Saturday, February 27, 2021

Do We Love God More?

 Genesis 22:1-14

Here are two questions for a Christian to ask themselves.  First, is your love for God stronger than your love for any other object in your life, including other people?  Second, are you willing to obey God, even if He asks you to do something that is very challenging, something that you really wouldn’t want to do?  These were two questions Abraham faced that we will read about in our Scripture passage for today.  Abraham faced one of the greatest tests that anyone was ever asked to face.  Let’s take a look and see what it was, how he came through it, and whether he passed the test or not.

Isaac was the son that Abraham and his wife had waited many, many years for.  He was their much beloved pride and joy.  He was the son that God had spoken of and promised them, and was so dear to Abraham’s heart.  Abraham loved the Lord God with all of his heart, and he also dearly loved Isaac.  How strong, though, was Abraham’s love for God, and how deep was his faith?  Would it come through the fire of a test stronger, or would it crumble and fail?  God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him (vs. 1-2).  The test was whether Abraham loved God enough that he would give his son Isaac, the son of the promise, back to Him, or refuse, clinging and holding on to him.  Would Abraham obey what God asked, or say no?

This was not a temptation by God of Abraham.  God does not tempt us (James 1:13).  Rather, it was God examining Abraham’s heart, how faithful, trusting, and obedient he was.  The purpose of this test was not to satisfy God’s curiosity.  It was to settle any question in Abraham’s or anyone else’s mind about the depth of his faith.  In the past, Abraham had lied twice to save his own skin.  He had also tried to fulfill God’s promise through his wife’s maid.  Now Abraham could know for himself the depth of his faith, as would Isaac, and also the rest of the world, down through history to us today.  This test showed Abraham and everyone that he loved God more than His gift.

When Abraham heard God’s command, he immediately got his son Isaac and two of his servants, and set out to do what God had asked (vs. 3-5).  Abraham obeyed without wavering, reluctance, or delay.  Though his faith was being tested, Abraham knew and believed three things.  He knew that Isaac was the vehicle of God’s promise, so Isaac must live.  He knew that God keeps His promises.  Lastly, Abraham knew that God is all powerful, even over death (Hebrews 11:17-19).  Because he truly believed these three things, he could confidently assure his servants of his and Isaac’s return (vs. 5).  Abraham was so confident in the permanence of God’s promise, that he believed if Isaac were to be killed, God would raise him from the dead, or that God would provide him with a substitute for Isaac upon the mount (vs. 7-8).

God did not really want Isaac to be a human sacrifice, as He condemned such pagan practices (Leviticus 20:1-5).  He wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart, so it would be clear that he loved God more than he loved his promised and long-awaited son.  When God saw that Abraham was willing to obey without question, argument, or delay, He stepped in and provided the sacrifice for him (vs. 12-13).  When we give to God what He asks, He returns to us far more than we could dream.  God will always provide exactly what we need, when we need it.  When we obey Him, the Lord assumes full responsibility for our needs.  He provided the ram for Abraham.

In addition to showing us the depth of love, obedience and faith of Abraham, this is also a picture of substitutionary atonement that finds its fulfillment in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Just as God provided Abraham with a ram, He provided the Lamb for the forgiveness of our sins in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.  God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son, Isaac.  God did not spare His own Son, Jesus, from dying on the cross.  There was no last-minute reprieve for Jesus.  He suffered and died for our sins.  However, the hope that Abraham had that his son would be resurrected, came true for Jesus.

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves how deep and strong is our love for God, and how willing are we to obey Him.  Are we willing to give up what we treasure most for Him?  Will we lay it on the altar of sacrifice?  God gave His best for us, His beloved Son Jesus, to die for us?  Will we truly give Him our heart of love and obedience?

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Baptism Of Jesus

Mark 1:9-11

Though many of the events in the life and ministry of Jesus are not recorded in all four Gospels, several of them are, and His baptism is one of them.  Our Gospel passage for this week from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer tells Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus.  Let’s take a closer look at this event which was important enough for all four evangelists to record.

The Scriptures speak of two different types of baptism.  Throughout the Book of Acts and many of the Epistles we read of Christian or Believer’s Baptism, the baptism that Jesus, before His Ascension, instructed the Apostles to perform for future believers (Matthew 28:19-20).  This baptism is a public sign that one has accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior from sin through His death and resurrection.  The other baptism was the baptism that John the Baptist performed, which was a baptism of repentance.  A short while before Jesus began His ministry, John the Baptist appeared on the scene preaching repentance and the need for people to turn from their sins and follow the Lord and His Word.  Many people took John the Baptist’s message to heart, were repentant, and were baptised by him as a sign of their repentance and desire to amend their lives.

As we read in the Gospels, right prior to the start of His ministry, Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptised by him.  We must ask why He would do this.  This wasn't a believer's baptism.  Jesus would not take part in that, as He couldn’t accept Himself as Savior.  However, why would the Lord Jesus take part in the baptism of John the Baptist, which was a baptism of repentance?  Jesus, the sinless Son of God, did not have any sins that He needed to repent from.

One of the main reasons why Jesus was baptised was because He was identifying with sinners.  Jesus would ultimately bear the sins of all mankind.  That was the whole purpose that He came to earth for, to take our sins upon Himself, and bear the punishment for them at the Cross of Calvary.  Jesus did not become a sinner, but He took upon Himself our sins and the punishment they deserved, while His perfect righteousness would be imputed to those who believe.

Another reason that Jesus took part in this baptism was to show His support of the ministry of John the Baptist.  Many of the Pharisees, along with the chief priests of Jerusalem, were critical of John the Baptist’s ministry and rejected him.  However, a large number of the common folk, and the more “public sinners” came to John to hear his preaching and be baptised.  Later in His ministry, Jesus gave the testimony that there was no one born of women who was greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11).  By taking part in John’s baptism Jesus was showing that He accepted and believed in what John preached and taught.

It was at the baptism of Jesus that God gave a public affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah by testimony directly from heaven (vs. 10-11).  Some false churches and doctrines deny the Trinity, saying that it is not mentioned in the Bible.  Here we see, though, all three members of the Trinity.  We see God the Father in the Voice that spoke from heaven.  God the Son is in Jesus Christ, of course.  And God the Holy Spirit is shown in the dove that descended upon Jesus.  Let us all publicly affirm Jesus as the Messiah, and Son of God!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Proclaiming Jesus' Victory

 I Peter 3:18-22

Sometimes towards the end of an action or suspense movie, TV show, or book, we see the good character proclaim to the criminal or villain their fate or doom.  They have been inflicting havoc and devastation on people throughout the show, and now they have been caught.  In a dramatic scene the hero will declare the victory, that the bad character’s time is up, their fate and doom are sealed.  Perhaps there is a scene where the good character comes walking into the prison to see the criminal, the one who had opposed them throughout the show, causing nothing but trouble.  They walk in, just to let the villain know that they are now paying for their crimes, and that they, the good guy, have won.  In our Scripture passage today from Peter’s first epistle, we find a similar scenario.  Let’s see what God’s Word says.

