The Kingdom of God is near

Did John mean the kingdom was already present, or soon to come?

“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.”

Mark 1:15

The words of John the baptizer rang in the ears of the first century Jews with a sense of impending urgency. The time was fulfilled; the kingdom of God was at hand! This reality was the motivation of John’s cry for repentance. If people were not serious about their torah obedience, they were to be left among those who would experience the coming judgment of God on the land.

This message of the nearness of the kingdom can be easy to misunderstand. Did John mean it was already present, or soon to come? The short answer is that both meanings are true; the kingdom was already unfolding and yet was going to be coming to pass as the judgment that would fall on them.

We can see this is the case as Yeshua continues this message in his ministry:

“Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off [in protest] against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.

Luke 10:8-12

He instructs the disciples to explain the nearness of the kingdom; to those who would receive their message, it was a message of comfort. However to those who were judged unworthy, it was a message of condemnation. It’s the same message: “the kingdom is near,” just with two completely different applications depending on how the message was to be received.

The message of the kingdom is a separator of individuals. To those who receive God’s kingship authority and turn away from disobedience to his Word, the message of the kingdom is a comfort and a blessing. But to those who reject the kingship of God and are unwilling to turn away from disobedience to his Word, the message of the kingdom is an annoyance and a burden; their judgment has come upon their own heads.

And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”

John 3:19-21

While this message still rings true for every generation, it was especially true for that first-century generation. Those who were to “come to the light,” as John mentions, demonstrated the grace and mercy of God among the remnant of his people. Yeshua says of these: “Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life,” (John 5:24). The crossing over had already happened; these individuals were not to come under the pending judgment of God’s people. However, upon those who were not willing to come into the light, it was as if the judgment had already come: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life,” (1 John 5:12).

The New Jerusalem of Revelation is symbolic of the Kingdom of God. Its purpose and glory is described there as being the home of the righteous, those who have received the message of the Kingdom of God.

But I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory. Its gates will never be shut at the end of the day, because there will be no night there. And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who practices an abomination or a lie, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Revelation 21:22-27

In like fashion to that exemplified group of Yeshua’s original audience, to each generation since that time the message of the kingdom is the same: “the light of the Kingdom of God is near.” Will we accept the kingship of Yahweh or not? Will we be obedient or not? Will we choose to enter its gates or not?

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Neglecting our duty to help others has consequences

We should not be neglecting the immediate needs of those around us.

If a poor man, one of your brothers, is with you within any of your gates in your land which Yahweh your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother; but you shall surely open your hand to him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, which he lacks.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8

Here at the Core of the Bible, I will typically focus on the positive aspects of the qualities that we should be exhibiting as believers. On the quality of compassion, we are commanded to ensure our hearts are not hardened to the needs of those around us. However, the Bible is also very clear that the intentional neglecting of caring for the less fortunate has consequences.

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he will also cry out, but shall not be heard.
Proverbs 28:27 One who gives to the poor has no lack; but one who closes his eyes will have many curses.

It’s as if God has created an environment that works against those who make a point of avoiding help to others in need. Yeshua also confirms a similar principle in his teachings.

for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. … ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:42-43, 45-46

If we claim to be believers in the God of the universe, we have an obligation to those around us who can many times appear invisible. Sometimes we avoid involvement because we feel helpless to provide substantive, long-term solutions; a handout just doesn’t seem to make any real difference. But, while we should indeed be looking at ways to make long term changes, we should also not neglect immediate needs.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, “Go in peace. Be warmed and filled;” yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it?

James 2:14-16

We should always want to help from the heart; however, we should also be aware that there are consequences when we do nothing. Let’s seek ways that we can help, even if they are only small ways to start. It all makes a positive difference in the eyes of God.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The trucker’s way of making peace

When we provide forgiveness, we give people room.

“How blessed are those who make peace, because it is they who will be called God’s children!

Matthew 5:9

Being a believer in Messiah carries many different challenges and exercises with which we are tested and tried every day. Yeshua desires his followers to be beacons of peace and forgiveness with those around them, so as to provide every opportunity for others to see the uniqueness of God, and us as his representatives in this world.

Being a peacemaker is one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging, of all aspects of the believer’s life. With all of the constant static and swirling, chaotic mass of right and wrong that confronts us in every interaction with others, Yeshua calls us to be messengers of peace. An illustration from driving in traffic may provide an analogy for us to consider.

