Choose Life!

May 9, 2019 by Dr Michael Brown

More than three-thousand years ago, Moses urged the children of Israel to “choose life.” He said to them:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NJPS).

But why would anyone choose death? Why would anyone choose to be cursed rather than blessed?

The answer is that God’s ways lead to life and blessing, but many people would rather die than follow Him.

They view God’s ways as restrictive. Oppressive. Antiquated. Harmful.

In reality, God’s ways lead to human thriving. To liberty. To freedom. To fullness.

As Jesus said:

“I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

To be sure, God’s ways require discipline. And obedience. And denial of the flesh.

But fleshly habits bring bondage. Discipline sets us free.

Indulging our earthly desires brings dullness and addiction. Obedience lifts us into a higher realm, far above our animal appetites.

God is a God of life, and in Him is life beyond description. That’s why Jesus could say:

“I am the resurrection and the life. . . . I am the bread of life. . . . . Whoever follows Me . . . will have the light of life” (John 11:24; 6:35; 8:12). And that’s why John called Him “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

Tragically, in recent decades, America has increasingly chosen a path of death, from abortion to violent video games, and from euthanasia to TV shows glorifying vampires and zombies. How can we turn the tide?

Here are some practical suggestions.

First, go about your normal daily activities, watching and reading and listening to what you normally watch and read and listen to, but this time take note of how much death is involved. How many images of the dead and dying? How many corpses? How much graphic violence? How much death are you seeing (by choice, not by necessity) over the course of a week?

Second, if you realize that you’re being influenced by a culture of death, then take a thirty-day break from all forms of death-related media entertainment, be it video games or favorite TV shows or gratuitously violent novels.

Third, immerse yourself in words of life. I would encourage you to read several chapters from Proverbs and the Gospel of John each day, noticing the constant emphasis on life. As the voice of wisdom says in Proverbs 8:

“For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:35-36).

Fourth, when you spend time in prayer, ask God to flood your heart with His life and to give you the perspective of life, to see the world as He would have you see it.

Fifth, after thirty days, ask the Lord how He would have you to live. You might be surprised to see how your perspectives have changed. In the words of Paul:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things (Phil. 4:8, NIV).

If you’d like to take this even further, then consider three more steps.

First, get involved in the pro-life movement and work against abortion on demand in our nation. If Mother Teresa and others are right, this strikes at a major root of our culture of death, and by joining together as pro-life Christians, we can see the nation impacted.

Second, we can affirm the dignity of every human life by reaching out to the elderly, who are some of the most forgotten and neglected people in our society.

Third, get involved with another group that society discards, the poor and the hurting. Many churches have ministries to the poor and the needy, and every city has feeding programs and the like, and for the most part, they are greatly understaffed.

We celebrate life when we bring meaning and hope into the lives of the hurting, and we reaffirm that they too are created in the image of God, therefore of inestimable value and worth. It is something near and dear to the Lord’s heart.

The good news is that, across our nation, Americans are choosing life. In fact, already in March, a New York Times headline declared:

“Georgia Is Latest State to Pass Fetal Heartbeat Bill as Part of Growing Trend.”

The article noted that:

“The governors in Mississippi and Kentucky signed fetal heartbeat measures into law in recent weeks, and other states — including Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas — are expected to approve similar measures this year.”

May our nation choose life, that we and our offspring might live!

(Some of the material in this article was excerpted and adapted from my book Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation.)

 

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How Road Trips Teach Me to Trust Jesus

As I approach this season of pilgrimage, Scripture offers me a theology of travel.
COURTNEY ELLIS

How Road Trips Teach Me to Trust Jesus

My husband, Daryl, experiences more wanderlust than I do. He grew up in Southern California, traveling across the valley for high school basketball games, taking class field trips up the coastline, and loading up the church van for missions to Tijuana. On our family Sabbath, it’s Daryl who takes us out on the roads of Orange County. When I ask where we’re headed, he smiles and nearly always says, “I’m not sure. Let’s just have an adventure.”

In particular, our trips to visit extended family bring out the differences in our travel methods. I plan ahead while Daryl enjoys serendipity; I prepare for every eventuality while he prefers to throw a few diapers and a bag of tortilla chips in the car and hope for the best. But since my husband’s side of the family lives in Los Angeles—a thriving metropolis with all manner of convenience stores and restaurants—I’m learning to hang loose on these local treks.

