Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Plight Of The Poor

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

We all have seen them, standing on the sides of the roads, often near the intersection, with the handwritten sign asking for a handout. Maybe we’ve seen them when we are leaving the grocery store or the local McDonald’s, asking for change to get a bite to eat. The poor, the down-and-out, the homeless.  In our Old Testament reading today, we read of the way the Lord God wishes us to treat them.

People generally have one of three reactions to the poor.   Many people feel that the poor are in their circumstance through some fault of their own.  This may be the case in some instances, but certainly not always. There are some people who do have compassion on the poor, and help to the best of their ability.  The third group of people, possibly the largest group, are those who just prefer to not see the poor. They don’t especially judge them, but on the other hand they don’t want to feel compelled to part with their own hard-earned, often meager resources.

What does God’s Word say?  This is something that really almost doesn’t need to be asked, as there are countless verses that speak of God’s care and compassion for the poor.  He cares about the poor, the orphans, and the widows. Both the books of Proverbs and Psalms contain many verses that give both comfort to the poor, and admonitions for us to help them.   Many of the Old Testament prophets spoke out to both the people of Israel and Judah, saying that the judgment of the Lord would come upon them, partly due to their oppression of the poor, orphans, and widows.

As we read from our Scripture passage, God warns His people from being hard-hearted and tight fisted against the poor (vs 7).   We see them on the street, or hear a pledge drive for a local homeless shelter, and do we think to ourselves that it’s their own fault, they got that way due to drugs or alcohol, and then use that to justify in our minds why we shouldn’t help?   God rebukes both hardness of heart and the closed hand. God wants us to respond with love to the poor, no matter who or what is the cause, and not use that as an excuse to turn away.

Instead, He wants us to be kind-hearted and generous when we help the less fortunate (vs 8, 10).  Some people fear that if they give to help the poor, they might become one of the poor themselves.  God has promised we will lack nothing when we give to the poor (Proverbs 28:27). The Lord Jesus promised that when we give, what we give will be multiplied back and overflowing (Luke 6:38).

When we do follow that prick to our conscience and give, how do we feel?  Are we quietly sighing within ourselves, thinking there goes that movie we wanted to go see or that dinner out at the new restaurant in town?  Are we fishing in our wallet for the smallest bill we can find? How many feel that way when the offering basket is passed during church? God tells us here to open our hands wide and willingly give.  Our attitude should not be of grudgingly giving, but instead one of warmth and generosity.  As Paul said in II Corinthians 9:7, God loves a cheerful giver.

The idea of verse 11 is also one that Jesus repeated when people were criticising a woman for anointing Him, saying that she should have sold the perfume and given the money to the poor.  Jesus responded to their hypocrisy by saying there will always be the poor among us (Matthew 26:11). Since there will always be poor, we are always to be generous.

One thing we should always keep in mind, everything we have has come from God.  He blesses us so that we can bless others.

Friday, June 29, 2018

When Storms Rage

Mark 4:35-41

The wind howls with a heavy downpour of rain.  Bolts of lightning flash across the sky, followed by loud claps of thunder. Where I live in the Chicago area, we get frequent strong thunderstorms like this. My son and I enjoy sitting on the front porch in safety, and watch these storms. However we’ve never been in a storm on the sea, which can be dangerous. Today we read of the disciples out on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of such a storm.  Let’s read of their experience, and see how it can strengthen our faith.

After a very busy time of teaching and ministering to the crowds of people, Jesus wanted to take the apostles off by themselves to rest, so He instructs them to get in a boat and cross over the Sea of Galilee (vs 35 - 36).  The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake, with the Jordan River entering in the north and exiting in the south. It is approximately 8 miles wide and 13 miles long at its greatest points. The Sea of Galilee lies approximately 680 feet below sea level, making it the lowest freshwater lake on earth.  The lake is surrounded by large hills, and winds tend to intensify there. These can cause frequent strong and unexpected storms on the lake.

It was one of these sudden storms that hit the disciples that day. Several of the disciples, such as Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen, and earned their living on the Sea of Galilee. Several other of the twelve disciples grew up near the lake, and were familiar with these storms, and yet this storm was so severe it caused them to fear and panic.  The waves were extraordinarily high, washing over the sides of the boat, threatening to bring it down (vs 37). Satan frequently throws such storms into our lives.

As the storm was raging, the disciples look over to Jesus.  He could help them in this situation, they must have thought.  However when they looked around for Him, there was Jesus in the back of the boat, fast asleep (vs 38).  Doesn’t He care they wondered, and even asked Him when they woke Him up.

We may not be on a boat during a storm, but we all are in, or have gone through, a storm of some sort.  Our storm may be a catastrophic illness we, or someone we love faces. Perhaps someone has been unemployed, or at a low paying job, and the bills are piling up.  The house may be slipping into foreclosure. Those are lightning strikes in the storm! How about a marriage falling apart, a spouse or parent who is violent and abusive.  The types of storms we face are countless, and never seem to end.

We cry out to Jesus for help, just as these disciples did.  Sometimes it seems as if He is asleep when we don’t get a response.  It seemed to the disciples that Jesus was unaware or unconcerned.  Jesus, though, does care.  Jesus was asleep because, though He was fully God, He was also fully human and was exhausted.  He knew that whatever He would face each day, He could trust and rest in the Father. In our storms we can either worry and assume Jesus doesn’t care, or we can resist fear and trust Him.

When Jesus awoke and saw the fear of the disciples, He immediately came to their rescue and spoke to the storm, bringing a halt to its force (vs 39).  Storms normally subside gradually, but when the Creator gave the order the storm obeyed and stopped instantly.

After Jesus had calmed the storm, and the disciples were now safe, they questioned among themselves as to who exactly Jesus was. They had witnessed healings, and feeding multitudes, but here He was controlling nature! The disciples underestimated Him. Jesus was revealing to them that He was Lord of all nature.  He was the Creator.