Peter opens up this passage by reminding us all of the sacrificial death and atonement that Jesus provided for us (vs. 18).  Jesus Christ provided us access to God.  He was just.  He never sinned.  We are unjust sinners.  He took our place and satisfied God’s just penalty for sin, opening the way to God for all who believe.

After His death on the cross, Jesus went to proclaim His victory to the lost souls, those who had rejected God, those who had heard and rejected Noah’s preaching (vs. 19-20).  These were the largest group of mankind to ever experience the universal judgment of God at one time. What did Jesus do there? Like the victor in a show proclaiming the triumph of goodness to the evil person, Jesus was announcing His triumph on the Cross, which sealed the fate of these doomed souls.  Jesus suffered, but is now exalted at God’s right hand, while all of the demons who were responsible for His suffering are now subject to Him.

Peter continues on in our passage to discuss baptism (vs. 21).  Baptism does not save a person.  It cannot wash away the “filth of the flesh”, our stains of sin.  Baptism is a conscious testimony of one’s faith in the resurrection of Jesus, because it symbolizes our resurrection with Him.  Noah and his family’s salvation “through water” (vs. 20) symbolized baptism.  In baptism we identify with Jesus, who separates us from the lost and gives us new life.  It is not the ceremony that saves us.  It is faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Baptism is the symbol of the transformation that happens in the hearts of those who believe.

Another thing that the Lord teaches us in this passage is that Jesus suffered once for our sins (vs. 18).  It was a sacrifice that was made once for all, not something that had to continually be repeated.  The sacrifices the Jewish people performed each year was not sufficient to atone for their sins, as they had to constantly repeat the sacrifices.  However, Jesus Christ’s one sacrifice for sins was perpetually valid and sufficient.  It never needs to be repeated.

God has given everybody the opportunity to come to Him.  No one can ever claim that they never had a chance.  However, there is not a second chance for those who reject Jesus in their lifetime.  The souls that Jesus proclaimed His victory to were not then able to change their mind.  When the door of the Ark was closed, it was too late to get on and be saved from the flood.  We must accept Jesus during this life.  After death comes, it is too late to turn to Jesus.

Jesus is our Ark of safety from the judgment of God, just as Noah’s ark was for his family.  All throughout the years that Noah was building the ark he preached God’s message to the people.  No one listened.  No one believed.  When the rains did come, though, it was too late to escape God’s judgment and get on the ark.  Today we are also warned of the coming judgment of the Lord.  You need to get into the Ark of safety, the Lord Jesus, by faith in His death and resurrection.  If you have not already, now is the day to call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Lord Our Rock

 Psalm 18:1-33

Imagine being out in the wilderness, and a powerful storm comes up or an enemy approaches.  Immediately you start looking for some safe shelter.  Staying out in the storm or open to the enemy would be dangerous.  Where do you turn to?  You need something that will protect you from these storms, from a possible earthquake, or from an approaching enemy.  Your shelter needs to be strong and dependable.  When you are in your shelter, you are able to watch the storm or the enemy rage, but you are secure.  You are blessed, because as powerful as they are, your shelter is more powerful, keeping you well protected.  David found just such a shelter, and he wrote about it in our psalm for today.  Let’s take a look.

David spent a good deal of his time out in the wilderness, usually not through his own choice.  He was there trying to escape from his enemies, namely King Saul.  When Saul’s troops were nearby, David needed to find some shelter to hide in.  There were times, too, when he needed to find a shelter from storms.  Where can you find a shelter in the wilderness?  David describes in this psalm and in many others, that he found a safe and secure shelter in the large rocks that were all around in the wilderness and desert areas he would escape to.

A rock can provide protection, shelter, and solid reliability.  Just as David found, we too can find that God is that Rock.  He is faithful, dependable, and strong, a massive, unshakable foundation and source of defense.  God’s protection is limitless.  David found the Lord to be, not only like a rock of safety for him, but also like a fortress, a shield, and an animal’s horn for defense (vs. 2).  A large rock, like we find in some wilderness areas, can’t be moved, and hiding behind or between these rocks provides safety.  God is a Rock of safety for us if we run to Him.  He will not be moved by those who wish to harm us.  Strong fortresses also keep us safe from enemies.  When we get into a fortress, the enemy cannot follow.  When we are safe in Jesus, the enemies of our soul cannot get to us, either.  He is our shield, coming between us and harm.  The horns of certain animals are a symbol of might and power, just as God is for us.  He is our stronghold, high above our enemies.

The Lord was all David needed in his life’s tough battles, and He is for us as well.  In our trouble, we can call out to Him, just as David did, and find a safe shelter and help (vs. 6).  Hiding in the shelter out in the wilderness, David witnessed many storms, and pictured these mighty forces of nature as the way the Lord God comes down from heaven just to rescue His beloved child (vs. 7-15).

Sometimes our trials become so overwhelming that we feel like we are drowning in them.  David felt that way, too (vs. 16).  David knew that God would either deliver him from the problem or be his support as he went through it.  God will help us, hold us steady, and protect us.  When we are in the care of Jesus, we are never helpless.  He will use His power to rescue us (vs. 16-19).

Our friends or loved ones may break their promises to us.  However, the Lord’s promises are true (vs. 30).  We can always rely and put our trust in Him.  God is a shield to protect us when we are too weak to face trials by ourselves.  He knows we are frail and feeble humans, and has promised to come between us and the enemy.  He will strengthen, protect, and guide us.

Don’t fear that the protection and care that God gave to David is only something that happened in Biblical days.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  He has majesty, power, and endurance to come to our aid.  We can run to safety in God’s care whenever we need it.  Instead of trying to handle our problems on our own, we should turn to the Lord Jesus.  We can find refuge in His love and care.  We can hide ourselves in the cleft of our Rock, and He will provide shelter for us.  Jesus will keep us safe from the storm.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Promise Of The Rainbow

 Genesis 9:8-17

Promises are very important to us.  We all want our friends and loved ones to keep the promises they made to us, and if we are people of integrity, we want to keep the promises we have made to others.  Sometimes, though, promises end up being broken.  Many of us might know someone who makes promises, but never bothers to keep his word.  His promises, his word, means nothing.  Sometimes things come up and a promise can’t be kept.  Or a promise is made that is so unreasonable that it could never be kept.  Broken promises mean a lot of disappointment.  There is One, though, who has never broken a promise He has made, and that is the Lord God.  In our Scripture passage today from the Book of Genesis, we read of a promise He made many millennia ago, and has still kept to this day.

