Friday, July 30

God Can Bring Good out of Bad Situations

Have you ever been in a situation that's life-changing, perhaps a break-up, a divorce, news from the doctor, a move, or something else? I know that I have faced situations like that before, and I am sure many of you have as well. How can we overcome these situations in our life? John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." If Jesus has overcome the world, what have we to fear? (Picture Credit to: Bible Top Ten Heroes)

In this entry, we'll look at the life of Joseph, son of Jacob, and how God brought good out of the bad in his life. While Joseph first appears in Genesis 30:24, his life account, for the most part, spans Genesis 37-50. Joseph was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham, thus making Abraham - Joseph's Great Grandfather. (See Book Overview: Genesis)

Joseph's mother was Rachel, his only full brother, younger, was Benjamin. But he had other brothers: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun - sons of Leah, Dan, Naphtali - sons of Rachel's servant Bilhah, and Gad and Asher - Sons of Leah's servant Zilpah. In Genesis 37:3-36, we are told that Jospeh's brothers (aside from Benjamin, who at this point was too young to notice) hated him.

Verses 3-4 said, "Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him." Then it all fell apart.

Joseph had two dreams, and both dreams symbolized his family bowing down to him, and he rose above them, as if he were in a high position. When he told them his dreams, they became enraged. When his brothers saw him coming to them not long after, they plotted to kill him. But Reuben intervened, "'Let's not take his life.' he said. 'Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don't lay a hand on him.' Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to their father." (Genesis 37:21-22)

But God had other plans for Joseph - BIG plans. Reuben left, and the remaining brothers waited around, threw him into the cistern, and sat down to eat. But when they "sat down to eat, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead." (Genesis 37:25) So his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. When Reuben returned, he was outraged, and the brothers had to find a way to cover, so they took Joseph's robe, which they had torn off of him, and dipped it in goat blood, showing it to their father, who assumed Joseph was eaten.

Meanwhile, Joseph was sold to one of Pharaoh's officials in Egypt, named Potiphar. Joseph became a trusted slave, in charge of everything in Potiphar's household. But his wife continually asked Jospeh to sleep with her, and he continually refused. One time, she grabbed his cloak, and lied to Potiphar, saying that he tried to come on to her.

Joseph was thrown in jail. But not long after, Joseph became overseer of many of the prisoners. Some time later, Pharaoh's cup bearer and chief baker were thrown in jail. They had dreams one night, and Joseph noticed they were sad, so he inquired about their dreams - and interpreted them, saying that in three days time, the cup-bearer would be restored to his position, but the baker would be impaled. Joseph asked the cup bearer to remember him and mention him to Pharaoh, and the cup bearer said that he would.

Two years passed. Pharaoh had not been told of Joseph. Pharaoh had troubling dreams, and it seemed that none of his magicians or wise men could figure out what they meant. It was then when the Chief Cup Bearer remembered Joseph, and told Pharaoh what he had done, and Joseph was called to speak with Pharaoh.

So Pharaoh told Joseph his dream, and God through Joseph gave the interpretation: 7 Years of Plentiful food were coming to Egypt, followed by 7 Years of Terrible Famine. He told Pharaoh how to plan for this coming famine, and Pharaoh made Joseph was put in charge of all of Egypt. He was given a ring, and named Zaphenath-Paneah, and given Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, to be his wife. "Joseph was thirty years old when he entered into the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (Genesis 41:46)

So over the next several years, Joseph led Egypt in stock-piling food for the coming famine. The famine was severe all over the world, so many people came to Egypt. It was then that Jacob sent ten of Joseph's brothers, besides Benjamin, to purchase grain in Egypt. When they came, Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him, for they had not seen him in many years.

Through a series of several tests Joseph initiated, the end result was the brothers bringing Benjamin back with them, for Simeon was taken. When they returned, they feasted at Zaphenath-Paneah's table, and when he got back, he merely asked how their father was. Then, one more test: he placed a silver cup of his in Benjamin's bag.

As the brothers went to leave Egypt, with all the grain they could carry, Joseph and his servants caught up and accused the brothers of stealing from him. They slashed each sack, and found the cup in Benjamin's bag, and, testing them, Joseph said that he would take Benjamin as his prisoner.

The response was too overwhelming for Joseph. The brothers told him to take them instead, they could not stand to see their father in such misery. It was then that Joseph revealed who he was. He told his brothers to go get Jacob, the entire family, the flocks, everything, and move to Egypt to be with him - for God delivered them, bringing good out of a bad situation - because Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, in the end, he was the one who saved many, including his brothers.

You can read the account of Joseph's life, in much more detail, in Genesis 37-50. Joseph was about 17 when he was sold into slavery, 30 when he entered into Pharaoh's service, and at least 37 by the time he reunited with his brothers. But 20 Years of Hardship paid off - not just for Joseph, when he reunited with his father and brothers, but for all of Egypt and throughout the world.