His power does apply to our own situation, as well.  Jesus has the power to handle whatever crisis is in our life right now.  When we have a storm outside of our boat, let the Master and Creator into our boat!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Ambassadors For Christ

II Corinthians 5:14-21

Occasionally in life two people in a family or a friendship have some type of disagreement and become estranged.  They are no longer on good terms with each other. When this happens, sometimes it takes a third party to come between the two estranged parties and try to bring a reconciliation.  In our Scripture passage today Paul writes to the Corinthians about the reconciling of God and mankind through His Son, Jesus.

There are two significant points Paul makes in this passage written to the Corinthian believers.  The first is that when we come to Jesus for salvation, we become a new creation (vs 17). When we are saved our sins are forgiven, our guilt is removed, and we receive the Holy Spirit.  We are born into His life with a new spirit and a new nature. When we were saved we didn’t just decide to change our ways. We began a new life with a new Master. Our desires and our goals should be conformed to His.

Paul said that “old things have passed away” when we become believers.  Our old nature, its systems, priorities, beliefs, loves, and plans should leave and no longer control us.  We are now living for eternity, not for temporal desires. A true believer cannot excuse their bad behavior and sinful attitudes by saying “that’s just the way I am”.  That is the way you were.  That person died with Christ.  You are now a new creation. We should not let some bad behavior keep someone from coming to Christ.  We no longer have to be defined by who we were before salvation.

The second significant point in our passage today is that because all are sinners, we are separated from God, but through the sacrificial death of Jesus, we can be reconciled with Him.  God wants sinful people to be reconciled to Him. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, He brings us back to Himself, reconciling us to Himself, and blotting out our sins. We are no longer God’s enemies when we trust Christ (vs 18-19).

Now that we have been reconciled to God, we have the privilege, the job, of encouraging others to do the same.  We have the ministry of reconciliation. God has entrusted us with the job of telling the world the message of the Gospel of salvation.  Jesus’s death on our behalf is the only thing that will reconcile the world to the Father, and He has given us the task to tell that to the world.

Not only has God given us the task of bringing the word of reconciliation, He has called us to be His ambassadors (vs 20).  An ambassador is a diplomat sent by one country to represent them to another country. We are Christ’s ambassadors to the world.  A country takes special care to make sure that their ambassador will properly represent them, and not bring them shame. Similarly, we should not take this responsibility lightly.

As Paul closes this passage he give us another verse to describe what happened when Jesus died on the cross on our behalf (vs 21).  On the cross, Jesus, He who had never once sinned, took on the sins of the world. This was so that we would not have to bear the penalty of our sins, which is eternal separation from God in hell.  We exchange our sin for Jesus’s righteousness. Our sin was put on Him at His crucifixion. Jesus’s righteousness is poured into us at our conversion. Usually people will exchange things of equal value, but not here. God gave us something of immeasurable worth - Jesus’s righteousness, for something completely worthless - our sin.

We represent the family of God.  the world judges God based on our behavior. Our deeds reflect an image of God, good or bad.  We are to represent Jesus wherever we go. Who in your circle of influence needs to be reconciled to God? Who needs to find a friend in Jesus? He is making His appeal to the world through us.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Lord Brings Deliverance

Psalm 107

Like most Christians, I have several favorite psalms.  Over the last few years our psalm today, Psalm 107, has joined the ranks as one of my several favorite psalms.  All throughout this psalm the author proclaims that the Lord can bring us deliverance from anything that we go through.  Let’s look at this psalm together and see the Lord’s deliverance for us, giving Him thanks and praise, and then tell everyone what He has done for us (vs 1 - 2).

As we read Psalm 107 we see how this psalm tells of four different types of people in distress, and how God rescues them.  First there are those who are lost and wandering (vs 4-9). Then there are those in prison (vs 10-16). Thirdly are those who are sick (vs 17-20). Finally, the last group are those in storms (vs 23 - 30).

The first group the psalmist discusses are those who are lost and wandering (vs 4 - 9).  Many folks at one time or another may find themselves physically lost. Perhaps the GPS failed them, or they misread a map, a wrong turn is made, and now they are lost. Sometimes if one is out in the wilderness getting lost can be quite serious, with a lack of food, water, or suitable shelter. Being lost also refers to each of us before we have come to Christ for salvation. Anyone who has not found salvation in Jesus is lost, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 that He alone is the Way. For those who are hungry and thirsty, Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:33), and Living Water (John 4:10-14).  He is also the Giver of Rest (Matthew 11:28-30). God brings deliverance to all those who are lost and wandering from Him.

The second group our psalmist describes are those in prison (vs 10-16).  People can find themselves in either a literal prison or a figurative one - one of addictions or emotional torments.  Sometimes our prison is brought about because of our own sin (vs 11 - 12). However, when we cry out to God, He promises to bring us deliverance.

The third group who cry out to God in our Scripture passage today are those who are sick (vs 17 - 22).  By no means is every sickness caused by sin. However, there are some times when poor choices in lifestyle or in one’s behavior will bring on illnesses, and it seems to be this that our psalmist is addressing here.  Regardless of the reason for an illness, there is deliverance found in Jesus.

The final circumstance that the psalmist describes here is of those who find themselves in storms (vs 23 - 32).  Again, this can refer to both literal storms or figurative storms. Though I enjoy watching thunderstorms from my front porch, if they get too wild they can be scary.  I’m sure storms at sea, like described here, are even scarier. Storms in life can be equally scary. These storms seemingly toss us around just like a sailor on board a ship.  Most of us have been through just such storms in life, or we are currently in one. The waves are towering over us, and our little boat is in danger of capsizing!

Where do we turn to?  We are at wit’s end! (vs 27).  As the psalmist says throughout this psalm, we need to cry out to the Lord in our trouble, and He will bring us out of our distress.  Sometimes troubles can be a blessing in disguise if it is a problem that drives us to God. Let the trouble we face compel us to call upon Him.  He wants to rescue us!

