Seven Mountains Monday, Apr 18 2011 

In the Book of Revelation we are informed that the false religion, Babylon, rests upon seven hills.

It seems to me that false religion always imitates true religion.  If this premise is true, then true religion would also rest upon seven hills or mountains.

I am aware this is a premise, but I would like to suggest the seven mountains of true religion.

I see first of all the verse in Psalms that says I will look unto the hills from whence cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord.

At a quick glance many things happened on a mountain in the scriptures.

Jesus was tempted on a mountain, taught on a mountain, prayed on a mountain, was crucified on a mountain, and ascended back to heaven on a mountain.

These are the seven mountains I postulate that true religion sits upon.

1. The mountain of sacrifice, Mt Moriah.  It was here that Abraham offered his only son in type of God offering His only son.  None of us will traverse this journey of life and end up saved without climbing this mountain at some point.  Sacrifice is paramount to true religion!

2. The mountain of learning, Mt Sinai.  On this lonely crag, God handed Moses the Law.  These instructions allow man to have fellowship with God.  We must climb this mountain of learning to be in fellowship with the Eternal One!  We must learn how to be disciples.

3.The mountain of decision, Mt Carmel. There has to be a supreme moment in our lives when we make the decision who God is.  On Carmel the Israelites were brought to the moment of decision.  Each of us must climb this mountain and make the ultimate decision about eternity.

4. The mountain of worship, Mt Zion.  David scaled and conquored this mountain and established it forever as the symbol of God centered praise and worship.  To refuse to climb this mountain is to refuse to acknowledge God’s rightful position in our life.

5. The mountain of dicipleship, Mt of Beatitudes.  All decisions and actions are wasted if we do not channel them into becoming a disciple.  To abort this climb makes you just a church goer, a church member, but not a disciple.  To fail to make this climb forces you to join the throng who will hear the words, “depart from me, I never knew you”.  While stunned voices wail, but I prophiesed in your name, I cast out devils in your name, only true disciples will enter into the celestial city.

6. The mountain of revelation, Mt Horeb. The tallest, hardest climb brings the greatest joy! On Horeb’s lonely summit, Jesus revealed who He was to the stunned apostles!  Now they understood what it meant….”Except you deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me you cannot be my disciple”. On a mountain with three summits, Jesus stands alone!

7. The mountain of salvation, Mt Calvary.  Each of us must climb our mountain of salvation.  Yes it is for whosoever will, but the choice always rests upon the individual act.  Thank God for His provision for our salvation!

What do you say?  Let’s go mountain climbing!

Thanks for reading today.

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David’s Path Thursday, Apr 14 2011 

1 Samuel
  • No organization, no family or no country can ever be great without great leadership. The  question is how do you get great leadership?
  • Israel faced that question after the time of the Judges seemed to fail the country.  The Philistines had migrated into the region about the same time as the Hebrews and had become a perpetual problem to Israel.
  • The Philistines continually pressured the nation of Israel for more territory and pushed their way into the mountains of Israel.
  • The Philistines had superior weapons and chariots. The Philistines appear to be less populous than Israel, but better organized.
  • Israel had no central government or regular army.  Israel was still a loose confederation of tribes that called on each other in times of crisis.  The nation had worked that way for several hundred years.  Change was needed but change is sometimes difficult.
  • Into this unfolding crisis, God gives us the book of Samuel.  Samuel is about three leaders.  Two of these leaders were truly great and took the nation to it’s zenith.  The third leader proved to eventually be an abject failure.
  • Surprisingly, the book opens with a family crisis.  This is really what Israel was facing as well, a family crisis, God’s family.
  • Two wives had a long standing bitter rivalry and quarrel.  Hannah, the barren wife turns to God in her desperate need, and God provides one of Israel’s all time greatest leaders. The result of her turning to God produces the man Samuel, after whom the book is named.
  • Samuel grew into one of the greatest leaders Israel was to know.  He served in four capacities.
  1. Prophet
  2. Judge
  3. Priest
  4. Military leader
  • Samuel chose the first two kings of Israel. His strong personality is the thread of the book of 1 Samuel even though he officially retires after chapter 15.
  • Samuel’s mother’s struggles are the struggles of Israel in miniature.  Her frustration forced her to look to God for an answer.
  • Her son did not follow his father into the field as a farmer, but he was raised in the temple to become God’s answer to Israel’s frustration with the nations around them.
  • Hannah’s story lets us know that leaders do not always come from regular channels. Ordinarily Eli’s corrupt sons would have carried on national leadership.
  • Instead, God blessed a woman who turned to him for help.  To me, this is the theme of the entire book of 1 Samuel.
  • Turning to God for instructions in every situation of life is the path to success.
  • Saul failed because he did not obey God and did not seek God.
  • David was magnificent.  Why?  There was only one reason.  David depended on God for everything and every decision.
  • In chapter 2, verse 30, God declares “Them that honour me I will Honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed”.
  • Samuel never forgot that lesson.  He anointed Saul as the first King, but stripped him of that position when Saul did not depend on God and obey God.
  • Samuel passed over more impressive men to anoint David because he sensed David would seek God and obey God.
  • Under David the nation achieves world greatness.  The only quality David had that Saul did not have, was his willingness to seek God and God’s direction.
  • David persistently turned to God for his direction.
  • The best leadership ultimately belongs to God!
  • It was God, not David, that took Israel from a disjointed, unorganized group of 12 tribes into the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
  • What do you want in life?  How do you achieve that goal?  May I recommend the path of David?
Learn the simple lesson that true leadership is simply following directions.

