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September 29, 2017

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Lamentations 3:21-26

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Jeremiah is calledthe weeping prophet,because he was so broken over the sins of his people, the Israelites, who were facing God’s judgment!  Consider what he wrote in Jeremiah 13:15 through 17 (Good News Bible):

      People of Israel, the LORD has spoken!  Be humble and listen to him. 
      Honor the LORD, your God, before he brings darkness, and you stum-
      ble on the mountains; before he turns into deep darkness the light you
      hoped for.  If you will not listen, I will cry in secret because of your
      pride; I will cry bitterly, and my tears will flow because the LORD’s
      people have been taken away as captives.

Lamentations is the other book of the Old Testament that Jeremiah authored. It consists of five chapters in alphabetical acrostic, “…a tearstained portrait of the once proud Jerusalem, now reduced to rubble by the invading Babylonian hordes.” (Introduction to ‘The Book Of Lamentations’ in Nelson’s The New Open Bible).  But in the middle of this lament the prophet penned this great encouragement to all who face the hard things of life – Jeremiah 3:21 through 26:

      This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  Through the LORD’s
      mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They
      are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my
      portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”  The LORD is good
      to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that
      one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Devastation was all around Jeremiah!  Yet because of…the LORD’s mercies…[and] His compassions…” (verse 22), he had hope!  “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness…!  Upon what was his hope based?

•      Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:1 through 3:  When…you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice…among the nations where the LORD…drives you…God will bring you back from captivity….

•      At the dedication of the temple, Solomon, in II Chronicles 6:12 through 42, prayed for the nation and people in various predicted circumstances.  The last one was this:

      When they…[are] delivered…to the enemy, and they take them captive
      to a land far or near…when they return to You with all their heart and
      …soul…then hear from heaven…their prayer and supplications…and
      forgive Your people… (II Chronicles 6:36, 38, and 39).

•      Isaiah prophesied that Israel,…in the latter days…” (Isaiah 2:2), would be greatly blessed by turning the to LORD and His Messiah whole-heartedly! (See Isaiah 2:2-5; 11:1-12:6; 59:21-62:12).

Jeremiah found his hope in the Word of God and the promises therein!  What about you?  There are so many explanations and promises concerning life in the Bible.  I maintain that every aspect of life is – in one way or another – covered in God’s Word!  Saint Paul, in Colossians 3:16, admonishes us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….”  But to accomplish that, you must dwell in the word !  As Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 15:16:  “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart….”  This is the key to the faithful and powerful Christian life!

What are the LORD’s mercies and His compassions, mentioned in verse 22?

•      The Hebrew word for mercies is חֵסֵד (pronounced kheh’-sed).  Toward us, it means God’s kindness – according to Strong’s Hebrew DictionaryMercy generally means that God does not give us what we deserve!  Grace, on the other hand, means that God gives us what we don’t deserve!  What do we deserve that God doesn’t give us?

      ✡      We deserve His condemnation!  We are sinners, through and through!  In Isaiah 64:6 we are told, even…our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…!  If the very best we can do is filthy and unclean before our holy God, how do our sins look to Him?  Is it any wonder that we need a Savior?  Jesus Christ paid for all our sins!  He took them…out of the way, having nailed [them]…to the cross…! (Colossians 2:14 — See also I Peter 2:24).

      ✡      We deserve eternal judgment in hell!  For it says in Revelation 20:8:  “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Instead, by God’s grace, we have been given salvation in God’s Son, and…all things are yours….the world…life or death, or things present or things to come — all are yours.  And you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” (I Corinthians 3:21 and 22).

•       Compassions in Hebrew is רַחַם (pronounced rakh’-am).  According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the word means, “…sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another, with the urge to help.”  And help the LORD certainly did – when we could not even help ourselves!

Such mercies and compasisons of God never run out!  By His faithfulness,They are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3:23).  And such faithfulness, mercies, and compassions gave Jeremiah hope in the midst of the worst conditions!  You can find that same hope in whatever you might be facing!

“… until I went in…” – II

September 27, 2017

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Psalm 73:3, 16, 17

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

…until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood….”  This is how we are to come to comprehend a lot of troubling situations that confront us in our lives.  When we can’t understand what is going on, we need God’s perspective!  Here is the problem with which Asaph struggled, and the solution he found – Psalm 73:3, 16, and 17:

      …I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
      …When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me —
      until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.

We examined the issue which bothered Asaphthe prosperity of the wicked.  And we looked at several verses of Psalm 73 describing the attitude of the wicked – “‘What does God know?” (verse 11); Asaph’s original reactions – “…I was envious of the boastful….” (verse 3); and the end of those opposing God – “…they are brought to desolation…in a moment! ” (verse 19).