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Job 38:1-18

Our Old Testament reading today comes from the Book of Job. Many of you will know the account of Job recorded in the first several chapters of his book. He was a very wealthy, God-fearing man. Job had many herds of sheep, camels, and other cattle, along with ten children.  However, unbeknownst to Job, Satan met with God, and he challenged the Almighty to take everything from Job, including his health, in order to see if Job would still be faithful to Him.  Satan had permission then to destroy the herds and all he had, slay the children, and take away his health (Job 1-2).

The majority of the Book of Job relates the discourse between Job and his friends, how they were discussing why Job was going through these trials.  His friends generally felt that there must have been something Job did to be so cursed, but he continually protested his innocence of doing anything to merit these judgments.

As the book progresses Job becomes more frustrated and upset with God, especially when he feels God is not answering his questions. He starts to become bitter. Here in Chapter 38, where our Scripture passage today picks up, God enters the scene. As verse 1 states, the Lord God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind.  God has spoken to His children in many ways, most often through His Word, the Bible. God also speaks through the words of other believers, like He spoke to David through the words of the prophet Nathan (II Samuel 12:1-15).  He has spoken to people through dreams, such as with both the Old Testament Joseph (Genesis 37:5-11), and the New Testament Joseph (Matthew 1:20-21), and through visions as He did to Peter (Acts 10:9-16). God spoke to many people through angels, as He did to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38). Here the Lord spoke to Job in a whirlwind. Are we alert and listening for His voice?

Because of all the things he was going through, Job had much anger and bitterness.  Many of us, while going through very intense trials, have become angry with God. Job wanted answers from God, and was becoming very bitter. In chapters 38 - 41, God answers Job. Throughout this discourse God is speaking to Job, his friends, and to everyone. Here He redefines who is who in the universe.  His words are intended to stun us, awaken us, and to cause us to bend our knee in homage to Him. God owes no man anything.

Often when we are upset at God due to our circumstances, we forget exactly to Whom we are addressing, as Job did.  God is God, not ourselves. He is the Creator, and we are the created, as our passage today declares. God is the absolute authority.  As believers, He is our Friend, but He is not our peer!

While Job was going through his trials, God did not reveal why these things were happening.  So many of us question God as to why this or that happened. There is nothing wrong with that.  It is when we forget our place and let our anger grow out of hand, even turning into bitterness, that it becomes sin.  God owes no one any explanations. Are we as eternal, great, powerful, wise, and perfect as God? If not, then we are much better off to be quiet and trust Him.

We go through trials, and maybe even feel abandoned as Job did, but we need to remember that God has always been shown to be faithful. As Job learned after his discourse with God, whatever we go through, we need to submit to God’s authority, and rest in His care.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Growing Seed And The Tiny Seed

Mark 4:26-34

Our Scripture reading today from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer continues the study from the Gospel of Mark. Today we take a look at a couple of very short parables Jesus told the people.

The first of these parables is the parable of the growing seed in verses 26 - 29. A person plants seeds in the earth. Days and nights pass, and the seeds slowly start to grow, though we cannot really fully explain how the germination and growth actually happens. Jesus tells His listeners that this can be compared to the Kingdom of God. When a person is saved, becoming a child of God, they do not have instant full insight into the Bible, or instant spirituality.  The disciples spent three years learning directly under Jesus, and even then they had occasional faltering. Also the great Apostle Paul, after he was saved, spent several years apart with God in Arabia learning from Him, and then time with other believers before he started his ministry (Galatians 1:17-19).  Spiritual growth is a continual process, which finally comes to fruition with spiritual maturity. It can be compared to the slow but steady growth of a plant. Plants need good soil in order to have good growth. In order to have good spiritual growth we need to feed ourselves regularly and daily with the Word of God.

When we witness to others, frequently the results may be slow in coming, just like the growth of a plant.  When witnessing, the Word of God is presented to an individual. Some may get saved right away, or shortly thereafter.  Many, however, take awhile to turn to the Lord. God is working in their hearts, and at the right moment He will reap a harvest in that individual, and save them (vs 29).

The second parable that Jesus told that day was one about the mustard seed, and is found in verses 30 - 32.  Again, Jesus takes this parable to explain another point of the Kingdom of God. The mustard seed is not the smallest seed in existence, but it was the smallest seed the Jews at that time typically would have sowed in Israel.  This very small seed grows into a large plant, one that birds can nest in. Christianity started very small, beginning with only 12 apostles, and having about 500 disciples by the time of the Ascension (I Corinthians 15:5-6), still a relatively small number. However, Christianity has since grown into a worldwide community of believers. There are times when we may feel alone, but we are not. There are faithful believers all around the world. Just like a tiny seed, like the mustard seed, the Church started small and grows large.

Finally, as our Scripture passage closes, Mark tells how Jesus frequently spoke to the people in parables, later explaining them to His apostles (vs. 33-34). Why did Jesus speak in parables? A lot of Jesus’s teachings were against people having hypocritical and impure motives. These were often characteristics of the Pharisees and other religious leaders who kept a watch over and were critical of His ministry.  Sometimes Jesus did speak out against them, but if He had spoken against the religious leaders each and every time they deserved it, His public ministry would have been hampered. Thus, Jesus spoke frequently in parables. Those who listened carefully knew what He was talking about.  Those who have no heart for God and who oppose His truth and Word, treat His message just as if it is a story and as nothing serious. Then there were those who came only for what they could get, such as a healing or meal. They weren’t interested in Jesus’s message, so He spoke in parables, knowing that those who were truly interested would glean the true message. To those who truly seek Him and His truth, Jesus will reveal Himself and His message.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Best Is Yet To Come

II Corinthians 5:1-10

As most of us grow older, we find our bodies wearing down.  We can’t do the things we used to when younger, and certainly not as fast or as efficiently as before.  For many, thoughts of aging can be depressing, along with fears of death. Here in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he gives believers hope for the future.  Let’s take a look at this Scripture.