As these drives to LA become more common, God is faithfully teaching me that my rigid, planned-up-to-the-minute travel method isn’t always the best one. In fact, the biblical model for following Jesus is much more Spirit-led than plotted in advance. It isn’t that preparation isn’t necessary or helpful, it’s that openness to the Spirit of God is more important still. “The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus tells Nicodemus in John’s gospel.

Paul’s journeys were continually interrupted by storms, bandits, imprisonments, and mobs, and once, when he made it all the way to the outskirts of the province of Asia, the Spirit of God turned him away at the last minute. Perhaps that’s why when God speaks to individuals in Scripture, his first call is often for them to step out in faith, to follow a new and previously unsought path. Much of the time God doesn’t even give the destination. The command is simple (and, if you’re a homebody like me, perhaps a little unsettling): “Go,” he says. “Go.”

God uses this word with Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. “Go,” he says to Jonah. Simeon is “moved by the Spirit” to go to the temple, where he welcomes and blesses the infant Jesus. “Get up,” an angel says to Joseph in a dream, warning him to flee from King Herod’s murderous rage and go to Egypt.

As pilgrim people, we, too, are called to travel with our eyes open to the work of the Lord in the world around us. As N. T. Wright puts it, “A pilgrim is someone who goes on a journey in the hope of encountering God or meeting him in a new way.” Whether we fly across the country or simply drive an hour to visit a friend, travel provides us with a unique opportunity to experience God anew by approaching our journey not just as travelers but pilgrims—people on the lookout for God at work and opportunities to join him.

Jesus was the ultimate pilgrim, after all, leaving his heavenly climes to not only visit with but live among humanity. He faced all the usual obstacles to comfort that plague us when we travel—difficulty in finding food and shelter, misreading the vibe of a particular place, and having to rely on the hospitality and grace of strangers, family, and friends. “Foxes have dens,” Jesus said, “and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus leans into this discomfort, telling his disciples to “take nothing for the journey.” He invites us to do likewise. (Though, to be fair, none of the disciples was toting a two-year-old. Surely then even Jesus would have advised bringing an extra snack or two.) Away from our usual environment, at the mercy of the road or the airlines or the weather or the host home, we are given the opportunity to see the world with new eyes: to receive welcome, to develop compassion, to grow in faith and trust that God will care for us throughout the journey and see us safely home at its end.

In my upcoming summer travels, I want to practice Christlike pilgrimage, watching for God as our family journeys, looking for opportunities to love those in my path with the love of Christ, and doing my best to accept discomfort and even disaster as means of discipleship and grace.

I also need to seek ways to slow down and listen—something that doesn’t come naturally to me. One of the lessons God offers to us in travel is to find peace amid the storm, to leave behind the intensity of our work lives and schedules and family pandemonium and settle into the quieter days of travel. As Carlo Carretto puts it, “That is the truth we must learn through faith: to wait on God. And this attitude of mind is not easy. This ‘waiting,’ this ‘not making plans,’ this ‘searching the heavens,’ this ‘being silent’ is one of the most important things we have to learn.”

This insight comes home to me every time I visit my parents in the northern woods of Wisconsin, where I’m cut off from the busyness of my normal life. My parents’ internet is spotty; my cellphone works only intermittently; the last time I heard a siren of any kind was at the town Fourth of July parade half a decade ago.

Back home, Daryl and I often fall asleep watching The West Wing or The Office in an effort to still our ping-ponging thoughts. Here, however, any digital streaming takes literal hours to download, so we simply don’t. At night we open the windows to hear the oak and maple leaves blow in the wind, falling asleep with books on our chests. When we spend these days in the quiet of the northern forests, it’s as if Jesus stands at the helm of our proverbial boats during the storm of the usual daily grind—ministry, school, appointments, errands, household chores—and says, “Peace. Be still.”

In these pilgrimage moments, I’m ever so slowly learning to listen. I’m learning, too, that the journey, provision, and destination all belong to God.

Courtney Ellis is a pastor and speaker and the author, most recently, of Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents (June 2019, Rose Publishing). She lives in Southern California with her husband, Daryl, and their three kids. Find her on TwitterFacebook, or her blog.

This essay was adapted from Almost Holy Mama by Courtney Ellis. Copyright (c) 2019 by Courtney Ellis. Published by Rose Publishing, Peabody, MA. hendricksonrose.com

 

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Old Covenant vs. New Covenant, 32 Differences

How Jesus Christ Fulfilled the Old Testament Law

A christian bible

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant. What do they mean? And why was a New Covenant needed at all?

