Friday, May 31, 2019

The Promise Of Peace

John 14:23-29

Our Gospel passage today from this week’s Lectionary continues with the teachings the Lord Jesus gave His disciples in the upper room the night before His arrest and crucifixion.  There are four thoughts and truths that we find in this passage. Let’s take a look and see what the Lord might teach us.

The first thing the Lord Jesus says in our Scripture passage is that if we truly love Him, we will obey Him and keep His word (vs. 23-24). Those who want, and who have a close and intimate relationship with God, will show a willing, devoted, and joyful obedience to Him. In His extended teachings to the disciples that final night after the Last Supper, Jesus emphasized several times our need to be obedient to God’s commands (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; John 15:10, 12, 14).  It is really hypocritical and false to say that we love God, yet just toss all of His commands and words behind our back. Our obedience to God shows our love for Him.

A second comforting truth that the Lord Jesus gave His disciples that last night, and to us as well, is found in verse 26.  Jesus has promised that after He leaves He will send us the Holy Spirit. Here Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will bring to our mind the words He has spoken.  When we face difficult circumstances the Holy Spirit will bring to mind God’s Word to bring us strength, comfort and peace. When we are witnessing and speaking to the lost about the Lord, or perhaps some day brought before those who hate Jesus, maybe a government who opposes Christianity, we can depend on the Holy Spirit to give us the words to speak.  However, He can’t really do that if we have never put the Bible in our mind to begin with. If it’s not there, if we don’t know what God’s Word says, if we have never read it, He can’t bring it to our mind. We need to be reading the Bible every day, meditating on its truths, and memorizing it.

Verse 26 is another Scripture verse where the Trinity is clearly shown.  Jesus speaks of the Father, He speaks of Himself, the Son, and also of the Holy Spirit. They are all equal and all divine. The Holy Spirit brings to mind the Words of Jesus because they are one (I Corinthians 2:10-16).  Each part of the Trinity is equal in their divine attributes. Yet each one relates to mankind in a different way because they each have a specific role in our life.  We do not have three gods. We have one God expressed in three Persons, functioning uniquely and perfectly.

The fourth comforting thought and truth is found in verse 27, where Jesus promises to give us His peace.  Peace is not just an absence of conflict, though that is a part of it. Peace is also confident assurance in any circumstance.  With Jesus we have no need to fear the present or the future. If our life is full of stress and fear, allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with His peace.  Believers can have peace in difficult troubles because of the peace the Holy Spirit brings us.

The peace that Jesus brings surpasses all comprehension (Philippians 4:7).  It will keep us from fear and worry. It brings us right to Him. No matter what our circumstances are, the Lord will sustain and strengthen us with His peace if we turn to Him.  When we become a believer the Holy Spirit then indwells us. We then have access to this peace, no matter how chaotic our lives may be externally.

Though God promises us peace, that doesn’t mean there will be no more problems or fearful events in our lives.  If we remember, Jesus had the disciples cross the lake in a storm. He permits these storms in our lives so that we will turn to Him.  When we do, He will bring peace in our souls. Our first response to troubling circumstances should be to call upon Jesus and to get into the Scriptures, reading and meditating upon them.  Only the Lord Jesus can give us true peace. Praise the Lord Jesus that we have peace in Him, because we trust that He died for our sins.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

God's Heavenly City

Revelation 21:22 - 22:5

Many people can remember back to when they were children, and due to some act of disobedience, had a favorite possession or privilege taken away for awhile.  The parent took a favorite toy away for awhile, TV privileges were taken away for a few days, or for teenagers the keys to the car were taken until they learned their lesson.  How happy they are when they got their item back or privileges restored! In our Scripture passage for today from the Book of Revelation we read about something that God had to take from man, but will be restored in heaven.  Let’s take a look and see what it is.

As our passage opens, the Apostle John continues to record his visions of heaven, and is now describing the New Jerusalem after the Millennium.  There is no need for a temple in the eternal heaven, after the Millennium, since God Himself will be the temple in which everything exists (vs. 22).  The presence of God will fill the entire new heaven and new earth. Another thing that one will notice in this heavenly city is that there is no sun or moon.  We need the sun to give us light to see during the day, and a bright full moon gives a degree of light at night. However, in heaven we will not need that as the glory of God will illuminate it.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the light. There was light in creation before God created the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:3, 16). As John saw here, and proclaimed in one of his epistles, God is Light (I John 1:5).

As John continues to observe and describe this heavenly city he sees that although the redeemed consist of people from every nation and ethnic group (vs. 24), not everyone gets into heaven (vs. 25-27). Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It is very plain here that not all are saved, as some teach. John indicates that there are some outside of this heavenly city.

John continues into the heavenly city and comes upon a river with the water of life, and then sees the tree of life (vs. 1 - 2).  The water of life symbolizes the continual flow of eternal life from God’s throne. Jesus used this image with the Samaritan woman in John 4:7 - 14.  It pictures the fullness of a life with God, and the eternal blessings we receive when we are saved.

The tree of life hearkens back to the tree that was in the center of the Garden of Eden.  If we remember, there were two trees in the center of that garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God had instructed Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16 - 17). However he disobeyed (Genesis 3:6) and was cast out of the garden, and God blocked the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22 - 24).  Now we see the tree of life again. Here it is now in the heavenly city. In heaven there is no sin, and we are now permitted to eat of its fruit freely. The curse that came upon mankind and the earth because of Adam’s sin will be totally finished.  We are forgiven through the Blood of Jesus, and the tree of life is restored. Though taken from man at the dawn of time, it is now restored. The curse is over (vs. 3). Nothing accursed will be in God’s presence.

When we get to heaven all of our scars and deformities will be gone. There is Someone, though, who will have His scars remain. That is the Lord Jesus.  The scars on His hands, feet, and side will remain throughout all of eternity. He received those scars to pay our sin-penalty.  He received those when He died for us. Those are evidence of how much Jesus loves us, and that will remain for eternity.

Monday, May 27, 2019

When God's Face Shines Upon Us

Psalm 67

A nice, bright, sun-shiny face.  Sometimes in the illustrations of children’s books we might see a picture of the sun with a smiley face. We feel that when the sun is smiling down on us, all is well. In our psalm for today we read of when God’s face shines down upon us. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from God’s Word.

