Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Beware Of False Teachers

Colossians 2:6-15

Following someone who teaches you the wrong things or way about something can get a person into a lot of trouble.  Learning the wrong way to load, unload, and clean a firearm could be dangerous. Being taught to mix different strong, chemical-based cleaning solutions could be deadly.   Being taught the wrong things about God, sin, and salvation is also a very serious mistake. The church in Colossae had been visited by some false teachers who were trying to instruct the believers there in some very false teachings, and part of Paul’s letter to the church was to clear up these wrong beliefs.

Among other things, these false teachers were instructing the believers here that in order to be saved one must be circumcised and faithfully follow the Jewish ceremonial Law.  Paul was adamant in telling the Colossians that this was not the case. False teachers get people to believe in lies (vs. 8). They rob people of the truth of salvation, and of blessings.  False teachings, which do not follow God’s Word, are empty lies and worthless deception. Circumcision symbolized man’s need for the cleansing of the heart. It was the outward sign of cleansing of sin that comes by faith in God.  When we get saved, we have a spiritual circumcision of putting off the sins of the flesh (vs. 11-12). The outward affirmation is believers baptism. Baptism parallels the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and it also portrays the death and burial of our sinful old way of life, followed by a resurrection to a new life in Him.  Today false teachers might be telling people that we need to do this or that in order to get to heaven, or to please God we must eat or not eat certain foods. The only thing one must do in order to be saved is believe that Jesus died for your sins, and to call upon Him as your Savior (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). Our commitment to God is written on our hearts, not on our bodies.

Paul continues to teach the Colossian Christians some basic doctrines and teachings.  One was to review in their minds the doctrine that Jesus is both God and man (vs. 9). Jesus is God incarnate.  Jesus was not a god-like man, nor a man-like god. He is God-Man. He is both fully God, and fully man (John 1:1, John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-8).  Everything was created by and for Jesus, and is under His authority - all nations, governments, and rulers (vs. 10).  Everyone will one day bow the knee to Him (Philippians 2:10). Jesus alone holds the answers to the true meaning of life because He is Life.  He is the source of knowledge and power, for the Christian life.  We are complete in Him, for as born again believers, we have Jesus’ perfect righteousness, and full sufficiency of all heavenly resources for spiritual maturity (vs. 10).

Another basic teaching Paul brings here is that before we accepted Jesus as Savior, we were “dead in our trespasses” (vs. 13).  We were totally devoid of a spiritual life. Only through our union with Jesus Christ can those hopelessly dead in their sins receive eternal life. By Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, God totally erased our sin debt, and made our forgiveness complete (vs. 14).  A crucified man’s crimes were written down,and then nailed above his head on the cross. Jesus had “King of the Jews” written above Him on the cross (Matthew 27:37).  When Jesus took upon Himself all of our sins, they were nailed to the cross (vs. 14). The cross spelled the doom for Satan and all of his demons (vs. 15). Satan was defeated at the cross.  Jesus won the victory!

Paul also taught us in this passage today that our daily conduct should reflect our faith in Jesus (vs. 6).  Our life and behavior should be patterned after the Lord Jesus. Our faith should be rooted in sound doctrine, not the false teachings that were infiltrating the early church, and also infiltrate churches today (vs. 7).  We need to be built up and established in sound doctrine. Paul warns us to refuse to listen to ungodly advice or false philosophies so popular in the world, along with worldly values (vs. 8). As a plant gets its nourishment through its roots from the soil, so we should get life-giving strength from Jesus.  The more we do, the less we will fall victim to false teachers.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Lord Completes What He Begins

Psalm 138

Have you ever worked on a large jigsaw puzzle, one that has 1,000 pieces or more?  Some people are good at those, and are especially patient and can work them to completion.  Others get frustrated and after awhile quit, and put it all back in the box. Some people like to read really long novels, while others get tired of them and never complete the story.  Others may find an art project such as a painting or sculpture, or a sewing project appealing. Have you ever started something like that, but never finished it? Completion. In our psalm today King David reminds us how God does not leave things uncompleted.

When we go through a particularly difficult time, a time of problems and troubles, we might feel like the Lord has forgotten about us.  We might feel as if we have been set aside, like an unfinished puzzle, art, or sewing project. King David, who wrote this psalm, probably felt like that at some point in his life.  However, the Lord let him know that was not the case, and at the end of this short psalm, David shares with us that the Lord will perfect or complete that which concerns us (vs. 8).

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we give our lives over to His care.  However, when those big problems in our life happen, we may feel that He has given up on us, that we’re like that project that gets shoved aside and forgotten.  Or we feel like we are in American football, where our life is the ball that has been passed into the hands of a player who is to take it and run to the endline goal.  However part way there, the opposing team tackles him and the ball is dropped, never making it to the end. Let me assure you, God has a firm hold on the ball, on you, and He will make it all the way to the end, to complete the play.

David knew that God would never abandon him, nor forsake the work of His hands.  Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, reminded the believers there, and us as well, that God began a good work in us when we were saved, and He will complete it until the day the Lord returns (Philippians 1:6).  God has a purpose for each of our lives. He promises to never leave us, and He will fulfill that purpose for our lives. Oh yes, Satan will try to thwart that purpose. He, like the opposing team in that football game, will try and stop that purpose from being completed.  God is bigger and more powerful than the biggest, burliest football player ever, and He has a firm grip on us. He will safely carry us to the end. He will take care of us! We are not forgotten!

The Lord never gives up on us, either.  We may give up on a project, but God doesn’t.  As the Lord spoke to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:1-6), we are like a clay pot that a potter makes.  If it isn’t turning out right, the potter remakes the object. That’s what God does with us. He doesn’t just toss us aside.  (Isaiah 64:8).

Even when we walk in the middle of trouble, surrounded by them, God’s right hand will reach out and save us from our enemies (vs. 7).  He is mighty to save us, and to calm us with His love (Zephaniah 3:17). We can rest in this promise. No matter what our problems are, God promises to save us in the midst of them.  We need to lean upon Him.

