Monday, March 30, 2020

Waiting For God's Help

Psalm 130

The feeling of sinking is not a pleasant one.  It can be terrifying for someone who doesn’t know how to swim to suddenly find themselves in the deep end of the pool.  The feeling of sinking can come to people when they have an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, of being deep in something over their head, such as sinking in debt, or sinking in some job, or a relationship.  Sometimes people have recurring nightmares of sinking, waking up in a fear-driven panic. Our psalm today is a plea and a cry to God from someone who felt that he was sinking. Let’s take a look at the psalm and see what we can learn and apply to our own life.

Our psalmist is in some sort of unnamed trouble or problem.  He feels like he is sinking down deep, unable to get out of this situation by himself (vs. 1).  What do we do when we are in a similar circumstance? We try on our own to find a solution, but we find we are unable to do anything just by ourselves.  Perhaps we have some friends that we can turn to, someone who is more clever than we are, or who has more resources. However, there are times we have no one we can turn to, or maybe the problem we have is more than anyone can handle.  Where do we go then? This is where our psalmist is. Where did he turn? From the very depths of his problem he cries out to Yahweh for help, pleading with Him to hear his voice (vs. 2).

Though the source of his problem is never specifically mentioned, there is a hint in this psalm that it might have been due to some sin he had committed.  The psalmist acknowledges that if God marks down all of our sins and transgressions, no one would be able to stand before Him (vs. 3). This spiritual truth that we are all sinners is echoed throughout the Bible, specifically by David in Psalm 14:1-3, by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:20, and by Paul in Romans 3:10.  However, our psalmist knows that Yahweh is a merciful and forgiving God (vs. 4), that His forgiveness is never ending. We have assurance that God will forgive us if we confess our sins to Him.

Often when we cry out to God in prayer over some desperate problem we are facing, His answer seems long in coming.  All too often we get frustrated and even angry at God. We might even be tempted to throw our hands up in despair, saying that God has forgotten us or that He doesn’t care.  Our psalmist shares another Scriptural truth here with us, that often we need to wait for the Lord’s answer (vs. 5-6).

Waiting for anything can often be difficult.  No one enjoys waiting to hear if one has been hired, following that nerve-wracking interview, or waiting for that important check to come in the mail.  When one is sinking deep in a problem, waiting for help can be very difficult. If a friend has promised help, we want them to come right away. When we have prayed to God for an answer, we don’t want Him to take long in answering.  God, though, often seems to wait a long time. Why do we have to wait? Doesn’t God see that we have sunken deep into our problem, and need the help now? God waits until the very best moment to intervene in a problem in our life. He goes by His timetable.  As we wait, we need to learn to trust Him. God may seem to be slow, but He is never late.

In closing, our psalmist urges us to put our hope in the Lord (vs. 7-8).  Our help comes from Him. He, alone, is the only One we can truly rely on.  He, alone, is the only one who can redeem us from our sins, and bring us redemption.  When we feel most isolated and distant from God, that is when we need Him the most. Our problems should lead us to confession, and then God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Always remember, as our psalmist proclaims, with the Lord there is mercy.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Can These Bones Live?

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Have you ever looked at something, or at a situation, and thought that it was beyond all hope?  Perhaps you have a person in your family, or a friend, for whom you have been praying, particularly praying for their salvation, and it seems hopeless.  In our Scripture passage for today, the prophet Ezekiel looked out at something that looked beyond all hope, something that looked completely dead, but God gave him reason to have hope.  Let’s look into this passage together.

Ezekiel was one of the prophets who ministered and preached to the Jewish people during the time of exile in Babylon.  Most of the Jewish people had been carried off from the land of Judah into captivity in the east, into the land of Babylon.  Ezekiel went with them into captivity, and proclaimed God’s Word to them there. In a vision, the Lord God brought Ezekiel to a valley that was filled with bones.  There were multiple hundreds of bones, scattered all throughout this valley. Different types of bones - leg bones, arm bones, spinal cord bones, ribs, skulls, etc.  They were all dried out, with no life in them at all.

Then God asks Ezekiel an odd question.  He asks him whether these bones could live (vs. 3).  If we were looking upon a similar scene, thousands of bones, all separated from each other, lying dried and bleached by the sun, we would answer no.  God then tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, telling them to hear the Word of the Lord (vs. 4). In Ezekiel’s vision, the bones start to come together in their right positions and they stand upright.  Muscles and skin come upon the bones. However they were still dead. There was no breath upon them (vs. 7-8).

These bones represented the Jewish people, spiritually dead and scattered.  Not only were the Jewish people taken into captivity by the Babylonians in the late 6th century BC, but years later they were scattered around the world when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Today Israel is a nation in unbelief.   They are the bones put together, with skin, but no breath, no spirit, no life (vs. 8).  The overwhelming majority of Jewish people have never accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and are spiritually dead, like these bones. However, as God proclaims in these verses, there is hope.  There will come a day in the future when the Jewish people will turn to Jesus, and acknowledge that He is, indeed, the promised Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). At that time they will then become spiritually alive, with God’s Spirit in them (vs. 14).  Until then, they are spiritually dead, like everyone else around the world who has never accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. God says, though, that though their bones are dry, and it looks like there is no hope (vs. 11), that with Him there is hope.

We can take hope from this passage, as well.  Many of us have been praying for unsaved family members and friends.  They may be so spiritually lost and gone, just like a pile of dried and scattered bones.  We may look at them, and question within ourselves, “Can these bones live?” Is there any chance that they might get saved?  We must keep praying for our unsaved loved ones. I remember an older pastor that I had, whose very elderly father was unsaved.  My pastor had witnessed and shared the Gospel with him over many years, but his father stubbornly, and sometimes angrily, refused to believe.  He seemed like dry bones, without any hope of spiritual life. My former pastor and his wife continued to pray for him over many years. Several weeks before he would pass away, though, my pastor’s wife talked to him about Jesus one more time, and his dry bones came to life.  He accepted Jesus as his Savior! People may be spiritually dead and dry bones, like my former pastor’s father, but God can always breath spiritual life into them when they turn to Jesus. When they hear the Word of the Lord (vs. 4), and accept its truth, they will come spiritually alive.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Who Are The Truly Blind?

