Lucia's Blog: 2014-01-12
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, January 17, 2014

OVERCOMING SIN THROUGH GOD'S GRACE



"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.... that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:23-26 NASB


How you ever thought about SIN and the seriousness of it?   In the beginning of God's creation, the LORD commanded Adam and Eve to eat freely from any tree of the garden EXCEPT from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that they not die. Eve deceived by the serpent believed and ate the fruit when she saw it was desirable to the eyes and that it would make her as wise as God.  Not only did she eat of it, but she gave it to Adam to eat.  When they ate their eyes were opened to SIN.  They received the payment for their SIN and were sent out of the Garden of Eden.  So we can clearly see that SIN entered into the world through one man and death through SIN, and so death spread to all men, because ALL SINNED, Rom. 5:12. Thanks be to our God for His abundant GRACE and the gift of righteousness through the One, Jesus Christ.  It is through faith in HIM that we are made RIGHTEOUS to eternal life.

SIN is real, Romans 3:23, however GRACE is real too.  Sin causes us to die spiritually. When we indulge in the desires of the flesh and of the mind, we provoke the wrath of God. We all have to struggle with SIN, but sin separates us from God.  The question is then, do we want to do what is right or do we want to keep on sinning? NO!  We must become slaves of righteousness, although at one time we were slaves of SIN and DEATH, Rom. 6:15-18. But remember, we can never overcome SIN on our own. We need God's help through His son, His GRACE.   Unfortunately some think that God's GRACE is the PERMISSION to keep on sinning, but we know that those who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death, that is we crucify the old self of SIN and no longer walk in SIN being slaves to SIN.  We must die to SIN but live to God in Christ Jesus.  The one who has tasted God's Grace must not allow SIN TO REIGN in the lust of the flesh, but must live to God as instruments of righteousness, Romans 6:1-14.

We must learn from Jesus' example.  He surrendered to His Father even dying that cruel death on the cross. He didn't want to drink that cup, Matt. 26:39. Yet even though He was God, He did not use His power to avoid the cross. He surrendered.  The only way we are going to have victory in the battle over SIN is by crucifying ourselves, that is our flesh, allowing Christ to live in us, Galatians 2:20-21;surrendering to His GRACE through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, Titus 2:10-11, and the Father; putting on the Lord Jesus and not making any provision for the flesh, Romans 13:14.  I cannot fathom any other way of escape from SIN.  We must fear and stand by our faith with God's help, His grace, lest we fall.  He is faithful and will not allow us to fall only IF we surrender to Him, I Cor. 10:12-13.

It is disturbing to me to see God's grace be abused in Eph. 2:1-10 by some brethren. They think that GRACE by its definition is UNCONDITONAL which for all practical purposes implies that we don't have to be concerned about whatever TERMS the Lord might have COMMANDED.   If SALVATION by GRACE means we CAN IGNORE or be IGNORANT of the LORDSHIP of Jesus, then the Lord Jesus is NO LORD. That DOCTRINE is by its nature LICENTIOUS.  Let's not take GRACE FOR GRANTED! We must keep on teaching and relying on it in order to stop those who abuse it.  We cannot afford to be intimidated by false teachers. Are we going to give those who abuse GRACE and its teaching the pleasure of abandoning God's GRACE?   NOT FOR A MOMENT!   We cannot depend on God's Grace to help us overcome SIN  if we do not depend on OUR OWN OBEDIENCE to the teachings of GRACE, Titus 2:11-12

The Christian must learn to grow in GRACE in order to have power over SIN.  So the question is, how does one grow in GRACE?  Let's consider what the apostle Paul says, "But grow in the GRACE and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...." II Peter 3:18. Yes, we must learn to love God's Word and desire His Word in order to gain knowledge. The only way to do it is through His GRACE that instructs us to live godly, sensibly and righteously before Him. This is the GRACE of God that has appeared to all men bringing salvation. When we allow ourselves as children of God to grow in GRACE with all diligence, the end results are beautiful qualities such as faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and ultimately love. We are COMMANDED to grow in these qualities in order to make certain our calling and never stumble. This is the only way we are going to have an entrance into the gates of heaven, where our Lord Jesus is, II Peter 1:5-11. This is such a great promise and confidence!  We must keep working out our salvation with fear and trembling, since it is God who is working in us, in order to please HIM and do His will.  This gives us such confidence even when we mess up!  Philippians 2:12.