God can bring good out of any situation. Life is never promised to be easy. But if you don't have Jesus in your life, what have you to look forward to after death, what have you to live for? Some say money, some say sexual immorality, some say friends, the list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is, if you have not turned to Jesus, accepted him as your Savior, the only way to get to Heaven, and asked for forgiveness of your sins, life may be harder than it could be.

Yes, even Christians go through hard times. But hard times are foretold. "I never said it was easy." If you are going through a hard time, or have gone through hard times, and believe that God has abandoned you, he has not.We will face trials and tribulations in this world, but it pays off in the next. God brings good out of bad situations, I can tell you that from experience. I hope this entry has been insightful, educational, and helpful in some way. If you have any questions, email vexx801, or visit facebook. God Bless You, and Take Care. Troy Hillman

Thursday, July 29

Augustinian Speculations: Who is the "Angel of the Lord?"

Who is this enigmatic figure seen throughout the Hebrew Bible? While there are references in both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament to "angels of the Lord," or "an angel of the Lord," and "THE Angel of the Lord," it appears that when "the" is used, it specifies a certain being, who is separate from all other Angels. Bear in mind, the word "angel" also means "messenger," so some could take it as "The Messenger of the Lord." The identity of this "angel [or messenger] of the Lord" has actually been of major interest to theologians for centuries. St. Augustine of Hippo and others have speculated on this figure's identity. St. Augustine, and many others, identified this figure as a pre-incarnate appearances from Jesus or of God as a whole - referred to as Christophany or Theophany. But does this Augustinian interpretation hold up? Is this a case of exegesis, or eisegesis? (Picture credit to Visual Bible International, Inc. - The Gospel of John, starring Henry Ian Cusick)

Keeping in line with this Augustinian thought, then, we may infer from the relevant texts that this figure speaks as God, identifies himself as God (Exodus 3:2-6), and shows that he has divine abilities, exercising the responsibility and power of God. In his first chronological appearance in Genesis 16:7-12, the Angel of the Lord visits Hagar, mother of Ishmael to tell her that she would give birth to a son and that her descendants would be great in number. In Genesis 21:17-18, he speaks again with Hagar. He appears again not long after in Genesis 22:11-18, where Abraham is tested - and proves faithful. There are also several other appearances made by the Angel of the Lord, found in Exodus 3:2, appearing as a burning bush but identifying himself first as the Angel of the Lord then as God, and in Numbers 22:21-41, in which he appears to Balaam and his donkey. He also appears in Judges 2:1-4;5:23;6:11-24;13:3-22, in which he appears to Gideon, Manoah - to speak of his son, Samson, both Judges of Israel, in 2nd Samuel 24:16, where the Angel of the Lord appears and speaks with King David, and in Zechariah 1:12;3:1;12:8. Those are only 13 distinct accounts of the Angel of the Lord. In most of these appearances, those who had seen the Angel of the Lord were said to fear for their lives, for they had "seen the Lord."

Appearances from this Angel of the Lord end after the birth of Jesus. Angels are still mentioned in the New Testament, however, there are no references to the "Angel of the Lord" after the incarnation of Christ. It is highly plausible and accepted by many Bible Scholars that "The Angel of the Lord" can be read as Jesus physical manifestations of God, and Christian interpreters hold that these appearances were manifestations of Jesus before his incarnation on the Earth. This interpretation may be rooted in the New Testament itself. For example, in John 8:58 says, "'Very truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'" This greatly angered the Jews, but on several occasions Jesus mentioned that he existed even before creation - John the Baptist also alluded to this fact. There are several other instances in the Hebrew Bible that many point to as appearances of Jesus, such as in Daniel 3:24-25, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the Fiery Furnace. Nebuchadnezzar notices a fourth man, whom he describes as a "son of gods." Most assume the fourth man to be Jesus (from an eisegetical point of view).

For St. Augustine, however, the difficulty in determining the identity of this figure lies in the act of seeing. Augustine was trying to keep in line with the Nicene Council - he was appealing to its authority. The Nicene trajectory would say that the divine image itself is also invisible. By his nature, the Word is invisible, only seen through his incarnation. Theophanies were a frequent debate among the pro-Nicene, the Arians and the Novatians. In the economy of grace, God deigns to reveal himself but his true nature would remain invisible. For the Anti-Monarchians, they say that the appearances anticipate the Incarnation of Jesus. The subtext would ask - how does one understand the human image of God in relation to the divine image of God?