John 9:1-41

I was looking all over for something, but I couldn’t see it.  After much frustration, my daughter pointed it out to me. It was right in front of my eyes, but I hadn’t seen it.  I might as well have been blind. How often has that happened to us, where something is right in front of us, as plain as day, but we don’t see it?  Maybe it is an item on a shelf at the grocery store, or a book on the bookshelf. Perhaps it is a spiritual truth, but our stubborn and hardened heart has blinded our mind.  In today’s Gospel reading we will read the account of Jesus healing the man born blind, and the response of the Pharisees, his neighbors, family, and himself, and see who really was blind.

As our account begins, Jesus and His disciples pass by a man who was blind from birth.  Jesus turned to him and made clay from the ground and applied it to the eyes of the blind man, and then told him to go and wash it off (vs. 6-7).  The blind man was obedient to Jesus, and he went to wash the clay from his eyes, even if it seemed unbelievable. His obedience brought about his healing, and the man was now able to see.  He stepped out in faith, doing what the Lord told him. Had the man said to himself that it was ridiculous to believe that simply washing his eyes would bring about his healing, and then failed to obey, he would have remained blind.  His obedience brought healing.

Now the problems began.  Rather than rejoicing with this miracle, the whole neighborhood went into an uproar.  We read in this passage of the different reactions to the healing of the blind man. First, there were the people of the neighborhood who were surprised and skeptical (vs. 8-9).  They had seen him day after day begging his living on the street. They were eyewitnesses to this miracle, and yet where were the praises to what God had obviously done? Then there were the blind man’s own parents.  They believed, but kept quiet for fear of the Pharisees, and fear of being excommunicated (vs. 18-23). We should never allow the fear of anyone keep us from proclaiming God’s truth.

Then we have the reaction of the Pharisees.  As we read throughout all four Gospels, these religious leaders had hard hearts, and would not believe anything Jesus did or taught.  This miraculous healing, the restoring of sight to a man born blind, was no exception. They already were seeking ways to bring Jesus down, arrest and destroy Him.  They were proud, and extremely jealous of the attention and popularity of Jesus. Here He went and healed a man born blind, which was unheard of. And what was worst of all in their minds was that He healed people on the Sabbath day!  In their minds no one could be a true servant of God and also break the Sabbath.

The fourth reaction was that of the man born blind, whom Jesus healed.  This man showed consistent and growing faith. At the first, he didn’t really know who Jesus was, only that He had healed his blindness.  When the Pharisees thoroughly, and then later harshly questioned the man, he went over the events to them, again and again. He didn’t know how or why he was healed, but he knew Jesus had healed him, and he was not afraid to tell the truth.  He said that Jesus must be a prophet, a man of God, because obviously God heard His prayers and brought healing to a man born blind.

His bold and faithful comments about Jesus angered the jealous Pharisees, and they threw the man out of the synagogue.  In the Jewish community, to be thrown out the synagogue was to ostracize someone, throw them out of the community, and shun them, sometimes leaving them with no way to make a living.  When Jesus heard this had happened, He came to the man and revealed Himself as the Messiah, bringing the man to faith in Him (vs. 35-38). The man, whose heart and mind were opened, seeing the truth as well as his eyes could now see, believed and accepted Jesus as Savior.

This man who had been born blind, and thus would not have had any formal education, demonstrated more spiritual insight and common sense than all the religious authorities combined, who sat in judgment of Jesus and the healed man.  They were blinded by their stubborn pride, jealousy, and sin (vs. 39-41). Here was a great miracle that God performed before their very eyes, but because of their sin, the Pharisees would not see or acknowledge it. Are we blind to what God is showing us before our very eyes?  Are our hearts equally hardened? Are we skeptical or indifferent, like the neighbors? Are we afraid to speak out for God, like his parents were? Or do we seek God, like the healed man did, with open hearts, and speak out boldly for Him? Let’s open our eyes, see God working around us, and boldly give Him praise and glory.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Who Are We Imitating?

Ephesians 5:1-14

Little children like to imitate their parents.  When daddy is out mowing the lawn, a young child might follow along after him, pushing a toy lawnmower.  They like to dress up like mommy and daddy, and copy their mannerisms. As parents, we hope our children will imitate our good qualities, and not any bad ones.  In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul urges Christians to be imitators of God, our Heavenly Father. As we seek to imitate Him in our life, there should be changes in our lifestyle and conduct, as Paul teaches us in our passage today.

Just like children imitate their parents, Christians should imitate their Heavenly Father (vs. 1).  If we are refusing to walk in His ways, there might be a question as to who our father really is (I John 3:10).  Paul also urges believers to spread the aroma of Christ through our life and behavior (vs. 2). Just like when a woman puts a little perfume on herself to smell attractive, Christ should so permeate our life, that His character, like a pleasant aroma, is evident.

Paul goes on to teach in this Scripture passage that certain behavior should not be practiced by believers who want to be following and imitating the Lord Jesus (vs. 3-7).  Contrary to what many people teach from the pulpits of some churches, it does matter to God what we, as believers, do.  It is true that we can’t earn our salvation, but it matters very much how our behavior is, and what our actions are.  Spiritually dead people are confused in their moral thinking. To walk in Jesus’ path we must have Biblical principles and standards.  We need to imitate and obey God. Act as He would act. Do what Jesus would do. Sinfulness and impurity is foul-smelling to Him. God’s holiness does not compromise with sin.  There shouldn’t even be a hint of such behavior, or approval of it, in the church.

How can we praise God and speak to others of His goodness when we use filthy language? (vs. 4)  There is an old saying - See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. Christians should be careful what they watch (Psalm 101:3).  We shouldn’t spend time discussing dark and evil things. We should not be listening to the false philosophies so popular in the world today (Psalm 1:1-2, Colossians 2:8).  Christians should not condone sinful lifestyles or make excuses for bad behavior. Though we can befriend unbelievers, and lead them to the Lord, we must be wary of those who are evil, immoral, and who are viciously opposed to Christ and the Bible.  God does not tolerate sin. It has no place in His kingdom, nor will any person whose life pattern is one of habitual immorality or impurity.

Our Scripture passage continues with contrasting light and darkness (vs. 8-14).  There is a contrast between worldly darkness and Christian light. One cannot claim to have fellowship with Jesus, but walk in darkness.  Christians are to be beacons of light in this dark world, showing the way to spiritual safety to the lost (Matthew 5:14-16).  Our actions should reflect our faith and God’s goodness to others.

A tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 7:16-18).  The fruit of living in the light versus living in the dark is clear.  Live as children of the light. Pursue goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Do what pleases God. Have nothing to do with darkness, and those who live in dark lifestyles.  Christians should have no participation or association in such behavior, nor give any approval to this activity.  Instead, a believer should take a stand for what is right, as often silence is seen as approval. God has moral principles which most often oppose popular culture.  We need to judge sin, and rid it from our life.

Satan seeks to destroy God’s children, and turn them as far away as possible from His image.  In light of this, Christians should seek to live in righteousness and purity, and have nothing to do with Satan’s evil ways and works.  As believers, each of us needs to take our place as sons and daughters to our Heavenly Father. We need to appropriate the shed Blood of the Lamb of God, so that we can fulfill our destiny as children of God, and walk in the Light as He is in the Light.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

Psalm 23

With all of the current fears over the coronavirus (Covid-19) going around, many are succumbing to fear and panic. Psalm 23 is one of many Scriptures we can meditate on, which by God’s blessing is the Psalm in the Book of Common Prayer’s Lectionary this week.  Today I will focus on verse 4.

Living just a couple of miles west of Chicago, I live in the “flatlands”.  However, I have driven in both the Rocky Mountains, about a thousand miles to my west, and in the Appalachian Mountains, about 500 miles to my east.  Deep in the mountains there are valleys that might only get a few hours of sunlight, remaining in shadows for many more hours of the day. Back in the day when all travel was done on foot, or if lucky, on a horse or mule, dark and shadowy valleys could be fearsome, with bandits lurking in hiding for the traveler to pass through.  Deep in the mountains there would be no hesitation for the bandit to harm or even kill the traveler.

Our life is a journey, traveling from the day of our birth to that of our death.  There are some sunny, bright days, and some not so sunny ones. Sometimes passing through valleys, and even a valley of the shadow of death.  As we all know, one doesn’t have to be old and gray for death’s shadow to come close. The shadow can come at any time in life, falling near us or a loved one.  There are all sorts of illnesses that haunt the valley of the shadow of death - cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, and countless others, including just plain old age.  Accidents haunt this valley, as well. This is a fearsome valley. Sunshine and light do not often reach here. Sudden death comes.

Death can cast a frightening shadow over us.  There is nothing we can do to permanently stop it.  At best we can struggle to put it off for a few years, perhaps, but not forever.  David, our psalm’s author, conveys that the valley of the shadow of death is a perilously threatening environment.  Death has the final word. God, the Good Shepherd, can walk with us through that dark valley of death, and bring us safely to the other side.

If we are believers and followers of Jesus, we will never walk  through these dark valleys alone. Jesus promises to be with us.  The Good Shepherd Jesus protects and guides His sheep through every twist and turn of this valley.  His rod is a shepherd’s club, used to fight off predatory animals. The staff has a crooked neck, which is used to guide a wayward sheep back from danger and into the fold again.  Both of these our Shepherd will use to guide and protect us.

God’s Word is the primary means of comfort the Good Shepherd uses.  The truths of Scripture assure us of God’s love and strength, which can enable us to endure and grow through difficult experiences.  One truth is that we can never be snatched away from Jesus’ protective hand (John 10:29). Another promise is that He will never leave us, never, even in the midst of the dark valley we travel through (Hebrews 13:5-6).  He will never leave us, including during this world-wide pandemic, so we do not need to fear. Since God is leading us, and if we are faithfully following Him, we have nothing to fear.

We need to follow our Shepherd’s voice wherever He leads, even though the valley.  Stop worrying, and believe in God. Look to the Shepherd. Listen to the Shepherd. Lean on the Shepherd.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Outward Looks vs. Inward Character

I Samuel 16:1-13

Most all of us are familiar with the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.  However, if we follow society’s lead today, we will be guilty of that over and over.  Society tells us we will be both happy and successful if we surround ourselves with beautiful and glamorous people, ones who wear the latest fashions and spend multiple hours working out in the gym, who drive fancy sports cars and have the latest I-phones, computers and televisions.  Society today also tells us that we need to check someone’s investment portfolio, their business resume, and the neighborhood they live in before we consider them worthy of associating with. Would it surprise you if I told you that God doesn’t consider any of these for His followers, or when He’s looking for someone to serve Him?  Our Scripture passage today takes a look at what man considers important in a person, and what God is looking at.

Not that long after the nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan River, entering into and taking possession of the Promised Land, they started clamoring for a king to rule over them, like the other nations around them had.  Though this was not what God desired for His people, He allowed them to have a king. Israel’s first king was a man named Saul, which the Scriptures say was a tall, handsome, good-looking man (I Samuel 9:1-2). That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  There’s nothing wrong with having a good-looking king. However, if that was the only reason the people picked him, that was a mistake. It ended up that Saul was disobedient to God and His laws, and God rejected him as king (vs. 1). Saul had the good looks and height that people desired, but not the fear of God, the character or integrity that the Lord sought in a leader.  Because Saul refused to submit himself to God’s command, the Lord handed the kingdom over to a man who would.

God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the man that God would select for the next king to replace Saul.  He sent Samuel into the village of Bethlehem, to the family of a man named Jesse, to anoint the next king from among his sons (vs. 1-5).  Samuel asked Jesse to gather all of his sons together to sanctify them. God told him that the one He picked would be the one he should anoint as next king.  Jesse lined up his many sons before Samuel, and Samuel began to fall into the same mistake that so many do, judging by appearance. When the eldest, Eliab, stood before him, Samuel was impressed by his looks, and thought surely he would be the one the Lord chose (vs. 6).  God told Samuel otherwise, that He doesn’t look at physical appearances when He picks someone, but by what’s in the heart (vs. 7).

After Samuel went through each of the sons that Jesse had presented, and he felt that God had not picked any of them, he asked Jesse if there were any more sons he hadn’t included.  Jesse admitted that there was still the youngest son who was out tending the sheep in the field, but he hadn’t thought to consider him (vs. 8-11). Jesse quite possibly didn’t think much of David.  He didn’t think it worth the bother to include him when Samuel asked for all of his sons.  David was insignificant and forgotten with his family.  As much as that may have hurt David, God’s opinion is the only one that matters.  In His eyes we are important.