As our passage opens, Noah and his family, along with all of the animals, have just disembarked from the ark.  God had instructed Noah and his sons to build the ark in order to save themselves and a pair of each of the animals because God was going to destroy the world.  Over the years, from the time of Adam and Eve, on down to Noah’s day, mankind had become exceedingly sinful.  It had gotten to the point that all mankind had become so wicked, and no one obeyed or worshipped God, no one that is, except Noah and his family.  For this reason God destroyed the world with a flood, and spared Noah and his family.  When the floods were over, and the waters dried up, the eight people, along with the animals, came off the ark into a clean and new earth.

The memories of the flood, the fear that they felt seeing and hearing the rain come pouring down out of the sky, was still fresh in their minds.  How could they forget the terrified and hopeless cries of those people outside the ark, those who had refused to heed the preaching of Noah, those who had blatantly scorned and blasphemed God?  Would this happen again?  It would be understandable that they might be thinking these thoughts.  Thus God called Noah and his family together, and made a covenant with them (vs. 8-9).

A covenant is a pledge, a promise, a contract made between two parties, in this case between God and man.  There are two types of covenants.  One is a conditional covenant where both parties need to fulfill their side of the promise for it to be valid.  For example, God will bless the people, and keep them in the Promised Land if they obey His laws and worship only Him.  Since the people did not keep their side of the covenant, God permitted invading nations to carry them off into captivity.  The other type of covenant is an unconditional one, such as this one that God makes with Noah and his descendants here in Genesis.

In this covenant that God made, there are three parts.  The first was that there would never be another flood to destroy the whole earth (vs. 11).   The second part was that as long as the earth remains, there will always be the different seasons (Genesis 8:22).  And the last part was the rainbow.  A rainbow will be visible when it rains, as a sign that God will keep His promises (vs. 12-17).

Rainbows are a very special symbol.  Some people do not realize that the Bible tells us that the rainbow is a sign, the symbol of the permanent covenant God made with man after the destruction of the world from the Flood.  When God makes a promise, He does not want us to forget it.  He often gives us some sign or pledge to memorialize His promise (vs 12).  Whenever God sees the rainbow in the sky, He will remember the covenant He made with all living on earth (vs. 16).  God promised never to destroy the whole earth by water again.  He will destroy the earth again in the end times, but that time it will be by fire (II Peter 3:10-11).

God will remember His covenant promises.  He remembers us.  We may forget, we may fail to keep our promises, but God never will.  He will always keep every single promise He has ever made (Joshua 23:14).  God will never forget us, either.  He will never forget the names of those of His children who are engraved upon His palms (Isaiah 49:16).  We can always depend upon His promises!

Friday, February 19, 2021

What Are Our Motives?

 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Look over the membership of most churches, and we can usually find several people who, though they are active and they seem quite religious, there is something that is off in their piousness.  These folks seem devout at first glance, yet they are always looking around to see if anyone is watching their good deeds and religious acts.  They love the approval in the looks of others, and in any positive comments people may make about what a good Christian they must be.  Do you know anyone like that?  Most of us do, and perhaps at some times we are like that ourselves.  Jesus has some words to tell us about this in our Gospel reading for this week.  Let’s take a look at what He says.

Religious hypocrites, those who love to appear holy and righteous, when actually their heart is not really right, are everywhere, and there were plenty of them in Jesus’ day.  As we read through the Gospels, we often see where He exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  Many of them would pray long and seemingly pious prayers, especially if there were people around to hear.  When they gave offerings to the synagogues or to the poor, they wanted everyone to see.  Whenever they fasted, they would always proclaim by their outward appearance that they were hungry and going without food.

Jesus quickly pointed out that these are supposed to be acts of worship, not displays of self-righteousness to gain admiration.  He told them that their reward was that they were seen by men.  Nothing more.  God will not reward hypocrisy.  People’s actions may be good, but their motives are hollow.  These empty acts will be their only reward.  Don’t try to draw attention to yourself in order to win human praise.  God rewards those who are sincere in their faith.

When we give our offering at church, do we either openly or subtly want others to see?  Jesus tells us to do our good deeds quietly, with no thought of reward (vs. 1-4).  Our motives for giving to God and to others must be pure.  Some people give if it benefits them in return.  God wants us to give from a heart that seeks only His approval, not those around us.  It’s not how much we give, but our attitude that pleases God.

When the Pharisees said their prayers, they wanted to be sure others were around to hear (vs. 5-6).  They made their prayers long, thinking that made them look holier.  Again, don’t try to draw attention to yourself with your prayers.  The essence of prayer is not public style, but private communion with God.  If we pray for others to hear, our real audience is people, not God.  God is omniscient.  He sees all we do.  We don’t need to boast about our good deeds, thinking they may get overlooked.  God gives the only rewards that matter.  He keeps a careful record.

Jesus continued to speak to those who fasted, but made a big show about doing so (vs. 16-18).  He tells us here in this Scripture that we should not fast to gain public approval or to impress others with our holiness.  The Pharisees tried to draw attention to themselves by their appearance when they fasted.  Fasting is to be done secretly to the Lord, not for others to know.  We should go about our normal daily routine when we fast, not making a show of it.

Jesus concludes this passage of Scripture with His teaching that our treasures need to be in heaven, not here on earth (vs. 19-21).  It should not be the earthly wealth that so many seek, but instead be heavenly treasures.  What do we think about the most?  Whatever has our attention is our treasure.  We should see our possessions from God’s eternal perspective, and store those treasures in heaven because this life is but a breath.  Only God is worthy of our heart.

Don’t let your desire to serve Jesus become overshadowed by a desire for approval from others.  One word of approval from God is worth a million from other people.  Our giving, prayers, and fasting should not be self-centered, but God-centered.  Not done to make us look good, but to make God look good.  Don’t do the right deed for the wrong reason.  The reason for which we act is crucial.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

An Ambassador For Christ

 II Corinthians 5:20-6:10

Most countries have embassies in other countries all around the world.  The presidents, prime ministers, kings, or queens will appoint their ambassadors to represent them and their government to these foreign countries.  They will do their best to appoint good and reputable men and women, as these ambassadors will reflect their country.  No one would want their ambassador to be a disreputable type of person, one who is a drunk, disrespectful to others, a lawbreaker of any sort.  God also has His ambassadors.  In our Scripture passage today we will read about God’s ambassadors.