Now let’s consider theattitude adjustmentAsaph experienced:

•      Verses 21, 22 – “Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind.  I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.”  People who don’t know the Lord often boast of their wisdom and understanding.  Yes, there is “…persuasive words of human wisdom…” (I Corinthians 2:4).  Jesus even instructed us in Matthew 10:16 to “…be wise as serpents…[but as] harmless as doves.”  Since Satan “…that serpent of old…” (Revelation 12:9) is in control of “…all the kingdoms of the world….and their glory…” (Luke 4:5 and 6), then, as Christians, to be wise as serpents, is to make good (and godly) use of the wisdom of the world!

•      Verse 23 – “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.”  The right hand is the clean hand, the hand of power.  When God holds us by our right hand, we are giving Him total control of our lives!  This reminds me of what it says in Isaiah 41:10 and 13:

      Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will
      strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous
      right hand….For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying
      to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

•      Verse 24 – “You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”  In Isaiah 30:21, the Lord says to His people, “Your ears shall hear a world behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”  This is the guidance of the Holy Spirit – now forever within us in thisage of grace! (See John 14:16, 17).  Asaph experienced God’s guidance, and also had the confidence of eternal life.  How much more can we as Christians? (See I John 5:11-13).

•      Verse 25 – “Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is none upon the earth that I desire besides You.”  Paul states in I Corinthians 8:5 and 6 (International Standard Version):

      …even if there are “gods” in heaven and on earth (as indeed there are
      many so-called “gods” and “lords”), yet for us there is only one God,
      the Father, from whom everything came into being and for whom we
      live.  And there is only one Lord, Jesus the Messiah, through whom
      everything came into being and through whom we live.

When Asaph quit concentrating on the wicked, and turned his thoughts to following the Lord, as his only one God, then he could say what the Apostle Paul said centuries later:  “…whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8).  What direction are you allowing for your mind? (See II Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:8).

•      Verse 26 – “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Yes, our mortal life is temporary (see Psalm 90:10; James 4:14).  But we will never be discouraged about coming up on the short end of things if we view life from God’s eternal perspective! (See Romans 8:18).

Here is Asaph’s summation of this whole matter – his new understanding of the prosperity of the wicked:

•      Verse 27 – “For indeed, those who are far from you shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.”  Harlotry is translated in the King James Version (and four others of the 17 versions in my computer program) as those who go a whoring from God.  In Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, the word means “to commit adultery….”  The Israelites were married to Jehovah! (See Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14; 31:32).  And when the wicked left off serving the Lord God and followed after other gods (or their own ways), they deserted God for harlotry!  God will not tolerate unfaithfulness forever! (See Hosea 2:1-23).

•      Verse 28 – “…it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God; that I may declare all Your works.”  We saw in verse 15 (Monday’s blog) that Asaph wanted to share his concerns with others, but he felt he could be condemned for questioning God.  But now, since he put his trust in the Lord, he could declare all God’s works!  Get the true ways of God settled in your mind, and He will expand and bless your witness!

…until I went in….”  Do you want to understand how life works?  Are there things that bother you when bad things happen to good people and when good things happen to the wicked ?  Then go into the sanctuary of God !  Get into His Word, the Bible, and discern the Lord’s mind on the matter!  After all, “…God is in heaven and you are on the earth…” (Ecclesiastes 5:2 – Bible in Basic English).  So He has the wider and better view of things!  Learn His viewpoint – and you will have a greater and more effective understanding of life!

“… until I went in…” – I

September 25, 2017

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Psalm 73:3, 16, 17

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

One thing I love about the psalms is that they convey all the range of human experience – life and death, love and hate, encouragement and disappointment, confidence and fear, godliness and wickedness, and so on.  No matter what situation we find ourselves in, the psalms speak to that particular situation!  Here in Psalm 73 is a common dilemma (and its solution) that Asaph (the author of this Psalm) experienced.  Let’s look at verses 3, 16, and 17:

      …I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
      …When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me —
      until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.

Notice that the title of this blog, “…until I went in…” is unusual in that it is a quote from Psalm 73:17 – with no caps.  But it conveys not only the solution to the psalmist’s concern.   And it can also be applied to a lot of other confounding situations!

Asaph was a Levite – a descendant of Jacob’s son Levi, from whom all the Jewish priests and their helpers descended.  According to Eerdman’s The New Bible Dictionary, Asaph was “…a leading singer…of the coral worship….[He] himself had a reputation of a seer [prophet] and was recognized as the author of psalms [50, and 73 through 83].”  What were his concerns – the occasion for the writing of Psalm 73?

•      Verse 3 (part of our featured Scripture) – “…I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Read on through verses 4 -10, 12).  From our earthly point of view, too many of the wicked seem to prosper even though they live ungodly lives! (See Job 21:7-13; Psalm 10:1-11; 94:3-6).

•      Verse 11 (God’s Word to the Nations) – “Then wicked people ask, ‘What does God know?…Does the Most High know anything?’ ”  In their minds, God is far too small and very human-like! (See Job 21:14, 15; Psalm 10:4, 11; 94:7).