We can often tell how a person feels about us by the look on their face.  When a spouse or parent is upset with us, their face will show it. A young man or woman can tell if their sweetheart is happy or angry by the look on their face. When someone smiles at us, we are in their favor. They are likely happy and friendly with us. An employee dreads the look on the face of the boss when things are going bad in the office or factory.  In former years, the look on the face of the king would show if someone was in favor or not. A bad look could signal doom to someone, whereas a good look could be a lifetime of blessings.

Our psalmist prays for the Lord to have mercy upon him, bless him, and to let His face to shine upon him (vs. 1).  It is only through God’s mercy that His face will ever shine upon us. We certainly don’t deserve His attention or good will. Grace is when God gives us something that we don’t deserve. Mercy is when God holds back from giving us what we do deserve.  We do not deserve any of the blessings He bestows upon us. What we deserve is the just punishment for our sins and His wrath.  However, when we put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, God gives us what we don’t deserve, and holds back from us what we do deserve.  He gives us grace and mercy. He makes His face to shine upon us.

When something shines brightly we can see it from far away.  People have used mirrors in the sun to shine a signal, often to let rescuers know where they are when lost and needing to be found.  When the sun hits the water of a lake, it shimmers brightly. When sunlight hits the windows of a tall building just right, like the Sears Tower in Chicago near where I live, you can see the bright reflection like a blaze of light for quite a distance.  A shining light can be a beacon of hope if there is danger, like what we find in a lighthouse. When we have Jesus in our hearts, God looks on us with His love and favor. He is there for us when we need a beacon in danger.

The remainder of this short psalm reminds us of the fulfillment of the Great Commission that Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20, where He told them to go to all nations, teaching them the Gospel.  Verse 2 speaks of this very thing, that all nations will know of the salvation offered by God.  Because of this, all peoples everywhere will praise God (vs. 3, 5). All that God does, and His dealings with mankind is righteous, and one day, possibly soon, He will come to judge all nations and rule this world (vs. 4).  When we invite the Lord into our life, following His Word and His Son, then He will bless us (vs. 6 - 7).

Just as we wish to be in the good graces of our friends and loved ones, and hopefully our boss and those in authority over us, we can see how everyone would like to have God’s face to shine upon them. Let’s live our lives in a way that would please our Heavenly Father, and feel His love and mercy fall upon us like the welcoming beams of sunlight fall upon us.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Visit To Lystra

Acts 14:8-18

Our reading today from the Book of Acts picks up shortly after where last week’s reading from Acts left off.  Paul and Barnabas had been run out the cities of Antioch and Iconium in central Turkey for preaching the Gospel, and now have arrived in the village of Lystra, around 100 miles southeast of Antioch.  The two did not let fear take control and keep them from fulfilling their commission. Nor did they succumb to discouragement and decide to quit and go on home. It was good that that they did not, as Timothy was from Lystra, and possibly came to faith in Christ during Paul’s first visit, though the two did not meet face to face until Paul’s second visit several years after today’s account.

As our passage begins, Paul was preaching a sermon and in the audience was a man who had been crippled from birth (vs. 8).  He was listening intently to the message of Paul, which would have been about Jesus, how He was the Messiah, the Savior of mankind, and salvation through His Blood.  This crippled man was paying attention, not thinking about how he would get home nor what he would have for dinner, and because he was listening, Paul’s preaching gave birth to faith in his heart (vs. 9).  That faith began to grow the more he listened. As Paul later wrote in his letter to the Romans, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). If this man’s mind had been wandering all over the place, rather than paying attention, faith would not have been planted and had a chance to grow.  Because he was listening, the seed of the Word of God was planted in this man’s heart and that seed of faith blossomed. As a result Paul discerned faith, and told him to arise and be healed in the Name of Jesus (vs. 9-10).

This man must have been rather well known in the community that he had been crippled all his life and unable to walk.  Yet now he was leaping and walking all around! Word quickly spread through the village. Unfortunately instead of attributing this miracle to Jesus and giving praise to His Name, the people felt that Paul and Barnabas had done this miracle themselves, and were the human incarnation of the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes (vs. 11 - 13).  In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the king of the gods, in addition to being the god of the sky and thunder. Hermes was another ancient Greek god, and was the messenger of the gods, and was the protector of roads and travelers. The people started to prepare to offer them sacrifices. Rather than accept the people’s accolades, Paul and Barnabas tried to stop them.  How many well known preachers today, though, fall into this trap. Though people today are not inclined to call preachers Greek gods, preachers often let the praise from people go to their heads. When their book sales or TV ratings start to grow, when the world starts to sing their praises, then rather than humbly point the praises to Jesus, they start to get puffed up and strain themselves trying to pat themselves on the back.  Paul and Barnabas would not hear of this. Our goal in serving God should never be hoping that people think well and great about us. Our goal should be in pointing and directing others to Jesus. People should not be looking at us. Rather, their focus should be on God.

The majority of the people in this crowd would have been from a pagan background and unfamiliar with the Old Testament Scriptures (the New Testament having yet to be written).  Thus, when the crowds gathered together, calling them Zeus and Hermes, Paul didn’t start quoting Scripture to them. Instead, he used nature to point them to Yahweh, the one true living God (vs. 15 - 17).  Though they did not have the benefit of Scriptures and the words of the prophets, they did have God’s creation to point to Him all throughout ages. This is true for people everywhere all throughout time. God has never been without some sort of testimony, even in areas where the Gospel has not been preached.  God has a witness to Himself in nature that proclaims His goodness. His evidence in nature leaves people without excuse for unbelief. Paul wrote this same thing in Romans 1:18-20.

Some may think that Paul and Barnabas’ trip to Lystra ended disastrously, yet that wouldn’t really be the case.  The crippled man came to faith, and was also miraculously healed. And as mentioned earlier, Lystra was where the early Christian leader Timothy was from, and it was on this visit of Paul’s when he possibly came to faith in Christ.  If even one soul is saved, coming to faith in Jesus, the work is never in vain.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Love One Another

John 13:31-35

Often many people like to mark their things as belonging to them. Sometimes a label isn’t necessary as we know from association that certain items belong to one or another person.  A parent knows that the sports equipment belongs to this child and the scientific material belongs to the other because of their interests and association.  We know by their specific style the writings of a certain author. We can tell by the style, even without a label, the works of Rembrandt from that of Van Gogh, or that of Bach from Beethoven.  In our reading today from John’s Gospel, Jesus stated that people should be able to tell that we are His disciples. Let’s see how we are to be identified as belonging to Jesus.

