Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Finish The Race Well

II Timothy 4:6-18

The words “abandoned” and “forsaken” are two of the most depressing and dismal words in the English language.  No one wants to feel abandoned or forsaken, especially if they are going through a very difficult time. This was the condition that the Apostle Paul found himself at the time of our Scripture passage today.  Yet, was he completely forsaken? Let’s look to our study for today.

At the time that Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he was in prison for preaching the Gospel.  This wasn’t the first time that he had been imprisoned. Previous imprisonments had been generally like house arrest, where he was fairly comfortable, and could receive guests.  However now, this imprisonment was in a damp, cold dungeon. Paul faced further trials for preaching about Jesus, and later would be executed. When someone faces a trial like this, it is a comfort to see supporters there, and know that others are on your side.  Paul had to go through this alone.

Was Paul depressed and discouraged because of this?  The tone of the closing of this letter was not one of self-pity or despair.  Paul could face death confidently as he knew he had faithfully carried out his calling (vs. 6-7).  No matter how difficult his fight was, he kept going. He compared his life since becoming a Christian to that of a race.  Life can be like a difficult race. Sometimes we’re exhausted, we have no more strength. It is then that we have to focus on the finish line and not quit.  That is what Paul was doing now. No matter what he had been through, including stonings, beatings, imprisonment, he never gave up doing what God had called him to, and that was to preach the Gospel.  We, too, should run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). To finish our race well, we need to keep a strong grip on Jesus, standing firm in Him (Philippians 4:1). Paul never lost his faith.  He was wholeheartedly committed to Jesus, and believed His promises. Jesus would take him through the challenges, and lead him safely home.

Paul looked forward to seeing Jesus and being with Him for eternity.  He also looked forward to the crowns he would get, one of them being the crown of righteousness (vs. 8).  The crown of righteousness will be awarded to those who live each day loving and anticipating Jesus’ imminent return, and to those who conduct their earthly lives with eternity’s values in view.  All believers have an inheritance, and it is waiting in heaven for us. There is a place reserved just for you, and no one else will have your spot.

As Paul continues in our passage, he relates how everyone has left him.  Some left to escape imprisonment and go minister to churches in other areas, such as Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus (vs. 10-12).  Others, like Demas and Alexander abandoned him or tried to cause him more harm (vs. 10, 14). Though friends and family may leave us, Jesus will never abandon us! (vs. 16-17).  He is faithful and will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Let’s look at two of the names mentioned here - Demas and Mark.  Early in Paul’s ministry, on his first missionary journey with Barnabas, Mark had joined them.  Mark was a young man then. He grew fearful and left the mission trip, which upset Paul. Now he was more mature, and Paul knew he was a faithful and useful soldier for Christ (vs. 11).  Mark started weak but finished strong. The other, Demas, had once been a co-worker with Paul (Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:14). Now, though, he forsook Paul for the love of this world’s pleasures.  He started strong, but finished weak.

When Paul stood before the Roman tribunal and received the death sentence, he was all alone.  Everyone had deserted him. Yet he stood faithful to Jesus. He was ready for death, as he firmly believed in the resurrection and eternal life.  Sometimes the Lord will remove everyone and everything we depend on to teach us to trust Him more. We learn that when all else fails, the Lord will not fail us.  He stands by us. We can always rely on Jesus.

When our life is ended, will others be able to say of us that we finished the race well, and kept the faith?  God is greater than anything we will ever have to face, as Paul could testify. Let’s give our struggles to God, and run the race with joy.

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Doorkeeper In God's House

Psalm 84

Many people have a favorite place that they like to go to get away from it all.  For some it might be a special vacation spot by the ocean, or maybe in the mountains.  Others might just like to go off to a favorite room in their house or quiet spot on their property.  In our psalm for this week we read of the favorite spot that the author had. Let’s look into this passage of Scripture and see if we might also agree with him.

Today’s psalm was written by one of the Sons of Korah, who were descendants of Levi.  They had the positions of gatekeepers and musicians in the Temple. As we read, we see that he longed to get away from the bustling world to meet with God (vs. 1, 4).  Near to the tabernacle of God was his favorite spot, where he could rest, be at peace, and meditate. He was a faithful believer, and he had an intense desire to worship Yahweh (vs. 2).   He even had a bit of envy for the birds which were able to fly away from the bustle of the world and draw near to God (vs. 3).

As we continue on in our psalm we see that God blesses those who fully depend on Him.  When life gets to be too much, and our strength is weak, where do we turn? God wishes for us to turn to Him, and depend upon His strength (vs. 5).  When we want to escape from the troubles of life, our psalmist invites us to take a pilgrimage to God. We don’t have to necessarily make an actual, physical pilgrimage to some holy spot.  It could just be some time where we seek some time with God in our heart (vs. 5), whether a day, an hour, or just a few moments.

We all go through some difficult times in life.  Our psalmist calls them going through the Valley of Baca (vs. 6).  “Baca” was a word that means “weeping”. The Valley of Baca would symbolize times of struggling and tears.  We’ve all had those times, times when we are in a valley of tears. The psalmist doesn’t want us to stay there, though.  We are to pass through it on our journey to meet with God.  Growing strong in God’s presence is often preceded by a journey through barren places in our lives.  This can be an opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness. As we go through our Valley of Baca, make sure we are heading towards God, and not away from Him.  Don’t let the time of weeping and struggle turn you away from the Savior.

Of all the special places that our psalmist could think of to go and be at, the one he desired above all else was to be in the house of God (vs. 10).  There are people who pride themselves on their grand houses, their vacation homes,whatever their riches can get them. However, thinking of all of these, the psalmist says he would rather spend one day with God than a thousand with these others, even with their grand places.  He would rather be a doorkeeper, in a humble place of service with God, than in an exalted position of power or fame in the world without Him. Where else can we experience day to day blessings than in the presence of God? Where else can we find meaning and purpose in life, or feel completely secure?  That’s where we should desire to be above anywhere else.

As our psalmist comes to the conclusion of his psalm, he reminds us that God is our shield (vs. 9, 11).  A shield protects us from the attacks of the enemy. Jesus is our shield against Satan’s attacks. If we turn to Him, He will shield us when the enemy plots his greatest onslaught against us.  God promises to be a sun for us, as well, shining His light upon us, giving us grace and glory (vs. 11). The sun brings light and life to the world. God brings light and life to those who trust Him (John 8:12).  As the sun exposes darkness, God’s glory and presence exposes sin (I Corinthians 4:5).