One of the things an ambassador might have to do is to try and reconcile his country and ruler with the country he is appointed to and their ruler.  Some words or actions on one side might have angered the other, and now there is a disruption of communication, maybe a stop in trade or travel.  The ambassador must try and straighten things out before things get worse.  As our passage opens, God's Word tells us that we are ambassadors for Jesus (vs. 20).  How is that?  Why would God need an ambassador?  When God created the world, everything was fine between God and man.  However, that all changed when mankind fell into sin.  Communication and fellowship was disrupted, and our relationship with Him was destroyed.  God did not want to leave the situation like that, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty that our sins required (vs. 21).

Jesus is the sinless Son of God.  He took our sins upon Himself.  God the Father treated Jesus as if He were the sinner, though He was not.  God had Him die as a substitute to pay the penalty for the sins of those who believe on Him.  Jesus did not become a sinner.  He always remained holy and sinless, but He was treated on the cross as if He were the sinner, so that we could be treated as if we were righteous, though we aren’t.  Jesus bore our sins so we could bear His righteousness. Our sin was poured onto Jesus at His crucifixion.  His righteousness is poured into us when we get saved.

When we become a believer and follower of Jesus, He wishes us to bring His message of reconciliation with God to others, to be His ambassadors to the rest of the world (vs. 20).  We represent the King of Heaven with the Gospel.  We plead with the world to be reconciled to Him who is the rightful King.  A faithful ambassador does nothing to discredit his king or country.  He shows integrity, and we must do the same to protect God and the Gospel (vs. 3).

As the Apostle Paul continues here, he describes how we, as ambassadors of Jesus, should act, despite the circumstances we might find ourselves in.  Paul endured much to be a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ (vs. 4-6).  He faced a lot of tribulations and distresses.  Paul was caught in riots, he was imprisoned several times.  In all of this he was upheld by the Holy Spirit (vs. 6), and by the word of truth, which is the Word of God (vs. 7).  Paul did not depend upon his own power to work his ministry, but instead he depended on the power of God, and also by putting on his spiritual armor, which we need to do, as well (Ephesians 6:10-18).

As an ambassador for Jesus, Paul followed the example of the Savior, just as we should  (vs. 8-10).  Paul lived with honor, yet he was treated with dishonor.  He showed a good report in all he did, yet was given a bad report.  Paul was true, yet was deceived by others.  His enemies spoke a lot about him, but didn’t truly know him.  Paul was frequently beaten, but not yet killed.  He had plenty to be sorrowful about, but instead, he rejoiced.  He was poor, but rich in the Lord.

Today, Jesus continues to offer forgiveness and salvation to all who come to Him (vs. 2).  However, the day is going to come when the doors of heaven are shut, and it will be too late, just like the day came when it was too late to get on the Ark with Noah when the rain began to fall.  Don’t put off salvation for a “better time”.  That time may very well never come. Now is the day of salvation!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Don't Put It Off

 Psalm 32

As we approach the Season of Lent this week, the psalm selection from the Lectionary for the week of Ash Wednesday is one of David’s penitential psalms.  Most Christians are familiar with Psalm 51, David’s great song of repentance and sorrow over the terrible sins he had committed.  Today’s psalm, Psalm 32, is also one of penitence.  It also describes what it’s like before one repents and confesses their sins, and the blessedness that follows after repentance and confession.  David knew this from first-hand experience, and God teaches this truth from His Word with us today.

Throughout his life, the Lord taught David important lessons about repentance and forgiveness of sins.  These are outlined throughout Psalm 32.  We see the results of sin in our life, and what happens to us when we resist repentance (vs. 3-4, 9).  The Lord also shows us here what happens when one responds to His conviction and when He forgives us (vs. 5-8, 10-11).

God wants to forgive sinners.  He told it to Moses, telling him that He forgives the iniquities, transgressions, and sins to thousands who confess, showing them mercy (Exodus 34:7).  The Lord God showed it to the world in the greatest way possible through the death of Jesus on the Cross.  For this reason, confession should be a priority with believers (Proverbs 28:13; I John 1:8-9).

Sinning is common to all humankind.  There isn’t a one of us that doesn’t do something wrong and sinful each day.  However, we frequently just sweep them under the rug, and try to forget about it, especially if they aren’t what we would consider big and terrible sins.  Yet old wrongs have a way of catching up with us (Numbers 32:23).  Old sins that have not been dealt with can lead to serious consequences.  Confessing our wrongs restores our fellowship with the Lord.  We then can enjoy His forgiveness.  We can’t always undo our actions, but as Christians, we can know that we are forgiven (vs. 1-2).  In God’s eyes, it is as if they had never been done.

David knew what it was like to put off repenting and confessing his sins.  He went about a year without coming to the Lord with his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, and intentionally having her husband die in battle.  He experienced the physical toll it took on his body.  When we refuse to deal with sin, the results of our wrong-doing can feel consuming (vs. 3-4).  There are physical results from refusing to repent from sin.  During that time of spiritual stubbornness, David experienced the consuming consequences of his own sinful choices.  In such times, we need to turn to God for help.

Confession is agreeing with God, acknowledging that He is right to declare that what we have done is sinful, and that we were wrong to do it (vs. 5).  Refusing to repent is an affront to the Person of God.  We then need to abandon that sin and follow God more faithfully.  Refusing to confess sin makes us miserable, weak, discouraged, and isolated from God.  It damages our fellowship with Him.  Some people refuse to allow God to guide them.  If He wants to keep them useful to Him, then God has no other recourse but to use discipline and punishment (vs. 9).  God wants to guide us with love and wisdom, rather than punishment.  Don’t let your stubbornness keep you from obeying God.

When we repent and confess, our fellowship with the Lord is restored, and our “prayer line” is now unhindered.  We need to be sure it remains that way, as we never know when the storms of life will hit us (vs. 6).  We need to always keep our prayer life well-oiled at all times and in all situations.

David thought of the Lord God as his hiding place (vs. 7).  A hiding place is critical during the storms life brings.  God is the perfect hiding place.  He, alone, is our spiritual and emotional shelter.  When fear drives us to despair, God comforts, strengthens, and calms us.  He is our Father, who has His loving eye on us (vs. 8).  He provides all that we need, and protects us.  We can take refuge in the shadow of His Wing.  God will teach us and reveal His path, while remaining by our side as our caregiver through everything we go through.

Who is your guide in life?  Is it someone who is eternally trustworthy?  If our guide isn’t trustworthy, if we cannot put our complete faith in them, we’ll end up eternally lost (vs. 10).  Be sure that you have put your trust in the only One who is eternally trustworthy!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Heed The Alarm!

 Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Most cities and villages have alarms that they use when there is some sort of danger to the community.  The most common one in my village is the tornado alarm, as tornados can frequently occur where I live, from spring through the early fall.  In some coastal areas, particularly around the Pacific, they have tsunami warning sirens.  If one’s country is at war, and there is a danger of an air attack, there are air raid sirens.  When any of these sirens sound out, we need to quickly find shelter, or danger will strike.  In our Scripture reading today, the prophet Joel is calling for the warning sirens to go off, and the people better pay attention.  Let’s take a look at what he is saying to us.

In ancient times trumpets were used to sound alarms.  One of the frequent alarms that were sounded was that of an invading army.  Joel wanted to warn the people of the impending judgment of God upon them.  The Day of the Lord was coming, it was right at hand, and the people needed to be warned.   The Day of the Lord isn’t something that the lost should look forward to.  It is the time when God will show Himself as victor over the world.  For sinners it will be judgment, punishment, and justice.  The Israelites thought it would be terrible for others, but not for them.  Even today there are those who like to think of God bringing judgment on others, on their enemies, but think they will be spared.  The Israelites throughout their history had not been faithful to their covenant with God, but instead practiced idolatry and other hypocrisies.  For everyone who has not accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior, the Day of the Lord will be a day of darkness and despair.

Joel called the people to repentance, and many of the people responded with a very casual apology.  Just a quick and casual sorry, and then thinking that all was right between them and God, that He would never really punish them.  We must be careful to not take a flippant view of God’s forgiveness (vs. 12-14).  The prophets repeatedly link forgiveness with true and genuine repentance.   We are told to move from outward displays of religiosity to genuine, inward change.  Fasting, weeping, and mourning are fine, but more important is true, genuine change.  God does not want outward signs of penitence without true, inward repentance (vs. 13).  The tearing of garments, the outward tears, the giving up of certain things during Lent is useless unless the heart is repentant and contrite.

God instructed Joel to warn the people of His coming judgment.  Unless there was true, genuine repentance, there was coming a dark and terrible time for them.  Yet, God is not cold and unforgiving.  In the midst of judgment, He still gave the people opportunities to repent.  If the people showed genuine repentance, He would forgive them and bring His blessings.  Most of the people, including most of the religious leaders, scoffed at Joel’s warnings.

We see the same today.  It is not popular to preach or teach of God’s judgment.  It upsets some people, and others scoff at the thought, so we don’t generally hear too much talk about it.  However, it is something that we need to hear.  If the warning sirens don’t sound, how do we know that a tornado is headed our way?  When it’s right on top of you, it’s too late to do anything!  The siren needs to warn in advance.  We need to know in advance that there is a Savior to save us from our sins.  We need to know in order to turn to Him, to call upon Him before we die.

Jesus is waiting for us to turn to Him, so He can forgive us.  Turn to God while there is still time.  No one knows how long they have.  The warning sirens are going off now!  Trust Him now, while there is time.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Is Prayer A Priority?

 Mark 1:29-39

Life today seems to become more and more busy.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to get accomplished what we need or want to get done.  In order to get done what we want, we end up having to cut some things out of our schedule.  What should we cut?  Eating?  Sleeping?  Watching TV or videos?  Sports or exercise?  Unfortunately with a lot of Christians one of the first things to get cut, whether deliberately or inadvertently, is our time in prayer and communion with the Lord.  In our Scripture reading today from the Gospel of Mark, we’ll see what the Lord Jesus, a very busy Person, thought was important and should never be cut from the schedule.

As we read through the Gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus constantly on the move, doing a lot, accomplishing much.  His public ministry was only about 3 ½  or so years.  That’s not a long time, and He had a lot that needed to be done and taught to the disciples before He went to the cross.  Jesus didn’t have more hours in a day then we do.  Yes, He was divine, but He was also fully human, too, so He needed to eat and to sleep like we do.  Jesus needed to relax, and we see that He did take time to be with friends, like Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  However, one thing that He never cut from His busy, often non-stop day was His time in prayer with the Heavenly Father.

As we see in Mark’s account, Jesus had left the synagogue after having taught the people in attendance there.  He went to Peter’s home, perhaps to rest a bit, maybe get a bite to eat, but they find Peter’s mother-in-law is not well (vs. 29-31).  Jesus brings her healing from the fever that had her sick in bed.  Word quickly got around that Jesus heals the sick and casts out demons (which He had done in the synagogue earlier in the day), so by the evening, crowds of people had gathered.  They brought their sick loved ones and friends (vs. 32-34).  Jesus didn’t send them away, telling them He wanted time to rest.  This was part of His ministry.

Prayer is a vital link between us and God.  Like Jesus, we need to deliberately take the time to pray (vs. 35).  No matter how busy we are each day, and Jesus was busy, we always need to make time for prayer.  Jesus did just that, often waking up before sunrise for a quiet time of prayer.  Jesus made it a priority.  Many great men and women of God throughout history have done that.  Martin Luther, the German reformer of the 16th century, once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

The disciples were not at that point in their spiritual lives, and didn’t know where Jesus had gone so early in the morning (vs. 36-37).  When they finally found Jesus, they told Him that everyone was looking for Him.  Most of these people were not seeking Him to hear the Gospel, but for healing or to see miracles.  Jesus said that He and the disciples needed to go into other villages in order to preach there also.  The emphasis of His ministry was to preach salvation, and others needed to hear that message.

Reading over this passage, we see that Jesus cast demons out of people, in addition to healing the sick (vs. 34, 39).  We see, though, that when He cast the demons out, He told them not to speak, because they knew who He was.  Why was that?  Didn’t Jesus want people to know that He was the Messiah, the Son of God?  The demons know who Jesus is.  They know the truth (James 2:19).  However, they reject the truth and God who is the source of Truth.  Jesus also did not want testimony from demons.  If the demons give public testimony, the enemies of Jesus could accuse Him of being in league with Satan.  Jesus wanted the people to believe He was the Messiah because of what He said and did, not because of the demon’s words.  Satan wanted people to follow Jesus for what they could get out of Him, not because He was the Son of God.  By commanding the demons to remain silent, Jesus proved His authority and power over them.

Have you accepted the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and have you asked Him to be your Savior?  If you have, do you make a point of regularly coming to Him in prayer?  We all need a personal relationship with Jesus, and then to keep that relationship well-oiled in prayer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

What Motivated Paul

 I Corinthians 9:16-23

What motivates some people in their chosen profession?  For many it is the financial reward, the paycheck they get at the end of the week.  We all need to have some sort of income in order to survive in this world, and for some the size of that paycheck is the big motivator.  Some people are motivated by what good they can do through their profession, how many people they can help.  And then others like to be able to brag a bit about their careers and professions.  What motivated the Apostle Paul in his career of a missionary and preacher?  As we look at our Scripture passage today from this week’s Lectionary, we’ll get a peek at some answers.

