Saturday, May 30, 2020

Teach Your Children Well

Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28

Throughout the Bible we read how seriously and important the Lord places the rearing of children to be.  From a very early age He desires parents to instruct and teach their children His Word.  We read one such command from the Lord in today’s passage from the Book of Deuteronomy.  This book of the Old Testament encompasses the final words and instructions of Moses to the people of Israel, just prior to their entrance into the Promised Land.  Throughout this book of the Bible, and in numerous other places of Scripture we are told how important it is to instruct our children and grandchildren in God’s Word, even from a very early age.  As we look into these Scriptures, let’s see what we can learn.

In the past several decades there have been people who have pushed the idea that parents should not be teaching or instructing children in their religious faith, and that it is best to let the children decide for themselves what they will believe.  Some of these free-thinkers even suggest that a parent should not be imparting their morality or ethical thinking on their children.  They feel that children should be left to come to their own beliefs and ideas on their own, with no help or guidance from any adult.

This is completely contrary to what the Lord God has said.  Children are His gift and His blessing, and throughout Scripture He instructs parents to teach them His Words (vs. 19).  Freethinkers often say to let the child decide what to believe.  How can a child tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong?  With a lot of grown-ups still struggling with that, it is especially difficult for a child to discern, yet that is something so important to learn.  It is not good to just leave that for the child to decide.  They will grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it.  Then when they find that there is a hook in it, it’s too late.  Wrong ideas come packed with so much sparkle, and then when they are in trouble, it’s too late to realize the right idea was better in the long run.

Without any grounding in the Word of God and His truth, Satan will lure our children down the wrong path.  It’s up to Christian parents to teach them God’s way from the very start, before it’s too late.  We all like to have a map or some sort of directions before we head off on a trip to an unfamiliar place.  Life is an unknown journey, and without any sort of guidance one can find themselves in a mess of trouble or even danger, and then end life heading in the wrong direction, to an eternity of damnation.  No true Christian would want that for their children!  God’s Word is our map through life, leading us to an eternity with Him.

In our Scripture passage God tells His children to put His Word up throughout their homes (vs. 20-21).  Many Christians have artwork in their homes that incorporate words of Scripture in them.  Keeping God’s Word in front of us throughout the day reminds us of His truths, and helps us all to memorize it.  As we teach the Bible to our children and grandchildren, we are also learning it’s truths ourselves.  Teaching God’s message of grace should be our first priority as parents and grandparents.

As our passage continues, Moses urges the people to make the right choice in their lives (vs. 26-28).  Both Israel and God had agreed to the terms of the covenant they had together.  The blessings God promised the people would benefit them if they kept their part of the covenant.  The curses would fall on them if they broke the covenant, thus forfeiting God’s blessings.  They had the choice between blessings and curses. Unfortunately throughout Israel’s history their disobedience brought the curses upon them.

God offers us the same choice.  If we choose Jesus Christ for our Savior, and worship only Him, if we read and obey His Word, we will receive His blessings.  However if we run after false gods and philosophies in our life, if we follow our own way rather than His Word, we will reap the curses.  What choice will we make?  Choose wisely!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Our Lord's Intercessory Prayer

John 17:1-11

Have you ever been present when a fellow Christian brother or sister, one who has a very close relationship with the Lord, has been in prayer?  It is a special, hallowed time, listening to their close, holy, and intimate conversation with the Lord.  There are several great Christians from the past that I would love to have been present with in their prayer times.  In our Scripture reading today the Apostle John shares a privilege that he and the other apostles had, when they were privileged to listen when Jesus was in prayer to the Father.  Let’s take a look at just a part of this prayer.

Many times throughout the Gospel accounts we read of when Jesus departed off by Himself to pray to the Father, often either later at night or real early in the morning.  This 17th chapter of John’s Gospel contains a prayer of Jesus that He prayed in the presence of His chosen apostles.  In Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4 we have what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer.  However that might better be called the Disciple’s Prayer.   John 17 is truly the Lord’s prayer, showing the face to face communion Jesus had with God.  This is Jesus’ High Priestly prayer.  In the previous three chapters Jesus was talking to, and instructing His disciples.  Now He is talking to God.  Jesus is at work as our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  He is also our advocate and our mediator (I John 2:1-2; I Timothy 2:5).

Whenever a strategic time approached, Jesus spent time in prayer.  Now, within a few short hours, He would be arrested, given a mock trial, tortured, and crucified to pay for our sins.  He prayed for God’s glory, for His disciples, and even for future believers, which includes each of us.  Jesus stated that “His hour had come” (vs. 1).  His time had come - both for His death and resurrection.  These were events that would glorify Jesus.  He accepted this path to glory, knowing He would be exalted to the Father (vs. 1-5).

In His prayer to the Father, which He has shared with us here, Jesus tells us what brings eternal life (vs. 3).  We receive eternal life by knowing God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, and entering into a personal relationship with Him.  That life begins the moment we accept Jesus as Savior, not just after our physical death on earth.

As Jesus continued His prayer, He looked past the cross, and asked to be returned to the glory He shared with the Father before the world began (vs. 5).   We read here a testimony that Jesus gave to His pre-existence as God before His physical birth and before creation.  Before Jesus came to earth, He was one with God.  In His prayer, Jesus asked the Father to restore Him to His original place of honor and authority.

Our passage continues as we read that those who believe in Jesus were given by the Father (vs. 6).  They were chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), when our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 17:8).

As Jesus continued in His prayer, He wanted His followers to be united in harmony and love, just as the Trinity is (vs. 11).  He prayed for them (and for us as we read later in verse 20), because they would have to face the world’s temptation and hatred without His immediate physical presence and protection.

The world is a battleground between those who follow and are under God’s authority and Satan’s forces.  Jesus prayed for His followers then and throughout all ages to come.  His prayers defeat Satan.  We need to trust God’s hold on us more than our hold on Him.  His faithfulness does not depend on ours.  God hears the intercessory prayers of Jesus.  We are kept and preserved by Him (Jude 1:1), and shielded by God’s power (I Peter 1:5).  That is the power of our living and ever-present Savior, and we can have peace knowing that Jesus is praying for us, just as He did that last night before His crucifixion.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Persecuted For One's Faith

I Peter 4:12-19

Being persecuted for our faith is something that believers have been enduring since the very first days of the Apostles, and it has never really ended, as persecution is occurring even today in many parts of the world.  As we continue in our New Testament readings from Peter’s first letter to believers, we read God’s encouragement for those going through any degree of persecution.

