Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mighty Weapons

 II Corinthians 10:3-5

Having the correct weapons is important, whether one is in a serious battle or not.  If an intruder broke into your house, armed with a gun, and you picked up a water gun, you are no match for them.  Squirting water will not stop them.  If a military unit goes into battle against the enemy, and they are given pea-shooters against the enemy’s sophisticated, high-tech weapons, who’s going to get slaughtered? Having the best possible weapons is important, as is having the correct weapon for the specific type of battle.  In our brief Scripture passage for today, from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he speaks of the battle that Christians are engaged in, and the importance of the weapons that we use.  Let’s look at what he says.

As Paul begins this passage, he speaks about being in warfare.  New Christians might wonder what he is talking about.  Why would a Christian be fighting someone?  The moment we became a Christian, we gained a very real enemy, Satan.  He is out to bring us down in any way he can, sometimes using his demons, and sometimes using the unsaved people around us.  This battle is not a physical one, but a spiritual one.  As such, the weapons that we use are not physical ones, but spiritual.

Paul says here that we “walk in the flesh” (vs. 3).  By that he means that we are human, and for now we remain on the earth in our fleshly bodies.  He goes on to say that we are not supposed to “war according to the flesh”.  We are in a spiritual battle against the forces of evil, led by Satan.  Using human ingenuity, worldly wisdom, or clever methods will not work.  They are powerless against the forces of darkness and satanic assaults.  Some unsaved people may come against us, telling vicious lies to damage our reputation.  As a Christian, we don’t attack back with lies of our own.  The world may use underhanded methods to stop a church from buying some property.  We shouldn’t use similar methods against other ungodly groups.  Our enemies may physically assault us, but we should not start a similar assault against those who oppose Christianity.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that we cannot use “carnal” or human weapons in a spiritual battle.  Instead we need spiritual weapons (vs. 4).  Those would be God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and prayer.  A “stronghold” was a medieval fortress that the people could flee to for safety.  Satan’s strongholds can only be defeated by Christians using our spiritual weapons.  Don’t try to fight against an argument from an unsaved person by using your own intellectual capability.  Combat Satan with the Word of God, just as Jesus did when tested in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).  Only the truth of God’s Word can defeat satanic falsehoods.

Paul continues in his instruction from the Lord, telling us that we need to cast down or destroy every argument and things that exalt themselves against God, and to bring our thoughts captive to Him (vs. 5).  God wants the total destruction of the fortresses of human and satanic wisdom, philosophies, and false religions, and the rescuing of those inside those fortresses from the damning lies that enslave them.  If Satan gets a church to believe erroneous doctrines, unbiblical philosophies and false assumptions about God, he can lead it away from the truth and into error.  The same goes for individuals.

Believers are to be training the mind to think in a way that honors God.  The mind is the primary battlefield for spiritual warfare.  What we focus our mind on has lasting ramifications (Philippians 4:8).  When we take captive every thought in our mind we have power, not only over our thoughts, but also over our behavior, for thoughts ultimately lead to behavior and actions.  Actions lead to habits, and habits form character.  When we have negative, condemning, and self-centered thoughts, the Holy Spirit will help us take control, and bring it into submission to Jesus Christ.  We must reject anything that does not honor Christ in our thoughts.  Stand guard over your heart and mind, and don’t give the devil any place of entry.  His purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

As Christians, we must choose whose methods to use to fight Satan - God’s or the world’s.  Prayer, faith, hope, love, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit are powerful and effective, and these are at our disposal.  These can break down proud human arguments against God, and the walls that Satan uses to keep people from finding Jesus.  We must make the Lord Jesus Christ our Commander-in-Chief.  Everything in our lives must be submitted to His control as we live for Him and fight the enemy.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Handling Bad News

 Psalm 112

Nobody likes to receive bad news.  It’s distressing enough to hear of bad things that are happening around the world and in our own community, but it is especially unwanted if it directly affects our own personal life.  How do we respond when the bad news comes?  Are we able to handle it, or do we fall to pieces?  Are we able to carry on, or does our family have to put us to bed with a sedative or something to keep us calm?  Our psalm for today gives a description of a person who is blessed by the Lord, meaning someone who has accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior.  Part of that description includes when bad news comes, which it does all too frequently.  Let’s take a look.

As our psalm opens, the psalmist reminds us that God will bless those who both fear Him and who delight in His Word (vs. 1-2).  God loves to bless His obedient children.  He will pour out His loving-kindness and His mercy on those who keep His commandments.  And not only upon us, but if we bring up our children and grandchildren to love and follow God, which should be the aim of every Christian parent, God will bless our family into future generations.

There are many blessings available to those who fear the Lord and obey Him.  Among those blessings the psalmist describes are honor, prosperity, security, and freedom from fear.  The wealth and riches described in verse 3 are not necessarily an overflowing bank and investment accounts.  Christians who follow the Lord can be wealthy in many other ways, such as being blessed with a good and loving family or friends.  We are wealthy with the love, mercy, and grace the Lord bestows on us.  When we show generosity to others, that shows our respect for God (vs. 5).  We place our trust in Him, and not in our money, for our justice and security.

This brings us to where we have put our faith and trust.  That is important, because where this trust is placed should determine how we react when bad news comes.  Bad news should not put the believer in fear, for he knows the Lord will undertake for him (vs. 7-8).  When the world, the lost and unsaved, receive bad news, they panic and are filled with fear.  They often get angry with God and rebel against Him.  We do not need to react like that.  We have God to turn to when that bad news arrives.  We have a living hope.  Christians should remember that this world is not our home.  We need to trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to answer our prayers.  Believers are to stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord (Exodus 14:13).  The bad news may be nipping right at our heels, but He will rescue us right on time.  If we fall apart as the lost do, and act cowardly, we cannot glorify God in the crisis.

The things that the unsaved trust in when bad news comes, such as their wealth, their business connections, or perhaps even drugs and alcohol, are fleeting, and will not last.  Wealth and business connections can be lost in the blink of an eye.  They are earthly, belonging to this world.  And we know the fate of the drug addict and alcoholic.  The believer’s true riches belong in heaven, and are eternal.  What we depend on will last forever because it is anchored in Christ.

When we trust in God, especially when the tragedies and disasters arrive, He promises to exalt and honor us (vs. 9).  The horns on an animal are an indication of strength and prosperity to that animal.  The psalmist here figuratively applies this picture to the righteous.  The wicked person is contrasted to the righteous (vs. 10).  Without God, the wicked have a worthless existence, without strength.  Those who do not follow Jesus, who instead follow Satan, will perish.  Those who have put their trust and faith in Jesus will triumph.