As our passage opens, we read that Paul was not boastful of his ministry as a missionary and preacher of the Gospel (vs. 16).  It was not his message, not his ability that saw people saved.  Paul did not preach from personal pride.  He knew that he had been commissioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For years, earlier in his life, he had opposed the Lord Jesus, fighting against believers and even having them arrested and executed.  Then the Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and Paul put his faith and trust in the Savior.  At this time the Lord commissioned Paul to bring the Gospel to the known world at that time.  He would not brag about what he had accomplished because he knew that God had called him to this ministry.  Paul couldn’t stop preaching, even if he wanted to.  He was driven by the desire to do what God wanted him to, using his gifts for God’s glory, not for his own personal bragging rights.  His goal was to glorify God and bring people to a saving relationship with Christ.

Paul did not preach expecting a great financial reward (vs. 18).  As his ministry expanded, and more churches were established in more and more cities, he could have requested offerings to be raised in each of these churches to be sent to him.  Many preachers today like to boast about their ministries, how big their church is, how many people attend their Sunday School.  They boast about their TV and/or radio programs, the Christian books they have written, schools they’ve been associated with, honorary degrees they have, etc.  Paul never did that.  He felt he couldn’t boast, because of his past, and that the Lord called him to his work.  He never asked for financial support.  He knew that God would take care of him.  Paul looked at himself as a servant, whose task was to spread the Gospel.  He tried to be self-supportive so that he would not offend anyone, and could win more to Jesus Christ (vs. 19).

Within the limits of God’s moral law, Paul would adapt his lifestyle to whatever community he was ministering in, whether Jewish or Gentile (vs. 20-21).  He didn’t expect everyone to become exactly like him.  He ate their cuisine, not expecting them to learn the good-old hometown recipes he grew up with.  Do we want everyone to be like us, or are we sensitive to other cultures?  Paul was, though he never changed Scripture or compromised the truth.

Paul was careful with how he presented the Gospel to others (vs. 22-23).  We can learn from his approach.  When we talk to others about Jesus, bringing the Gospel message to them, we should attempt to find common ground with them.  When Paul went to Athens, as he waited for his companions to arrive, he wandered the city learning what he could about the residents.  Then he used this information as he spoke to them about their religion and the truth about the one, true God.  We should avoid a know-it-all attitude when presenting the Gospel.  That only turns people off and alienates them to the truth we are attempting to bring.  We should do what we can to make others feel accepted, and be sensitive to their needs and concerns.  Then we can look for opportunities to tell them about Jesus.

Paul didn’t want to just teach and improve the lives of those he brought the Gospel to.  His goal was to see others get saved.  Teaching and helping others will mean nothing when they stand before Jesus, if we don’t first and foremost seek to win them to Him.  Our mission as a believer is to share God’s love and offer forgiveness with all people, regardless of nationality, race, language, culture, or social standing.  Let our motive be the same as Paul’s, to follow the Lord’s call, bringing Him glory, and not ourselves.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Come Out Of Your Cave

 Psalm 142

Have you ever felt so down and discouraged, that all you wanted to do was go off into a solitary, dark room by yourself, and just be left alone?  Sometimes our problems are so overwhelming, and our depression so deep, that we feel like doing just that.  All of our friends and acquaintances have let us down, and it seems like no one cares.  This is where we find David as we look at our psalm for this week.

As a young man, David had come to the attention of King Saul when he killed the great enemy Goliath and defeated the Philistines.  King Saul kept David available to fight with the army, and also invited him to court since he was a good musician and his songs calmed Saul’s often erratic moods.  Those erratic moods of King Saul were what caused David so many problems.  Saul became quite jealous of the young man David, as he was becoming very popular with the people because of his military prowess and youthful good looks.  That jealous quickly grew into a murderous rage, and David was forced to flee for his life.  Saul wasn’t content to just have him away from court, he pursued after him all across the country, and even out into the wilderness.

At one time David felt that it was necessary to flee out of the country, and into the neighboring city of Gath, in the Philistine territory.  While there, the Philistine king was notified that this man was their enemy David who had defeated Goliath and won many battles against them.  So David had to quickly leave the place that he thought he might have found refuge (I Samuel 21:10-22:2).

Where could he go?  Saul made his homeland dangerous for him, and now even the neighboring countries were not safe.  A depressed and discouraged David literally found a cave and crawled into that to hide from his enemies.  The superscription of our psalm says that it was written while he was in the cave. This was one of the lowest times in David’s life.  He was lonely and desolate, so much so that he chose a cave to be in for safety and to be alone.  That is rather desperate.  God brought David to this place to begin to shape and use him even more than before.  It was here that God started to reroute his life.

David was going through a prolonged period of stress, constantly running for his life, finding no place to stay where he was safe, and this led to depression.  He felt worthless and useless.  David needed to view himself as God saw him, someone who was loved and special.  Staying at the bottom, rolling in misery, leads only to more despair.  David didn’t want to stay there, so he turned to the Lord God and cried out, bringing his problems to Him, just as we need to (vs. 1-2).

In the middle of confessing his darkest feelings of hopelessness, David acknowledged that God knows everything (vs. 3).  It appeared that it was just as bleak outside the cave as it was inside.  It seemed that no one cared, that he had been abandoned (vs. 4).  There was no one to stand with him.  Sometimes that seems to be the case for us, as well.  Those we thought were our friends, those we thought we could trust and rely on, have turned away from us, even against us.  Yet we can find, just as David did, that even when every person has turned away from us, God is still there.  We can take refuge in Him when our problems overwhelm us.  God understands our feelings.  He is there, He cares and is compassionate to us.

David knew that he could not stay in that cave.  It would become like a prison to him (vs. 7).  He needed to get out and get back on the path of his life that the Lord had set him on, to get out not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally.  Had David chosen to stay in his misery, his life would have remained in that cave.

Are we in a cave, as David was?  Not a literal cave, but one that we have chosen to crawl into to escape our problems, or a cave of misery and depression?  Turn to the Lord God and bring our problems to Him, as David did.  Only God can bring us out of our emotional and spiritual captivity.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

A Woman Of Great Faith

II Kings 4:8-37 

When we’ve been dealt a very hard blow, and the bottom seems to have dropped out of our lives, what is our response?  Do we have faith that God will hear our prayers, or do we just give up?  In our Old Testament reading today from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer for this week, we read of a woman who was a believer in Yahweh, of the help that she gave the prophet, a man of God, and of an event that she went through that would have tried the faith of the best of us, yet she did not waver or lose her trust in the Lord God, nor in His servant.  Let’s see what lessons the Lord might want to teach us from this Scripture.