Let’s assume that a three lane highway has a merging on-ramp with other cars that are seeking to join the main highway traffic. Where the ramp intersects with the freeway is the merging point of both lanes of traffic. Both lines of vehicles have come from different directions and yet are looking to become aligned into a single unified flow of traffic. In order to accomplish this, cars on the entrance ramp need to match their speed to that of the main highway in order to seamlessly merge in between the other cars. However, when traffic has slowed to a crawl, the merging happens less seamlessly, and tempers can flare when on-ramp vehicles begin forcing their way into the existing traffic on the main highway.

What I have noticed is that long-haul truckers that are involved in these types of congested traffic merges have adopted an interesting strategy. Because their rigs are less able to provide instantaneous stop-and-start accuracy with the cars around them, they typically choose to go at a very slow, but steady speed. This allows for large gaps in the traffic to form ahead of them, and the smaller cars around them have much more room to change lanes and join the flow of traffic on the main highway.

In effect, these truckers are acting like the “peacemakers” of the merge; their slow, constant speed provides additional room for cars to zip in and out of the lane ahead of them while they continue slowly and cautiously through the frenzy of lane changing and merging around them. This can be an analogy for us when we are considering our interactions with those in our lives.

If we look at the course of our day as the highway, then the people who come and go in our lives throughout our day are merging with us for a while and then exiting off our path or highway onto their other destinations. If we adopt the trucker strategy and allow them the additional “room” to merge and exit, we can find that our lives are much less stressful. We are not having to constantly hit the brakes or accelerate to accommodate their entrance and exits. We can still move toward our destination, albeit a little more slowly than we may have hoped, as we encounter this inevitable “traffic” in our journey each day.

This trucker strategy of giving people room is one of the most practical ways to keep peace.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Living out the wisdom of God

The best demonstration of faith is in living out the wisdom of God.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

While Paul is here speaking about the writings that we would today call the Old Testament, in truth for believers today, the collective apostolic writings of the New Testament would also be included within the torah, or instruction of God. Paul’s admonition is that our learning should be based on this instruction of God. These writings have been designed for instructing us in wisdom. From this wisdom stems steadfastness, constancy, and cheerful endurance. This wisdom provides hope, expectation, or confidence.

For the first century believers, their hope was that they would be protected and spared through the rampant persecution of the Jews against their sect. Their hope was in the soon and coming judgment upon the wickedness of that generation that was to be poured out in the impending war with Rome. The writings of their forefathers were being fulfilled before their eyes, and they could draw encouragement and comfort to help them endure the troubling times they were living through. In like fashion today, we can also draw hope and encouragement through the writings of our spiritual forefathers in the Bible that have been handed down to us through the centuries.

Additionally, Paul’s admonition is that, based on the wisdom of the writings, we should be building one another up, not segregating ourselves further from one another.

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. … May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:2, 5-6

Believers today have been entrusted with the most valuable commodity there is in a world of falsified news and social unrest: the truth of God’s instruction. If we lived like we really believed that, like we really trusted in the God of the Bible, the world would, for better or worse, take notice. The results would be dependent on how steadfast we would remain; to be tested if we could endure their onslaught with the cheerful endurance of our spiritual forefathers.

If we would, as Paul envisions, “join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the impact on this generation could have similar effects that the faithful of that generation had, effects which are still resonating with believers down to our day thousands of years later.

Our faithful handling of God’s word is magnified when we actually live out what we say we believe. The best demonstration of faith is in living out the wisdom of God.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Being set apart is both an appointment and a challenge

All aspects of our life should be under constant scrutiny by us.

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Good News of God,”

Romans 1:1

This idea of being set apart is a recurring theme all throughout the Bible. The phrase here indicates something or someone that is set apart as distinct, or marked off by a boundary. This marking off or separation can be applied in a negative sense, or in a positive sense as a type of appointment.

“Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.”

Luke 6:22

This exclusion here demonstrates how the Jews were prophesied by Yeshua as separating the believers in Messiah from their own ranks.  Thinking they were doing something to honor God, they rejected the believers as essentially being heretics.