Sometimes we may feel that when that bad news comes, especially if it directly affects us personally, our burdens become too heavy to carry ourselves.  We can’t do it alone.  However, remember that God is never too weary, weak, or tired to help carry us through these difficult times.  He is always there.  When we trust God completely to take care of us, we will find that our other fears will subside.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Change Of Leadership

Deuteronomy 31:1-8 

A change of leadership is often difficult for some people to handle.  Whether it is a new leader of your country, a new boss, a new pastor, or new leader of a large family with the passing of the former patriarch, if the former leader had been well-loved, and had been in his position for a long time, it will be difficult for the new leader to step into his role, and people may not be too welcoming.  This is the scenario we find in our Scripture passage today from the Book of Deuteronomy.  Let’s see what God’s Word can teach us.

As our passage opens, the people of Israel are gathered on the eastern side of the Jordan River, ready to cross and begin the conquest of the land that the Lord God was to give them in keeping of His promise to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Moses had been their leader since the days just prior to their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea forty years prior.  Moses was the one to receive the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai.  His prayers to God had brought the manna and water in the wilderness.  Moses was the one who had led them the past forty years through the wilderness, and was the only leader that many of the people had ever known.  Though many times the people had rebelled against the leadership he held through God’s appointment, they were still distraught and fearful knowing he was soon to pass, and someone else would be the new leader.

Moses’s ministry was now ending.  God had appointed that Joshua was to lead the people into the Promised Land.  Moses was 120 years old.  He had spent his first 40 years in the royal courts of Egypt.  The second 40 years, until he was 80 years old, was spent as a shepherd in the land of Midian.  Then these last 40 years were spent leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness.  Now they were preparing to enter the Promised Land, and many were afraid.  How would they survive without his leadership?  They were fearful of the Canaanites and an unknown future.  How could they go forward without their leader, Moses?  What would Joshua be like?  Would he be anywhere near as good a leader as Moses was?  Could they trust him?

Though Joshua was to be the new human leader over Israel, the people needed to remember that Yahweh was the real leader.  He holds the real power, not any political leader.  The Lord God promised the people that He would cross over the Jordan ahead of them, and enable them to conquer and take possession of the Promised Land (vs. 3).  What God did to Sihon the king of the Amorites, and to Og the king of Bashan, was a preview of what He would do all across the land that the people were to enter (vs. 4).  All they needed to do was to follow Him closely, and obey all He said.

God promised the people that He would not forsake them (vs. 6-8).  That is a promise that also holds for all Christians, those who have a relationship with Jesus.  Knowing that God is with us and for us should give us strength and courage.  Those who know the Lord Jesus as their Savior never have to face a trial or problem by themselves.  The Lord God goes with us.  Leaders and loved ones may come and go, but Jesus is always right there with us (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20).

It can be discouraging, and even fearful, to know the leader that you have had for many decades is going to go.  Perhaps for some this might be a national leader, a boss, a family patriarch, or a pastor.  They have been with you for so long, and the thought of someone else taking the helm may be upsetting or fearful. God tells us to not be afraid.  He is our real leader.  He is with us, and will never leave us.

No matter what obstacle is before us, God has made a path through it for us, as long as we continue to obey Him and remain close to His side.  We do not need to fear, as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus.

Friday, June 25, 2021

When Demons Flee

 Mark 5:1-20

One of the more frightening or disturbing things that one could encounter, I believe, would be a person who was possessed by a demon.  Hollywood and some best-selling authors of horror and supernatural novels have made demon possession a major theme.  However, demon possession is an actual occurrence, is recorded in Scripture, and is not just the subject of scary, horror stories.  One such occurrence happened in our Scripture passage today.

Jesus had just finished preaching to the crowds, and He and the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to the southeastern shore, to the area of the Gadarenes (vs. 1).  While the disciples were likely tying the boat up along the shore, they were not met by the local welcoming committee, but instead by a man who was possessed by a demon.  The Gospel account gives a description of this man, and gives us an idea of what he and his behavior was like.  Mark tells us that he lived in some tombs (vs. 2-3).  In the Holy Land area there were often tombs or burial chambers carved into the rocky hillsides on the outskirts of town.   He was also extremely strong, as he was able to pull apart chains and shackles, and no one was able to restrain him (vs. 3-4).  The man also was prone to cutting and harming himself, and crying out loudly (vs. 5).  There is no peace for those who do not know the Lord Jesus.  This narrative shows us that demons are dangerous, powerful, and destructive.  In light of this, Scripture is very clear that we need to stay away from any curiosity about, or involvement in the occult.  Sin and the powers of darkness will yield only to Jesus Christ, and what He did at the Cross on our behalf.

As Jesus disembarked the ship, the demoniac ran up to Him, falling down and worshipping Him (vs. 6-7).  The demons knew who Jesus was, that He was the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity.  Immediately He began to command the demons to come out of the man (vs. 8).  Jesus had just hours before calmed the storms on the Sea of Galilee.  Now He would calm the storm inside of this man.

As Jesus questions the man, we find out that there are multiple demons possessing him (vs. 9).  A legion was a Roman military unit of approximately 6,000 infantrymen.  This man was possessed by an extremely large number of demons, of militant spirits.  The demons wanted to remain in the same area where they had been exercising their power, and so they begged Jesus to let them go into a herd of pigs (vs. 10-13).  These demons had to beg Jesus, as they have no power over Him.  Jesus did not send these demons into hell, because the time of judgment had not yet come.  In the end, Satan and his demons will be sent into eternal fire (Matthew 25:41).  Jesus has all power over Satan and his demons.  Whenever we think of the devil, we should always add the word “defeated” before his name.  Is the devil attacking you?  He is the defeated devil!  Jesus holds all power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

Now we come to something somewhat shocking in our narrative.  The demons entered the pigs, which ran off the cliff, and the pig-herders went into town to tell the villagers what had happened.  This area had many Hellenistic Jews (Jews who had adopted a lot of the Greek culture), along with many Gentiles.  When the villagers were told about the demons being cast out of the man who haunted the outskirts of town, and the demise of the pigs, they hurried out of town to confront Jesus.  They were frightened and resentful of Jesus, and told Him in no uncertain terms to leave the area (vs. 14-17).  They didn’t want their normal routine disrupted, or the loss of property.  They were an ungodly group of people.  They would rather give up Jesus than lose their source of income and security.  These people preferred pigs, an unclean animal under Jewish dietary law, over the Savior.  That is unfortunately the case with many sinners.

This was a wonderful healing and deliverance for the man with the legion of demons!  The change in his life was remarkable, which he was very grateful for.  As Jesus prepared to leave due to His rejection by the local residents, the man begged to be able to join the disciples (vs. 18-20).  However, Jesus told him no.  He had a much greater purpose in mind for the man than what he initially wanted.  Jesus wanted him to return to his family and show them what He had done.  He wanted him to witness to them, and lead them to get saved, as well.  This man was a living example of Jesus’s power.  Jesus told him to share with others what He had done.

