Monday, May 31, 2021

Our God Reigns

 Psalm 93

Many years ago I visited Niagara Falls, a large and magnificent waterfall between the U.S. state of New York and Canada’s province of Ontario.  Niagara Falls, like any very large waterfall, is extremely loud, and can be heard long before you get to them.  The sound of water and waves crashing against rocks and the shore is majestic and powerful.  I have driven down Lake Shore Drive along the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Chicago on a number of occasions when the water was very turbulent, the waves crashing up along the shore.  I imagine it is even more so along the ocean shores during storms.  Our psalm this week, a very short psalm, speaks of the sound of mighty waters and waves, and how the Lord is mightier than even the strongest of waves and floods.

One of the most fearful situations one can find themselves in is that of being in a hurricane or on a boat in the ocean, large lake or sea in the middle of a powerful storm.  When a powerful hurricane is heading towards land, there are often large-scale evacuations ordered for the residents in coastal communities.  These storms are powerful and life-threatening.  Sometimes sailors go out to sea despite storm warnings, but often tragically find their sailing skills are no match to the power of the waves.  No one has ever been able to tame or defeat a hurricane or other large storm at sea.

Though no human is a match for this power, our psalmist reminds us of One who is even more powerful, that being the Lord God (vs. 1-2).  God is omnipotent.  He has the power to do anything and everything He wishes.  He is the Creator of all on earth, and He controls the winds and waves.  He has all of the power of any mighty waterfall, any hurricane or storm at His fingertips.  This is seen when Jesus stilled the raging waves of the Sea of Galilee during a storm (Mark 4:35-41).  Many of the disciples were professional fishermen and knew the power of storms.  These men knew how dangerous they could be, and were rightly afraid.  Yet Jesus, the almighty Creator, has the power to still the waves at His Word.  When our life feels like we are on a small raft, heading towards a looming, large waterfall, ready to go over to doom, we need to remember that God is always greater than all of our troubles.  No matter how high the floods or waves, the Lord remains greater than them all.

Large groups of angry people, an angry mob, can seem like powerful waves that cannot be contained.  More and more we are seeing people turn away from God and His Word, especially in an angry and defiant way.  The angry nations and enemies of God, who rage against Him and His Son’s reign, are just like the angry waves in a storm (Revelation 11:17-18).  However, just as Jesus commanded the waves to be still, He will subdue the angry waves of humanity that are defiant against Him.  Jesus will still the raging, hostile nations, and will establish His Kingdom.

God’s glory is seen, not only in His strength, but also in His perfect moral character (vs. 5).  God will never do anything that is not morally perfect.  Because He is holy, He wants His children to be holy, as well (Leviticus 19:1-2).  God’s Word is sure and true.  The foundations of His house is holiness, as our psalmist states, without any spot or stain of sin there.

As we close out this short, little psalm, we need to remember that nothing is more powerful than God, even some of the most powerful forces on earth, such as storms and waves.  Nothing is more sure and steadfast than His reign, even against the angry wave-like mobs of defiant nations.  Nothing is more true than His Word.  What God has said will happen, will indeed happen.  We can count on that.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Be Alert!

 Exodus 3:1-8

Sometimes when we’ve seen the same sight or view over and over again, we don’t really take notice of it anymore.  Staring out the back window into the neighbor's yard, day after day, year after year, you aren’t really even seeing it anymore.  Your brain isn’t registering what you see, until suddenly there is something new, something different.  Maybe he put in some new rose bushes, and you wonder how long they have been there, but you just didn’t notice.  You drive to work everyday, the same route, the same view.  Nothing’s changed and you could almost do it in your sleep.  Until suddenly, a new stop sign is at a corner, and you almost drive through it!  It’s important to be alert!  In our Old Testament reading for this week, Moses was in a similar situation where it was important for him to be alert and notice what was around him.

As our Scripture passage opens, we see Moses out in the wilderness tending the flocks of his father-in-law in the land of Midian.  Many years earlier he had to escape from the land of Egypt, from his privileged position in the royal courts, and fled into the land of Midian, where he met and married his wife.  Now for many, many years he has been watching his father-in-law’s flocks.  He sees the same sights each day, the sheep, the rocky ground with patches of grass and bushes.  He sees the great Mount Sinai (called Mount Horeb here).  Nothing new.  Everything is the same as it’s been for decades.  Then all of a sudden, one day he sees something different.  There is a bush in the distance that is burning, but it isn’t getting burnt up (vs. 1-2).  How long had it been there before he noticed it?  We don’t know, but he finally does take notice, and goes to observe this new and unique sight (vs. 3).

It is at this moment, now that He has the attention of Moses, that Yahweh speaks out to him.  God is often trying to get our attention, but are we alert?  Often we are in such a hurry that we walk right by our “burning bush”.  We don’t pay attention.  We are too busy in our own thoughts, that we are oblivious to what God is doing.  God had a very important job for Moses to do.  He was the one that God had selected to deliver His people out from bondage in Egypt, but first He needed to get his attention.  What job are we missing because we are not alert to the signs from the Lord?  Because Moses was alert and took notice of God’s call, he was able to be God’s human agent in bringing the people out of Egypt, deliver to them His laws, and bring the people right to the border of the Promised Land.

When Moses came over to observe the burning bush, and when he heard the call of Yahweh to him, the first thing Moses did was to remove his shoes and hide his face (vs. 5-6).  The Almighty Lord God was present there.  Removing shoes was a sign of reverence in a holy place.  Hiding his face was another reaction to a reverent fear in the presence of God.  God is our Friend, but He is also our Sovereign Lord.  To approach Him frivolously shows a great lack of respect.  We should not come to Him casually, but as an invited guest before a King. 

As the Lord spoke to Moses, He identified Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (vs. 6).  God did not say “I was the God”.  He said “I am” proving that these Patriarchs were still alive, though they had died physically a long time before.  As Jesus said later, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Mark 12:26-27).

As our Scripture passage closes, God tells Moses that He has seen the oppression His people are under, and has heard their cries (vs. 7-8).  How many times in our life, when we are going through a very difficult time, whether due to health, financial, emotional, or family concerns, we cry out to God and feel He doesn’t hear?  God is aware of what goes on in our life.  God has seen, He has heard, and He is aware, just as He was over the oppression of the children of Jacob.  Just as Yahweh delivered them, He will also come to our aid and deliver us.

Friday, May 28, 2021

In Jesus's Name

 John 14:8-17

Sometimes the president of a company or large corporation will give authorization to a lower staff member to make decisions or make agreements with other companies.  This other staff member will go out in the name of the head of the company, perhaps using his personal letterhead or stamp, and make these decisions.  Of course, this staff member is to only make decisions that he knows his boss would approve of; ones that the boss could give his name to, his seal of approval.  If instead he makes selfish or improper decisions in the name of the boss, that privilege might be revoked.  In our verses today from the Gospel of John, we read about a privilege that has been granted to believers.  Let’s look at this and what other things the Lord Jesus tells us in this Scripture passage.