God does not see or judge in the same way that we do.  We are always evaluating people by how they look. God looks only at a person’s heart, their inner disposition and character.  We have value to God, not because of our height, weight, hair color, or clothes, but because He loves us. He created us, and we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

Physical appearance doesn’t reveal what people are really like, or what their true value is.  God judges us by our faith and character, not our appearance. Since only God can see what is in our inside, only He can accurately judge us.  God checks our motives, whether what we do is for self, wanting to be seen by others, whether it is to feel important, etc.  Wrong motives do not please God. He knows the truth.

We may have made a great start in life, but that doesn’t assure us of a good finish.  We may look great on the outside, but be filled with rottenness on the inside, like a tree that looks fine, but is filled with rotted, dead pulp.  For all of the time we spend maintaining our outward appearance, we should do even more to develop our inward character, patterning it after that of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Living Water For Our Hurting Souls

John 4:5-26

She was lonely, feeling abandoned and unlovable.  Ostracized by most in society, her life was probably one of sadness and hurt.  As the phrase goes, she was “looking for love in all the wrong places”. Many people can relate with this woman to varying degrees.  Then everything changed in her life one day when she met Someone at the well. Let’s take a look at this account of the woman at the well in the Gospel of John.

Many of us are familiar with this account in John’s Gospel, of the Samaritan woman at the well, and her transforming encounter with the Lord Jesus.  Jesus’ disciples had left Him at the well to rest, while they went to buy some lunch (vs. 5-8). Usually women would come retrieve their water in groups together, and at a cooler time of day.  However, this unnamed woman came alone to the well at noon. This was probably because of public shaming due to her five failed marriages, and the fact that she was currently living with another man (vs. 17-18).  This caused her to become isolated from other women. She must have been startled, surprised, and shocked when she saw Jesus sitting there alone. Then He broke all proper social customs by asking her, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink.  Jesus wasn’t really interested in getting a drink. Rather than seeing an outcast, Jesus saw a desperately hurting soul who needed salvation, and that is what He was going to offer her. Jesus would use the water here that she was seeking to retrieve as an allegory of the Holy Spirit and the salvation He would offer.

We come into this world spiritually thirsty.  We need living water to satisfy the soul. We all have a desire for more than the world can offer, and only God can satisfy that desire.  The world only gives temporary relief. We all thirst after God, even before we are saved and know that this is what we are thirsting for (Psalm 42:1, Isaiah 55:1-3).   Jesus is the Living Water, symbolic of the eternal life mediated by the Holy Spirit from Him (vs. 10). Jesus used the woman’s need for physical water to sustain life as an object lesson for her need for spiritual transformation.  Only Jesus can satisfy this thirst in our soul (vs. 13-15).

This woman didn’t realize that Jesus was talking about spiritual needs (vs. 15).  However, Jesus turned the conversation to real spiritual needs for conversion and cleansing from sin (vs. 16).  She tried to change the subject when it became uncomfortable, but He gently guided the conversation back to God and salvation (vs. 16-20).  The Samaritan woman was interested in Jesus’ message because she thought it could make her life easier. However, Jesus didn't come to take away problems, but to change us and empower us to deal with them from God’s perspective.

Jesus knew her pain and heartache.  She must have felt worthless, abandoned, and unloved after being divorced by five husbands.  This woman wanted love and acceptance. She hurt deeply. God knows when we have deep hurt or secret shame.  He knew what she needed - to feel loved, valued, and accepted. He knew a relationship with Him was the answer.  Jesus showed us through this woman, that He will forgive us when we are willing to confess our sin to Him. We can never do anything so bad that it will cause God to love us less.  We all have an empty void in our life that only God can fill. Any attempt to fill it with anything else will only bring temporary comfort. We were created for God. Nothing else will bring lasting satisfaction.

We all keep drinking from false wells (Jeremiah 2:13).  Satan keeps deceiving us into thinking that happiness and fulfillment can be found by getting enough love, success, revenge, etc.  Only a relationship with Jesus can make us whole. He gives us Living Water that quenches our thirst forever. It is only through Jesus Christ that the whole world will ever find salvation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

An Enemy Or A Friend

Romans 5:1-11

Friends and enemies.  Most people have some of each throughout their lifetime.  Hopefully we have more of the former and less of the latter.  Some people are even blessed to have a friend who is so close, so beloved to them, that they will do anything for that person. Perhaps, if events happen, where they may lay down their life for that dear friend.  Though we may not do anything terrible to our enemies, or wish them harm, most people would never consider giving their life for them.  In our reading today from the Book of Romans, we read about what God did for us while we were His enemies. Let’s look into this Scripture passage today.

Before we trusted Jesus as our Savior, we were God’s enemies, hostile to Him and bent on sin (Colossians 1:21-22).  When we accepted Jesus as Savior, He justified us, declaring us not guilty (vs. 1). He gave us the cloak of His righteousness, and all enmity with God was abolished.  We now have peace with God. Peace with God is only possible because Jesus paid the price for our sins through His death on the cross. God declares us not guilty. Instead of being His enemies, we are His friends (John 15:15), and His children (Galatians 4:5).

When we think of people we count as “enemies”, or those we don’t like, perhaps thoughts of what they might have done to us come to mind.  We aren’t likely to make them our friends if their attitude or behavior towards us doesn’t change. Yet with God, it was while we were still His enemies, that He sent Jesus to die for us (vs. 6, 8).  God gave us the incredible gift of His love. He gave the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, so we could live in eternity with Him.  Rarely does someone give up their life for another. Yet while we were sinners, rebellious enemies of God, Jesus gave His life for us.

None of us deserves God’s care and protection, but deserving isn’t the basis for His love.  God’s nature is love (I John 4:8), which He demonstrated through Jesus’ death. The words “but God” in verse 8 reminds us that God erases the bad, and replaces it with the good.  That offers us the promise of hope, and the certainty of His love. Before our salvation we were by nature opposed to God. Our redemption changed that. We now have peace with God, and are members of His family, instead of His enemies (vs. 10).

Some may feel that they are worthless, too unlovable for God to care about.  However, God loved us, thinking us valuable enough to die for, even when we were still in our sin.  Jesus died for everyone, not just for those that the world feels are nice and good, but for sinners, which we all are.  Jesus died for us, not because we were good enough, but because He loved us. He loved us even before we turned to Him. God didn’t choose to love us because we were lovely.  He loved us, and then we became lovely.  Our value comes from God’s inherent value.  Our value does not change with circumstances.  God doesn’t love us one day, when we’re good, and then stop loving when we do something wrong.  It is based in God’s infinite and unchanging love, the proof of which is God’s sacrificial death on our behalf.

