Tuesday, 31 December 2013
God Visits Abraham
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What would happen if God or His angel-messengers came to your town or your front door?  When God visits, people’s priorities are quickly laid bare.  Read Genesis 18:1-19:38, noticing the priorities of Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Lot’s family members, and the Sodomites.

Genesis 18

1 Then the Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day. 2 He looked up, and he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed to the ground. 3Then he said, "My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, please do not go on past your servant.4 Let a little water be brought, that you may wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 I will bring a bit of bread so that you may strengthen yourselves. This is why you have passed your servant's [way]. Later, you can continue on." "Yes," they replied, "do as you have said." 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, "Quick! Knead three measures of fine flour and make bread." 7 Meanwhile, Abraham ran to the herd and got a tender, choice calf. He gave it to a young man, who hurried to prepare it. 8 Then Abraham took curds and milk, and the calf that he had prepared, and set [them] before the men. He served them as they ate under the tree.

Sarah Laughs

9 "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him. "There, in the tent," he answered. 10 The Lord said, "I will certainly come back to you in about a year's time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!"Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 So she laughed to herself: "After I have become shriveled up and my lord is old, will I have delight?" 13 But the Lord asked Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Can I really have a baby when I'm old?' 14 Is anything impossible for the Lord? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son." 15 Sarah denied it. "I did not laugh," she said, because she was afraid. But He replied, "No, you did laugh."

Abraham's Plea for Sodom

16 The men got up from there and looked out over Sodom, and Abraham was walking with them to see them off. 17 Then the Lord said, "Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. This is how the Lord will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him." 20 Then the Lord said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious. 21 I will go down to see if what they have done justifies the cry that has come up to Me. If not, I will find out." 22 The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Abraham stepped forward and said, "Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? 25 You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won't the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" 26 The Lord said, "If at Sodom I find 50 righteous people in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake." 27 Then Abraham answered, "Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord-even though I am dust and ashes- 28suppose the 50 righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" He replied, "I will not destroy [it] if I find 45 there." 29 Then he spoke to Him again, "Suppose 40 are found there?" He answered, "I will not do [it] on account of 40." 30 Then he said, "Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak further. Suppose 30 are found there?" He answered, "I will not do [it] if I find 30 there." 31 Then he said, "Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord, suppose 20 are found there?" He replied, "I will not destroy [it] on account of 20." 32 Then he said, "Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?" He answered, "I will not destroy [it] on account of 10." 33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, He departed, and Abraham returned to his place.

Genesis 19

1 The two angels entered Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting at Sodom's gate. When Lot saw [them], he got up to meet them. He bowed [with his] face to the ground 2 and said, "My lords, turn aside to your servant's house, wash your feet, and spend the night. Then you can get up early and go on your way." "No," they said. "We would rather spend the night in the square." 3 But he urged them so strongly that they followed him and went into his house. He prepared a feast and baked unleavened bread for them, and they ate. 4 Before they went to bed, the men of the city of Sodom, both young and old, the whole population, surrounded the house. 5 They called out to Lot and said, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so we can have sex with them!" 6 Lot went out to them at the entrance and shut the door behind him. 7 He said, "Don't do [this] evil, my brothers. 8 Look, I've got two daughters who haven't had sexual relations with a man. I'll bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want to them. However, don't do anything to these men, because they have come under the protection of my roof." 9 "Get out of the way!" they said, adding, "This one came here as a foreigner, but he's acting like a judge! Now we'll do more harm to you than to them." They put pressure on Lot and came up to break down the door. 10 But the angels reached out, brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 They struck the men who were at the door of the house, both young and old, with a blinding light so that they were unable to find the door. 12 Then the angels said to Lot, "Do you have anyone else here: a son-in-law, your sons and daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of this place, 13 for we are about to destroy this place because the outcry against its people is great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it." 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were going to marry his daughters. "Get up," he said. "Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city!" But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. 15 At the crack of dawn the angels urged Lot on: "Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city." 16 But he hesitated, so because of the Lord's compassion for him, the men grabbed his hand, his wife's hand, and the hands of his two daughters. And they brought him out and left him outside the city.17 As soon as the angels got them outside, one of them said, "Run for your lives! Don't look back and don't stop anywhere on the plain! Run to the mountains, or you will be swept away!" 18 But Lot said to them, "No, Lord-please. 19 Your servant has indeed found favor in Your sight, and You have shown me great kindness by saving my life. But I can't run to the mountains; the disaster will overtake me, and I will die. 20 Look, this town is close enough for me to run to. It is a small place. Please let me go there-it's only a small place, isn't it?-so that I can survive." 21 And he said to him, "All right, I'll grant your request about this matter too, and will not overthrow the town you mentioned. 22 Hurry up! Run there, for I cannot do anything until you get there." Therefore the name of the city is Zoar. 23 The sun had risen over the land when Lot reached Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord out of the sky. 25 He overthrew these cities, the entire plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and whatever grew on the ground. 26But his wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. 27 Early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of the plain, and he saw that smoke was going up from the land like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham and brought Lot out of the middle of the upheaval when He overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