In a positive sense, the term could be used as a way of demonstrating a type of appointment, as mentioned in Romans 1 above with the apostle Paul, and also with Paul and Barnabas being appointed by the body of believers.

“As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.””

Acts 13:2

Paul carries this idea of separation over into the life of the collective congregation of believers as well.

“Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? … Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord.  ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you.  I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

2 Corinthians 6:14,17-18; 7:1

Paul equates this separation as being a form of holiness. This practice is a hallmark of believers everywhere, who are to be separating themselves from the unrighteousness and lawlessness of their respective cultures. Paul here encourages all believers to perfect holiness, that is to bring to fulfillment or bring to conclusion, this holiness, or separation from unrighteousness, in all that we do and say. All aspects of our life should be under constant scrutiny by us, to where we prune everything that is unfruitful or potentially harmful. Anything that does not conform to the Word of God in our lives needs to be carefully, yet ruthlessly, removed.

This is the life that we have been called to, and one that bears a legacy of honor and the everlasting promise of blessing from the One who calls us.

“I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.””

2 Corinthians 6:18

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Choosing forgiveness and life over anger

Yeshua teaches that anger with a brother is liable to a judgment equivalent to that of murder. Why such a severe judgment on a natural emotion? And how does this reconcile with evidence of God’s anger with his own people?

Core of the Bible Podcast #21 – Choosing forgiveness and life over anger

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness can be a beacon of life that overcomes anger. But in order for us to understand about forgiveness overcoming anger, we will need to look a little closer at how the Bible represents anger in its various forms.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22

Believers should not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone. According to Yeshua, the damage caused by emotional outbursts of anger is equivalent to taking the life of an individual. Anger breeds an environment of death.

For example, this principle of anger breeding an environment of death is exemplified by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in the time of Daniel.

Daniel 2:10-12 The Chaldeans answered the king, “No one on earth can make known what the king requests. Consequently, no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked anything like this of any magician, medium, or Chaldean. “What the king is asking is so difficult that no one can make it known to him except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.” Because of this, the king became violently angry and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Proverbs 29:22 An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered one increases rebellion.

Have you ever known a hot-tempered individual to be considered a level-headed peacemaker? Of course not. Anger is not the way of building bridges between dissenting opinions, but a way of squashing all opposition, or in aggressively attempting to sway others to a particular point of view or call to action to harm others.

In an Old Testament instance of this, a robbery by some rogue Israelite tribal members caused a conflict. A man named Micah went shouting and chasing after some of the men of the tribe of Dan after the Danites had stolen some of his belongings.

Judges 18:23-25 [Micah’s men] were shouting as they caught up with them [the Danites]. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?” “What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?'” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!” The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.”

This is typically the result of short-tempered individuals; further damage and harm ensues.

Another consideration regarding angry words is that what is said is an unfiltered version of what is really in a person’s heart. According to Yeshua, the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

If we are harboring anger towards another individual in our heart, there is a fair likelihood that anger will be expressed, and not in a pretty fashion.

It is for these reasons that Yeshua equates anger with murder; the damage done can have long-lasting consequences that may not have been fully intended. Once that damage is done, trying to restore that relationship can seem as daunting as trying to resuscitate an individual who has been murdered by your words.

The good news is, God is in the life-giving business. To overcome the error of “killing” someone with our anger, Yeshua encourages the opposite to anger: forgiveness. Now I know that, at first blush, forgiveness may not sound like anger’s opposite; perhaps something like peace might be more fitting. But when you boil it down to essentials, peace is really based on forgiveness. Forgiveness can heal breaches in trust or the wounds of anger and resentment. Forgiveness is a creator of peace. Where anger breeds death, forgiveness breeds life.

Let’s look at some illustrations of this. When Joab tried to convince David to receive his son Absalom back whom he had banished, Joab creates a ruse with a woman to appear before the king and plead for his intent. In the speech that Joab provided her, she reveals a truth about the nature of God and forgiveness.

2 Samuel 14:14 For we must die, and are as water spilled on the ground, which can’t be gathered up again; neither does God take away life, but devises means, that he who is banished not be an outcast from him.

In this speech, the opposite of taking away life is forgiveness and restoration. This is the same principle that the apostle Paul uses in conveying the new life that believers have in Messiah, because God has forgiven us.