As our passage opens, the Last Supper has finished, and Jesus with His disciples are still lingering in the Upper Room, as He had some final words to convey to His followers.  Judas Iscariot had left to go to Jesus’ enemies to betray Him. Jesus knows that He has only hours left before the crucifixion and His death. Rather than looking at the agony of the cross, Jesus looked past the cross, anticipating the glory that He would have with the Father when it was over (vs. 31-33).  Naturally Jesus’ human nature would have dreaded the immense torture to come, but His eyes were focused on the glory that awaited Him following His obedience.

As Jesus continued to talk and teach His disciples, He spoke of a new commandment that He was giving them (vs. 34).  What was this? The command He gave the eleven who sat around the table with Him was that they were to love one another, just as He has loved them. Though the command to love others is not entirely new, as it was contained in the Law Moses gave the people (Leviticus 19:18), Jesus gave a new standard.  The love that Jesus is now telling His believers to have for each other is to mirror the love that He has for us. This love is to be a sacrificial love.

How does Jesus love us?  He loved us so much that He gave His life to pay the price for our sins by dying upon the cross of Calvary. Jesus loved us enough to forgive us all of our sins that we have committed when we come to Him, accepting Him as our Savior.  We are to love others based on Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. Such love should draw unbelievers to seek to come to Christ. In the days of the very early church the love that believers had for one another was very evident to the lost world of the Roman Empire.  In a day when life was hostile and cruel, people saw this amazing love, a love that was sacrificial, a love that sometimes risked life for others, that often gave all that one had. This was something that was very strange and alien, and it did indeed draw many to find out more about Jesus. This love should keep us strong and united in a world that is hostile to God. We are to be living examples of Jesus’ love, just as He was the examples of God’s love.

Love is to be the distinguishing characteristic of Jesus’ disciples (vs. 35). People wonder how they can love this or that person when they did such terrible things to them.  We can’t do it on our own. It is something that is produced by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit which believers receive when they accept Jesus as their Savior. Our love for others should show itself in more than just a word and a pat on the back or hug at church. Love is an attitude that reveals itself in action - helping, giving, looking to other’s welfare rather than one’s own, taking hurts rather than fighting back.

The unsaved world will not know that we are Jesus’ disciples through the correct doctrine we follow.  Nor will they know we follow Him through the big, magnificent churches we build. Jesus, Himself, said that the world will know that we believe and follow Him by our love for one another.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Marriage Of The Lamb

Revelation 19:4-9

Last summer, my daughter Lucy was the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding.  Her dress, and those of everyone in the wedding party, was special. However, the bride’s dress is the one that everyone wants to see.  Traditionally, the bride’s dress is spotless white. In our Scripture passage today from the Book of Revelation, we read of a wedding. Let’s look and see who the Bride and Groom are, and what is worn at this wedding.

Hebrew weddings in Biblical times had three phases.  The first was the betrothal, where the two parties agree to marry.  Sometimes, especially in wealthier families, the betrothal was even arranged in childhood.  During this phase the marriage contract was approved by both parties. The second phase consists of the groom leaving to prepare the house he and the bride would live in.  At a specified time he would return, and there would be a lot of pre-wedding festivities lasting several days. The final phase was the actual wedding ceremony, followed by the wedding supper.

As we read in our Scripture passage, the Apostle John is present when the elders and living creatures give praise to God before His throne in heaven (vs. 4 - 6).  Then the announcement is made that the marriage of the Lamb and His bride will take place (vs. 7). As we have seen before in the Book of Revelation, the Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God, the One who was sacrificed for our sins, and triumphantly rose again.

Who is the bride?  The bride is the Church, who is composed of all true believers from every age.  The Church was betrothed to Christ from eternity past (Ephesians 1:4), and will be presented to Him when He returns to earth, summoning His bride to Himself (John 14:1-3; I Thessalonians 4:15-18).  This follows the same pattern of the traditional Biblical wedding - betrothal, groom preparing the future home, then coming and claiming the bride, followed by the wedding and the marriage feast.

Jesus also describes this when He tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins who await the coming bridegroom in Matthew 25:1-13.  The bride always wanted to be prepared and ready when her bridegroom returned, having prepared their future home. It would have made her look foolish, unloving, and uncaring if she wasn’t ready.  And if she was caught not behaving as a proper bride should, what a shame that would be for her! As the bride of Christ, we need to be ready for when He returns to bring His bride to the home He has prepared, and acting as a bride of Christ should.

As we continue reading our passage, we read of how the Bride of the Lamb is dressed.  We read that she is clothed in fine linen, clean and bright. White symbolizes purity and righteousness.  We might wonder how the bride could be pure and righteous, as no believer is pure and sinless. If we were clothed in our own deeds, our robes would be filthy and mud spattered.  The Church as a whole would not be clothed any better. We have all failed our Bridegroom. Yet we read that we are clothed in clean and bright linen. Our Bridegroom has given us His righteousness. Isaiah 61:10 says He gives us the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness. When we accept Jesus as Savior, we receive His righteousness (Romans 4:5). The garments of the Bride of Christ stand in sharp contrast to the gaudy clothes of the great prostitute, (Revelation 17:1-6), who represents the world system and false religions, which have always opposed the Triune God.  The two are as different as a beautiful bridal gown is to the attire of a corner prostitute.

After a wedding everyone looks forward to the wedding dinner! There is always good food, and everyone toasts the bride and groom, wishing them a wonderful life together.  People feel honored to be invited to a prominent or famous person’s wedding. This wedding described in the Book of Revelation will make any royal wedding pale in comparison.  It is the biggest and grandest wedding in all of history, and as John said, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (vs. 9). If you have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior, then you will be there at this wedding feast, as you are a part of the Bride of Christ.  If you haven’t accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior yet, do not wait any longer. We do not know when He will return for His bride. You do not want to miss this great event!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Our Burden-Bearer

Psalm 145

There’s an old song, “My Old Kentucky Home”, written by Stephen Foster, with the lines “a few more days for to tote the weary load”. Many people find the burdens in their life exactly that, a weary load. Sometimes that load seems more than we can bear, crushing us down to the ground.  Try and struggle as hard as we might, we can’t get back on our feet. As we feebly lift our head from off the ground and look around, there is so often no one who wants to, or who can, help us.  However, as we read in our Psalm selection today, there is Someone who will uphold us when we fall, and raises us up when we are bowed down with a heavy load.