At this time, Jesus commissioned the first missionary.  The man was to go and tell his family and friends about Jesus.  He had no special training, no special teaching that he underwent.  All he knew was that Jesus had driven the devil out of his life, and had set him free.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Good Representative

 II Corinthians 5:14-21

Have you ever had someone in your family who was given some special award because of something wonderful they did?  Your family was very proud of them, and you felt proud to be related to this relative.  Their actions and behavior brought honor to the family name.  Maybe it was you who was honored, or had gotten excellent grades all through school, and became school valedictorian at graduation.  You were an honor to the family name, and made your parents proud.  Perhaps the opposite happened.  Maybe you or another relative really messed up, and brought shame to the family name.  Either way, very early on we realize that our behavior, good or bad, brings honor or shame to the family.  When we are out in public we represent the family, and they are judged by our behavior.  The same is true to varying degrees with our school or university, the company we work for, and the clubs we belong to.  It is also true with our church and the Lord Jesus Christ.  In our Scripture passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, he reminds us that we, as believers, are representatives of Jesus in the world and community we live in.  Let’s look into this Scripture passage.

Before we were saved, our lives were ruled by our old sin nature.  It was so easy to slip into rotten, sinful behavior, and many times we didn’t even care.  We lived to please ourselves.  When we accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior, He gave us a new nature, His righteous nature.  Because Jesus Christ died for us, we also are dead to our old lives (vs. 14-15).  We should no longer live to please ourselves, but instead seek to please God.

As a believer, the Lord has given us a new nature, one that desires to please God.  With the Holy Spirit now living in us, our desire to take part in the sinful activities we once did, our old nature, has been put to death.  We are a new creature (vs. 17).  Jesus takes us as we are and transforms us.  Before we came to God we followed our own desires.  When we repent and are saved, the desires of our old life fade away as we are slowly transformed.  Believers are new on the inside.  The Holy Spirit gives us a new life, and we are not the same anymore.  We don’t just turn over a new leaf, like the unsaved do occasionally, we have a new life with a new Master.

After a person is saved, old value systems, priorities, beliefs, loves, and plans are gone.  Evil and sin are still present, but the believer sees them in a new perspective, and they no longer control him.  What we were before salvation has passed away.   It can take time for all of this to happen, but as we yield our life to the Holy Spirit more and more, this new life becomes more evident in our day to day behavior.

Now, as born-again believers, we are children of God and we represent His family to the world (vs. 20).  The world will judge our Father based on our behavior and our speech.  Our deeds will reflect an image of God that others see.  Christians bear the Name of Christ.  We represent Him wherever we go.  As Paul refers to us here in this Scripture passage, we are God’s ambassadors.  Just as an ambassador is sent to represent the country he is from, God has sent us out into the world with His message of reconciliation (vs  19-20).  God has entrusted us with the task of telling others His salvation message.  If the love of Christ now in our hearts would compel us to help with someone’s earthly needs, how much more should it compel us to bring them the salvation message.

As Paul concludes in our passage, he reminds us of what Jesus did for us when He died upon the cross for our sins (vs. 21).  When we were saved we exchanged our sins for Jesus’s righteousness.  Our sins were poured onto Him, and His righteousness was poured onto us.  Jesus was the substitute for our guilt.  He bore our sin upon His shoulder.  All born-again believers are in God’s sight as perfect as if we had never sinned.  God clothes us in a robe of righteousness.  We are just as accepted by God today as when we will stand before His throne.

In light of all that Jesus has done for us, we should be living a life that brings honor to our Heavenly Father.  We should always aim to be a good representative for the Lord, and not a blot upon His Name.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Nowhere To Turn But To The Lord

 Psalm 107:1-32

Throughout life, we can find ourselves in all manner of problems.  Some of these problems are through our own making, because of carelessness, ignorance, or sinful behavior.  Other problems may be caused because of things other people do that mess up our lives, either deliberately or by accident.  There are also attacks of Satan in our lives, and then there are things that just happen.  Any of these problems can wreak havoc in our lives, and bring us down to our knees.  Our only recourse is to cry out to God for help.   Our psalm for today highlights four different scenarios that people may find themselves in, problems that have brought them to the end of their rope, where they have nowhere to turn but to the Lord.  Let’s take a look.

As our psalm begins, the writer urges all of us to remember to give thanks to the Lord for all He has done (vs. 1-3).  The most important thing that we need to thank Him for is for our salvation, when He redeemed us from the hand of the enemy, Satan.  That is something that we should be thanking Him for each and every day.   As the psalmist states, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so”.  We should never remain silent from thanking the Lord for that!

The psalmist then proceeds to illustrate different situations where we might find ourselves in difficult problems where we need God’s help.  The first one he highlights is wandering in a wilderness (vs. 4-9).  This is reminiscent of the 40 years the people of Israel were wandering in the desert before coming to the Promised Land.  Though it’s not likely that most people would find themselves wandering in an actual wilderness, we may find ourselves lost, both literally and figuratively.  People are spiritually lost, their souls hungry and thirsty, until they turn to Jesus and are led in the right way (vs. 5-7).   Jesus came to save the lost.  He is the Way (John 14:6).  He is the Bread of Heaven (John 6:33, 35), the Living Water (John 4:10-14), and the Giver of Rest (Matthew 11:28-30).  Jesus is the only way, the only one who can lead the lost and wandering ones to where they need to be.  When we cry out to the Lord, He will lead us where we need to go.

The second situation the psalmist describes is one of people in prison (vs. 10-16).  People can be in a literal prison, usually because of crimes they have committed.  Then there are people who are in a type of prison, such as a prisoner to drugs or alcohol.  Either prison holds them bound, and it is often because of rebellion against the ways of the Lord, and not following His Word (vs. 11).  When the people in any type of prison repented and cried to the Lord, He delivered them, bringing them out of darkness (vs. 12-14).

A third situation is when people endure any type of significant illness (vs. 17-22).  The psalmist describes people whose sickness brings them to the “gates of death”, which would be a major illness.  Frequently in those cases there is only so much that doctors can do.  Where can they turn then?  The doctors can’t help any more.  Their family is helpless.  Their only hope is to cry to the Lord in their trouble.  And as the psalmist testifies, God sent His word and healed them (vs. 20), bringing deliverance.

The final scenario is those in the sea on ships in the midst of storms (vs. 23-32).  We can find ourselves in all sorts of storms, both literal and figurative.  The waves of those storms knock us around, and we desperately need the Lord’s help.  When we cry out to Him, He alone can calm the storm (vs. 28-29).

These problems in our life can often leave us “at wit’s end” as verse 27 states.  This phrase literally means to “have wisdom swallowed up”.  Often we try to solve our problems on our own, but to no avail.  We need to cry to God, and He will bring us deliverance.  Jesus is the power and wisdom of God.  He will provide peace, and His wisdom can never be swallowed up.  When God brings us out of these situations, we should be telling everyone all that He has done (vs. 1-2).

