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Inspirational Image of the Day

G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150529

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Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.


Matthew 21:20-22

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”


Notes on the Scripture

We discussed the fig tree yesterday, but left out one of the most hopeful promises in the Bible, contained in this passage. “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive.”

Well, we left something off, didn’t we? “If you have faith.” Faith is the key issue in Christian life, for it is by faith that we are saved. And one might narrow faith down to this question: Do we believe that God brought his only Son, Jesus of Nazareth, back to life after he was crucified?

It is an accepted historical fact that Jesus existed and was crucified. Several reliable non-Christian sources record the event and none dispute it. There is no account of what became of the body, however, except in the Bible.

But what if there were? It wouldn’t matter. If Jesus had been executed last month and there were videos of him walking around three days after he died, it would not make one bit of difference. Those whom God has not chosen for salvation would not have ears to hear it. They would simply say it was faked.

Remember the Parable of the Sower. (Matthew 13:1-23) Belief in Christ is a matter of faith, not of evidence. And it is the strength of our faith that determines the power of the Holy Spirit within us. When the apostles asked why they were unable to heal the epileptic boy, Christ tells them:
“Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

We can grow in faith. That is the meaning of the repeated references to a mustard seed. Once the seed is planted, if our mind stays open, God will nourish it and it will grow, every day. Our love of Christ is a living spirit that can grow and prosper in us. But it takes time.

We must not fret about our salvation, if we are pulled away from time to time. Our faith is never perfect. Satan is powerful on earth; he is seductive, persistent, and brilliant at persuasion. Christ will be with us, even when we stumble and have doubts. Paul himself said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

But although stumbling in faith will not condemn us, it is not recommended! There is, John warns us, “sin that leads to death”. (1 John 5:15-17) Christ himself tells us that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Mark 3:29)

There has been a lot of speculation and difference of opinion on exactly what Christ and John meant. But why tamper with our salvation, once we understand the monumental importance of the gift we have received? If we love Christ, we want to get closer to Him. We change our lives to conform to God.

G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150528

The Gilmer Free Press

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.


Psalm 44:1-3

O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:

you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;

for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.


Romans 12:1

A Living Sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.


Notes on the Scripture

Paul spends the first eleven chapters of Romans examining, in minute detail, the way in which God has operated to bring us righteousness. Here, at the beginning of Chapter 12, there is a major shift in tone. Chapters 1-11 explain the differences between the Old Testament and the New, and why they are one Bible even though there seem to be many contradictions between them.

But this verse sounds very different. It is not an explanation; it is a call to action. Paul has told us “why”. Now, he is going to tell us “what”. And the very first “what” is to present our bodies as a sacrifice.

When we hear about the Jews making sacrifices, it sounds strange to our modern ear. How could anyone worship God — our God — by killing and burning animals or wheat? But that is what the law called upon the Jews to do in the Old Testament. We don’t make animal sacrifices any longer because we live under a new covenant with God, reflected in the New Testament. Our relationship with God changed.

Does this mean we no longer make sacrifices to God? No. We now follow the law in the Spirit. We keep the same law in a new way. We follow the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.

This may seem easier than what Orthodox Jews go through; we can get away with doing a lot less. And in ways, it is. But in one critical detail, it is more, because Christ did not give just his sheep or his wheat or his time or his money as a sacrifice for us. He gave his body. He sacrificed his own flesh and blood.

And now, like Christ, we present more than our possessions to God as our sacrifice. We give the one thing that is really ours: ourselves, our souls and bodies. Like Christ, we present our bodies as a sacrifice; we give ourselves back to the God who created us.

I hope that none of us are called to die for Christ. We must always remember that countless Christians have done exactly that. Yet, although few are called to die for Christ, we are all called to live for Christ. Each and every one of us are called to give our bodies as a living sacrifice.

We are not expected to die for God. We are expected to live for God, and it is a living God who will enable us, strengthen us, comfort us and instruct us in our journey: The Holy Spirit. How do we do this? The rest of Romans will tell us. Most of epistles are full of information on the subject and actually, it starts in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) It sounds scary, but it isn’t; because once we have faith, once we are confident in God’s Holy Spirit within us and the salvation that awaits us, we do not need to fear anything. And in fact, leading a life of Christian sacrifice is a life filled with joy and happiness.

God will not leave all of our rewards until after our death. The joy one can derive from following God’s commandments is beyond anything the secular world realizes. People spend their lives grabbing for money, power, sex, status — and they wonder why they are not happy. They wonder what is the meaning of it all, and yet, it is right before them, in the Bible they have rejected.

G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150527

The Gilmer Free Press

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.


1 Maccabees 13:41, 50-51 (Douay-Rheims 1899)

In the year 170 [142 B.C.] the yoke of the Gentiles was taken off from Israel. . . .

In those days Simon [Maccabeus] besieged Gaza . . . . And they cried to Simon for peace, and he granted it to them: and he cast them out from thence, and cleansed the castle from uncleannesses.

And they entered into it the 23rd day of the second month, in the year 171, with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and harps, and cymbals, and psalteries, and hymns, and canticles, because the great enemy was destroyed out of Israel.


Matthew 21:6-11

Hosanna to the Son of David

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.

Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”


Notes on the Scripture

Jesus fulfilled many specific messianic prophecies, but most often we do not see him doing it intentionally. Here, though, he goes out of his way to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey . . . colt.” (Zechariah 9:9) Moreover, Jesus is making a Big Entrance. Where he has usually sought to avoid crowds, now he embraces them. Riding a donkey colt is theatrical; it is an intentional show, and halfway a parody of the triumphal march of a Roman victor.

Even closer, Christ mimics the triumphal march of Simon Maccabeus, the brother of the great Judah Maccabeus, into Gaza. The specific of the palm branches laid in his path were not lost on the early Jewish Christians, and should not be lost on us. Around 175 B.C. Jerusalem had fallen to the Syrian (SeleucidThe Seleucids were one of the divisions of the empire of Alexander the Great, after his death.) king, Antiochus Epiphanes, and he had been determined to stamp out Judaism. He set a statue of Zeus on the Temple’s altar and turned its rooms into a brothel.

The Maccabees reconquered Jerusalem and much of Canaan. The Sadducees were actually the inheritors of the Maccabean revolution; they believed that the “Messiah” predicted by the prophets was an ongoing process, begun by the Maccabees, that would cast out foreigners and re-establish the most ancient interpretation of Mosaic Law. So it was they who most fervently anticipated a messianic entry into Jerusalem, by a Jew riding a charger at the head of a victorious army, coming to cleanse the Temple.

Thus, Jesus riding a donkey colt is loaded with implications. Here is your conquering King, Israel: a scruffy and impoverished holy man, who preaches peace and sacrifice, not in shining armor, but the tunic of a working man — and riding a small donkey. Yes, he is coming to cleanse the Temple, but it is you, the religious leaders of Judaism, from which it will be cleansed!

The cries of “Hosanna” and “Hosanna in the highest” are often misunderstood. The word means hosanna means “save now”. It is more a plea than a joyful shout of celebration. It is somewhat similar to the British “God save the King”, with “the King” standing as the symbol of the nation. “Hosanna to the Son of David” thus asks Christ to save Israel, but implicit in it is a recognition (or hope) of His ability to do so and his right to lead. “Hosanna in the highest” asks the angels in heaven pray to God for the salvation of Israel.

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