When the struggles in life become more than we can handle, there is Someone we can turn to, Yahweh, our Lord God.  Many times life was a struggle for David. Even after he became king, his way wasn’t an easy one. Yet David knew where to turn to.  From his own experience he could say that the Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down (vs. 14). Why would the God of the whole universe bother to help us with our problems and burdens? Throughout this psalm that David wrote, he gives us some answers.

First of all, God desires to lift us up because His greatness is unfathomable and beyond our understanding (vs. 3).  Yahweh is a great God, not some puny little local deity with limited power, as many of the false gods neighboring nations worshipped.  Those false gods could never help, but David knew Yahweh is great and powerful. He has done, and continues to do mighty acts throughout every generation (vs. 4).  When we allow God to work in our life, then our testimonies of deliverance can be added to this praise. God is full of splendor and majesty (vs. 5), and has done many wonderful and awesome works (vs. 5-6).  Doing wonderful acts is part of His character, and when we see Him working in our life, lifting our burdens, we can declare it aloud, as well.

God is a righteous God (vs. 7).  Everything He does is just, moral, and virtuous. He would never sit back and allow one of His Blood-bought children to be overwhelmed when they turn to Him for deliverance.  Goodness, compassion, and mercy are in His character (vs. 8-9). That is who He is. It is not just some trait that He has to struggle to show now and then.

God rules over an everlasting kingdom (vs. 13).  He rules over the whole universe, and to help His children is not a burden to Him.  He is the source of provision for all of our daily needs (vs. 15-16), and He will never run out of resources to help us.  He provides for our daily needs because of His love for us.

Yahweh is loving and righteous in all of His dealings with His children (vs. 17). When His children call upon Him for help, He is near to them (vs. 18-19). He is not some distant god that cannot be bothered.  He is a Father to us. There are some parents who don’t really want to be bothered by their children, and would rather they keep quiet in another room.  That is not the case with our God and Heavenly Father. He is near to us, and hears our cries when we need Him.

David listed from first-hand experience these many reasons why he knew that the Lord God would help lift him up when he was crushed down by heavy burdens.  When we are under a heavy burden, and fear we will fall, we can safely turn to the Lord God and accept His help. He will lift us up and be our great Burden-Bearer.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Opposition We Face

Acts 13:44-52

It can be aggravating if you run into strong opposition when you have a job to do, or a goal you wish to accomplish.  It is even worse if the opposition gets ugly and personal. At times, it can even get dangerous. If our work is for the Lord, though, we need to stay encouraged and keep on.  Paul and his companion Barnabas were facing just such opposition as we see in today’s passage from the Book of Acts. Let’s see how they handled some strong opposition to their work.

In our passage today Paul and Barnabas were in the city of Antioch. In the New Testament there are two cities named Antioch mentioned. One was near western Syria, near the Mediterranean coast.  The other was in west central Asia Minor (present day Turkey), in the province of Pisidia, which is the Antioch from our Scripture today.  Paul and Barnabas came there on their first missionary journey where they visited Cyprus and parts of central Turkey.

Paul followed a similar pattern in each city he visited when spreading the Gospel.  When coming into a city, the first thing he did was search out a Jewish synagogue. Most synagogues at this time had a custom of allowing visitors to speak any message they might have to the congregation.  Paul and Barnabas took advantage of this custom wherever they traveled, and would go through the Old Testament Scriptures, showing the Jews how Jesus Christ was the promised Jewish Messiah, urging them to put their faith and trust in Him.  In each location there was always a few who would believe, and many who showed some interest, inviting them back to speak the next week. However, in each synagogue, there were some who immediately became quite hostile, and vehemently opposed them and the Word of God.

As our passage opens, Paul and Barnabas have been invited back a second week to speak at the synagogue in Antioch.  The hostile Jews who did not believe their message about Jesus, were jealous (vs. 44-45). They were especially angry when they learned that some Gentiles were also coming to faith in Jesus.  In their anger, they didn’t just ask them to leave and not come back. They got violent. This was red-hot anger, shouting, and blasphemy that was occurring as Paul spoke.

When this happened, as it usually did in each location they went, Paul then turned to give the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles. First he would go to the Jews (vs. 46), and when they rejected the message, then he went to the Gentiles. As Paul did so, he quoted from the prophet Isaiah to those who opposed him (Isaiah 49:6), telling them that God had wanted all along for the Jews to share His message of salvation with Gentiles.  God had never planned salvation as an exclusive possession of the Jews. He had wished that through the Jewish people all of the world, all of the Gentiles, would come to know Him (Genesis 12:3). The prophets all proclaimed this. Wherever Paul preached, in Asia Minor, in Greece, and later in Rome, some Jewish people came to faith and helped spread the message of Jesus.  Most did not, and many actively opposed the Gospel being preached, especially to the Gentiles (vs. 49).

When they saw the strong opposition being leveled against them, and that they could possibly be beaten up or worse, Paul and Barnabas left town.  As they left, though, they did an old custom that the Jewish people had done for ages whenever they had to pass through a Gentile area, and that was to shake the dust off of their feet (vs. 51).  Shaking the dust off was a symbolic way of cleansing from contamination of those who did not truly worship God. This was to show them that they were rejecting God.

Paul and Barnabas were not to blame if the message of Jesus was rejected. They had faithfully presented it. We, too, are to be a light to unbelievers (Matthew 5:14-16).  We are to lead others to Jesus and glorify Him with our conduct and testimony, as the Apostles did, not fearing the opposition that may come, as we see it did to Paul wherever he went.  God will bless our faithfulness.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Safe In Jesus' Hands

John 10:22-30

Has there ever been a time after you accepted Jesus as your Savior, when you wondered if you were truly saved?  Perhaps you knew you had accepted Jesus, but then did something wrong, and felt that you were no longer saved, that maybe you had “lost” your salvation?  You hear what you think to be your conscience speaking to you, telling you that you are no longer a Christian. There is good news in today’s Scripture passage for you.  Once we are in God’s Hand, no one can snatch us out!  Let’s take a look at what God has to teach us from His Word.