This Bible passage tells of an account from the life of the prophet Elisha, who was the successor of the great prophet Elijah.  Throughout the year, Elisha would journey across the country, preaching and teaching the people the Word of God, and urging them to abandon their false idols and return to Yahweh.  Whenever Elisha was by the village of Shunem, a woman there would invite him to her home and provide a nice, home-cooked meal for him.  Her and her husband even decided to add a room to their house so Elisha would have a place to rest and sleep (vs. 8-10).  She had the gift of hospitality, and did what she could to help and encourage the traveling preacher.  Because of her faithfulness and kindness to the man of God, the Lord would bring her a great blessing.  God never forgets our acts of kindness to others, particularly to those who are doing His work.

This woman from Shunem had no children, and in that time in history, to be childless was to be thought of as shamed and unloved by God.  Yet because of her care for God’s prophet, He would bless her abundantly.  Elisha told her that she would have a son, and though she had gone years with no child, she did bear a son, just as God had promised her (vs. 11-17).  Her greatest trial was yet to come, though.

When the child was several years old, possibly a pre-teen or early teen, he went out to help his father and other farm-hands work in the field.  While out in the sun he became sick, possibly from sunstroke.  The boy was carried to his mother, where a while later he died (vs. 18-20).  The moment of testing had come.  How would she face this?  Her first response was to go and call for the man of God to come.  Notice that when she was questioned about why she was seeking the man of God, she didn’t fall to pieces, wringing her hands and crying hysterically.  She spoke a word of faith, “It is well.” (vs. 23, 26).  How could it be well when her son was lying dead at home?   Again, the answer is in faith.  The woman had faith.   She knew that God didn’t give her a child after many years of barrenness to only take him away a few years later.  And rather than just fall to pieces at his bedside, she did what God instructs us to do, call upon the religious leaders to come and pray (James 5:14).  Pray, believing that God hears and answers.

When faced with a daunting situation, neither this woman, nor the prophet Elisha backed away and said, “Oh well.  There’s nothing we can do now.”  They stood on faith that God can raise the dead.  Elisha’s mentor, Elijah had raised another young boy to life again after he had died (I Kings 17:17-24).  They stepped out in faith, believing that Yahweh is not a weak and piddling god, like the idols the pagans worshipped.  He is the one, true God, both a mighty and a loving God, who does all things well.  They went back to the house, believing God would hear and answer them, and Yahweh answered their faith in Him (vs. 32-37).

When we are faced with a seemingly impossible situation, do we throw up our hands and give in, defeated and depressed?  Or will we step out in faith like the Shunammite woman did?  Will we have faith like Elisha did, following the leading that his mentor Elijah had taught him, trusting God to do the impossible?  God calls us to trust in Him, no matter what happens - in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story.

Friday, February 5, 2021

No One Is Equal With God

 Mark 1:21-28

There is a school of thought that is prevalent in some people’s religious beliefs that in the universe there is a battle between good and evil, and that the two sides are relatively equal or balanced in strength and power.  They hold to the belief in a good god or deity, and an evil one.  Sometimes one god or side may get the upper hand for a little while, and then the other one does.  This belief is even held by some Christians.  They believe that God, or Yahweh, is on the good side, while Satan is on the evil side, and that Jesus and Satan have more or less equal power.  As we look into our Scripture passage from the Gospel of Mark today, we’ll clearly see that this is not so.

As our passage begins, Jesus and some of His disciples came to the village of Capernaum, and on the Sabbath, He went to the synagogue to worship.  As was the custom of the day, any visitor was invited to speak and bring a message or teaching, so Jesus began to speak and bring the people His message (vs. 21).  The congregation was amazed at His teaching, as it was so unlike what they were used to hearing from their own rabbi and from the scribes.  Scribes in the Bible, were men who were experts in the Jewish religious and secular law, yet the teaching that Jesus gave that Sabbath was one with authority, so different from the messages that the scribes and rabbis gave (vs. 22). Why was that, considering that the rabbis and scribes should have been well-educated?

The authority that Jesus taught with came from the Word of God.  His messages were with the authority of the Scriptures.  The scribes and other religious leaders who taught in any of the synagogues based their authority largely on that of other rabbis' opinions and thoughts, particularly those rabbis from the past, which were contained in the Talmud.  They taught out of those books, which was man’s word, rather than out of the Scriptures, which was God’s Word.  We need to look at where we are getting our spiritual food.  Is it coming from God’s Word the Bible, or is our spiritual diet coming from other religious books, which would be man’s word.  Jesus taught from the Holy Scriptures.

While teaching the people in the synagogue, a man who was possessed by an evil spirit, a demon, came in and cried out, disturbing the religious service (vs. 23-24).  Satan doesn’t like it when people are being fed God’s Word, and will often try to disrupt that.  One thing that we notice in this passage is that the demon immediately acknowledged exactly who Jesus was.  He knew and acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.  He acknowledged Jesus’ sinlessness and deity, which many people denied then, and still do today.

Jesus immediately rebuked the demon (vs. 25).  He did not rebuke the man.  Rather, He rebuked the man’s oppressor, the demon.  Jesus did not want any testimony to the truth coming from the demonic realm.  One reason for that would be that He did not want to fuel any charges from His enemies that He was in league with Satan, a charge that some of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day were already saying.

Satan and his demons have been opposing God right from the start.  Yet this was not, nor has it ever been, a battle of equal strength, equal power.  God and Satan are not two equal powers, battling out between good and evil.  Satan and his demons opposed Jesus every step of the way, which culminated at the Cross.  However, Jesus always triumphed, with the ultimate victory at the Resurrection.

When Jesus spoke to the demons who possessed this man, they immediately had to obey.  Jesus commanded them to come out of this man, and they immediately did (vs. 26-27).  Satan’s power is completely nullified in the presence of Jesus.  When Jesus speaks, the demons are silenced.  They must obey His every word.  When we come against any force of evil, we need to turn to the One who holds all power over the evil one, and that is the Lord Jesus.  At His Name, all powers in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, must bow the knee (Philippians 2:9-11).  They have no choice but to obey His every Word.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Avoiding Offense

I Corinthians 8:1-13 

Many of the early Christians came out of various religious backgrounds that had plenty of religious rules to follow.  They had been taught that in order to please God, they had to strictly follow all sorts of rules and regulations.  Then they came to salvation through Jesus Christ, and knew that they didn’t have to follow all of these dictates in order to be saved.  Salvation is through grace, not through works.  Many Christians today also come from a former background that stressed works in order to please God and get to heaven, but then they come to know that they are under grace, not under the Old Testament Law, and are free.  They know that they don't have to follow a whole long list of religious rules and regulations.  However, what if this freedom disturbs some other new believers?  What does one do then?  The Apostle Paul touched on this topic in his letter to the Corinthian church.  Let’s see what he taught them.

