Month: November 2021

a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears


But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. – Matthew 5:39

Allow me to comment about the “slap” that Jesus says we should endure. Here Jesus is speaking about personal slights of any kind. The slap (or the “smiting,” as the KJV has it) does not necessarily have to involve physical violence.

Even in our day, a “slap in the face” is a metaphor for an unexpected insult or offense. So, did someone insult you? Go ahead and let him, Jesus says. Turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses

The truth in this verse is simply this, that the disciple of Christ Jesus, when he or she has suffered wrong, is to remove from his or her motive the natural desire to retaliate or accuse.

“Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving.” – Matthew Henry’s Commentary


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Editorial, Health & Wellness, Food & Drink

Syncretism, two

God’s Word so often staggers me. Many times, this happens when I’m in a nook or cranny of the Bible; at other times, they are verses before the verses that I’ve prepared myself to be amazed.

3,200 years of relevance

We find perhaps the single most important verse in the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is a clarion call from God to the world that He is the one and only God. This verse established monotheism forever, and Jesus quoted this verse as the greatest commandment. (Mark 12:29) But in the previous chapter, chapter five, we find a passage of Scripture that is as fresh and pertinent today as when God gave it to Moses.

14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God…

Deuteronomy 5:14–15

God spoke these words approximately 1,200 years before the birth of Jesus, which means that Moses said these words from God around 3,200 years ago. Yet, they are still as true and vital right now as they were all those years ago. All around us are people that have committed their lives to other gods – false gods – and they are neither shy nor embarrassed about who they serve or what they believe. As a result, many Christians have a syncretism (sin-crǎ-tism) of beliefs.

What syncretism means

I wrote a post about this a while back: Syncretism

Syncretism is a union or attempted fusion of different religions, cultures, or philosophies — like Halloween, which has both Christian and pagan roots, or the combination of Aristotelian philosophy with the belief system of the early punk rock practitioners.

Vocabulary.com

Now, with the definition of syncretism nailed down, let’s consider what the one true God said: “you shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you.” God’s warning is directed against religious syncretism. He knew this was going to be a problem for people, so He confronted the problem head on – “for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God.”

Jealousy is a neutral term; it is neither bad nor good. However, in our culture, we understand only bad jealousy. If a husband becomes angry every time his wife talks with another man, that’s bad jealousy. And that’s the kind of jealousy we mentally jump to when we think about this emotion. However, there also is good jealousy.

Good and bad jealousy

Good jealousy tells us what is important to us. Let me repeat that. Good jealousy tells us what is important to us. Therefore, God’s jealousy tells us what is important to Him. In my younger days, I was jealous for my kids. I wanted to give them opportunities. I wanted to keep them from harm. I wanted to be Dad. Those were all good things, and they were the right things to allow the emotion of jealousy to affect my actions. This kind of jealousy is about as close as we can come to understanding what God means when He says He is a jealous God.

God told Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,“ declares the LORD, ”plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This verse shows us God’s jealousy. God has good plans, plans to prosper and not harm, and gives Jeremiah hope and a future. God is motivated to do these things because He loves Jeremiah and has established plans that include Jeremiah. Somehow, in this immense history of humanity, each of us is important to God. Wow!

Don’t date a Canaanite

Now, if Jeremiah knew God’s intent but began dating a Canaanite girl and started hanging out with her all the time and incorporating some of her beliefs into his beliefs, God’s jealousy would have “wax hot” against Jeremiah. This response would be proper and would be good jealousy. It’s like when a spouse begins cheating; the other spouse has a right to be jealous and angry.

God doesn’t need a “right” to be jealous. He is God. But I hope you get my point. If you’ve given your life to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and then begin to incorporate beliefs from “the gods of the peoples who are around you” then God will be angry at you – not “with you” but at you. Any syncretism of Christianity is repulsive to God; it’s kind of like having a cheating spouse.

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a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears



Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.
 – Deuteronomy 5:13–14

Among other things, the Sabbath rest is God’s way to let families see God’s miracles each week. If we attempt to circumvent the Sabbath, we cheat ourselves. God has promised to “make up the difference” when we observe the Sabbath.

We cheat ourselves because if fail to prepare for the Sabbath and then work that should have been done steals our rest. But any extra work we try to sneak in stops God from His Sabbath miracles. If we’re going to do the work, then there is no reason for God to help. But if we observe the Sabbath, we will discover His miracles given to us to rest.

Six days you shall labor. Your work schedule may not allow Saturday or Sunday to be your Sabbath but pray for wisdom, ask for your Sabbath. God will make a way for you to keep one out of seven days set aside for your rest and to meditate upon the Lord.

During this time of gatherings to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s not fail to keep His commands. Keep your Sabbath; it was made for you, not you for it! (Mark 2:27)


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Compass Map Direction Degrees North East South

Where Shall I Go

How can we feel isolated while we are in a crowd? Why are we lonely after a Thanksgiving meal, or potluck supper, or family get-to-gather? What makes special events tax not only our energy but also our spiritual health?

