decided to get it. So, she believed God was a liar and sinned against him.

 In his book, Watson says that discontentment leads to every other sin. Every single one!

 I thought about myself. I thought about the years I had been so depressed, suicidal and lonely. Was that because of discontentment? Yes, it was. I could see it clearly. I was discontented with my past, with my childhood all the way through adulthood.

 I was angry I had a mental illness, that I wasn’t like other people, that I couldn’t work without having a breakdown, that my husband and I didn’t have what other people had because their wives worked and they had extra money. I was not content with this life God had given me. I thought I had suffered too much. That it wasn’t fair, that God wasn’t fair.

 Yes, I was the epitome of discontent. I was its poster child. I was no better than Eve, or heaven-forbid, Satan himself. Whoa. Scary.

 So, this week, I had been feeling down and upset and didn’t realize why. I asked myself, “Are you discontented about something?”  Yes, I was. I didn’t like it that my mom was in a nursing home instead of with me. I felt terribly sorry for her that her memory was bad now. She couldn’t read, watch TV or walk any longer.

 Mom told me she had wanted to die, but she didn’t die. She told me she hates being in a home. She told me she is angry, helpless and hopeless. I felt sick when she said these things. I don’t want this kind of empty life for her either.

 But, during this, I did remember how when I trust God I always find there is a very good reason for everything that happens. I’ve been trying to give all my feelings about Mom to him. He has been helping me a lot. But I need to do it every day, or the discontent will creep up on me and I’ll be depressed again.

 I believe Mr. Watson is right. All sins do come from discontentment. Now that I know this, I will talk with God about it, pray about it and because God is my Savior and partner, I believe I will gain the victory over my discontentment.

Students in God’s School.

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Gutenberg Bible

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Philippians 4:12

In his book, “The Art of Divine Contentment,” Thomas Watson writes, “It is not enough for Christians to hear their duty, but they must learn their duty. It is one thing to hear, and another thing to learn.” Paul said, “I have learned.” He also cites the parable of the sower and how there was only one good ground; there were many hearers of the gospel, but few learners.

Watson says there are two things that keep us from learning: Slighting and forgetting. In slighting the word of God, we give it little importance. In forgetting, we do not “examine the scriptures.”  Acts 17:11

If we go to school and take a class, reading or listening once to the teacher will not help us pass the course.  If we wish to really learn the information and not forget, we must read it again and again; we must make notes on the subject. If we do this, we will pass the test when it comes.

We need to understand the importance of listening to God, either by reading the Bible or by listening to it read to us. There is a wonderful site online that is called, Daily Audio Bible. Each day, Brian reads parts from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. It is lovely to put earphones in and hear someone read the Bible. I get more out of the verses than when I read it myself.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about listening carefully to what he had to say. Here are some verses:

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”  Luke 8:18

“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” Luke 9:44  The disciples did not listen and understand. It was something they did not want to hear.

And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Mark 4:9

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand… Mark 7:14

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Matthew 7:24

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29

We need the Holy Spirit to help us learn of God. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  John 14:26

In my own life, I have noticed the more time I spend reading the Bible, the more God’s words come into my mind as I go through my day and encounter different trials or problems. Then I can say that verse and be comforted and strengthened.

“Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:11

 

Revelation: Thyatira & Sardis.

Continued from previous post…

Now we are ready to read what John was shown.

          “Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.  Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.”  Rev. 11:1, 2

Since 70 CE, when Titus and his army destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, no other temple has been built to replace it, and the New Jerusalem does not have a temple (Rev. 21:22), so we can eliminate both of these as the holy city that will be trod on for forty-two months (1260 years, see Appendix 2).

 In the previous chapter of this book we saw that a woman stands for a city, which stands for a group of people that have something in common.  In 1 Cor. 3:16 Paul says that Christians are the temple of God.  So what we learn here is that true believers will be safe spiritually even though they may be harmed physically (trod under foot). Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matt. 10:28

          “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”  These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth.”  Rev. 11:3, 4

          We saw in Revelation Chapter 1 that the seven churches are represented by the seven lamp stands surrounding Jesus– one lamp stand for each successive church.  So why are only two lamp stands mentioned in Rev. 11?  What happened to the other five?  There are only two lamp stands in this vision because the events that are being described apply to only two of the churches – Thyatira and Sardis.  These two churches existed during the 42 months, the 1260 years, mentioned above in Rev. 11.  This time span lasted from the time the Bishop of Rome achieved undisputed authority in 538 CE until the Pope was put in prison in 1798 CE.

jezebel                                                                     monk11

chart3The two olive trees are the Holy Spirit and Jesus (see Appendix 2) and they are with the churches throughout their experiences.  Even though they have the power to “…devour their enemies…to shut up the sky…and to strike the earth with every plague…” (Rev. 11: 5. 6) they do not do so during this time.  Why?  Because whenever true believers were brought to trial and forced to defend themselves, they became powerful “witnesses” for God’s truth.  Some who saw their bravery and heard the truth in their words became believers themselves.

monk12

 

Revelation: The Church of Pergamum.

Pergamum:  Spiritual Corruption     Third Seal: Church/State      313 CE – 537 CE

          Spirituality

          “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast my Name,  and did not deny My faith…But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam…So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth…To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”    Rev. 2: 13-17

          In 313 CE, the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which stopped the persecution of Christians and made all religions legal within the Roman Empire.

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For the most part the church remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus.  However, some who had the traits of Balaam and the Nicolaitans had infiltrated the church.  Balaam was supposed to be a prophet for God way back when the Hebrews were leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land, but he was really in business for himself and eventually led the Hebrews astray (Num. 31: 16; 2 Pet. 2: 15; Jude 11).  The Nicolaitans were “Christians” who compromised their beliefs so they could justify taking advantage of sinful practices.  Jesus promised that those who did not get trapped by the teachings of these false believers would attain heavenly rewards.

Experience

“When He broke the third seal…I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard a voice…saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”  Rev. 6: 5, 6

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During this time the church was growing rapidly as Christianity was replacing paganism.  But those who had infiltrated the church and who had the traits of Balaam and the Nicolaitans were intent on having the best of both worlds.  They believed in God and wanted eternal life, but they also wanted all the power and pleasures the world had to offer…even if it meant compromising their faith.  So here we see, in the history of God’s church, the beginning of the unifying of church and state, of religious and political (secular) powers.  The black color of the horse represents the spiritual darkness in which the church found itself, and the scales denote shared weight given to both the church (religion) and the state (politics).  Even though much of the Christian purity was being bartered away, the oil and the wine (see Appendix 2) was not damaged because there were still many faithful followers of Jesus who refused to go along with the corruption entering the church.