•      Verses 13 and 14 (Contemporary English Version) – “What good did it do me to keep my thoughts pure and refuse to do wrong?  I am sick all day, and I am punished each morning.”  Is it really worthwhile to be godly when there does not seem to be a reward for living a good life?

•      Verse 15 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “I wanted to tell others these things, but that would have made me a traitor to Your people.”  Asaph wanted to share his concerns with others, but he felt he could be condemned for questioning God!

•      Verse 16 (from our featured Scripture) – “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me.”  The psalmist just could not understand it all!  He couldn’t wrap his mind around all this problem of the wicked prospering, and come up with an acceptable solution on his own.

Have you ever had any of these questions as you look around at the way society seems to work?  I have!  But, like Asaph, the problem was solved when I went into the sanctuary of God !  What does he mean by that?  Remember that the sanctuary of God back in Asaph’s day was the temple.  Today we might say the church.  But what this means is that we have to get God’s viewpoint on the matter before we can find an acceptable answer!  And God gives His viewpoint in the Scriptures!  So I guess we could say that in this case, the sanctuary of God is the Bible!

What did Asaph discover when he went into the sanctuary of God – when he considered God’s viewpoint on this troubling subject?

•      Verse 17 – “…then I understood their end.”  Proverbs tells us twice in 14:12 and 16:25 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible):  “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it is the ways of death.”  I chose the Literal Translation because most of the versions I have translate ways as singular – way.  But it is important that it is translated in the pluralways!  I wrote about this on August 13, 2014, in a blog called Many Ways, One End! (See also the blog from January 13, 2014 – Many Ways, One Destination).  The idea is that mankind comes up with Many Ways to come to God.  But there is only one way!  And that way is through Jesus Christ!  For He says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  If that one way is to narrow for you, you’ll have to take it up with Jesus!  He’s the One who made that statement!  But getting back to Proverbs 14;12 and 16:25, people devise many ways, and the individual person chooses one wayBut unless it is Jesus Christ the Lord, the one end of it is the ways of death – eternal death in hell! (See Revelation 14:11; 20:14).

•      Verses 18 through 20 – “Surely you set them in slippery places; Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!  They are utterly consumed with terrors.  As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image.”  This reminds me of the parable that Jesus gave concerning the rich fool in Luke 12:16 through 21.  A certain rich man’s idea for the future was to “…build greater…barns… and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” (Luke 12:18).  Then he would…take…[his] ease, eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19).  But in the next verse, verse 20, “…God said to him, ‘You fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ ”  And Jesus closed the parable by saying in Luke 12:21:  “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

We will finish this study in Wednesday’s blog.

What Are You Seeking? – V

September 22, 2017

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Psalm 27:7, 8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

In Psalm 27 God told David, “Seek My face.”  What did He mean by that?  We are to seek His face – to seek His whole Person!  There are too many people seek the wrong things concerning the Lord:  Jesus’ feet – to keep Him all to themselves (see Matthew 28:9 and John 20:17); the hem of His robe – for physical healing (see Matthew 9:20, 21); and His hands – to provide for their wants and desires only (see John 6:1-15, 26).  But the face of God reveals the whole Person of God – His way, His will, His works, His wonders, and His Word!  Here is Psalm 27:7 And 8:

      Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!  Have mercy also upon me,
      and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
      “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

Since God the Father is not visible to our mortal eyes (see Exodus 33:20; John 6:46; I Timothy 6:16), we will concentrate on Jesus.  For Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:6 and Colossians 1:15:

      For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has
      shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
      in the face of Jesus Christ….He is the image of the invisible God….

We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ !  If you want to know what God is like, take a good long look at Jesus!  For He told Philip in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”  So seek His face – know the whole Person – of Jesus Christ!

We have studied the first four characteristics of God:  His way, His will, His works, and His wonders!  Now lets consider His Word:

•      David, when he wrote Psalm 27, our featured Scripture, had some of the Bible that we have today!  He was familiar with the Pentateuch (the first five books of Scripture), probably Job (many scholars consider this the first book of the Bible written), and some history (Joshua, Judges, Ruth).  Read Psalm 119 – all 176 verses!  In 169 of those, David mentions God’s Word in one way or another!

      ✞      We have the completed canon of Scripture!  So we are, in that way, more blessed than King David!  God continued to reveal Himself to mankind throughout the Old Testament period.  He was especially preparing the Jews to receive the ultimate revelation of Himself – the Messiah! (See, for instance, Psalm 2, 22, and Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

      ✞      But such access to the Bible also puts us under more responsibility – especially those of us who are privileged to live in a free and prosperous society!  Jesus warns in Luke 12:48:  “…everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”  We have been given so much spiritual information in the United States of America!  It has been said:

      If someone in America ends up in hell, he will have to get there tripping
      over the Bible available everywhere, a church on almost every corner,
      and the proclamation of the gospel in all sorts of various media!