New Christians sometimes wonder why, after they have put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, problems and trials continue to come, sometimes even with greater intensity.  They wonder why they must sometimes suffer persecution.  We even find some misguided preachers who imply that after salvation, life will be nothing but sunshine and rosy paths.  However, as we read throughout Scripture, and especially in our passage today, trials and persecutions will come.  Peter tells us not to think this is something strange (vs. 12).  It is something that will happen.

Sometimes we may wonder, that if God loves us, why He doesn’t stop the hardships in our life.  God is absolutely wise.  He uses adversity to deepen our relationship with Him, and display His glory to the world.  God uses painful experiences to cleanse and purify our lives.  Trials drive us to the Lord.  God uses them to try our faith, endurance, and devotion to Him.  They strengthen our faith.  Trials also show His power to sustain us, and they strengthen our testimony.

When Peter wrote this epistle, it was at the beginning of what would be over 250 years of intense persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.  There are four attitudes that are necessary when there is persecution - We should expect it (vs. 12), we should rejoice in it (vs. 13-14), evaluate its cause (vs. 15-18), and entrust it to God (vs. 19).

A Christian who is persecuted for his faith will have overflowing joy in the future because of his reward (vs. 13).  This enables him to also rejoice at the present, though it is definitely not easy.  God allows persecution, and designed it for the believer’s testing, purging, and cleansing.  When a believer suffers persecution for his faith, God’s presence specifically rests upon him, and lifts him to strength and endurance (vs. 14).  Any adversity we experience is temporary because Jesus has given us eternal life.  He will ultimately deliver us from persecution, whether on earth, or taking us home to heaven.  Our future is secure because it is in His hands.

These words of Peter in our passage today bring to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:11-12.  Jesus will send His Spirit to strengthen those who are persecuted for their faith in Him.  Sometimes our own unpleasant behavior is the cause of our problems, and it is not because of our faith (vs. 15-16).  However, when it truly is because of our Christian faith, Jesus will be with us.

When Peter and James were persecuted because of their faith in Jesus by the Jewish religious leaders, they rejoiced because it was a mark of God’s approval of their work in His Name (Acts 5:41).  Insults and rejection because of Jesus means there is evidence of Christ in our lives.  Keep on doing right regardless of the suffering it might bring.  Obey God when it is difficult, and leave the consequences to Him.  He will reward our faithfulness in doing what is right.  As believers, we need to commit our souls to Jesus.  Deposit them into His hands with trust for safe keeping.

Monday, May 25, 2020

King Of All Creation

Psalm 47

The Christian holy day marking the Ascension of Jesus into heaven was this past Thursday.  As the disciples watched, Jesus was taken back up into heaven, where He is seated at God’s right hand, sharing the power and glory that He had with the Father from before all time.  Jesus came to earth as a humble servant, and as a sacrifice for our sins.  Now He reigns as King over all creation, in power and glory.  Today’s short psalm gives us a look at God as our King, with all majesty and all power.

This brief, short psalm is a festive one, celebrating the universal reign of God.  He reigns over all the earth, over every nation, and He deserves our worship.  As we look around, though, it doesn’t seem that this world is under God’s reign.  Since He is King, then that would make us His subjects, and this world would be His realm.  However, so many people are in outright rebellion against the King, and many others don’t care one way or the other about Him.  God is not a bumbling or inept ruler.  In ancient times kings would often go off to war, leaving their kingdom under other’s control.  If the people of his kingdom rebelled while the king was away, and word got to him of this rebellion, the king would return in power and might, crushing the rebellion, and bringing everything back under his rule.  Jesus knows what is going on, and like a mighty ruler, He will return and bring everything under His power.  Jesus described this scenario in several of His parables (Matthew 21:33-44; Matthew 25:14-30), where He told how the Lord, as King and Ruler, will return to resume authority over those who should be under His rule.  We see this prophesied to happen throughout the Book of Revelation.

We read here in this psalm, in verse 3, that the Lord God will subdue all people and nations under His feet.  This will happen when Jesus returns to earth in the future, perhaps sometime soon.  He came to earth the first time humbly, but the second time He comes, it will be with power.  At that time, He will sit upon His throne, ruling over all nations (vs. 8).  Will we be among those who welcome Jesus’ return, singing His praises (vs. 1, 5-7), or will we be among those who fight against His rule, and must be put under His feet?

In verse 9 we read that all of the shields of the earth belong to God.  Shields were very important in battle as protection against the arrows and swords of the enemy.  Sometimes they were decorated to show which king and kingdom they were fighting for, just like a flag or banner would.  No shield will be able to help when Jesus comes to subdue the nations and people under His rule.  Just as the victorious king will claim the flags and shields of his conquered enemies, Jesus will do the same when He returns.

Why should we praise God?  There are innumerable reasons we can all think of, and there are a few reasons that our psalmist gives in this passage.  One is that God is a great, powerful, and awe-inspiring God (vs. 2).  Another reason is that He has redeemed His people, and given them an inheritance (vs. 3-4).   Jesus paid the price for our salvation, and redeemed our souls.  Those who have become God’s children through the Blood of the Savior will have a wonderful inheritance in His kingdom.  A third reason the psalmist gives to praise Him is that His kingship is universal (vs. 7-9).  Salvation is open to everyone, regardless of their race or nationality, and God welcomes them into His kingdom.  In a spiritual sense, God’s promises to Abraham apply to all who believe in Jesus, regardless of their national or ethnic background (Romans 4:11-12; Galatians 3:7-9).