God’s promise to provide has a condition - it is given to “those who walk uprightly” (vs. 11).  If God isn’t meeting our needs as we think He should, either He may have a different plan, or something in our life may be a hindrance.  It may be sin or our desires may be off. God doesn’t promise to give us everything we want, but He will not withhold what is for our good.  God’s presence should be our greatest joy. It will help us to grow in strength, grace and glory.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Following The True Message

Jeremiah 14:7-22

Everybody likes to hear positive and happy things.  It is sure preferable than hearing bad news. However, what if the positive things that you hear is not true?  What if the bad news you hear is correct, but the positive report is false, is a lie?  Sometimes if you hear the true bad news, you can act upon it, and do something about it so that it might turn out better.  If you are believing a false positive report, though, thinking everything is just fine, you are deceived, and you might fall unexpectedly into something really bad, all because you didn’t know the truth.  In today’s Scripture passage from the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah, the prophet warns the people of Judah about a situation like this.

As one reads and studies the Old Testament, we see how the people of Israel and Judah repeatedly turned away from the worship of Yahweh, and instead followed after the false gods of the pagan people around them.  There were occasional, brief times when they would heed the prophets who sought to call them back to Yahweh, only to later to turn again to the pagan idols. God had always promised that if the Israelites truly obeyed and followed Him and His Word, He would bless them.  They did not keep their part, but they still expected God to keep His part.

As our passage opens, the prophet Jeremiah is confessing the sins of the nation (vs. 7-9).  He asks God to have mercy on the people for the sake of His own reputation. Jeremiah prays that God not be indifferent, like a stranger or an overnight guest might be.  The people would not repent or change their ways, and God could not turn a blind eye to their sinfulness and pagan worship. He responds that He must judge the people for their persistent and chronic sinfulness (vs. 10-12).  God tells Jeremiah to not bother to pray for them, since they will not turn from their wicked ways.

In the meantime, there were many preachers who told the people what they wanted to hear (vs. 14-18).  They preached false messages to them, telling the people that God would not bring any judgment on them.  Nobody wanted to hear Jeremiah’s message of repentance and God’s holiness, righteousness, and judgment. They preferred a message that God loves them, they were okay, and everything is fine.

We find the same thing today.  People flock to a preacher that only preach messages that make their congregations feel good about themselves and say nothing about sin and their need to repent.  They don’t want to face their sinfulness. They prefer to believe that God is only love and completely okay with them, that there is no need for repentance, ignoring His pure holiness and righteousness, and coming judgment.  They prefer a preacher that gives messages that have as much spiritual nutrition as cotton candy does. Their messages taste good, feel good, but are in reality a bunch of fluffy nothing.  The people of Judah in Jeremiah’s time, and many today, have followed and listened to false prophets, who told them what they wanted to hear, and did not follow God’s Word. God warned that these false prophets and those who follow them will be judged.

When people’s backs are up against a wall, often they will cry to God, but they do not repent of their sins or truly turn to Him.  God rejects their pleas because they only want a quick rescue, not a change in their lives. Jeremiah warned the people of coming judgment if they did not truly repent and faithfully return to God.  The false prophets said everything was fine and God would never judge them.  The people condemned Jeremiah and accepted the false preachers. They even persecuted Jeremiah, and he was put in prison.  However, what happened? Jeremiah’s message was correct. The country was overrun by the Babylonians, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people taken into captivity.

Jeremiah’s message was bad news.  The false prophets seemed positive, but their message was not true.  Had the people taken the bad news like a nasty tasting but needed medicine, they would have been better off.  There are times we need to heed the more difficult and unpleasant messages from God’s Word, such as sin and repentance.  Let’s follow all of God’s Word.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Persistent Widow

Luke 18:1-8

Are you a persistent person or one who gives up easily?  Parents and teachers try to instill persistence into children at a young age.  At an early age a parent encourages their child to not give up learning to walk, and then to learn their alphabet and to tie their shoes.  As we get older our challenges often get more difficult or carry more importance, but persistence is still important. Nobody likes to see a quitter.  What about when the odds are stacked against us and we don’t stand a chance? What about when we’ve tried something numerous times? Many times we just feel like giving up.  In our Scripture passage today, Jesus tells a parable about not giving up in prayer.

As our passage begins, Jesus told about a judge who really didn’t care about anybody except himself (vs. 2).  He wasn’t in the legal profession to help people, and obtain justice for them, particularly not for the poor. This judge had no regard for the Lord God, and didn’t follow His Word, either.  In the same town as the judge lived a poor widow. Widows in Biblical times were quite often very poor, as there were very few jobs that women could do to earn any money. There was no Social Security, and very few, if any, agencies to give help.  Unless their husband set aside a lot of money for their wife before they died, the widow was left destitute. This widow had some sort of legal problem that she needed help in getting justice awarded to her (vs. 3). This judge didn’t care about her or her problem, probably because he didn’t see getting paid much for his effort.  She was poor and she was a nobody, so why bother helping her.

However, this widow showed something that Jesus commended her for in His parable, and that is persistence.  This widow was not going to give up and drop the matter just because the judge was not initially helping her.  She kept coming back begging for his help, over and over again, and would not stop until she got an answer. It was her persistence that finally brought her justice (vs. 4-5).  Jesus then tells us to be just as persistent in our prayers to God.

In Jesus’ parable, He doesn’t give this judge as a symbol of God, but rather as a contrast to Him (vs. 6-8).  God will hear our prayers because He is just, loving, and merciful.  If this unjust judge responded to constant pressure, how much more will a great and loving God respond to His children.  We know God loves us, we can believe He hears our cries.

God wants us to be persistent when we pray.  Like the widow, we cannot depend upon ourselves to get us through our problems.  We need to trust God and His power. Sometimes, though, we don’t seem to get a response or answer to our prayer.  It is then that some people give up, claiming God doesn’t care. God may have many reasons for delaying in answering our prayers.  However, until He lets us know that we should stop praying for something, He wants us to persevere in prayer, with faith.

Being persistent in prayer, and not giving up, doesn’t mean constant repetition or long drawn out prayers.  It means keeping our requests constantly before God as we live day by day, and believing He will answer. To live by faith means we do not give up.  Persistence in prayer will help us grow in character, faith, and hope. One on one communication with God is how we strengthen our relationship with Him.