Thus, for St. Augustine, when the “messenger of the Lord” appears to Moses, consider that a “messenger” or “angel” carries a message. A word. From a Christian (Johannine) and Neo-Platonic perspective Jesus is the Logos, the Word. As such, it makes sense for him to be called the Messenger (or Message) of the Lord. On the other hand, the burning bush recalls the burning tongues at Pentecost, so that it could also be God the Spirit. But again, this goes back to the Augustinian speculations on seeing. Today, we have a very analogous sense of vision - i.e., “I see what you are saying.” We see things, we have images of things, but we do not truly see God. This is why Milton's later Paradise Lost says, "Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers irradiate; there plant eyes; all mist from thence purge and disperse, that I may see and tell of things invisible to mortal sight" (3.52-55).

In other words, when the prophets "see" God, are they truly seeing God in all of his fullness? When Isaiah is taken into the heavenly realms, he is purified first. When St. John, in his Apocalypse, is taken into heaven, he notes that he does not know if he was in the body or out of the body. Therein lies the difference. Do we see God with physical eyes? Spiritual eyes? What is the very nature of seeing? Now, these seemingly tangential comments on the act of seeing are important, because it ties in directly with appearances of God in the Hebrew Bible; the theophanies. If God appeared as this Angel of the Lord, we may look at the reaction of Manoah in the book of Judges - "we have seen God! We will surely die!", he effectively says. Yet this does not come to pass. In these theophanies, then, the witnesses were not necessarily perceiving God as he is, but God as he made himself manifest to us. When God speaks to Moses through the burning bush or on Mt. Sinai, he manifests his being in a sacramental and tangible way. When God spoke to St. Francis of Assisi through the cross at San Damiano, he expressed his being in a sacramental and tangible way. Thus, the form which these theopanies take in the Hebrew Bible leaves a great deal of potentiality for further discussions and exploration. It seems, however, that the authors of these writings intended for the "Angel of the Lord" to be appearances of God to his chosen people, in whatever form he manifested himself to them.

Troy Hillman

Wednesday, July 28

The Faithfulness of Gideon

Not too long ago, I wrote an entry, The Faithfulness of Abraham. I decided to write another lesson based on the theme of faithfulness, so I would recommend reading that entry first, if you have not already. When I reached the internal debate as to whether to talk about the faithfulness of Joshua shown in the fall of Jericho or the faithfulness of Gideon shown in the Midianite attack, I chose Gideon. (Picture credit to Lavista Church of Christ)

Why did I chose to write about Gideon? Joshua had been a trained leader. He had served alongside Moses during the forty years he led Israel. Joshua was his successor. So while many can relate to Joshua, I felt that most can relate better to a man who, previously, had no leadership experience - Gideon. Judges 6-7 give the account of Gideon. Gideon, son of Joash the Abiezrite, lived in the land of the Amorites. Keep in mind these things happened after Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, Canaan. (See Book Overview: Joshua)

The Book of Judges shows how, time and time again, Israel turned away from God, God sent a Judge to save Israel, they entered a time of "peace" again, growing in their relationship with God, only to turn their backs on him again. Gideon was one of the Judges. The Angel of the Lord was sent to Gideon while he sat under an oak tree and told him, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." (Judges 6:12) Gideon questioned the Angel of the LORD, asking that if God was with him, why had all these things happened, why had God given Israel into the hands of Midian?

God replied to Gideon, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" Gideon continued to question God, and he asked, "If I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me." So God waited until Gideon returned with an offering. The Angel of the Lord touched the offering with the tip of his staff, and fire consumed the meat and unleavened bread. Gideon exclaimed, "Ah, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!" Who is THE Angel of the Lord? I will talk more about the identity of the Angel of the Lord in the next entry, but THE angel of the Lord, as he is many times also called God, (and scripture many times over shows the deity of the "angel of the Lord,") was Jesus before he was incarnate. That is why Gideon, Nebuchadnezzar, Abraham, and many others say they had seen the Lord.

There is a difference between when the Hebrew Bible says "an" angel of the Lord and "THE" Angel of the LORD, for when it speaks of THE Angel of the Lord, it also calls him God - a title which no other angel has. Keep in mind that the word angel can also mean messenger - so when you read THE Angel of the Lord, It could mean, The Messenger of the Lord - his son, Jesus. Back to Gideon.

Gideon also asked God to give him another sign. He would lay out fleece and if the ground was covered in dew in the morning, and the fleece dry, he would take that as a divine sign from God. Judges 6:40 says, "That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered in dew." What does all this have to be with being faithful to God? Continue on. God sent Gideon to the camp of Midian. But God said to Gideon, "You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, 'My own strength has saved me.' Now announce to the army, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'" (Judges 7:2-3) 20,000 men left, 10,000 men remained.