As Paul begins this passage he uses some metaphors, comparing our human, physical body with that of an earthly house or tent (vs 1). Like an earthly dwelling, our bodies wear down, and are also temporary. The “building from God” represents the believer’s resurrected, glorified body.  Our earthly bodies make us groan. When we die we are not spirits without bodies (vs 2-3). We will have new, perfect bodies, without sickness, disease, or pain.  Many of us have, or had, major illnesses or crippling accidents, which continue to afflict us day after day. These will all be gone when we receive our new bodies.

Unlike many people today, including some believers, Paul was not afraid to die (vs 6-8).  Paul knew that when he passed from this life he would be immediately in the presence of Jesus.  All pain and sorrow will then be gone and we will have fellowship with Jesus forever. For this reason, too, we need not fear death, either.  The unknown can cause anxiety, but we have the hope and confidence of eternal life.

Here in the middle of our passage Paul gives a statement that should be a hallmark of believers who walk closely with the Lord (vs 7).   As Christians we are to walk by faith, not by sight. When pilots are taught to fly an airplane they are instructed to trust the controls on the control panel, and not their own sight or feelings.  This is particularly true when weather conditions like fog, clouds, or blizzards occur. Just like these pilots, we need to trust God, not what we see in our life or our circumstances, living by faith not our feelings.  Worry and trust cannot abide together. Trusting in God will allow Him to work within us. We can walk by faith and not by sight because we have faith in the resurrection of our body. We do not need to fear death or suffering.  When we get to heaven we will receive a perfect body, one that does not bear the marks of sin or this broken world. In verse 9, Paul instructs us that our aim and delight should be to please the Lord. No matter what the circumstances we face are, we need to trust and obey Jesus.

Finally, as Paul closes up our Scripture passage, he speaks of one event that will occur for believers after they have passed from this life.  In verse 10 we read that all Christians must give an account for how they have lived. We also read of this, both in the Gospels and other of Paul’s Epistles (Matthew 16:27; Romans 14:10-12; and I Corinthians 3:10-15).

There are two different and distinct final judgments spoken of in the Bible. One is the Great White Throne Judgment, which is for the unsaved (Revelation 20:11-15).  All believers’ names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). Believers will go before the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is not a place of condemnation (Romans 8:1), but of accountability. We will be rewarded for the things we have done for Jesus, and our obedience to Him. Our good works do not save us, as the Bible make it very clear we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.  However, after salvation we should be living lives and doing works that please the Lord (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is these works, those done after we are saved, that we are judged on, and rewarded for or not, accordingly.

Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?  Believers have the hope of both eternal life and a new glorified body to replace this worn out one we currently have.  For those who have faith in Jesus, the best is yet to come!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sleepless Nights

Psalm 77

Have you ever spent the night unable to sleep, crying out to the Lord over some very serious problems you are going through?  Many of us have experienced just such nights. The author of our psalm today, Asaph, was going through some terrible times, causing sleeplessness, and he shares his experience with us here.

We are not told what desperately troubling thing Asaph was going through. Perhaps it was a serious health issue that either he or a loved one was going through.  Perhaps he was in a severe financial crisis. There was often political unrest during the days of the Old Testament, and frequently foreign nations would attack Israel, putting people’s safety, lives, and property in danger.  It could have been any of these, or something else. We all have similar deep concerns that we bring to the Lord. Whatever it was, Asaph could not sleep, and was crying out to the Lord in desperation (vs 1-6).

When we are emotionally distraught over problems, and are tossing and turning throughout the night, we can question God as Asaph did (vs 7-9).  With all of the problems swarming around him, Asaph questioned whether God had cast him off forever, and would hold off His mercy and promises from him for all times.  Problems often make us think God isn’t there for us, that He has forgotten and turned His back on us. When we are in the middle of a crisis, it seems like the answer to these questions is yes.  In reality, though, to the believer, the answer is no. As the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, His compassions never fail. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Our psalmist Asaph was so down and discouraged, he felt that God had changed, that His power, symbolized by His right hand, had failed (vs 10).  The reality is, though, that God never changes (Malachi 3:6). Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God has not, and never will, lose His powers.  Nor will He turn away or forsake us. What He has promised, He will fulfill to us.

What did Asaph finally decide to do about his distressing dilemma which was keeping him up at nights?  As he lay on his bed, besieged by thoughts of his worries, and whether God would or could help, Asaph started remembering all of the many blessings He had bestowed, not only on himself, but also for the nation (vs 11-20). One of the biggest works of God that came to his mind was when God brought forth the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt, and parted the Red Sea for them (vs 16-19). The account of this great miracle was handed down from generation to generation.

Remembering God’s faithfulness of the past during our trials will remind us He is capable and trustworthy.  We need to remember God’s goodness to us. By doing so it will strengthen our faith (vs 11-12). When our problems and troubles are keeping us up at night, recall all of the Lord’s mighty acts of the past.  When we shift our focus off of our self and on to God, our outlook changes, and our hope and joy returns.

This psalm gives one cure for depression.  In Asaph’s despair, thoughts of God were only bringing complaints and bitterness.  Then his attitude changes because he starts to focus on God’s goodness and acts of deliverance.  Asaph’s laments turn to hymns of praise. If we want our discouragement, depression, and despair to be likewise lifted, keep a record of all God has done for you, and bring those to mind the next time the devil gets you down.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Elijah On Mt. Carmel

I Kings 18:17-40

One of the most inspiring passages in the Bible is the account of Elijah upon Mt. Carmel challenging the false prophets and priests of Baal.  It is a record of great courage, and immense faith and trust in God. As we read through this passage in Scripture, let’s allow it’s message to strengthen our own faith.