No matter how extreme, or what our calamity is, God is able to break through and help us.  There is no place too far, no problem too hard, no darkness too deep, not even death, which can keep God from gathering us into His loving arms.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

I Shall Come Forth As Gold

Job 23:1-12

Job is a fairly well known Biblical character.  He went through some extraordinary trials in his life with the death of all of his children, the loss of his livelihood through the loss of all his cattle and flocks.  Then after all of that, he lost his health, as well.  He is one figure from the Bible, that though we might admire his perseverance through trials, and his faith and trust in God, we really don’t want to follow in his footsteps!  Today’s Scripture passage is one portion from the Book of Job, where he laments his life to his three companions.

As mentioned above, Job’s life had taken a dramatic turn for the worse when he lost all he had, his family, his property, and then his health.  Three of Job’s friends come to spend time with him, initially intending to bring him comfort, but very quickly they begin to point the finger of accusation to Job and why all this befell him.  Throughout the book, these “friends” and Job go back and forth between accusations, explanations, and mournful prayers to God for what has happened.

As our Scripture passage opens, Job says that he wishes he could come before God and present his case to Him as a petitioner or defendant would before a judge (vs. 2-7).  Though Job never claims to be perfect or completely sinless, he does not believe he has done anything so terrible as to deserve what has befallen him, as his friends claim he has.  We, as the readers of this book, know that it was not for his sins that these calamities befell Job, but that was hidden from him at this time (Job 1:1-2:8).  He wasn’t getting any help from his “friends”, nor from his wife.  The only help he will receive will come from God.  It is to Him that we need to turn when we find ourselves in any sort of problem.

Job wishes for access to God’s throne, to come and ask for His mercy (vs. 3).  The Lord Jesus Christ has made such access to God possible.  When Jesus died upon the Cross the veil of the Temple was torn in two, opening the way for believers to have access to God (Mark 15:38).  That veil kept people from approaching the Holy of Holies, but God tore that in two when His Son shed His Blood upon the Cross.  Now those who put their faith and trust in Jesus have access to Him directly.  We may approach God’s throne boldly to obtain His mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16).

There are times when we are going through great difficulty, and we feel God is not there.  Our prayers seem to bounce off of the ceiling.  “Where is God?” we pray.  We feel so alone, that God is nowhere to be found.  Job felt that way (vs. 8-9).  Actually, in Scripture we are told there is no place on earth or throughout the whole universe where God is not present (Psalm 139:1-10).  For the Christian, we have the Holy Spirit continually indwelling us.  Jesus has promised us that He will always be with us (Matthew 28:20).

Even though Job felt like God had hid Himself, he knew that God knew exactly what was happening (vs. 10).  “He knows the way that I take”.  Job believed that it was God who was testing him, “When He has tried me”.  And Job believed that after the trials, God would bless him in a special way, “I shall come forth as gold”.

Job believed that God had a hand in his life for good (Romans 8:28).  The difficult things in our life last only as long as is necessary for God to work His purpose in us.  God wants to build something valuable in our life, just like gold.  When something bad happens to us, if we have a saving relationship with Jesus, God will bring good from it.  We can use those trials to share His message of hope to others.  Like a gem which is being polished, God will work off our rough edges through tough experiences.  Like Job, when our trials are over, we will come forth as gold (vs. 10).

To Job, the most important thing in the world was God’s Word (vs. 12).  Don’t turn from God in trying times.  His Word is the only place we can find hope, peace, and truth.  God’s Word, the Bible, is an anchor in the time of storm.


Friday, June 18, 2021

Planting A Seed

 Mark 4:26-34

Remember back when you were in first, or maybe second grade, perhaps around six or seven years old, and your teacher had all the students grow a plant in a paper cup filled with dirt?  She gave each student a seed, often a bean seed, and you filled your little paper cup with potting soil, placing the seed carefully deep into the dirt.  You added some water, and then placed the cup with all the others, lined up on the windowsill in the classroom.  Each morning when you came into class you would run over to inspect your cup, looking to see if anything was growing yet.  The teacher would always have to admonish some children not to dig into the dirt to see what was happening with the seed, and why several days were passing, yet nothing seemed to be growing.  How happy you were when you first saw a little green sprout starting to grow up through the soil!  In our Gospel passage for this week we read a parable that Jesus told about a growing seed.  Let’s take a look, and see what we can learn.

Early in His ministry, Jesus told a parable to the disciples and crowds that had gathered about seeds, and how a farmer plants a crop, but doesn’t really know or understand exactly how the seed grows into the plant.  Back as that young child in school, when I placed my seed into the dirt, I didn’t know or understand how that seed would become the plant that later grew.  The seed looked nothing like the plant.   The seed seemed dead, but when it started growing, that plant was definitely alive.  Now, over 55 years later, I still don’t understand or know exactly how a seed grows into a plant.  We know it needs soil, water, and sunlight, but as Jesus said, we don’t know how it happens (vs. 26-27).

The Bible compares the mysterious growth of a seed into a plant to that of believers coming to faith in Jesus, to the growth of the Kingdom of God.  We don’t know how or when a seed that we’ve planted will take root and grow.  It is a miracle of life and growth that the Lord God gives over and over again each and every year, all around the world.  Neither do we know how or when someone will come to faith in Jesus.  The seed of God’s Word is planted into hearts all over the world through reading of the Bible, hearing a biblically based message, or reading a Gospel tract.  We pray that the message will take root, and that the person comes to faith.

Just as a farmer places the seeds into the soil, so we must also plant the truth of Jesus into souls.  Like the farmer, who trusts in unseen growth, we, too, must trust in God’s work in the souls of those we witness to.  We, as believers, have a responsibility to spread the Gospel.  We are not to just hold on to the seed, the message.  If, as a little child, I had held on to that seed and refused to plant it into the cup, I never would have grown a plant.  If we don’t tell others about Jesus, “planting” the Gospel message, souls will not get saved.

When I planted that bean seed into the paper cup back when I was six, I remember eagerly checking it every day.  For several days it seemed that all I had was a cup of dirt.  It took several days to sprout.  It didn’t happen immediately, but with patience, I finally saw the sprout coming up.  Sometimes it takes a while before someone turns to the Lord Jesus, and accepts Him as their Savior.  Occasionally someone will get saved the very first time they hear the Gospel, but often it happens later, sometimes days, weeks, or even years later.  When the Gospel is presented to an open heart, the Word of God works in that heart, sometimes slowly, until the time God reaps a harvest in that individual, and they get saved.