God said to Gideon, "There are still too many men." So Gideon told the men to drink water. Then God said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go, each to his own place." So 9,700 men left... and only 300 men remained. Against an army of thousands. (Judges 7:4-8) But Gideon remained faithful, he did not question God this time. So what did God have Gideon do? They didn't need to have a surprise attack. God gave them into Israel's hands - to show HIS faithfulness to his people, to those who turn to him. Gideon and his 300 Men surrounded the camp, and they sounded trumpets and smashed clay jars - and the Midianites, in their confusion, since they were surrounded, turned on each other, and killed each others, while others fled. The remaining Midianites were caught. (Judges 7:19-25)

What can we learn from all this? Even in times of trial and tribulation, God is faithful, even when we are not. God's people were "captives in a foreign land," as they had been so many times before. Yet he delivered them. As Christians, we need to trust God, obey his commands, and put out faith in him, be faithful to him unto the end, no matter what crosses our path, even though that can be hard at times.

Troy Hillman

Tuesday, July 27

Book Overview: Joshua

The Book of Joshua is a 24-Chapter account of Israel's history, from the time of Moses death, to the death of Joshua. The infamous account of Jericho and the collapse of the walls and the taking of the city are found in this book. By the end of Joshua, Israel has finally reached the Promised Land that was promised to Abraham 600 Years before. (Genesis 17:8)

*The picture in this entry is a wall of Jericho, the Bible tells us that the wall near Rahab did not fall down, but the rest of the walls fell. God did this to spare Rahab and her family, which indicates that Rahab lived near the Northern Wall. Archaeology lends credence to the fall of Jericho. (Picture Credit to Oxford Bible Church.)

This is the sixth Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of Joshua.

(Click to Enlarge)
Title: Joshua (English), יְהוֹשֻׁעַ - Yehoshua (Hebrew), Ἰησοῦς (Greek), يوشع بن نون‎ - Yusha‘ ibn Nūn (Arabic)

Authorship: Evidence indicates that the authors of Joshua are Joshua, Eleazar, and Phineas. Joshua 24:26 tells us, "And Joshua recorded these things in the book of the law," before his death. the usage of "we" in Joshua 5:1,6 seems to indicate that the earlier chapters were written by Joshua, with later additions, speaking of the death and burial of Joshua, were written by Eleazar and Phineas. All evidence points to Joshua as the "basic composer" of the book that bears his name. There are allusions in the later chapters to events that occurred after the death of Joshua, found in Judges, such as Othniel's capture of Kirjath-sepher. (Joshua 15:13-17, Judges 1:9-13)

WrittenJoshua was written between 1400-1370 BC. Moses died in 1405 BC, and Joshua became the leader of Israel, along with Caleb. Joshua died around 1379 BC. The later material, therefore, was probably written between 1379-1370 BC.

Summary: "Joshua record the events of Israel's entrance into Canaan-The Promised Land." (NIV)

OverviewJoshua 1-12 - Conquest of Canaan
Joshua 13-22 - The dividing of the land among the tribes
Joshua 23-24 - Joshua's Call to the Nation (Probably written by Phineas and Eleazar.)
Joshua 5:13-6 - The Account of the Fall of Jericho.
Joshua 10:12-14 - Joshua's "Long Day," when the Sun stood still. (See entry: Curiosities in the Bible, Part One)

The first 12 chapters of Joshua tell of the conquest of Canaan, which occurred between 1406-1400 BC. Chapters 13-24 talk about the division of the land among each of the tribes. Joshua lies apart from Numbers and Judges in that it emphasizes that God blesses his people, his true followers, when they obey him.

Disobedience of God's commands leads to decline in spiritual life. Several books in the Bible evidence this - when Israel would continually disobey God, time and time again, they would be given over to hands of their enemies - even being captives in Babylon. (See Ezra, Nehemiah)

As you read the Book of Joshua, specifically Chapters 22-24, which show us a concept of commitment and love for God, examine your heart to see which areas still need to be "conquered" to make your love and commitment to God whole-hearted.

*Points: The Fall of Jericho found in Joshua 5:13-6 is a interesting account. The commander of the Lord's Army, probably Michael the Archangel, comes to Joshua and tells him to give this command to the Israelites: "March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of ram's horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in." This came to pass. Joshua sent spies to the city to see if any could be saved, but only a woman and her family who harbored the spies was saved, because of her faithfulness - her name was Rahab.

Joshua 3:1-17 tells of the Crossing of the Jordan. Much like the crossing of the Red Sea, (See entry: The Parting of the Red Sea) the leader, Joshua, gave the Israelites a command: those who carry the Ark of the Covenant, "When you reach the edge of Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river." (Joshua 3:8) The priests did so. They walked into the river, and the river - on one side, piled up. The other side, stopped flowing - it was "completely cut off." (Joshua 3:16) Verse 17 tells us, "The priests who carried the ark of the covenant stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed crossing on dry ground." What a wondrous account.

