Friday, April 30, 2021

A Sheep In God's Fold

John 10:11-16 

Some people go through life feeling like they are anonymous, that no one knows them, cares about them, knows their name, or that they even exist.  They feel like they don’t belong, that they are nothing, just an unknown face in the crowd.   Maybe that might describe you, perhaps some of the time, or maybe even all of the time.  In our Scripture passage today from the Gospel of John we read about Jesus and one of the most well known Names that He has, the Good Shepherd, and how He knows each and every one of the sheep of His flock.  Let’s take a look at this familiar passage.

Jesus was speaking, teaching His disciples and the people who have gathered around Him, when He gave what has become one of the better known titles that He is known by - the Good Shepherd.  Today’s population has become much more urban than in the days of Jesus, but in His day people would have been very familiar with shepherds and their role.  The shepherd would guide the flocks of sheep out into the fields to graze.  They would need to know the area, whether there was any danger around.  They needed to know if there were any plants which would make the sheep sick, if there were any ravines or hidden holes in the ground which a careless sheep might fall into or trip over and break a bone.  The shepherd needed to keep a careful eye on the sheep to see that none of them wandered off and became lost, and most importantly to keep alert for wild and dangerous predators.  Jesus has called Himself the Good Shepherd, as He cares for His flock in just such a way.

The good shepherd is in contrast to a hired hand, a hireling, who only cares for himself, and not the sheep (vs. 12-13).  The hireling represents religious leaders who will perform their duties in good times, but do not truly care for their flock.  When times get tough they flee.  The hireling also tends the sheep for money.  The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep for love.  False teachers and false prophets do not have any such commitment.

Jesus described how He, as the Good Shepherd, would give His life for the sheep (vs. 11, 15).  This is a reference to Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross.  A good and loving shepherd will take risks for the sheep under his care, especially when he has to come up against a dangerous wolf or bear.  Do you know someone who would be willing to lay down their life for you?  Perhaps a spouse or a parent might, but that isn’t always the case.  Like I described at the beginning, there are some who go through life so alone and feeling unloved, never believing that anyone would love them, let alone die for them.  Yet that is exactly what Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, did (vs. 15).  As John 3:16 says, God loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for us, so that if we accept Him as our Savior, we might be able to spend eternity with Him.

Another trait of a caring shepherd is that they know their sheep well.  They know exactly how many they have, and very often they have named each of their sheep.  They keep track of them, and will notice right away when one of them goes missing.  Because of the love and care they have for each individual sheep, when one wanders off and gets into danger, the shepherd will go in search of them, sometimes at a risk (Luke 15:3-7).  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, bringing them into His fold (Luke 19:10).

The shepherd knows the name of each of his sheep, and the sheep knows their shepherd and his voice.  Likewise, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows each and everyone of His children.  He knows our name, and cares deeply for every believer.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, comes when we call, just as a shepherd comes when the sheep start bleating.  Jesus will walk with us through the dangers, like a caring shepherd does with his flock.  He hears our cries and will lead us to safety.  Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and because of His loving care, we will have all that we need (Psalm 23:1).  He promises to always be with us, and to keep watch like a shepherd caring for his sheep.

For those who feel like no one knows or cares about them, I point to the Lord Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd.  If the Savior knows our name, we are certainly loved (vs. 14).  Life is not meaningless.  Turn to Jesus, accept Him as your Savior, and come into His fold.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Family Resemblance

 I John 3:1-8

In many families we frequently see a family likeness.  We see this, not only with physical resemblance, but we can also see it by one’s actions or one’s behavior.  Family members often will speak a lot like each other, will respond or act like their parents or other family members.  Perhaps you see that in yourself, that you physically resemble your parents or siblings, or that your children are taking after some of yours or your spouse’s behavior, and hopefully that would make you proud.  How about the children of God?  In our Scripture for today from the Apostle John’s first epistle, we read that this should also be the case.

Those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior are God’s children (vs. 1).  We are no longer the lost orphans that we once were.  Jesus found us as lost sheep.  He searched for us as a lost coin (Luke 15:1-10).  There are two spiritual fathers in this world - Yahweh and Satan.  Those who are born again through the Blood of Jesus Christ are the children of God (John 1:12).  Those who reject Jesus as their Savior have chosen Satan (John 8:42-45).

Knowing we are God’s children should encourage us to live as Jesus did.  Our behavior, our nature and lifestyle, should be like our Savior’s.  Because of this, the world doesn’t know us, we are not the world’s kind anymore.  We are truly pilgrims, sojourners, and strangers in this world (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 1:1; I Peter 2:11).

The moment a person accepts Jesus as their Savior, they become a child of God.  Throughout our life the Holy Spirit is working in our life, conforming us into the image of Christ (II Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29).  This won’t be completed until Jesus returns (vs. 2).  As we grow as Christians, we should desire to be more like Jesus (vs. 3).  It is a false belief from the devil that we have to be like the world in order to win others to Christ.  Jesus never compromised in order to reach people.  He stayed true to God’s Word, and then let the people choose who they would follow, Him or the devil.  As Christians, we need to stand for holiness, no matter the cost, no matter whether we are scorned, hated, or have loss of money or property.

As we continue on in verse 4, there are some people who mistakenly believe that this verse says that a Christian will never commit a sin ever again.  That is not the case, as we all know that each one of us will occasionally do something wrong.  The verb “commit” in Greek conveys the idea of making sin a habitual practice.  All Christians do fall into sin occasionally, but that should not be the unbroken pattern of our life.  There is a difference between committing a sin and continuing to sin.  A Christian who commits a sin will confess and repent of it, as David did.  The unsaved continues to sin without regard.

Jesus Christ came to take away sin (vs. 5), which is one reason why His followers should not practice sin.  To abide in Christ is to be as though dead to sin (vs. 6).  If there is no check against the habitual practice of sin in someone, no desire to turn away from it, then there is no salvation.  The one who habitually lives in sin has never been saved.

Instead of a habitual practice, a desire, a lifestyle of sin, there should be a desire, a practice, a lifestyle of righteousness (vs. 7).  One way to stop a bad habit we wish to be rid of is to replace it with a different habit, a good one.  We should replace that bad habit of sin with a good lifestyle of righteousness, seeking to behave like Jesus.

Sin is of the devil.  Jesus came to destroy the devil’s deeds (vs. 8).  To do the devil’s deeds is to declare allegiance to him and not to Jesus.  The unsaved are under the influence of the devil.  Their lifestyle reflects that.  As we grow as Christians, we should see in our life an incompatibility with sin.  Though we will continue to see sin in our life, and we continue to fall, our desire and aim is to live righteously.  We do not remain in a lifestyle of sin.  Let us see that every day there is more of a likeness, more of a family resemblance to our Lord Jesus Christ and our heavenly Father.