Colossians 2:13 And you being dead in the trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…

You see, if we were dead in our rebellious state, then God made us alive through forgiving us. Forgiveness breeds life, and our very forgiven status in the estimation of God proves it. If you have received forgiveness from God and are experiencing new life in Messiah, you should very clearly understand this principle.

Now, while all of this sounds very noble and worthy of our effort, we must also consider another aspect of anger that can be troubling if we haven’t previously considered it. What about instances when God is shown to have demonstrated anger? If God has gotten angry, why should he expect that we don’t get angry? Is he expecting that we have more emotional control than he does?

It’s a valid question and one that deserves a little further investigation. Here is an example, when Moses is arguing with God as to why he doesn’t feel that he is a good fit for this whole prophet thing that God is commanding him to do with Pharaoh.

Exodus 4:10-15 But Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the LORD became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do.

This is actually the first instance in the Bible where we see God getting angry, or at least the first representation of his anger. Here are some other examples to illustrate this further.

Numbers 11:1 The people were complaining in the ears of Yahweh. When Yahweh heard it, his anger burned; and Yahweh’s fire burned among them, and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

Numbers 11:4 The mixed multitude that was among them lusted exceedingly; and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now we have lost our appetite. There is nothing at all except this manna to look at.”… 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent; and Yahweh’s anger burned greatly; and Moses was displeased.

Numbers 12:1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 They said, “Has Yahweh indeed spoken only with Moses? Hasn’t he spoken also with us?” And Yahweh heard it. … 8 [Yahweh speaking] With him [Moses], I will speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in riddles; and he shall see Yahweh’s form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?” 9 Yahweh’s anger burned against them; and he departed.

Numbers 25:1 Israel stayed in Shittim; and the people began to play the prostitute with the daughters of Moab; 2 for they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. The people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Israel joined himself to Baal Peor, and Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel. 4 Yahweh said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up to Yahweh before the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahweh may turn away from Israel.”

Numbers 32:10 Yahweh’s anger burned in that day, and he swore, saying, 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me, 12 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, because they have followed Yahweh completely.’ 13 Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel, and he made them wander back and forth in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation who had done evil in Yahweh’s sight was consumed.

The language used in these passages reveals a few things. First, if we were to translate the phrase as it stands literally, it is a description of someone’s face becoming heated or burning to where their nostrils flare or they breathe heavily. Of course, this is a depiction of what we would call the emotion of anger. As this relates to God, it is as though the biblical writers are using the only words they have to describe the displeasure of God in these instances.

Does God have a face that actually gets hot, or nostrils that flare while he breathes heavily in frustration and anger? These would be what we would call anthropomorphisms: attributing human characteristics to God. This is simply because we, in our limited sense, cannot conceive of it in any other way, so we project onto God the characteristics we ourselves exhibit in similar situations.

Interestingly most of these occurrences are in the book of Numbers. So either the people were extra-rebellious or the writer of the book of Numbers chose to use that phrase repeatedly to express God’s displeasure.

Okay, but doesn’t the text still imply that God is getting angry? Of course, but we need to consider this: what is God getting angry about in each instance? Isn’t it basically disobedience to his revealed will?

Look at the examples again: Moses didn’t want to go to Pharaoh; the people were complaining about the provision of manna as a sole food source; Miriam and Aaron were rebelling against God’s choice of Moses; the people were submitting to idolatry instead of following God; the people rebelled against God’s plan to conquer the land of Canaan, etc.

God had every right to express anger because of disobedience to, or dissatisfaction with, his revealed will. This is a justifiable reason for his anger because, well, he is God, and his purpose and will is supreme.

In a similar way, when we get angry, it is typically because something isn’t happening according to our will; something isn’t going the way we want, or someone isn’t doing what we want them to do. However, the difference between our anger and God’s is that our understanding of a situation is limited by our own perceptions; God’s understanding is perfect and not limited in any way.

—–

When God is expressing anger at disobedience to his will he knows it is absolute and final because he knows all things about all people. When things don’t go our way, there may be a number of reasons why this is the case, and we can, and often do, easily assign the wrong motive or cause because of our limited perception. This causes us many times to be angry for the wrong reasons, whether due to emotional instability or incomplete information, but by then the damage is done.