In Genesis 50:25, we are told, "And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place." So, after more than four hundred years, the bones of Joseph were buried in Canaan, as per his request. Moses and the Israelites took his bones with them when the Exodus occurred, and his request is fulfilled in Joshua 24:32, which says, "And Joseph's bones, which the Israelites ha brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob brought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph's descendants." Jacob bought the land in Genesis 34.

After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, 40 Years of Walking in the Desert, and several more with Joshua, the Israelites finally came to the Promised Land: Canaan. Joshua was the last ruler of the Israelites in the same way that Moses was. However, the Israelites again rejected God. Dark times were ahead for Israel. Even though they continued to reject God, God still had plans to save them. These were the people who would rescue Israel from their enemies. "This was the day of the JUDGES."

Next Book Overview: Book of Judges
Previous Book Overview: Book of Deuteronomy

Sunday, July 25

Restoration for the Soul

The phrase, "restoration," which is only used in the Psalms, in the Bible. It is found in Psalm 23:3, which says, "He restores my soul." The word restore means "to repair, renovate, or return to former condition."

Psalm 100:3 refers to the Shepherd (Jesus) who leads his sheep (His Saved) to "green pastures,” “quiet waters” and “paths of righteousness." God is the only one who can restore our soul. God is the one who created us, therefore, he can restore us.

Only God knows what our souls need for restoration. Let me clarify but telling you that I am not referring to restoration, as in, redemption - salvation, but restoration as in, say there is a car that has been saved from the compacter, and it is restored.

The Psalms give an insight into restoration, since King David, who wrote many Psalms, faced many dark times in his life. These Psalms can be a source of encouragement when we are depressed, discouraged, tired, weary, whatever the dark time may be. The men and women of Bible times give us many examples of restoration.

Times of trial and tribulation are not uncommon, as is the same with times of discouragement. King David prayed, "restore unto me the joy of my salvation," which is why the 23rd Psalm tells us, "He restores my soul." So, how can God restore your soul?

For those struggling Christians, I would recommend praying for restoration. If your soul is not restored immediately, it may not be God's Will at that moment: God knows our lives, he knows everything about us, so he knows if restoration will help us at that particular moment, because he's our Father, he wants what is best for us in the long-run.

How can we know how to restore our soul? God has given us the answers in the Word of God - The Bible. (2nd Timothy 3:16-17) While there are all many different kinds of books, written by men offering worldly wisdom, only God’s Word is truly capable of restoring our soul and giving us hope in times of distress.

Restoring the soul is ONLY possible for those whose souls have been redeemed - saved, through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 28:11, Jesus promises this: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Many take this promise to mean that there will never be trouble in life.

But Jesus did not say it would bu full rest in this life. He wants us to turn as many people as we can to him, because he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should turn to Jesus and be saved. What Jesus promises is rest after we "die." The moment you die, if you have accepted Jesus as the only one who can save you, you will blink, and your next conscious thought will be in Heaven.

However. If you have not accepted him as your savior, since he is the only way to get to heaven, you will not be going there. Thankfully, God provides for us when we face discouragement, trials and tribulation, as well as temptations. God has given us three primary sources of strength and encouragement.

First off, God has given us the Bible to guide us, to lead us, to encourage us and help us grow in faith. As Christians, we need to spend time reading the Bible, hearing it preached, and above all, obeying the word. "Blessed are those who keep his statues and seek him with all their heart." (Psalms 119:2)

In Proverbs 3:1-2, he tells us, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity." In other words, follow his Commandments - the Commandments of Jesus and the 10 Commandments. Second, God gives us the power of prayer. (See Matthew 7:7-11; Mark 11:24-25; John 15:7; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14).

Our problems, our weariness, our discouragement, we need to take these things and pray about them, keeping in mind that God loves us and that he cares for us. Lastly, we have brothers and sisters in Christ (Other Christians) to support, encourage, and build us up. (See Ecclesiastes 4:9-19; Ephesians 4:29; Hebrews 3:13).

As I talked on in the previous entry, it is very important to belong and regularly attend a well-balanced Church, and take part in fellowship with other believers - but it should be a church that teaches that Jesus is the only WAY, TRUTH, and the LIFE. There are many other Christians who have gone through similar things, whether it be divorce, matters of the heart (regarding relationships), work, school, evangelizing, the list goes on.

So, 1) Read God's Word, and pray that he "opens [your] eyes that [you] may see the wonderful things in [his] law." (Psalm 199:18) 2) Pray for the things in your life. Pray for rest, for help, for restoration. 3) Consult and talk with fellow Christians. I hope this entry has helped you in some way, I realize that several of these recent entries are more "direct," then others have been, but these are needed, just as apologetics are as well, as it helps some more than others.

There is an artist, Jeremy Camp, who was shown to me several years ago. He recorded a song called "Restored," based on the difficulties he's had in life. Here are a few lyrics from the song, which I feel compelled to share with you, "All this time I've wandered around, Searching for the things I'll never know, I've been searching for this answer that only will be found in Your love, and I feel it my heart is being mended by Your touch, and I hear it Your voice that's shown my purpose in this world - You have restored me from my feeble and broken soul, You have restored me."