How can we be sure of this?  Because God has promised this to us in His Word.  As David said early in this psalm in verse 2, God has magnified His Word above all His Name.  God’s Word, the Bible, is supreme above everything else in the world. The Bible is not just any “good book”.  It is God's Word. It is His holy revelation to humanity. Our confidence and hope should rest in nothing less than the Lord and His Word.  God is the One who has begun a good work in us, and He is the One who will carry it on, not us.  What the Lord begins, He completes.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Be An Intercessor

Genesis 18:20-33

Many people, at some point in their lives, have spoken a word or interceded on behalf of someone, perhaps for a relative or close friend.  Most of us who are believers have prayed to the Lord for others, including interceding for a loved one’s salvation. In our passage this morning from the Book of Genesis we read of an occasion when Abraham interceded for the residents of a city, and especially for his nephew and family.  Let’s take a closer look at this passage.

Earlier in the chapter God had promised the aged Abraham and his wife Sarah that within a year’s time they would have a son.  Now they are walking beyond Abraham’s tent compound, and the Lord shares with Abraham that because of their great wickedness, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed.  The sin of these two neighboring cities was so great that it had reached a point of no return (vs. 20). However, even though God knew how wicked they were, He was going to give them one last chance to repent, and He sent two angels in the form of men to give a last warning (vs. 21-22).  Even today, with how evil the world is quickly becoming, God is waiting to give men the opportunity to turn to Him (II Peter 3:9). He does not want anyone to perish, but rather, that they would turn to Him.

Abraham knew that his nephew Lot and his family lived in the city of Sodom.  He also must surely have known that those two cities were dens of iniquity. If God was going to destroy those cities, his nephew would die too, and of course he didn’t want that.  Though Abraham knew Lot was far from perfect, he had not fallen to the level of his neighbors. Would God destroy him, too? Abraham knew through his close relationship with Him, that Yahweh was a merciful God, and that He would make a distinction between good and bad.  So Abraham stepped out in faith, and began to intercede on behalf of his nephew, any other righteous residents, and really on behalf of the whole city. He knew God’s character, that He could only do what is right, and that He is above reproach (vs. 23-25).

Abraham pleaded with God, asking for the city to be spared if 50 righteous people could be found in there.  Though the Bible doesn’t give the populations of either city, they were substantial cities at that time, and Abraham pleaded if only 50 be found.  As the two continued to talk, Abraham pleaded down the amount of righteous to be found, for 45, then 40, 30, 20, and finally if only 10 righteous be found, would God spare the cities (vs. 27 - 32).  Abraham was not trying to be crass or manipulative. He was humbly and compassionately interceding, not only for the life of his nephew, but for the whole population. The count had gone down from 50 to 10.  Abraham knew how wicked Sodom and Gomorrah were, and also knew that Lot was not a good or effective witness there.

Judgment was inevitable (vs. 33).  Abraham knew that God is just, and that He will punish sin.  When he left the conversation he knew that God would be kind and fair.  He knew that God was merciful, as well as just. God does not take pleasure in destroying the wicked, but He must punish sin.  God is both just and fair.  We may ask for what we wish, but God’s answers come from His perspective.

Like Abraham did, do we pray and intercede to God on behalf of the lost?  Do we plead with Him for the salvation of our relatives? Do we hear about all the terrible things that happen in the “big cities”, and just shake our heads and complain about the wickedness there, or do we lift them up to God in fervent prayer?  Abraham prayed and interceded for the souls of these residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. His prayers spared the lives of Lot and his family. Many of our friends and relatives are spiritually lost and on their way to an eternity in hell, without God.  They desperately need our prayers for their salvation. There is a wicked world out there on a fast, steep, slippery descent into destruction. Our own community, and the cities near us, all need our prayers. Like Abraham did, we need to pray for the lost.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Martha And Mary

Luke 10:38-42

Today’s Gospel reading from the Lectionary of this past Sunday brings us to a short but insightful passage from the Gospel of Luke.  It tells of the account of two sisters, Martha and Mary, and what activity in our life that the Lord considers most important. Let’s take a look at what our Scripture passage has to say.

As our passage opens we read that Jesus and His disciples have arrived at a certain village (vs. 38).  This village was Bethany, which was immediately to the east of Jerusalem, and right next to the Mount of Olives.  Bethany was also the home of three very dear friends of Jesus, Lazarus, and his sisters Martha and Mary. When the three hear that Jesus is in town, of course they invite Him to stop by their home.

Martha, who was possibly the older of the two sisters, seems to have been the housekeeper in the family, one who loved to have a perfectly kept home, and was an excellent hostess.  When Jesus arrived in the home with His twelve apostles, she goes into action with preparations for a nice meal for them. Martha certainly wanted to set a nice table! Jesus and the apostles would total thirteen, and who knows whether there might have been others who were not apostles, but also followed Jesus around faithfully.  So there was plenty to do, much food to prepare to give them all a really good meal.

As Martha gets busy in the kitchen preparing food to feed her numerous guests, her sister Mary sits down at Jesus’ feet to listen to His teachings (vs. 39).  Martha has a lot to do, with food to prepare, the fire to get going in order to cook and bake what she is making. Perhaps she has to make a trip to a grocery store in order to get more food.  There are dishes to set on the table, pots and pans to wash, more food to prepare. Martha was getting into a tumult, fussing about with all the many details that were too elaborate and not necessary (vs. 40).

As Martha keeps passing the doorway to the room where Jesus and His apostles and disciples were, seeing her sister sitting there listening to Jesus teach God’s Word, she gets more and more irritated.  Here she is, all by herself in a hot kitchen getting food for a crowd, setting a nice table for the special guests, working herself ragged, while Mary is just sitting around doing nothing to help! Martha finally had enough, and goes in to complain to Jesus.  Maybe He’ll tell her to get up and start helping!

However, that was not what Jesus did.  He, in a gentle and comforting way, told Martha that she was getting all worried and frazzled about things that weren’t really necessary (vs. 41).  Jesus and the apostles didn’t need an elaborate banquet. Yes, they needed to eat, but His words imply that something simpler would have been fine, perhaps even just soup and sandwiches, and something cool to drink.  Jesus told her she didn’t need to get so worried and troubled about being a perfect hostess. He goes on to say that Mary has chosen what is really important, and that choice will not be taken from her (vs. 42).