God loves to see us blessed.  He is not reluctant to answer.  He is working to give us the best.  God wants us to get closer to Him. As believers, we need to go to God in confidence.  We need to be persistent in our adversity because we have a mighty Advocate who will come to our defense.  Our prayers can bring about dramatic changes in heaven and earth, and can turn any situation around.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

God's Inspired Word

II Timothy 3:14-4:5

I love to read.  Just a quick glance through my house, and you will see that is true, as there are books everywhere.  I have a number of favorite books, which I have read several times over. Much as I love them, I would never claim that they were inspired, though.  They are just good, well-written novels. Nothing divine about them. However, that is not the case with the most beloved Book we have, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible.  In our Scripture passage today, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, we read where Paul declares that all of Scripture is inspired, and the Word of God.

So what does this passage mean?  Paul clearly states that the Bible is divinely inspired (vs. 16).  The word inspired here means “God breathed”. God was involved in every detail that was written.  God revealed His words to certain believers who wrote down His message for His people. He chose these faithful people to communicate His message to the world.  These writers wrote from their own personal, historical, and cultural context, using their own talents, language, and style, but they wrote the words God wanted them to.  The Bible is completely trustworthy because God is its true Author.

The Bible is the written record of God’s work throughout history.  It shows His nature, plan, and purpose, so we can put our trust in Him.  We can know how to live by following what He has said in His Word. Through these human writers God gave us His Word to instruct us, to guide us, and to hold us steady and true in times of trouble (vs. 16-17).  The Bible was given to us for our spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to rebuke and correct us when we sin, to train us in righteousness, to equip us to do His Will, and to shape us into the image of Jesus.  The Bible is life’s final authority, the last word on issues pertaining to God and His will. Nothing can supercede the authority of Scripture. It perfectly expresses the decrees and judgments of God. When the Scriptures speak, God speaks.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit the Bible will show us our sin, the need for salvation, and how we should live. It is the only source to show us how to be saved. Also, the Scriptures are a safeguard against false teachers, which leads us to the next thing Paul taught in our passage.

As Paul warned Timothy and us, a time will come, and we see it even today, when people reject the truth of God’s Word (vs. 3-4).  He warned that godlessness and evil will increase as the end draws near. People will follow false teachers who will teach them what they want to hear.  They pick and choose what they want to believe. They follow ungodly teachers who preach messages contrary to the Word of God. These preachers will even persecute true believers.  As we see today, there are many people who will not tolerate the preaching of God’s Word. They flock to those who preach only what they want to hear.  Don’t be fooled by religious leaders who sound wise by the world’s standards, but whose teaching is contrary to the Word of God.

Because of this, Paul urged Timothy to be faithful in preaching God’s Word (vs. 1-2).  He warned and encouraged Timothy, and us as well, to teach the Scriptures soundly. We must guard against deceit by knowing what the Bible teaches.  The faithful preacher must proclaim the Word when it is popular and convenient, and when it is not. They must bring both good and comforting messages, and also the hard rebuking of sin.  It is important for believers to spread the Gospel. That is the most important responsibility the Church has been given. We should always be ready to give a witness and a message from the Word of God.

In conclusion, the Bible is the final authority for our faith and what God’s children should believe.  The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, believed the Scriptures as the Word of God, and frequently quoted them.  God’s Word is indestructible. Many men and governments have tried to suppress and destroy the Bible, but have failed.  God’s Word still stands!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Our God Neither Slumbers Nor Sleeps

Psalm 121

Have you ever had a problem as big as a mountain in your life?  The problem is so huge and difficult, like a mountain, that you despair finding a way around it.  Probably most people have, or at least they’ve had problems that seem like daunting hills. Where do you look for help?  In our psalm selection for today our psalmist looks at the hills he faces and testifies that his help comes from the Lord.  Let’s see what the Lord will teach us from this passage of Scripture.

Travelers, particularly in the days before airplanes, trains, and smooth, paved roads, would find crossing mountains and high hills a difficult task.  Dangers could lurk in the mountains, such as robbers, wild animals, stormy weather, and dangerous terrain. Our problems can seem just as threatening. Where can we find help? (vs. 1).  Do we run to the bank or an attorney? Do we turn to a friend or relative, or look to the government? Some may be well-meaning, but none of them are a sure and reliable source of help. As our psalmist found out, the only sure and true help we will ever find is in the Lord God.  He instructs us to look to the Creator for help, not to any of creation (vs. 2).

Human help is unreliable, fallible and faulty.  In contrast, our Lord is dependable, faultless, and almighty.  He is always there and ready to help us. Have you ever felt the need to call a friend or relative, only to look at the clock and fear that they would not be awake and you would be disturbing them?  That is never a problem with God, for He never slumbers or sleeps (vs. 3-4)! God does not sleep. He does not take breaks or go on vacation. He is always there, watching over His children with care.  God is always alert and attentive to our cries. His protection is not just for a few hours a day, but is round the clock protection, (vs. 6). Though He is the omnipotent Lord of the universe, God has unending love for believers, and will never fail in protecting us.  He has also provided everything we need in order to avoid sin. The Holy Spirit directs and empowers us, and His Word enlightens our path. We should never trust a lesser power than God Himself.

When we are going through difficult or traumatic times we may not feel God’s hand. However, He is there, watching over us and helping us at the right moment (vs 7 - 8).  Regardless of what the devil brings our way, we must never give in to the temptation of feeling we are helpless. The Lord is there to help us. God has us covered and protected on every side.  Our help is wrapped up in all that God is. His protection will never cease. God will protect us throughout all eternity. We are forever safe with Him.

God doesn’t promise us a problem-free life.  But His Word does say He promises to keep our soul.  Sometimes He does allow pain in our life. God uses it to strengthen our faith, and to make us more like Jesus.  God knows what is best. His loving and gracious hand will guide us through the trials.