Then, after they are saved, it takes time for spiritual growth to occur.  No one is a Bible scholar the day after they are saved.  Spiritual growth is a continual, gradual process that culminates in a harvest of spiritual maturity.  God causes the Gospel to bear fruit, and His kingdom to grow.  The Word, if properly sown, will have its proper effect.  The same is true of the Church (vs. 30-32).  It started very small and seemingly insignificant, but it grew worldwide, having a global impact.

How about you?  Are you ready to plant your seeds?  God, like my teacher many years ago, has given each of us the seed of the Gospel to plant into the hearts of the lost all around us.  Let’s go out and plant those seeds, and reap a harvest for the Lord.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Trading In Our Tent

 II Corinthians 5:1-10

Have you ever been camping in a tent?  Some people enjoy taking their vacations that way, enjoying some rustic living outdoors for a while.  However, not too many people would want to live that way.  After a week or two, they look forward to returning to their nice homes, with all the modern conveniences.  In our Scripture passage for today the Apostle Paul describes our current body as like a tent, compared with our heavenly body which is as a house.  Let’s take a look at this passage from the Bible.

A tent is usually meant to be only temporary.  It is quickly set up and then taken down.  It is also not very sturdy.  A strong storm can easily knock it over.  When it rains, one wonders how dry and comfortable they will remain, and if the temperature drops, it is not easy to stay warm.  Like a temporary tent, man’s earthly existence is fragile, insecure, and lowly.  But the believer’s resurrected body is a building from God (vs. 1). It is solid, secure, certain, and permanent.  It is a glorified body, not an earthly creation.

Paul longed to be free from his earthly body, the “tent” that he currently had, with its sins, frustrations, and weaknesses, and have his heavenly, perfect and immortal body, the permanent “house”.  It wasn’t that he wished to die, in a somewhat suicidal type of wishing.  He just longed to be with the Lord, in his heavenly and perfect body and existence.  As we all grow older, we see that our physical bodies are slowly fading.  With some of us the failing bodies and physical problems come more and more quickly, and the knowledge of a new, physically perfect body is something to look forward to.

Because Heaven is a better place than earth, Paul would rather have been there with God.  He was also not afraid to die because he was confident of spending eternity with Jesus.  For those who are saved, death is only a prelude to eternal life with God.  We will continue to live.  We do not have to fear death or suffering, for when we die we are immediately with Jesus (vs. 8).  One day we will see the Savior and receive a perfect body that is unaffected by sin.

Often the unsaved will scoff at believers for their belief in heaven with new bodies.  Nobody has actually seen heaven and brought back a report about it, so how can we know for sure, they argued.  Paul’s answer was that Christians walk by faith and not by sight (vs. 7).  If we could see, why would we need to have faith?  “Sight” would also include feelings and emotions that we often seem to rely on, that urge us to take our eyes off of God, His Word, and His promises.  Because Jesus promised to care for us every day, we can live by faith one day at a time (Matthew 6:33-34).

As Paul continues, he reminds us that if we love Jesus, we should make it our aim to please Him by the way we live (vs. 9).  It is good for the believer to strive for excellence and have spiritual goals.  Paul cared for how he lived for the Lord, and so should we.

Paul closes this Scripture passage with the teaching that Christians will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ after death (vs. 10), which is one reason to strive to live a life pleasing to Him.  Every Christian is ultimately accountable to God.  The Judgment Seat of Christ is where the Lord will evaluate believers’ lives for the purpose of giving them eternal rewards.  The judgment for the unsaved is referred to in the Bible as the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

The Judgment Seat of Christ referred to in today’s passage is for believers whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).  This is not judging for sins, as that took place at the Cross.  This is for all the activities Christians do during their life for an eternal reward.  Paul compares worthwhile, eternally valuable activities with useless ones.  When we stand before Jesus He will look to see which of our choices were in keeping with His will.  He will see every act of obedient service, remembering and rewarding them.  There will also be tears when Jesus sees our selfishness, our laziness, and unrighteousness.  Even as Christians, we will be held accountable for our actions.  We need to consider our choices and what would please God.  When we do, then we can eagerly look forward to being with Jesus, and trading our “tent” body for our permanent, glorious resurrection body.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Palm And The Cedar Tree

 Psalm 92

People often like to give picturesque adjectives to describe themselves.  Someone can swim like a fish, another can run like a gazelle or a race horse.  A dependable person is said to be as solid as a rock.  An irritable person is a crab, or as angry as a hornet.  How about a tree?  Has anyone said that you were like a tree?  In our psalm today God describes His faithful children as being like two different trees.  Let’s give a quick, brief look at those trees, and how we might be like them.

Our psalm begins by reminding us how good it is to praise the Lord.  We should be doing that from morning to evening (vs. 2).  We should be thankful and faithful every day.  Thanks should be on our lips every day, not just on special occasions.  When being thankful becomes a good habit, our attitude towards life will change.  We become more positive, gracious, loving, and humble.

Unsaved people do not understand this (vs. 6).  They think we are crazy if we go about our day with a song of praise in our hearts and on our lips (vs. 3-4).  However, what does God say is the end for the wicked and unbelieving?  He says that He will bring His enemies to an end.  They will perish, but His children will flourish (vs. 7-11).

Then God describes His children, those who have been made righteous by the Blood of His Son Jesus, that they shall flourish like a palm tree and like a cedar of Lebanon (vs. 12).  What are these two trees like, and how are we, or should be, like them?

We’ve all seen pictures of palm trees.  They are usually found in warmer climates, sometimes in desert oasis areas or along beaches.  When a traveler had to go through the wilderness or desert, they would often look for an oasis with palm trees in order to find shade and water.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, we can flourish, no matter whether our circumstances are difficult like in a wilderness and desert, or whether things are as nice as a day at the beach.  Others will see the Lord Jesus working in our lives, and they will be drawn to Him by our witness and testimony, just like the weary wanderer is drawn to the oasis by the sight of the palm trees.

Palm trees also bear fruit.  Two examples are the date palm and the coconut palm.  Dates are a very sweet and nutritious fruit that are used in many recipes or eaten by themselves.  Coconuts are also used in many recipes, along with providing coconut milk.  The hard shells are also used.  Palm trees also provide oil, both palm oil and coconut oil.  Palm wood is used to make wicker furniture.

God also described the righteous as being like a cedar tree.  The cedar trees which grow in Lebanon, to the north of Israel, are famous.  They are a beautiful evergreen, coniferous tree that was prized throughout history for the cedar wood.  In the Old Testament cedar wood was used in the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, along with being used in the royal palaces, as well.  Cedar wood also has a very pleasant aroma.  Are we useful for the Lord, like the cedar wood has been so prized and valuable?  Does our life give off a pleasant aroma by the way we act, or does our behavior just stink?