As our reading begins, we see that it is winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (vs. 22).  This was the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Hanukkah celebrated the victory of the Jewish people over the Syrian leader Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 BC, and their rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Antiochus had severely oppressed the Jews, killing many, and also fouly desecrating the Temple, including setting up an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs on God’s altar.

Seeing Jesus in Jerusalem for the holiday, some of the Jewish leaders confronted Him, asking Him to tell them plainly whether He was the Messiah or not (vs. 23-24).  Some of these people may have genuinely wanted clarification and understanding of Jesus’ sayings, but most of these leaders just wanted Jesus to proclaim openly that He was the Messiah so they could justify attacking Him, as later was shown in verses 31-39.

Jesus didn’t fall into their trap, nor did He get into a big argument with them. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and what He says (vs. 25 - 27). They hear and understand His words and message.  Those religious leaders didn’t comprehend what Jesus taught because they were not His sheep. Not everyone will be saved. Jesus clearly stated here that those Jewish religious leaders He was talking to right then were not His sheep.  Not everyone who claims to be religious are really his sheep (followers of Jesus). We may witness to them, but God’s Words fall on deaf ears.

In verse 30, Jesus proclaims His unity of nature and equality with God.  We can either believe Him, or else acknowledge He is a lunatic. Anyone who proclaims they are truly God either is God or is crazy, a candidate for a mental hospital.  Jesus cannot be just a “good teacher”. Not with the claims He made. Will you acknowledge Him as the only begotten Son of God?

Jesus also taught that His sheep, those who truly follow Him, are safe in His hand, and no one can snatch them out of His protective grasp (vs. 27 - 29).  It is the shepherd’s job to keep the sheep safe, not the sheep’s job. The security of the sheep rests with Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd, and He has the power to keep all of us believers safe.  No one is able to steal from God what is His. He is in sovereign control of all things. This is a strong passage showing the absolute eternal security of all true believers.

When we take hold of a child’s hand to cross a busy street, it is our grip on their hand which keeps them safe, not theirs.  God has us in His hand, and nothing can take us out of there.  We are doubly safe - we have Jesus holding on with His hand in verse 28, and God the Father holding us in His hand in verse 29, both holding tight on to us!

Just as a shepherd protects the sheep from wolves and other predators, Jesus protects His followers from eternal harm.  We may suffer while here on earth, but Satan cannot harm our souls or take away our eternal life with God. Satan may whisper to us that we are lost, especially after we might slip up.  Whose voice are we going to listen to? Jesus or the devil? Remember, Satan is a liar, as Jesus clearly said in John 8:44. Keep filling our hearts with God’s Word. Jesus knows us and loves us.  We can trust Him.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Washed In The Blood Of The Lamb

Revelation 7:9-17

Grass stains on the knees of your son’s slacks, grape juice stains on the front of your daughter’s shirt.  Then there’s the ink stains on your sleeve, and your favorite white shirt just doesn’t look so bright white anymore.  Those in charge of laundry have heard some tricks for what to do to get rid of some stubborn stains, or what’s the best detergent on the market, and if we’re lucky they actually work.  How about the stain of sin? Sin leaves a stain upon our soul, much worse than any stains our children can bring in on their clothes, and it’s one that no detergent or stain remover on the market can handle. What do we do for those stains? As we read our passage for today from the Book of Revelation we see where we can go to get the stains removed.

Our Scripture begins with John beholding another huge multitude of people before the throne of the Lamb of God singing praises to Him (vs. 9 - 11).  This white-robed multitude of people are probably the same crowd of martyrs who were mentioned in the previous chapter (Revelation 6:9-10). They are those who remain faithful to God throughout time.  The multitude is composed of people from all nations, races, and languages on earth. God’s salvation has always, and will always be open to everyone, no matter what race or country they are from. It is open to all who will seek salvation from God through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who shed His Blood for us.

As John talks with one of the elders who stands before God’s throne, he learns that this multitude are those who have come out of the great tribulation and their robes are made white through the Blood of the Lamb (vs. 13 - 14).  The color white has always symbolized sinless perfection and holiness. These folks are clothed in white. How did they get sinless and perfectly holy? I know that every day I mess up and do things I shouldn’t and think things I shouldn’t.  If my sin-stains became visible to everyone, I would be a dark, black stain from head to toe. My stains are filthy, and I need something to wash them and make them pure white. My own attempts fail miserably, just like some cheap detergent; all promise, but no results.  The only thing that can get rid of the stains of sin comes through the shed blood and death of the sinless Son of God on our behalf (vs. 14). The Blood of Jesus is the world’s greatest purifier. It alone will remove the stain of sin.

No one likes to discover a stain on their clothes when out in public, especially if one is at an important party or meeting.  If you were privileged to be presented to the Queen, you’d be certain that your clothes were not stained! There is nothing more important than being before the throne of God, and one cannot come there with the stains of sin present.  The only way to remove the stains of sin is to be washed in the Blood of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus.  His Blood will make our robes whiter than the whitest snow.

These believers came through their time of suffering by remaining faithful and loyal to God (vs. 14).  Believers who have stayed true to Him will be with the Lord in heaven where there will be no more hunger, thirst, or pain.  All sorrow will be gone and God will wipe away our tears. What a joy that will be! The tears we shed here on earth can be countless, but God promises to wipe them all away! Throughout the Book of Revelation God assures us that He will not forget His faithful people during the judgment of the world. Those who put their trust in Jesus will be rescued.

As the old-time hymns say, “What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!” “Would you be free from the burden of sin? There is power in the Blood of the Lamb!” “Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?”

Monday, May 13, 2019

Who's In Charge?

Psalm 100

Sometimes we hear people say that they are the masters of their own fate, they are their own boss, and no one tells them what to do.  They think of themselves as independent, a self-made person. They act almost as if they created themselves. Our psalm for today is generally considered a psalm of thanksgiving, and that it rightly is. However, it also does speak some words of reminder and caution for those who have this independent streak, who say they are the “captain of their own ship”, and no one, including God, determines their course.