Most people know the Bible is divided into the Old Testament and New Testament, but the word “testament” also means “covenant,” a contract between two parties.

The Old Testament was a foreshadowing of the New, a foundation for what was to come. From the book of Genesis on, the Old Testament pointed forward to a Messiah or Savior. The New Testament describes the fulfillment of God’s promise by Jesus Christ.

Old Covenant: Between God and Israel

The Old Covenant was established between God and the people of Israel after God freed them from slavery in EgyptMoses, who led the people out, served as the mediator of this contract, which was made at Mount Sinai.

Moses with the New Tablets (Exodus 34, 29-33)
ZU_09 / Getty Images

God promised that the people of Israel would be his chosen people, and he would be their God(Exodus 6:7).God issued the Ten Commandments and the laws in Leviticus to be obeyed by the Hebrews. If they complied, he pledged prosperity and protection in the Promised Land.

Altogether, there were 613 laws, covering every aspect of human behavior. Males had to be circumcised, sabbaths had to be observed, and people had to obey hundreds of dietary, social, and hygiene rules. All these regulations were intended to protect the Israelites from their neighbors’ pagan influences, but no one could keep so many laws. To address the people’s sins, God set up a system of animal sacrifices, in which the people provided cattle, sheep, and doves to be killed. Sin required blood sacrifices.

Under the Old Covenant, those sacrifices were carried out at the desert tabernacle. God installed Moses’ brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons as priests, who slaughtered the animals. Only Aaron, the high priest, could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, to intercede for the people directly with God.

After the Israelites conquered Canaan, King Solomon built the first permanent temple in Jerusalem, where the animal sacrifices continued. Invaders eventually destroyed the temples, but when they were rebuilt, the sacrifices resumed.

New Covenant: Between God and Christians

That system of animal sacrifice lasted hundreds of years, but even so, it was only temporary. Out of love, God the Father sent his only Son, Jesus, into the world. This New Covenant would resolve the problem of sin once and for all.

Jesus blessing little children -
Culture Club / Getty Images

For three years, Jesus taught throughout Israel about the kingdom of God and his role as Messiah. To support his claim as Son of God, he performed many miracles, even raising three people from the dead. By dying on the cross, Christ became the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice whose blood has the power to wash away sin forever.

Some churches say the New Covenant began with Jesus’ crucifixion. Others believe it started at Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit and founding of the Christian Church. The New Covenant was established between God and the individual Christian(John 3:16), with Jesus Christ serving as mediator.

Besides serving as the sacrifice, Jesus also became the new high priest(Hebrews 4:14-16). Instead of physical prosperity, the New Covenant promises salvation from sin and eternal life with God. As high priest, Jesus constantly intercedes for his followers before his Father in heaven. Individuals may now approach God themselves; they no longer need a human high priest to speak for them.

Why the New Covenant Is Better

The Old Testament is a record of the nation of Israel struggling–and failing–to keep its covenant with God. The New Testament shows Jesus Christ keeping the covenant for his people, doing what they cannot do.

Theologian Martin Luther called the contrast between the two covenants law vs. gospel. A more familiar name is works vs. grace. While God’s grace frequently broke through in the Old Testament, its presence overwhelms the New Testament. Grace, that free gift of salvation through Christ, is available to anyperson, not just Jews, and asks only that a person repent of their sins and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The New Testament book of Hebrews gives several reasons why Jesus is superior to the Old Covenant, among them:

  • Jesus is superior to Moses as a mediator;
  • Jesus is a high priest forever, seated next to God in heaven;
  • Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all, perfecting believers for eternal life.

Both the Old and New Testaments are the story of the same God, a God of love and mercy who gave his people the freedom to choose and who gives his people the opportunity to come back to him by choosing Jesus Christ.

The Old Covenant was for a specific people in a specific place and time. The New Covenant extends to the entire world:

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

Sources

gotquestions.org, gci.org, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, General Editor; The New Compact Bible Dictionary, Alton Bryant, Editor; The Mind of Jesus, William Barclay.

 

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32 Differences Between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant

Here are 32 differences between the Old covenant and the New Covenant. The Old Covenant is the Old Testament while the New Covenant is the New Testament.

We can truly say that the Old covenant or Old Testament is the lawwhile the New Covenant is Grace.