Some believers question why, if they now have peace with God, why they still have trials and tribulations in their life.  God uses the trials we continue to go through for our good (vs. 3-5). God’s grace doesn’t stop working when we get saved.  He continues to show us mercy and give us peace. Trials don’t mean that God has stopped loving us, or that we’ve lost His grace.  Our hardships have a purpose. He allows them so that we learn to persevere, develop character, and have hope. God can use our trials and difficulties for our good, to develop Christ-like character in us.  They develop our endurance, strengthen our character, and solidify our hope. It deepens our faith, and prepares us for greater service in the kingdom. God is glorified in the graces of His people. When our suffering produces endurance, endurance will produce character, and that will produce hope.  God is honored by these growing virtues.

In closing, let us remember that Jesus’ death on the Cross shields us from God’s wrath.  His Blood defeated Satan at Calvary. Jesus, who died for our sins in order to reconcile us with God, is the only reason we have access to the Father.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Count Your Blessings

Psalm 95

Today’s Psalm selection for this third week of Lent is one that is frequently used as a call to worship in morning prayers.  The second part of the psalm corresponds directly with the Old Testament reading for this week in the Lectionary, which I wrote about in my previous meditation.  These verses contain a strong warning, which we all should take heed of. Let’s look into this call to worship of the Lord God, and also the warning contained here.

Our Psalm opens with a broad invitation for God’s people to come worship, to sing songs of praise to Him.  The goal of worship is to glorify God. It begins with our attitude. In order to truly worship the Lord we must come into His presence with a repentant and humble heart, a mind that is focused on Him, and a desire to lead an obedient life.  Genuine worship requires a heart of faith, and obedience to God. We cannot properly worship without a joyful, thankful heart towards God.

We can be thankful to the Lord, for the Maker of heaven and earth has invited us to come boldly before His throne (Hebrews 4:16).  In the days when royalty held more power, one always made sure that they were properly attired in their presence. Even today, if one were given the honor to dine with the Queen, most people would never think to come without giving special attention to their clothes.  Similarly with God. Thanksgiving is the act of dressing properly to be in God’s court. We should never go into His presence without the garments of praise on.

God is our Rock, something strong, solid, and protective (vs. 1).  The Rock here also refers to the rock in the wilderness that brought forth water for the people.  That rock is a figure of the Lord Jesus, who brings us Living Water. God is also not like the made-up local gods, many of whom only “ruled” over a specific local area.  He is the Creator of the universe, and the Ruler of the whole earth (vs. 4-5). God is our Creator. We are His creation, and thus we need to submit to Him. Christians today need to return to a position and posture of respect and worship with God, remembering just Who He is (vs. 6).  He is the almighty, omnipotent God of all, not just some servant to come at our beck and call.

The second part of today’s psalm is a warning.  This warning refers back to the account in Exodus where the Hebrew people were grumbling and complaining against God, demanding Him to provide them with what they desired (Exodus 17:1-7).  They were hard-hearted and filled with unbelief. They had complained against God and His servant Moses from a few days after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, and all through the wilderness wanderings.  They were faithless and had contempt for God’s holiness and provisions. These verses (vs. 7b - 11) are here as a warning to us today. We need to be careful not to follow their example of unbelief. We need to hear His Voice, listen to it, and be careful to obey Him.

Hard ground is very difficult to plant a garden in.  It takes hard work to get it in condition for planting, often needing special equipment to prepare it.  Sometimes some areas of rock-hard ground aren’t even possible to get into condition for planting. A hard heart is even more difficult to work with (vs. 8).  God is not pleased with a hard heart, one that is not tender to His Word and work. The Israelites hardened their hearts against God in the desert, and thus were left to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. They lost their faith, complained, and whined. It is very difficult for someone with a hardened heart to become soft again, and turn to God.  These folks are stubbornly set in their ways. They have disregarded God and His will for so long.  If one resists God long enough, He may toss them aside like a worthless, hardened clod of dirt. Thus the strong warning here to be careful not to get a hardened heart!

The final warning here is the danger of not entering into God’s rest (vs. 11).  The “rest” initially referred to the Israelites entering into the Promised Land.  In the New Testament it became analogous to refer to trusting God, both in salvation, and then throughout our Christian walk with Him.  What keeps us from entering God’s rest? Having ungrateful hearts (vs. 2), not worshipping or submitting to God (vs. 6), hardening our heart (vs. 8), and testing God because of doubts (vs. 9).  Let’s remember to do what one old-time hymn calls us to do - “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done!”

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Stop The Complaining!

Exodus 17:1-7

Have you ever been on a long road trip with others, and one or more in the group starts to complain and whine?  They’re hot, they're tired, they’re hungry, thirsty, bored, etc., etc. Nothing seems to satisfy them, and the whining continues on.  Very quickly the trip becomes burdensome and unpleasant. Hour after hour, day after day, the complaining goes on and on, and tempers start to flare.  If you’re the leader of the group, if you’re in charge, the complaints are often leveled at you. Depending on who they are, it can even be threatening.  As we read today’s Scripture, we see a scenario that is just like this, and the Lord God’s response.

Not that long after the Israelites left Mt. Sinai, and were traveling in the desert, the Lord led them to Rephidim.  Here again, even though they were following where God led, following the pillar of cloud He provided to guide them, the people started complaining that there wasn’t water.  They complained so strongly against Moses, that he actually started to fear for his safety and his life (vs. 4).

How short was the people’s memory!  It had only been a few months earlier when Yahweh brought the ten plagues upon their Egyptian taskmasters.  Those ten plagues were a fearsome wonder, and it would seem very hard for someone who had witnessed them to forget so quickly.  Then there was their dramatic rescue from the Egyptians when the Lord God parted the waters of the Red Sea for them to cross on dry ground, and then closed them again over the Egyptians so they could not follow.  How could they so quickly forget that? Did they not remember that Yahweh had provided for them from that first day until now? Now they had arrived at the location the Lord had led them to, and they suddenly forgot all He had done.  When we face troubles, often we get spiritual amnesia, forgetting all that God has done for us. We need to reestablish a thankful heart, and remember His past provisions, remembering specific ways He has provided for us in the past.