What we are looking at and focusing on in our life is the direction we will be heading.  When we fixate on our problems and struggles, we orient our lives around them. We need to shift our focus off of our problems, which may seem like a mountain, and put the focus on to God, who is on a higher plain.  We need to look past our problems to the One who can help us. Seek to be on His higher ground.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Wrestling With God In Prayer

Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30

Have you ever faced an event in your life that you dreaded and feared so much that you were almost paralyzed with that fear and dread?  Many of us have had an occurrence or two like that. What do we do when faced with such an event? In our Scripture passage for today from the Book of Genesis, we will see when Jacob faced a trial like this, and what recourse he took to get through it.  Let’s take a look at this day in Jacob’s life and see what we can learn and apply to our lives when any greatly feared event may crop up in our own lives.

Earlier in the Book of Genesis we can read of Jacob’s story.  He was one of twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, and a grandson of Abraham.  Esau, as the eldest, was entitled to the family birthright and the firstborn blessing.  However, Jacob was a deceiver, and he managed to trick his brother Esau in to giving up the birthright (the right to be the head of the family and spiritual leader), and also their father Isaac’s blessing for the firstborn, which held great significance.  Esau was a man with a quick and violent temper. He had sworn at that time that he would kill Jacob, causing him to flee from home, going many hundreds of miles away. That was over twenty years earlier. Since then, Jacob had a large family, and he had also grown spiritually, developing a relationship with Yahweh.  Now Jacob has taken his family and was moving them towards the land of Canaan, and then he heard that his brother Esau was coming with with a troop of several hundred men (vs. 6). Jacob was afraid of Esau. He feared that Esau had never forgiven or forgotten his deception of many years earlier.

What was Jacob to do?  Several hundred men led by violent Esau, against just Jacob and his family, and some servants.  Jacob then did what we need to learn to do when faced with dread and fearful occurrences in our own lives.  Jacob remembered what God had done for him in the past. Throughout his life God had led Jacob through many challenging trials and tests, which had increased his faith.  Jacob realized that this deliverance from Esau’s anger would be from God, not through his own strength or ingenuity. Instead of going to pieces in a panic, he went off alone to pray (vs. 24).

This was not just a quick five or even ten minute prayer.  Jacob was serious with God. His life and the lives of his family were at stake.  Not even an hour in prayer was enough. Jacob wrestled with God in deep prayer. He was not going to give up praying until he got an answer.  And while in prayer we read that a Man met him and wrestled with him until daybreak. This was not just any man, or even an angel. This was God, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ (vs. 24-26).  Jacob continued in this wrestling match with God all night. He was persistent in his prayers. God encourages persistence, including in spiritual matters.

We need to rouse ourselves when a situation calls for serious prayer with the Lord.  Pray, and pray again, and then again some more. Pray through. Jesus said to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking (Matthew 7:7).  Praying through is not overcoming God’s reluctance, for He is a prayer-answering God! It is conquering our own laziness, unbelief, and indifference.  We storm the gates of heaven, and also shape our desires until we want what God wants. It is pressing through whatever obstacles impede our petition, like the woman with the issue of blood did when she broke through the crowds to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment (Mark 5:25-34).

After this time of wrestling with God in prayer, Jacob’s name was changed from Jacob, which meant “deceiver” to Israel, which meant “he struggles with God” (vs. 28).  Jacob emerged victorious from this struggle. God gave many people in the Bible new names - Abram to Abraham, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. Their new names were symbols of how God had changed their lives.  Jacob’s character had changed. He had once been an ambitious deceiver. Now he struggled with God in prayer and overcame his fears. Let’s also be persistent in our prayers, not giving up in fear or discouragement, but press on as Jacob did, until we hear from God.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Who Remembers To Give Thanks?

Luke 17:11-19

One early lesson that good and conscientious parents try to teach their children is to be grateful to others, and to say “thank you” when someone does something kind for them or gives them a gift.  Often one might hear a parent prompt their young child with “What do you say?” when they are given a gift. No one likes to see an ungrateful and selfish adult. In today’s Gospel reading from Luke we see ten people who were given a most special gift, and what their response was.

In the course of His ministry, Jesus traveled from village to village throughout Galilee, with many excursions south into Judea and Jerusalem.  In each location Jesus would teach and heal people. As our passage opens we see Him approaching another village when a group of ten people, standing a distance away, call out to Him.  Generally when people desired something from Jesus, such as healing, they came right up to Him, often crowding Him so much that He and the disciples could scarcely move around. However this time the group called to Jesus from a distance.  That was because they dared not approach Him or anyone. They were a group of lepers and were unclean, outcast.

The disease of leprosy in the Bible was a horrible skin disease, often terribly disfiguring the one afflicted, and greatly feared.  Some scholars today do not think that what we call leprosy today (Hansen’s Disease) is the same disease as in Biblical times. People with leprosy would have to live outside of the town, away from family, friends, and the community.   Family members would have to leave food, water, and clothing at the edge of town for the leprous loved one because the leper could not come in to town, nor the family member come directly to them. They were outcasts, unclean. This would naturally lead to depression in addition to the disease itself.  Yet Jesus broke this societal prohibition, and had touched lepers before, healing them (Matthew 8:1-3). He did not hesitate to come up to them, speak to them, and actually touch them.

These ten lepers lived in a camp together, some ways outside of the village.  When they heard that Jesus was coming to town they came as close as the Levitical Law allowed and called out to Him to have mercy on them, desiring to be healed (vs. 11-13).  Jesus then told the lepers to go and show themselves to the priest. He said this before any healing took place. It was as they were leaving, that the healing took place. These ten showed faith in that they started to head off to the priest, which one must do in order to be declared clean from the disease and be allowed back into society.  They showed faith and were healed (vs. 14). Do we trust and believe God enough that we act on what Jesus says, even before we see evidence that it is so?

As our passage continues we see that only one of the ten was grateful enough for his healing that he came back to thank Jesus (vs. 15-19).  Not only were they all healed from this painful and disfiguring disease, they could now rejoin their families and loved ones. Yet only one was grateful and thoughtful enough to return to Jesus first, and thank Him.  This man was not a Jew, either. He was a Samaritan, a foreigner. Although the nine were not wrong in running off to see the priests, as that pronouncement would mean they could finally go home, they weren’t entirely right, either.  They were following the letter of the Law, but they didn’t take the chance to thank and praise God. There are many who receive God’s gifts with an ungrateful spirit. The only one who returned to thank God was a Samaritan, one who was despised by the Jews. The others were ungrateful.