David followed God’s directions all the way to greatness.

And this my friends was David’s path to greatness.
Thanks for reading today.

400 Silent Years Thursday, Apr 7 2011 

400 silent years.

Interesting that the whole world was convulsing with worldwide change, yet Biblically it was silent.

While the world heard marching armies and battle cries, heaven was mute toward earth. It is called silent because there is no recorded instance of God speaking to man during this time.

When Malachi laid down his writing instrument, there was not a voice from God until the days of John the Baptist. When that stern Essene, John, lifted his voice for the first time to preach, 400 years of silence was shattered. How heaven must have rejoiced! God was again on speaking terms with His creation.

You are reading your Bible. You finish the Old Testament. You turn the page. You continue to read, not thinking of the vast time and change that happened in the turn of that page.

Because we are familiar with the New Testament, we do not stumble at terms like Pharisee, scribe or synagogue. But none of those or many other terms are used in the Old Testament. Were you not familiar with the Bible, you would indeed be scratching your head saying what is a Hasmonean? What is a Herodian? These and many other important Bible subjects and issues emerged during this silent period.

When the Old Testament closes, The Babylonian Empire has fallen and the Media Persian Empire has taken over. Cyrus the Persian has allowed the decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The Old Testament prophets have died, and there is a huge spiritual vacuum.

The writings of Daniel chart the course during these silent years and let Israel know all is on track as God predicted. Without Daniel, would they have been able to persevere? We do not know.

From the standpoint of world history, how do we measure the importance of the Greek Macedonian empire? The leader of Greece at this time was Alexander the Great. He is called “the Great” for some valid reasons. The cities the Greeks built, and the culture they exported to their conquered lands (Hellenism), was world changing. Romans built upon the foundation Greece had laid.

This period of Greece was followed by the Roman Empire which lasted 700 years and had two pax romanas (empire wide peace). Rome built the roads that missionaries would travel. Rome brought peace so missionaries could travel in relative safety. Yet all of Rome and Greece’s Hellenestic influence, is unmentioned or never referred to by God. Heaven’s record and evaluation appears to be far different than mortal men.

When Paul begins his missionary journeys that would transform the known world, these issues of Hellenism would play a major part. God placed these issues in the mosaic of time for all to be fulfilled when the fullness of time came to pass.

Cyrus the Persian was tolerant and allowed the repatriates to return to the land of Israel. According to Ezra only 42,000 or so elected to return. Babylon had been good to the Jewish merchants and life was plush. They had no desire to endure the rigors of the journey back to Palestine! Then after they arrived they would be required to live more primitive and frugal. The majority said “no thank you”.

Their needs had changed as a nation. Idolatry, that had been the albatross around the national neck for a thousand years, had finally been put away during the captivity. The death of idolatry, as strong as idolatry had been, was final. To this day none of us know of a single instance of a Jewish person who worships idols.

The Jewish people needed guidance. Into this vacuum stepped the scribe. Ezra was the forerunner of this elite group so highly esteemed. They were to play a vital role in Jesus’ day.

In captivity they had no temple to worship at, so the Synagogue was established. Any place ten Jewish males lived the Rabbi’s decreed a synagogue was to be built. The Rabbi was the local leader of the synagogue. Some Rabbis became famous and venerated among the population.

Here are some terms that play a part in the New Testament that are not in the Old Testament, but are there when you turn that page from Malachi to Matthew.

• Scribe (mentioned in Ezra)

• Synagogue

• Pharisee

• Sadducee

• Hasmonian

• Herodian

• Essene (non biblical term)

• Sanhedrin

• Governor (Roman)

• Tax collector

• Zealot

All of these are important in the inter-testament period. These are my definitions of them.
Scribe: became the leaders of the community. Interpreted the law for the common man.

Synagogue: House of worship for Jewish people all over the world. Visited every Sabbath.