God restores, and it is evident in my life that even in the darkest times in our lives, God is still there, and he continues to restore me whenever I need restoration. For those who feel this was written to and for them, while I may not know you personally, I pray that you come to know the wonders and grace of God.

Troy Hillman

Thursday, July 15

Book Overview: Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy is a 34-Chapter Review of the Journey of Israel, and of the life of Moses. It is the end of the Life of Moses, and it includes his death, as well as Joshua becoming the new leader of Israel. (Pictured is Mt. Nebo, where Moses died.)

This is the fifth Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews, as previously stated, do not interfere with the regular lessons, but these are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible, in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of Deuteronomy.


Title: Deuteronomy (English), Devarim (Hebrew) It is called "Deuteronomy," which means, "Second Law," because in the book, Moses gives Israel the laws again, reviewing their journey.

Authorship: Moses. The last chapter in Deuteronomy, (Chapter 34) however, is written by Joshua - it tells of the death of Moses. Many have tried to disprove the authorship, but all signs point to Mosaic Authorship. It is accepted that Moses was the author of Genesis-Deuteronomy.
 

Written: Deuteronomy was probably written during the 40-Year Period that Israel wandered in the desert. This book, like Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Job, was written sometime between 1400s-1200s BC, if the dates in 1st Kings are to be taken literally.

Summary: "Deuteronomy was to remind the Israelites of what God had done for them, and it was to encourage them to devote their lives to him. Deuteronomy reminds us that we should be thankful for what God has done for us, and that we should dedicate our lives to him." (NIV)

Overview: Chapters 1-4:43 are about Moses reviewing the Journey through the Desert. 
Chapters 4:44-28:68 are about: The Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5), the Law of God, and Instructions for the New Land - Canaan. 
Chapters 31-34 are the last words of Moses, and the conclusion of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. Deuteronomy 34:1-8 details the death of Moses, this was written by Joshua.

*Points -This book is set forty years after the Exodus from Egypt, while Israel is in the Moab Plains east of the Jordan River.

Moses gives three addresses: The Review of the Journey, (1-4:43) The Law, (4:44-28:26) and The Call to Commitment (29-30). 

Numbers 27:12-14 also tells of the Last Days of Moses. Moses was allowed to see the land he longed for so long to reach, and then died. 

The Ten Commandments, given in Deuteronomy 5, are also originally given in Exodus 20

"Do not remove your neighbor's boundary stone," God tells the people. The Boundary stones were stones used to record a gift of land, it is much like that of the boundary lines we have in effect today, but in those days, they used "Boundary Stones."

Moses died on Mount Nebo, which overlooks Canaan, the Promised Land. God promised Abraham that his descendants would one day reach the Promised Land, which is Canaan. The promise is fulfilled in Joshua, but Moses sees the Land in Deuteronomy 34, just before he dies.

God tells Israel that the gift of the land is a conditional, meaning that if the people continually fail to adhere to the law and moral standards that God has set, they can lose the right to live there and are allowed to be thrown out of the land. (Deuteronomy 4:27)

The Ceremonial Law introduced in Leviticus, carried on, re-stated in Deuteronomy, was in full effect until the NEW Covenant, which Jesus brought about through his death and resurrection. The Laws that are still in effect today (aside from the Ten Commandments, which never change) can be found in the Book of Hebrews. However, certain laws given in Leviticus regarding orientation and whether or not we should be able to mark our bodies are still in effect today.

Moses returned once more, more than 1,400 Years Later, on the Mount where Jesus had his Transfiguration. Moses, who was Israel's Law-Giver, and Elijah, the first great Prophet, both appeared and spoke with Jesus about his death. (Matthew 17, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36, 2nd Peter 1:16-18)

Next Book Overview: Book of Joshua
Previous Book Overview: Book of Numbers

Tuesday, July 13

Deliverance Through Jesus

When God delivered Moses and the Israelites, Moses felt relief. He was stressed. Of course, he never fully felt relief from stress until he went to be with God. But that is not the point. The point is that through God, we came have the same relief, the same deliverance - from Stress. Is stress the most important thing on our mind? It shouldn't be. But is it a major issue we face in life? Of course it is. (Picture credit to Visual Bible, Gospel of John starring Henry Ian Cusick)
God tells us in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." While as Christians, we face Trials and Tribulations, God tells us that if we call upon his name, we hill give us rest.