The Origin of Moab and Ammon

30 Lot departed from Zoar and lived in the mountains along with his two daughters, because he was afraid to live in Zoar. Instead, he and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 Then the firstborn said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man in the land to sleep with us [as is] the custom of all the land. 32 Come, let's get our father to drink wine so that we can sleep with him and preserve our father's line." 33 So they got their father to drink wine that night, and the firstborn came and slept with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she got up.34 The next day the firstborn said to the younger, "Look, I slept with my father last night. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight so you can go sleep with him and we can preserve our father's line." 35 That night they again got their father to drink wine, and the younger went and slept with him; he did not know when she lay down or when she got up. 36 So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn gave birth to a son and named him Moab. He is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger also gave birth to a son, and she named him Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites of today.

 

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Posted on 12/31/2013 8:37 PM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 31 December 2013
False Accusations against Stephen
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The Hellenistic Jews accused Stephen of speaking against the Temple and the Law.  Were these accusations true (6:11, 13-14)?  What does Luke say?

Acts 6:11

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”

Acts 6:13-14

13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Luke says that the accusations were false and the witnesses perjured themselves during the trial.

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Posted on 12/31/2013 9:26 AM by Larry G
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Monday, 30 December 2013
What God Requires of Us
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Since Jesus came, God no longer requires His people to be circumcised.  However, what does He still require (Genesis 15:6, 17:1; Galatians 5:6)? 

Genesis 15:6

 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 

God requires us to trust Him.

Genesis 17:1

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,

Walk habitually and devoutly in God’s presence.

Galatians 5:6

 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

The only thing that matters is having faith or trust in God and this is to be an “active” faith that manifests itself in our obedience to Him.  "If you love me, you will Obey me." (Jesus)

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Posted on 12/30/2013 8:26 PM by Larry G
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Monday, 30 December 2013
Acts 6:8-8:3 The Big Picture
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Recall what 6:8-9:31 is about, and consider how 6:8-8:3 fits into this section. 

Acts 6:8-9:31 deals with the first geographical expansion of the church.  In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells His disciples that they will be His witnesses first in Jerusalem, then in all of Judea, then Samaria and then to the ends of the earth.  In 6:8-8:3, we find that Stephen, who is a Greek-speaking Jew is debating with other Greek-speaking Jews, who probably include Saul of Tarsus, a.k.a. later as Paul.  His arguments are powerful and eventually result in his death.  This event begins a persecution which was primarily directed against other Greek-Speaking Jews who were believers.  They scatter along with Philip who apparently is someone who gets along with the “Greeks”.  This will bring about the fulfillment of what Jesus said would happen earlier in 1:8.  