The 32 differences  are;

  1. The old covenant came by Moses while the new covenant came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17)
  2. The old covenant leads to death (kills) while the new covenant gives life (2 Cor 3:6)
  3. The old covenant was ended by Jesus Christ (Roman 10:4) while the new covenant was established by Jesus Christ (Heb 8:6)
  4. The old covenant enslaves (Gal 5:1)while the new covenant makes man free (gives freedom) (John 8:32. 36)
  5. The old covenant leaves man imperfect while the new covenant leaves man perfect (Heb 7:19)
  6. The old covenant exposes sin (Gal 3:19) while the new covenant covers sin (Rom. 4:1-8)
  7. The old covenant cannot give life (2 cor 3.7) while the new covenant gives life (Gal. 3:11, 6:8)
  8. The old covenant was abolished while the new covenant  is in force (Eph:2:15)
  9. The old covenant brings a curse (Gal. 3:10) while the new covenant redeems from curse (Gal. 3:13)
  10. In the old covenant, living is by works while in the new covenant living is by faith (Gal. 3:10-11)
  11. The old covenant is a shadow (Col. 2:14-17) while the new covenant is the reality (Heb. 10:1-18)
  12. The old covenant is a covered glory while the new covenant is glory uncovered (2 Cor. 3:13)
  13. The old covenant had many high priests (Heb. 7:23) while the new covenant has only one high priest (Jesus Christ) (Heb. 7:24-28)
  14. The old covenant had earthly priest (Heb. 5:1-4) while the new covenant has heavenly priest (Heb. 9:24, 10:12)
  15. The old covenant makes priest by law while the new covenant makes priests by oath (Heb 7:12,28)
  16. The old covenant had earthly tabernacle (Heb. 9:2) while the new covenant has heavenly tabernacle (Heb. 8:2)
  17. In The old covenant priesthood was in the lineage of Aaron (Aaron priest hood) while the new covenant priesthood is in the melchisedec lineage (melchisedec priesthood) (Heb 7:11,21)
  18. In the old covenant priests (high priest) were sinners (Heb. 5:1-4) while in the new covenant the priest has no sin (Jesus Christ) (Heb. 7:26)
  19. The old covenant was fulfilled (Mat. 5:17-18) while the new covenant is now in force (Heb. 8:6, 10:9)
  20. In the old, the law was written in stone tablets while in the new covenant, the law is written in people hearts (Jeremiah 31:33)
  21. In the old, the Ark of covenant was present as a sign of salvation while in the new covenant salvation is by grace through faith
  22. The old covenant demanded works (doing) while the new covenant only demands  obedience
  23. In the old, Moses and prophets were mediators while in the new covenant, Jesus Christ is the mediator
  24. The old covenant is a covenant of letter while the new covenant is a covenant of spirit
  25. The old covenant needed offering for sin while in the new covenant, Jesus is the perfect sin offering
  26. The old covenant needed statues and ordinances while the new covenant only needs ones heart
  27. In the old covenant, the tabernacle was made with hands while in the new covenant the tabernacle is made without hands
  28. In the old covenant, remembrance of sin was done yearly while in the new covenant, forgiveness and washing away of sin was done once and for all
  29. The old covenant remembers sin (Heb. 10:3) while the new covenant does not remember sin(Heb. 8:12, 10:17)
  30. The old covenant is a ministry of death  while the new covenant is a ministry of life (2 Cor 3:6-7)
  31. The old covenant was written with ink while the new covenant is written with the spirit of God (2 Cor 3:3)
  32. The old covenant is for Israelites only (Det 4: 7-8) while the new covenant is for all men (Luke 22:20)

All glory to the author of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ.

God bless

 

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God Reveals More Of Himself To Those Whose Faith Is Immovable

APRIL 29, 2019 BY SPANIARDVIII

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

Numbers 12:4-8

4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the LORD descended in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance to the tent, and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them came forward, 6 he said:

“Listen to what I say:
If there is a prophet among you from the LORD,
I make myself known to him in a vision;
I speak with him in a dream.
7 Not so with my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my household.
8 I speak with him directly,
openly, and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the LORD.

Miriam was the instigator who got Aaron their brother involved against Moses because they didn’t like his wife.

Miriam didn’t realize that messing with Moses was like messing with God Himself which is extremely dangerous. God called all three into the tent of meeting to deal with Moses’ accuser. If you look at verse 8 which says,“I speak with him directly, openly, and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.” It was in reference to having more knowledge. Let’s focus on the word “form” which gives the meaning of more insight or understanding of who God is which is revealed only to the faithful.