Jesus returned to heaven on the Day of the Ascension, where He is now seated at God’s right hand in power and glory.  One day soon He will return to earth and put all creation under His power.  Will we be part of those who welcome Him and be a part of His eternal kingdom, or be part of those who continue to rebel and be subdued under His feet.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Final Instructions

Acts 1:1-14

Final instructions are important, whether it is for a school assignment, a work assignment, or instructions of how to put something together.  Getting those instructions wrong, or ignoring them altogether can really mess up a project.  Ask any cook who neglected the last few sentences of a recipe!  Today’s Scripture is from the opening passage of the Book of Acts, written by Luke.  The Book of Acts picks up Luke’s narrative from the final verses of his gospel.  In these verses from the opening chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus gives His final instructions to the disciples, and then ascends back up to heaven, to the glory He had before He came to earth.

As the Gospel writer Luke records, during the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension, the disciples became thoroughly convinced of the resurrection (vs. 3).  Jesus also taught them about the Kingdom of God, and the Holy Spirit.  They were His eye-witnesses.  Before the resurrection they had all scattered.  They were disillusioned, and feared for their lives.  Now they were fearless, and risked everything to spread the Gospel message of salvation.  They would face imprisonment, beatings, and often martyrdom.

The Jewish religious leaders and enemies of the Gospel were never able to challenge the empty tomb, and the truth of the disciples words (vs. 3).  What better way to shut the disciples up than to produce Jesus’ lifeless corpse, if they could find it.  If Jesus had not risen, and the disciples had only hidden the body, as these religious leaders had asserted, they would certainly have found it.  However, they never found it, because there was no longer a dead body!  Jesus had risen!  They had no rebuttal to give to the disciples words and power.  There is a resurrected Christ, and He has given us His Holy Spirit.

Jesus was preparing His disciples to carry on the work of the Gospel, as He was to ascend into heaven, as we read in our passage.  If Jesus remained on earth, He could physically be in only one place at a time.  After His ascension, the Holy Spirit would be sent.  Jesus could be spiritually present everywhere through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was sent so that God would be with and within His followers after Jesus returned to heaven.

Jesus instructed the disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them (vs. 4-5).  The disciples had to wait for the Day of Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit, but from that day forward, all believers receive the Holy Spirit when they are saved.  Here is just some of what the Holy Spirit does for believers:  We cannot belong to Christ without the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).  We are united with Jesus through His Spirit (I Corinthians 6:17).  We are adopted as His children (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6-7).  The Holy Spirit brings us into the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13).  He also helps us change to become more like Christ (Galatians 3:3; Philippians 1:6).  He also seals us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

The disciples were given the final instructions to wait to receive the Holy Spirit (vs. 8).  He would then give them power.  Once they had this power, they were to go and witness with extraordinary results.  That was the order.  They weren’t to go out first, without the Holy Spirit and His power.  They were not to run ahead of God, and neither should we.  Wait for God’s timing and power.  When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, He gave them courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability, and authority, and He will give that to us, as well.  The Great Commission to take the Gospel all over the world still applies today.

The Ascension was Jesus’ visible departure from earth to heaven (vs. 9).  His next appearance on earth will be at the Second Coming, when Jesus visibly and bodily sets His feet upon the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).  Jesus hasn’t, and will never forget about us.  He will one day return for us (vs. 11).  I am reminded of the words of the great Chinese Christian, Watchman Nee (1903-1972), who said “Our old history ends with the Cross; our new history begins with the Resurrection”.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Abiding On The True Vine

John 15:1-8

Some people are blessed to have a fruit tree or two on their property, or perhaps a grapevine.  They enjoy seeing the blossoms in the springtime, and then enjoy the fruit later in the summer or early autumn.  Even grapevines produce very small flowers early in their season.  If the trees or vines are well cared for, they should bear fruit for many years.  The owner, or a gardener he may hire, occasionally has to prune or cut back some branches in order to keep the plant healthy and producing fruit to its fullest potential.  Nobody wants to see their fruit trees or vines barren, or worse, to wither and die.  Our Scripture today, from the Gospel of John, is a passage familiar to many. In it, we read Jesus tell us how we can be fruitful Christians.

Several times throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus describes Himself by saying “I am ….”, such as “I am the Bread of Life”, or “I am the Light of the world”.  Here He tells us that He is the “True Vine” (vs. 1).  He is the Vine, and we, as believers, are the branches of that vine. What is the purpose of the branches of a grape vine?  They are to produce grapes.  That is the same for branches of any fruit tree or plant.  They are to produce fruit.  If they don’t, they are useless.  The only way they can produce fruit, though, is to remain connected to the vine or tree.  Once disconnected, they wither and die.

As believers, we are to live in Christ, and Christ lives in us.  We draw our life from Him.  Just as sap flows from the vine into the branch, the life of Jesus flows into us if we are connected to Him.  That is how we bear fruit, staying in union and communion with Jesus.  We belong to God just as the branch belongs to the vine.  Our lives belong to Him, and outside of Him we will find no true enjoyment.

Jesus produces fruit through us as we allow Him to by abiding in Him (vs. 2).  Sometimes we allow things in our life that diminish this, so He must prune us.  There are times when our spiritual life seems withered, like a failing plant.  God needs to get out the pruning shears and cut off what is hurting our faith life.  This is done so we will bear more fruit.  By pruning, God eliminates attitudes and actions that are not godly or fruit-bearing.

Pruning does not mean a loss of salvation.  It is done by the Lord so that we will bear more fruit, which should be our goal.  Jesus emphasized that Christians must produce fruit.  He expects that of us.  Vines are trimmed to produce more fruit.  The same with fruit tree branches.  A good gardener will do what it takes to help a vine or tree bear fruit.  He will clip and cut away anything that interferes.

The life of the branch is guaranteed only when it is connected to the vine (vs. 4).  Branches receive life from the vine.  They share their identity.  Connection to Jesus will help us be who God wants us to be.  Apart from God’s saving grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, our efforts are dead.  A dead branch that is unconnected to the vine is cut off and burned.  That branch that bears no fruit is not a believer at all, and is cast away.  They are apostates, who never really believed.   Live branches are pruned to bear more fruit.  They are abiding, genuine believers.

When a branch is grafted on to another plant, after a time, the two develop as one.  But to know if the grafting has succeeded, the gardener pushes on the grafted branch.  If it bends and then springs back, it is successful.  An unsuccessful graft will cause the branch to break off.  When we are connected to Jesus, we will grow strong, even during trials (vs. 5).  Our strength comes from Jesus.