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Posted on 12/30/2013 9:22 AM by Larry G
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Sunday, 29 December 2013
The First Martyr
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Through Acts, chapter 5, the spotlight was on the Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians in Jerusalem: the apostles.  Luke introduced the other segment of the church—Greek-speaking Jews—in Acts 6:1-7, and foremost among them he named Stephen.  The apostles, who faithfully attended temple services and followed the customs of Jewish tradition, were ”highly regarded by the people” (5:13) even though the authorities detested them.  But Stephen and his Hellenistic Christian brethren were arousing the ire of the other Jews in their synagogues.  Observe the next stage of the drama in Acts 6:8-8:3.

Acts 6:8-8:3

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13and they set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us." 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.....(chapter 7)  1 And the high priest said, "Are these things so?" 2 And Stephen said: "Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.' 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect--that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 'But I will judge the nation that they serve,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.' 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 9 "And the patriarchs,jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. 17 "But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham,the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moseswas instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. 23"When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, 'Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?' 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 "Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.' And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.' 35 "This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?'--this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, 'God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.' 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, 'Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol andwere rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worshipthe host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: "'Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.' 44 "Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God andasked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, 49"'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?' 51 "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."  54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep... (chapter 8) 1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

 

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Posted on 12/29/2013 8:43 AM by Larry G
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Saturday, 28 December 2013
Things that Mattered to Early Believers
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From Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-5:11, and 6:1-7, summarize the things that mattered to the early believers.

2:42-47 -- The Apostles’ teaching, Fellowship with one another, Prayer, Caring for One another, Unity in purpose.

4:32-5:11  --- Unity, The Resurrection of The Lord Jesus, Caring for each other

6:1-7 -- The “ministry of the Word”, working together and caring for each other.

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Posted on 12/28/2013 8:32 AM by Larry G
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Friday, 27 December 2013
Laying on of Hands
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What does laying on of hands signify today?

Laying on of hands should have the same significance as it did when the church first started.  It should still be done to confer authorization/approval and commissioning of a leader.  However, today it may be thought of as something that done more often in the case of healing.  It is doubtful that many realize the significance of laying on of hands for signifying the significance of a leadership/servant position.

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Posted on 12/27/2013 8:19 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 26 December 2013
CHRISTMAS--THE COMING OF THE LORD
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GOD IS FOR US!

Christmas answers the question “What is God like?”  But it does so in a manner that most people would not have expected.  It is not how or why most people would have expected it.  A lot of people would have the coming of God to be like the coming of an unexpected parent when the child is caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  It is not good news.  Many picture God as a “resident policeman” who snoops around to find illegal activities.  Or see God as a killjoy who is sniffing out where there is anybody doing anything fun and then snuffing it out.  Or they see God as one who controls everything and everyone as pawns.  They see the coming of God as bad news.

This is based on a conditional concept of God.  As a child, as long as you were good, you felt safe; but when you erred, punishment was sure to follow.  Thus some look at the coming of God to mean judgment and punishment because they know they have erred.  We are told in Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep have gone astray” and “each of us has turned to his own way”.

Man feels guilty through and through and that is because he is guilty.  Man feels estranged from God – he is.  Some conclude then, that God is against man, all He wants to do is punish man and they expect God to come as a judge. 

This conclusion is all wrong.  GOD CAME IN ORDER TO RECONCILE MAN TO HIMSELF.  In the first Advent, GOD CAME NOT AS A JUDGE—BUT AS A SAVIOR!

But it was not as we expected.  God did not come in omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence.  He did not come as a proud and arrogant ruler.  He came in weakness and dependency.  He came in humility and service.  He came as a baby—a tiny, dependent baby.

In theology this is called the INCARNATION—God becoming flesh, undeniably, irrevocably.  Man did not expect God’s coming to take this form.  The Jews rejected Jesus.  He was not what they expected.  Prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah actually speak of two advents or comings.  But they only saw the Second Advent, because it was what they wanted.  They kind of picked and chose what they wanted; they exhibited a spiritual depth perception deficiency.

Man did not expect the FAVOR of His coming.  Sinners should expect punishment. We deserve no better; we deserve to perish.