Monday, April 26, 2021


 Psalm 100

Have you ever observed an ungrateful person, whether an adult or a child?  They have so many blessings in their life, so many nice things for which they should be thankful to a parent, to a spouse, or to some other benefactor, yet not a word of gratitude.  They just seem to take all that has come their way for granted, or even worse, they think they are entitled to these many blessings.  It is bad enough to read about such people in a novel or see such behavior in a movie, but when you observe it in actual life, one sometimes just wants to knock a little sense into them.  Ungratefulness is just not pleasant!  In our psalm for this week, we find some words of Scriptures to help us in fleeing from becoming one of those ungrateful individuals.

Psalm 100 is a short, little psalm, but packed with joy, thanksgiving, and praise to God.  It is to Him that we need to show our thanks and gratitude for all the many blessings He has poured upon us throughout our life.  It is true that we get many things throughout our life from others, from our parents, our spouse, from our employers and our friends, and we should show them our gratitude.  However, ultimately everything comes from God, even though He may give them to us through these others.  Our psalmist encourages us to show our gratitude to God through singing (vs. 1-2).  Most people like music of one type or another, as it helps to put us into a good mood.  Hymns of praise and worship can inspire and uplift us to have grateful and thankful hearts to God.

Yahweh is our Creator, and we are His people (vs. 3).  Every breath we breathe is a gift from Him.  God is absolutely perfect and holy.  He, alone, is the standard of all righteousness.  All He does is just and right because God cannot violate His own nature.  God is good, and His mercy will go on forever and ever (vs. 5).  Satan would have us believe that God is distant and angry.  However, that is the opposite of the truth.  God is love itself.  At the core of His being is goodness and love, and that will never change.

Yahweh is our Shepherd, watching over us and providing for all of our needs (vs. 3).  As followers of Jesus, we have an identity.  All who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior are His sheep, kept and cared for by the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).  Our Shepherd loves us so much that He laid down His life for us!  When we don’t understand what the Lord is doing, we can trust His heart, and know that He cares for us.

As our psalm continues, God tells us that we are to come into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise (vs. 4).  With most important people one needs an appointment in order to see them, and the more important the person is, the more difficult it is to get an appointment.  Just try getting in to see one’s President or the Queen!  Yet the gates into God’s presence are always open to us.  However, we should always enter with thanksgiving and praise, with shouts of joy and song.  This is because we belong to Him.

We are also told to bless God’s Name (vs. 4).  The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians that the Name of Jesus is exalted and above every other name.  He tells us that at the Name of Jesus the knees of all creation will one day bow (Philippians 2:9-11).  Thus, we need to show honor and homage to His Name, recognizing that the Name of Jesus is higher than any other name, and to affirm His power and goodness.

Are we unthankful and ungrateful to the Lord for what He has done for us, for what He provides for us day by day?  Do we praise Him for who He is?   One of the signs of the last days will be ingratitude (II Timothy 3:1-5).  We need to beware of an ungrateful and thankless generation, and cultivate a grateful heart.  Christians should praise God even if we don’t feel like it, when our problems feel overwhelming.  Praising God puts the demons to flight.  If we are going to see God’s glory, thanksgiving and praise is the doorway that will lead us into His throne room.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Judgment On The False Shepherds

 Ezekiel 34:1-10

When we entrust something important into another’s hands for safekeeping or for them to care for it, we expect them to do just that.  We don’t want them to lose the item, or allow it to be broken.  Even more important is if we leave our child or our pet in the care of someone else while we are away.  We expect them to care for the child, feed and clothe them.  A good caregiver, a good parent, doesn’t neglect the child to do only what they want.  This is true also of someone who is in charge of a herd of cattle or flock of sheep.  In Scripture, God often pictures His people as a flock of sheep, and those in charge of their spiritual care as shepherds.   In our Scripture reading today, the Prophet Ezekiel pronounces God’s judgment on those who do not give the proper spiritual care to God’s children.

There are several ways that a shepherd can neglect, misuse, or mistreat the sheep under his care.  When ranchers have a large flock of sheep, they usually will hire shepherds to take care of the flock while out in the fields.  They are to see that the sheep are grazing in good fields, and protect them from predatory animals.  The shepherd is to care for the sheep, not just think about themselves and neglect the flock.  God has spiritual shepherds, both in the days of the Bible and also today, who are to lead, guide, and give spiritual care to His flock.  However, as the Scripture passage today indicates, there are often false shepherds who are harming the God’s flock, and not taking care of them.

What if the shepherds decided to take the sheep for their own personal use and gain?  What if they decided to sell the wool for their own use, or sell the sheep to a butcher and pocket the money?  This was one of the things that God saw the shepherds of His children doing (vs. 2-3).  These were false preachers who fleeced the flock for personal gain, rather than leading them righteously.  In the Old Testament times, many false religious leaders would take the money and sacrifices people brought to the Temple, and keep it for themselves.  We see that today, as well, with pastors and televangelists who urge people to give money to their ministry, only to use it to buy fancy houses, cars, private jets, etc. for themselves.

Shepherds are to see that their flock is properly fed, and to lead them to good and plentiful pastures for them to graze (vs. 8).  A good shepherd makes sure that his flock gets good, wholesome grass, and does not get into anything poisonous or harmful.  This is the same in the spiritual realm.  Pastors are to properly feed their flock.  That means preaching and teaching from God’s Word, the Bible.  They need to feed the people from the Bible, and not mix it in with other worldly philosophies or beliefs from other religions.  False doctrines are like the poisonous plants, and a good and caring pastor/ shepherd will see to it that his flock does not take in something that will harm them.

Another thing that a proper shepherd needs to do is see that his flock is safe from any predatory animals (vs. 5, 8).  They are always on the lookout for wolves, mountain lions, bears, and other animals that go after sheep, and will protect his flock.  They check over the pasture for snakes, and also for holes and gullies that a lamb can fall into and get hurt.  They will go after those predators to keep them away, and kill them if need be.  The shepherd also will take care to keep the sheep safe from anything else that would harm them, and give medical care when they do get hurt (vs. 4).  This should be the case with our spiritual shepherds, as well.  They need to warn their flock of false teachings, and anything spiritually dangerous that Satan sneaks in. They need to encourage their flock to keep away from any temptations and sin that will drag them down and harm them.  When they do get into trouble, they need to be there to help bring them back and care for their spiritual wounds.