Like many psalms, Psalm 100 begins with a call to sing praises to God, and rightly so, as Yahweh is deserving of all praise and glory (vs. 1 - 2).  We do the same thing in most churches, opening the service with hymns of praise to the Lord. Rather quickly, though, our unknown psalmist reminds his readers and listeners a very important truth, that is as applicable today as it was several millenniums ago.  In verse 3 he gives words of admonition to us, reminding us that God is God, not us. He created us, we didn’t. He is the Shepherd and Leader, we are the flock.

At the time of the writing of this psalm, the people of Israel frequently succumbed to the temptation of worshipping the false gods and idols of the nations around them.  The prophets continually told the people that Yahweh, alone, is God. He is the only God. He does not share His deity with any other man-made gods. He is not one of many, or even chief among many other gods. Today there are religious leaders who like to lump Jesus in with all sorts of other religious teachers and figures from other religions. They teach that they all are good, and that all paths lead to God. As our psalm indicates here in verse 3, the Lord Yahweh, alone, is God.  Jesus is not one of many. He, and He alone, is the only way to eternal life.

Next, our psalmist goes on to say that Yahweh created us, not we ourselves. This message is one that should be noted by all those who live and act like they are self-made men and women, who feel they alone are in charge of their lives. God is the Creator of all mankind. We did not evolve from some other form of life. As our Creator, He has the final say in our lives, not us. Both the prophet Jeremiah, and later the Apostle Paul spoke of how God is the Potter and we are the clay (Jeremiah 18:1-6; Romans 9:20-21).  The clay does not tell the potter what to do. The potter decides that. God is the Creator, and we are the created.

For those who have turned to Jesus, calling upon Him for salvation, God is also our Shepherd, and we are His sheep.  Like a good shepherd, Jesus guides and protects us (John 10:11-14). Who decides in what fields the sheep graze, the shepherd or the sheep? Who decides when to go in and when to go out, the shepherd or the sheep? The shepherd, of course. Who should make the decisions at home, the young children, or the parent? We, as God’s children and sheep of His pasture, need to humbly submit to our loving Heavenly Father. Do we live as if we are the center of creation, and everything revolves around us?  Be sure to make God the center of our life. Then, if everything else is lost, we still have Him.

Our psalmist continues on by instructing us to enter God’s gate with thanksgiving, and into His royal courts with praise (vs. 4).  Gates differentiate between being outside or inside. We are to enter God’s gate with words of thanks, and to enter into His presence with words of praise.  Praise and thanksgiving are the first step in entering into God’s presence. They are like a divine password. Do you want to be in God’s presence? Then we need to come with praise and thanksgiving!  They are the door leading to His throne room.

As our psalm ends, we are reminded that God is not an angry or distant God (vs. 5).  He is love itself, with a heart of goodness. God is good, absolutely perfect and holy.  He alone is the standard of all righteousness. All that God does is just and right. He is our Creator and our Shepherd.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Price Of Disobedience

Numbers 27:12-23

Our Old Testament Scripture passage today from this week’s Lectionary comes at the end of Moses’ life, when he and the people of Israel are positioned on the east side of the Jordan River, at the border of the land of Canaan, the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the punishment the Lord gave to the people for believing the negative report of the spies who came back after scouting out the land, is coming to a close. They are ready to take possession of the promised land. Moses is not to enter, though. Let’s see why this is so.

As our passage opens, the Lord God called Moses to the top of a large mountain on the east side of the Jordan River.  From there the Lord tells him to view the land of the Canaanites, the land God promised Abraham centuries earlier, and which the people will shortly go in and take possession of (vs. 12 - 14).  Moses, though, was not allowed to go in to the land. Why not? After leading the people out of Egypt, receiving the Law from God on Mt. Sinai, and guiding them for forty years in the wilderness, why can he not see them into the land? After having to endure all of the people’s abuse and bad behavior these many years, one would think he deserved this reward. It is here that we read what the Lord God reminded Moses of. In verse 14 we read that Moses had failed to obey God at the Wilderness of Zin.  What happened there?

We read of this incident in Numbers 20:1-13.  From the very start, right after the people of Israel had left Egypt, and all throughout this journey to the Promised Land, the people had complained, moaned, and practically fought with Moses over their food and water.  They complained that they didn’t like the type of food the Lord gave them, or their wasn’t enough, there wasn’t enough to drink, no variety, etc. They even frequently said they wished they could go back into Egypt! Moses was frankly quite weary of them and their constant complaining and whining.  They had already refused to go into the land when the spies had brought back a report (Numbers 13-14). Now, in the Wilderness of Zin, they were complaining about the water again. When this had happened before, God had told Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water would come forth. This time, however, God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come forth.  Moses, though, was so angry and frustrated with the people of Israel, that in a fit of temper and anger he disobeyed the direct command of God and struck the rock with his staff.  In spite of Moses’ disobedience, He brought water out of the rock for the people.

That may not seem like such a big deal - speak to the rock, strike the rock. Either way, water came forth. However, this was a big deal. Once before God had brought water out of a rock when Moses had struck it with the staff.  By speaking to the rock this time, more glory would come upon God.  He would be more sanctified and hallowed in the sight of the rebellious people.  God wants and deserves our total obedience to Him. We need to remember that He is our all-holy God, and we are but His creation.  We obey Him, He doesn’t obey us. We also need to remember to not let outside tensions and stress distract us from following what God says.  Moses let his stress and anger at the rebellious Israelites frustrate him so much that he failed to follow what God had told him to do. It ended up being a costly mistake for him.  Because of this Moses could only view the Holy Land, but not enter in.

Rather than let this anger him against the people, however, Moses prayed to God that He would appoint a good, strong, and godly man to take his place when he died.  Moses knew the people well, and he knew they needed such a leader. At this point in his life Moses could have said, “Who cares?” They would deserve to get trampled when going in to the land.  That was not Moses’ thoughts. He prayed that the Lord give them a good leader, and God appointed Joshua to step in and take Moses’ place (vs. 15 - 23). After all he had gone through with these people, Moses was not angry and bitter at the end.  He was a strong and faithful man of God.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Breakfast With Jesus

John 21:1-14

What did you eat for breakfast today?  Perhaps some toast and jam, or maybe some fruit or cheese.  If you were in a hurry to get out the door you might have grabbed a granola bar, or skipped breakfast altogether.  Breakfast is generally not our dominant thought, and we would probably think that what we have for breakfast is not a concern of God.  Many Christians think that the small, trivial parts of our life are too insignificant to bother God with, and certainly breakfast would be one of these unimportant items.  However, as we read in today’s Gospel account, God did think about His disciple’s breakfast.