But, God came not to condemn but to redeem, not to punish but to forgive, not to intimidate but to inspire, not to sacrifice but to be sacrificed, not to be feared but to be loved.  He came not as an adversary but as our Advocate, not as foe but as Friend, not as enemy but as Brother, not as condemner but as Savior.

In the fourth chapter of his Gospel, Luke records Jesus’ inaugural sermon, Jesus’ own statement of purpose.  What kind of minister would He be, what kind of Savior?  He starts to tell us what God is like, why the Incarnation was necessary, why Christmas was necessary. 

The LORD had anointed Jesus, first “to preach good news to the poor.”  The poor are the socially inferior.  Jesus proclaims that the poor, those persons who view themselves as inferior and are treated as such, are to hear the good news of wholeness, equality and authenticity.  This is a relevant word to many people today who feel they are insignificant, who feel they are insignificant, who feel they have no significance, no worth, who feel guilty.  We would expect God to treat us as inferiors—we are.

But no, He came to preach Good News to us!  He has come to proclaim that we can know and relate to Him from the position of His children.  GOOD NEWS!  Do people have value and worth to God?  The death of Christ on the cross states that God considers individuals to be of tremendous value and precious to Him.

Jesus was also anointed to proclaim “the recovery of sight for the blind.”  Here blindness is used in both a literal and figurative sense.  People are blind to God’s words and deeds, and Jesus has come to open their eyes to see what God is really like.  Jesus, the Son of God wanted to communicate to the “Pharisee types,” who felt that God was holy and moral and had to be bought off with good behavior, and to “publican types,” who felt that God was so holy and moral that there was no possibility of a relationship with the “Holy One of Israel.”  To these people, Jesus proclaimed the Good News that God is for us and that we do not have to earn His favor. 

Jesus, the Anointed One, also proclaimed “the year of the Lord’s favor,” which was begun in the person and work of Jesus.  All that Jesus has proclaimed is based on the fact that it is “the year if the Lord’s FAVOR.”  Inferiors are given significance, prisoners are released, and blind sinners see what God is really like because it is “the year of the Lord’s favor.”  GOD IS FOR US; HE IS ON OUR SIDE.  GOOD NEWS!!

What does all of this ancient history have to do with us today? 

The Incarnation means, first, that mankind is guilty.  The presupposition of the movement of God to man is that there is a gulf between God and man because of our sin.  Therefore, God comes.  Sin is taken seriously.  The mighty gulf of estrangement, alienation, fear, resentment, and guilt that exists between God and man can be dealt with in only one way: THE INCARNATION OF THE WORD.  Our guilt made the Incarnation necessary, and Incarnation makes our guilt obvious.

Incarnation means, second, that mankind needs God--man cannot move to God nor attain the majesty of God on his own.  The self-movement of God to man is needed because man at his best can never bridge the gap.  Our situation is like a contest where everyone tries to jump across Lake Michigan.  Some will jump farther than others, but NONE will make the jump.  What we see here is that God did not wait for man to seek Him.  God moves to man first; He seeks rather is sought.  We are told this in Luke 19:10 – “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The Incarnation further means that mankind is loved by God.  God’s love is constant, not conditional.  This is demonstrated in His love for the rebellious children of Israel.  We are also told in Romans 5:8 -- “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He, God, loved us when we were repulsive to Him. 

The Incarnation means that mankind is summoned to return.  The “coming” of God to man always involves the summons of man to return to God.  God did not become flesh for fun, to masquerade or play a game.  He came to redeem, and thus, He demands a response. 

So Christmas answers the question: “What is God like?”  Christmas did not happen HOW we would have expected—a baby; nor for the REASON OR WHY that we would have expected—to proclaim God’s favor!  The Manger proclaims loudly and clearly: THAT GOD IS ON MAN’S SIDE!!  HALLELUJAH! PRAISE THE LORD!

Psalm 118:6 – “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?”

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Posted on 12/26/2013 8:23 AM by Stephen W
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Sunday, 22 December 2013
To Love is to Obey
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Observe how Genesis 17:23 begins.  What do you learn about Abraham that is a good example for us?