This is why God has a right to command us to not get angry with others, not because we are supposed to somehow be more in control of our emotions than he is. It is simply because we are rarely angry for the correct reason, in the right amount, with the right individual. God’s perception and perspective is always perfect and justified. Our perceptions skew reality to our own misunderstandings of a particular situation. Anger is usually a demonstration of our own unfiltered, and typically unjustified, opinion. Therefore, God commands us to provide grace for the things we don’t know and for the situations we may not have full knowledge of.

For example, a popular story by Valerie Cox called The Cookie Thief illustrates this point rather well.

A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop. She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene. So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half. He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude! She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate. She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes. If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

For the woman in the story, her struggle was internal, and yet she still felt awful about her misconception over the whole incident. However, when we actually lash out at others, we reveal the weakness of our own character. Raw emotion can cause division because it is typically not based on the truth, but only on a perception of what one believes to be true. The reality of a situation may be significantly different.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.

Even though God may be completely justified in his anger, he still does not rush in emotionally frantic because someone disobeyed his will.  In proclaiming his character to Moses, he relates how his anger, although justifiable, is still not instantaneous:

Exodus 34:6 Yahweh passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh ​– Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

Even though Israel time after time rejected God and chose their own ways, God was slow to anger, as Nehemiah relates.

Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers behaved proudly, hardened their neck, didn’t listen to your commandments, 17 and refused to obey. They weren’t mindful of your wonders that you did among them, but hardened their neck, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage. But you are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and didn’t forsake them.

Numbers 14:18 “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.

God’s anger and his justice are tied at the hip. We saw this in all those passages in Numbers where God is described as being angry. The results of that anger were typically a measure of justice or discipline.

When the people complained about only having manna to eat, a fire burned in the outskirts of the camp, consuming them. When Miriam complained about God only speaking through Moses, she was disciplined with temporary leprosy. When the Israelites succumbed to idolatry, their leaders were hanged. When the people refused to take the land he had given them, he forced them to wander in the desert for forty years.

When he is meting out deserved punishment, his justice can appear as anger. But when the truth of a situation is known from his perspective, it can be recognized as being a natural outworking of consequences based on unfaithful actions.

If God, who knows all things about all people at all times, is considered slow to anger, should we not then also take even longer to become angry, knowing that we are extremely limited in our understanding of others and their motives? This is why Yeshua cautions us against judging others, because our standards are likely unjust, and God will then be justified in using our own standards against us.

If anger fosters death, then as we have seen, forgiveness fosters life. What anger kills, forgiveness resuscitates. Angry words designed to hurt are rendered powerless through the life generated by forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Meting out forgiveness seventy-seven times in one day is an obvious hyperbolic emphasis by Yeshua to illustrate that the stores of forgiveness available to us are bountiful enough to outlast and overcome any personal infraction.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,

Anger is a real emotion that conveys real intensity of thought and principle to bear in a situation. Anger itself is a creation of God. But the caution for us is if we are choosing to express anger, we are to do so without sin. That is a very fine line, and one that is not typically identified or heeded in a heated passionate outburst.

Even if we are justifiably angry, we are encouraged to resolve that conflict before the start of a new day. There should not be bitterness and unresolved conflict over days, weeks, months, or God forbid, years. I have seen that level of unrelenting anger in my own experiences growing up, and nothing good ever came of that level of unforgiveness and anger over past situations. If we are to be justifiably angry, it should not last longer than a day. Beyond that, we are entering into a realm of ongoing conflict, rebellion, and death.

Numbers 14:18 “Yahweh is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion.

If we are to mimic our heavenly Father in all things, then we should likewise be slow to anger, but abounding in faithful love and forgiveness. This is the root of life that can overcome the state of death present in our petty anger and hostility.

Life can always overcome death. Choose life.

—–
 

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that when we express anger, we are treading in areas of potential death and destruction in the lives of others. Although we may feel justified, we are rarely angry at the right time, in the right amount, and with the right individual. Instead, we should choose to foster life and restoration through forgiveness. This is the true path to being the peacemaker that Yeshua enjoins us to be.

Being vigilant about what to believe

Our individual worldview can influence which things we accept as true and which things we reject as false.