The one thing necessary is an attitude of worship and meditation, listening with all of our heart and mind to Jesus.  We were created to have a deep and intimate relationship with God. Works of service are important, but never more important than spending quality time in fellowship with God.  Martha thought that Mary’s worship of the Lord was inferior to her service for Him. However, she was neglecting Jesus by being too busy. Don’t get so busy doing things for Jesus, that you never spend anytime with Him.  If we don’t spend any time with Him, the service we do is really only self-serving.  When that happens, the service is only busy work, and is done without any devotion.

Sometimes we may have to leave some things undone in order to have fellowship with Jesus.  We may also be misunderstood and resented when we say “no” to certain tasks or committees we are asked to do by other church folk.  Time in private fellowship with Jesus is more important. “Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Reconciled With God

Colossians 1:21-29

Occasionally we hear of a couple who are estranged from each other, not speaking, and possibly physically separated from one another.  Sometimes this happens between parents and teenaged or older children, where there is no communication, no connection between them. Going to a marriage or family counselor, or to a clergyman is often suggested.  Sometimes such alienation happens in the workplace or between neighbors. A mutual friend or co-worker can sometimes help work things out. When this happens between nations, the ambassadors or a neutral third country’s leader might try to work for peace.  In our Scripture passage today from Paul’s letter to the Colossians we read how all of mankind was alienated from God, and what was done to rectify this condition.

As Paul writes to the Colossians, he reminds them that before they were saved, they were alienated and enemies of God (vs. 21).  That is the case with everyone. Before we were saved, we were all enemies of God. We were all sinners, and had turned our backs on Him.  Sin corrupted our way of thinking about God. Wrong thinking leads to sin, which destroys our thoughts about God, leading to alienation from Him.  Unbelievers hate God, and resent His holy standards because they love wicked works. We all lived as God’s enemies, with wrong thinking and evil behavior.

However, as Paul continues on, he shows us that God did not leave us in that condition.  He did not want man to remain alienated from Him. God sent His Son Jesus to reconcile us to the Father (vs. 21-22).  Jesus’ death on the cross paid the full penalty for the sins of all who believe, making reconciliation possible. Any sin is enough to cause us to need Jesus for salvation.  Apart from Him there is no way for our sins to be forgiven and removed.  Because of Jesus, who reconciled all who believe, we are no longer enemies of God.  On our own we would be condemned. However, Jesus died for us, and now presents us holy to God, without blemish, and free from accusation.  He is our mediator between ourselves and God (I Timothy 2:5).

Paul continues on by instructing us that we need to root ourselves in the faith and hope of the Gospel, to persevere to the end (vs. 23).  Rather than defecting from the faith, true believers remain solid on Christ and faithful to Him. Paul also teaches that when the Church suffers persecution, Christ also suffers, as we are part of the Body of Christ (vs. 24).  Jesus’ enemies never get their fill of inflicting injury on Him. When they persecute believers they are really persecuting Jesus. Whatever persecution Paul suffered, he would endure, as he wanted to benefit and build up the Church.

There were false teachers in the church at Colossae, and one thing that they were teaching was that spiritual perfection was a secret, hidden, and very exclusive plan that only a few privileged people could discover.  However, Paul shows us that through Christ, God’s plan of salvation was made open for all (vs. 26 - 27). Jesus lives in the hearts of all who accept Him as Savior, whether Jew or Gentile. We who are born again believers, have almighty God, Creator of all, the One who holds authority over the power of the enemy, living inside of us (vs. 27).  Because of the finished work of the cross, we are now one with Christ, and co-heirs of His glorious inheritance. God’s presence is inside of us, and so is His power to deliver us.

Paul wished to correct the Colossians wrong beliefs and practices, and to teach them correct ones (vs. 28).  He wanted to present them to God as fully mature believers. The word “perfect” here means to be complete and mature.  To be like Christ. All believers should strive to be spiritually mature.

Have you been reconciled to God, or are you still at enmity with Him?  We like to have peace between ourselves and others, especially family members.  How much more important is it then to have peace between ourselves and Almighty God?  Jesus bought that peace with His Precious Blood on the Cross, and if we just call upon Him as our Savior, we can be reconciled to God.  Call upon Him now, and have peace with God.

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Believer's Lifestyle

Psalm 15

When we were children, and in school, the teachers would often ask a question, and want the students to answer.  In our psalm for today, King David brings up a frequently asked question, and then gives an answer. He asked who the people were that could reside in God’s tabernacle, in His dwelling place.  David then proceeds to give the qualifications of one such person.

As we look into Psalm 15, we see in answer to the question of who could dwell with God, David lists three positive answers (vs. 2), then three negative ones (vs. 3).  He gives three more positive ones (vs. 4), and three more negative answers (4-5), along with a guarantee (vs. 5). Let’s take a closer look at the qualifications that a believer and follower of Jesus should have.

First, David says that a believer’s lifestyle should show integrity (vs. 2).  His deeds and actions show justice, and his word is true. David continues on describing this believer.  He doesn’t speak unkindly of others, nor does he do them any harm (vs. 3). A believer won’t dump reproach or unnecessary scolding or criticism upon others.  A reproach is sharp, cutting, scornful speech about others, either behind their backs, or to their face. A person of integrity will not take part in this. There is both honesty and gentleness in their character.  This person will do what they promise, even if it is difficult, when it is no longer convenient, or when it hurts.

The character of one who can dwell with the Lord is one who rejects a vile or reprobate person (vs. 4), but respects the people of God.  He loves whom God loves, and rejects those whom God rejects. A vile or reprobate person is someone who is totally disinterested in spiritual things.  A genuine believer will know what kind of impact that type of person would have on their walk with the Lord, and they would not have a close association with them (I Corinthians 15:33).  We emulate those we spend time with, so we need Christian friends.

David finishes up the characteristics of this type of godly person.  This person will hold themselves accountable (vs. 4). He is not fickle, is not greedy, and cannot be bought (vs. 5).  Nor will he charge exorbitant interest rates if he loans money to anyone. When he sees fellow believers have a genuine need, he will help them, with love being the only motive, not making interest. He is loyal and consistent, not faithless or unreliable.  Nor does he consciously bring difficulty upon others.

As we see, someone who is truly saved should show some degree of ethical integrity and moral responsibility.  One thing that should identify a Christian is how they control their speech. They should speak the truth, refuse to slander, and keep their promises (vs. 3-4).  We need to watch what we say. Our standards for living should not come from evil society, but from God.