Sheep are not very bright animals.  Left on their own they fall prey to predators.  They aren't very good at finding good pastures.  We are the same.  We need good shepherds to help guide us away from harmful spiritual food and from spiritual predators.  Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10:1-16), and He has given the role of undershepherd to our Christian leaders.  Ezekiel warned the religious leaders back in his day, and his words from Scripture hold true today for our own religious leaders.  If they fail to care for God’s flock properly, He will bring judgment upon them.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Evidence For The Resurrection

 Luke 24:36-48

Broken hopes, broken dreams, promises left unfulfilled.  They all lay like shattered glass and dishes at the disciples feet.  What was left for their lives but to go back to their former jobs and hope that the religious authorities would not come after them as they had for Jesus.  But wait, hadn’t some of their women come with messages that they had seen an angel who had told them that Jesus was risen from the dead?  And just now a couple who had earlier in the day left Jerusalem to return home came back with words that Jesus had met and spoken with them along their way home.  Could it possibly be true that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, and that all they had earlier believed in about Him was true?  This is where we find the disciples as we open our Gospel reading for this week.

As our Scripture passage begins, two of Jesus’ followers, Cleopas and his companion, had just finished telling the others that Jesus had met them and spoken with them as they had journeyed to their home in the village of Emmaus.  Just as they finished speaking, Jesus appeared to the group gathered together (vs. 36).  Imagine if you were with some of your friends, mourning the death of someone you all loved dearly, and suddenly you see him standing right in front of you!  You might think, as they did, that you were seeing a ghost or spirit of your deceased friend (vs. 37).  Even after the testimony of the women earlier, and now the testimony of two of their fellow disciples, they were having a difficult time truly believing that Jesus had risen.

As we continue to read though, Jesus didn’t chastise them for their doubts.  He gave them reassurance, along with solid, reasonable proof that He was risen (vs. 38-43).  Jesus’ body was not a figment of the imagination.  When a group of over a dozen people are all seeing and hearing the same exact thing, exactly the same way, it is not just imagination or hallucination.  Nor was this a ghost they were seeing.  The disciples were invited to come up and touch His body.  A ghost is not a solid body.  One can see through a ghost, but Jesus had a solid body that they couldn’t see through.  Ghosts don’t eat food, yet Jesus ate a fish dinner, with honey for dessert.  His body, though, was a Resurrection body, as He could suddenly appear and disappear, but He was alive, no longer dead and in the grave.

Another proof that Jesus gave to the disciples gathered that evening, to show that He was, indeed, the risen Savior, was that He showed them His hands and feet (vs. 40).  This was proof that He wasn’t just someone who looked a lot like Jesus, such as perhaps a half-brother or cousin who looked a lot like Him.  Jesus had the nail prints in His hands and feet, proving that He was the crucified Savior, risen from the dead.  Those scars upon the hands and feet of Jesus are very important to believers.  We are engraved as scars on Jesus’ hands.  They are the signs of what He did to pay the price for our salvation from sin.  The scars are a reminder of God’s incredible love for us.  Those scars of love are always before His eyes.

As our Scripture continues, Jesus told them that all which had happened was a fulfillment of the prophecies in the Old Testament (vs. 44).  God always succeeds in carrying out His plans.  Jesus promised to pay for our sins and deliver us from the penalty of death, which is exactly what He did.  Jesus then opened believers’ understanding to comprehend the Scriptures (vs. 45).  The things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the unsaved and lost (I Corinthians 2:14).  It is as if they have blinders upon their eyes and their mind, and do not understand the Word of God, which seems like nonsense to them.  The Lord’s wisdom, which we receive from the Holy Spirit who indwells believers, helps us understand and accept the truth of God’s Word.

Relationship with Jesus Christ carries the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to others (vs. 47).  Spreading the message of Jesus to others was to start in Jerusalem, and then go forth to all nations.  We, too, are witnesses, and have been entrusted with the mandate to spread the Gospel (vs. 48).  The disciples there that evening did not just sit on this message, and neither should we.  We have a message to bring to the world, a message of hope, a message of how they can have peace with God, salvation from their sins, and an eternity in glory.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Refuting False Teachings

I John 1:1-2:2 

Oftentimes we hear a testimony from someone about a certain event, yet they were never there, and we can’t be certain that what they said was true or not.  In the decades following the Resurrection of Jesus, after churches were being established throughout the Mediterranean world, false doctrines and beliefs about Jesus were beginning to be spread.  Many of the twelve apostles had been martyred and were no longer around, nor other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ message.  The Apostle John, the last remaining apostle, as one of the few remaining eyewitnesses, sought to correct false teachings.  He had been there. He had heard first-hand what Jesus said, and saw what Jesus did.  Let’s see what John has to say in the opening verses of his first Epistle.

John the Apostle testified that he saw Jesus with his own eyes, talked with Him, and knew that He was present in a human body (vs. 1-3).  One heresy that was spreading around at this time was the Gnostic heresy, which said that Jesus did not truly come in the flesh, that God did not take on a human body.  John was with Jesus from the time of His baptism and through His trial and crucifixion.  He saw evidence of the resurrection, and saw Jesus afterwards.  He saw Him ascend into heaven.  John also knew that Jesus was simultaneously divine, and that He had co-existed with the Father in heaven for all eternity past (vs. 2).

John tells us that as an eyewitness, his message came from God and not man (vs. 5).  God and His message is light, is truth, holiness, and purity. It is not from darkness, and has no error, falsehood, or sin in it.  God is all truth.  He is holiness and perfection.  Jesus is perfectly holy and true, and He alone can guide us out of the darkness of sin.

Another falsehood that was spreading which John wanted to refute was those who deny the existence of sin, or that sinful behavior does not really matter in the life of those who call themselves Christians.  We see this today, as well.  These false teachers may claim to walk with Jesus, but their darkness shows they are not saved (vs. 6).  They do not practice Biblical truth.  False teachers will say we can still have fellowship with God, while walking and living in sin.  No one can claim to be a Christian and still live in evil and immorality.  If someone never admits to being a sinner, and refuses to take sin seriously, is not a true believer.  We can’t love God and love our sin at the same time.  John identifies two types of liars here - ones who claim to have fellowship with Jesus but still walk in darkness, and ones who claim they haven’t sinned, especially those who redefine sin according to culture’s standards.  To say that we have no sin is to say God is a liar and to blaspheme.

A true Christian will make it a habit to walk in God’s light and truth, and not in sin and darkness, and will seek forgiveness from sins they do commit (vs. 7). For those who are truly saved, sin puts up a barrier to our fellowship with God.  Confession will remove that barrier.  A true Christian will regularly come to God and confess his sins to Him (vs. 8-10).  When we do, God will graciously forgive him and cleanse him from all sin.  This is a characteristic of a true believer.  They recognize and acknowledge that they are a sinner needing forgiveness and cleansing.  Confession of sin should not give us a license to continue to sin, though.  Sin can be conquered through the power of the Holy Spirit which we have all received at salvation.