Sometimes it is someone we least expect who will turn to God and give Him praise and glory.  The Lord will always accept them. Do we fail to thank God for all of His blessings, especially for salvation that brought us to Him?  We were stained and unclean with sin, yet God came to us, touched us, and made us whole. To be unthankful, to be unappreciative to the Lord God is to be diseased in spirit.  Let’s be sure to be like that one man who returned to Jesus, and give Him thanks!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Persevering Christian

II Timothy 2:3-15

Perseverance and endurance are two admirable traits for one to have.  Nobody admires a quitter. This was a quality that the Apostle Paul wanted to see in his spiritual son Timothy.  In our Scripture passage today from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we will read his encouragement, both for Timothy and for ourselves, to keep pressing on for the Lord.  Let’s take a look at God’s Word, and see what we can learn.

Paul begins our passage with the examples of three groups of people who must persevere and endure in their careers - soldiers, athletes, and farmers (vs. 3-6).  Both soldiers and athletes must go through rigorous training if they want to be good at what they do. Just as a good soldier does not get caught up in civilian life while on duty, Paul instructs us that we must not allow the things of this world to distract us from service to the Lord (vs. 4).  An athlete spends multiple hours training. They put in a lot of hard work and discipline, but they also must follow the rules. We should give our all for Jesus, but also obey His Word (vs. 5). The farmer also works hard. They worked even harder in the past, before modern equipment was invented.  They must be patient as they hope all their efforts will be rewarded with a good harvest (vs. 6). Just like all three of these people, we must keep going on, enduring, persevering to victory, despite suffering. Jesus is our model as we live our Christian life, suffering like good soldiers, pursuing the prize as an athlete, and planting seeds of truth (vs. 8).

Believers who persevere show the evidence of the genuineness of their faith (vs. 12).  The “denial” spoken of here is apostasy, not a temporary failure of a true believer such as with Peter.  These ones who deny never truly belonged to Jesus, and will be denied by Him. “Faithless” here in vs. 13 are those who lack saving faith, not those who have a weak, struggling faith.  Jesus will be faithful to save those who believe in Him. He will also be faithful to judge those who do not. Jesus is faithful to His promise to be with us believers forever (Matthew 28:20).  He will never turn His back on us. God is the One hanging on to us. He is the Faithful One. We can trust Him, for He is faithful. Even when we have a hard time believing, perhaps because of troubles we are going through, God will remain faithful to all He has promised.

Paul continues on with his message to Timothy, instructing him and us to not spend time in arguing with those who are false teachers, who try to subvert God’s Word (vs. 14).  Arguing with false teachers is foolish (Proverbs 14:7), futile (Matthew 7:6), and can be dangerous (II Timothy 2:16-17). False teachings replace the truth with lies, and will bring catastrophe to those who listen to it.

Paul also warned against causing strife or division by arguing and nitpicking over unimportant details, quarreling over words.  Some believe that when they argue over minor details they are “defending the faith”.  In reality they are harming new or immature believers and avoiding God’s order to preach the Gospel.  Great harm has been done to the Church because of useless arguments.

In closing this passage, Paul instructed Timothy, and all who preach or teach God’s Word, to give maximum effort to teach accurately and clearly, especially to counter false teachings (vs. 15).  To handle the Word of Truth correctly, we must study what the Word of God says so we can understand what it means. How can we know the truth? By reading the Word of God. In this verse, “rightly dividing” gives the allusion of a carpenter making sure he measures and cuts precisely.  When teaching God’s Word, we must be just as accurate, as we have the Word of Truth.

One day we will all stand before Jesus to answer for what we have done or not done.  Have we obeyed Him, or sought our own glory? Have we persevered in the faith with endurance?  Hopefully we will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).

Monday, October 14, 2019

Seated With Princes

Psalm 113

To be invited to a dinner party or some other elegant function where a member of royalty is also present would be an honor.  And imagine the privilege if you were selected to have a seat right next to the prince! Invitations to attend a gathering where the Queen or any of her family is present are not given to just anyone.  One has to be a very important person, or someone who is quite rich. The ordinary person will not likely ever find themselves seated beside the Queen or one of the Princes. As we read our psalm for today, though, we see that this is possible for those who love and follow the Lord.  It won’t be the royalty here on earth, but something even greater. Let’s take a look at our psalm for this week.

In today’s world most people are judged and valued by how much money they have, how big or distinguished their house and car are, where they shop and how elegantly they dress.  I have even seen this in some churches. This can leave some people feeling like they just don’t matter, they don’t count for anything. Their house is small, and falling apart, their clothes are all second-hand, and they barely have the money to scrape by.

However, in God’s eyes a person’s value has no relationship with their wealth or position on the social ladder (vs. 5-9).  We might be impressed by someone’s name, title, or how they look, but those things mean nothing to God. When people see their fortunes start to improve, and they have started to climb that social ladder, they so often start thinking proudly of themselves, and to scorn those they feel are beneath them.  God, though, has said that He will exalt the humble and humble the proud (Matthew 20:16; I Peter 5:6). He has promised to raise up the poor out of the dust, and lift the needy out of the ash heap (vs. 7). Those people that the rich and influential have scorned are exalted by the Lord God.

Those who have put their faith and trust in the Lord God have been given spiritual privileges of the highest order.  We are seated with princes (vs. 8). We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9). Princes have immediate access when others have to wait.  They can come in and see the King or Queen whenever they wish, and they do not have to wait days for an appointment or wait in a long line. We, as believers in Jesus, can draw near to the throne of God, the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  We have direct and immediate access to God.

Princes also have abundant wealth.  Their wealth, though, might not always last.  Believers have the wealth of Almighty God through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:32).  Some princes hope that one day they will come to the throne of their kingdom. Their throne, though, is an earthly one which might not always be theirs if there is a political upset.  Those who have accepted Christ will also reign with Jesus throughout eternity (Revelation 5:10). We might not ever get an honored seat next to the prince, we may have the lowliest house in the worst part of town, and feel lucky if we get a cup of coffee at the local McDonald’s.  But one day we will have a place of special honor, seated with Jesus! (Ephesians 2:6).