At the time of our passage it has been a couple of weeks since Jesus’ resurrection.  The disciples had been told to meet Him in Galilee (Mark 16:7; Matthew 28:7), and that is where they headed.  While there waiting to see Jesus, several of the disciples decided to go fishing, as this had been their previous livelihood (vs. 1-3). Following their previous practice, they took their boats out at night onto the Sea of Galilee (called the Sea of Tiberias here, the Roman name), and cast their large nets into the water, drawing them back into the boat, hoping for a catch.  As occasionally happened, they spent the whole night and caught nothing. Dawn came, and having caught nothing, the group decided to pack it up and head for shore.

Still a distance from shore they saw a fellow on the banks, who calls out to them if they had caught anything.  They didn’t recognize that this was Jesus, and responded back to Him that they hadn’t caught a thing. Jesus told them to throw their nets over on to the right side of the boat.  Still not recognizing Him, they did as He said. What a catch they now got! There were so many fish in their nets that they couldn’t pull them aboard, they weighed so much! (vs. 6).

Jesus had performed a very similar miracle at the beginning of His ministry, right there at the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:1-11).  Then, just as now, the disciples had toiled all night fishing, and had caught nothing. Jesus had told them the same thing, to cast their nets on to the other side of the boat, and they, as now, caught a large amount of fish.  John might have remembered back to that day when he gave up everything and followed Jesus. His eyes were now opened up and he recognized that this man on the shore was their Lord and Savior, and told Peter, who jumped in the water and swam to meet Him (vs. 7).

When the others in the boat arrived at the shore they saw that Jesus had a small fire going with some fish frying, along with some loaves of bread (vs. 9). He told them to bring some of the fish they have caught. After counting the fish they found that they had caught 153, a large catch for one night of fishing, and despite the heavy load, the net had not broken (vs. 10-11).  After counting the fish, Jesus invited them to sit down and have breakfast with Him (vs. 12 - 13).

Why would this be worth mentioning by John in his Gospel?  He must have had hundreds of breakfasts with Jesus through the course of the over three years that he was with Jesus.  I believe God put this in the Scriptures so that we know that Jesus cares about every part of our life, not only the big, significant issues we face, but also the small, mundane parts of our day.  Jesus loved His disciples, and He loves us. He was concerned that these men had been out all night fishing, and now that it was morning, they were both tired and disappointed. They would not have eaten since the day before, and rather than go rest or head out into the day hungry, Jesus made a meal for them.  Jesus cares when we are hungry. He cares when we are tired. He cares when we are disappointed. Jesus knew that these men were all three at that moment, and He prepared breakfast for them. He loved them and wanted to share some more time with them over a meal, which He lovingly prepared for them. There is not a single area in our life that God does not care about, whether it is the big things, like our health or jobs, or the small things, like what we eat for breakfast.  Let’s start each day thanking the Lord for caring about every area of our lives, including our breakfast.
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.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Lion And The Lamb

Revelation 5:1-14

When we look at all of the animals in the world, two which we find to be quite the opposite of each other are a lion and a lamb.  A lamb is typically meek and gentle. It is also quite helpless, and needs a shepherd to guide and protect it. With virtually no defenses of its own, if left alone in the wild it is completely at the mercy of every predator.  It can’t even run very fast, especially if its coat goes unshorn for very long. On the other hand the lion is one of the most powerful and majestic animals on earth. Its mighty roar in the wild strikes fear into everyone who hears it.  The lion is known as the king of beasts, and has been a symbol of royalty since ancient times. Two opposite creatures, and yet in our Scripture today from the Book of Revelation we see Jesus described as being both a Lion and a Lamb. Let’s look into the passage and see why this is so.

As the passage begins, John’s vision has brought him into heaven, and he sees a scroll that has been sealed with seven seals (vs. 1).  This scroll contains a full account of what God has in store for mankind in the future, and God’s plan for the end of the world. A powerful angel seeks to find someone who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll containing this information.  Who is worthy to hold eternal life and everlasting condemnation in his hands? (vs. 4). Only the Lord Jesus Christ. No one else! Only Jesus is worthy to open this scroll containing God’s righteous judgement.

It is at this moment that the angel instructs John to look and behold Who is worthy to open the scroll.  He tells John to look at the Lion of Judah (vs. 5). As John turns to look, though, he doesn’t see a Lion. Instead he sees a Lamb (vs. 6), the opposite of what he would have expected to see. Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb.  The Lion symbolizes His power and authority. The Lamb symbolizes His submission to the Father’s will. This Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes.  The horns symbolize power. Eyes see everything and have all knowledge, symbolizing the Holy Spirit. Seven is a number of completeness. Jesus has complete power, knowledge, and wisdom.  Jesus may be a lamb, but He is not weak.

He, alone, is worthy to break the seals.  He led a life of perfect obedience to the Father.  He died for our sins, and rose again with power and authority over evil and death.  Christ the Lion is victorious because of what Christ the Lamb has done. In the Old Testament lambs were sacrificed to atone for sins.  The Lamb of God died as a final sacrifice for our sins. Jesus prevails when no one else can. As the Lamb He took our sins and died for them.  As the Lion He is coming as the conquering warrior and Messiah, who will bring justice to earth.

Next John sees some golden bowls of incense (vs. 8).  Incense is burned, producing a pleasant aroma in the smoke which rises upwards.  The Scripture here describes this incense as our prayers. Prayer can bring about cataclysmic changes in heaven and on earth, and can turn any situation around.  Our prayers are like bowls full of incense, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

Next we read of a song of praise which the saints of the Lord in heaven sing to Him (vs. 9-13).  They are praising God for dying for our sins and purchasing us with His Blood. They praise Him for gathering us into His kingdom, letting us reign with Him, and making us priests.  These saints gathered and praising the Lord are from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (vs. 9). God’s message of salvation and eternal life are not limited to a specific culture, race, or country. Anyone who comes to God in repentance and faith is accepted by Him. Jesus welcomes all people.