As our passage opens, the apostle Philip asked Jesus to be able to see God the Father.  Jesus responded by telling the disciples that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father (vs. 8-11).  This proves the falsehood of heretical beliefs which teach that Jesus was a created being, was not divine, or not divine until after the resurrection.  Jesus is God in the flesh.  He is the visible, tangible image of the invisible God.  There are no attributes of deity that Jesus does not possess.  Everything that is true of the Father is true of the Son.  The only way to see the Father, to know Him, is through Jesus.  The words that Jesus spoke are actually ones coming from God the Father.  The honest search for God and truth will end in Jesus Christ.  To know Jesus is to know God.

Jesus continues by stating that His followers will be able to do the works that He did, and greater works than Him (vs. 12).  This is greater works in number, not in magnitude - bringing the Gospel to the world.  Jesus’s ministry was mainly limited to Israel.  The disciples and those following were to go to the ends of the earth, and have brought countless numbers of people to the saving knowledge of Jesus.  The only way the disciples would be able to do this was through the power of the Holy Spirit.  He could not be sent until Jesus returned to heaven.

Then Jesus stated a very wonderful promise, that if we ask anything in His Name, He will do it (vs. 13-14).  There are some things that we need to understand about these verses.  Jesus has instructed us to come to the Father through Him, and to ask for what we need.  Those who have a saving relationship with Jesus have the right to use His Name in prayer.  For God to hear and answer our prayers we must first be saved.  After salvation, we must walk in righteousness before Him.  If we knowingly continue in sin, and do not repent, God will not listen (Psalm 66:18).

“In Jesus’s Name” is not a magic charm or formula.  Our prayers must be consistent with Jesus’s character and will.  God is able, and will do whatever is in His will.  We need to submit our desires to His will.  We must obey Him and His will, not our own.  We must come to Him with clean hearts and hands, solely on the merits of His Son, Jesus.  God will not say yes to what will hurt us or derail His purpose.  Are we seeking to glorify God, or are our motives selfish, greedy or impure?

Praying “in Jesus’s Name” means we are acting as His agent, and is not something we should just randomly tack on to the end of any prayer of ours.  We are to be acting as the agent of Jesus’s will, and when we are, He promises us unlimited resources to do His will.  God will not grant requests that are contrary to His nature or His will.  However, when we recognize Jesus’s authority as the Son of God we can pray in His Name and have access to God.  Asking in Jesus’s Name means we want to do God’s will and to glorify Him.

Jesus then promised to send the Holy Spirit to all believers (vs. 16-17).  God has not deserted us.  We have His continual aid through the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers.   The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, called alongside for aid in times of trouble.  The Holy Spirit is the source of truth, and communicates this truth to believers.  Apart from Him, no one can know God’s truth.

Let’s take comfort and strength with these promises that Jesus has given us, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the authority to come in prayer to God in the mighty and powerful Name of Jesus.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Spiritual Gifts

 I Corinthians 12:4-13

Did you ever go camping with a scouting or youth group when you were younger?  Before leaving the leader might send a few out earlier to locate a good spot to set up camp.  When they arrive, they might assign some different tasks to various ones in the group.  Some might be given the task of preparing a meal.  Others are assigned to set up the tents, others to gather firewood, others to plan some activities for the evening or the next day, etc.  A good troop leader will assign the tasks based on the skills of each one.  Physically stronger ones would be best in carrying wood or large rocks for a campfire.  Best not to choose someone who can’t even boil water to make the meal!  And someone good at reading a compass and a map, and good at marking trails would be best to send to scout out the area.  The same holds true with setting up a softball team.  A good coach will assign the positions based on skill.  When picking out gifts for various people, we also take into consideration what each person is like.  Someone who has little interest in sports would not really want season tickets for the city’s football team.  In this way, the Holy Spirit is like that good scout leader or good coach.  He knows just which gifts to give to each believer, as we shall see in our Scripture passage for today.

As our Scripture opens, Paul is telling the church in Corinth that spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit, and that He alone is the one who decides which spiritual gifts each believer receives (vs. 4 - 7).  When the Lord Jesus returned to heaven on Ascension Day, He had promised to send the Holy Spirit to His followers, which occurred on the Day of Pentecost.  Jesus had instructed His followers to spread His message throughout the world.  In order to effectively do that we would need the power of the Holy Spirit, we would need the special spiritual gifts He would bestow.  Without the Holy Spirit and His gifts, the church would not survive, both from attacks on the outside and from within.

Some of these gifts are listed here, and some more are listed further down in the chapter.  These spiritual gifts are not natural talents that both the saved and unsaved have.  These are bestowed by the Holy Spirit.  Every believer has at least one gift that he is to use to help edify the church, and to glorify God.  He will also give us unique ministry areas in which to use the gifts He has given us.

One of the gifts of the Spirit is the gift of wisdom (vs. 8).  This is the ability to understand God’s Word and His will, and to skillfully apply that to life.  Another gift that the Holy Spirit gives to some is the word of knowledge (vs. 8).  This is the ability to understand and speak God’s truth with insight, grasping the meaning of that truth.

The gift of faith is another of the spiritual gifts that is given to some believers (vs. 9).  This is different from saving faith, the faith that all must have when they accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior.  This is a special spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit.  This gift of faith is shown in persistent and confident prayer and endurance, along with a strong trust in God in the midst of difficult circumstances.  People with this gift show unflappable faith and trust in God despite anything that happens.

Paul mentions the gifts of healings, of miracles, and of tongues (vs. 9-10).  These are sign gifts.  Some Christians today believe they were gifts only for the days during the events of the New Testament, during the days of the Book of Acts.  They believe that these gifts were only given then to authenticate the message of Jesus and the apostles.  Other Christians believe that these sign gifts continue on through today.

Another gift of the Spirit is that of the gift of prophecy (vs. 10).  The biblical definition of prophecy is simply speaking forth and proclaiming God’s message with power, not predicting the future.  Only a small portion of the Old Testament prophets' messages in the Bible were predictions of future events.  Most of their preaching was proclaiming God’s message to the people in power.  One who has this gift proclaimed God’s Word, the Bible, to others with His power.

The last gift of the Spirit that is discussed in this passage is that of discerning of spirits (vs. 10).  Satan and his demons try to counterfeit any work of God.  This gift recognizes lying spirits and identifies deceptive and erroneous teaching and heresies and will call it out as such.

The Holy Spirit decides which gifts each one of us should have.  We are responsible to use our gifts, but should take no credit for what God has given us.  Like a body, which is composed of many parts, but is one body, each part doing its job to make the whole body work, so is the Church, the Body of Christ (vs. 12-13). The church is composed of many types of people from all types of backgrounds, but all united through faith in Christ.  Let us be attuned to what spiritual gifts we have, and use them for His Glory.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Where Do We Place Our Trust?