For all of these blessings we need to be praising the Lord, as we see at the beginning of this psalm.  We would be quick with our thanks and gratitude if we received notice from royalty. How much more should we be thankful to our Lord God?  Our psalmist urges us to praise God at all times, all day long, not just once a day or once a week (vs. 3). Another psalmist said to praise the Lord 7 times a day (Psalm 119:164).  Take little praise breaks throughout the day. That should help to change our attitude. Remember, for those who have the Lord Jesus as their Savior, whether or not we amount to much in the eyes of the world, we do to the Lord.  He has great things in store for us for which we should be thankful and praise Him.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ruth And Naomi

Ruth 1:1-17

The Old Testament account of Ruth and Naomi is a favorite of many people.  It is particularly moving for believers, knowing that a woman from a nation hated and despised by the Jewish people would be chosen and loved above others, and would become the ancestress of the great King David, and ultimately the ancestress of Jesus the Messiah.  Today’s Scripture passage begins Ruth’s story. Let’s see what spiritual truths we can learn from her and her mother-in-law Naomi.

Ruth was a young Moabite woman.  Moab was a country southeast of the nation of Israel, on the east side of the Dead Sea.  They were historic enemies of Israel from the days of Moses through the time of the Babylonian captivity.  The Moabites were descended from the incestuous union of Lot and his daughter (Genesis 19:35-37). The Book of Ruth took place probably between the years 1126-1105 BC.

As our passage opens Elimelech, a man from the tribe of Judah, left the country with his wife Naomi and two sons, due to a famine (vs. 1-2).  Though times were difficult, this was a mistake as it violated the Lord’s commands by leaving the Promised Land and seeking help elsewhere, in a pagan land, rather than from Him.  While there Elimelech dies, and soon thereafter his two sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Afterwards both of Naomi’s sons die, leaving her not only a widow, but now childless, and the two Moabite women widows, as well (vs. 3-5).  Naomi hears news that the famine in her homeland has passed and God has blessed Israel again, so she decides to return home (vs. 6). God does not forsake us when we wander, but draws and restores us with His love.

When Naomi decides to return to Israel, both of her daughters-in-law wish to go with her.  However, she urges them to go back to their homes (vs. 7-13). She is a poor widow with no family to care for her.  In that day, women could not just go out and get a job. If a woman did not have a husband or sons, they would be destitute.  There was no sense in three widows having to beg. This, though, is a testimony to Naomi’s character, that her two daughters-in-law loved her so much they wished to leave their homeland and birth families to go with her.  Of family relationships, often the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is the most difficult, yet Naomi elicited only love and devotion from her son’s wives. She let God’s love and light shine forth from her, which was instrumental in drawing Ruth to find faith in Yahweh.

Orpah decided to return home, but Ruth didn’t, deciding to stay with Naomi (vs. 14-15).  During her time of living with Naomi, Ruth had come to believe and worship Yahweh, forsaking the false pagan gods of Moab.  The chief god of Moab was Chemosh, whose worship rites included child sacrifice. By living with Naomi, observing her love for the one true God, Yahweh, seeing her godly character and hearing her testimony, Ruth turned away from the pagan gods of her people to love, worship, and serve Yahweh (vs. 16-17).  The grains of love and faithfulness that Naomi had planted in Ruth’s life produced a rich harvest of loyalty and trust. She was not going to abandon Naomi to an uncertain future, nor did she want to return to life in a pagan society, where the true worship of God was missing.

The Book of Ruth shows that no matter what one’s background is, including coming from a heathen nation, God will accept you if you turn to Him.  God’s redemptive plan extended beyond the Jews to include Gentiles. The Jews were not the only people that God loved. He did choose them to be the people through whom the rest of the world world come to know Him.  This was fulfilled with Jesus Christ, one of whose human ancestors was Ruth, the Moabitess. Through Jesus the entire world can come to know God (Acts 10:35). God accepts all who worship Him, regardless of race or nationality.  If you have not accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior, please do not hesitate another day. The Lord will accept anyone who calls upon Him, regardless of their background. And if you have already accepted Him, let’s allow our lives be like that of Naomi, where our conduct, behavior, and love will draw others to Jesus.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Faith And Duty

Luke 17:5-10

Today’s Gospel reading from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer for this past week has two lessons Jesus taught His disciples.  One lesson being about having more faith, and the other lesson being about our service and duty to the Lord. Let’s take a look at what Jesus has to say about each topic in this Scripture passage.

Jesus had just finished telling His disciples and the crowds of people following Him a series of parables.  Afterwards, His twelve apostles came to Him, asking for an increased faith (vs. 5). That is something that many Christians have prayed for.  We have all desired more faith, especially if we have been praying for a serious matter. Faith is a total dependence on God, and a willingness to do His will.  It is a complete and humble obedience to God’s will, and a readiness to do whatever He calls us to do.

Jesus told us that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, a very small seed, we could do miracles (vs. 6).  Like a tiny seed, a small amount of genuine faith in God will take root in our lives and grow. When a seed is planted, at first its growth is imperceptible.  Then it starts to grow, it spreads, and will produce major results. A tiny seed of faith is enough if it is alive and growing. We do not need more faith to comply with the Lord’s instructions, but rather genuine faith.  It’s not the amount that matters.  Our faith must be based completely on the Lord’s ability, not our own.  God can work in amazing ways through a willing vessel (II Corinthians 4:7).

God does not necessarily grow our faith instantly.  He begins with what little faith we have, and proceeds to grow that.  With each act of believing and obeying we show, God will strengthen our faith.  He will provide occasions for us to believe Him and to respond in obedience. Those occasions the Lord gives us are often what we call “problems”.  Instead of looking at them as problems, we should look at them as opportunities to grow our faith.

The second lesson the Lord Jesus taught us in this Scripture passage is how we respond when we do our service and duty to God (vs. 7-10).  Many of us know some fellow believers who love to brag about what they do for the Lord. They seem so proud of the fact that they serve in this or that ministry.  They love to boast of their long Christian service “resume”. Jesus reminds us here that we are servants. In the days when people had slaves or servants, those slaves or servants weren’t praised for what they did.  That was what they were there for. We should not be singing praises to ourselves when we’ve done nothing praiseworthy. Don’t pat ourselves on the back for doing what we’re supposed to, for obeying God.

Jesus does not want us to grow proud over the things He enables us to accomplish by His Spirit (I Corinthians 9:16).  If we have obeyed God, we have only done our duty, and we should regard it as a privilege. Obedience is not something extra we do.  Obedience to God is our duty.  Jesus isn’t saying that our service to Him is meaningless or useless.  In fact, at the Judgment Seat of Christ believers will be rewarded for their service to God (II Corinthians 5:10).  What Jesus is warning against here is those who want to brag to others about what they feel they are doing in order to try and look super-spiritual in their eyes.