Not everything we do is fruitful.  Much of our activity is done to please ourselves.  What matters is our obedience to God.  Jesus told us to bear much fruit.  That is only possible when we stay connected to Him.  Sometimes we fail at a task we have been given.  We may not feel qualified or fit to accomplish what task God has given us.  On our own we can accomplish nothing.  However, with God, we can.  He is more than able.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Called To Bless And Not Curse

I Peter 3:8-18

Holding one’s tongue is not easy.  In fact, it is often quite difficult to do, as I can frequently attest to!  When someone serves us with a nasty or hurtful comment, how we love to answer them back with something equally as biting.  If someone does something wrong to us, we are quick to think up something that we can do back to them.  It seems only natural.  She told lies to damage my reputation, what can I do back to her, to equally harm her?  He destroyed something of mine, let me think of something equally damaging to do to him!  Those are thoughts that quickly come to our minds when we’ve been hurt.  As we look at another passage from the epistle that the Apostle Peter wrote to believers, we’ll see how God instructs us to act in these situations.

The early Church was still in its infancy, only a few decades old, when Peter wrote his letter to fellow believers.  Right from the first days, believers suffered persecution.  They were frequently attacked from both the Jewish people and also by Gentiles, along with the Roman government.  Like everyone else, Christians don’t like to be attacked, either physically with bodily harm, by someone’s words, or by damage to their property or belongings.  The temptation to lash back at them is always there, as that is human nature.   However, Peter tells us to follow a different way, follow the words and example of Jesus.

The Scriptures here instructs us as believers to be examples, and pursue peace and unity, not bringing disruption or disharmony with others (vs. 8).  Christians should be united with one another, “like-minded”, not fighting among each other.  Instead of thinking of ways to get back at others who have harmed us, we should show harmony, sympathy, love, compassion, and humility to each other.

As we read in verse 9, when someone reviles us, instead of returning the same conduct, God wants us to think of a way to do them good, and to pray for them.  Throughout Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He instructed His followers to pay back the evil they receive by doing good to our enemies, praying for them, and bestowing blessings rather than retaliation and curses (Matthew 5:44).

Peter continues on in our passage (vs. 10-12), by bringing a quote from Psalm 34:12-16.  In order to have a fulfilled life, we need to be humble, and show a loving attitude to everyone, giving a non-vindictive response to revilers.  A Christian’s speech should be pure and honest, while we pursue peace.  Our motives for what we do should be right, showing a disdain for sin.  A life free from any unconfessed sins, and one lived for the Lord, will produce a good conscience, putting to shame those who might attack us (vs. 16).  We may not be able to stop people from talking bad about us, but we can stop supplying them with ammunition by keeping our conduct above reproach.

Sometimes we are called upon to suffer for well-doing.  Jesus is our example of suffering unjustly (vs. 17-18).  He was sinless, and was the substitutionary atonement for our sins.  He suffered death once - once for all.  His death did not need to be repeated over and over again, like the Jewish Old Testament sacrifices.  His death paid the penalty for our sins, once for all.

In the middle of our passage today, Peter brings up a point that Christians today should take note of, and that is for us to always be ready to give a defense to any who ask what we believe, and why we believe it (vs. 15).  People in Peter’s day might have asked believers what they believed, and why, and they might ask the same of us today.  A defense is an answer, a logical reasoning and explanation, given calmly and with meekness.  As Christians, we should understand our faith and what we believe.  We should be able to articulate our beliefs thoughtfully, reasonably, and biblically to others.

How would you answer, if someone asked why you are a Christian?  People should notice that we are different in a good way.  We should be able to explain what we believe in, and why.  We should show them what Jesus has done for us, what He can do for them.

Monday, May 18, 2020

All Creatures Of Our God And King

Psalm 148

The Book of Psalms has sometimes been called the hymnal of the Bible.  This is rightly so, because so many of the psalms were originally set to music when they were written by David and the other psalmists.  Many of the psalms are hymns of praise to God, and a number were used as inspiration for many classic hymns.  This week’s psalm selection, Psalm 148, was the inspiration of the great traditional hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King”.  Let’s take a look at both the psalm and the hymn today.

Many people are familiar with the great Italian saint of the Middle Ages, Francis of Assisi (1181 - 1226).  In addition to founding the Franciscan Order of both monks and nuns, and of traveling and bringing the Gospel message of Jesus wherever he went, Francis deeply loved nature.  He loved animals, plants, and even the stars, moon, and sun in the heavens.  He did not worship them, but worshipped their Creator, and believed that as creations of God, they deserved our care and respect.  It has even been reported that birds and wild animals frequently would approach him without any fear.  Psalm 148 was certainly one of Francis’ favorites, as he wrote a beautiful poem, “Canticle of the Sun” based on that Psalm.  Centuries later an Anglican minister, William Henry Draper, translated St. Francis’ poem into the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King”, based on both the Canticle and Psalm 148.

This hymn of praise to God in the Book of Psalms is a psalm of universal praise, as all animal life, and the various forces of nature sing their praises to Yahweh.  This psalm is like a great choir or a great orchestra, with each section singing out their praise to God.  In a choir we find the sopranos, the altos, the tenors, baritones, and bass voices.  In an orchestra there are the violins and other stringed instruments, the flutes, oboes, and bassoons.  There are the French horns, trumpets, trombones, and other brass instruments, along with drums, harps, organs, etc.  Here the psalmist brings all of creation, each in their own section, together to praise God.  The sun, moon, stars, and planets (vs. 3-6).  Then the creatures of the seas (vs. 7), forces of nature (vs. 8), mountains and plants (vs. 9), animals and people (vs. 10-11).  The psalmist even calls upon the angels and other heavenly creatures to sing their praises (vs. 1-2).  Like a great symphony, each part comes in when they should, making a beautiful chorus to sing praise to God.

Both the Canticle which St. Francis wrote, and the hymn, focuses most of their lines on the heavenly bodies of the sun, moon, and stars, along with the wind, clouds, rivers, and fire giving their own unique praise to God, which we find in verses 3-8 of the psalm.  The hymn concludes by calling upon men to give praise to the Trinity.