 Psalm 33:12-22

Who we look to for help when we have a problem or are in trouble is important.  If someone came to me asking for help with car trouble, they would be out of luck, as I have absolutely no mechanical ability.  Calling upon the wrong person can actually be dangerous at times.  You don’t want someone who doesn’t know what they are doing to be fixing the electrical wiring in your house!  Someone may claim they can help you in your time of need, but end up being a poor choice.  This holds true in every area of one’s life.  As we look into our psalm for this week, the psalmist tells us where to look, and where not to look for help.

Our Scripture passage, the second half of Psalm 33, begins with the statement that those who have chosen Yahweh for their God are a blessed people (vs. 12).  Since this is true for the individual, it would be even more so for a nation.  Yet there really has never been any nation that has completely followed the Lord.  Even the nation of Israel throughout the Bible kept turning away from God and would worship the false pagan gods of the people around them.  There were brief times now and again when they repented and turned back to Him, but then quickly returned to their idolatry.  And today, though there are true Christians in nations all around the world, no country as a whole is committed to following Jesus and His Word.  Following Jesus, and Him alone, is the only true way to be blessed.

As we continue in our psalm, we are reminded that God is omniscient.  He knows all things.  There are no actions, people, or situations, whether past, present, or future, that is hidden from Him (vs. 13-15).  God isn’t watching us just for His amusement.  He is concerned with everything about us.  Jesus has told us that every hair on our head is numbered (Luke 12:6-7).  That shows a lot of concern for us.  If He cares about when a sparrow drops to the ground, then He certainly cares about us!  Everything on earth is under His control.  Because all is under God’s control, it would make sense that we turn to Him when we have any needs or problems.  We certainly don’t have all under our own control, nor does any other person, yet so often Jesus is the last One we turn to.

Our psalmist states that God has fashioned each of us individually, just as a potter does any vessel he makes (vs. 15).   He made our hearts and our minds.  God did not make some hearts to be evil and some to be righteous.  God did not fashion some deliberately in order to destroy them.  We were all made equally, and each of us has the power of choice.  We can choose God, accepting His Son Jesus as our Savior, or we can reject Him.

The psalmist next turns his attention to nations and their rulers, and to whom they turn to for help (vs. 16-17).  How many people and nations, whether in the past, or even today, put their trust in the size of their army to deliver them from danger?  We are told that the size of our army won’t help us.  As a child we might have looked to the strongest person in class and make friends with him in order to be protected from bullies.  However God tells us that the strongest of men cannot help us.  The horses mentioned here figured military strength.  They are not a help.  God rules over every nation.  We should not put our trust in any leader.  Military might should not be the grounds of our hope, nor any supposed political savvy or the many promises politicians make.  Our trust should only be in God.

When we put our trust in Yahweh, and not in some human power or might, we have the assurance that He will continually watch over us (vs. 18-19).  If you are a parent, or if you can remember back to when you were a young child, you might remember your parents keeping an eye on you.  Parents watch over their children, keep their eyes on them, to protect them from any harm.  God’s eye is on us, all those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus.  He will watch over all those who fear Him.  Jesus promises to give us the help we need, either against any enemies or in any problems.  We are never alone or abandoned in our struggles.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Happy Birthday To The Church!

 Acts 2:1-11

Birthday parties are supposed to be fun, whether it is for someone else, or especially if it is your own birthday party.  The birthday cake, ice cream, balloons!  Often fun or silly games are played.  It’s generally a very happy day for everyone, and especially for the birthday guest of honor.  Today is the Day of Pentecost, the day when the promised Holy Spirit came and descended upon the disciples which were gathered together in a room, awaiting just this event.  This event, the coming of the Holy Spirit, would mark the beginning of the Church, the Church’s birthday.  Since we can’t all gather together in my Chicago backyard for a birthday party, let’s celebrate by reading about the birth of the Church in our Scripture passage today.

As the Scripture passage opens, we see that the disciples were all gathered together (vs. 1).  Ten days prior, right before He ascended back up into heaven, Jesus had instructed the disciples to remain in Jerusalem and await the Holy Spirit, which He promised to send (Luke 24:49-52).  The disciples obeyed the instructions that Jesus gave.  They didn’t go and scatter all over the land, back to their former businesses.  They didn’t lose faith and hope as the days progressed to now over a week.  They didn’t give up and leave.  No, they were all “with one accord” and in “one place”, in prayerful expectation of the Holy Spirit.

As the disciples were together in prayer, the Holy Spirit came upon them, accompanied by the sound of a mighty, rushing wind, and the appearance of flaming tongues of fire upon each (vs. 2-3).  Before the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit only came upon certain people temporarily.  This was to empower these chosen people for certain, specific reasons or tasks.  After Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes to permanently indwell all born-again believers.

Every believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit when they are saved.  That is when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the new Christian, and is a one-time event.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit is something different.  That is something that the Bible tells Christians to be doing on a regular, daily basis.  Since not all Christians follow this Biblical instruction, not all are so filled, or experience it.  Paul told the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), as that is something a believer who wishes to live a closer and more effective Christian life chooses.  Being filled with the Spirit is a continuous experience within the Christian, whereby the Holy Spirit keeps control over his life.

The Day of Pentecost was the Jewish festival of the harvest of the first fruits, the harvest of the spring crops of the year.  I believe that the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost as a sign that He is the first fruits of the believer’s inheritance.  We have a wonderful inheritance, and the Holy Spirit is the down payment.

Jewish people from around the world would come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, so on this day there were many foreigners in the city.  This was an opportune time to begin the spread of the Gospel message.  When the Holy Spirit came down that first day, He enabled the disciples gathered there to speak in other tongues, in other languages (vs. 4).  What these believers were speaking were the languages and dialects of the people who were in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost.  It was not meaningless babble or some unknown language.  The Holy Spirit miraculously enabled them to proclaim God’s message to the people in their own language.  If they got saved, they in turn, could return home and tell their family and friends, and the Gospel message would be spread throughout the world.

The second half of our passage today lists some of the many languages that these disciples were enabled to speak, and shows just where the Gospel could begin to be spread to (vs. 7-11).  The Parthians, Medes and Elamites were people and languages far to the east of Jerusalem, what is today modern Iran and further east from there.  Mesopotamia is today in modern Iraq and eastern Syria.  Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, and Pamphylia are all areas in modern Turkey.  Libya and Cyrene are in the northern coastal areas of Africa, along the southern shore of the Mediterranean.  Cretans are from the island of Crete, and Arabs are from south of Judea.  Christianity is not limited to any one race or one group of people.  Jesus Christ offers salvation to all people, without regard to nationality.  On this birthday of the Church, God wanted to be sure that His message of salvation spread to everyone.  So, Happy Birthday to the Church!