King David understood these emotions. He wrote, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 43:5) For many reasons or no reason at all, even when we are physically and spiritually healthy, our souls can be downcast. Well, be encouraged by Psalm 139:7–12

Where shall I go?

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning.
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

God’s Hand Guides Us

I love this Psalm because it reminds me that God is everywhere. He’s not like a wireless network that has spotty coverage – some places I can be near God, but other places I’ve got zero bars! I may be stuck with a dead battery or at a mandatory office party or at a relative’s house that is full of darkness, even there I can communicate with God!

Verse ten, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” is so encouraging. Innumerable times I’ve led one of my five kids by placing my hand on his or her back and guiding them through stores, trains, school events, and more. They were too short to see where to go and their environment was unfamiliar. Yet we made it through.

Good News

That is the way the Holy Spirit is with us. We may be too small in spiritual stature to see above the crowd and the environment may make no sense to us, but God has our back. In those times we can trust that God was with us, His desire was to see His will done through us. As the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

As we enter the most frenetic time of the year, trust Jesus, I mean really trust Him, uninhibited and not restrained by long worn ruts in family relationships. Let God’s light shine. As the Psalmist wrote about God, “even the darkness is not dark to you.” (Psalms 139:12)


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Enjoyable and Pleasant

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17

Thanksgiving to God, helps to make us agreeable (enjoyable and pleasant) to all men (and women). – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary


Image by Sajjad Saju from Pixabay 

sign that says "thankful"

Peace and Thankfulness

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

The above passage of Scripture was recently the Verse of the Day, on BibleHub.com. God’s timing is perfect. I needed that verse. This year I needed to be reminded to let Christ’s peace rule my heart, and to be thankful!

Spiritual Atoms

Jesus is ready to send His unique peace into each believer to rule our hearts. Sign me up! I need a steadier hand than mine guiding my life. Family pressures, financial pressures, social pressures, ad Infinitum lend themselves as so many voices telling me what to accept as right.

I thank God for the Scriptures 1that tell me what is right. And I have Jesus, the Son of God, who is my righteousness2, and the Holy Spirit within me to guide me3, to gird me, and guard me as I walk where He leads. In all of this and more, I am to be thankful to God. How could I not be?

Peace and thankfulness are like two spiritual atoms. Just as sodium and chloride (NaCl) are two atoms that, when combined, form a molecule commonly known as table salt, likewise, peace and thankfulness, when combined in the abiding presence of Jesus give us lives that are full of joy and impactful to others for Jesus.

Thanksgiving

We are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I enjoy it because it compels each of us to search our hearts to find whom we give our thanks. If Jesus isn’t actually first on our list, then we need to go back to the cross of Jesus and be reminded of the sacrifice that He gave “for the joy set before Him4.”

Over our Thanksgiving meal we share and develop companions – the word companion comes from the Latin words which means with bread. There is something special about sharing a meal with others. Throughout the Bible, we see example after example of people sharing meals and even God sharing meals with people.

Abraham shared a meal with the pre-incarnate Jesus5, the elders of the tribe of Israel shared a meal in the presence of God6, the Last Supper of Jesus7, and the list goes on. God blesses these occasions.

Therefore, let all of us “Give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God toward you in Christ Jesus.8

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1 – 2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV
2 – Philippians 3:9
3 – 1 Corinthians 6:19
4 – Hebrews 12:2
5 – Genesis 18:1–2
6 – Exodus 24:9–11
7 – Matthew 26:26–30
8 – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Between My Ears

A pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

This is where I add notes and thoughts as I study the Bible. Please feel free to comment.


33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Matthew 5:33-37

There are two kinds of oaths, one that is a promise and one that makes some kind of assertion – like asserting you didn’t steal your neighbor’s hammer. A covenant is a promissory oath.

“The Old Testament is full of oaths and vows, but an oath and a vow are not the same. An oath imposes an obligation upon the one making the oath. A vow is by definition a conditional promise. That is, IF Jacob returns home safely, IF Israel is victorious over the Canaanites, IF Jephthah defeats the Ammonites, then they will respond with some predetermined action to complete the bargain.

Torah Class

We can easily mistake what Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37 as a warning to never make an oath, but in this passage, Jesus is warning against idolatry. We know this because the Apostle Paul makes an oath in Romans 1:9: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you” and Hebrews 6:17 states, “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath

Oh, God takes an oath very seriously. An oath is irrevocable1. Next time I’ll write about vows.


1 – In the Old Testament, for a man, an oath is irrevocable. There are certain specific conditions when a girl or wife can be released from an oath.