Pharisee: Keepers of the law. Very concerned with detail. Jesus’ main opposition for three years. Not powerful in the government, for they could not get Jesus arrested.

Sadducee: wealthy group as a whole, many of them members of the Sanhedrin. Did not believe in the resurrection. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and offended them, Jesus was arrested and put on trial.

Hasmonian: these were the Jews who wanted to merge with the Greeks and the Romans. They were ashamed of their Jewish heritage. They dressed like the Greeks and Romans. They even went so far as to reverse circumcision, so when they went nude in public like the Greeks, no one would know they were Jewish.

Herodians; these were a political group loyal to the Romans and the line of Herod who were puppet kings installed by Rome

Essenes: These were people who lived apart in communities like communes. They ate, dressed and lived very sparingly. John the Baptist was an example of an essene.

Sanhedrin: this was a Jewish council allowed by the Romans to adjudicate Jewish laws. Rome did not want to deal with the petty issues of a conquered nation’s differences. This group was comprised mostly of Sadducees, and consequently wealthy men. History says the number was 70 who were on this council. Maybe they chose the number from Moses’ day?

Governor; When Herod the great died he divided his kingdom into three parts. He gave one of the parts to Archalaus his son who was extremely vial. The night Archalaus inherited, he killed 3000 Jews to entertain his guests. Rome removed him for his cruelty and replaced him with a governor. There were several governors before the New Testament opens, but at Jesus’ trial the governor was named Pontius Pilate.

Tax collector: The Roman Empire lasted 700 years. American has lasted about 250 years. It is easy to see Rome was around a long time. Their success in part was due to how they adjudicated the subjugated peoples they conquered. As a rule they left the national laws and traditions in place and this contributed to their longevity as an empire. They followed this policy with Palestine. All Rome asked was the tax due the empire. So they leased out the collecting of taxes to the highest bidder. The tax collector kept whatever he could extort from the people. As a rule the tax collectors were despised as rouges and crooks. Matthew, Jesus’ disciple was a tax collector.

Zealot: maybe a more familiar term to us would be revolutionary. A zealot was a person who wanted to over throw the Roman power over Palestine. One of Jesus’ disciples was a zealot, lending credibility to the charges against Jesus that ultimately got Him crucified.

To the world at large the 400 years were not silent. It was business as usual. There was commerce and war, peace and revolution. There was the siren song of time marching steadily forward.

Finally after 400 years of heaven’s silence, in a far flung corner of the mighty Roman Empire, a child was born and a son was given. Heaven has never been silent since, and will never again hold it’s peace.

God was manifest!

Thanks for reading today

The Prophets Friday, Apr 1 2011 

The Prophets.

 

When Israel left Egypt on that fateful night of the Exodus, they were ill equipped to be a world member in the family of nations.  Their centuries of slavery had left them without the basic skills to form a nation and function.

 

They needed laws and leadership.  God provided them with both.

 

While they made the transition from slavery to a warrior nation to conquer the Promised Land, they needed something to anchor them to their past, to their beliefs and their survival.  God gave them the Tabernacle as that anchor.  It was the central element that polarized them as a people.  It was the central purpose and function of their lives.

 

The Tabernacle eventually became the Temple and the Temple stood as their foundation and polarization for centuries. It was the central point and purpose of their lives.

 

After their conquest and several hundred years of judges and monarchy, they had become an urban people with need of a different anchor.  The nation had not become, or remained what God had intended!  They needed another anchor for a different environment of urban life.

 

God sent them their second anchor…the Prophets!

 

The first prophets were miracle workers.  Elijah and Elisha types.  They got the attention of the Nation at locals like Carmel when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal.

 

When it was evident that the miracles alone would not  turn the nation back to God, God then sent them a whole new group of men.  The writing prophets!

 

About 40 years after Elisha, the first writing prophet appears on the national scene.  God introduced the second anchor for the nation!  His word!

 

From the moment the writing prophets arrived, all of history changed.

 

These prophets were diverse.

  • Some were highborn, educated and mixed with the highest echelons of society.
  • They were consults of Kings!
  • They were advisors of the highest decisions made in the world.

 

Others were simple country men.  They were ridiculed and scorned.  Their verbiage and illustrations were simple and homespun.  They preached messages, wrote poems, composed songs, and condemned Kings.

 

They are without equal or comparison in any period of history or in any culture in the world.

 

The Eastern religions for all their lasting impact have never produced the likes of the writing prophets!

 

The Prophets wrote their visions and conversations with the Almighty.  They left behind a glimpse into the mind and nature of God that became the mantle of all preachers for all time.  We would not have survived without their writings.  Simple or complicated, rich or poor, heard or rejected, to a man….

 

They were magnificent!

 

Thanks for reading today!