Does that mean that life is easy? No. Does that mean that when you have jogged for 10 Miles and pray to God for rest, that you will be restored? No. It means this: there's always a calm before the storm. But after the storm, there is relief. Even if you do not have relief in this life, if you have turned to Jesus and accepted the fact that he is risen from the dead, and paid your penalty so that you did not have to, you will have relief in Heaven. Life itself sometimes is a raging storm, but with God, he will give us rest. Stress is such a major issue in today's world, between the business of rush hour, the stress of having to complete a task, a project in time, is stressful. There is stress from relationships, from family life, from life at school and at work. Stress from bills and from global occurrences.

How can we be relieved of stress? First, we need to forgive others for wronging us. Then you ask for forgiveness for wronging others. Then you ask God for forgiveness of your sins against him, and count them all settled. Pray for peace, for relief from stress, for help. Learn to pray for others too, even those who wrong you over and over. Pray that God helps them. Try to think positive in everything that you do. Stress can be lowered by not swearing, too.

Those who swear tend to have higher blood pressure at times, for some reason. For one, there is no reason to swear. It causes strife and strain among people. It stirs up anger in people. God asks us not to, and he does this repeatedly throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." In other words, don't spew curses, slang, and foul things out of your mouth. Build others up, and they will build you up.

"Do unto others what you would have done unto you." By doing what this verse says, it will relieve a lot of stress. Try to focus on the good in life. Also, Ephesians 4:26 tells us, "'In your anger do not sin' [From Psalm 4:4]; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." If we are angry less, we will be relieved from much stress. We all get angry - it is whether we act upon our anger or if we let go of our Anger and allow God to help us. Also, Ephesians 4:31 tells us, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other." Take that at face value. Try to focus on the blessings you have instead of the bad in your life.

As put by a great man, "We're too blessed to be stressed." So true. Keep those words in mind. In the same way, "We're too blessed to be depressed." Just as God delivered Moses and the Israelites from the Egyptians, so too he will deliver us from the evil one, Lucifer. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are delivered from being slaves to Satan. It was the same with the Israelites, God delivered them from being slaves to the Egyptians. God fulfills his promises, and while life can be hard at times, Trust in God and his promises, for while we may not have rest on Earth because of who we are, we will one day. Stress has many ways to be relieved. God can help alleviate stress, and God will also deliver us. In fact, he already has. It is whether we put our faith in him, or reject him. I urge you to repent for sinning against him today, that you too may be saved. I say these things not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of those who read this.

Take Care, and God Bless. Troy Hillman

Monday, July 12

Book Overview: Numbers

The Book of Numbers is supposedly one of most difficult to read, merely because of the census and ongoing lists. However, it is not that we cannot learn from it. Like every other Book of the Bible, this book has something that we can learn. 

While there is not much to expound upon unless asked about a specific verse, the Book of Numbers is a book of record. It records the numbers of the Israelites, the camping sites, more Priestly Duties, and it shows that throughout everything God did for them, they still hardened their heart. 

So, a practical application would be this: Do you choose to listen, trust and obey God? Or will you be like the Israelites of Moses' time, and complain about what God hasn't done? The choice is yours alone, that is why God gave us free will.

This is the second Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews, as previously stated, do not interfere with the regular lessons, but these are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible, in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of Numbers

Title: Numbers (English), Bəmidbar (Hebrew) The word "Bəmidbar" means, "in the desert."

Authorship: Like Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, it is believed to be written by Moses. (See here.)


Written: Between 1400s-1200s BC, likely edited during Babylonian exile.


Summary: "Numbers tells how God guaranteed the Israelites that the Promised Land would be theirs if they trusted him. The Israelites initially refused to trust hum and they were forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years until God allowed them the opportunity to try to enter the Promised Land again." (NIV)


Overview:
The first few chapters are census-centered, more laws, and in other words, Numbers is one long, sad story of how the Israelites never stopped complaining and being discontent. Here are some of the better known stories from Numbers:
-The Twelve Spies (Numbers 13)
-A Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21)
-Balaam and the Angel (Numbers 22)
-Joshua, the New Leader (Numbers 27)

*Points - Chapter Nine deals with the Second Passover. The Passover originated in the Book of Exodus. Passover was created because God Passed-Over the houses of the Israelites and struck the firstborn of the Egyptians. While Moses does not die until the end of Deuteronomy (The End of Deuteronomy is written by Joshua, speaking of the death of Moses), he has already chosen Joshua as his successor. (Numbers 27:22-23)


While Numbers is a book full of a Census here and there, it also gives us a picture of just how often and to where they traveled during the 40 Years. Numbers 33 details at least 40 Camping Sites, and most of them are unknown today. 

Miriam, Moses, and Aaron, all die in the same year. First Miriam, then Aaron, then Moses. But the death of Moses does not come until Deuteronomy, Miriam dies in  Numbers 20:1-13. All three die right on the "brink" of entering the land of Canaan, but only Moses is given the right to see it. The three are all brothers and sister.