Complaining only raises the level of stress one has (vs. 2 - 3).  It doesn’t solve anything. Prayer to the Lord God will help to quiet our thoughts and emotions.  It brings us into the presence of God. When we come upon trials or hardships in our life, what is our reaction?  The people of Israel started complaining, but Moses turned to God in prayer (vs. 4).

Moses didn’t even pray for water.  He came to God in concern and fear of the people, and how angry and violent they had become.  Despite all of the complaining, whining, and unbelief of the people, God loved them, and came to the aid of Moses.  He would provide the water they needed, provide it in a miraculous way, showing them that nothing is too hard for Him.  God would bring water in the desert, where no natural source of water existed anywhere around. As the people looked around, there was nothing but dry dirt and rocks, and God used a rock to bring forth water.   Moses obeyed the Lord, and struck the rock with his rod, and water poured forth (vs. 5 - 6). In spite of what would seem to be an impossibility, Moses had faith, believed God, and there was water coming out of the rock.  There are two things needed for every fruitful work - willing workers, and the faithfulness of God. We do whatever God has asked, such as striking the rock. God’s work is to make the water flow. When we do our part, God will do His.

The name of this place was called Massah and Meribah, which means testing and contending (vs. 7).   After all that God had done for them, this place and its name were to become a very poor testimony for the people.  The question the people asked in verse 7, “Is the Lord among us or not?” casts doubt on His truthfulness, and is not one believers should ever have.  God has promised to be with those who have placed their faith and trust in Him.

Only Jesus, the Living Water, can satisfy our thirst for God.  Many of the Israelites would not believe God, and had no faith (Hebrews 4:2).  When, by faith, we believe the promise of God’s Word, we can experience rivers of living water, and grace for our daily needs.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Look And Live!

John 3:1-17

Our Gospel reading this week in the Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer contains one of the most recognized and possibly most memorized verses, John 3:16.  Let’s take a quick look and study the background of this most famous and favorite Bible verse.

One evening early in His ministry, Jesus had a visitor.  A gentleman named Nicodemus came to talk to him (vs. 1-2).  He came at night, possibly for several reasons. One was that he was a Pharisee, and also a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest governing body of the Jewish people.  Jesus was already being questioned and under suspicion by the Pharisees, so Nicodemus might not have wanted others knowing he was interested in Him and His message. Also he possibly wanted a good amount of time to sit and talk to Jesus one-on-one, without being disturbed by the crowds, and night would be a good time to be alone with Him.  As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was depending upon his good works, his keeping of the Old Testament Law and his religious rituals to earn him acceptance with God and a place in heaven. He was like the many religiously devout people we all know, ones we feel are really good people, and will certainly go to heaven. Yet Jesus immediately tells Nicodemus that all of the religious good works he does is not enough for salvation.  It is not enough, and one must be born again (vs. 3).

We are all born sinners, with a sin nature, and no amount of goodness can erase or change a person’s nature.  One needs a real relationship with God, which can only happen when one accepts Jesus as their personal Savior.  We cannot get into heaven because of any good works or kind behavior. As Jesus told Nicodemus, we must be born again, to become a child of God through trust in the Name of the Incarnate Word, appropriated by an act of faith.  The new birth is when the Holy Spirit leads a person to understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross to provide forgiveness for their sins. When we accept that Jesus Christ is the only one who can redeem us, and we confess Him as our Savior and Lord, we are born again.  When we stand before God, only our relationship with Him will matter.

Belief is more than intellectual agreement.  It means to put our trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, belief that He alone can save us.  We must believe that Jesus is God’s only-begotten Son, and that He saves us by His sacrificial death on the cross.  It is more than intellectual consent or head knowledge. One must believe in their heart that they cannot earn their salvation, and trust in the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

God paid dearly for our salvation with the life of His Son, the highest price He could pay.  Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that He had bought for us.  This was the message that Jesus had for Nicodemus, and everyone He came to redeem, that we must be born again in order to enter God’s kingdom.

Jesus then points to the account of Moses in the wilderness (vs. 14).  In Numbers 21:4-9, we read of how the Israelites continued to be faithless and complaining, so God sent poisonous serpents, whose bite would kill people.  God instructed Moses to make a bronze image of a snake, and place it on a pole. The only thing that could save those bitten was not some medical treatment, but to look upon the image.  Whoever looked at this image after being bitten would live. That would hardly seem to be a suitable cure, and many did not believe. Jesus said that we needed to look to Him and His sacrificial death on the cross, and we will have eternal life.  Those who face the penalty of death and damnation (all of us), need to look to Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, and we will be saved. Many people think that is just as outlandish as looking at a bronze figure of a snake to be healed from the snakebite.  However, that was the only cure from the poisonous snake, and is the only way one can receive eternal life, by looking to Jesus.

In closing this passage, Jesus told us that God does not show favoritism (vs. 17), for His mercy extends throughout the globe.  God’s love and mercy can reach anyone. He does not select some people to enter heaven, and others to go to hell. The good news of Jesus is offered to all humanity.  We only need to accept it. As the old-time hymn says, “Look and live, my brother, live! Look to Jesus now and live; ‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah! It is only that you look and live.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Earned Or A Gift

Romans 4:1-17

Put in a hard day’s work, and we hope to be paid for all of our efforts.  That is what is to be expected. No one wants to work and not be rewarded for it.  Our salary is what we rightly feel we’re due, after a day’s work. However, if one gets rewarded without having worked, that is special.  Sometimes, especially around holidays, a boss might give a bonus check. Everyone is happy about that! In our Scripture passage today from the Book of Romans, Paul discusses working for something, and being given something as a free gift without having worked for it.  He discusses whether salvation and justification is earned or a free gift. Let’s take a look at what the Word of God says about this.

In Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, he was teaching them how we cannot earn our salvation or our way to heaven.  This was a concern back then, and still is today, when so many people think that they will go to heaven based on their works and good deeds.  In our passage Paul gives reasons why this is not so, using Abraham as an example. Abraham is the father of faith for believers, not because of good works he did, but rather because of his faith.