Both trees could grow tall and have a rather long life.  To flourish like a palm or cedar tree means to stand tall and live long.  The trees were solid, strong, and immovable.  Believers should be equally upright, strong, and immovable against the assaults of the world and changing circumstances.  This comes by putting our faith firmly in God and His Word (vs. 13).  When we have such a strong faith in God, we can still be bearing fruit for Him in our old age (vs. 14).

Let’s seek to be like those palm trees and cedar trees, standing tall, being fruitful and flourishing for the Lord, and not like a spiritual tumbleweed, just rolling around like so much dead and useless tangled woody brush.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Look And Live!

Numbers 21:4-9

Many people have a great fear of snakes, and usually for a good reason.  A snake bite can be extremely painful, and many of them are poisonous.  Unless you get to a doctor and receive an antivenom you can die.  Having an infestation of snakes in your neighborhood would be frightening to many, especially if they are poisonous.  That’s what happened in our Scripture passage for today.  However there were important lessons the Lord wanted to teach here.  Let’s take a look.

As our Scripture passage opens, the Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness, having not yet entered into the Promised Land.  Throughout this time they continually complained to God about their perceived lack of food and water (vs. 4-5).  God had been providing them with manna every day, but they were growing tired of that, and they were moaning and groaning, griping and complaining to Moses.  Each day God had provided a miracle for them, giving them the manna in the desert, providing for their needs.  They were tired of that, and said they would rather have the food they ate in Egypt, even though that meant slavery.  Slavery was more appealing than another meal of manna.

In response to the Israelites complaining, God sent fiery serpents among the people (vs. 6).  They were probably described as “fiery” because their bite was burning and poisonous, and possibly because they might have been reddish in color.  These snakes bit many people and brought death.  The people realized their sin, and begged Moses to pray for God to remove them.

The people were not grateful to God, and were complaining and whining.  Their spirits were not faithful to Him.  They forgot all that God had done for them, refusing to obey.  How do we respond to some of the blessings God gives us?  Do we start to complain because things are not exactly the way we want it?  Are we ungrateful?  No matter how difficult our way may seem, we must not complain.  Instead, be thankful to God.

In response to the people’s pleading, God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it upon a pole.  God’s cure for Israel was to look at the bronze serpent lifted on that pole.  Whoever looked at the bronze serpent would be healed from the poisonous bite (vs. 8-9).  By doing that, they were looking in faith to the Lord’s power to heal.  Only God could cure, and the people needed to look to Him with eyes of faith.

It was not the bronze snake that healed them.  It was their belief that God would heal them.  This belief was demonstrated by their obedience to God’s instructions.  There were undoubtedly people who were bitten, but did not believe that looking upon a bronze serpent would cure them.  They probably scoffed at this, and because of their unbelief they died.  Some might have hesitated at these instructions, but at the urging of their family they looked and were healed.  What was required was looking, turning to the bronze snake, looking upon it, and then they would live.  Only those who looked, lived.

This event was a picture of what would happen centuries later with the Lord Jesus Christ.  This was an example of what Jesus would accomplish when He died on the cross (John 3:14-15).  The Bible used this incident of the bronze serpent as an illustration of Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins, and the necessity of personal faith for salvation.  Jesus was raised up upon the cross for our sins, and those who look to Him in faith will be saved, and will receive eternal life in heaven.

Not everyone who was bitten by the snakes were healed.  Many weren’t, and they died, all because they did not look at the bronze serpent.  Just because the bronze serpent was made didn’t mean everyone was healed.  One had to look, believe, and be healed.  Jesus died on the cross for sins, but that doesn’t mean everyone will be saved.  One needs to turn to Him and personally accept Him for themselves.  They have to personally apply His sacrifice, His shed Blood, for themselves.

A bite from a poisonous snake would mean a slow and painful death.  The same is true with the “bite” from sin.  Sin brings a slow, and in various ways, painful death.  The cure for the snake bite in our passage was to look at the bronze serpent.  The cure for the bite of sin is to look to Jesus and His shed Blood, and believe.  If one doesn’t they will suffer eternal death.  As the old-time hymn says, “Look to Jesus now and live.  ‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah! It is only that you look and live!”

Friday, June 11, 2021

Being Called Crazy

 Mark 3:20-35

Have you ever had someone say you were crazy?  I don’t mean as a joke, or in a light-hearted way, but where they were seriously claiming that you didn’t have all your marbles, that you were mentally ill and weren’t in full control of yourself.  They were claiming that the things you were doing were not rational or logical.  Those accusations can be hurtful and irritating, to say the least, especially if they come from family members.  As we see in our Gospel passage for today, Jesus understands that, as He was similarly accused.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus and His disciples had been so busy with the ministry, healing the sick that were brought to Him, and teaching them God’s Word.  So many people were coming to Jesus with their needs and to hear His words, that He and the disciples were finding it difficult to take any breaks, even to eat (vs. 20).  When some of Jesus’s family heard about this, they started saying that He was crazy, out of His mind.  They felt a “normal” and “rational” person would take breaks, eat three meals a day, and take days off.  They thought Jesus was crazy because He was so involved in His ministry.  They didn’t like it that He allowed the crowds to always impose on Him, and His loving attention to them and their needs didn’t seem rational.  People were talking, and this was an embarrassment to them, so they came to take Jesus home, forcibly if necessary (vs. 21).

Jesus did not allow their comments and accusations to stop Him or His ministry, though.  He knew what He had come to do, and He would not allow Himself to get sidetracked.  Sometimes when we determine to serve the Lord with all of our heart, perhaps even go into full-time ministry of one type or another, we will find others, particularly the unsaved, who will say we are crazy.  They can’t understand why anyone would give up a summer vacation to work in VBS, who will spend their evenings after work helping in the church or preparing Bible study or Sunday School lessons.  They certainly call you crazy if you give up a good job to become a pastor or missionary!  Jesus’s family called Him crazy and wanted Him to stop.

When the scribes and Pharisees heard that His family thought Him a bit crazy, they added their own accusations, saying that the healings and miracles were done through the power of Beelzebub, which was another name for Satan (vs. 22).  The Pharisees and religious leaders denied that Jesus’s power and authority came from God and that He was the Messiah.  Their pride stood in the way of their believing, so they wanted to destroy His popularity with the people.

Jesus responded by pointing out their lack of logic.  Why would Satan want to cast his own demons out of someone?  That would defeat his purpose, showing a division in his kingdom (vs. 23-27).  However, because He was able to cast the demons out showed He had more power than they had.  One must be stronger than someone else in order to go into their home and rob them.  Jesus is stronger than Satan.  He defeated Satan at the Cross.  Jesus can enter his domain and take back the people he has held captive.

Jesus then taught the crowd that every sin that people commit can be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (vs. 28-30).  Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is attributing to the devil what is the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is a heart-attitude of unbelief and unrepentance, deliberate, ongoing rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit.  If someone deliberately slanders the work of the Holy Spirit as He is pointing to the deity and redemptive work of Jesus Christ, he cannot be forgiven because he wholly rejects the only basis of God’s salvation.