The setting of this discussion that Paul had with the Corinthians was about whether it was okay for Christians to eat certain meats that were sold in the marketplace.  Meat that had been used in pagan worship was sometimes sold in the marketplaces of the cities in ancient Greece, or it was often served in social settings.  The meat was perfectly good, choice cuts, not old or beginning to rot, but the debate was whether it was okay for a Christian to eat it or not.  Some said it was fine, there was nothing wrong with it, the Christian had that freedom.  Others felt that it was wrong, as it had been offered to idols, and there was no freedom to do that.  This was causing a divide, and Paul wanted to settle the matter.  Should he take away the freedom and install a rule, or should he wound the conscience of the other?

Although idols are phony, and the rituals associated with them are meaningless, there were some Christians who had more sensitive consciences and who were offended by eating meat offered to these idols.  Paul stressed the truth that there is no other deity apart from Yahweh (vs. 6).  We do not serve one god among many.  We serve the only God.  However, Paul also stated that the more mature believer, out of consideration for the weaker, should be careful and considerate of the others.  The weaker believer felt they had sinned when they ate that meat.  Paul instructed that those who felt free needed to consider how their decisions would affect the others.

Today we don’t have any questions about whether meat has been offered to an idol.  There is though, in some Christian circles, the question about drinking any alcohol, such as wine with dinner or a beer with pizza.  Some Christians say that is wrong, others don’t feel so.  Or there is the question of clothing styles, particularly with women.  Some say bold or bright colors on women isn’t right, or women wearing slacks.  Others don’t feel that is wrong.  There is a question about TV or movies, as well.  While none of these things are explicitly prohibited in the Bible, Paul taught that when dealing with other believers whose convictions do not match ours, it is not our job to judge them.  The Holy Spirit will guide them.  Our freedom to act or not should never lead others to violate their conscience.  Knowledge, mixed with love, prevents a believer from exercising freedom that offends weaker believers, and instead builds them up.

Christian freedom does not mean that anything goes.  It means our salvation is not determined by good deeds or legalistic rules.  Some actions may be perfectly alright to do, but may harm a newer or weaker believer.  We must be careful not to offend a more sensitive or weaker believer by our example, which may cause them to sin (vs. 10-11).  There are some actions that the Bible clearly prohibits.  They are fixed and do not change.  Other convictions are based on knowledge or beliefs, and vary from person to person.  God designs a path for each person, and gives a conscience with sensitivity based upon His knowledge of that person.  Our job is to support fellow believers in their walk.

Is there an area in our life that is an obstacle to others in drawing close to Jesus?  Turn the stumbling blocks into stepping stones.  We should do nothing that may make a weak Christian defile their conscience (Galatians 5:13).  Paul did everything with the view of honoring God, winning others to Christ, and building up believers.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Do You Want Wisdom?

 Psalm 111

We all would like to think that we are wise to a certain degree, and where we lack wisdom, hopefully we seek out someone that we feel is wise to help instruct us.  It’s always good to know an older and wiser man or woman to whom we can turn for help and guidance.  Wouldn’t it be nice if someday we could be that older and wiser person that others turn to!  But where can we get that wisdom?  In our psalm for today the Lord tells us where to start on a path to achieving true wisdom and understanding.  Let’s take a look.

Some people equate getting wisdom with getting a lot of school and university education.  They think that the more university degrees one has attached to their name, the wiser they are.  Though there is certainly nothing wrong with getting as much school education as one can, that is not the key to having wisdom.  Some of the most “educated” people around lack genuine wisdom, while some people who are barely literate have what God calls true wisdom.  So where is true wisdom found, and how does someone obtain it?  Jesus, who is Creator of the whole universe, and the source of all wisdom, gives us the answer.  We need to turn to His Word, the Bible, to find our answer.

In verse 10 of our psalm today we read that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.”  Do you wish to be wise?  Fear the Lord.  Do, or obey, His commandments.  Reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom.  Showing Him proper “fear”, or respect, reverence, and worship will lead to wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).  Solomon was one of the wisest people who ever lived, and a collection of many of his sayings, along with those of other people of wisdom, were put into the Book of Proverbs in the Bible.  There he repeatedly instructs us to fear the Lord, as we are also told throughout the Bible.  This fear is not one of anxiety or panic.  It is a healthy respect and reverence for God, and His power and authority.

A healthy fear of the Lord leads to a respect for His commands and Word.  Through God’s Word we learn how He wants His children to live, and as we do so, we will wish to do what pleases Him.  Believers will find obedience to God a joy, not a burden, and it will lead us to that goal of obtaining wisdom and understanding.  As we study God’s Word, the Bible, we begin to gain more wisdom (Proverbs 8).  God gives more insight and understanding to those who study and obey His commandments and Word. True wisdom doesn’t come just from life experiences and academic knowledge.  God is the true and sure source of wisdom.  Anything else is a weak and unstable foundation.

As we study God’s Word, we find out more and more about Him (vs. 2).  Isn’t that something that believers should want to have, more knowledge about God?  Since God is the source of all wisdom, and we desire to be wise, the best way to get that wisdom and understanding is to study His Word more, to find out more of His works and what He has done in the world.

One thing that we soon find out as we study the Bible is that when God makes promises to His people, He keeps them.  God has promised that He would provide for all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), and He has done so (vs. 5-6).  God promised all through Scripture that He would bring salvation to His people.  He provided the means for that salvation through His Son, and those who accept the Lord Jesus will receive it (vs. 9).  God’s Word is more than just some tips on how to live a better life.  It shows us the way of salvation and eternal life.

In response to God’s promise of wisdom and understanding to those who fear and obey Him, in response to keeping all of the promises He has made to us, God desires our whole-hearted love and worship (vs. 1).  We wouldn’t want our spouse or loved one to just partially love us, or only have a partial interest in us.  Partial love or interest is not satisfying for us, nor desired.  Neither does God want that.  We need to worship Him with our whole heart, and love Him with our whole heart (Matthew 22:37).  Love God, fear or give proper reverence and respect to Him, and obey His Word, and we can gain true wisdom and understanding.