Because Christians will continue to fall into sin as long as we remain on this earth, Satan will jump on us in attack.  Like an overzealous prosecuting attorney, he brings our faults and failures before us and God.  However, believers have a Divine Defense Attorney, Jesus Christ, who is also our Great High Priest (vs. 2:1-2).  He both acquits us of sin because of His shed Blood for us, and He also cleanses us from the stain and penalty of that sin.  The word “propitiation” means appeasement or satisfaction (vs. 2:2).  The sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross satisfied the demands of God’s holiness for the punishment of sin.

These are some of the testimony that John had which refuted false doctrines going around, both back in his day, and which continue today.  Jesus did come in the flesh, was both completely human and completely divine.  And sin does exist, and does matter in one’s life and in society.  We need to turn to Him for cleansing from sin, and be washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The One Most Worthy Of Honor

 Psalm 98

I enjoy watching parades.  Parades are given for various reasons.  Many countries have parades on their nation’s holiday, such as here in the U.S. many communities have a parade on July 4th, our nation’s Independence Day.  In Chicago, where I live, there is always a big parade on St. Patrick’s Day.  New York City has arguably had the most parades in our country, many in honor of heroes, whether war heroes or those who have done spectacular deeds, such as Charles Lindbergh who first crossed the Atlantic in an airplane, or the astronauts who first walked on the moon.  These heroes are given a “ticker-tape parade” along a downtown Manhattan street, where streams of ticker-tape and confetti are thrown out of the tall skyscrapers to honor these heroes, while shouts of joy and praise come from the crowds.  I have only seen such events in news footage, but I can imagine it is an amazing event.  There is an event coming that far surpasses any other event in history, and would be worthy of the grandest ticker-tape parade ever, and that is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth!  Our psalm for today pictures this coming event.

Psalm 98 is a psalm of joy and victory.  The psalmist pictures the whole world, both people and nature, praising the Lord just like a crowd along a parade route cheers for the returning hero.  They are praising the Lord God because He is victorious over evil and over His enemies (vs. 1), and even more so, they are praising Him when He returns to judge the earth (vs. 9).  All those who have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior and follow Him will be victorious with Him, and will take part in this grand celebration.

The future return of the Lord Jesus to earth will be a time of great joy and celebration to those who love Him.  Both people (vs. 1-6) and all of nature (vs. 7-9) will join in the celebration.  When the heroes of parades first come into sight along the parade route, a great cheer erupts.  This is what we see happening in verse 4.  There will be great rejoicing by God’s people when Jesus returns and they catch their first glimpse of Him!  It will be an eruption of praise which cannot be contained.  We don’t usually picture harps in a parade of great honor any more, but they were used a lot in times past.  We can picture today having music in great volume (vs. 5-6).

Jesus will begin His millennial reign upon earth following His victory over all nations, and over all those who oppose Him and His people, born-again Christians (vs. 1).  When Jesus returns, He will fulfill verse 9, and bring justice to the whole world (Acts 10:42-43).  This world is crying out for justice to be served as we see so much crime and violence happening, so many times when the poor and weak, the “little people”, are being trampled upon by the powerful and cruel who seem to be getting away with their actions.  Jesus will set all that right, and those who do not follow God’s Word will be judged.

The Kingdom that Jesus will set up after His glorious return and victory over His enemies will be one of mercy and faithfulness (vs. 3).  Those who enter His kingdom are those who received salvation through the Blood of Jesus.  God’s rule will be one that is completely just as well as completely merciful.  He is both perfectly loving and perfectly just.  God is merciful when He punishes, yet He overlooks no sin when He loves.

Not only will mankind rejoice when Jesus returns, but all of creation will, as well.  All of nature has been held captive by Satan since the fall of Adam, and has been groaning and been under great ordeal and tribulation since then (Romans 8:22).  With the fall of Adam, nature fell as well.  We see that through the many natural disasters that happen, which were not part of God’s original plan in the Garden of Eden.  Nature will rejoice with the return of its Creator!

You may wonder when this will happen, and think it might not be for a long, long time.  You may think that you have time, and can continue living any way you want.  However, as three little words in verse 9 indicate, “He is coming”!  We don’t know when.  It could be at any time, just like a thief in the night (I Thessalonians 5:2; II Peter 3:10).  Be ready now, so that when Jesus returns you can join in that day of rejoicing, singing and shouting the victory!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Only Through The Name Of Jesus

 Acts 4:5-12

A person who was afraid, scared of the serious threats made by others, yet now has the boldness to confront those enemies.  What has happened to change that person?  Courage isn’t something that one can just drink a bottle of and then, voila!, you have it, especially when the threats are real and serious.  As we look at our Scripture passage from the Book of Acts today, we see exactly that in the life of the Apostle Peter.  Let’s see what brought about such a turnaround.

As our passage opens, Peter and John had been brought before the high priests, members of the Sanhedrin (a Jewish council or tribunal), and other religious leaders.  The charges were that a crippled man, one who was well known and familiar to many in Jerusalem, had been healed by Peter and John through the Name of Jesus, and the two had preached another public sermon about Jesus to the crowds who witnessed the healing (Acts 3).  These religious leaders did not want any public mention of the Name of Jesus, particularly about His resurrection, and certainly no healings done in His Name, so they brought the pair in for questioning, and to put an end to such activity.

It was only a few short weeks before, when Peter had been so afraid of these leaders.  On the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter fled in fear, along with the others.  He did not want to be arrested with Jesus.  Later that night, when questioned, Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus.  Though the Apostle John ventured to the foot of the cross with some of the women disciples, Peter was in hiding for fear of these Jewish leaders.

What changed a man from being so afraid to now boldly preaching in the Name of Jesus?   It was the power of the Holy Spirit, who only days before our passage had come upon all of the believers.  Peter had seen the resurrected Jesus, had spoken with Him, received the Great Commission to preach the Gospel to the world, and now had the power of the Holy Spirit in his life.  Now both Peter and John were standing before the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, and other religious leaders, the same group who had condemned Jesus the Messiah to death, and they were giving them the Gospel message!  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to face persecution and preach the Gospel with power.

These religious elders and leaders, the powerful Sanhedrin, were not happy or pleased that Jesus’ disciples were saying that He rose from the dead.  They did not like it that they said He was the Messiah, and that they were making many converts.  They had rejected Jesus, but now He has become the cornerstone of the Church (vs. 11).  Without Him, all would fall apart.

Peter concludes his brief testimony and Gospel witness to the High Priests and Sanhedrin with a very important statement, one that is just as important today as it was back then, and that is “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vs. 12).  Those leaders did not want to hear that, and many today do not want to hear it either, believing that there are many roads to heaven, and that the teachings of many so-called “religious teachers” are just as valid in leading someone to God.