This list may sound impossible to achieve, and it is if we try to on our own.  That is why we need a Savior. We will not realize our need for a Savior until we understand how far we have fallen short of God’s holiness (Romans 3:23).  We must depend upon Jesus. He is the only one who can cleanse our sins, and give us His righteousness so that we may dwell in His house. Only when we depend upon Jesus can we strive to become the type of person that David was describing in this psalm.

After reading this psalm, we who are believers need to ask ourselves, are we trustworthy and honest in all that we do?  Are our words true? Do we speak the truth in love? We need to live in such a way that when people think of honesty and integrity, they will think of us.  We need to be such a person that when it comes time to make up our tombstone, they could put the words “He (or she) was an honest person” on there.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Nothing Is Impossible With God

Genesis 18:1-14

Think of some men who are 100 years old.  You’d be rather surprised if you heard they were going to be a father soon!  A woman who is 90 years old becoming a mother would make the news headlines! Both Bob Hope and George Burns lived to be 100.  Imagine if after their 100th birthday they cradled a newborn child of their own in their arms. Though she’s over 90 now, how surprised would we all be if Betty White had announced a few years back that she was going to be a mother!  Impossible! In the natural, yes, but not with God. In our Scripture passage today, we will see just such a scenario.

As our passage opens, Abraham is sitting underneath some trees outside his tent door.  As he looks out he sees some men coming by. As was the custom of the day, he goes to greet them and offer them hospitality.  Abraham invites them to come and refresh themselves by his tent, offering them food and drink (vs. 1-8). Little did Abraham know, as is alluded to later in this chapter, that these are two angels and a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord God, also called a theophany.

Many years earlier God had promised Abraham a child, which we read about in Genesis 12:2, 13:16, and in 15:4-5.  That was many decades earlier, and he only had the child he had fathered off of a slave girl, no child from his true wife, Sarah.  At the time God had first made the promise of a child to Abraham and Sarah, it still would have seemed highly unlikely, as Sarah was past the usual age for having children.  Now it was not only unlikely, it was outright impossible. However, as Abraham and his guests sat beside the tent, the Lord asked Abraham where his wife Sarah was. Abraham answered that she was in the tent, and then God told him that his wife Sarah would have a son (vs. 9-10).

Sarah, just inside the tent, heard this conversation, and she laughed (vs. 11-12).  Imagine, a 90 year old woman having a child. She had long since passed the age of childbearing.  That was passed many decades earlier. Abraham was an old man, too. He was 100. Even when Sarah was young enough to have children, she had never been so blessed.  She had been barren. Sarah probably remembered back to hearing Abraham tell her of what God had promised many years ago, that he would have children, many descendants.  That was years ago, as well, and still no children. Sarah had given up hope. Now this guest of theirs, sitting outside their tent, goes and says that by this time next year they would have a son!  Ha! That’s a laugh, she thought, and proceeded to laugh out loud. The Lord God then asked Abraham why his wife laughed at this. Embarrassed, Sarah denied it, but God knew, and He corrected her, telling them both that nothing is too hard for Him (vs. 13-14).

Is there anything that is too hard for God to do?  A woman bearing a child at age 90! Who designed and constructed the human body?  God did. So if He decides He wants to make an adjustment in Sarah’s body so she will be able to conceive at this advanced age, He is quite able to do so.  Who made the molecules that make up water? God did, so He is able to make water part on two sides so a group of people can walk across on dry land (Exodus 14:21-22).  He can also make it possible for Jesus or Peter to walk across water (Matthew 14:22-33). The Lord God created the stars and planets, laying them out where He wills in the heavens.  If He so chooses, He can stop the earth’s rotation with no ill effects so that it seems the sun and moon are standing still (Joshua 10:12-14). God also created all of the animals, so if He so chooses to give a donkey speech one time (Numbers 22:28-31), or a fish to swallow a man whole (Jonah 1:17), or a hungry lion to not harm a man (Daniel 6:22) He can do just that!

What major difficulties are you facing today?  Is there some problem or health concern looming as large as a mountain in your life, one for which there is no answer that seems humanly possible?  Go to the Lord in prayer, believing that He can do the impossible. One year after the events in our Scripture today, Sarah, at age 90, was holding a son of her own in her arms, one that she, herself, had given birth to!  God asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” The answer, of course, is No!

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37

The Gospel reading from this week’s Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer brings us a parable of Jesus that is familiar to many people: the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Let’s look into this passage of Scripture and see if we can learn something new, something which the Lord might wish to teach us.

As our passage opens, a lawyer is asking Jesus some questions regarding the Jewish religious law (vs. 25-29).  He is a self righteous man, and not genuinely asking questions with an open, honest heart. He only wished to stir up more controversy between Jesus, the Pharisees, and the religious leaders.  They are discussing the two great laws in the Old Testament Scriptures, that of loving God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind, and loving one’s neighbor. The lawyer then asks Jesus who constitutes his neighbor (vs. 29).  The Pharisees felt that only people like themselves were their “neighbors”. Sinners (especially tax collectors and prostitutes), the Gentiles, and Samaritans were to be hated and avoided. The Pharisees had elevated hostility towards these people to where they felt it to be a virtue.

Jesus then answered him with a parable, a story meant to teach a spiritual lesson.  A man is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. The distance between the two cities is about 16 miles (25 km).  However, in that short distance one descends over 3,300 ft. Jerusalem is at an elevation of 2,474 ft. above sea level, and Jericho is about 846 ft. below sea level.  The road between the two cities was a rocky and winding one, and was notorious for having thieves hiding behind large rocks and bushes. One tried not to travel the road alone, but as we see, this fellow was, and he became a victim of an assault and robbery, and was left barely alive (vs. 30).

As Jesus continues, two people come by separately, first a priest and later a Levite, both members of the Jewish clergy (vs. 31-32).  What luck! One would think and hope that of all people, a clergyman would stop and help. However, that was not the case. The priest barely gave the severely injured man a passing glance and hurried by.  The Levite came a little bit closer to get a better look, and then likewise went on his way. Their fellow man was of no concern to them. They didn’t want to get dirty, or contaminated and unclean by someone else’s blood.  They had other things to do and didn’t want to be delayed. They also didn’t want to put themselves at risk of being likewise attacked.