In Deuteronomy 4:15-17 which says, “15 “Diligently watch yourselves—because you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you out of the fire at Horeb— 16 so you don’t act corruptly and make an idol for yourselves in the shape of any figure: a male or female form, 17 or the form of any animal on the earth, any winged creature that flies in the sky…”

If you notice, God didn’t show the Israelites His form, more revelation about Himself, because they didn’t have strong faith like Moses and would eventually fall into idolatry, making an image of God’s form and end up worshipping that instead of the Living God.

The reason God showed Moses His form was that his faith was solid, being completely dedicated to the LORD.

When our faith is strong, steadfast, immovable, and completely devoted to Jesus Christ, He will reveal more of Himself through His Word to us.

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Hills and Valleys

Psalm 22:1- My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

It seems to me that our Christian culture has made it a sin to despair, to question God, to be just downright sad. However, the Bible is filled with mighty men of God who struggled with God, who questioned God, sought their own way, or just had down days. I don’t feel like Christianity should promote despair, but I also don’t think that it should try to make it seem like everything is awesome, every day of the week. This is an unrealistic goal which can cause us to be frustrated when we cannot achieve it, or to ignore these thoughts and push them away without dealing with them directly.

Now before we continue, I am not talking in this post about clinical depression that needs treatment from a licensed clinical psychiatrist, which I am not. Depression is a real struggle for many and I will not claim to have all the answers to it.

Let’s look in the Bible where men of God questioned God and their circumstances:

• John the Baptist was in prison and questioned if Jesus was the Messiah even after proclaiming it at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 11:2-3)

• Habakkuk 1:2- O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

• Moses was frustrated with God and the Israelites many times. In Numbers 11:11 he said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?

• Many of David’s psalms were filled with sadness and discouragement including Psalm 22

• In Psalms 73, Asaph questioned God about the prosperity of the wicked

• After the defeat of the prophets of Baal, Elijah suffered from despair, even wishing to die. In 1 Kings 19:4 he said “I have had enough Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

• Jonah rebelled against God, but after the successful saving of Nineveh, Jonah became bitter telling God “Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:3

Now it’s easy as Christians to quote the Bible where it says “the joy of the Lord is our strength” and “rejoice in the Lord always”. I’m not saying that these are not good goals, but as fallible humans we need to understand that we will have good and bad days, we will have strong faith mixed with weak faith, we will question God and we will be without any doubt. There are high and low points in our “climb up the mountain” as Christians. Just read Pilgrim’s Progress…

Martin Luther, the great reformer, struggled with doubt. It’s one of the key drivers of him questioning the church at the time to lead the reformation. At one point his doubt led to such great a depression that he wrote, “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God.”

What is our end goal when we despair? If we question God or have sadness what do we do? We do not live in that state, we use it to propel us forward and out of it. We seek help, read the Bible, pray to God, and ultimately stand firm in our faith in who God is. It is important to not go through this alone, we need to find fellow believers we can be accountable with and who we can call up when we are struggling.

Feel free to read my previous post on “Wrestling with God.” God is a big God and He can handle our doubts, worries, anxieties, fears, and sadness. If we give them over to God, He can handle them where we, in our own strength, cannot. Once we rest in God’s sovereignty, we can realize that we do not have all the answers, and that is ok.

Back to Psalm 73, it is my favorite Psalm. The first half is the authors frustration’s with the wicked, but by the end it brings him to a place of confidence in God and His ultimate plan. How he may not understand everything fully, but his ultimate trust is in God.

23  Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24  You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25  Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26  My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27  Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28  But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

May the same be said of us, that we can use our dark times to help illuminate God and His power, that we can rest in the fact that He has everything under control. Our doubts and fears are not sinful in and of themselves, we should not feel unworthy for having them. But after we push through, get everything out in the open, and fall back on God’s sovereignty, we can get back to pursuing God. We can then truly claim that “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Discerning Reflection: What do I do when I am sad, when I question God? Do I pray and turn to Him or do I turn away from Him? Do I feel shame for having those thoughts? How can I quickly turn around from these thoughts and who do I need to be accountable with to help me?

Prayer: Lord help me seek after you in the good and the bad times, help me understand that I will have high and low points and to not despair but to trust that you have everything under control.

Hills and Valleys