Friday, May 21, 2021

Kept Secured And Sanctified

 John 17:11-19

One thing that is of comfort to Christians is knowing that when there is a need, we can have other believers praying for us.  Knowing that other believers are praying for us can help carry us through the long hours in the hospital waiting for news of a loved one in surgery.  The prayers of others can give us the boost of encouragement we need when looking for a job during months of unemployment.  Somehow knowing that a great man or woman of God is personally praying for us seems even more heartening, despite the fact that their prayers really don’t carry any more weight with God than those of one of His humble servants.  What about knowing the Son of God is praying for you?  Those are prayers that would carry special weight in heaven!  And here in our Scripture passage today from the Gospel of John we read a portion of a special prayer that Jesus prayed on behalf of His followers, just a few brief hours before He was betrayed and then crucified.

The complete 17th chapter of John’s Gospel is a prayer that Jesus prayed to His Heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples and all future Christians, as well, which would include us.  Jesus prayed for His disciples because they would be facing the world’s temptations, along with their hatred, without His immediate presence.  For the previous 3 - 3 ½ years Jesus had been physically present with all those who followed Him and believed in His message.  Now Jesus would no longer be physically with them.  He knew that going into the future believers would be under attack from His enemies, enemies of God.  There would be the temptation to become discouraged, maybe even to give up, so Jesus held them in special prayer right then.

As we look into this prayer of Jesus we see that those who have accepted Him as their Savior are eternally secure (vs. 12).  We are kept by Him.  Kept, and not lost.  We are secure forever because we are held by Jesus.  The Son of God is not like a little child who loses some of his toys, allowing them to fall out of his hands, or accidentally leaving them behind in the playground.  He has kept us, safe and secure in His almighty hands!

Knowing this should bring us great joy (vs. 13).  The key to great joy is living in intimate contact with Jesus Christ, the Source of all joy.  Walking and living in daily communion with Jesus, and knowing that He is continually interceding for us will bring us joy (Hebrews 7:25).

Why would the prayers of Jesus and the fact that He keeps us so secure in His hands be so important?  The reason is found in verse 14.  It is because the world hates Christians, true Christians who follow and obey His Word.  The world hates Christians because we have different values from theirs.  You might notice that when you listen to some of your fellow co-workers talking in the lunchroom, laughing at dirty, off-color jokes, when you search on TV for something decent to watch, and see only programs that are offensive.  You see this when you try to stand for righteousness against a crowd that is following the path of the evil one.  A Christian won’t join in the world’s sinning and immorality.  They follow Satan’s agenda, and he is the enemy of Jesus and His people.

Jesus promised to protect believers from Satan and all of the wicked forces following him (vs. 15).  Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, but he is still loose in the world, and orchestrating his evil plans.  You will notice in this prayer that Jesus didn’t pray to take us out of the world.  Sometimes we may wish that, but He wants to use us in this world.  He sends us into the world to bring His message, but not to become a part of them.

We are not to be a part of this world’s evil system.  Jesus prayed for us to be sanctified (vs. 17).  To be sanctified means to be set apart, special, for God’s purpose and use.  God has a special plan for each and every one of us, and we need to be set apart for Him to use.  He has cleansed us and made us holy, and we remain that way by believing and obeying God’s Word.  Daily reading and applying the Bible has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts.

When we begin to feel down or discouraged, thinking the Christian life is too hard and the enemy is too strong, remember that the Savior prayed for you.  And not just that night before He was crucified, but He is right at this moment, seated at God the Father’s right hand praying for you, as well.  You are kept in Jesus’ love, and set apart, just for Him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Do You Believe What God Has Said?

 I John 5:9-15

No one likes to be called a liar.  We can get rather upset when someone makes that accusation against us, especially if we are telling the truth.  Our integrity and reputation becomes impugned when so challenged.  Most of us, though, at one time or another have probably been called a liar, and also called others one, too.  But have you ever called God a liar?  We might not hesitate to call someone else one if we felt they weren’t telling the truth, or we’d act as if we didn’t believe them, but we might draw the line at calling God a liar!  In our Scripture passage for today from the Apostle John’s first epistle, we will read about just such actions.

When someone tells us something, we have the choice to either believe what he is saying, or to reject it as false.  It is one or the other.  We either believe he is telling the truth, or don’t believe it.  This is the case whether they are talking about a current event, the weather, or anything, including spiritual matters.  The Apostle John begins our passage by saying that if we are going to believe what some common man tells us about a spiritual matter, all the more we should believe the message if it comes from God (vs. 9).  Whatever God has said should definitely carry more weight than what some human has said!  He has given us His Word, the Bible, and has also spoken to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  To deny the Biblical witness of Jesus Christ is to reject God Himself (vs. 10).  To refuse the testimony of God about His Son, Jesus Christ is the ultimate form of blasphemy, calling God a liar.

What does God’s Word say about those who do not believe God’s testimony about Jesus, those who have essentially called Him a liar?  It is very clear.  The Bible says that those who have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior have eternal life, and those who have not accepted Him do not have eternal life (vs. 11-12).  The one has an eternal place in heaven with God, the other will have eternal damnation.  The Bible describes people who do not have a personal relationship with God as lost.  They are off track, deluded, disconnected, and out of touch with the Lord.  They may go through life thinking they are right, but the result is eternal doom (Proverbs 14:12).

If you have asked the Lord Jesus to come into your heart by faith as your Savior, to forgive you of your sins, you have eternal life.  If you haven’t, you do not have eternal life.  We don’t have to just hope we have eternal life.  We can know we have it (vs. 13).  It is based on God’s promise given to all who accept Jesus.  It is not based on feelings, but based on fact, on the truth of His Word.  Once we are saved, we remain saved forever.  There is no on-off salvation - saved today, lost tomorrow.  That is not the case.  We can trust God’s hold on us more than our hold on Him.  His faithfulness doesn’t depend on ours.

Assurance of salvation leads to our being able to have confidence in prayer (vs. 14-15).  The confidence we have in prayer is not because of how earnestly we pray, or how much passion we put into our prayers.  Our confidence in prayer is because of our relationship with Jesus.  If we have a personal relationship with Jesus, when we pray we can have assurance of His power, wisdom, and love.  Jesus has promised us the victory when we follow and obey Him.

Effectual prayer is one that is prayed according to Jesus’ will. When believers yield themselves to God, they will find their way to the right requests, one’s that are according to God’s will, and those will bring the best possible answers.  God has promised that a prayer that is in accordance with His will, will be effective (James 5:16-18).