Then a little while later a Samaritan came by, and he decided to help the injured man (vs. 33-35).  An important thing to note here is that the Jewish people hated and despised Samaritans. They looked on them as a mongrel race, as Samaritans were descended from Jews of the northern kingdom of Israel who intermarried with Gentiles.   Both groups hated each other, so this wasn’t just some thoughtful person stopping to help another. It was not likely that any Samaritan would bother to help a Jew, and it was unthinkable for a Jew to want a Samaritan to even touch him!

This man’s own people, especially his own religious leaders would not stop to help him, yet here a Samaritan stopped to help, which would have been a risk to his own safety.  He tended to the man’s injuries, cleansing the wounds and bandaging them. Then he lifted him onto his own donkey, walked beside him and held onto him so he wouldn’t fall off the animal.  The Samaritan paid for a room in an inn, and sat up taking care of him that night. He then paid for additional nights, giving the innkeeper instructions to take further care of the man, promising to pay any extra that was spent.  The Samaritan was the one, not the priest nor the Levite, who showed loving kindness like God does to us, and is what He wants us to show others.

We each have a responsibility to be a neighbor to everyone, especially to those in need.  When we fail to do this, we often find it easy to justify ourselves, just as I’m sure the two religious leaders did.  That is never right. In answer to the lawyer’s question to Jesus as to who is our neighbor - our neighbor is anyone, of any race or social background, who is in need.  Love is acting to meet that person’s needs, showing them mercy, whether or not it’s convenient, safe, or costs us (vs. 37).  Jesus’ closing statement is one we need to take note of today. He said to him, and to us, “Go and do likewise!”

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Things We Should Pray For

Colossians 1:9-14

Christians have both a privilege and a responsibility to pray for others.  Of course we pray for our friends, family, and others when we know they have a specific need.  Perhaps they are ill, just lost their job, or have some other pressing concern. We pray for them then.  What about when someone has no specific need? What can you pray for then? Here in our Scripture passage today Paul lists some things that he was praying for the believers in the church in Colossae.  These are things we can pray for our fellow Christian friends and family, for our pastors, missionaries, and for ourselves, as well. In this passage of Colossians, Paul lists some of the things that he is praying for the believers there.  Though I’m sure that if he knew someone there, or in any of the other churches he helped to establish, who was sick or needed a job, or some other specific need, he would have prayed for that. However, we’ll see what Paul felt was of primary importance.

Paul’s focus in praying for other believers was primarily for their spiritual growth.  He hated to see any believer remain spiritually immature, a baby Christian in their faith or knowledge of God.  As we look at this passage we’ll see several specific things he listed in his prayer to God for them. First, Paul prayed that the believers be filled with knowledge, specifically knowledge of God’s will (vs. 9).  Where do we find a knowledge of God’s will? We find that in His Word, the Bible. God reveals His will to us primarily through the Scriptures, so if we want to gain more knowledge of His will, we need to be studying the Bible.  We need to study it with wisdom and spiritual understanding, which was the next thing Paul prayed for the Colossians. Wisdom is the ability to accumulate and organize principles from the Scriptures, and understanding is the application of those principles to one’s daily life.  God doesn’t want us to just read the Bible, a chapter a day, and check it off our “to-do list”. God wants us to learn from His Word, and to apply what we read to our lives, thus gaining spiritual discernment.  We need to walk in His ways and obey Him if we want to know His plan for our life.

Paul prayed that the Colossians would walk worthy of the Lord (vs. 10).  Believers should live in a way that is consistent with their identification with the Lord who saved them.  Our conversations, our conduct, and our character should be consistent with that of Jesus, living in a manner that represents Him with honor.  Paul prays that we walk in a manner worthy of Jesus, pursuing a blameless life like the Savior.

We should be bearing fruit, and spiritual fruit is a product of a righteous life (vs. 10).  Our fruit should have an eternal impact, and influence those around us for God’s kingdom. There should be spiritual growth in our life.  There is something wrong when a newborn baby doesn’t grow, and the same is true of a newly saved Christian. There should be growth. Paul prayed we would grow, and increase in our knowledge of God.  We are to increase in our love for God, His Word, and others, developing a more perfect obedience to Him, a strong spiritual foundation, and a growing faith.

As we grow as Christians, Paul prays that we will then be strengthened with His power for patience and longsuffering during the trials we will face (vs. 11).  We should be giving God thanks for qualifying us to be partakers of His inheritance (vs. 12). We are only qualified through the finished work of our Savior. Our inheritance is everything we have and will receive through Jesus.  We should also primarily thank Him for delivering us from the power of darkness and into His Kingdom (vs. 13).  Jesus has freed every believer from slavery to sin by His sacrifice of shedding His Blood on the cross (vs. 14).

When we pray for others and for ourselves, of course we want to remember any specific needs they have, such as illness, family problems, etc.  We also can pray these prayers like Paul did, for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. For fruitfulness, strength, and joy, with thanksgiving for the inheritance we have through Christ.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Divine Guidance

Psalm 25

Life is filled with decisions.  When we are little, most decisions aren’t too important - what game to play with our friends, what TV show to watch.  As we get older, our decisions become more critical. We decide whether to go on to college or get a job when we graduate high school.  We decide what to study, who to date, who to marry, what jobs to apply for, whether to buy a house or rent, etc. Since these decisions are important, we often seek the advice of people we trust.  Christians should also seek the Lord in prayer for His guidance and direction. In our psalm today, we read how King David also sought God’s guidance in every area of his life. Since we all frequently need guidance throughout our life, let’s look into this passage of Scripture.

King David knew that he needed God’s guidance every hour of every day (vs. 4 - 5).  He had a kingdom to run, had armies to lead against the enemies of his people and enemies of God, and knew that he needed the guidance of the Lord.  He always looked to God for direction. David was a teachable follower of God.

We, most probably, are not running a nation or leading armies like David was.  However, we need the guidance and leading of the Lord for decisions that we make in our daily life, as well.  We receive guidance from God when we want to be guided.  God’s primary guidance system is from His Word, the Bible.  When we are willing to seek Him, and learn from His Word, when we fear God, He will give us specific guidance (vs. 8 - 9, 12).   If a Christian believes that God is leading them in a certain direction, they should take the time to seek His mind on the matter in prayer, and listen carefully to what and where the Lord would lead.  Following our own path and our own way can be a very serious mistake, often costly in many ways, sometimes even deadly.