All paths do not lead to heaven!  This truth offends many people.  Jesus said that preaching the truth about Him would cause many to hate us (John 15:18).  “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:12).  No other religious leader will get one to heaven by following them or their teachings.  They could not die for our sins.  They are not the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity.  No other religious leader ever rose from the dead.  There is no other Name or Way than Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 7:13-14 we read that there are only two religious paths - the broad way of salvation through one’s works, which leads to eternal death, and the narrow way of faith in Jesus Christ only, which leads to eternal life.  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).  There is no other way, no other Name, for salvation except the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Show Me

 John 20:19-31

Here in the United States, one of our states, the State of Missouri, has the nickname “the show-me state”.  Now whether or not the people there need to have everything proven to them, I don’t know, but according to that nickname, the people of Missouri are a skeptical bunch, and not easily convinced.  Needing proof is good in many areas, particularly in legal cases.  However, in spiritual matters, God does not always give us solid proof, but desires us to exercise our faith and trust in Him.  In our Scripture passage today from the Gospel of John, we read of one of the disciples who could easily have come from the “show-me state”.  Let’s take a look.

As our Gospel reading opens, it is the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection.  His disciples had heard the testimony of the women who had gone to the grave and heard the angel’s message.  Two of the disciples, Peter and John, had even gone themselves to the grave and seen for themselves that it was empty.  Yet they were still not completely convinced Jesus had risen and were remaining behind locked doors because of threats from the religious leaders.  While gathered that evening, Jesus suddenly appeared to them, and showed them His hands where the nail prints were visible, and also His side, where the spear had been thrust (vs. 19-20).

That Sunday evening one of the disciples was missing, that being Thomas.  Later that week the other disciples shared with him that they had seen Jesus, and that He had risen, just as He had promised.  Thomas, though, was skeptical, he was not convinced that what his friends said was true.  He said, I’m thinking with scoffing, sarcasm and bitterness in his voice, that he would not believe unless he put his fingers into the nail prints of Jesus’ hands, and put his hand into Jesus’ side wound (vs. 24-25).  He was hurting, and he did not believe.

The next Sunday, Jesus again appeared, and Thomas was there.  Jesus did not harshly rebuke Thomas.  He compassionately offered proof of His resurrection (vs. 26-27).  He met Thomas at the point of his weakness.  Thomas believed, and believed not only that Jesus had risen and is the Messiah, but also that Jesus is God (vs. 28).

Those who believe without seeing are particularly blessed by God (vs. 29).  Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see, and seeing what He sees.  Faith is when we don’t see God at work, but have confidence in Him anyway.  We have all the proof we need in the Bible, the Word of God.  A physical appearance of Jesus now would not make Him any more real than He is already.  If we have to see, why would we need to have faith?  As Christians, we are to walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7).  Prayer needs to be accompanied by believing without seeing, as we ask God for that which is not yet.

Jesus showed His followers the nail prints in His hands as evidence of who He is, and the love He has given us (vs. 20, 27).  We are engraved as scars on the hands of the Savior (Isaiah 49:15-16).  All of the physical scars that we have, those from surgeries or from accidents, will be gone when we get to heaven.  Our bodies will be perfectly scar-free, but not for Jesus.  He will eternally bear the scars of our sins, those scars on His hands and feet, the deep scar in His side.  He will always bear the scars that crisscross His back from the horrific scourging, and the scars around His head from where the crown of thorns dug into His scalp.  These scars will be there forever, symbolizing and bearing testimony of our rescue from eternal flames, signs of His eternal love for us.

As our Scripture passage closes, we read that there were many other things that Jesus did throughout His ministry that were not recorded in the Gospels (vs. 30-31).  However, everything we need to know to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, were included, so that we might receive salvation and eternal life.

Have you received the Lord Jesus as your Savior, and do you have the promise of eternal life with Him?  Or do you have some doubts, like Thomas did?  We have the testimony of God’s Word.  As the old-time hymn says, “Come to the Savior, make no delay.  Here in His Word He’s shown us the way.  Here in our midst He’s standing today, tenderly saying, Come!”

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Be An Overcomer!

 I John 5:1-6

We all like someone who is an overcomer, someone who has faced some sort of trial or difficulty in their life, and who through a lot of tenacity, strength, and determination overcomes those problems.  Overcomers are often the subject of stories, movies, or magazine articles, and it is encouraging to read of someone who overcomes something distressing in their life.  As Christians living in this world, there are great difficulties we face, and here in the Apostle John’s epistle, we read about being an overcomer.  Let’s see what the Lord says in this passage of Scripture, and how we can be that overcomer ourselves.

In these opening verses of the final chapter of the Apostle John’s first epistle, he describes the believer as an overcomer, emphasizing the victorious nature we have through the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we have accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, and are depending upon Him for help and strength, we can be an overcomer.

One definition of overcoming is to conquer, to have the victory, to be superior with overwhelming success.  An overcomer is someone who overthrows the enemy, and his victory is seen by all.

One characteristic of a true overcomer is having saving faith in Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior (vs. 1).  They will continue in faith throughout their life.  It is an ongoing faith, as they continue to believe and follow Jesus.   Another characteristic of this overcomer is not only believing and following Jesus, but also loving both Him and other fellow believers (vs. 1-2).  A true believer and follower of Jesus will have a love for other believers.  He who loves the Father (God) will also love the Son (Jesus), and also love other children of God, other believers.

The third characteristic of an overcomer is obedience (vs. 2-3).  The genuine proof of faith in God is love, and the genuine proof of love for God is obedience.  When we try to obey God through our own power, His commandments can feel rather burdensome.  We often find ourselves failing and falling flat on our face.  However, when we rely on the Holy Spirit to do what we cannot, there is great joy in obedience.  Unlike trying to keep man-made rules and religious traditions, when we seek to obey God and carry the yoke that Jesus gives, if we are leaning on Him we will find it is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

The Apostle John tells us in this passage that as believers who put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, we are able to overcome the world (vs. 4-5).  The world that John is talking about is Satan’s world-wide system of deception and wickedness.  Through Jesus Christ and the salvation we have through Him, we are victors over this world system.  Faith in Jesus and living our lives for Him make us overcomers.

If we are born again, we overcome the world. If we believe that Yahweh is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, that He is our heavenly Father, and that we are His children, there is nothing in the world that can ever overcome us.  We are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).  If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

As the Apostle John concludes this passage, he speaks of Jesus coming by both water and blood (vs. 6).  The water refers to the baptism of Jesus, and the Blood to His death on the cross.  God gave testimony to the deity of Jesus through both His baptism and death.