We should never give up in prayer.  Christians need to remember that we have an adversary, one who is fighting against us when we pray, and the answer to our prayers may have to withstand a battle before it comes through (Daniel 10:12-13).  Too often we stop praying just as our answer is ready to be delivered.  Persevere and be confident God hears.  Our Father is a good father who delights in giving His children good gifts (James 1:17).  He is listening when we cry out to Him.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Widows And Orphans

 Psalm 68:1-20

When we look throughout the world to see who is often at the bottom rungs of society, who have it the most difficult, we will often see the orphans and widows.  Those children who have either no parents or whose fathers are gone, and the women who are raising children alone because their husbands are dead or who have left them, are often the most destitute.  This was especially true in the days before the modern social service agencies that many countries have today.  Unless their father or late husband left them a fortune, they were doomed to be destitute.  Even today there are many who find themselves down at the bottom with no help, nowhere to turn to, no one who can or is willing to help them.  What are they to do?  Who can they turn to?  Our psalm for this week answers this question, showing us who is our help, no matter what our situation is.

In the days of the Bible, and in fact until sometime in the 19th century, if both of a child’s parents died, leaving them an orphan, his fate was rather grim.  Unless there was a relative or some kind-hearted and well-off neighbor willing to take them in and train them to be an apprentice, they were doomed to wander the streets, beg, or possibly be taken in as a servant or slave.  The fate of a widow was equally, if not more grim.  If she was young and pretty she might hope to be able to remarry, especially if she didn’t have any children.  If she wasn’t young or pretty, or if she had several children, unless her husband left her with a lot of money, her prospects were not good.  If the widow had an adult son who would care for her, that was good.  If not ……   Today women can work in just about every occupation they wish, but not that long ago there were very few ways any woman was permitted in society to earn her keep.

In pagan societies these unfortunates, the widow, orphan, and those whose fathers or husbands deserted them, were left to beg and perhaps starve to death.  This is where Yahweh shows Himself different from the false, pagan gods, which are in truth no gods at all.  He has stated in so many numerous places in His Word, the Bible, that He cares for the widows and orphans (vs. 5-6).  As stated here in this psalm, Yahweh is a father to the fatherless, and a defender of widows.  Only in Him is there hope for orphans, widows, and all who are alone and are disadvantaged.

God is a father to not only those who literally are without a father, but also to everyone who has never known a father’s love.  There are and have been countless people whose fathers might have walked out and abandoned the family, or who perhaps were there physically, but never bothered to spend any time or interest in their families.  The idea of a loving or attentive father is alien to them.  There are also the countless children who have parents who are physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive to them.  For them father is someone to be afraid of.  As they are being beaten and abused their hearts cry out to God, and we can be sure that He takes notice.  These may not be literal orphans, but God has a special care and love for them, as well.

Scriptures say that Yahweh cares for the widows, whether elderly after years of marriage, or younger one’s whose husbands have been tragically taken earlier.  I also believe that this would include, just like with the children, those women who have been abandoned by their husbands, and those husbands also abuse them.  God promises that He will be a type of husband to these (Isaiah 54:5-8).  Especially in days of the past, there were no options available for these women and children.  Both then, and today, their hope can only be found in the Lord Jesus.

When we turn to Jesus we can know His protecting love.  He promises His children, those who have called upon Him for salvation, that He will load us with His benefits, His blessings, each and every day (vs. 19).  Right now you may feel that you have a load to carry, but it sure isn’t one of blessings.  It is a load of cares, problems, and worries.  When we feel the heavy weight of our burdens, we can know that God has offered to take that care (I Peter 5:7).  We need to give that load to Him, so He can load us with the blessings He has promised.

In times of trouble, no one is closer than the Lord Jesus is for a Christian.  We don’t have to struggle on our own with fears and worries.  Jesus invites us to come to Him with our burdens (Matthew 11:28-30).  When we feel lonely and burdened, we can turn to the Lord Jesus, who gave His life on the cross to reunite us with God and bring salvation to us.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Judas Iscariot

 Acts 1:15-26

Throughout time there has been a number of people that have been scorned and hated by just about everyone.  We might think of cruel dictators over the last hundred years.  Various mass-murderers come to mind.  There is one person who seems to be universally condemned, denounced and hated, and that is Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus the Savior to those who wanted to destroy Him.  No parent ever chooses to name their son Judas, as his name has come to be synonymous with that of the worst of traitors.  As our Scripture passage today mentions Judas Iscariot, the last time he is mentioned in the Bible, let us take a closer look at him and his character.

As our passage opens, the disciples have gathered together in Jerusalem after the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, there to await the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Peter speaks, saying that they must pick another man to take the place of the one who betrayed Jesus, to bring the number back up to twelve.  This brings to our memory that Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve men that Jesus had specifically chosen to be His special disciples and apostles.  What happened in his heart to have him turn on Jesus, and in a way on the other eleven, to betray Him to the High Priest?  Judas may have been chosen to be an apostle, but he was never truly saved.  Like all of the twelve, Judas sat and heard the teachings of Jesus, but unlike the others, in Judas’ case God’s Word fell upon a heart that was hard and closed.  His seeming religiosity was an illusion and sham.  Though he had the same opportunity to accept Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, he never did, and opened the door for Satan to work in and through him.  Jesus knew this and called His betrayer the “son of perdition” (John 17:12), one doomed to damnation and destruction.

Some have falsely believed and taught that Judas had no choice in what happened, but that is not the case.  Judas chose to reject Jesus’ warnings as well as His offers of mercy.  He chose his own fate of hell by rejecting Jesus, just as anyone else who rejects the Savior does.  Judas hardened his heart and joined in the plot with Jesus’ enemies to put him to death.  His reasons may not have been exactly the same as the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin and High Priest’s, as perhaps he wanted to spur Jesus on to be the “political Messiah” many of the Jews wanted, one who would kick the Romans out.  And perhaps he was just greedy for the money they gave him, as the Apostle John recorded that he would help himself to money the twelve had (John 12:5-6).

Judas Iscariot remained unrepentant to the end.  When he saw what his actions led to, he went out and hung himself (Matthew 27:5).  Apparently the tree he chose to hang himself on overlooked a cliff, and the rope or the branch broke, or perhaps the knot slipped, and Judas’ bloated dead body crashed to the rocks below and burst (vs. 18).  Afterwards the Jewish leaders used the money that they had given Judas, and which he had thrown back to them, to purchase that field, which later became known as the Field of Blood, and also the Potter’s Field as the soil had clay in it and was good for making pottery (vs. 19).

Peter wanted to choose another man to replace Judas in the twelve.  He quoted two verses from the Book of Psalms as he felt led to do this, Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8.  When God gives prophecies, they come to pass.  For the successor of the betrayer, Peter said there must be a couple of requirements that needed to be filled in order to be an apostle.  The first requirement for the replacement was that the man had to have followed Jesus throughout His earthly ministry (vs. 21).  The second requirement was that he had to have seen the resurrected Christ (vs. 22).  Of two names that were put forth, Matthias was chosen.