Many argue that no one is PERFECT.  Let's consider what the apostle Paul says, "Not that I have already become PERFECT, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ....I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14 NASB. Since the apostle Paul realized that he was not PERFECT, did he consider himself off of the hook? (not accountable). Absolutely NOT !  He knew very well he was not going to lay hold of the prize, the crown of life, if he didn't PRESS ON which means live by GOD'S DIVINE STANDARDS. We must allow GRACE to grow and work daily in us in order to have victory over SIN.

With all these teachings about how to overcome SIN through GRACE, let us always remember God's purpose in saving us and not abuse Ephesians 2:1-10.  And let us be zealous for good deeds and walk in them since we are His workmanship, created in Christ for this purpose.  Remember we were once dead and lost because of our transgressions, but our Father out of His compassion gave us life again. We were lost and then we were found when we decided to return to Him as the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32.  Let's freely extend GRACE to others as did the father in this parable. God's purpose was not simply to save us through GRACE, but to make us compassionate, forgiving and a blessing to others who are lost in SIN and are not found yet. This is God's promise of GRACE.

May our Lord bless us as we grow in His GRACE and have victory over SIN . May He help us to extend GRACE freely to others who are lost in SIN.   May we glorify God because of such indescribable GRACE to us.

Luci

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

THE ASSYRIANS & GILGAMESH




ASSYRIA

When Hammurabi began to take control of Mesopotamia, he had two large kingdoms to overcome.  To the South was King Rim-Sin, who ruled the area around the cities of Ur and Uruk. To the North was Shamsi-Adad, who ruled the area from Mari and Assur down to Sippar.  Hammurabi formed an alliance with Shamshi-Adad and moved south against Rim-Sim when he realized that the northern king was stronger.   Shamsi-Adad reigned from about 1813-1780 BC and gained his power the hard way.  He established his kingdom in the town of Ekallatum and took total control of Assur or Ashur, a city of importance commercially.  Assur was also an important religious center in that region.  Shamshi-Adad controlled the trade routes into Anatolia, modern day Turkey.  He also took Mari, gaining control over the trade routes into Syria.  He built one of the most powerful nations of his time.  He controlled a triangular region around Nineveh,  Assur and Mari at the height of his power.  He called his nation "Assyria,"  Shamsi-Adad was a proud man claiming the title "King of All" and built temples for his gods, whom he believed had blessed him.  He terrorized nearby kingdoms by brutally killing the leaders of conquered cities and displaying their heads on stakes.  When he died, Hammurabi first took over Mari, then proceeded to take control of Assur.  Hammurabi became the "King of All."  When finally he and his sons died, Assyria disappeared from the map for over 100 years.


GILGAMESH

He was the fifth king of Uruk,  ruling around 2700 BC.  There are numerous tales about him that survive in the so-called Epic of Gilgamesh.  Gilgamesh is the best-known of all ancient heroes.  These tales most likely began as Sumerian oral legends and poems, which were inscribed later on 12 tablets by an Assyrian king named Ashurbanipal who reigned from 668-627 BC.  These tables were later rediscovered in a library in Nineveh.


THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

  • Tablet I:  Gilgamesh, builder of the city of Uruk with its magnificent ziggurats, orchards and fields, begins as a cruel king.  He is part god, part human and possessed super human strength.  According legend, the god Anu creates Enkidu, a wild man, to stop Gilgamesh.  Enkidu is trapped and learns the ways of humans.
  • Tablet II:  Enkindu finally meets Gilgamesh; they fight and Gilgamesh wins.  They become friends and agree to go on a quest to cut cedar trees in Southern Iran.
  • Tablets III-V:  Gilgamesh and Enkidu pursue their quest to cut the cedars, but run into trouble with a demon named Humbaba.  They defeat and kill him, but not before the demon puts a curse on them.
  • Tablet VI:  Ishtar, the goddess of love, wants to be Gilgamesh's lover, but Gilgamesh rejects and insults her.  This forces her to send the Bull of Heaven against him, but together Gilgamesh and Enkindu kill it.
  • Tablet VII:  Enkindu dreams he must die since he killed the Bull of Heaven.  He grows ill and suffers for 12 days and then dies reciting a poem about a House of Death(Hell).
  • Tablet VIII:  Gilgamesh grieves his friend's death.
  • Tablet IX-X:  In his grief for Enkidu, Gilgamesh stops bathing and shaving.  He realizes that he is also mortal and must one day die.  Unable to accept this he goes on a quest to find survivors of the Great Flood, hoping to find out how they acquired eternal life.  After a long and complex journey he reaches Utnapishtim, who supposedly is a Flood survivor.
  • Tablet XI:  Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the Babylonian version of the Flood telling him that if he remains awake for six days and seven nights, the length of the Flood according to him, then Gilgamesh will become immortal.  Gilgamesh tries but ends up sleeping for 6 solid days.  Next, he tells him about a plant found at the bottom of the ocean that will give him eternal life once he found it and ate it.  He succeeds in finding the plant but is afraid to eat it, but brings it back to Utnapishtim.  On his way back a snake eats it and becomes immortal.  Gilgamesh loses his chance at eternal life.
  • Tablet XII:  This tells of items given to Gilgamesh by Ishtar in Tablet VI.  Also, the spirit of Enkidu returns with a dire report of life in hell.


It is interesting that there was a knowledge of an ancient Biblical Flood and Noah  as late as 2,000 years later among the ancient Assyrians and that their hero Gilgamesh regarded these survivors of the flood as immortals.  

Luci

Monday, January 13, 2014

GIANTS OF THE FAITH: JACOB



The following is a summary from my Homeschool Ancient History.

There is very little that the Bible tells us about Isaac in the stories of Abraham and Jacob. Isaac acts as a transition figure between these two patriarchs. The following are some interesting facts about Isaac that set him apart from his father Abraham and his son Jacob:
  1. Both he and his brother Ishmael received their names from God.  Unlike Abram and Jacob, Isaac kept his name.
  2. Isaac never left the promised land. He always lived in the land of Canaan. In contrast, both Abraham and Jacob lived in Haran for a period of time.
  3. Isaac had only one wife, despite 20 years of his wife's childlessness.
  4. Isaac was a tiller of the soil. He quite literally put down roots.
  5. Isaac lived longer than either Abraham or Jacob, to the ripe age of 180.

Isaac was 40 years old when he and Rebekah got married, Gen. 25:19-21. At the age of 60, he prayed to the LORD for his barren wife. The LORD heard his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant with twins. Notice, this is the second generation of patriarchs in which childlessness became a problem. In Gen. 25:22, the twins wrestled inside Rebekah's womb. When she prayed to the LORD, this is what He said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger." Genesis 25:23. In Gen. 25:24 Rebekah gives birth to twins. The first one was full of life, with a full head of red hair and ruddy complexion. They named him Esau, meaning "hairy," Gen. 25:25; later he was called Edom, meaning "red." The second was born holding his brother's heel. They named this one Jacob, meaning "he grasps the heel, "deceiver" in a figurative way, Gen. 25:26. Unfortunately, as the twins grew up, the parents showed favoritism. Isaac favored Esau, the wild, the one who hunted and roamed outdoors. Rebekah, favored Jacob, the quiet one, the thoughtful. It is such a terrible and damaging thing for parents to show favoritism among their children. There are so many pitfalls!