Numbers paints a picture of nomadic life. Nomads are people who wander from place to place, with no set destination. More often than not, they move to find grazing for their herds. They usually live in tents, and while Nomadic Lifestyle can take several forms, the lives of Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites is a perfect example of a Nomadic Lifestyle.


Numbers can be divided into three parts:
  1. Number of the people at Sinai, preparations for resuming their march (Numbers 1–10:10).
  2. Account of the journey from Sinai to Moab, sending of the spies, the report that they brought back, the complaints (eight times) of the people at the hardships they faced, and the exile into the wilderness for 40 years (Numbers 10:11–21:20).
  3. Occurrences in the plain of Moab before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River (Numbers 21:21–36).
A fascinating event occurs in Numbers. In Chapter 22:21-41, Balaam encounters an Angel. Balaam, a "wicked man," went out one day on his donkey with Moabite Officials. The Donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing there.Three times the donkey saw the angel and moved from its path, and all three times, Balaam beat his donkey. Miraculously, God allowed it to speak. It said, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" The angel interceded, and God opened his eyes to see the angel, who explained that all three times, the donkey had moved. If he had walked up to him, the Angel would have killed Balaam. Interesting, and one of the curiosities of the Book of Numbers.
    Next Overview: Book of Joshua
    Previous Overview: Book of Leviticus

    Tuesday, July 6

    Are Selfish Prayers Answered?

    There are no specific verses in Scripture that teach that selfish prayers are not answered. Actually, Christians are highly encouraged to pray for what they want - forgiveness, daily food, deliverance from sin, etc. These prayers are for things that people want for themselves, so you may say that they are selfish, and you may not. Think of this. A child may be selfish in asking for food and drink, but it is not wrong. However, if your desires are not pleasing to God, that's when the prayer might not be answered. James 4:3 tells us, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (NIV)

    To ask with wrong motives would be to ask something that is wrong. When your desires are wrong or hurtful, that's when God does not answer your prayers. For example, if you pray, "Lord, please let this girl break up with her boyfriend, so that we can date." Or, "Lord, make this person like me." Or, "Lord, help me to get a new Ipod for Christmas." Prayers like those may be seen as selfish. What about those who say that God cannot help them with something? I answer by quoting Scripture. Job 42:2 says, "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted." God can do anything. It is merely a matter of - are your motives selfish - and - while things get hard at times, do you recognize God in all of the hard times?

    I have had people ask me, "Where was God when this trauma was happening in my life, why didn't he stop it, even when I prayed for his help?" I answered, "You are still here. You still have God on your life. You still have your Christian friends." The issue was that this person was blaming God for their situation. So I asked, "Who was it that told you to go to that party? Were your friends Christian? Why were you there? Was it God's choice, or yours?" The answer was that it was their friend's party, where they were drunk and high. They had gone because they were invited, Christian though they are. All of that being said, recognize where God is in a situation. Was it God's fault you went to that party? Was it God's fault that they died while driving drunk? Was it God's fault that they decided to go sky-diving?

    We blame God for many things. But understand this: Even in the hard times, God is with you. Jesus himself told us we would face trials and tribulations. Life for Christians is not an easy one, but the pay-off (Heaven) is certainly worth it. If you live your life for Christ, turn from your ways, repent of your sins, and spread the Truth of God's Word, he will mold you into a great evangelist, minister, workman, teacher, the like. Give God your all, in everything you do. So to answer your question, "Are Selfish Prayers Answered," the answer is: It depends on the motives. Take Care, and God Bless.

    Troy Hillman

    Friday, July 2

    God Carries Us Through the Fire

    Daniel, Chapter 3 talks about the story of three men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three men served in Babylon, servants of King Nebuchadnezzar. All of the servants were told to bow down to the golden image, and these three men would not. Daniel 3:6 says, "Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." If the people heard the sound of a "horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, and all kinds of music," they were to bow down. But three Jews - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, did not bow down. Verses 16-18 says, "If the God we serve is able to deliver us, then he will deliver us from the blazing furnace and from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." In his rage, the King ordered the furnace to burn seven times hotter than usual. He commanded the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up the three and throw them in the furnace. So it was. The men were thrown into the blazing hot furnace. Verse 24 continues, "Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, 'Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?' 'Certainly your Majesty.'"

    Verse 24, "He said, '"Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed and the fourth looks like as son of the gods.'" (This man was Jesus.) The King called the three men out of the fire, and verse 27 tells us, "They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them." God protected his followers. The King believed in God after this, and made his kingdom follow God. God made good on his promise - and he saved them. This story is also an exmaple of how God carries us through the hard times in life. Regardless of what you are doing, God will always help you through it - and while you may not recognize that, he always does. Things could always be worse. Sometimes we go through things in the hope that we will learn a specific lesson.

    God carries us through the fire. This is why sacred Scripture tells us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5).

    Troy Hillman