Judas was numbered among the other apostles (vs. 16-17, 25).  He was one of them, not a stranger who did what he did.  That is the sad thing about Judas.  He was so close to Jesus, but never accepted Him as his own personal Savior.  Not everyone who regularly attends church, or even calls themselves a Christian, are really saved.  To look at Judas, one would have thought he was just as much a true disciple as anyone else, yet he committed one of the worst acts of treachery in human history.  When one is exposed to the Gospel, especially as much as Judas was, and yet refuses to believe, one leaves themselves open to Satan in the worst possible way.

Friday, May 14, 2021

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

 John 15:9-17

Most people want to have good friends in their life.  I’m not talking about the so-called “friends” one accrues on Facebook, many of whom we may not even really know, and many of whom don’t really care one way or another about us.  Our heart is seeking a real, true friend to whom we can turn to in both the good and bad times, someone we can share our deepest dreams and secrets with.  Many people are fortunate to find a good friend like this, perhaps more than one, however some are not so blessed.  In our Scripture reading for today from the Gospel of John we read of the best Friend one could ever have.  No one needs to ever go through life all alone, without a friend, if we know this Friend.  Let’s take a look at our passage and meet this Friend.

As we look into this Scripture passage we read that Jesus is calling His followers His friends (vs. 13-15).  Imagine, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, is calling us His friends!  How many of us can say we have a good friend who is someone of importance politically or in the business world?  Some might, but many don’t.  Jesus is God.  He is Lord and Master, and would have every right to call us servants.  Yet He chooses to call His followers friends.

One thing that many find about some friends is that they can frequently be very fickle.  One day they are your best friend, and then for some reason, the next day they have dropped you like a hot potato and want nothing more to do with you.  Perhaps they betray a confidence you shared with them.  Maybe you trusted them with something, or went into a business partnership with them, and now they have stabbed you in the back.  Whatever the reason they are now no longer your friend, your heart is saddened, and perhaps you feel you can no longer trust anyone again.

Jesus is the best friend we could ever have.  As our eternal Friend, Jesus accepts us.  We know that certainly isn’t the case with so many people.  He knows everything about us and accepts us completely.  Jesus laid down His life on the cross so we could become acceptable.  Sometimes we find that those who say they are our friends are just too busy for us when we have a need.  That is never the case with Jesus.  He is always available, and will always listen to us.  We can always approach Him with any situation.  Jesus will walk through all of our trials with us.  He promises to never leave or forsake His children (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).

It is painful when a friend we’ve had for many years turns away from us.  That will never happen with Jesus.  He has committed Himself to us as a Friend for life.  This lasts more than a lifetime.  His friendship will last throughout eternity.  He is such a friend that He gave His life for us.  Not many friends will do that for each other, yet Jesus actually did this while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).  One would hope that members of one’s own family would be friends, but again that isn’t always the case, as siblings often turn against one another.  Jesus, though, sticks closer than a brother, and will walk by our side through everything (Proverbs 18:24).

Knowing that the God of all creation wants to be our friend should bring us joy (vs. 11). True joy is not dependent upon our circumstances.  It comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus.  He will help us through all adversities.  God’s Word growing in us will produce increasing and lasting joy.  A lack of joy in a believer’s life can usually be traced to either a lack of studying God’s Word or to disobedience.  When we are close to Jesus, when we have built a relationship together as His friends, we can have His joy.

In closing, I give a few lines from one of my favorite old-time hymns.  If you have the chance, read through the whole hymn to help see what a true Friend we have. 

        “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

        What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

        Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear,

        All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!”

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Importance Of Ascension Day

 Acts 1:1-11

When we think of Christian holidays, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?  Most probably it will be Christmas, and then Easter.  Some might think of Ash Wednesday, maybe Good Friday, or even Pentecost.  But how many people think of Ascension Day?  Some Christians, particularly newer ones, might not know what that day is, and others might go, “Oh yeah, that day when Jesus went back into heaven.  Yeah, I think I’ve heard of that day.”  Many don’t remember that day because they don’t think it’s all that important, which is a mistake.  Ascension Day, which is today, 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection, is important.  Our Scripture reading for today is from the opening verses of the Book of Acts, and describes this momentous event.

Some people might think that the Ascension of Jesus back into heaven was no big deal.  They feel that Jesus rose from the dead, spent a little time with His friends, and then went on back to His home in heaven, no big deal.  Yet it was a big deal.  It was an important event.  In former days, when a king was triumphant in battle against the enemy, an important and symbolic event was that the king would triumphantly return to his capital, to his throne.  That signified that he was victorious.  He was not defeated.  The throne and the power were still his.  For a while Satan might have thought that he had the upper hand when Jesus’ enemies had finally captured Him, and they had Him crucified.  His enemies and Satan thought that He was finished, defeated.  But they were wrong.  Three days later Jesus triumphantly rose from the dead!  They were the ones defeated!  When Jesus ascended up through the sky and into heaven, He went right through where Satan, as prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), and his demons still work and operate.  Jesus returned to His throne in triumph.

Another reason that the Ascension is important is that it was essential that Jesus return to heaven in order for the Holy Spirit to be sent (John 16:7).  If Jesus had stayed on earth, His physical presence would have limited the spread of the Gospel, because physically Jesus could only be in one place at a time.  After Jesus was taken up into heaven, He would be spiritually present everywhere through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was sent so that God would be with and within His followers after Jesus returned to heaven.

Jesus promised numerous times that He would send the Holy Spirit, and it was also one of His last words given to the disciples (vs. 4).  The disciples had to wait until the Day of Pentecost before the Holy Spirit did come, but ever since then all believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit at the time of their salvation.  Every believer, from the moment they are saved, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16), and sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).  Now as Jesus repeats this promise, He tells them that a major reason for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is to spread the Gospel message around the world (vs. 8).  That is still our commission to this day!

As Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, tells us at the opening of this passage, prior to the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, He gave “many infallible proofs” that He had indeed risen from the dead (vs. 3).  Many people have tried to discount the historical authenticity of the resurrection.  They have said that the disciples stole His body away from the grave and then presented an empty grave as fake evidence.  Or they say that Jesus’ good message lives on, even though He is still dead.  Some said that it was hallucinations the disciples saw.  However Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples and other believers numerous times.  He ate and drank with them, which no ghost could do.  At one time Jesus was seen by over 500 believers at one time (I Corinthians 15:6).  They all saw the wounds which He had received at the crucifixion.

Now, in full view of many of His followers, Jesus was bodily taken up into heaven (vs. 9).  He was physically taken up into heaven to His rightful place at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus Christ one day will return to earth in the same way He ascended in the clouds (vs. 11).  The next time Jesus will be physically seen, His next appearance on earth, will be at His Second Coming.  We should be ready for Jesus’ sudden return (I Thessalonians 5:2), not standing around, but working diligently to share the Gospel so that others will be saved.