As King David would come to the Lord for guidance and leading, he knew that he needed to keep his life free from unconfessed sin (vs. 11).  He knew that, like all of us, he committed sins, and that he needed to bring each fault to the Lord in confession. A mature Christian has an increased sensitivity to sin.  He consistently will go to God, asking forgiveness for his wrongs. David also speaks of fearing the Lord (vs. 12). To fear the Lord is to recognize God for who He is - holy, almighty, righteous, pure, omniscient, omnipotent, all-wise.  We then also see ourselves for what we are - sinful, weak, frail, needy. When we have both straight, He will show us His way.

God offers His intimate and lasting friendship to those who have reverence for Him, and worship Him (vs. 14).  If we turn to Him in our problems (vs. 16 - 17), giving them to Him, seeking His help, God can turn those problems into victories, into something wonderful.  We need to bring all of our sorrows and sins to God (vs. 18).

If we want to make a straight line of footprints we should not focus our eyes on our feet.  If we do, the line we end up making will be very crooked by the end. Instead, we need to look ahead at an object, and then walk towards it.  The same is true in our spiritual life. We must not be focusing on ourselves or on others. Instead, we need to focus only on Jesus (vs. 15).

As David closes the psalm, he brings up two virtues, integrity and uprightness, that are so important and so rarely seen today (vs. 21).  Uprightness is learning God’s requirements and striving to fulfill them, and wanting to walk in God’s way. Integrity is being what we say we are, being a person of his word.  These are two virtues that should be developed in all believers. As we seek to find God’s will in our lives, as we seek His guidance and leading, we need to be praying and listening for His voice.  We need to fear the Lord and keep all known sins confessed. We also need to live with integrity and uprightness, and keep our eyes on the Lord.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Choice Of Blessings Or Curses

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

Many years ago I was at a party where there was a treasure hunt.  The guests were divided into several teams, and each team was given a series of clues to follow.  We had to follow these tricky, often difficult clues to find the “treasure” at the end. Several of the teams never made it to the end.  They were not able to reach the goal or the prize. It was beyond them, and unable to be obtained. Our Scripture passage today is from the Book of Deuteronomy, and here God tells us that we have a treasure that is not hidden from us, not something that is too far away, nor too difficult to obtain.

Here in the Book of Deuteronomy, the people of Israel have spent the past forty years traveling through the wilderness after escaping from slavery in the land of Egypt.  They are now on the east side of the River Jordan, ready to enter into the land promised to them by God. Moses is giving them some final instructions, as he will not be with them in the Promised Land.  The Book of Deuteronomy contains these last words of Moses, reminding them of the Laws that God had given them years earlier when they first left Egypt.

We all have choices to make, and these choices will bring results.  Choose option A and you get a certain result. Choose option B and you get another result.  We see this all over. Mix one set of ingredients and you get a cake. Mix other ingredients and you get spicy chili.  You can’t mix the chili ingredients and expect to get a cake! In our Scripture passage God tells people that they will receive blessings from Him if they obey His Words and follow Him with their whole heart and soul (vs. 9-10).  There is cause and effect. People wonder why their lives are so messed up and in a wreck.  We look around at the world today and wonder why it is in so much trouble. God clearly states here that when we obey His Words and follow Him, then He will bring His blessings upon us.  We can’t act one way and expect to get a different result.  We choose option A, and we will get that result. Chose option B, and we get it’s result.  We can choose to obey God and receive His blessings, or to disobey Him and face His judgment.  God loves to rejoice over His obedient children, rather than pronouncing curses for those who disobey.  The choice is ours, it’s up to us.

People often then ask how can we know what God really wants.  Some say that God is a mystery, and we have no way of knowing what His will is.  God’s Word, the Bible, contains His commandments. It contains everything necessary to know His will, and everything necessary for the salvation of our souls.  God’s Word is not hidden from us or beyond our reach (vs. 11-14). It is not hidden from us like the hidden treasure I needed to find at that party I attended. We do know what God wants us to do, and how He wants us to live.  His Word is right with us, if only we would bother to read it.

As we finish off the second decade of the 21st century, the full Bible has been translated into 683 languages, the New Testament into 1,534 languages, so just about everyone on earth would be able to read God’s Word in a language they could understand.  With the Internet available to multiple millions, the Scriptures are available to them online in multiple languages. No one can say that they cannot know what God wants from us. It is here in His Word. It is not hidden from us. His Word, the Bible, is available to everyone, if only they would accept it.

We all need to remember our past, when we lived in disobedience to God.  Remember that, and make the right choice to follow Him. To choose against God brings emptiness, pain, and death.  To choose God brings blessings, fulfillment, and life. Enjoy salvation and blessings by loving God and obeying His Word.  God’s Word is right available for everyone to read. It is not too difficult to understand, nor is it kept locked up, far away from everyone.  Everyone on earth is invited to accept God and His Word. But only those who choose to accept His invitation and obey will receive His blessings.

Friday, July 12, 2019

On A Mission From God

Luke 10:1-12, 16-20

Sometimes at a person’s job, the workload becomes so big that it is difficult for one person to do alone.  Where I worked as a secretary at a foster care agency for a number of years, the workload of the caseworkers was so huge that it was impossible for them to get done what they needed to each month for their cases.  They really needed more caseworkers, but with the budget, the agency could never afford to hire more. The need was great, but the workers were few. We see that in our Scripture passage for today from the Gospel of Luke.

As our passage opens, Jesus is sending out a large group of disciples, two by two, to go into various different villages to prepare the people for when He would later come to them (vs. 1).  There were many more dedicated followers of Jesus than just the twelve apostles. Here, there were 70 followers who were available and willing to go out on a short preparatory mission trip to villages in Galilee and Judea.  There were a lot of people who Jesus needed to reach with His message before He would go to the Cross, and it was more than just the twelve could handle. As we look around today, we see thousands, millions, who need to hear the message of Jesus and salvation through His Blood.  How can we reach them all? Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord will send more dedicated workers into the “fields” to win more souls for Him (vs. 2). There is work enough for everyone!