We might wonder how inanimate objects and forces of nature can praise God.  God has used various forms of nature to accomplish His will throughout history.  He used fire to call the attention of Moses with the burning bush (Exodus 3:2).  God also used hail as one of the ten plagues against Egypt (Exodus 9:19), and in battle against His enemies (Joshua 10:11).  God sends the snow (Psalm 147:16).  Clouds often proclaim His glory (Deuteronomy 4:11).  God led His people through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21).  He uses storms and wind to show His power (Genesis 8:1; Mark 4:35-41).

Though we may not always be happy with it, God sovereignly oversees all weather.  He will use the forces of nature and weather greatly during the last days, as we read all throughout the Book of Revelation.  Every force of nature obeys God’s command.  We can ask, are we doing the same?  If these forces without a brain know to obey and praise God, shouldn’t we?  Let’s obey Him and sing His praises, as they do.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Sermon At The Areopagus

Acts 17:22-31

When someone wants to attract and get the attention of a group of people, it always helps to know the audience.  Are they children, teens, or is it a group of senior citizens?  Is the group Wall Street businessmen or are they farmers?  Advertisers know that when one wants to get the attention of a group, the approach often varies depending on the audience.  What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.  The Apostle Paul knew this.  In seeking to reach all people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he knew he must be sensitive to his audience.

Our passage today from the Book of Acts picks up right where we left off last week.  Paul and his companions had been preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica, but had been run out of town by those who hated the Lord Jesus Christ.  They then went on to the smaller town of Berea, several miles away.  Their enemies followed them there, stirred up trouble, and they had to leave.  Paul then headed further south to the city of Athens, where his companions would join him a little later.

In Paul’s day, the city of Athens was a big center for Greek culture, for philosophy, and for education.  The Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill, was where intellectuals gathered to discuss and debate philosophical, moral, and religious matters.  One could always find philosophers and intellectuals gathered together there, eager to hear and discuss something new. That was where Paul decided to go while he waited for his companions to arrive.

Generally when Paul would present the Gospel in a city, he sought out a Jewish synagogue, and would proceed to use the Old Testament Scriptures to show that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.  However here in Athens, these folks at the Areopagus were well-educated Gentiles.  Paul was extremely well-educated himself, having gone to some of the best schools in the Middle East, and was taught by some of the most learned teachers.  With a Jewish audience, Paul could use the Old Testament as a common ground, a starting off point they all knew, to begin witnessing.  The Gentile Greeks did not know the Old Testament, so Paul needed a different approach.

Paul began his witness to these Greek Gentiles by commenting on an inscription he had seen on one of their religious altars, “To the Unknown God” (vs. 22-23).  He was not giving an endorsement of that, but would use it as a point of entry for his witness to the true God.  Paul began his message by using something the Greeks would understand, establishing a common ground.  He sought to establish rapport with his audience, not to come right out and condemn or put them down.  Paul commended them for even trying to worship every god there might be, and then sought to introduce them to that God they were seeking (vs. 23), moving the message on to Yahweh and the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Paul proceeded to use nature, proclaiming Yahweh as the Creator, One who is involved in the affairs of men, who is near them, and within reach to those who seek Him (vs. 24-28).  Many of the Athenians were genuinely seeking for the truth, as some are today.  God has revealed Himself through nature and history, so we would know He exists.  No one has an excuse for not believing in Him (Romans 1:20).  God sent Paul to Athens to show them the truth.

Paul did not leave his message unfinished, but brought it home by urging the listeners to repent and turn to Jesus for salvation, as the judgment day is coming (vs. 30-31).  We should never neglect to seek for people to turn to Jesus.  If we don’t, our message is only half given, and we have left the most important part off.

Though we are definitely called to be salt and light to the world, waving a Bible and spewing fire and brimstone isn’t always effective.  We should never forget the power of Biblical truth, but use wisdom and discernment when witnessing.  Paul knew what his audience was like, and he sought a common point of entry to win their attention.  He began with things they could relate to and understand.  But then, and most importantly, Paul moved to Jesus and their need for salvation.  He never stopped trying to bring people to Jesus, no matter where he was or who was listening.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Do You Know The Way?

John 14:1-14

This week’s Gospel passage from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer is a very familiar one to most Christians, and contains some favorite verses that many have committed to memory.  They are verses of comfort, of doctrinal truth, and promise.  Let’s jump in and see what we can learn today.

Chapter 14 of the Gospel of John is part of a large discourse that Jesus gave to the disciples on the evening of the Last Supper, before He was betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.   John opens with the words of Jesus, ones that are often used at funerals of Christians, as they speak of a promise that Jesus gave us of the home He is preparing for us in His Kingdom (vs. 1-3).  God is preparing a special place for us in heaven.  He is preparing it Himself.  We are expected future residents of that wonderful home.  Our home here on earth might not be that pleasant.  The plumbing may leak, the floors uneven, the wiring antiquated.  However, the home that Jesus has gone to prepare for us is everything we could ever desire!  He is preparing it, and when it is the right time, He will come for us.  That is a promise we can count on!

Jesus then proceeds to tell us the way to where He is going, the way to eternal life (vs. 4-6).  If we follow wrong directions given on a GPS, we will not reach where we want to be.  Also, asking a person who really doesn’t know the way won’t help, either.  One must follow correct directions.  Finding the right path in life is important.  How can we know the way to God?  Jesus has told us, and shown us the only path that will bring us to the Father and heaven.  He is the Son of God.  He came from heaven.  He knows the way, and He has told us here.  Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the way.  People attempt other paths, but only one actually leads there, and He is it.

In this same passage Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, shares with us that He is Truth (vs. 6).  He is true, as contrasted with false, and genuine, as contrasted with unreal.  Jesus is genuine, not a false god from false religions.  His Word is true, not lies.  There is no part of God that dwells in dishonesty or lies.  Jesus is the visible, tangible, image of God (vs. 9-11).  There are no attributes of deity that Jesus does not possess.  He is the complete revelation of what God is like.