The Jewish people liked to believe that they were justified before God because they kept His law, particularly by being circumcised.  They felt they were justified by doing all these works.  They were also so very proud of being a descendant of Abraham.  However, as Paul questioned, when was Abraham counted by God as being righteous?  Was he counted righteous after he was circumcised, or before? Paul clearly points out that Abraham was justified, or counted righteous, many years before God gave the command to be circumcised, almost 25 years before.  Religious rituals do not earn any rewards. Abraham was blessed by God many years before the circumcision ceremony was introduced (vs. 10-12).

The only way for any person to come into a right relationship with God is by grace through faith (vs. 3).  We accept God’s gift of salvation by faith. We cannot earn it by good works. All of our best efforts won’t do.  Our works don’t work. Our finest efforts mean nothing. The only thing that matters, is if we follow Abraham’s example, and accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus by faith.  Abraham pleased God through his faith, alone, long before any rituals had been heard of (vs. 16). We are saved by faith, plus nothing.

If Abraham’s works had been the basis of his justification, he would have had every right to boast (vs. 2). If a person could earn right standing with God by doing good, it would no longer be a free gift (vs. 4).  It would be an obligation, a payment that was due. If salvation were on the basis of one’s own effort, God would owe it as a debt. We would then feel we could go up to God and say that we had earned our right to be in heaven, that God owed it to us.  In reality, though, we can never do enough good in a million lifetimes to earn the right to a minute in heaven. Our efforts are futile. All we can do is cast ourselves on God’s mercy and grace. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace to those who believe (vs 5).

The word “accounted” in verse 3 is a financial and legal term in Greek.  It means to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account.  It is a one-sided transaction. Abraham did nothing to earn salvation, nothing but believe God by faith.  God took His own righteousness and credited it to Abraham, as if it was his.

Many people in Paul’s day like to believe that they were justified in God’s sight because they were physically descended from Abraham.  Racially Abraham is the father of all the Jews, those who were counting on their circumcision to bring them to heaven. Abraham was not justified by circumcision or by keeping the Old Testament Law (vs. 13-15).  Spiritually, Abraham is the father of all who believe - believing Jews and believing Gentiles, those who had never been circumcised (vs. 11-12).

Faith is believing and trusting in Jesus Christ, and reaching out to accept His wonderful gift of salvation.  I pray that all who read this will trust Jesus Christ for their salvation, if you haven’t already. It is a gift.  You cannot ever do enough good works to ever earn your way to heaven. The only way to heaven is by accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 9, 2020

God's Words And Our Words

Psalm 33

A number of years ago there was a man I had to come in frequent contact with who was a chronic liar.  He would lie about anything and everything, whether significant or insignificant. It didn’t matter what the topic, so much of what he would say were lies.  That made dealing with the person difficult, as you could never tell whether to trust his word, and I usually ended up not believing anything that he said. He was certainly not a man of integrity, and his word came to mean nothing to most people who knew him.  Our psalm for this week, from the Lectionary for this past Sunday, speaks of the words that the Lord speaks. Let’s look to see if they are one’s we can rely on.

If a person gets a reputation for being a liar, then his word will soon be held in very little esteem.  No one can trust anything he says. Yahweh’s words, though, are ones we can trust and rely on (vs. 4). No one can point to any word that He has spoken, and say that it is untrue.   Every man has been known to, at least at some point, tell a lie. However God is not a man, and He does not lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2).

Liars quickly lose all credibility.  The same holds true for people who make promises, but who rarely follow through with keeping them.  Very soon we learn that their word doesn’t mean a thing, and they cannot be counted on. The foundation of any relationship is trust.  If there is no trust then the relationship is on shaky ground. However, our psalmist knew he could trust God’s Word. All of God’s words are right and true.  He can be completely trusted. He does not lie. He does not forget. God does not change His word, or leave His promises unfulfilled. If we doubt God’s Word we are doubting God’s character, and we are agreeing with Satan, the father of lies.  We can, at every time, trust the Bible.

God’s Word is also very powerful.  Yahweh spoke and created a universe out of nothing (vs. 6, 9).  A simple word may seem to be little and meaningless. Yet when God speaks a word, that thing of which He speaks leaps to life.  He sustains all things by His powerful Word (Hebrews 1:3). His Word has resurrection power. Though our words cannot create anything out of nothing, like God’s Word can, they do have a type of power.  When we speak positive, kind, and loving words to others, particularly to children, we can uplift them, build them up, and give them what they need to go on with hope in life. But if we speak harsh, hurtful, negative words to others, we can easily break their spirits and tear them down, sometimes even destroying them.  We should be very careful with what we say, and how we say it.

God’s word is completely trustworthy.  When He says something, it is something completely reliable and sure (vs. 11).  His intentions never change (James 1:17). Sometimes we say something, and then go back on our word, or are inconsistent with what we say or promise, and then do.  When God speaks a word, it is done, it can be depended on to happen. There is no inconsistency with Him. Man’s plans may not come to pass, but God’s are sovereign and sure.  What He has planned for this world will stand forever, and we can find safety when we have a close walk with Him.

While we can see that God’s Word is trustworthy and reliable, what can we learn about our own word?  Though, as mentioned above, our words do not have the same power as God’s Word does, how trustworthy and reliable is what we say?  Do lies fall unchecked from our lips? Are our promises something that others can rely on? As His children, our word should be one that is truthful, honest, reliable, and uplifting to others.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Stepping Out In Faith

Genesis 12:1-8

How would you feel about packing up all of your belongings and moving far away from where your home was?  Some may not like that, preferring to stay in a house and neighborhood they were familiar with. Others might not mind, if they knew a nice home and friendly faces waited for them where they would be going.  How about if you would have no idea where you were going, wouldn’t know anyone when you got there and possibly not even the language, and didn’t know what kind of place or prospects awaited you? Not too many people like to head out with a big question mark hanging overhead.  Fear of the unknown can be very strong. Yet if we have trust in someone who is guiding us, those fears can subside, especially if that One is the Lord God. In our Scripture today from the Book of Genesis we read of Abram (later known as Abraham) who was called to leave his home, relatives, and all he knew, to set out where God would lead him.  Let’s look at his response to this challenge.