Monday, May 10, 2021

God Loves Us. We Should Love Others.

 I John 4:7-16

We hear a lot about love in the world today, but lately we see a lot more hate.  Unfortunately this is sometimes also true in the church and among Christians. And the so-called love that we see is one that falls under the world’s faulty and skewed definition of love, not the kind of love that is described in the Bible.  The Apostle John spoke often of true, godly Christian love in his epistles.  In our New Testament reading for this week we will take another look at the kind of love that God has for us, and which we should have both for Him in return, and for our Christian brothers and sisters.

When we think of God, one of the first characteristics that should come to mind is that God is love, and how that love is shown forth to us each and every day.  God is the essence of love.  Love is inherent in all He is and all He does.  Some people might first think of God as an angry and wrathful deity.  However even His judgment and wrath are perfectly harmonized with His love.

Those who are truly born again should exhibit the characteristic habit of love for others, especially to their fellow Christians (vs. 7-8).  When we are saved we receive God’s nature.  Love is a major characteristic of that nature.  Because of that, we should always be reflecting that love.  We need to reflect Jesus’ loving character in our behavior and attitude.  Someone who professes to be a Christian, but who is filled with hate for others, especially if they are exhibiting hate towards a fellow believer, does not truly know God.  Scripture clearly says here that if someone does not have love for others he does not know God.

The Bible says “God is love”.  It does not say “Love is God”.  The world has turned this around.  It has a shallow and selfish view of love.  The world believes it is alright to sacrifice moral principles and other’s rights to obtain its view of love.  Real love, though, patterns itself after God.

Love is a choice and an action.  God is the source of our love.  He sent His Son to die for us.  Jesus is our example of what it means to love.  Everything that He did in life and in death was supremely loving.  It is through the work of the Holy Spirit in our life that we have the power to truly love others in the manner that God does.  God showed sacrificial love for us in sending His Son to die for our sins (vs. 9).  We should show sacrificial love for others, as well.  Usually we are not called upon to give up our lives for others, though sometimes some may do that.  However, we need to be willing to give up our comforts for others if and when needed.  We, as believers and followers of Jesus, need to follow God’s pattern of sacrificial love for others (vs. 11).

We didn’t love God first.  That is often very obvious, as many believers first had anger, or at the least a great indifference towards God.  God loved us first by giving His Son as a propitiation (an appeasement or satisfaction) for our sins (vs. 10).  Jesus Christ’s shed Blood satisfied the demands of God’s holy justice and wrath against sin.

Jesus is the complete expression of God in human form, and He has revealed God to us.  When we love one another, God reveals Himself to others through us (vs. 12).  Since Jesus is no longer bodily here, the only demonstration of God’s love in this age is through the Church.  Love originated in God, was manifested in His Son, and is demonstrated through His people when they allow the Holy Spirit to work through them.

As stated earlier, God’s very nature is love.  That love is the reason He provided our salvation at His own great expense, at the life of His Son Jesus (vs. 16).  For this reason people need to know that God loves us.  Just as the father forgave his prodigal son when he returned in repentance (Luke 15:11-32), God is always ready to forgive us, no matter what we’ve done, if we turn to Him.  God loves us!

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Victorious King Jesus

 Psalm 47

In past eras of history, when there were wars between countries, the king would ride out to battle with his armies.  We usually don’t see that today.  The head of state might make a visit to their troops, but with rare exceptions, he does not take part in any battles.  However, that was almost always done in the past.  If the king stayed at home, safe and secure in his palace, he might have been branded a coward.  Seeing their king right there with them gave the troops courage to fight bravely for their leader and country.  When the battle was over, the victorious king would return home, riding into the capitol at the head of his troops, and receive a rousing welcome from all of his citizens.  Our psalm today is one that speaks of Yahweh as a victorious king, and king of not only Israel, but of the whole world.  Let’s take a quick look into this psalm, appropriate for the week celebrating the Ascension.

As our psalm opens, we see the people singing forth their praises to God with all their voices.  It pictures that king, returning in triumph to his people, and the crowds cheer and clap their hands for him (vs. 1, 5-7).   There have been some very large empires throughout history, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the British Empire to name some prominent ones.  However none of them ever ruled over the whole earth.  As we read in verse 2 we see that Yahweh is the great King over all of the earth.  There isn’t a corner of this world, not a single country or place that He isn’t the ultimate ruler.  Though we don’t see this expressed, God is the King of this world.  It all belongs to Him, whether the people acknowledge His lordship or not.  There is coming a day when Jesus will return, and He will enforce His rule over the whole world.  He will reign over all nations, seated upon His throne (vs. 8).

Throughout history this world has seen many cruel rulers, many despots.  They are cruel to their own people, and if given an opportunity, will expand their rule to other countries where they show cruelty to other people, as well.  No one willingly sings praises to these rulers.  This will not be the case with the Lord God.   As we read throughout this psalm, the people are rejoicing in the rule of the Lord God.  The tyrants of the past are not loved, but Yahweh is loved by His children.

Soldiers throughout history would frequently carry shields for protection, in addition to any armor they wore.  One man would be assigned to carry the flag of the country and king, but often the country and king’s colors or symbols would also be painted on the shields.  This would make it plain exactly who had their allegiance.  The victorious king would not only seek to gain the enemy’s flag, but also gain control over all the soldiers, over their shields, so to speak.  When a soldier lost his shield, he was in great danger, so the enemy would often try to knock the shields down, or take out the shield bearer.  In verse 9 we read that the shields of the earth belong to God.  Those of us who belong to Him, who are His children, have His ensign upon our shields.  Yahweh will get the victory over each of His enemies.  He will get their shields, and bring them into submission.

In verse 4 we read that God has chosen our inheritance.  When the descendants of Jacob finally came into the Promised Land, after being in the wilderness for forty years, the land was divided up by tribes, and each family was given a portion of land which became their inheritance.  This was an inheritance that had been promised to them since the time of Abraham.  This was a good inheritance, not a plot of land in the desert or in a swamp.  God has promised to each of His children, to those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, an even better inheritance.  We can trust Him to choose for us something wonderful.  As Paul said, what God has prepared for us will be beyond what we’ve ever seen or heard about (I Corinthians 2:9).

In closing, this is a good psalm to proclaim the Kingship of Jesus with Ascension Day this Thursday.  On Ascension Day Jesus returned back into heaven to be seated upon His throne at the right hand of God the Father.  He was bodily taken up into the sky, into the clouds, in the sight of His disciples.  In verse 5 we read that God is gone up with a shout and the sound of trumpets.  Shouts and trumpets signify the victory a king has over his enemies.  The Ascension was a victorious moment for Jesus.  He has the victory over Satan.  Let us sing God’s praises as we celebrate His victory!