Our passage concludes with Jesus instructing us about praying in His Name (vs. 12-14).  This promise that He gave us does not mean that any prayer request that we tack the words “in Jesus’ Name” at the end of will automatically be fulfilled.  Those words aren’t some magical formula.  First, we must be in proper fellowship with God.  We must be saved, and then walking in righteousness.  Our requests must also be consistent with Jesus’ character.  Also, our motives must be right.  Will our request glorify God?  Or is the motive selfish, greedy, or impure?

When Jesus said “in My Name”, it is like He said that we are to be His agents.  As disciples, we are to act as agents of God, or as His ambassadors.  We are to ask according to God’s character and will, not to fulfill our selfish desires.  Prayer should be on the basis of Jesus’ merits, not ours, and for the pursuit of His glory alone.  By recognizing Jesus’ authority as the Son of God, we can pray in His Name and have access to the Father.  We will want to do God’s will, and glorify Him.

Praying in Jesus’ Name means recognizing that Jesus paved the way for us to have access to the Father (Hebrews 4:16).  It means exercising the authority He has given the children of God and who are joint-heirs with Him (Romans 8:14-17).  When we understand our position, we can have confidence when we look to God.  Praying in Jesus’ Name signifies agreement with His will.  We ask as Jesus would in our position.

As I close, I ask you, is the object of your faith worthy of that faith?  We can have all the faith we can muster that if we jump off the Sears Tower we will fly, but our faith is misplaced, and we will fall to our death.  Our faith in how we get to heaven must be well-placed, and that can only be through faith in Jesus, not some other false god, false philosophy, or false religion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Royal Priesthood

I Peter 2:1-10

To be specially chosen is an honor that makes someone feel good about themselves.  A young woman may dream about being the chosen one at a beauty pageant.  A young man hopes to be chosen for the basketball or football team.  People hope to be chosen for the job promotion.  It feels terrible to be left out, and never chosen for anything special.  In his letter to believers in the early Church, the Apostle Peter tells us that we are chosen, not by a sports coach or our boss, but by the Lord God, and that we are chosen for a special purpose.  Let’s see what we can learn from our Scripture today.

Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are God’s chosen.  We are chosen to be His priests, and His holy nation, His people (vs. 9).  As chosen ones, we aren’t chosen to just sit back, take it easy, and relax.  We, as God’s chosen ones, have a task to do.  We are to represent Him to a lost and dying world.

One position that we were chosen to take, is that of a priest.  Traditionally, in many religions, including the Jewish faith of the Old Testament, the people could not approach God directly on their own.  A priest was the intermediary between God and man.  However, since Jesus’ death upon the cross, believers can now come directly to God (Hebrews 4:16).  Every believer has the privilege and responsibility of direct access to God.  We are now His priests.  We are chosen by God as His very own, and are called to represent Him to others.  We are to bring others to a saving knowledge of Him, too (II Corinthians 5:18-21).

Another duty of a priest was to offer sacrifices to God, often for forgiveness of a person’s sins.  Jesus’ death upon the cross paid the price for our sins, and made further animal sacrifices unnecessary.  The one sacrifice that God does want from us is that of giving our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1-2).  We are to give a sacrifice of praise to Him (Hebrews 13:15).  We are to give a sacrifice of our substance (Romans 12:13), and a sacrifice of our service to Him (Hebrews 13:6).  Priests also are supposed to pray for the people.  As ones chosen by God to be His priests, we are to pray on behalf of others (Colossians 4:12).

In addition to being chosen to be priests, God has said that we are royalty (vs. 9).  We are a royal priesthood.  We are princes and princesses.  That is something special.  Princes are admitted into select society when common people must stand afar off.  A child of God has access into the courts of heaven, directly into His presence.  We have access to the wealth, honor, and power of God.  As Peter tells us, we were chosen, chosen to be part of His heavenly royal family.

Peter had some other lessons he wished to pass on to the believers in this passage.  One of these spiritual truths is that of growing up in Christ, and becoming mature believers.  When we are saved, we become spiritual newborns.  As we all know, a newborn should not stay that way forever.  They should grow and mature, both physically and mentally.  As Christians, if we are spiritually healthy, like a healthy baby, we will grow and mature (vs. 1-2).  That can only be done through study of the Word of God.  Just as a newborn desires milk, so a Christian should desire the Word of God.  In order to grow as believers, we need to be reading and following the Scriptures.  We must also rid ourselves of anything that hinders our walk with the Lord.  Christians cannot grow unless sins are renounced.

Another spiritual truth that Peter taught in our passage is that of making sure our foundation stones are good and sure (vs. 4-8).  Just as a building will lean or fall completely if the foundation is off, just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so will one's faith if it does not have a good foundation.  Jesus is the only sure foundation.  He is our Foundation, but He is also a stumbling block to unbelievers.  These people stumble over Jesus because they reject Him and refuse to believe that He is the Messiah and Savior.  They stumble over the One Person who can save them.

In closing, we need to remember that as children of God, His called and chosen ones, we no longer live in darkness, but have been called into the glorious light and love of Jesus Christ.  We need to take our rightful place as sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father.  Remember who you are in Christ!  When we remember who we are, then we can call others out of darkness and into the light of Jesus.

Monday, May 11, 2020

When God Stops Listening

Psalm 66

“I don’t hear you.  I’m not listening.”  Occasionally a parent might say something like that to a disobedient child, especially when that child starts to throw a tantrum, wanting their own way.  Until that child decides he is going to obey his parents, stop acting willfully, and raising a ruckus, the parent is not going to respond to their wishes.  Yes, the parent does hear their child.  They haven’t become deaf.  But they don’t “hear” them, in the sense that they don’t respond back.  Not until the child decides to obey.  In our psalm reading for this week, we will look at a time when the Lord will not hear us, what circumstances will cause that, and what we can do to avoid this from happening.

When a person accepts the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior, and becomes a Christian, God has promised them that He will always hear their prayers (vs. 19).   To have the assurance that God will hear our prayers we must have a right relationship with Jesus Christ, by trusting Him as our Savior.  We are then His child.  It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or where we are, when we are His child, God hears us and is listening.  We can bring our prayers to Him earnestly, with full confidence that the Lord will hear our prayers.