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

gadfly - horsefly

Blessed is Israel

God is not one who is like a gadfly (horsefly) that flits from here to there or seeks to bite and annoy first one and then another. Among the names of God are Elohim (My Creator), Jehovah (My Lord God), El-Shaddai (My Supplier), Jehovah Jireh (My Provider), Adona (My Master) and Abba (my Father).

My Creator, Lord God, Supplier, Provider, Master, and Father is trustworthy (Numbers 23:19) and true. God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24) and judges those that seek other Gods (Exodus 20:3) and look for other ways than Jesus for salvation, the King of Israel (John 10:1).

God has anger in His heart (Psalm 7:11) towards the people that mistreat His chosen people, Israel. Anger? Is He not the God of love? Yes, He is the God of love, but He has anger against us if we set ourselves against His chosen people. Israel is God’s chosen people (Exodus 19:6). If we receive Jesus as our Savior, then He adopts us. (Romans 8:15)

Who would poke their finger into the apple (pupil) of His eye (Zechariah 2:8)? A fool (Proverbs 28:26)! How can we forget that His people are, “a people dwelling alone, and not counting itself among the nations?” (Numbers 23:9)

God Will Bless

God will bless the nations among whom Israel is counted a friend and will punish those that curse Israel:

“Blessed are those who bless you,
and cursed are those who curse you.”

Numbers 24:9b

Look around and discover who is against Israel. Several denominations have cancelled their support for Israel. Many media outlets are openly hostile to Israel. Many in Europe are once again blaming being openly prejudice against the Jews. It is a wise person that seeks to bless Israel and a fool that curses God’s chosen people.

What We Should Know

Around the world and in our own backyard, there is increasing bigotry against God’s chosen people. Below is a quote from a recent letter of support after the Harvard Hillel building was vandalized twice within two weeks in late May 2021. 

“We are also disheartened by the rise in anti-Israel sentiment and in activism across the University and the greater Cambridge area that seeks to delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, not least through the libelous application of terms such as ‘apartheid,’ ‘white supremacy,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and ‘colonialism,’” the letter reads.

800 Harvard Affiliates Sign Letter Rebuking ‘Anti-Israel Sentiment’ on Campus

What God Has Said

What God has said should not be considered arcane or diminished. His words are “Yes” and “Amen.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) What He has declared does not have a “shelf life” become diminished or impotent through the passage of time. Every word from God is true, eternal, and destined to accomplish the purpose for what He spoke (Isaiah 55:11). He is God, “and in Him is no darkness.(1 John 1:5)

Each Gentile Christian is individually grafted (adopted) into God’s chosen people (Romans 11:17). Let’s make sure we are not of two minds (James 1:8) about the Israelites. We must be all-in for Israel because Jesus, a Jew, chose to be all-in for Israel.

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a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears


“For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn”

Ernest Hemingway

Much lore now surrounds this six-word story, accredited to Ernest Hemingway. So much has been made of these six words that the story now stretches around the world with countless book clubs holding annual six-word story contests, with the first and most well-known contest in Key West, Florida, Ernest Hemingway’s home where he allegedly gave this answer to a journalist.

So, what would your six-word story be about Jesus? To get things rolling here’s two of mine.


The Lamb of God saved me.
In Death, Thought Lost, Arose Victorious.

Gary

Include your six-word story in the comment section!


The story must present the truth about Christianity in a positive light. I reserve the right to remove any comments that are not appropriate for this site.


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photo of a British policeman

A Question of Authority

My wife and I were recently watching one of those British murder mysteries. The “team” was at the shipyard, and they needed to talk to the Port Authority. That got me thinking about authority which led to Jesus being given all authority, including the port. 😉

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Christian during the past 50+ years, it’s that I must know what I believe. There are things people have told me and things I think I believe, but it’s only the things I truly believe that I can act in faith upon.

Just Guessing

If I think I believe something and try to act on it, well, I’m just guessing. That’s not what God wants, and it rarely turns out to be good. Faith is a funny thing. For faith to be true it must only be trust in Christ’s authority.

Faith in the authority of Jesus is the raw material that is used to make hope. And faith is faith only when we trust God for things we can’t see, either figuratively or physically. All other faith is false and unreliable.

Yes, God’s response to our stepping out in true faith is usually “seen” through works or actions by people but be assured, all the things of God begin in the Spirit before they are manifested in this physical world.

Trust Jesus

How can you trust what I have written? You can because all I did was expound on Matthew 28:18 (NIV): “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…’” He was confirming the completion of the vision God gave Daniel 7:13-14*.

So, presently, the ball’s in your court. You have a “binary” choice: yes or no, true or false, 1 or 0, trust in the authority of Jesus or not. As for me, God has never failed me when I gave my problem to Jesus and trusted in His authority. He may not do what I expect, and He may not act when I expect. But, in His time, Jesus has always taken my cares upon Himself and brought me through each problem. How could I ask for more? I pray the same for you.


* 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. – Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV)

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