Our victory has already been assured.  It was won on the cross.  It was provided for with the shed Blood of the Lamb of God.  Jesus has provided us with all we need to be overcomers!  We need to declare this truth to ourselves and stand on it in our lives.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Looking For Godly Wisdom

 Psalm 111

When we fall in love with someone it is natural to want to spend as much time as we can with that person.  We want to get to know them more, learn all that we can about them.  We want to find out what their interests are, what makes them happy.  If we say we love someone, but never want to be around them and don’t know much about them at all, then it is doubtful that we really do love them.  That makes no sense at all.  This holds true, not only in our relationships with other people, but also in our relationship with God, as we will see in our Psalm for this week.

This short psalm by an unknown writer, gives praise to Yahweh for all of His mighty works.  There are two verses that I would like to briefly highlight, taking a closer look at them.  The first is found in verse two where we read “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.”   What are the “works of the Lord”, and how do we study them?  The works of the Lord are all the wonderful, mighty, and righteous things He has done for us, our family, friends, the whole world.  We see them in all of creation.  We see them in all He has provided for our needs each and every day (vs. 5).  The most important work of the Lord is His redemption of us, bringing salvation to mankind by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die for us (vs. 9).

The psalmist urges us to study the works of the Lord.  When we study for classes we take in school we spend time reading the textbook.  We go over the chapters carefully as the class progresses, taking notes of important items.  We attend the classroom lectures and discussions, paying close attention.  We also might get together with other students to discuss the lessons and study together.  If this is a class and subject that we are really interested in, then the time and attention we spend is a pleasure and not a chore or drudgery.  We want to learn as much as we can.  As believers we claim to love the Lord.  If that is true, we should want to spend time reading and studying the Bible, our “textbook”.  We should desire to hear the preaching and teaching from men and women of God who bring messages from God’s Word.  We should also want to get together with other believers and share together what we have learned, just like students in school do.

The second verse in this psalm that I would like to take a closer look at is found in verse ten.  The general consensus of most people would be that they would want wisdom in their life.  Nobody wants to go through life making unwise decisions and actions.  Wisdom is not just intellectual knowledge.  It comes from showing good judgment and the application of experience.  As believers we need to seek God’s wisdom, and not that of the world.  True, godly wisdom includes spiritual discernment and the reverence and knowledge of God.  Real wisdom is shown in having a right relationship with God.  The wisdom of this world is opposed to God (I Corinthians 1:18-25; James 3:13-18).  Jesus is the source of all wisdom.  Without Him we cannot make wise decisions.

God’s Word here tells us that the only way to become truly wise is to fear God, to show Him proper reverence and respect.  This is a problem that I see so much of today, and not just with the unsaved and blasphemers.  Too many Christians today, and far too many worship services, show a very casual and almost careless approach to the Lord God.  Yes, Jesus is our Friend, but we must never forget that He is also the God of the whole universe, and we must show Him proper, due respect and reverence.

There are two kinds of fear.  Bad fear is based on false values and unnecessary worry.  Good fear is based on reasonable understanding of danger, power, circumstances and consequences.  Bad fear prevents us from going about our day with our usual activities, for fear of something happening.  Good fear will prevent us from going down a dark alley where muggings often occur.  There is healthy and unhealthy fear with our relationship with God.  Healthy fear is proper reverence and respect for Him.  Unhealthy fear is being afraid that He will turn away from us and abandon us.

In closing, we see in this psalm the importance for Christians to study God’s Word, the Bible, which will bring more understanding and godly wisdom.  The Bible is more than just a book to provide tips to have a better life.  It will show us how to live a Christ-honoring life.  It shows us how to be rescued from sin and eternal separation from God.  As those who say we love God, let’s be sure to study His Word, give Him proper fear, and seek to obtain His wisdom.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Finding Perfect Peace

 Isaiah 26:2-5

There are so many things in the world today that bring us stress and anxiety.  We have stress on our jobs and in our families.  Then with the coronavirus threat all around, shootings in the cities, fears of war and natural disasters, along with all the other things happening, our worries and anxieties can take over our lives.  We need peace, and we search for it everywhere.  Some people find what they mistakenly believe is peace through alcohol or drugs.  These might temporarily take their mind off of the trouble, but in the end only make things so much worse.  Others might find peace in relationships with others, sometimes through illicit relationships, which can be empty and hollow, especially if the relationship turns sour.  Pastimes might bring some relief, taking one’s mind off of problems, but that fulfillment won’t last in the long run.  So what does one do?  Where can we turn to find peace?  Our Scripture reading today from the Prophet Isaiah will give us the answer of where to find true and lasting peace.

During the time when Isaiah was ministering in the Kingdom of Judah, there were great political and military threats all around.  The northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian empire, and the people deported, so many in Judah were nervous and in fear themselves that they would be next.  There was always the fear of a coming drought, famine, or locusts.  People feared over illnesses for which there was no cure, of financial ruin.  They knew stress and anxiety.  They needed peace as much as we do today.  God gave Isaiah a message to bring to the people at this time, a message that we all need today, as well.  Isaiah shares with us today where we can find the peace that we need during the stressful and anxious times we face.

The prophet shares with us the secret of finding true and perfect peace (vs. 3-4).  True, lasting peace is found in the presence of God.  Christ is our peace.  His peace brings an inner sense of contentment and quietness, regardless of our circumstances.  With Jesus we can know perfect peace, even during turmoil (John 14:27).  When we are devoted to Him, our whole attitude is steady and stable.  We will not be shaken by chaos because we are supported by God’s unchanging love and mighty power.

We can faithfully trust our Heavenly Father.  No matter what hardships and difficulties we are going through.  We can have His peace that passes understanding, that transcends anything we can imagine (Philippians 4:7).  To achieve that peace we need to focus on God.  Trust in Him and meditate on His Word (Psalm 119:165).

If we go through life only focused on ourselves, our life and problems will go off course.  We need to focus our eyes and thoughts on Jesus.  He will then keep our paths straight.  A fixed trust in the Lord brings a peace that the wicked can never know (Isaiah 48:22).  He will bring down those who are arrogant and proud, but will uphold those who are humble and trust in Him. (vs. 5-6).  Even so, believers should not be double-minded (James 1:6-8), nor be trying to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

God is our strength.  He is our Rock of Ages, a rocky crevice where we find shelter from our enemies.  If we trust God with all of our life, we don’t need to spend all of our time trying to take care of every problem because we can trust Him to care for us (I Peter 5:7).