When we go out to bring God’s message of salvation to the world, there is often hostility, sometimes even dangerous opposition.  Jesus told these 70 that they were like lambs going out among wolves (vs. 3). It was the case back in Jesus’ day, and is certainly the case today, as well.  We must be careful and be alert, but not face our opposition with similar hostility. We must come to them with love and gentleness.

Jesus proceeded to give these 70 disciples some instructions for going out with His message (vs. 4-9).  The disciples were not to burden themselves down carrying all sorts of personal items (vs. 4). They were to depend on God to provide for their needs.  The instruction to “greet no one” may sound strange, even impolite. In that era and culture, a proper greeting was an elaborate ceremony with many formalities and often even a meal, which could cause a long delay.  If one was on an urgent mission, one could be excused. Jesus’ instructions indicated that there was a shortness of time and an urgent task that they had. The time is even shorter today. Jesus’s return is imminent.  He could come at any day, and there is an urgent need to get the Gospel out to those who haven’t heard.

Jesus continues with His instructions, telling them that they were not to waste time moving around or seeking more comfortable housing.  They were to accept the hospitality that was given them, without being picky (vs. 7-8). Jesus’ message is more important than our own personal comfort.

As we all know, the Gospel is very often not well received by unbelievers.  When that happens, we should leave them. Jesus warned, though, that those who have had the Gospel clearly presented to them, and have rejected it, will have greater judgment (vs. 10-12).  Those who reject the message of the Gospel reject God, and will face guilt and condemnation (vs. 16).

When the disciples returned they were excited with their results.  Even demons fled at the Name of Jesus! (vs. 17) Jesus is the source of the authority that makes demons subject to genuine believers.  Demons shudder at the Name of Jesus, and must obey. His Name and Word are powerful, and He has given us power in His Name. Jesus has already conquered evil, and because of that, we can live without fear (vs. 19).  Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world (I John 4:4). Jesus has given us authority, but if we fail to take up our position in Christ, we will feel overwhelmed and defeated.

As the disciples rejoiced with the tremendous results they had, Jesus reminded them that the most important thing was that they were saved and their names written in heaven (vs. 20).  Even more marvelous than power over demons and healings, is the salvation of souls. That is the point of the Gospel!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Bearing Others Burdens

Galatians 6:1-10

Imagine walking down the road and you come across someone who is overloaded with items they are struggling to carry.  They have their arms filled with many things, and heavy burdens on their back, as well. The kind and helpful thing to do would be to offer to help carry some of their packages.  And if we see them stumble while carrying this load, would we not have compassion, and hurry to help them? In our Scripture passage today from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia, he urges them to be doing this in the spiritual realm, as well.  Let’s see what we can learn from God’s Word.

As Paul begins this passage, he pictures a believer who has fallen into some type of sin, one that the person is struggling to overcome (vs. 1).  So often in a community of believers, what happens then is that the person is condemned, with his fellow Christians circling with rocks in their hands, ready to stone him.  Paul says “No!” That is not what is to be done. Godly believers should, in love, help to restore that person who has fallen into sin.  It is to be done in love and humility, so that our conduct is constructive and not destructive.  We need to be careful, as well, as it is so easy to fall into sin ourself.

How is the Church supposed to respond when one member of the body is weighed down with a heavy burden, whether it is financial, in their family, or some other need?  Often the response is to look away, pretend they don’t know. Again, Paul says that should not be the case (vs. 2). Christians have a responsibility to help other believers who are having difficulties and problems.  The Law of Christ Paul mentions is the Law of Love. Love fulfills God’s law (Galatians 5:14; John 13:34; Romans 13:8, 10). We freely give of ourselves to help fellow believers in their need, just as Christ gave Himself to us.  The Body of Christ functions only when the members work together to help each other.

Paul continues on, teaching us that we should not be concerning ourselves with someone else’s walk in the Lord, but rather be concerned with our own (vs. 4).  We should not compare ourselves with others, or compete to see who is the better Christian. We need to be concerned with our own responsibility before God. Some people like to point out others faults to feel better about themselves, or for reassurance that they are doing well.  We should not look at others, but be focusing only on Jesus. He will inspire us to do our best, and will comfort us when we fall short. We are all dependent upon God’s grace. Measure our progress by the Lord’s standards, not others, and make sure we are walking according to His will.  Then we will reach out with compassions to other believers, not trying to undermine them in jealousy. God has transformed us into a new person, and we should live like it. Then we can give spiritual help to others.

Paul then proceeds to teach an important spiritual truth, that of sowing and reaping with regards to our lifestyle and behavior (vs. 7 - 9).  Some Christians falsely believe, and even teach, that our lifestyle as a Christian doesn’t really matter. God does care immensely about our conduct and motives.  We reap what we sow. Actually we will reap more than we sow, will continue to reap, and reap later than we sowed. We bear the consequences of our choices for a long time - either for good or bad.  Every action has its results. We may think that our sins will go unnoticed by anyone, including God. That is not so. God sees. He is not mocked. If we sow to the flesh, giving in to our flesh’s evil desires, we will bring corruption and decay.  Sin always corrupts.  It makes a person progressively worse in character.  The flesh wants to live and act apart from God. We will reap our sins.  As God said in Numbers 32:23, our sin will surely find us out.

If we live in obedience to God we will reap a harvest of blessings and joy.  Sowing to the Spirit accepts God’s truth into our mind and heart. Sometimes we may despair, as we are living right but still facing so many problems, and wondering where are blessings are.  Our blessings will come in due season (vs. 9).  The right season may not have come yet.  We may look at our apple tree in March or April, wanting apples, but it’s not the right season yet.  Maybe looking in the summer for a pumpkin, but we have to wait till October. Our blessings will come when the season is right.  Don’t give up! We will reap!

Are we sowing to the flesh or to the Spirit?  We plant seeds that will affect what type of person we will be.  What kind of seeds are we planting? Keep on doing good, and trust God for the harvest.

Monday, July 8, 2019


Psalm 66

Has there ever been an occasion when you prayed to God, asking a request of Him, and then heard nothing from the Lord?  There are several reasons why one might not get a response from the Lord for one’s prayers, and in our psalm for today, the Scriptures gives one of those reasons.  Let’s look into this passage and see what we can learn on this topic, and a couple of other topics highlighted in the psalm, as well.