Friday, May 7, 2021

We Need A Helper

 John 14:15-21

You’ve just been given a big assignment at work or in one of your classes at school, and you find that it’s beyond your level.  You just don’t have the capability to complete the task properly.  Maybe you are brand new on the job or in the class, and you need someone to help you.  Not feeling qualified for a task can give someone a rather sinking feeling, especially when that job needs to be done.  You need someone to come alongside you to help and teach you what you need to know to accomplish what you need to in order to complete that task.  Followers of Jesus have an important assignment to bring the Gospel to the whole world, yet knowing that He would no longer be physically present with us, Jesus promised us just such a Helper as we would need.  In our Gospel reading for today we read the promise Jesus made to us for the Helper we need.

Just hours before His crucifixion, Jesus spent some time with the Apostles, teaching and instructing them, preparing them for the task that would face them after He returned to heaven.  One promise that Jesus made was that after His ascension back to heaven, He would send them the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed that God would send “another”, someone of the same kind, someone like Himself who would take His place and do His work (vs. 16).  The Holy Spirit is the 3rd Person of the Trinity, having the same deity as Jesus and God the Father.  The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God within all believers, helping us live as God wants, and building Christ’s church on earth.

The Greek word used in verse 16, that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit is “parakletos”, which means an advocate, an intercessor, someone called to be a helper, an assistant, a consoler and comforter.  He is an advocate, called alongside for aid in times of trouble.  The Holy Spirit is our helper, our counselor, our comforter.  He is on our side, working for and with us.  The Holy Spirit is there to encourage, exhort, and help us.

Jesus promised this Helper to come to His followers, those who have accepted Him as their personal Savior.  He will take up permanent residence in all believers, all Christians.  The Holy Spirit will be with us forever (vs. 16).  The world at large cannot accept Him, but He lives with and in us (vs. 17).  When we feel that the task we have at hand for the Lord seems insurmountable, when we feel inadequate for the job, when we are opposed on every side, we do not need to fear.  The Holy Spirit is right there with us and is in us.  He is our Teacher, our Intercessor, our Helper.

The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Truth (vs. 17).  He is the source of truth, and communicates truth to believers.  Today we wonder who we can believe any more.  The news media can’t be relied upon to give us the truth, neither newspapers, magazines, or television news.  We all know that we cannot trust that the truth will come from any politicians.  So where can we find the truth?  The truth comes from God alone, and through His Word, the Bible.  Apart from the Holy Spirit one cannot know God’s truth.

We may feel deserted or opposed by family or others.  We may feel all alone, and not know where or to whom we can turn to.  If we are believers and God’s children, we can know that we are never alone.  God has sent us His Spirit to be with us and in us.  Knowing God’s intimate presence gives us confidence in the middle of trouble.  Because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the power that Jesus demonstrated while on earth prevails in those who now call upon Him for aid.  The believer is secure in Christ, and Christ is in God (vs. 20).

As the Apostle John closes up this passage of Scripture, Jesus tells us that if we say that we love God, we are to show it by obeying what He says in His Word (vs. 21).  Love for Jesus Christ is inseparable from obedience (vs. 15).  It does not matter how many times we read through the Bible, it does not matter how many Bible verses we memorize, or how many classes of theology we’ve taken, if we aren’t obeying God it won’t matter.  What does matter is obeying and keeping God’s Word.

We can rejoice that if we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior, we now have the Holy Spirit to come alongside us to help and teach us, indwelling us every minute of every day of our life.  We do not need to fear that we are on our own as orphans.  And if we love Jesus, we need to obey His Word and keep His commandments.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Love In Action

 I John 3:14-23

When most people hear the word “love”, they think of the warm, romantic feeling we get when we think of someone we’re “in love” with.  Holding hands as you walk down the beach, hugs and kisses, candlelit dinners, Valentine’s Day, etc.  These are all associated with that feeling of love.  The Bible speaks a lot about love.  Is it talking about kisses and sweet-talk, romantic cards, and bouquets of flowers?  Our Scripture passage today from one of the Apostle John’s epistles speaks of loving one another.  John spoke more about love in this book of the Bible than anyone else.  Let’s see what he has to say.

As we read through the Bible, we find out that Biblical love is not a sentimental feeling.  It’s not talking about that feeling of being “in love” with the boy or girl next door and blowing kisses across the room.  It is a description of specific actions.  Love is showing action, not just feelings which come and go on a whim.  Many of us might know a man or woman who says they love their spouse and family, but not provide for their needs, spending their paychecks on themselves while there’s no food in the house and the children are outgrowing their clothes.  Then there are ones who might not talk a lot about love, but their hard-working actions truly show they do.  As we see in our Scripture passage, love is action.

As the Apostle John begins this passage, he speaks of death and life (vs. 14).  Death and life symbolize unbelief and saving faith.  One who is truly saved will no longer remain in his old sinful nature, which has died.  When we become a Christian, we turn from death to life, and should also turn from hate to love.  A lack of love would show that one is still spiritually dead.

In verse 15 John echoes the teaching that Jesus gave, that whoever hates another is a murderer at heart (Matthew 5:21-22).  Outward compliance alone is not enough.  Bitterness against another will destroy us (Hebrews 12:15).  How we treat our fellow Christian brothers and sisters says something about whether we are remaining in death or rather are standing in God’s light.

The standard for our love is God’s love in Christ, who died for us (vs. 16-17).  This love is tangible.  God’s love is active, sacrificial, and life-giving.  We must love the same way with selfless, sacrificial giving.  Someone who claims this love, and sees someone in need, particularly a fellow believer, but does nothing to help, does not have the love of God in them at all.  Mature faith is seen in actions.  Genuine Christian love for those in need is demonstrated, not in words, but by one’s actions.

It is questionable if God’s love is present if a believer has no love or caring for his Christian brothers and sisters (vs. 17).   Showing an indifference to another’s needs is a sign of being spiritually dead.  True Christian love is to help those in need.  James says the same thing in his epistle (James 2:14-17).

Claiming to love is not enough (vs. 18).  Love shows itself in deeds.  Jesus did not love just with words.  He loved with His actions and His deeds.  Jesus cared for the people He met.  We should show by our actions that we care for each other, show by acts of kindness, being supportive, helping each other whenever we can.  Christians need to put their faith into action.  A lifestyle of love in action is a demonstrable proof of salvation (vs. 19).  God sees and knows, not only our actions, but also our motives and intentions behind our actions (vs. 20-21).

As John concludes this Scripture passage he assures us that our prayers will be answered if we obey and do what pleases God (vs. 22-23).  This is because when we are obeying His Word, we will then be asking in line with God’s will.  As John has clearly pointed out, it is so important to God that we show our love for our Christian brothers and sisters, and the world in general as well, with action and not just talk.