Sometimes people get afraid when they think about the future.  With all of the terrible things happening all around the world, whether locally in our own neighborhood, or globally.  However, as believers we don’t need to fear. Jesus, not Satan, holds the future. Jesus is in control, and He alone is worthy to set into motion the events of the last days of history.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Let God Fight For Us

Psalm 35

The plot of many action movies or books is of a person or group of people who do something hurtful or malicious to another person, and then that person decides to take vengeance.  Off he goes, alone or with some companions, to execute his wrath upon them. That may make for a good movie, but as Christians we have been taught to respond with love and to forgive.  Then we come upon a psalm like our one today. As we read through it, we think, “Wow! Someone is really angry!” It seems a little out of character to even be in the Bible, God’s Word.  Let’s take a closer look at this psalm and see what we can learn from it.

Psalm 35 was written by King David.  As we read through the Old Testament, we see that David’s life was not an easy one.  He had many enemies, both before he became king and afterwards, and he was frequently either fighting them off or on the run, fleeing for his life.  He knew what serious danger was. Though we don’t know who it was attacking David, or the background situation for Psalm 35, it was something serious.  Perhaps some of you have been in a desperate situation where the attacks of an enemy were strong and brutal. The natural response is to fight back, either right away if one has the means to, or to carefully plot out something that will bring them down.

As we see in this psalm, however, David did not take matters into his own hands, even when he was being completely unjustly attacked. He gave it over to God. As we see when we read today’s psalm, David may have sounded angry in his prayer to God, but God could handle that.  God does not turn us away when we come to Him with our raw emotions. David knew that, and came to Him with everything that was going on in his life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Today he was angry and hurting from the unjust attacks he was experiencing. David presented his case to the Divine Judge to take care of rather than seek vengeance himself.

As we read through this psalm, we see that David goes from complaint about his situation (vs. 1-10), to prayer about the situation (vs. 11-26).  Then, after God intervenes, David gives praise to Him (vs. 27-28). Though there were times when David’s behavior had brought on the trouble he found himself in, like when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, or when he took a census against God’s command, in this instance the attacks against him were unjustified (vs. 7).  As a matter of fact, David reminds the Lord that he had at one time been their friend, and treated them as if they were a brother. He had helped them when they were sick, and prayed for their well being (vs. 12 - 16). Now they have viciously turned on him.

God reminds us in this psalm that He sees everything we are going through (vs. 22).  If there is someone unjustly attacking us for whatever reason, He sees it and is aware of it.  It is not hid from Him, nor is He oblivious. The Lord will answer our prayers in His timing and with His wisdom.  We need to be sure that any seeming delay does not cause us to doubt or resent Him. Our prayers are powerful if we pray for what is right, good, glorifying to God, and beneficial to His people (vs. 24).  The Lord delights in such prayers. His first priority is our spiritual well-being and growth. He loves us and will provide for us, even in hard times.

Just as David did, God wants His children to take a stand against evil and sin. He will help the persecuted, and will bring judgement to unrepentant sinners. Don’t fight our battles on our own.  Turn to God, and have Him come to our defense. The Lord will hold bullies, abusers and worse accountable to Him. Fight them with prayer!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

From Persecutor To Preacher

Acts 9:1-19

Have you ever felt that there was someone who could just never get saved, that they were either just too bad, or else they opposed the Faith too strongly? Maybe there is some vocal and outspoken atheist, or an active member of another religion that has fought and opposed Christianity, and you believe they could never be saved.  Today we read perhaps one of the greatest salvation stories ever, certainly one of the most pivotal in Church history.

Just prior to the beginning of our Scripture passage, Stephen, a early church leader in Jerusalem, had been stoned to death by the Jewish religious leaders, setting off a strong persecution of believers and followers of Jesus there.  A young man named Saul, (later known as Paul) who was a devout Jew and Pharisee, had approved of the execution of Stephen, and fervently joined in with the persecution of the Church. Saul would burst into homes, searching for Christians, and haul them off to prison, casting his vote for them to be executed (Acts 8:1-3; 26:9-11).  This terrible persecution caused many believers in Jesus to flee Jerusalem and Judea and move far away. However Saul wasn’t content to just let them go. No, he wanted to track them down, even hundreds of miles away, and wipe them off the face of the earth. It was while journeying to Damascus with the intent of finding and destroying all Christians there, that Saul met the One who would turn his life around.

While journeying to Damascus, Saul was literally knocked to the ground by a bright light and he heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him (vs. 3-5).  Jesus asked him why he was persecuting Him. Jesus appeared to Saul (Paul) and brought him face to face with the truth of the Gospel. Saul acknowledged Jesus as Lord, confessed his sins, and surrendered his life to Him, resolving to forever follow and obey Him.  Even though Saul was persecuting Christians, Jesus said he was persecuting Him. There is an inseparable union between Christ and His followers. If someone hurts His children, they hurt Him.

Saul was temporarily blinded by the bright light, and was brought into the city of Damascus.  Meanwhile, we meet another very important person, although one only briefly mentioned in Scripture, the believer Ananias.  The Lord spoke to Ananias, telling him to go to a certain house, and there he would meet Saul of Tarsus. He was to pray with him and restore his sight (vs. 10-12).  Ananias was naturally quite afraid. Saul was a very well-known persecutor of the Faith. Ananias was a leader of the church in Damascus, and would have been one of his targets.  He knew why Saul was in town. However, the Lord alluded to what had happened, and Ananias obeyed. Even in his fear, he trusted the Lord and fully obeyed. Ananias didn’t doubt that such a man like Saul had been could become a believer, since when he came to Saul he called him “Brother” (vs. 17). He knew that God can, and does, reach even the vilest of sinners.

We never hear about Ananias again.  He was available and obedient to God’s command.  Of course, we hear much about Saul (Paul), and how he was instrumental in bringing the message of Christ throughout the Roman Empire. However first it was Ananias who ministered to Saul, prayed with him, restored his eyesight, baptized him, and brought him to other believers. Christians should not only be saved, but also totally surrendered and obedient to Christ. Ananias was, and Saul would also be. God chose and would use Paul to convey His grace to all men - Jews, Gentiles, royalty, common folk, and slaves.  One should never ask the Lord to save them, and then act as if they want Him to stay out of their lives.

As our Scripture today shows, there is no one who is “too bad” to get saved. Saul was probably the greatest enemy and persecutor of the Church at that time, yet the Lord turned him around and made him one the greatest Christians.  No one is beyond God’s saving grace and mercy.