Abram was born, and spent a good part of his adult life in the city of Ur, which was near the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, near the north end of the Persian Gulf.  The city was a very pagan one, having long since given up any worship of the God of Noah, many generations earlier. Pagan worship of Nanna, the moon god, was rampant. After a number of years, Terah, Abram’s father, decided to move his whole clan further north up the Euphrates river over 575 miles to the city of Haran, in present day Turkey, near its border with Syria.  It was here in Haran that Yahweh called Abram, and he forever turned his back on any pagan beliefs he may ever have had. Yahweh called Abram, telling him to take his wife and servants, and leave his father’s family, leave the city of Haran, everything he knew, and go to where He would show him.

This brings me to my initial thought of would you obey and leave everything you knew, following God’s command into the unknown?  God requested Abram to leave everything he knew, and promised to bless him if he did (vs. 1-3). When God talks of blessing someone, it is a promise to intervene mightily in that person’s life.  It could be with the family. It could be financially, with emotional security, or spiritually. Obedience always goes before blessings. If we want to have blessings, we must be obedient. There are two conditions for blessings, and they are obedience and faith.

Abram was a very wealthy man.  It is quite probable that both in Ur and later in Haran that he had a nice house and a good career.  To give this up and head out into an unknown future would be a big step. Many people would be tempted to tell God, “Sorry, I can’t do that.”  Abram did not hesitate to obey (vs. 4-5). We should never let comfort or security keep us from obeying what God wants us to do.

Abram trusted God though he did not know where he was going.  God did not provide him with a map or a plan for the rest of his life, but led him only one step at a time, which is how He usually leads us, as well.  When a couple of people ride a tandem bike, only the person in the front steers the way. The person in the back can’t steer. His view of straight ahead is even limited.  He must trust the driver. That’s the way it was with Abram, and should be with us, too. We must be like that person on the tandem bike, and put our trust in God to direct and lead our life.

Yahweh promised Abram that He would bless him, and that all families or people on earth would be blessed through him (vs. 3).  It was through the Lord Jesus Christ, who through His mother, the Virgin Mary, was descended from Abram, that every person, every country has the opportunity to be blessed with a relationship with God.  Anyone who has accepted Jesus as Savior, whether they are physically descended from Abram or not, inherits all the blessings that God bestowed upon him (Galatians 3:6-9, 14). Abram trusted God, and that made him righteous.  When we trust God, as Abram did, we become his spiritual descendants, and heirs to all that was promised him.

We can always trust God and the promises He makes.  When He asks us to do something, we can trust Him in that.  God always tells the truth. When He binds Himself to a promise, or swears an oath, He can be trusted to follow through.  Abram trusted God, believing in His promise to him, and he is now the father of all who truly believe in God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We, too, can safely trust in God, and obey His Word. Where He leads me, I will follow!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Jesus' Example In Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11

When we are going through a particularly difficult or trying time it is often helpful to know that someone else has gone through a similar experience.  Our Scripture passage today gives the account of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. There are some who hold to the belief that if there is a God who set creation in motion, he is not involved in our lives in any personal way, and that he certainly does not relate to anything we go through.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only did Jesus Christ, the Son of God, become man and live among us, He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). He went through similar temptations and tests like we do, and He came through victorious. Let’s take a closer look at this account of our Lord’s temptations, and see what we can learn, so that we, too, can come through triumphantly.

After His baptism, Jesus went out into the wilderness for a period of intense prayer and fasting to prepare for His ministry.  While there, Satan came to tempt Him into sin. God never tempts us (James 1:13). He does test us, to see if we really love Him, and will obey and follow the path He has for us.  Yet it was Satan who tempted Jesus into sin, and will also come against us, tempting us into sin, as well. He tries to get us to doubt God’s Word and His promises. He wants us to believe that God cannot be trusted.

The first temptation that Satan brought against Jesus was to turn the stones which lay at His feet in the wilderness into bread (vs. 2-4).  Jesus had been fasting, and naturally would have been quite hungry, with a natural, physical need for food. He tempted Jesus to use His divine power to satisfy His need for food.  Jesus had given up the unlimited independent use of His divine power when He became man. Satan tried to get Jesus to question whether God would provide food and provide for His needs.  He frequently tempts us in this way, as well. Jesus responded with the Word of God, by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. He would depend on God, and focus on His purpose. Jesus’ example shows that we should not try to satisfy a normal desire in a wrong way, or at the wrong time.

The second temptation that Satan brought to Jesus was by bringing Him to the pinnacle of the Temple, and for Jesus to dare God to rescue Him (vs. 5-7).  We sometimes question whether God will protect and provide us with security, calling upon Him, saying “If you love me, You’ll do this or that”. Our best tactic against that is to know God’s Word, so we can rightly apply it.  God is not our magician to perform miracles at our request. Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation by again quoting Scripture in Deuteronomy 6:16. We should never ask Him to do something to prove Himself for us. God wants us to live by faith, not by special signs.  Don’t manipulate God by testing Him or asking for signs.

Satan also thought that he was smart by throwing some Scriptures back at Jesus, quoting Psalm 91:11-12.  However, he was misapplying the verses he quoted. He twisted it and its meaning. It is a passage about trusting in God, yet Satan twisted it to justify testing God.  Unbelievers who oppose Christianity will sometimes come against us, using God’s Word against us, always misusing it.

The third temptation that Satan used was to promise Jesus riches, power, and fame if He would bow to him (vs. 8-10).  Satan has temporary control and free rein over the earth because of mankind’s fall into sin. He tried to distort Jesus’ perspective by having Him focus on worldly power, not God’s plan.  Again, Jesus responded with the Word of God by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13. Satan tries to get us to desire quick power and easy solutions. He even tries to get man to try to prove equality with God, and entices us with materialism and power.  We should never compromise with evil, and instead put our focus on God.

What can we learn from the temptations Jesus went through?  As I John 2:16 says, we are tempted by the lust of the flesh (vs. 2-3), the lust of the eyes (vs. 8-9), and the pride of life (vs. 5-6).  We must trust God to provide for us. Satan tempts us to crave physical gratification to the point we are preoccupied with it. He tempts us to acquire things to the point we bow down to the god of materialism, and lust more and more possessions.

Satan hates God’s Word.  Yet that was the only weapon the Lord Jesus used against him.  He was repelled by the Word of God when Jesus quoted it. That is the reason Satan tries to keep us from reading and studying the Bible.  God’s Word is like the rain that comes down and waters plants. We need to drink in everything that God says, and eat every word He speaks.  The Bible will nurture our spiritual needs which will benefit us for eternity.