Genesis 17:23

Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 

Abraham carries out God’s command the very same day that he received it; he doesn’t hesitate.  He also made sure to involve his entire family and household.  This reminds us of Jesus' words that if we love Him, we will obey Him.  

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Posted on 12/22/2013 2:58 PM by Larry G
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Saturday, 21 December 2013
Circumcision a sign of faith and commitment
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Why is it important for us that God commanded circumcision after, and as a sign of, faith and commitment (Romans 4:9-12)?

Romans 4:9-12

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Our salvation, our righteousness doesn’t come from something that we do; it comes from trusting what God has done and is doing.  We are not saved because we are circumcised in the flesh; we are saved because we are circumcised in the heart.  Our physical circumcision is an sign of what has already happened, a sign of what God has already done and what we will do because of this--a sign of our commitment to follow and trust Him.

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Posted on 12/21/2013 2:47 PM by Larry G
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Friday, 20 December 2013
Circumcision -- The Sign of the Covenant
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Like the rainbow in Genesis 9:13, circumcision was “the sign of the covenant” (Genesis 17:11) between Abraham and God.  What central element of the covenant did circumcision signify (Genesis 15:6, 17:1; Romans 4:11)

Genesis 9:13-17

13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." 17 God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

Genesis 17:11

You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 

Genesis 15:6

And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 17:1

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless

Romans 4:11

He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 

…. The sign of the covenant. “And thou.” The other party to the covenant now learns his obligation. “Every male of you shall be circumcised.” Circumcision, as the rainbow, might have been in existence before it was adopted as the token of a covenant. The sign of the covenant with Noah was a purely natural phenomenon, and therefore entirely independent of man. That of the Abrahamic covenant was an artificial process, and therefore, though prescribed by God, was dependent on the voluntary agency of man. The former marked the sovereignty of God in ratifying the covenant and insuring its fulfillment, notwithstanding the mutability of man; the latter indicates the responsibility of man, the trust he places in the word of promise, and the assent he gives to the terms of the divine mercy. As the former covenant conveys a common natural blessing to all mankind and contemplates a common spiritual blessing, so the latter conveys a special spiritual blessing and contemplates its universal acceptance. The rainbow was the appropriate natural emblem of preservation from a flood; and the removal of the foreskin was the fit symbol of that removal of the old man and renewal of nature, which qualified Abraham to be the parent of a holy seed. And as the former sign foreshadows an incorruptible inheritance, so the latter prepares the way for a holy seed, by which the holiness and the heritage will at length be universally extended. (From Barnes’ Notes, Studylight.org)

The central element of the covenant that circumcision was intended to signify was trusting the Lord.  This mark in man’s flesh would remind him of the promises that God had made and that man’s part in the covenant would be to trust God and follow Him, to basically walk in His ways and be like Him.  The basis for our relationship with God, of our rebirth is trusting the Lord.

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Posted on 12/20/2013 2:30 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 19 December 2013
God's Everlasting Covenant with Us
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In What sense is God’s covenant with Abraham “an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:7)?  What does this mean for our relationship to God?

Genesis 17:7

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

....Most of us have had the unhappy experience of making an agreement only to find that it profited us far less than we had hoped for and been led to expect. Just the opposite is true with God’s promises. The more we learn of them, the richer the blessings they contain. Abram had been told that he would become a great nation (12:2); now he is told that in fact he will become the ‘father of a multitude of nations’ (17:4). Beyond this, he will be the father of kings (17:6). El Shaddai promised to be a God to Abram and to his descendants (17:7), among whom we must include Abram’s spiritual seed (cf. Galatians 3:16). The covenant was not only between Abraham and God, but between God and Abraham’s seed, forever…… (Excerpt from Bible.org)