•      Here are a sampling of Scriptures that show us some of the characteristics of the written Word:

      ✞      Matthew 24:35 – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”  This is confirmed in I Peter 1:24 (quoting Isaiah 40:8):  “…the word of the Lord endures forever.

      ✞      II Timothy 3:15 through 17 – “…the Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

      ✞      Hebrews 4:12 – “…the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

      ✞      I Peter 1:23 – We are…born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abides forever.

I did a study on What the Word of God will do for you.  And I came up with 50 Scriptures that identify the characteristics and results of the Bible taken into a person’s heart and life!

•      But there is more than just the written Word!  There is the Living Word – Jesus Christ!

      ✞      John 1:1 and 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”  Obviously, it is Jesus the Christ who became flesh and dwelt among us – the incarnation!

      ✞      Colossians 1:16 and 17 – “…by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (See also Hebrews 1:2, 3).

      ✞      I quoted Hebrews 4:12 above, applying it to the written Word.  But the next verse, Hebrews 4:13 applies it to the Living Word:  “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (See also John 2:24, 25).

      ✞      John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Jesus Christ is exclusively the only way of salvation!  And He came to give life, and give it more abundantly! (See John 10:10).

      ✞      Hebrews 13:5 with Matthew 28:20 – “I will never leave you nor forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

      ✞      I John 3:8 with I Corinthians 15:57 – “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil….thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (See Romans 16:20).

There is so much more that we could say about Jesus, the Living Word!  John wrote at the end of his gospel, John 21:25:  “…there are…many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written…I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

May this series, What Are You Seeking? encourage you to further study the fulness of the person of God in Jesus Christ!

What Are You Seeking? – IV

September 20, 2017

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Psalm 27:7, 8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

We will continue today this series, What Are You Seeking?  Some people seek Jesus’ feet – to keep Him all to themselves (see Matthew 28:9 and John 20:17).  Some seek the hem of His robe – for physical healing (see Matthew 9:20, 21).  And some seek His hands – to provide for their wants and desires only (see John 6:1-15, 26).  But here is what God tells us in Psalm 27:7 and 8:

      Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me,
      and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
      “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

Seek His face!  Seek the whole person of God – for that is what “Seek My face” means.  And I have suggested that to seek the whole person of God is to seek His way, His will, His works, His wonders, and His Word!  We have looked at the first three.  Now let’s consider…

•      …His wonders – “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth…” (Psalm 105:5).  Closely related to His miracles, the Lord’s wonders are those great works in which He caused people to shake their heads in wonder!  Jesus tells us in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”  He is the perfect expression of God the Spirit (see John 4:24) wrapped in human flesh!  So let’s consider some of the great wonders the Lord Jesus Christ performed:

      ✞      Matthew 9:32 and 33 – “…they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed.  And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke.  And the multitudes marveled, saying, ‘It was never seen like this in Israel!’ ”  According to Strong’s Greek Dicitonary, to marvel means to wonder.  The multitudes had never seen anything like this before!  But consider, the last time God had broken through and even spoken to the Jews.  It was four hundred years before – through the prophet Malachi!

      ✞      Matthew 15:29 through 31 – “…Jesus…went up on the mountain and sat down there.  Then great multitudes…having with them those who were lame, blind, mute, [and] maimed…laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them.  So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

      ✞      Matthew 21:19 and 20 – “…seeing a fig tree by the road…[Jesus] came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.”  And immediately the fig tree withered away.  Now when the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree withered away so soon? ”  Jesus used this occasion for this great faith teaching – Matthew 21:21 and 22:

      Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will
      not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this
      mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” it will be done. 
      And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.

      ✞      Luke 8:23 through 25 – “…as they sailed [on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus]…fell asleep.  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.  And they…awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, we are perishing!’  Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.  And they ceased, and there was a calm.  But He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’  And they were afraid and marveled saying to one another, ‘Who can this be?  For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!

      ✞      John 3:7 – Even His teaching caused wonder!  For when Jesus told Nicodemus,You must be born again,the teacher of Israel (John 3:10 – implying that Nicodemus was, at that time, considered the premier teacher in all of Israel!), this well-trained Pharisee and member of the sanhedrin was astounded at the Jesus’ teaching!  And the Lord told Him, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ”  Nicodemus should have known this truth!  For he was familiar with such Old Testament passages such as Ezekiel 36:26:  “I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you; And I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh.

There are many more wonders in both the Old and New Testaments that God performed to the amazement of men!  These are just a few from Jesus’ earthly ministry.  If you want to experience a wonder, just go out into His creation, away from city lights, and look up at the stars on a cloudless night.  And as you contemplate God’s creation by Jesus Christ – “All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16) – call to mind what David wrote in Psalm 8:3 through 9:

      When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and
      the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of
      him, and the son of man that you visit him?  For You have made him a
      little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and
      honor.  You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your
      hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen — even
      the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass
      through the paths of the sea.  O LORD, our LORD, how excellent is Your
      name in all the earth! (See Hebrews 2:6-9 as the writer applies this to Jesus).