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets and servants of God in the Old Testament.  Elijah preached God’s Word in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of evil King Ahab and his even more wicked wife Queen Jezebel in the 9th century B.C.  Shortly after their split from the southern kingdom, the people of Israel plunged into terrible idolatry. Most of the people had turned to worshipping the false gods of the neighboring pagan nations, particularly Baal.  Baal was a pagan god of crop fertility, and was often believed to supply rain for the crops. He was also believed to cause lightning and thunder. The Israelites also worshipped the pagan goddess Asherah, a mother/fertility goddess.  Though a number had completely abandoned Yahweh, many combined worship of Yahweh with worship of Baal and other foreign gods.

Elijah knew the time had come.  Yahweh would not tolerate the people wavering back and forth between gods.  Also, He would not accept the people worshipping Him along with any other deity. Elijah spoke to King Ahab, telling him to summon the priests and prophets of Baal and Asherah to Mt. Carmel where a spiritual showdown would take place (vs 17-20).  Elijah had the people build two altars, and the God who answered by consuming the sacrifice with fire was the true God (vs 21-24). Since the followers of Baal believed he controlled lightning, they would think this a fair test. Elijah urged the people to take a stand, to follow whoever is the true God. We all have to make up our mind about who we will serve and worship. Do we believe that God is who He says He is? We have to take a stand. We can’t hesitate between two opinions.

This could have been a scary time for Elijah.  He was alone in the midst of 850 pagan priests, in addition to the multitudes of people. He was totally outnumbered, in addition to being on the king’s “most wanted list”. However, Elijah knew that he was in the will of God.  It didn’t matter that there were 850 pagan priests against him. He had the true God on his side.

The Baal worshippers went first, and set about praying to their deity. Much as they beseeched him, Baal didn’t answer (vs 25-29). They even tried cutting themselves to gain their god’s pity.  Baal did not answer because he, like all false gods, is not real. The things we worship, besides Yahweh, are just as false and dangerous, because they cause us to depend on something other than God. In times of crisis when we call out to our false gods, they will be equally silent.

Now it was Elijah’s turn.  As I mentioned before, he was alone, with no support. However, Elijah had strong faith and confidence in God, so much so that he did something seemingly daring to prove to the people that Yahweh, and only Him, is the one true God.  Elijah ordered that his altar be drenched in water so no one could accuse him of trickery (vs 30-35). He then spoke aloud his prayer to Yahweh, for all to hear (vs 36-37). At this occasion Elijah did not pray off in a corner by himself.  He prayed openly and publicly. If we have accepted Jesus as Savior, we are to come boldly into His presence with authority because of our position in Christ (Hebrews 4:16). Elijah didn’t pray as a last resort. Prayer was his first and only resort.

What was the response?  God immediately answered by fire!  (vs 38-39). Like Elijah, we can pray confidently to God, asking Him to work in ways that will bring glory to Himself.  Like him, we can have faith that whatever God commands us to do, He will provide what we need to carry it through.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Our True Family

Mark 3:20-35

Family is important to most people.  When problems surround us and people are attacking us on every side, it’s a comfort to be able to retreat to our family and find love, understanding, and acceptance. Unfortunately, not everyone has that, including Jesus. What? Jesus wasn’t accepted by His family? Sadly, no He wasn’t. Let’s look into our passage today from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus and His disciples kept a very busy schedule.  He would generally wake early to go off by Himself and pray to the Father. Then would start a busy day of preaching to the crowds, teaching His disciples, and healing the sick who were brought to Him.  There were many times when Jesus and His disciples couldn’t even break away to grab a bite for lunch (vs 20). When Jesus’s brothers and sisters observed this happen more than just a few times they decided something had to be done (vs 21).  Big brother Jesus has gone top far, and is crazy, they thought. Time to take Him home before He upsets the authorities any more, before He embarrasses them further, or worse, gets them into trouble with the Jewish leaders. Later in verses 31-35, Jesus’s family is again calling for Him because they think He has gone too far.

Many believers find that, once they have accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior, their family and close friends don’t understand and sometimes turn their back on them.  They might insult your intelligence, saying that no one with any intellect could possibly believe the Bible, so obviously because you do believe God’s Word, you must not have intelligence.  Sometimes their remarks are cutting and vicious. In some countries becoming a Christian can even be dangerous.  Abandoning the family’s traditional religion has often brought great anger, physical assault, and sometimes even murder of the believer by a family member.

When people told Jesus, while He was teaching, that His family wanted to speak with Him, shortly after they had called Him crazy and tried to take Him away, Jesus gave an answer that might encourage those whose families have turned away from them (vs 33-35).  Jesus said that those who obey the Lord God and follow His will are His true brothers and sisters. When we become Christians we now have a whole new family in our fellow believers. Our fellow believers are now our family. Prior to the resurrection, no one in Jesus’s family, except His mother, believed He was the Messiah. After the resurrection His brothers James and Jude came to faith. Whether any other brothers or His sisters became believers is unknown.

Another important subject Jesus spoke of in this passage is something that sometimes worries believers.  The scribes and Pharisees were saying that the reason Jesus was able to cast out demons was that He received His power from Satan (vs 22-30).  In reality, of course, it was through the power of the Holy Spirit that the demons were cast out. Jesus states in this passage that anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit has no forgiveness, also sometimes called the unforgivable sin.  The scribes and Pharisees knew if they admitted that Jesus’s power was from the Holy Spirit, from God, then they would have to submit to Him and give up their own authority. These religious leaders refused to do that. Their pride wouldn’t let them acknowledge Him as Messiah.  They tried to destroy Jesus’s popularity with the people by saying His power came from Satan. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit - attributing to the devil what is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Some people may worry that they have committed the unforgivable sin.  If you are concerned that you have committed this, it is quite certain you have not. The unforgivable sin is wilfully choosing not to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to move in their heart to accept Him. It is a deliberate and ongoing rejection of the Holy Spirit. Let’s always be sure we keep a heart attitude of belief and repentance.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Keep Our Eyes On The Prize

II Corinthians 4:13-18

Have you ever watched an athlete in training?  They go through long, wearisome, and oftentimes painful hours of training.  The thought of being good enough to be selected for the team, or getting to the Olympics and winning the gold medal keeps them going, despite any discomfort.  The same holds for aspiring musicians. The pianist or violinist who wishes to achieve concert level gives up everything else for hours of practice. They all keep their eye on the future goal, feeling the trial they are going through now worth it for the end result.  The Apostle Paul felt the same way. Let’s look into our passage and see what he has to tell us.