....The contents of the covenant: it is a covenant of promises, exceedingly great and precious promises. Here are two which indeed are all-sufficient:-- 1. That God would be their God, Genesis 17:7,8. All the privileges of the covenant, all its joys and all its hopes, are summed up in this. A man needs desire no more than this to make him happy. What God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom theirs, to guide and counsel them his power theirs, to protect and support them his goodness theirs, to supply and comfort them. What faithful worshippers can expect from the God they serve believers shall find in God as theirs. This is enough, yet not all…… (Matthew Henry)

God’s covenant with Abraham will be an “enduring” entity; it will apply to all of his descendants, specifically his spiritual descendants.  Just as Isaac was miraculously born, we have been miraculously born again and everything that was promised to Abraham belongs or applies to us.  When God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants he essentially offered him and his posterity the same opportunity to experience His goodness.  When God tells Abraham that He is going to be not only his God, but God to his offspring, He is telling him that his ancestors will experience Him in the same manner as he did.  This is amazing and shows that our God is constant throughout the ages; He is the same today as yesterday and He will be the same in the future.  

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Posted on 12/19/2013 1:57 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 19 December 2013
Choosing Church Leaders
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Thoughts about Church Leaders

Acts 6:1-7

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

What qualities did the apostles require in the chosen seven (Acts 6:3)?  How is this significant for us?

The congregation was given the responsibility to chose seven men who were known to be “full of the Spirit and Wisdom”.  The persons chosen to serve tables must be duly qualified. They must be filled with gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, necessary to rightly managing this trust; men of truth, and hating covetousness. All who are employed in the service of the church, ought to be commended to the Divine grace by the prayers of the church. They blessed them in the name of the Lord. The word and grace of God are greatly magnified, when those are wrought upon by it, who were least likely.  Deacons or leaders in the church have a serious responsibility and those who choose them have a serious responsibility in their selection.  What they do is absolutely necessary to the functioning of the church, to the furtherance of the gospel.  They are supposed to handle every day matters so the Ministers of the gospel can focus on the message. 

How were the seven men appointed (6:3, 6)?  Is this a model for us?  How, or why not?

They were chosen by the congregation and presented to the apostles who prayed for them and then laid hands on them.  This laying on of hands was indicative of bestowing on them a solemn responsibility.  This method of selecting leaders or servants is still good today.  It bespeaks of the seriousness of doing this selection and it provides guidelines for the type of individuals who are to be chosen.  It also provides instructions regarding how these chosen servants/leaders are to be supported and commissioned.

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Posted on 12/19/2013 9:12 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 18 December 2013
The Spirit of Truth
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What does this story told in Acts chapter 5 show about the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit knows what our deepest motivations are and He enables others to be able to discern them.  I guess it also shows that we are to be concerned with individual motivations and God,  the Holy Spirit will give us discernment.

John 14:16-17

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 14:26

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Why do you think God doesn’t continue to strike people dead who lie to Him?

Maybe He made His point.  It could be that it was done to emphasize what the Holy Spirit was about.  In any event, if He killed everyone who lied to Him, we’d all be dead.

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Posted on 12/18/2013 9:06 AM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Barnabas -- Son of Encouragement
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Observe how Barnabas lived out his nickname in the rest of Acts (9:27; 11:22-25; 15:37-39).  How can you act as a “son of encouragement” for other Christians?

Acts 9:27

27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

He gave people a chance and he spoke up for them.

Acts 11:22-25

22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,

He was not jealous of the success of others but encouraged them to continue in their activities.

Acts 15:37-39

37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,

He did not let one failure condemn people forever but he chose to believe in John Mark, even after he had failed in Pamphylia.  Apparently, he saw that this young man  was going to do good things. 

I think he sets a good and achievable pattern for others.  We too shouldn’t be jealous of others when they success in God’s work.  Nor should we be too willing to write people off, when they fail.  We also need to speak up for those who may have fallen by the wayside; they too may become good workers in the task ahead.

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Posted on 12/17/2013 9:01 AM by Larry G
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Monday, 16 December 2013
The Believer and Private Property
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From 4:32, 34-37 and 5:4, does it seem that believers were required to give their possessions to the church and that private property was not acknowledged?  Or did the believers continue to own goods privately while selling and sharing for others’ needs?  What evidence supports your conclusion?