Traditionally, the first born son had two advantages over the younger son; he would receive two portions of the inheritance instead of one. While each younger son would receive one. The first born was to be head of the house. He, as the first born and head of the house, would be responsible for his unmarried sisters; this is why Rebekah's brother, Laban was part of the negotiations with Abraham's servant. He, the first born, was also responsible for watching over and taking care of his younger brothers; for the care of any widows or orphans; and for the affairs of the entire household. With the double portion of the inheritance came double land. For both Jacob and Esau this meant that the one who had the birthright would be getting twice as much land and wealth as the other. I want to point out that Jacob's blessing had a unique and sacred quality; once given, it could not be repealed, even though Jacob and Rebekah had deceived Isaac in order to get the blessing.

The following is a 7 part drama about the Blessing:

  • Act One: Isaac and Esau - Isaac calls his favored son Esau into his room asking him to bring some of his favorite food for a blessing feast. Esau agrees, gathering his weapons and setting off for the wilderness. Here is where Rebekah enters the scene and overhears her husband's request.
  • Act Two: Rebekah and Jacob - Rebekah calls her favored son Jacob and suggests that he prepare his father's favorite food in place of Esau. He agrees with his mother's scheme to pass himself as Esau. He starts working on the food.
  • Act Three: Rebekah and Jacob - Jacob prepares and brings the food to Rebekah. She dresses him in Esau's clothing covering him with goatskin in order to make his skin feel hairy.
  • Act Four: Isaac and Jacob - Jacob brings his father's favorite food. Remember, his father is almost blind.  Although he is suspicious, he eats it. Isaac touches and smells Jacob and is convinced that he is Esau. He gives him his blessing: "Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; many peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be  master of your brothers, and may your mother's son bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you." Genesis 27:28-29 NASB. Jacob then leaves triumphantly.
  • Act Five: Isaac and Esau - Later, Esau brings food to his father who in dismay realizes he has been deceived. He had given Jacob the firstborn's blessing by placing him above his brother Esau. Esau then begs his father to bless him, but his father has only this to say: "Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck." Genesis 27:39-40 NASB. Esau is enraged at his brother, threatening to kill him. Rebekah is now terrified. Remember, she is the one who commanded her son Jacob to deceive his father Isaac. Now she wants Jacob to escape by going to her brother Laban back in Haran until Esau's fury should subside. She tells Isaac that she is afraid that Jacob might take a daughter from among the Canaanite women.
  • Act Six: Isaac and Jacob - Isaac calls Jacob and blesses him and asks him to go back to Northern Mesopotamia, Padddan-aram, and take to himself a wife from the daughters of Laban. Jacob leaves with his father's blessing.
  • Act Seven: Esau - After hearing that Jacob is leaving to marry within the daughters of Laban and that his father has blessed him again, Esau knew that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father; so he went to Ishmael his uncle and asked for the hand of Mahalath his daughter (thus his first cousin), hoping this would improve his father's opinion of him.

On the way to Haran, Jacob decides to lie down to sleep using a stone as a pillow. He dreams of a ladder that was set on the earth reaching toward heaven with angels ascending and descending on it and with God above it. In the dream the LORD makes the same promises to Jacob that He made to Abraham and Isaac before Him: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." Genesis 28:13-15 NASB. Jacob is changed by his dream. He awakens acknowledging God for the first time in his life. He bows to the LORD promising Him he will follow Him if He will care for him. He calls this place Bethel meaning "house of God". Later, he arrives near Haran where he goes to the well asking one of the shepherds where to find Laban. They pointed out one of Laban's daughters, Rachael. He greets her with a kiss being a member of the family.