Once he came to faith in the Lord Jesus as his Savior, Paul dedicated his life to spreading that same message to others around the known world.  Throughout the years of his ministry Paul always remained true to his convictions (vs 13). He never changed his message to suit his listeners, though that often brought him harsh persecution.  Paul went through tremendous sufferings and trials while preaching the Gospel (vs 15-18). He refused to focus his mind on these hardships though.  Rather, Paul focused his mind on the hope and promises of God’s rewards. When we are going through difficult times in our life, particularly if it is for the cause of Christ, don’t focus on those troubles. Instead we need to keep our eyes on God’s goals.

Just like the athlete, Paul concentrated on the goal of God, and was strengthened by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus will give us the strength to endure every trial so we can be a witness for Him. Paul shares in our Scripture passage here what helped him endure his afflictions.  He viewed all he was going through as light and momentary in view of eternity (vs 17). Our afflictions may seem unbearable right now, but wouldn’t any of us go through a minute of suffering if we knew the rest of our life would be bliss and comfort?  This life is not all there is. There is life after death. Knowing this can help us get through the suffering. Paul thought of it that way. He knew the greater the suffering for Christ the greater the eternal glory. God will reward what we are going through and suffering for Him (vs 18).

Throughout all our adversities and all we go through, we need to be sure that we do not become hardhearted and resistant to God.  If we are yielded to Him, the Holy Spirit will soften our hearts. Don’t let troubles diminish our faith or disillusion us. God has a purpose in our suffering.  God’s perspective is better than ours. He sees the whole picture, things we can’t possibly see. He doesn’t always remove the difficulties that we ask Him to. God is producing qualities in us that are important in view of eternity.  The athlete or musician may at times wish to quit the difficult training. They continue, though, if they keep their eyes on their goal.

We must remember our goal, and not forsake our eternal reward because of today’s pain.  Satan has a plan to take us out. God has a plan to keep us in. Focus on His plan. Let the resurrection power of Jesus strengthen us.  God teaches us in the dark moments of our life. Those times will last only as long as is necessary for the Lord to accomplish His purposes.  Our distress is only a millisecond compared to eternity. Thank the Lord for what He is doing, and honor Him in all things.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Psalm 2

Glance at any world map or globe, and as you see all the different countries, can you point out any nation or their rulers and leaders who wholeheartedly worship and serve the Lord?  Many actually actively oppose the Lord God and His Word. This has been the case since the dawn of time in the early chapters of Genesis. Our psalm for today speaks of the ultimate folly of a nation, ruler, or anyone in opposing God.

Psalm 2 was possibly written to celebrate the coronation of a king.  It ultimately serves for the coronation of Jesus, our eternal King. This psalm describes the rebellion of the nations of the world against God, and the coming of Jesus to establish His eternal rule.

The author starts out in verse 1 asking a rhetorical question - why are the nations and people plotting and raging against God?  Unsaved men, then and today, devise, conspire, and scheme against God. They don’t want God telling them how to live their lives or how to govern their country, so the nations and people of the world direct their hostility against Him and His Son, Jesus, the Messiah (vs 2). Just like a little two year old trying to assert his will against his parents, or even a bug against a human, it is a vain effort to rebel against God.

Everyone wants to be free, not having others rule over them, telling them what to do or how to live.  Unfortunately, for many this includes wanting to be free from God (vs 3). However, everyone does willingly serve someone or something.  They follow after political groups, organizations, other people, or their own selves and desires. The only real freedom is found in submitting to God.

What is God’s reaction when He observes all of this?  We read in verse 4 that He laughs. This is not a friendly, happy laugh.  Nor is it the good-hearted laughter of a parent watching their child’s crazy antics.  This is the laughter of God’s contempt. These people don’t want Him in their lives, and are either directly or indirectly in rebellion against Him.  Pride and power drive many nations and rulers to rebel against God. He laughs because the power anyone has comes from Him. He gave it, and He can take it away.

The Lord God gives the decree that the Messiah is His Son (vs 7). This verse is quoted in the New Testament, in Hebrews 1:5, to show that Jesus is superior to the angels.  He is both fully God and fully man. Since Jesus is superior to any angel, He is vastly superior to any king or ruler on earth.

One day, possibly soon, the Lord Jesus will return to earth.  At that time Jesus will be in authority and rule over every nation and power (vs 8-9).  Every nation will be His inheritance, and all rulers will submit to Him. Either willingly or unwillingly they will submit.

As our psalm closes, we are all urged to submit to God now.  The psalmist instructs us to “kiss the Son”, which means to submit and surrender to the Son of God.  Jesus is God’s chosen King. As such, He is the rightful King of our lives. We must never forget exactly who God is.  He is the mighty, eternal God, King of all eternity. No ruler or army can stand against Jesus. He is perfect and righteous. We must never forget who He is when we stand before Him.

Through all of this, God is full of mercy and grace.  Instead of immediate judgment, God is giving us all a chance to turn to Him today.  Don’t put your trust in any country or earthly power. Rather, put your trust and confidence in God.  Jesus is our Good Shepherd and loving Savior. Run willingly into His loving arms today instead of waiting and being forced to submit when He returns as the mighty King.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Satan's Deceptions

Genesis 3:1-24

Have you ever had an event, a sin you committed, that changed the whole trajectory of your life?  If you’re wise, you share what you’ve learned with your children, so they won’t make the same mistakes. In our Scripture today we read of the sin that Adam and Eve committed, and how the results changed the trajectory of not only their lives, but that of everyone who ever lives.  As we study this, let’s look for lessons we can learn, to keep us from falling for the same traps Satan sets for us.