Mark 1:15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Luke 4:43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”

While there are many different religions in the world, all with differing views of God and spirituality, we find that even amidst Christianity there are wide variations among denominations and churches all claiming competing views of biblical faith. They all have “statements of faith” of what they consider the most important things for people to believe. In order to belong to a specific church or denomination, one must believe what their statements proclaim.

Here at the Core of the Bible blog and podcast, I don’t have a statement of faith, and I think that throws some people off because they want to know if I am presenting an orthodox view of the faith (according to them). Instead, I am always striving to present the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form, not trying to complicate things further with man-made creeds. However, if I was pegged to distill the message of the Bible to one phrase regarding a statement of faith, it would be this: “Just believe Yeshua (Jesus).”

Of course, in saying that, a host of pre-existing and unstated elements would also have to be believed in to arrive at that simplistic statement. To believe in Yeshua, one would also need to believe the Bible is true, and truly depicts his life and teaching. If one believes the Bible is true, then one is understood to recognize that Israel was a faithful caretaker of the words of God. If one believes that Israel was faithful with the words of God, then the God of the Bible is recognized as being the true God. If one believes the God of the Bible is true, then, according to the Bible record, one understands he is the originator of everything that exists.

Everything we believe and know is interconnected to a host of other biases and assumptions about life and the universe. Our individual worldview can influence which things we accept as true and which things we reject as false.

For me, I do believe the biblical worldview. I accept that there is a God of the universe, and that he has chosen to reveal himself through what we call the Bible. The reason I do is because I believe the patterns, stories, and wisdom contained there hold a consistent message about the kingdom of God that has been borne out in real time through the historical circumstances of ancient Israel. I have concluded that Yeshua provided the pinnacle or the culmination of that message of the kingdom, and that the Sermon on the Mount provides a foundational structure that supports the rest of the biblical narrative. By focusing on the principles Yeshua outlines there, I believe a firm footing is achieved for a practical outworking of faith and the kingdom of God through all ages. For me, the message of the kingdom of God in the Bible gives reason for all that exists, and for why we are here.

In the spirit of simplicity, it is my hope that these notes, articles and podcasts will convey that understanding and reason in a way that makes sense to you. If you are ever in doubt about what I am attempting to convey, or you have questions about my stance on a particular thought, feel free to reach out to me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

And if you are ever in doubt about something particular in a church’s statement of faith, remember: Just believe Yeshua (Jesus), and you will be fine.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.

Magnifying God

As God’s image-bearers, we should be faithfully representing him in all that we do and say.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

Integrity is the result of individuals acting in agreement with their inner convictions. When those actions are based on the revealed word of God and recognized as sincere, God is magnified.

When Mary understood she was to be the mother of the Messiah, she could not contain the joy and wisdom from God’s Spirit that flooded her soul.

“Oh, how my soul magnifies the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.

Luke 1:46-49

The word for magnifying God in the Greek means to “make great” or “to increase, extol, or show as great.” This is what a magnifying glass does: it increases something that appears small to make it larger and more easily viewable. To magnify God is a work of integrity in the life of the believer.

For they heard them speak with other languages, and magnify God.

Acts 10:46 

As the companions of Cornelius’ household heard and believed the good news from Peter about new life in Messiah, they were filled with God’s Spirit and began ecstatic praise in various languages as a sign to the Jews present that God was at work in their hearts.

When the Spirit of God is at work in the life of a believer, God is magnified. There is a some sort of shift that takes place in the spiritual realm that compels and emboldens believers to magnify him. Paul uses the analogy of a new creation, a new being that sees things differently than it did before.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Messiah merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Messiah has become a newly created being. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Quite honestly, this is the principle purpose of man in this world, to magnify God. We have been created in his image and as his image-bearers, we should be faithfully representing him in all that we do and say. When we do, we are letting our “light shine before men,” as Yeshua said. This is how we magnify God in this world.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Yahweh the King

Yahweh has always been, and always will be, the rightful king of his people.

Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them.

1 Samuel 8:7

The political kingship of Israel began with a rejection of Yahweh as their king.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel to Ramah. They said to him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” Samuel prayed to Yahweh. Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them.

1 Samuel 8:4-7

Even when presented with all of the tyrannous things a national king would do: the taxes, the conscription, the giving over of land, children, and slaves to the service of the king, the people would not relent.