We will finish up this series What Are You Seeking? on Friday.

What Are You Seeking? – III

September 18, 2017

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Psalm 27:7, 8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

We saw how in the Bible people sought Jesus’ feet, the hem of His robe, and His hands!  But in Psalm 27:7 and 8 God sets us straight concerning what we should be seeking:

      Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me,
      and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
      “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

For to seek His face, we are to seek His whole person – His way, His will, His works, His wonders, and His Word!  Concerning His way, we looked at two verses that describe the way of the Lord (see Proverbs 10:29 and Matthew 3:1-3).  Then we began to explore Scriptures that reveal His will – and we went through five such Scriptures (see Matthew 8:14; John 4:34; 6:40; II Corinthians 8:3-5; and Galatians 1:3 & 4).  There are nine more concerning His will, and these 14 total do not exhaust…His revealed will!

•      …His will – continues to be revealed in the following nine passages:

      ✞      Ephesians 5:17, 18 – “…do not be unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is….do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit….”  Be filled with the Holy Spirit to the extent that you are controlled by Him – as alcohol consumed to dissipation will harmfully control a person.

      ✞      Ephesians 6:5-7 – Applying this to employees and employers of today:  “Servants, be obedient to them who are your masters….in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men….”  As it is written in Ecclesiastes 9:10 and Colossians 3:23:  “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might….do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.

      ✞      Colossians 4:12 – “…that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”  God’s will is that we become more and more like Jesus – perfect and complete! (See Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10).

      ✞      I Thessalonians 4:3, 7 – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….For God did not called us to uncleanness, but in holiness.”  Plainly spoken! (See John 17:17; Hebrews 12:14).

      ✞      I Thessalonians 5:18 – “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  We are to give thanks, not because everything that touches our lives is pleasant and/or feels good, but because God is doing a mighty work in and through us in everything! (See also Ephesians 5:20).

      ✞      I Timothy 2:3, 4 – “…God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Notice: God not only wants people to be saved, but to grow up in godliness and holiness, becoming more and more like His Son! (See Ephesians 4:11-16).

      ✞      I Peter 2:15 – “…this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men….”  The world will try to smear our reputation – and so denigrate the name of Jesus!  God wants us to so live our lives that any such accusation will be baseless!

      ✞      I Peter 4:19 – “…let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”  Suffering – trials, testings, etc. – can be according to the will or God !  They are allowed in our lives to help us to grow more and more like Him! (See Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).

      ✞      II Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  This Scripture – with I Timothy 2:3 and 4 above – tells us that we can and should pray for the lost!  And when we do, we can be confident God will hear us and answer! (See I John 3:22; 5:14, 15).

There are certainly more Scripture passages that directly or indirectly show us God’s will.  But I hope these listed will serve as an impetus for you to study the subject for yourself.

•      …His works – In I Chronicles 16 (see also Psalm 105), verses 8 and 9, David praised the Lord:  “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!  Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!”  The Jews kept their history alive by talking of all His marvelous works!

      ✡      The foundation of the nation of Israel was based on the marvelous work of the Passover!  Every year the feast of Passover (see Numbers 9:2, 3) was kept to remind the Hebrew people that “…the LORD…passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.” (Exodus 12:27).

      ✡      God miraculously provided for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness!

              ▸      Deliverance – “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.” (Hebrews 11:29).

              ▸      Food – “‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’  So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp.  And when the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance…Manna.” (Exodus 16:12, 13, 31).

              ▸      Clothes – “Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” (Deuteronomy 8:4).

      ✡      Victory over the Canaanites – “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.” (Hebrews 11:30).

This is just a brief sampling of all God’s marvelous works!  It would take weeks and many blogs to do a complete study.  But we will continue with His wonders and His Word in Wednesday’s blog.

What Are You Seeking? – II

September 15, 2017

Image result for photo Jesus' facePsalm 27:7, 8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

In the last blog, I gave three examples of how people in the New Testament sought the Lord Jesus:

•      “…Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome….” (Mark 16:1) “…came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.” (Matthew 28:9).

•      “…a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment…..” (Matthew 9:20).

•      “…five thousand men, besides women and children…” (Matthew 14:21) were fed by Jesus’ hands with…five barley loaves and two small fish…” (John 6:9).

But we discovered that…

•      …in the first instance, the women wanted to keep Jesus unto themselves by hanging on to His feet!

•      …in the second, the woman was seeking to be physically healed – and that’s all she wanted!

•      …in the third, the people wanted to have their wants and desires met by the miracles of Jesus’ hands!

But now we finally get to our featured Scripture, Psalm 27:7 and 8:

      Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me,
      and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
      “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

This is what God really wants – “Seek My face…!  What does He mean bySeek My face…?  It is an expression that means to seek the whole person!  When interacting with another person, we are to taught to concentrate on their face, especially looking into their eyes.  That’s because it is said, “The eyes are the windows into the soul of a person.”  The face of a person can tell us more about that one than any other part of the body!  To seek the Lord’s face is to seek…

•      …His wayThe way of the Lord is the path He takes!