If we’ve built a solid house on a foundation of faith, then we have a place of safety and peace to run to when the storms of life hit.  However, one must have a relationship with God to gain this place of peace.  That house of peace is built, brick by brick, on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ through prayer and God’s Word.  Do you have that peace found only through Jesus?  If not, turn to Him now and find that true and lasting peace.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Peter's First Sermon

 Acts 2:22-41

Most pastors remember their first sermon.  A lot of preparation usually goes into writing it, selecting the Scripture passages, thinking of exactly what they want to say, what thoughts they want to convey, etc.  First sermons usually come after years of study in seminary, or perhaps some time while going through training.  In our Scripture passage today to close out this first week following Easter, we read of the Apostle Peter’s first message given the morning of Pentecost, just a few brief weeks following the Resurrection of Jesus, and a few days following His Ascension into heaven.  Without wasting any time, Peter began to spread the message of salvation only through Jesus Christ.

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus took His disciples to the Mount of Olives and in their sight He ascended up into heaven.  Shortly before then, He told the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, which occurred nine days later (Acts 1:3-12; Acts 2:1-4).  It was immediately following the occurrence of the Holy Spirit coming upon the believers, when crowds of people in the streets of Jerusalem were hearing what was going on, they questioned what was happening.  Peter used this opportunity of the gathered crowd to begin spreading the message of salvation in and through the Name of Jesus.

Peter was bold, not hesitating to let the gathering crowds know exactly what it was that had happened and which they were observing.  He didn’t say to himself that he would “let his lifestyle preach the message”, or think that it wouldn’t be proper to push his beliefs on others.  Peter knew that this was a message that all needed to hear, and was bold to proclaim it.  This first sermon of his was that Jesus is both God and the Messiah (vs. 36), this being shown through His miraculous works (vs. 22), His resurrection (vs 23-35), and sending of the Holy Spirit (vs. 33-35).

The death of Jesus was part of God’s plan, and under His control.  It was not a tragic accident that happened and took God by surprise, forcing Him to come up with Plan B, the resurrection.  Though Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan for our salvation, it did not absolve the guilt of those who caused it (vs. 23).  Many of the people in the crowd that day of Pentecost would also have been in Jerusalem during the Passover, and would have either seen or heard about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  Perhaps some even were riled up by the religious leaders to shout out “Crucify Him” when Pilate presented the bloody and beaten Savior to the crowds.  Now they were hearing the first post-resurrection sermon of salvation.

The resurrection of Jesus was the ultimate sign that what He said about Himself was true.  Without the resurrection we would have no reason to believe in Jesus (I Corinthians 15:13-20).  Through the leading of the Holy Spirit Peter quoted from Psalm 16:8-11, to show that these verses were prophesying and referring to Jesus and His resurrection (vs. 25-32).  King David, who wrote that Psalm, was not talking about himself, as he died and was buried.  David was prophesying about Jesus, whose body did not corrupt or decay.

Peter publicly proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord (vs. 36).  He then urged those who listened to his message to repent and accept the Lord Jesus as their Messiah and Savior from their sins (vs. 38).  Repent means to turn from your unbelief in the saving power of Christ’s saving death and resurrection, and to turn to Jesus, accepting his death as coverage for our sins.  We cannot save ourselves, only Jesus can save us.  We must depend on Him for forgiveness, mercy, guidance, and purpose.  When Peter said to be baptized “for the remission of sins” (vs. 38), that means as a sign of, or because of.  Baptism does not save us or cleanse us from our sins.  It is a sign that we give to the world that we have been saved.

Many of those who heard Peter’s first sermon that morning were filled with grief, remorse, and intense spiritual conviction (vs. 37).  They were stunned that they had killed their Messiah.  Peter didn’t just leave them there.  He urged them, as we do today, to turn to Jesus (vs. 40).  That day 3,000 people accepted Jesus as their Savior (vs. 41).  Today, like Peter did, I urge all who haven’t already to call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is only through Him that we can be saved.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Higher Ground

 Colossians 3:1-4

Sometimes we look at a young adult (or even an older one), and realize that they will never achieve their goals and desires in life as long as they do not get their priorities straightened out.  If we do not get our focus set on the goal, we become distracted and cannot accomplish what we wish for our lives.  If we spend too much time frittering away on useless things, we cannot reach our goal.  We need to be focused on what is important.  That is what the Apostle Paul reminds us of in our Scripture passage from his letter to the Colossians.

Because of our union with Jesus Christ, we as believers have spiritually entered Jesus’ death and resurrection when we were saved, and are now alive with Him.  Believers were united with Jesus in His death, where the penalty of our sins were paid, and spiritually we arose with Him in new life.  All of the privileges and riches of the Kingdom of Heaven are at our disposal.  Since we are risen with Jesus, our life belongs to the spiritual or heavenly realm.  Thus we should not be overly concerned with worldly matters.

As Christians, we are empowered with every good and perfect gift from above, and are made to thrive on a higher plane than this earth.  Our entire disposition should point towards the things of heaven.  We should have as little desire for the things of this world as a dead person would.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take proper care of the things we have, such as our house or belongings.  It certainly doesn’t mean that we ignore our family.  We can surely enjoy the natural beauty of the world.  However, we should not fall prey to making the things of this world system our goals and priorities.  Our real home is where Christ lives.  Christians need to look at life from God’s perspective, and seek what He desires.

The things of this world are only temporal.  They will not last for eternity.  Just take a look at anything you own, and you can see that it is slowly falling apart or becoming outdated.  We certainly see that with our houses and cars!  It’s a constant chore to keep them up and maintained.  All of our electronics seem to become outdated in a matter of a few quick months.  Our jobs are never secure.  We can be there one day and shown the door the next.  The Apostle Paul tells us that these are not the things that we should be focusing all of our attention on.  Instead, we need to focus our attention on what is eternal, on our life with Christ and the things of His kingdom.  We need to put heaven’s priorities into daily practice and concentrate on the eternal rather than the temporal.

It has been said that too many Christians are living as if Jesus had not been raised from the dead.  They have no joy, and show no fruits of the Spirit.  That should not be the case, as we have been raised with Christ.  The resurrection was not just something in the past.  Because of the resurrection power of Jesus in our lives we can set our hearts on the things above, loosening our grip on earthly things.  Jesus gives us the power to live for Him right now, and He gives us hope for the future.  Jesus will return!

There is an old-time hymn by Johnson Oatman that speaks of seeking higher ground.  He sings that his heart “has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay.  Tho some may dwell where these about, my prayer, my aim, is higher ground.”   He wanted to live above the world on heaven’s tableland.  Like Paul, like the hymn writer, our prayer should be, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Monday, April 5, 2021

Trusting In The Cornerstone

 Psalm 118

It is always good to know whom one can trust, and whom one cannot trust.  Putting our trust in the wrong person can lead to some bad results, sometimes costly results, and unfortunately for some, it can even lead to deadly results.  This is one of several topics that our psalmist addresses in our psalm today.  This is also a Messianic psalm, often recited in churches during the Easter season.  Let’s look at several of the thoughts brought out in the psalm.