Acts 4:32-37

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 5:4

4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

The believers weren’t required to go out and sell everything they had and give everything to the church.  4:34 says that “from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them.” Verse 37 in this chapter, leads one to believe that Barnabas sold one of several fields that he owned.  People sold possessions to support others when the need arose.  Verse 5:4 shows that they were not under any external compulsion to sell their goods and contribute them.  Everyone had control over his or her own possessions.  It was up to them what they did with them.  But because they were all of one mind and sharing with each other’s lives.  Compassion became the order of the day when the need arose.

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Posted on 12/16/2013 8:46 AM by Larry G
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Saturday, 14 December 2013
Circumcision
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What was Abram’s only responsibility in Genesis chapter 15 (15:6)?

Genesis 15:6

And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 

Abram’s only responsibility was to trust in the Lord.

What does God add to Abram’s responsibility in Genesis 17:1, 9-14?

Genesis 17:1, 9-14

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,…. 9 And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

 (Taken from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

In the Mosaic law, a spiritual interpretation was imposed upon the procedure when the Israelites were instructed to circumcise their hearts ( Deut 10:16 ). This demand required them to recognize that, in addition to bearing the physical mark of covenant membership, they were also under obligation to manifest specific spiritual qualities of commitment and obedience to the Lord's will. Jeremiah (4:4) made precisely the same demands upon his contemporaries because of their evil deeds, which were the very opposite of what God required. For him, circumcision entailed consecration to the Lord and to the high moral ideals of the covenant, of which holiness was representative ( Lev 11:44 ). A true covenant member would be motivated by love of God ( Deut 6:5 ) and one's neighbor ( Lev 19:18 ).

Abram is told that He is to live in the LORD’S presence; to literally follow him and to devote himself to doing this.  He is told that it is critical that he, Abram and his descendants constantly keep this covenant in mind.  Finally, to help maintain focus on the covenant, Abram and all of his descendants are required to undergo circumcision.  

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Posted on 12/14/2013 12:26 PM by Larry G
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Friday, 13 December 2013
God's Side of the Abrahamic Covenant
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God cut His covenant with Abram in Genesis 15:6-21; now He confirms and establishes it (Genesis 17:2, 7).

What is God’s side of the agreement (Genesis 17:2, 4-8)?

Genesis 17:2, 4-8

2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly." …. 4"Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham,for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God." 

God is going to multiply Abram’s descendants; He is going to make him the father of many nations.  God is the one who is going to make the covenant between Himself and Abram’s descendants; they aren’t going to do anything.  He is going to give them the land of Canaan and He is going to be their God, in spite of what they do.  

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Posted on 12/13/2013 12:18 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 12 December 2013
Getting to Know God
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Consider Genesis 16:7-13 carefully.   What do these verses show about God?

Genesis 16:7-13

7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai." 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress and submit to her." 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, "I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude." 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, "Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen." 13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God of seeing," for she said, "Truly here I have seen him who looks after me."

  • God is following us, we are not following Him.
  • He calls out to us; He is concerned about where we are going and why we think we should go that way
  • He has placed us in a specific place and time for his purposes and He is the one who will bring about the greatest good for us and others from these circumstances
  • He has plans for each and every one of us
  • He hears us in our afflictions; He sees what is going on
  • He looks after us
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Posted on 12/12/2013 12:11 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 12 December 2013
The Consequences of Failing to take God Seriously
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What did God teach the early believers by striking Ananias and Sapphira dead (Acts 5:1-11)?

Acts 5:1-11

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." 9 But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

He wasn’t fooling around.  This was serious business.  I think that this also shows that God knows what’s in our hearts; we can’t hide anything from him.  We must remember the Third Commandment: We should, we absolutely WILL take who God is seriously.  

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Posted on 12/12/2013 2:37 PM by Larry G
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