At the end of his psalm, our unknown psalmist declares that if he keeps sin in his heart, the Lord will not hear when he prays to Him (vs. 18).  This doesn’t mean we can never make a mistake. God understands our weaknesses. However, we must repent of all known sin in our lives, and avoid continuing in them.  When we defy God, and deliberately and rebelliously commit sin, He puts us in something akin to a “time out”, just like a parent does, and He won’t “hear” us. When a parent punishes a child for some wrongdoing they have done, the child may cry and squawk all they want, but the parent doesn’t “hear” the child until they have learned their lesson.

Since we continue to commit sins, large or small, after we’ve been saved, we must continue to confess them to the Lord as soon as we can. We might not always remember every sin we commit, but we should have an attitude of confession and obedience.  True confession requires us to listen to God, and to want to stop doing what is wrong. When we refuse to repent, or when we cherish some special sin of ours, we build up a wall between ourselves and God. It is that wall that blocks our prayers from being heard and responded to by God.  Our prayers will be hindered if we refuse to heed the Holy Spirit’s conviction when we sin. God blesses obedience, not stubbornness. When we do confess, and strive to live in accordance to the Word of God, we don’t have to wonder if God hears us when we pray (vs. 19-20). He reassures us over and over in His Word that He does.

There are a couple of other points that our psalmist brings out in our psalm for today that I would like to mention.  In verse 10 he says that God has tested us like when silver is refined. When silver or other precious metals are refined, they are put into very hot fire which brings out the impurities, which are then removed.  This process makes a much purer silver or gold. In like manner trials can refine our character if we allow them to (vs. 10-12). They can bring us wisdom, help us to discern truth, and give us the discipline to do what is right.  Above all, these trials can draw us closer to the Lord if we allow them to. Job learned the lesson that his trials would make his character like gold (Job 23:10). Another psalmist knew that his afflictions helped to keep him on the straight path with God (Psalm 119:67).

One final point that our psalmist brings up which I would like to look at is one of making and keeping vows and promises to God (vs. 13-15).  How many people make vows and promises to God when they are in some deep trouble? They vow this or that if God will only deliver them from what trouble they are in.  “Oh God, help me! If You will only rescue me I promise I will do ……..” As soon as they are out of the trouble, however, the promise is forgotten and the vow not kept.  Our psalmist here remembered his promise, and is prepared to keep it. We don’t know what brought about his vow to God, but whatever it was, once it was over, he remembered his promise and is faithfully going to carry it out.  Have we ever made a promise to God? Most of us have. Have we kept that promise? What about promises we have made to others? Are we diligent to keep them, as well? A person of integrity will keep their promises to others, and especially to God.

Like so many psalms, this one is filled with praise.  It summons us to sing praise to God. God is worthy of our praise.  Praise to God is the highest occupation anyone can have. We recognize that God is King on His throne.  Our whole purpose in coming before Him is to bring praise. God has saved us. He has delivered us. He has bestowed countless blessings upon us.  God has always remained faithful!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Resting In God's Lap

Isaiah 66:10-16

What a beautiful sight it is to see a mother lovingly hold her young child in her lap!  Maybe she’s nursing the child, or gently rocking the young one, softly singing a lullaby.  Perhaps she’s reading a picture book or playing a simple game like peekaboo. If one had a loving mother these sights can bring back comforting memories.  In our passage of Scripture today from the Book of Isaiah, God’s love and comfort is compared to that of a loving mother.

Throughout Israel’s history, the people cycled between faithfully following the Lord and straying away in disobedience and idolatry.  After the kingdom split in two, the northern kingdom of Israel as a whole strayed away from following the Lord permanently, though there was always a faithful few here and there that stayed true.  The southern kingdom of Judah continued to waver back and forth, sometimes true to God, often not true to Him. Due to their unfaithfulness to Him, both kingdoms (at separate times) were punished by God, where He allowed the land to be conquered and the people taken into exile.  Judah would eventually return to the land, but the northern kingdom of Israel never would.

The Lord spoke to His people through the prophet Isaiah, telling them that there would be a time when He would gather His people to Himself, all believers, Jews and Gentiles, just like a mother gathers her child into her arms.  God will be to His believing people like a mother who holds her children on her lap, delighting in them and they in Him, just like a nursing mother (vs. 10-11).

When a child gets into serious trouble, a father might give up on the child or get furious.  Many times that is the case, whereas the mother, instead, weeps for her child, ready to believe in and hope for him, believing the best.  It’s her baby. God did not forsake Israel, even when they sinned and went into exile. When we fall into any sort of sin, we need to come to God in repentance, just like a sorrowful child comes to their loving parent and is forgiven.  Perhaps our earthly parents were not so loving or forgiving, and we may fear God will be harsh like they were to us. God is the perfect loving parent to us, and He will gather us into His arms in love and forgiveness, if only we would come to Him!  Just like a mother knows how to soothe her child when no one else can, so God can comfort us in any distress.  He can give us perfect peace when we trust Him (Isaiah 26:3).

The picture Isaiah paints is one of peace.  The peaceful scene of a mother and baby in her arms.  Or a peaceful, gentle river that comes flowing in, bringing strength and blessing to thirsty souls, Jewish and Gentile (vs. 12).  Blessings will come to those who faithfully follow God, but wrath to those who oppose Him. Those who refuse to come to a cool freshwater stream for a refreshing drink are out of luck and remain thirsty, getting nothing.  A bad-tempered and combative child who refuses to rest in his mother’s arms gets put in “time-out”. There will come a time when the judgment of God will fall upon unbelievers. At that time His wrath will be great (vs. 15-16).  Those who remain faithful to God will receive life, joy, and peace, more than they could imagine. The unbelievers will receive judgment and death. God cannot overlook sin, and He will punish it. The faithful will know God’s eternal blessings.

If you admit it, isn’t there times you wish you could crawl into God’s lap, and be comforted in His loving arms?  Maybe your life has been a troubled one, with many sins weighing you down. There’s forgiveness and comfort to be found in His arms.  Maybe there has been so many burdens and problems in your life. Like a weary and tired child who has had a rough and difficult day, crawl into the lap of your Heavenly Father and find rest and comfort!