This psalm is a celebration of God’s goodness and mercy in the midst of trouble and pain.  We all go through problems in our lives.  No one is exempt from that.  Our unknown psalmist, like the authors of so many of the psalms, was familiar with difficulties.  He knew where, and to whom he should turn, which makes all the difference.  If we look to ourselves we find that we are often incapable to get ourselves out of trouble, sometimes only making the problem worse.  Other people will often let us down, or are equally incapable of helping us.  There is only One to whom we can truly turn to for help in our troubles, and that is Yahweh.  We need to thank Him for life, and receive each day with joy.

Our psalmist knew to turn to the Lord in his trouble, because whenever he called upon Him, he found relief from his problems and was rescued (vs. 5).  When we have the Lord in our life, and are trusting and relying upon Him, we don’t need to be afraid of others.  They are mere men, and can only do as much as the Lord will allow them to.  Jesus reminds us that men can only kill the body, but not our souls (Matthew 10:28). We don’t need to hang our heads in fear or discouragement.  Instead, we should look up to heaven, and praise God for all He has done for us.  The Lord is on our side.

As our psalmist continues, he reminds us of the One we should be putting our trust in (vs. 8-9).  People often go back on their word.  They might make us so many promises, and then turn around and let us down.  We see that all the time with politicians today, just as the psalmist did with the political leaders, the “princes” of his day, as well.  Even the best of friends can let you down.  However, God always does what He says, and keeps every promise He makes.  We can trust Him!

Further on in Psalm 118 the psalmist wrote several verses which became prophetic for the coming Messiah (vs. 22 - 24).   He shares a visual picture of a large building stone brought to a construction site, but which the builders reject.  However, that stone ends up being the cornerstone of the building, the one that is the most important, holding the building together.  The New Testament points out quite clearly that this stone is really the Lord Jesus Christ.   In the Parable of the Vineyard which Jesus told in Matthew 21:33-46, Jesus is the rejected son of the Owner, likened to the rejected stone, which became the cornerstone.  The religious leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  They rejected the One who came to deliver and save the nation.  Jesus was rejected by His own people (Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17).  The apostle Peter declared in his sermon on Pentecost Sunday, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36).  Now Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church (Acts 4:10-12; Ephesians 2:19-20; I Peter 2:6-7).

In verse 24 we read a verse that is familiar with many.  “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  There are some times when we just don’t feel like rejoicing.  Sometimes when we wake up, we just crawl out of bed dreading what lays before us, and we certainly don’t feel like rejoicing.  Yet here in this verse, God is telling us to rejoice in the day He has given us.  On those dreary days, when rejoicing seems like the last thing we can do, look around.  Find at least one thing we can thank God for.  There are undoubtedly many things we can name.  Then rejoice.  God has given us this day to live and serve Him.

To reestablish a thankful heart, we need to set aside time to deliberately remember all that God has done for us, and to give thanks.  As our psalm today urges us, we need to remember His mercy and His steadfast love.  We can have confidence in God’s eternal love.  It is unchanging in the midst of a changing world.  God’s love should give us great security.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Empty Tomb

 Matthew 28:1-10

The past two days had been very difficult and traumatic for the followers of Jesus.  After His arrest on Thursday night they had all scattered to various locations to stay in hiding from the religious leaders and Roman soldiers.  They all heard what had happened next.  Their own religious leaders had condemned Jesus to death, which was okayed by the Roman governor.  The sentence was carried out, and Jesus was crucified.  Their leader was now dead and buried.  The disciples were now engulfed with despair and fear.  What was left for them?  They had put everything in their lives on hold to follow Jesus, whom they had come to believe was the Messiah, and now their hopes, dreams, their whole world lay crumpled in a heap.  This is where we find them as dawn was breaking that Sunday morning.

As our Scripture passage begins several of the women, in particular Mary Magdalene, who had followed Jesus from the start of His ministry and had helped financially to provide for His needs, now wanted to do one final act of devotion to their Lord.  With the coming light of dawn they wanted to go to the tomb and properly anoint His body, as that ritual had been put off  with the coming of the Sabbath.  Mary Magdalene and the others were on their way to the grave alone, as none of the men accompanied them.  The men remained in hiding, still afraid.  It was equally dangerous for the women.  They could just as easily be arrested.  They were at the mercy of the rough Roman soldiers who guarded the tomb, as well.  Their love for the Lord overruled these concerns.  They would not leave Him without these final acts of devotion.

Nothing was going to stop Mary Magdalene from doing what she needed to do.  She sought Jesus.  She sought Him with boldness.  The other disciples were in hiding, but she wasn’t.  Mary Magdalene went out with boldness because she had great love for Jesus.  She sought Him faithfully.  Though she wasn’t certain that Jesus had risen yet, however she was faithful to Him even to the tomb.  This was the very least Mary could do.  She was earnestly weeping because she loved much.

When the women were coming to the tomb, they wondered among themselves how they would get the stone which closed off the entrance moved (Mark 16:3).  They didn’t need to worry about that, though.  The angel had already moved it before they arrived.  How many times do we worry about big obstacles in our lives, wondering how we will ever get past them?  We sometimes face huge barriers, immovable stones.  When we leave these in the Lord’s hands, He will see that the stone will be rolled away.

Who rolled the stone away?  It wasn’t the earthquake that by chance dislodged the stone, causing it to roll away from the tomb’s entrance.  God sent one of His angels to move the stone from the entrance.  The angel didn’t roll that stone away to let Jesus out from His tomb.  Jesus didn’t need any help getting out of the tomb!  The angel rolled the stone away to let the women and apostles in to see the empty tomb, to see the proof of the risen Savior.

When the women arrived at the empty tomb and saw the angel, he had four  messages for them.  The first was “Do not be afraid”.  When we remember the empty tomb we do not need to fear anymore.  Instead, the knowledge of the risen Savior should fill us with joy.  The angel’s second message to the women was that Jesus was not there.  Jesus was no longer dead, so don’t look for Him among the dead.  He is alive.  The third words the angel spoke were for them to come and see for themselves.  Check the evidence yourself.  The tomb was empty then, and it is still empty today.  The angel’s final words were to go and tell the news.  Go, and spread the joy of the resurrection.

Jesus rose from the dead as He promised.  We can trust all that He has promised.  His resurrection shows us that He is more than a human leader.  He is the Son of God, and ruler of God’s eternal kingdom.  Because Jesus rose we will be resurrected to eternal life, as well.  Darkness has been replaced by light, and fear has been replaced by hope.