The Pharisees rejected the work of the Holy Spirit, willfully choosing not to believe in Jesus as their Savior under any condition.  They chose to remain without forgiveness for their sins.  One must be so calloused, perverse, and debased to so trod upon God’s Word and deeds, and to attribute Jesus’s words and deeds to Satan.

As the Scripture passage closes, Jesus’s family again tried to call Him away (vs. 31-35).  Jesus then pointed out to them what is really important.  They may be His physical brothers, but a spiritual relationship with Him transcends the physical family.  This spiritual family is open to all who come to Him in repentance and faith.  Are you a part of that family?  Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior?  Do not let your heart become hardened and calloused like the Pharisees.  Turn to Jesus today and ask Him to save you from your sins, becoming a part of His family.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

When We Shouldn't Compromise

 II Corinthians 4:13-18

Compromise.  Sometimes it can be a good thing, and other times it definitely is not.  Sometimes when your spouse or friend wants to do one thing, and you want to do another, it might be best to compromise on a decision, rather than get into a heated argument about it.  There are, though, most certainly times when one should never compromise, should never back down to the opposition’s attempts to challenge you, and that is with your faith.  As we look at today’s Scripture from Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians, we will see how Paul never compromised when it came to issues of the faith, but stood true to God’s Word.

When we read through the Book of Acts, we see account after account of Paul traveling from city to city throughout Asia Minor and Greece spreading the saving message of Jesus.  As a result, he encountered much opposition, both from the local Jewish residents, and also the Gentiles.  The Jews who did not believe in Jesus were angry that Paul was claiming Jesus was the Messiah.  Many of the Jews who had accepted Jesus were upset that he taught the Gentile believers that they did not need to follow all of the Old Testament Law.  The pagans throughout the area were not happy, either, as they lost followers of their pagan deities.  Paul was beaten by both groups, run out of town, occasionally arrested, and even stoned and left for dead.

What could Paul do?  For one thing, he might not have received such strong opposition everywhere he went if he had compromised with his opponents.  He could have changed his message a bit in order to please others.  Perhaps he could have sat down with some of the Jewish believers who were not happy that the Gentile believers were not following the Old Testament Law.  He could have asked how he could change his message to make them happy, maybe put in a good word for the Pharisees every now and then.  To please the pagans Paul could have taught that it was okay to mix in some of their pagan practices with their Christianity.  He could have watered down his message in order to please everyone, in order to compromise.  However, as we know, Paul did not do that.  The Lord Jesus did not do that, either.  Both stood against the opposition and preached God’s Word as it is.  Paul believed and therefore he spoke (vs. 13).  Paul stood true to his convictions, no matter what the cost.  He would not alter his message to suit his listeners.  Paul believed the power of God to act through his message.

Because of the stand Paul took, he endured much affliction and persecution.  Yet he viewed that as something light, not worth concerning himself with.  He called it a “light affliction”, which only lasts for a little while compared to eternity (vs. 17).  The joy that he knew would await him in heaven far outweighed the beatings, stoning, and other attacks.

If Paul compromised and watered down his message, he might have had it easier during his lifetime here on earth.  Fewer people would have been angry at him.  However, he knew that his reward in heaven would be less, as well. Which would Paul rather have - a difficult life on earth, which is only for a few years, and an eternity of joy, or an easy life for a few years, and less rewards in heaven for eternity?  We know what Paul chose, and what we should choose, as well.

We need to look beyond the physical to the spiritual, beyond the present to the future, beyond the visible to the invisible (vs. 18).  Paul looked past the temporary, as that is perishing, to the glory that awaited him.  We need to look at things from God’s perspective.  Today’s world-view has everything flipped over, wrong-side up, and too many Christians are succumbing to it.  Too many believers, and unfortunately far too many preachers and Christian schools and seminaries, are willing to compromise their beliefs and standards in order to please the world.  They don’t want to make any waves, they don’t want to “offend” anyone, so they compromise the Word of God.

Don’t forsake your eternal reward because of the intensity of today’s pain and fierce opposition.  The power of the Holy Spirit will renew us day by day.  For the believer, no matter what happens to us in this life, we have the assurance of eternal life, where all suffering will end, and all sorrow will flee away.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Out Of The Depths

 Psalm 130

When I was very young, perhaps about two, I fell into an in-ground swimming pool.  Fortunately there was an adult around who noticed, and jumped in to pull me out.  Since it was a deep swimming pool, I was in a sense, pulled “out of the depths”, which is the opening words of our psalm for this week.  When someone who can’t swim falls into deep water, whether it’s a swimming pool or a deep river, they will cry out for help, cry from the depths of the water.  They need someone to rescue them quickly, or else they risk drowning.  There are other types of “depths” that we can find ourselves in, too.  One can slide off the side of a hill or a cliff, down into a ravine.  They may be injured, or not see an easy way out, so they cry for someone to rescue them.  And there are the depths of problems which we sink into, and need someone to help pull us out.  Our psalmist this week felt like he was sunk into some type of dilemma, and he needed help.  Let’s take a look.

We don’t know who the author of Psalm 130 was, but whoever it was, they felt like they were sinking into some sort of problem.  It was overwhelming, and they were at the bottom.  Fortunately, though, our psalmist knew who to turn to.  If we’re drowning, and cry out for help to someone on the shore, if they can’t swim they are of no help to us.  Someone on top of the cliff we’ve fallen off of, who has no rope, is of no help, either.  It’s important to get help from the right source.  Whatever problem we find ourselves in, whatever depths we have fallen to, we need to know that the Lord God is the only real, true and sure help (vs. 1-2).

Sometimes the problems that we find ourselves in are of our own doing.  We have brought them upon ourselves, often through our own sinful behavior.  This may have been the case with our psalmist today (vs. 3-4).  However, he knew that the Lord God is a loving and forgiving God.  If we have accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, and are one of His children, then we do not need to fear coming to Him for help, no matter what depths we are in.  He acknowledges that everyone has a record of sin, just as the Apostle Paul stated later that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23).  When we come to Him in repentance, though, God will forgive us.  Because of His love and forgiveness, we are able to call to Him for help from the depths of our problems.

As Psalm 130 continues, our psalmist describes himself as eagerly waiting for the Lord’s answer to his cries (vs. 5-6).  Most of us have had experiences when we prayed to God, and our answer did not immediately come.  We had to wait, sometimes just a brief while, and sometimes for a much longer period of time.  Waiting for deliverance can be a stressful time, but we must never lose hope.  God’s Word is filled with His promises to us, and we can have a sure hope in them.  His Word has never failed, and all who have trusted in Him have been rewarded (I Kings 8:56).  We can have hope because God’s Word cannot fail.