As we begin our passage Satan comes to Eve in the guise of a serpent.  His first plan of attack to get her to sin is to get her to question God’s Word (vs 1).  Not only did he want Eve to question God, Satan wanted her to question His goodness, as he implied God wouldn’t let them eat from any of the trees.  He implied God is stingy and selfish, not wanting to share the knowledge of good and evil with us.  These are the same tactics he uses on us today. How many times do we hear that God’s Word, the Bible, is not true?  He loves it when he succeeds in making us think God’s Word is untrustworthy. Satan continues to try to make us think God isn’t a good God.  Every time something happens in the world or our own life, we hear people question what kind of God would do or allow that to happen.

In verses 2 and 3 we read of Eve making a mistake that some people do today, and that is misquoting what God said.  God had not said that they couldn’t touch the fruit, only that they were not to eat it (Genesis 2:17). Not accurately knowing God’s Word leaves us open to more of the devil’s attacks.  He gave a full frontal attack to Eve by directly contradicting God’s Word, and then making sin look desirable (vs 4-5). God had said that Adam and Eve would die when they ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan said that was a lie. They didn’t physically die immediately (though that did come). However the connection they had with God did immediately die. Their trust and faith in Him failed. Satan says obedience isn’t necessary, but it is necessary, and brings blessings. The devil wants us to give up on God and His plan, and follow his way.

Satan specializes in half-truths - just enough truth about God to appear Biblical, but denying all truth of the Gospel of salvation (vs 4-5).  Eve then looked, took, ate, and gave (vs. 6). Sin often spreads. We try to relieve our guilt by involving others. God warns us to run from those things that produce evil, which usually starts by looking (II Timothy 2:22).  Just like many animals and birds are vigilant and watchful for danger, so too do we need to be watchful of attacks from the enemy (I Peter 5:8; I Corinthians 16:13).

God and man had always been in the habit of meeting together later in the day. That day, as usual, God called out to them. Where were they? What were they doing?  Sin caused them to hide from God, as it does to us, as well (vs 8-10). Instead of rejoicing when they heard God’s voice, they hid.  They had panic, not peace. The intimacy they had with God died and separation began. No one can hide from God (Hebrews 4:13).

When God called Adam and Eve to account for their sin, they each sought to blame someone else (vs 12-13).  We may blame others, but ultimately we are personally accountable for what we do, and God will hold us as such.  God could not allow sin to go unchecked. He had to punish it (vs 14-19).

The story does not end here.  In the midst of tragic sin and its consequences, God gave the first promise of a Redeemer (vs 15). Satan repeatedly attempted to defeat Jesus during His lifetime. Instead, Satan was defeated when Jesus rose from the dead.  A strike on the heel is not deadly, but a crushing blow to the head is. Sin has brought us thorns (vs 18). Jesus took those thorns and wore them on His head, defeating and setting us free from sin and death (Matthew 27:29).

God continues to call out to all of us, “Where are you?”  Do you hear Him? How will you respond? Don’t run and hide like Adam did. Instead come to His loving and waiting arms. Accept His forgiveness and salvation today!
I pray that you have enjoyed and benefited from these Bible meditations that I have written for this blog.   I hope you will prayerfully consider donating as the Lord might lead you. This blog is not run through a large ministry with a wide funding base.  I am an individual with limited financial resources. Thank you and God bless.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Lord Of The Sabbath

Mark 2:23-28

Our Scripture reading this morning from Mark’s Gospel tells of another occasion when Jesus butted heads with the Pharisees.  This time it was over what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath. Many times during Jesus’s earthly ministry He healed people on the Sabbath, which greatly angered the Pharisees.  On this occasion they were outraged that Jesus and His disciples were picking some grain and eating it on the Sabbath. Let’s take a look at this passage and see what God’s Word can teach us.

As our passage opens up we read that Jesus and His followers were walking down a path, and being hungry, they picked some grain from the fields along the path, and ate it (vs 23-24).  What they were doing was not stealing grain, as the Law instructed farmers not to harvest their crops at the edges of their fields so both the poor and travelers could glean these remnants.  That was what the disciples were doing, gleaning a couple of handfuls of grain to eat while walking the paths. The Law did prohibit harvesting of crops on the Sabbath. This prevented farmers from becoming too greedy and ignoring God.  This also protected laborers from being overworked and taken advantage of. Jesus and His disciples were not harvesting the fields, they were only looking for something to eat. The Pharisees, however, were only concerned with the words and letter of the Law, not God’s intent.

As was their usual practice, the Pharisees followed their own man-made rules and traditions.  The Sabbath is a day to do good (Mark 3:4). God provided the Sabbath for rest and worship. He instituted the Sabbath to bless mankind, and to give them rest, relaxation, and renewal of physical and spiritual strength. The Sabbath was not to be a burden.

In verses 25 and 26 Jesus describes an event from the life of David in the Old Testament, which is detailed in i Samuel 21:1-6.  David and some of his men were fleeing for their lives from their enemies. They came seeking safety at the Tabernacle with the High Priest.  The men were famished and asked for food, but the only food available was sacred bread, which only the priests could eat. What could they do, as there weren’t McDonald’s or pizza parlors available? Fortunately both the High Priest then, and David knew that God’s laws are meant to save lives and bless people, not take lives or be a burden.

Jesus rejected the Pharisees regulations, and restored God’s original intention for the Sabbath.  Jesus knew, and sought to explain to the people, that the intent of the Sabbath law is to promote love for God and others.  God doesn’t derive any benefit from our observance of the Sabbath. It is us who benefit. We are restored physically and spiritually.