Each of these is an important lesson to learn.  Let’s look for those opportunities that the Lord sends us to grow and strengthen our faith.  And let’s be sure that we don’t waste our time boasting, either to ourselves or others, about our service for the Lord, as it is really our duty as believers to do so.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Overcoming Fear

II Timothy 1:1-14

Fear is a strong emotion.  Sometimes it can work for good, such as keeping us from going down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood.  At other times it can be a deterrent from allowing us to accomplish all that we might want to for the Lord.  In our Scripture passage today we will read what the Apostle Paul counselled his protege Timothy, who had allowed fear to affect his ministry.

Timothy had become one of the main leaders of the church in Ephesus.  However there he experienced some opposition to his ministry due to his young age, his more introverted character, the message he brought, and by some, his association with Paul.  His fear was leading him to pull back from his ministry and from using the spiritual gifts that he had. When Paul heard this, he wrote to Timothy, telling him that he couldn’t allow this to happen.  Paul encouraged him to be bold and continue on, not allowing fear to take control (vs. 6-7). Timothy needed courage, self-discipline, and perseverance to hang on to the truth, and to use his spiritual gifts.  Paul did not want to see Timothy’s God-given gift for preaching, teaching and evangelism fall into disuse.

In addition to the opposition Timothy felt from those at the church in Ephesus, there were other reasons he must have had for being afraid.  When Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy he was in prison in Rome for the last time, and would be executed soon. During Paul’s first imprisonment there he was kept in a house, under house-arrest where he could freely have visitors and teach.  Now this time he was probably in a cold, damp dungeon in chains. Christians were experiencing persecution across the Roman Empire. However, Paul tells Timothy not to be afraid to proclaim Jesus’ message (vs. 8). God will give strength if one must suffer.

Fear can consume us if we let it.  Fear and timidity does not come from God (vs. 7).  He has given us a sound mind - one that is disciplined, has proper priorities, and is self-controlled, which is the opposite of fear and cowardice.  We must obey God and use the gifts He has given us. He is the one who is ultimately in control of our future. Believers are triumphant in Christ, and must act like it.  One thing we can do is to encourage and motivate others to be faithful to the Lord (vs. 6). Though God doesn’t take away our spiritual gifts, they can lose their effectiveness through neglect or misuse.

Don’t let the fear of what others may think of us make us afraid to speak out about Jesus (vs. 8).  Don’t be ashamed to name the Name of Christ because of persecution. Paul was not afraid of persecution or death because he was so confident that God had sealed his future glory and blessing (vs. 12).  Paul was fully convinced of the power of God’s truth. He knew that God will keep every promise He makes to us. We can be absolutely confident in Jesus’ provision at the cross, and that His Word is infallibly true.  As Paul says here (vs. 12), God will guard our faith and safely guard all that we have entrusted to Him, especially our souls, until the day of His return. Even in the worst of times, God is still in control. No matter what we face, we can fully trust God.

Pretty soon Timothy would be without Paul, even from a distance.  But he would have everything he needed to face the future if he would hold on tightly to the Lord (vs. 13-14).  Jesus is the foundation of our faith. God has a hold on us that is even stronger than our hold on Him. His faithfulness does not depend on ours.  Like Timothy here, our faith and resolve may waver, but we are kept by Jesus. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy, and don’t let fear control us.

Monday, October 7, 2019

What A Guilty Conscience Can Do

Psalm 38

A guilty conscience can be a heavy burden to bear.  That has been the theme of a number of older novels and movies.  When someone hesitates to confess and forsake a sin it can eat away at one’s conscience, even to the point of making one ill.  This is especially true of believers. Our psalm today was written from just such a state.

Today’s psalm was written by King David.  David loved the Lord God and desired to follow Him, but like all of us, he occasionally fell into sin.  Psalm 38 was written following one such occasion, though we don’t know the exact circumstances. Whatever this particular sin was in David’s life, he didn’t immediately go to God with it and make it right.  Instead David kept it covered up, unconfessed, beginning to fester in his soul. At first this probably didn’t bother David. He was able to go about his usual daily routine and life as if nothing was wrong.  That is the same with us. Sometimes we just want to ignore a sin we’ve committed. We want to just forget about it, thinking it is no big deal. However sin is a big deal with God, and He won’t forget about it in the life of one of His children.

David’s unconfessed sins led to health problems (vs. 1-8), and separated him from God and others, causing loneliness (vs. 9-14).  After this, David then confessed and repented of his sin (vs. 15-22). The burden of unconfessed sins can be a very heavy one. If a believer lets this condition go on and on it can sometimes make one sick.  Don’t misunderstand, not every illness is caused because of sin.  Most illnesses have absolutely no connection to any sin whatsoever.  However occasionally it does. We see this in Acts 12:21-23, when King Herod Agrippa was struck down by God with an intestinal affliction due to his pride when he did not contradict the crowds as they proclaimed him a god following a speech he gave.  Paul also mentions that some of the Corinthians had become sick when they received the Lord’s Supper with unconfessed sins (I Corinthians 11:27-32). Indiscriminately sleeping around can sometimes bring diseases. Getting into a drunken brawl can sometimes leave a person crippled.  Our sins can have physical or mental side effects that cause suffering. Sometimes God has to punish His children in order to bring them back to Himself (Hebrews 12:5-11). When we confess God does forgive, but He doesn’t always undo all of sin’s earthly consequences.

As we read through this psalm we see a man who is in distress and agony, both physically and mentally.  Unconfessed sin can weigh us down and become an unbearable burden to carry. The torment David was suffering felt like arrows piercing through him (vs. 2).  He felt sick right down to his bones (vs. 3). It was possibly even causing a festering rash on his skin (vs. 5, 7). David had no more physical strength, and he was very depressed (vs. 10).  This also caused his family and friends to turn away from David, which further increased his depression (vs. 11).