What happens to cause God to stop hearing us?  Just like that parent who stops hearing the disobedient child, when we are disobedient to God, He “stops hearing” us (vs. 18).  As believers and children of God, we must not live in ungodliness, even after salvation.  We must repent of all known sin, and avoid continuing in it.  We hinder our prayers if we refuse to repent of known sin.  God still loves us, but stops “listening” until we are ready to give up our rebellion.  He does not find worship acceptable from believers who cling unrepentantly to sin.  God blesses obedience, not stubbornness.

The psalmist also brings us some other truths from the Lord in his psalm.  One is found in verses 10 - 12.  Hot fire refines gold and silver.  The precious metals go through the extreme heat, which brings out the impurities, which are removed, leaving only the pure precious metal.  In the same way, the Lord uses trials to refine our character.  He allows us to go through times of testing to toughen our spiritual muscles and endurance.  God teaches us to rely on Him, and purifies us to be holy, so we can become more like Christ.  We can rely on God for strength and perseverance.  He is refining us to be the best gold and silver.

Jesus brings us through difficult, sometimes terrible times in our life, bringing us to a place of abundance, if we turn to Him (vs. 12).  We often make promises to God, that if He gets us out of the problem we’re in, we will do something for Him (vs. 13 - 15).  More often than not, though, we renege on those promises.  Our psalmist here had gone through some difficult times, and had made just such promises to the Lord.  However, now that he is on the other side of the problem, he intends on keeping his vows.  We should be careful when we make promises to God, and not make them lightly.  If we promise Him something, then when the time comes to keep those promises, if it is at all within our power, we need to be sure and fulfill them, otherwise not make those promises and vows to begin with.

One final message the psalmist makes throughout his psalm, is that of wanting everyone to know what God has done for him.  Towards the beginning of the psalm he calls everyone to “come and see” (vs. 5).  Look and see all that God has done for His people.  Then towards the end of the psalm he wants everyone to “come and hear”, as he tells of all of God’s marvelous works towards him.  We are not to keep quiet about what God has done for us.  We are to share our witness and testimony to others, and to proclaim God’s message of salvation to everyone.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Turning The World Upside Down

Acts 17:1-15

Any parents reading this might recognize this scene - you leave your children alone in a room for a few minutes, perhaps to step out into the yard for a moment, or into the kitchen to get dinner started, and you come back to your children, and the room is not the same as before.  The mother might say to her child that he has “turned the room upside down”.  It’s not in the same condition as it was before, everything is different, and you might not even recognize it.  With children, that’s not usually a good thing, as they have made a mess.  However, sometimes it is a good thing.  When one is redecorating or remodeling a house, for a while the place is “turned upside down”, but the end result is usually good.  In our Scripture reading today from this week’s Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer, we read of some who were accused of turning the world upside down.  Those who said this didn’t feel it was good, but I’m sure the Lord was pleased, and would like more of us to be doing just that.

As our passage opens, Paul and his companions had left the city of Philippi, where they had started a church and ministry, and had also been beaten and imprisoned for preaching the gospel.  They journeyed on, now coming to the city of Thessalonica.  Thessalonica was the capital and principal city of the Roman province of Macedonia, in current, present-day northern Greece.  As was Paul’s custom during each of his missionary journeys, he looked for a local synagogue.  If he found one, he would go there on the Sabbath.  Most synagogues had the custom of inviting a guest to speak.  Paul would gladly accept, and using the Old Testament Scriptures, proceed to show how Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, and preach salvation in His Name (vs. 1-3).  Over the next several weeks Paul returned, giving the same message, and some came to believe in the saving Name of Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles.

This, however, did not sit well with the Jewish leaders.  Many refused to accept that Jesus was the Messiah, someone who their own religious leaders had put to death, and who now was being claimed to have risen from the dead.  They were also furious that this new religious group willingly accepted Gentiles as believers. Jealous of the popularity of Paul and those who followed what he taught, they started a riot in the city (vs. 5).  When the city authorities came to halt the riot and find out what caused this uproar, the Jewish leaders stated that Paul and his companions had “turned the world upside down” (vs. 6).

Turning the world upside down, changing it, making it different and sometimes unrecognizable is the reputation that the early church had.  It had revolutionized lives, broken down social barriers of the day, and thrown open personal prison doors.  It caused people to care deeply about each other, which really didn’t happen in that day and age, and brought all people groups to genuine faith in the true God.  In whatever communities Christians came to be, they made a difference, a change.  Life was different.  People found hope where there was none before.  There was genuine love and caring between neighbors.  Things were not the way they used to be.  No other religious faith or philosophy had ever made a positive change like that among people and communities.

In the middle of this chaos we find an unsung hero - Jason (vs. 5-9).  He was a believer in Thessalonica, and was probably one of the leaders in the early church there.  It is possible the church met at his home.  The Jews attacked him, and in order for Paul and his companions to be let go, Jason paid a security for them.  He faithfully played his part to help spread the Gospel, and lives were changed because of his courage and faithfulness.

Paul and his group had to quickly flee for their lives, going about 50 miles southwest, to the village of Berea, where he founded another church.  The Bereans didn’t just take Paul’s word that the Old Testament prophecies were referring to Jesus.  They went home and studied it themselves, and then, seeing it was true, believed (vs. 11-12).  We need to do the same, and check through the Bible ourselves to see if a preacher really is preaching sound doctrine.  Always compare what you hear with what the Bible says.  A true preacher’s message will align fully with Scripture.

This is a wake-up call to us.  We can’t afford to believe everything we hear.  Beware of spiritual wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Jesus warns us of this in Matthew 7:15-23.  We should follow the example of the Bereans, who used Scripture to evaluate whatever was taught.  Then when we know the truth, we should go out like the early church did, and turn the world upside down in a good and godly way that will glorify the Name of Jesus.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Correct Door

John 10:1-10

Knowing the correct door is important.  There have been several times when I had an appointment in a large office building, and when I got off the elevator, I stood in a long hallway with a dozen or more doors.  It was good I had a specific room number, as otherwise I would not know which door to go through.  Picking the correct door was important.  Otherwise I would be in the wrong office, the wrong place.  That could be embarrassing, plus I would be late for my appointment.  There have been some game shows on television where at some point in the show the contestant needs to pick a door and they would get the prize behind the door.  Pick the correct door and it was a good prize.  Pick the wrong one and it might be something useless.  Sometimes the door we pick to open is even more important than these.  In our Scripture reading today, the Apostle John tells us from his Gospel of one Name that Jesus gave Himself, that of the Door.  Let’s see what John tells us, and what we can learn today.