      ✡      Proverbs 10:29 – “The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, but destruction will come for the workers of iniquity.” (See Isaiah 40:28-31; Revelation 21:8).

      ✞      Matthew 3:1 through 3 – “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah [see Isaiah 40:3], saying:  ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness; “Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight” ’ ”  John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah.  Because the King was arriving, so the kingdom of heaven is at hand ! (See also Malachi 3:1; 4:5, 6; Matthew 17:12, 13).

•      …His willThe will of God is spelled out in the Bible in several Scripture passages, often expressed in the negative:

      ✞      Matthew 18:14 – “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”  The Lord said this immediately following the parable of the lost sheep (see Matthew 18:12, 13).  Jesus was implying that all believers are important to Him – and He seeks even one to bring him or her back if they go astray!

      ✞      John 4:34 – “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”  Doing God’s will should be as important to our lives as properly eating is to our physical bodies!

      ✞      John 6:40 – “…this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Everlasting life is forever!  It starts when one spiritually sees the Son and believes in Him, and includes our physical resurrection when we will be fully made into His image! (See I Corinthians 15:49-54; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; I John 3:2).

      ✞      II Corinthians 8:3-5 – “…according to [the Macedonian Christians’]…ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.  And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”  God encourages our financial giving.  But He delights in the giving of ourselves first to the Lord !  This is where all our giving should start!

      ✞      Galatians 1:3, 4 – “…our Lord Jesus Christ…gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father….”  It was the Father’s will that Jesus Christ the Son suffer and die bearing our sins on the cross (See Luke 22:42; II Corinthians 5:21).  But within that plan it is the will of our God to deliver us from this present evil age!  Remember, Satan is “…the god of this age…” (II Corinthians 4:4) who controls “…all the kingdoms of the world…and their glory…” (Luke 4:5, 6).  So the Lord prayed in John 17:14 through 16:

      I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because
      they are not of the world.  I do not pray that You should take them out
      of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They
      are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Even though we are still…in the world…” (John 17:11), the Lord, in calling us to Himself, is even now delivering us from this present evil age!

There are more Scriptures concerning God’s will, but we will stop here and continue on Monday’s blog, What Are You Seeking? – III.

What Are You Seeking? – I

September 13, 2017

Image result for photo Jesus' feetPsalm 27:7, 8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

People come to God seeking a number of different things!  In Jesus day – when He walked the dusty roads of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea – how people approached Him shows us a lot about seeking the Lord.  There is a right way and there are wrong ways to come to Him!  Now, before we explore the ‘wrong ways’ of coming to the Lord, I want to remind you that Jesus honored even the less-than-perfect ways people came to Him!  Here are ways that people approached Jesus Christ.  What can we learn from them?

•      Matthew 28:9 and John 20:17 –

      And they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him….Jesus said
      to her [Mary Magdalene], “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended
      to My Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I am ascending to
      My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.’”

In Mark 16:1 we learn that at least three women came to the tomb on resurrection morning – “…Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome….”  Later, apparently, only one of them was at the tomb, Mary Magdalene (see John 20:1).  So here is how we put it all together:  Mary Magdalene and two other women came to where Jesus was buried early on Sunday morning.  They found the heavy door-stone rolled away and were told by an angel:

      …I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for He is
      risen as He said.  Come see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly
      and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead. (Matthew 28:5 and 6).

So they ran back into the city, told the disciples, and Peter and John ran to the tomb.  Mary Magdalene had either not gone with the other two women to tell the disciples as the angel directed, or she came back by herself after telling them.  Peter and John left the tomb, shaking their heads in wonder.  It was then that Jesus appeared to Mary.  When she realized it was her Lord, apparently she had tried to again hold Him by the feet.  But she was told, “Do not cling to Me…” (John 20:17).

What’s the point of all this?  When the three women, in Matthew 28:9, held Him by the feet (and perhaps Mary did so a second time later), they were trying to keep Jesus there on their terms!  They didn’t want Him leaving them again!

You can’t keep Jesus near by grasping onto His feet!  It is like you are saying, “I want Him by me!  I want Him to be mine so He can bless me!  I want to own Him! ”  That’s why in John 20:17…

      …Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to
      My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I am ascending to
      My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.”

Because the Lord Jesus was ascending to His Father with the blood of the perfect sacrifice – His own blood! – He was opening for believers the access of the Father He experienced – in all its fulness!  Now God is our Father and God as much as He is Jesus’ Father and God ! (See Hebrews 4:16; 10:19-22).

•      Matthew 9:20, 21 – “And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment; for she said, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.

Jesus was on His way to Jairus house when this happened.  Jairus was “…a ruler of the synagogue…for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” (Luke 8:41, 42).  He had begged Jesus to come and heal her.

The woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years was, according to Leviticus 15:19 through 27, unclean.  She was not to be touched by others, and isolated from the community until the flow of blood was healed.  In effect, she had been an outcast for more than a decade.  She was just seeking to be healed!  And who can blame her?  But if all you are seeking from the Lord is the hem of His garment so you can be healed, you are falling far short of what you should be seeking!

•      John 6:1 through 13 describes Jesus feeding the “…five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:21).  He fed them with “…five barley loaves and two small fish…” (John 6:9).  When we faithfully put something in Jesus’ hands, He can dramatically and miraculously multiply whatever it is!  But after this feeding event, we are told in John 6:24 that “…the people…came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.”  They actually wanted…to come and take Him by force to make Him king.” (John 6:15).  Why?  As Jesus said in John 6:26, “…you seek Me, not because you saw the signs [of the bread and fish being multiplied in My hands], but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”  They were seeking the Lord’s hands – to provide miraculously for all they perceived as their needs!

Isn’t this how many come seeking Him?  They only want the miracles of His hands!  They only seek His blessings to meet their needs!

Notice that I have started at His feet and proceeded upwards – to the hem of His garment, and to His hands!  But is this the best way to approach the Lord Jesus Christ?  We have not even gotten to our featured Scripture yet – Psalm 27:7 and 8.  We will save this for Fridays’ blog.

The Fallen Tower

September 11, 2017

Image result for photo twin towers

Genesis 11:1, 2, 4, 6-8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  The greatest loss of life was when two jet liners were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center!  2,606 lives were lost (the count varies with the reporting media), and thousands were injured!  Our lives have not been the same since!  Among the many changes, security at airports, government facilities, and public places have greatly increased; laws have been passed; and we are much more aware of possible terrorists arriving through immigration.  We will forever remember this horrible event – even as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his speech the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked:

      Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy — the United
      States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air
      forces of the Empire of Japan.

September 11th, 2001 is also…a date which will live in infamy….!

I remember that my wife and I were visiting our daughter who lived about 25 miles south of Washington DC.  That Tuesday at about 11 AM we were heading home, and on I-95 north we ran into a major traffic jam.  Due to our ‘goodbyes’ with our daughter and family, we had not heard any news that morning.  So with traffic stopped, I turned on the radio to hear, “The twin towers have fallen!”  It took us more than two hours to navigate north to I-495 and around to the west of the nation’s capital!

But this was not The first Fallen Tower!  Another world-shaking event took place thousands of years ago – recorded in Genesis 11.  Due to space I have edited the account to verses 1, 2, 4, and 6 through 8:

      Now the whole earth had one language….And it came to pass, as they
      journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar,
      and they dwelt there.  And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a
      city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for
      ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
      …And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one
      language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they pro-
      pose to do will be withheld from them.  Come, let Us go down and there
      confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s
      speech.”  So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face
      of all the earth….

This is the record of the Tower of Babel – mankind’s first concerted recorded effort to defy God after the great flood of Noah! (See Genesis chapters 6-8).  How did they defy God?

•      Genesis 9:1 – “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’ ”  But notice in our featured Scripture that the people who were supposed to fill the earth by spreading out and occupying it, had their own ideas in opposition to the LORD:  “Come, let us build ourselves a city…and make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4).  The ‘ourselves’ and ‘we’ in this verse suggest that they had the same   ‘I-troublethat Lucifer had when he rebelled against God’s authority and fell from grace, becoming the devil! (See Isaiah 14:12-15).  ‘I-troubleis selfishness – putting yourself before God!  And that is the root of all sin!

•      The Tower of Babel they started to build is often wrongly interpreted to be a structure so high that its “…top is in the heavens…” (Genesis 11:4).  But it was more like a pyramid-type ziggurat.  It was a religious building constructed so that from the top the priests/ astronomers/astrologers could worship/observe the heavens to predict and/or control events.  The Tower of Babel was a journey by man into gross idolatry!  This is one reason why I call it The Fallen Tower!  The building of it came directly out of the fallen sinful nature of man!

By the way, the city and empire of Babylon derives its name from the Tower of Babel.  And Babylon has long been associated in the Bible with society in rebellion against God! (See Revelation 17:1-6, 18; 18:1-19:2).

•      By confusing the languages, the LORD accomplished three things:

      ✡      God reduced the conglomerate learning, knowledge, skills, and communication among the whole population!

              ▸      Think of it – perhaps the architect of the tower was in one resultant language group while the brick-layers were in another.  They could no longer understand one another!

              ▸      Another scenerio – the physicians skilled in healing various diseases were in one group, and those afflicted with those diseases in another.  How could they communicate?  It is recorded in Genesis 10:24 that “To Eber were born two sons:  the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided….”  This is a reference to the confusion of languages at Babel!  Born before the confusion of languages, Peleg‘s father Eber lived a total of 464 years! (See Genesis 11:16, 17).  Peleg’s life span was basically cut in half – to 239 years!  Why?  Probably because health and medical knowledge could no longer be communicated with the larger populace!