The Pharisees had spent many years of adding man-made rules and traditions to God’s intended laws.  They added numerous unbearable and arbitrary restrictions to God’s original requirements. For example - they added a restriction that one could not travel more than 3,000 feet from home on the Sabbath.  God never said that. The Pharisees were actually the ones who were breaking the Law. They were holding their man-made rules and traditions on par with God’s Word.

How about us?  Do we put our own thoughts and ideas on equal footing with the Word of God?  Do we judge others for not following our man-made regulations?  How easy it is to step into the shoes of the Pharisees, and start casting stones at those who aren’t following the way we think they should, even if it is not from God’s Word.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

I Am Weak, But Thou Art Strong

II Corinthians 4:5-12

How do you respond when opposition and attacks come your way, and life is dealing you blow after blow?  For some, a little dose of persecution and they either crumble or quit. Others draw closer to the Lord, and depending on His strength, persevere through it all. The Apostle Paul was one of the latter. He suffered unending persecution from the religious leaders of his day, and also opposition from governmental officers. As we read through our passage today, we will see Paul’s thoughts and testimony for such times.

As Paul went around both Asia Minor and Greece preaching the Gospel, those who opposed him and his message always followed him, trying to discredit him to those who heard him preach.  One attack was the claim that Paul was just promoting himself, trying to look big and important. Paul countered in verse 5 that he did not preach for his own benefit, nor did he promote himself.  He always preached the message of Christ. That is not the case with many, both back then and today. When believers witness to others they should be speaking of Jesus and what He has done, not of themselves or their own ideas.

God created physical light.  He also creates spiritual light for the soul (vs 6). This light leads souls out of Satan’s kingdom of darkness and into God’s Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1:13).

Paul speaks of “earthen vessels” in verse 7.  They were clay pots of little cost or value used for common purposes.  This was a reference to our physical bodies, and the “treasure” he speaks of is Jesus and the Gospel message.  Our focus should not be on the container, but on the contents. We are weak, but God uses us to spread the Gospel, giving us His power.  It is Christ in us who gives us our worth and power. Salvation is the result of God’s power, not anything that we, or any other messenger, can generate.  God’s power overcomes and transcends the pot. We need to let people see God through us. We may not be a fancy pot, and not look like much, full of flaws, but we are precious to God. The container is perishable, but the contents are priceless.

Because Paul was a common vessel who allowed himself to be used by God, he faced the severe opposition he did (vs 8-9).  What we go through, and our weaknesses do not cripple us, but actually strengthen us for God’s work and use. Those who hate Jesus take out their vengeance on those who represent Him (10).  We should allow our rights to ourselves, our carnal pursuits, and our expectations to die so that Christ can shine through us, and others are saved. Through Paul’s and our weakness Christ is put on display.

Paul spoke of the potential physical death constantly faced by believers who live for and serve the Lord (vs 11).  He always faced death from those who opposed the message of the Gospel (vs 12). He was willing to pay that price if it meant salvation to those he preached to.  Though we may seem to be at the end of the rope, we are never at the end of our hope. God never abandons us. All that we go through are opportunities for Christ to demonstrate His power through us.

One thing every Christian should remember is that nothing will ever touch us that has not passed through the hands of God.  Whatever happens, God has seen and approved. Everything we go through is designed to prepare us for serving others. We are being shaped into the image of God’s Son.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Open Wide

Psalm 81

“Open up!  Come on, now.  Open up, big and wide!”, a mother encourages her baby as he sits in the highchair, being spoon fed his meal.  We like to see our children, as babies, opening up to eagerly eat the good food we offer them. In our psalm today we see God saying the same thing to His people.  Let’s take a look at this Scripture passage and see what blessings the Lord wishes to give His children.

Our psalm begins, as many psalms do, with a call to worship (vs 1-5). This is important to remember when believers gather together, that worship of the Lord God is primary. This psalm was probably sung at the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles is a festival that follows shortly after the Day of Atonement.  The festival reminded the people of their wilderness wanderings, and God’s care for them then.

The psalm then switches to God speaking in the first person (vs 6-16).  He calls out to people, that if they will only listen to Him, He will pour out His blessings on them.  These verses not only follow the experiences of the people of Israel and their repeated straying from Yahweh during the years in the wilderness, but that of mankind in general who have forsaken the true God.

The descendants of Jacob had become slaves in Egypt.  They were slaves and foreigners in a country whose language they did not speak (vs. 5).  As we read in the Book of Exodus, God provided an amazing miracle of deliverance when He parted the Red Sea, bringing the people free from their bondage to the Egyptians (vs 6).  God proceeds to give reference to His presence on Mt. Sinai, where the Law was given (vs 7). Meribah was where the Israelites tested God (Exodus 17:1-7).

In verse 10 we hear God telling us how much He desires to bless us. Just as the mother tells the baby she is feeding to open up wide, God wants us to open wide to receive His blessings.  Sometimes, like stubborn little children, we don’t listen to God, and then miss out on His blessings. Many times babies, being spoon fed some strained peas and carrots or some other vegetable, clamps their jaws closed, refusing to take a bite.  They’d rather have the strained applesauce. However, mommy knows her baby needs a well-balanced diet, and keeps trying to get the vegetables down. God desires to bless us beyond our imagination. To receive what He has to offer, though, we must submit ourselves to Him.  We are filled only when we obey what He says. Throughout this psalm we read of all the Lord has done for His people, yet they failed to obey. If we don’t “open up”, He can’t bless.

God sometimes lets us continue on in our stubborn ways to bring us to our senses (vs 11-12).  Sometimes He wants us to learn the consequences of sin. God can use these experiences to draw us to faith in Him, and away from greater sin.  Just like a loving parent wants what is best for their child, God so desires to bless us. If we will only listen to God and return to Him, He will restore us (vs 13-16).

True satisfaction, peace, and joy comes to us only through Jesus, and nothing or no one else.  Don’t be like the stubborn child, refusing his vegetables. Open wide, and receive God’s blessings!