Yahweh told Samuel that their desire for a political king, and their forsaking of Samuel as judge over them, was akin to their idolatry.

According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me and served other gods, so they also do to you.

1 Samuel 8:8

Throughout their tumultuous political kingdom, Yahweh still had plans to use Israel’s national kingdom as an object lesson for all time. Although Saul had originally been God’s choice for ruler, Saul became corrupt and demonstrated he was not obedient whole-heartedly to the torah, or instruction, of God. So instead, God raised up David as a man after his own heart to firmly establish the kingdom.

While David was originally rejected by the people of Israel, through him and his son Solomon, the pinnacle of the earthly, political kingdom of God was reached. The corrupted initial kingdom was replaced with a king who was yielded to Yahweh and who ruled wisely as God’s faithful representative with the wisdom of God.

Just like the kingdom of David and Solomon, God always had plans to consummate his rulership over his people with a representative who would honor and represent him whole-heartedly. The coming of a Messiah, a son of David, an anointed one (i.e., a king), was foretold through the prophets and longed for by the Israelites who suffered under each rebellious king and through exile in foreign lands.

Yeshua arrived into a world of immense national and political corruption, just like the conditions of the kingdom of Saul. However, just like the house of David, Yeshua demonstrated through his faithfulness that he was truly anointed of God, and the rightful king of God’s people.

True to form and the cyclical pattern of torah, Israel rejected God’s anointed king (for that is what the word “Christ” means). But God’s plan to go full circle back to his own rulership over his people was not yet complete. Through the demonstration of his power and through the resurrection of Yeshua, Yahweh maintained a rightful ruler of his people, one who would oversee the affairs of his kingdom as if he himself were king. Through his Messiah, his anointed king, the rightful rulership and all honor would ultimately return to Yahweh himself.

Then the end comes, when he (Messiah) will deliver up the Kingdom to God the Father, when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power. …When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:24, 28

Through the faithfulness of his Messiah, Yahweh remains as rightful king over his people for all time, and is worthy of all honor and praise.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Charitable deeds from a sincere heart are always recognized by God

Tabitha and Cornelius received amazing blessings from God, not because they were looking to be blessed, but because they were simply and sincerely concerned about the welfare of others.

There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.

Acts 9:36

Being compassionate towards those in need is a hallmark of believers. Providing charitable actions for others is something that is encouraged by Yeshua.

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luke 12:33

Thanks to the Elizabethan English of the King James Bible, generosity with those in need has been historically come to be known as the giving of “alms.” That word has lost a lot of its meaning in our current age, but the underlying Greek word implies pity and mercy; according to one dictionary: “compassionateness (as exercised towards the poor), beneficence, or (concretely) a benefaction.”

In the New Testament writings, we see individuals who were recognized for their charitable actions and giving: Tabitha, as mentioned above, and Cornelius, a benefactor of the Jews.

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

Acts 10:1-2

While both of these individuals are mentioned because of the extraordinary events that accompanied the recognition of their giving (Tabitha was brought back from the dead, and Cornelius received a heavenly vision), the important thing is that their giving was recognized by God. They were not giving to be praised by others (although that ended up coming about), but they were simply individuals who were motivated by sincere compassion to help those in need.

Yeshua was clear that this type of charitable giving and assistance should in no way be motivated by public recognition.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, “so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-4

The examples of Tabitha and Cornelius should be a great encouragement to us because they are each direct fulfillments of this very promise from Yeshua: “your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Each of them received amazing blessings from God, not because they were looking to be blessed, but because they were simply and sincerely concerned about the welfare of others.

These two individuals should not be looked at as examples of testing God to see if he will come through with some amazing blessing for us when we give; they are examples of the honor that can be bestowed on individuals whom God chooses to honor when they are faithful to his Word and his principles. Neither one of these individuals was giving to get, and yet they received an abundance of blessing and honor. The Word of God and the words of Yeshua are validated in their fulfillment in these individuals’ lives.

“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure ​– ​pressed down, shaken together, and running over ​– ​will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38

It’s this type of sincere generosity and compassion that God has demonstrated that he sees and recognizes. While we may never receive a wondrous miracle due to our charitable compassion, it is because of these examples that we can be confident that our heavenly Father recognizes our actions and is pleased with our obedient giving. That in itself should be more than enough reward for us.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.