              ▸      Mankind was, in effect, set back into the dark ages – because they were using their vast composite knowledge to accomplish greater and greater works of sin against God!

      ✡      Genesis 11:8 – “…they ceased building the city…and the Tower of Babel, because they could no longer understand each other outside the smaller groups.  So God put and end to this major idolatrous attempt!

      ✡      After God confused the languages, the people naturally were drawn to those others who only could understand them.  And these smaller groups then went their separate ways.  So the LORD accomplished what the people had refused to do – as it says in Genesis 11:9:  “…from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

So learn from The Fallen Tower!  Don’t mess with God!  Go it His way!  And His way starts with what Jesus prayed in John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

The Oak Of Shechem – III

September 8, 2017

Image result for photo Oak tree

Genesis 35:1-4

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Once more – our featured Scripture, Genesis 35:1 through 4:

      Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and
      make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from
      …Esau your brother.”  And Jacob said to his household and to all that
      were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify
      yourselves and change your garments.  Then let us arise and go up to
      Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God….”  So they gave Jacob
      all the foreign gods…and Jacob hid them under the therebinth tree [oak
      tree KJV] which was by Shechem.

What is the significance of going up to Bethel?

•      Background review:

      ✡      Jacob had encountered Jehovah God at this place he named Bethel near the city of Luz.  He was fleeing from his brother Esau because Esau was planning to kill him!  Jacob had cheated him out of his first-born rights and their father Isaac’s primary blessing!  Because of this encounter, Jacob named the place Bethel (see Genesis 28:19).  Bethel means “house of God.

      ✡      So Jacob fled back to Ur of the Chaldees – the city from which God called his grandfather Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-3; Nehemiah 9:7).  He ended up at his uncle Laban’s place, joined the family, and stayed there twenty years (see Genesis 31:41).  There he acquired four wives, eleven sons, one daughter, and great wealth!  Then God sent him back ot Canaan.

      ✡      After the unfortunate incident of daughter Dinah’s rape and the murder of all the males in Shechem by the hands of Simeon and Levi (see Genesis 34:1-29 – last Friday’s blog, The Oak Of Shechem – I), God told Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel….” (Genesis 35:1).

•      But God said more!  Jacob was to go up to Bethel and dwell there!  Why? As said in The Oak Of Shechem – I, Jacob was newly saved when the angel – the pre-incarnate Messiah – wrestled with him and blessed him in Genesis 32:24 through 30 – changing his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (God rules).  Now God was directing him to go back to Bethel permanently!

It is kind of like instructing us after we become Christians to find a good church and get involved!  We may have been involved in a church before committing our hearts and lives to the Lord, but now it is different!  Now we are born-again! (See John 3:3-7).  And we can serve our Savior in His church with a new heart!  And we are to stay involved – dwelling there!  There we are to be worshiping and serving the Lord – not because we have to – but because we love Him and want to thank Him for saving us and blessing us so much!

It was going to be different for Jacob, directed to “…go up to Bethel and dwell there…” (Genesis 35:1).  The patriarch even renamed the place El Bethel – meaning the God of the house of God ! (See the blogs, The God of the House of God – I and II, August 28, 30, 2013).  And Jacob was to…make an altar there to God…” (Genesis 35:1).  He was to worship the God of the house of God !

But what to do before going up to Bethel ?  Jacob told “…his household and to all that were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves and change your garments.’ ” (Genesis 35:2).  In other words, Get ready to give yourself totally to God!  As discussed in blogs I and II of this series, his household and to all that were with him had accumulated foreign gods!  So Jacob collected them and buried them “…under the oak tree which was by Shechem.” (Genesis 35:4 – KJV).  Then he left them there, buried, and went to Bethel – twenty miles away to the south!  According to the Scripture record, he never returned to Shechem!

We named some of the foreign gods (idols) that we can collect today – Family, profession, schooling, hobbies, friends, possessions – just about anything in our lives upon which we might put too much concentration!  And the most prominent thing we put in the Lord’s place is ourselves! (See Luke 22:42 – reversing the pronouns!).  Since God is to be first, in love and obedience (see Luke 10:27; John 14:15), it is far too easy to allow some other thing in that primary place!

We need to regularly check who or what is first in our lives!  I advocate that we regularly pray the prayer David prayed at the end of Psalm 139, verses 23 and 24 (KJV):  “Search me, O God, and know my heart:  try me and know my thoughts:  and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  After all, He knows us to our inner core! (See Psalm 139:1-5; Matthew 10:30; Hebrews 4:12, 13).  And when God points out the foreign gods in our life, we need to forsake all those idols, burying them under The Oak Of Shechem, and leave them buried, never to be dug up again!

…then go to Bethelthe house of God, and worship El Bethelthe God of the house of God !