The following are similarities between Jacob and Abraham's servant:

Servant arrives in Haran with riches Jacob arrives in Haran with nothing
Servant goes straight to the well Jacob goes straight to the well
Servant is at the well in the evening Jacob is at the well at noon
Servant finds Rebekah at the well Jacob finds Rachael at the well
Servant finds out Rebekah is family Jacob finds out Rachael is family
Rebekah waters the servant's camels Jacob waters Rachael's sheep
Servant rejoices and gives bracelets Jacob rejoices and gives a kiss
Rebekah runs home to tell her mother and Laban Rachael goes home to tell Laban
Servant is invited home and negotiates for Rebekah Jacob is invited home and negotiates for Rachael
Servant pays the bride price and Laban is satisfied Jacob has no bride-price except his labor
Servant refuses to stay when invited
Jacob stays for 14 years, gaining two wives, Rachael & Leah

There was a big rivalry between Leah and Rachael within the first year of their marriage. Leah begins to bear sons, but Rachel is barren. The battle of the sons begins.... Jacob had 12 children and the last two, Joseph and Benjamin. These last two were Jacob's favorites because they were of his favorite wife Rachel. Although Rachel was his favorite wife, Jesus descended from Judah who was Leah's son. Leah bore Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Isaachar and Zebulon. Leah's servant bore Gad and Asher. Rachael bore Joseph and Benjamin.  She died in childbirth with her last son Benjamin. Rachel's servant bore Dan and Naphtali. After Jacob had served Laban for 14 years, Jacob had paid with his labor for his wives, Rachael and Leah and want to go home. Laban begs him to stay by increasing his wages. Jacob feels cheated and that Laban had been taking advantage of his labor building up Laban's flocks. Jacob wants to build a flock of his own. Laban agrees at Jacob's suggestion to give Jacob any sheep and goats which are spotted or speckled. Since most of the sheep are white and the goats are dark brown or white, Jacob asks apparently for a small number. Remember, that Jacob has become an expert breeder and has God's helping hand. Jacob makes sure that all the best sheep and goats are born spotted or speckled. Again, Laban wants to cheat and deceive him by removing all of the spotted sheep in order for Jacob to get nothing. What a covetous man this Laban is! But, Jacob outsmarts him by proving to be the better of the two schemers. His flock of spotted sheep grows larger and stronger, Genesis 30:25-43.

Finally, wanting to return to Canaan, Jacob takes his two wives, his children and all of his livestock and leaves Laban in secret. Without Jacob’s knowledge, Rachel steals her father's idols, which forces Laban to pursue them. God tells Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob. Laban catches up and begins to search for his idols and cannot find them since Rachel is sitting on them. Finally, Jacob and Laban agree to part ways in peace, Genesis 31.

Remember, Jacob is aware of how he left matters with Esau and wants to appease him. He sends a message to him telling him that he is returning to Canaan. The messengers returns, telling Jacob that Esau is approaching with 400 men. In fear Jacob divides his group into two so that Esau might not destroy all of them at once. He prepares large gifts of sheep, goats, cattle and camels for his brother, sending them ahead. Jacob lags behind the rest of his group, waiting to see the results of all his gifts to Esau. At night, Jacob has an encounter with a strange man and wrestles with him until morning. As dawn breaks and the stranger realizes he is not going to overpower him.  The stranger turns out to be an angel who then dislocates the socket of Jacob's thigh with a touch while wrestling with him. Jacob still refuses to let him go unless he blesses him. The angel asks Jacob's name, then tells him that he will no longer be called Jacob but rather Israel which means "He struggles with God." Then Jacob asks him to tell him his name, but the angel replies, "Why is it that you ask my name?" Jacob realizes that he had wrestled with God. Jacob named that place Peniel, for he said "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." Genesis 32:22-32.  Jacob meets Esau and he is no longer bitter toward Jacob. Twenty years have passed!

One of the things that has impressed me about this history, is that when God broke Jacob, He fashioned him back into a GREAT man. Sometimes that is what God has to do to us!

Luci