As our passage begins, Jesus is describing a scene that His audience would likely be familiar with, that of a shepherd and his sheep.  In the evening, the shepherd would gather the sheep together into a sheepfold or sheep pen.  This would be to protect the sheep from any danger at night, whether from wild animals or thieves who would try to steal the sheep.  As Jesus describes the scene, He says that the thief usually won’t come through the door of the pen, but sneaks in another way (vs. 1).  That’s the same with our homes.  The thief often comes in through a window, or maybe the back entrance.  People we allow in our front door are those we welcome into our homes.  Jesus tells us that the shepherd will go through the door of the sheepfold.  He calls the sheep, and they recognize his voice and come to him (vs. 2-5).

Most of us are familiar with the title Jesus gave Himself of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14).  Here we read of Jesus calling Himself the Door (vs. 7, 9).  Doors are important.  They keep our houses protected, both from intruders and also from weather.  Jesus is both the Good Shepherd and the Door, a door between us and our enemies.  Just as a door can protect us from all harm and danger from evil, so does Jesus.  The thieves and robbers are those who try to trap us with false doctrines and teachings, and the chief thief is Satan.

By going in through the Door of Jesus we find salvation (vs. 9).  Just as it was important for me to find the correct door to enter for my appointments, it is important to select the correct door for salvation.  Picking the wrong door will bring eternally disastrous results.   There is only one door to heaven, and that is Jesus Christ.  Jesus is not one way among many.  He is the only way.

When we go through the Door that Jesus is, not only do we receive salvation, we are also privileged to become part of God’s family.  We then go out into the world as Jesus’ witnesses.  He also provides us with pasture, providing for all of our needs.

Are we listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd as He calls His sheep, or are we listening to the father of lies (John 8:42-45) ?  Satan is the thief that Jesus is talking about, and he has come to steal, to kill, and to destroy (vs. 10).  He will try to lead us away from the Good Shepherd.  He tries to get people to select another door, any other door, than the one that is Jesus, the only door that will bring us salvation.  In contrast to a thief who frequently may take a life, Jesus came to give us life, and to reconcile us to God.  Someone could have all the money, belongings, friends, etc., but still have an empty life.  If one doesn’t have Jesus, their life will be empty.  Jesus is the only One who can bring us an abundant life.

Are we looking to go through the correct door, or will be deceived by Satan, the liar and thief?  Jesus said that He is the door we have to enter in to be saved.  Only one door brings the prize on the game show.  Only one door will get you to the correct office.  Only going through Jesus, the Door, will bring us salvation and abundant life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Following In The Footsteps Of Jesus

I Peter 2:19-25

Some people think that when they accept Jesus as their Savior, then all of the problems and difficulties they have in life will be over.  Perhaps they were told that by another Christian.  Yet when they became a Christian hardships and difficulties still happened, and it seemed that the closer they walked with Jesus, the more opposition they faced.  Today’s Scripture passage comes from an epistle or letter that the Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were suffering some terrible persecution for their faith, and who faced hardships and difficulties each day.  In our passage we will read how to handle opposition and persecution that comes our way.

No one likes it when they are unjustly treated.  We try to live a good, upright life, do our work well, and then we get mistreated, perhaps by our boss or co-workers, or maybe a neighbor, or even someone we thought was a friend.  How do we react at these times?  Do we accept it, with faith in God, trusting His sovereign care?  Or do we respond in anger or discontent?  Believers will sometimes be treated wrongly and unfairly in life.  Peter instructs his readers here that if we act commendably, it will glorify God (vs. 21).  Jesus is the pattern for Christians to follow, as He unjustly suffered, but responded with perfect patience.

Jesus’ suffering was part of God’s plan (Matthew 16:21-23).  The suffering He endured was for our salvation (Matthew 20:28).  All believers who seek to follow Jesus must be prepared to suffer, as well (Mark 8:34-35).  Jesus is our example in everything, including our example in suffering.  Often when we are ill-treated we want to fight back, to get even with those rotten, good-for-nothings that did us wrong.  However, Jesus did not fight back (John 19:10-11).  He showed perfect love and forgiveness (Luke 23:34).  When we submit to God’s will, showing a godly example, others will be drawn to Jesus (John 12:32).

Sometimes some of our suffering is the result of our own sins or mistakes (vs. 20).  The suffering, persecution, and opposition that Peter is talking about here, though, is not one that we brought upon ourselves due to our own failings, but the suffering that comes because we carry the Name of our Savior, and our doing good in His Name.  Jesus never sinned, but He suffered to bring us salvation.  We should face suffering as He did - with patience, calmness, and trust in God.  Jesus did not retaliate (vs. 23).  Throughout His ministry, when the Pharisees and Jewish leaders hurled verbal abuse His way, Jesus never answered back in kind.  And when they arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, beat Him, and had Him crucified, Jesus did not fight back, though all the power of Heaven was at His call.  Jesus left the judging to God.  Instead of retaliating, He forgave.  Jesus handed Himself over to God, suffering in silence, because He trusted in God’s sovereignty.

Jesus is not only our pattern to follow, but He is also our substitute (vs. 24).  He took upon Himself our sins, and was punished for them.  Those who have accepted Jesus as Savior are now dead to sin because He paid the penalty for them.  We have risen to a new life, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is our Shepherd (John 10:11).  He is also our Overseer or Bishop, leading the Church (vs. 25).  Jesus has gone before us, clearing the path.  We need to follow His example, and trust God to deal with the wrongs done to us.  Like a child does with their parents, we need to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Life isn’t always fair.  Sometimes we do right, and get kicked in the pants.  We are not deserving of sympathy when we are punished for doing wrong.  However, God is with us when we suffer for doing right, for following Jesus’ example.  When we endure suffering, others can see the Lord’s power to help His children, and will be drawn to Him.