This is not a condition that anyone wants to find themselves in, and it is something that we don’t need to go through, either.  David realized that what he needed to do was to confess and repent of his sin (vs. 18). He knew that God would hear him and raise him up again (vs. 15).  Sorrow for sin brings hope. God alone is the true source of healing and protection for those who confess their sins to Him. Since believers still do sin, the easiest way to avoid going through what David did is to make sure we confess and repent of our sins each and every day.  Don’t let them start to pile up. Don’t think that we can ignore them, and that God won’t bother about them. Keep a clear conscience.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Habakkuk's Two Questions For God

Habakkuk 1:1-2:4

Our perspective matters in how we view things.  An adult can cross a room in a few quick steps, but to a little toddler just learning to walk it might take several minutes, and for a tiny bug, it can be the equivalent of mile.  Downtown Chicago can seem very chaotic from the street, but looking down from the observation deck of the Sears Tower everything seems to move in order. Being the ruler of a country or the head of a big company can seem like a dream position, but once there, it might seem like anything but a nice dream.  This was a lesson that the Lord God showed the prophet Habakkuk in today’s Scripture passage, which we will look at today.

Habakkuk was a prophet to the Jewish people, and the messages given in his book were given in the years immediately prior to the Babylonian captivity.  Habakkuk had two questions and complaints for God. The first was why doesn’t He do something about all of the sin and lawlessness going on (1:2-4). When Habakkuk looked at life from his earthly viewpoint, it seemed that God was indifferent to all the evil in the world and society.  The second question was why would God use a much more wicked nation to judge His people (vs. 12-17). God would show Habakkuk His divine perspective. Life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God. The wicked may seem to prosper at the moment, but God will ultimately right all wrongs.  He is sovereign, and everything works according to His purpose. We need to live by faith, not sight, as Habakkuk would learn.

As Habakkuk looked around, both in his own neighborhood, his country, and the world at large, he saw violence, crime, and misery.  We can see the same today. We ask why God doesn’t do something about it. However, as God showed Habakkuk, if we focus more on sin, problems, and trouble we can quickly grow discouraged and depressed.  God wants us to look to Him, instead, and obey what He tells us. God is working His righteousness even when we do not understand why He works as He does. God has not forgotten us, even when circumstances are unbearable.  He is in control and has a plan (vs. 5). Stop wrestling with unchanged circumstances and start resting in God’s unchanging character. Habakkuk trusted his uncertain future in God.

The second question that Habakkuk had for God was why He would use a much more evil and pagan nation like Babylon to bring His judgment on Judah (vs. 12-17).  God assured Habakkuk that He had plans on how He would judge Babylon. As we see, God does not always instantly judge and punish every wrong in this world.  Many times we have all asked why God allows certain people to go on with their evil behavior and He doesn’t remove them, or why He allows certain conditions to continue.  Like Habakkuk, we ask why, how long, and doesn’t God care. In His time, God will judge evil and reward good. God did judge the Babylonian kingdom when Cyrus of the Medo-Persian empire conquered them in 539 B.C., just a little under a hundred years after the time of Habakkuk (vs. 2:2-3).

Pride believes that we know better than God.  Faith knows we are completely dependant upon Him.  Justification comes by faith alone, in Christ alone (vs. 2:4).  Human works corrupt the Gospel. Faith is not a one-time act, but a way of life.  The true believer, declared righteous by God, will persevere in faith as the pattern of his life.

We need to be patient.  God will work out His plans in His perfect timing.  He hates sin even more than we do. Trust Him even when we don’t understand.  Trust God that He is directing all things according to His purpose.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Rich Man And Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

Our Gospel reading for this week tells the account of two men whose lives were so different and opposite while they lived, and continued to take opposite and different paths after each of their deaths.  The account also parts the curtain, showing very briefly a glimpse into the afterlife. Let’s take a look at this account from Luke that Jesus told His listeners.

As we look into this account we see two men who were completely different.  The first was a rich man who had it all. He had anything and everything that he could want.  The other man was named Lazarus who was homeless, had nothing, and was ill. The one thing that the rich man did not have was a saving relationship with God.  However, Lazarus did put his faith in God, and that would make all the difference. Both men died, and the tables were turned. Now the rich man finds himself in hell with nothing, and Lazarus is with God (vs. 22-23).

The term “Abraham’s bosom” was a phrase that was also used in the Jewish Talmud, and was used as a figure for heaven.  “Hades”, translated from the Hebrew “Sheol”, was the realm of the dead. In New Testament usage it always referred to the place of the wicked prior to their final judgment in hell.  Jesus, when speaking of Hades, described it as a place where the torments of hell had already begun. Some of those torments included unquenchable flames, an accusing conscience, and permanent and irreversible separation from God and everything good.  Jesus never indicates that heaven and hell are a fantasy or figures of speech. Heaven is real, and so is hell.

The rich man was in torment, in terrible anguish and agony, and all of his riches were useless after his death.  They could not buy heaven. The Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and even some today, believed and taught that wealth was a proof of one’s righteousness.  Jesus’ teachings, including this account, taught otherwise. This startled and really angered the Pharisees. The thought of someone poor and sick being in heaven was abhorrent to them.

The rich man was selfish with his wealth.  He must have known and seen poor Lazarus begging for food.  He must have known that Lazarus was sick, yet he did nothing to help him, to bring a little comfort to his life, or pay for some medical care.  The rich man was hard-hearted. How do we react when we see the homeless? Are we judgmental about how they came to that condition? Are we proud and self-righteous?  Do we complain to city officials to get them out of our neighborhood? Remember where both the rich man and Lazarus each ended up.

As the account continues, the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers to be sure not to end up where he was (vs. 27-28).  He felt they would believe if someone would come back from the dead and brought a message. This was strictly forbidden to happen. Jesus said that we have the Word of God (vs. 29-31).  If people will not accept that, they will not accept anything. When Jesus rose from the dead, most of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the people refused to believe. Jesus also would not condone or approve of any type of spiritism, including seances or calling back of the dead.

God has provided us with His Word to be the most powerful testimony about Jesus and the afterlife.  He has spoken through the Bible about the Messiah, warning about judgment, and admonishing us to care for the poor.  If the rich man’s brothers would not heed that, how could a miracle change their minds? Jesus performed miracles, including raising from the dead.  He, Himself, rose from the dead, and the religious leaders still refused to believe.

Unbelief is a moral rather than an intellectual problem.  No amount of evidence will ever turn unbelief to faith. However, the Word of God does have the power to do so.  It, alone, is sufficient. It is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Spiritual matters need to be taken care of before one dies.  Since we never know when that will be, that should be now.