Often when we are in the middle of some deep problem, we find it difficult to go to sleep.  We lie awake, with all of our worries buzzing around in our head.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot shake those worries loose and fall asleep.  We lie in bed, frequently looking at the clock, and wishing that the morning would come so we could get up and go about our day.  Our psalmist urges us to wait for the Lord’s answer to our problems, wait for Him more eagerly than anyone waiting for the morning to come (vs. 6).  Waiting is the Lord’s training ground for building strong faith.  God always waits for the best moment.  His timing is not our timing.  God never moves too soon, and He is never too late.  God is always exactly on time.

In closing we are reminded in this psalm to put our hope and trust in the Lord God for deliverance from all of our problems (vs. 7-8).  When we turn to Him, He will forgive us our sins.  He will have mercy upon us, and bring us redemption and salvation.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Listening To A Liar

Genesis 3:1-19

You thought that the character in the book you were reading or movie you were watching was a good character, one who was kind and helpful to the other characters.  A good guy.  Then after a while you are surprised to discover that he was really an evil one.  Though he appeared good, he was really out to harm and bring down the main, good character.  He was not as he first appeared to be.  We often find characters like that in our real lives, as well.  In our Scripture passage for today we will see the first, the original evil character, who also came to his victims seemingly to appear as a good, kind, and helpful character, only to ultimately bare his fangs.  Let’s look at this very familiar account.

As our passage opens, we find Eve in the Garden of Eden, where she encounters Satan in the guise of a serpent.  Satan has hated mankind from the moment of our creation, and he did not waste any time in his attempt to bring us down.  Satan is very cunning and deceitful.  He did not appear as he really is, an evil, murderous liar, but instead as someone caring and kind.  In an attempt to appear as a kind friend, he cast doubt on God’s Word and on His goodness (vs. 1).  He implied that though God may call Himself their friend, God really didn’t have their best interests at heart, while he, the serpent, truly did.  He implied that he really knew what was going on, and as her friend, he would tell her.  Satan made Eve doubt what God had really said.  Satan appeared as an “angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14), someone good, who would tell her “the truth”.

Satan implied that God was strict, stingy, and selfish.  By doing this, Eve forgot all that God had given to her and Adam.  Now she was focusing on the one thing that she couldn’t have.  We fall into that trap too, focusing on what we don’t have, rather than seeing and being grateful for all that God has given us.

One of Eve’s big mistakes was that she didn’t know God’s Word accurately.  She responded to Satan’s question by inaccurately stating God’s command  (vs. 3).  God had said that they were not to eat of the tree of knowledge, but said nothing against touching it (Genesis 2:16-17).  It is important to know God’s Word, and know it accurately.  Satan then said something that he and his children have been saying ever since.  He outright denied the truth of the Word of God (vs. 4).  He said that God’s Word was a lie.  Satan and the enemies of God have been calling the Bible false and a lie ever since, trying to get people to doubt and disregard it.

As Eve looked at the fruit (vs. 6), she saw that it looked pleasant, which is the lust of the eyes.  She saw that it was good for food, the lust of the flesh, and that it would make her wise, the pride of life (I John 2:16).  Sin often initially appears good, pleasant, and desirable.  But in the end it is just the opposite.  Eve’s sin was not overt rebellion.  She believed the lie of Satan and thought she had misunderstood God.  She was seduced and deceived (II Corinthians 11:3; I Timothy 2:14).  Adam’s sin was a direct transgression without deception.

Shame, guilt and fear caused Adam and Eve to hide.  Yet God knew where they were and why (vs. 8-9).  There is no place we can hide from Him (Hebrews 4:13).  He was calling them to come forth.  God does not wait for man to come to Him.  No, instead He sought Adam and Eve out and came to them.

In verse 15 we read the very first prophecy of the Messiah.  The “He” is the Lord Jesus.  Satan used the woman to bring down the human race.  God would use a woman to bring the Redeemer into the world.  Satan can only bruise His heel, bring Him suffering.  Jesus will bruise his head, deal Satan a fatal blow.  This prophecy also tells of the struggle between Satan and his seed, all unbelievers (John 8:44), and Jesus and His children, all believers.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience and fall affected all of creation (vs. 17-19).  We reap what we sow, more than we sow, and even long after we sow.  All actions have consequences, and Adam and Eve’s actions brought sin, separation and death.  Yet God had an answer for them.  Heaven’s answer to a thorny existence is a thorn-crowned Savior.

Satan’s words were filled with evil venom as deadly as any poisonous snake.  He is a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).  His lies always promise great benefits, but at what cost?

Friday, June 4, 2021

Are You A "Whoever"?

 John 3:1-18

He was a gentleman.  A gentleman and a scholar.  He was also a very well respected man in the community, and one of the elders in the local synagogue.  One would surely think that such a man as he was, he would certainly have an immediate pass into heaven when it was his time to die.  Yet that evening as he sat and talked with the local itinerant preacher, he was told that this was not the case.  He was missing the most important thing, in fact, the only thing that would bring him to God.  Our Scripture passage from the third chapter of the Gospel of John will tell us what is necessary in order to get to heaven.

The gentleman we read about in John’s Gospel is Nicodemus.  He was a prominent Pharisee, a group who represented the Orthodox core of Judaism at the time of Jesus.  They strictly adhered to the religious law, and even more so, to their man-made religious traditions.   Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish ruling council at the time.  He had heard about Jesus, as most people in the Jerusalem area had, and probably even personally heard Him speak, and he wanted to know more about His message.  Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus at night (vs. 2), since He was quickly gaining a bad reputation among the Pharisees, and he would not want to be seen associating with Him.  Nicodemus was interested, but did not want to tarnish his good reputation.  Are you afraid to openly proclaim Jesus as your Savior because of what others may think?  That is a terrible mistake.

That evening, Nicodemus started his conversation with some general philosophical comments.  However, Jesus did not get wrapped up in philosophical questions (vs. 3).  He immediately came to the core of the matter.  Nicodemus needed to be saved.  If he didn’t, he could not see the kingdom of God.  Jesus does not mince any words here.  Nicodemus, you, me, we all need to be born again in order to get to heaven.  Nicodemus was a very moral, very good man.  We all know people like that, who are stalwart members of our churches and community.  Yet, Jesus said that this was not good enough.  He had to be born again.  What does that mean?  It is to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to provide forgiveness of our sins.  It is to accept that He is the only One who can redeem us, and to confess Him as our Savior (Romans 10:9).

Verse 14 gave a veiled prediction of Jesus’s death on the cross.  This is a reference to Numbers 21:5-9.  Poisonous snakes had bitten the people, and Moses made a bronze snake, putting it upon a pole.  Those bitten could look and be healed.  In this passage we are told to look to Jesus on the cross and be saved from the sin-sickness that has ravaged all of us.  Those who face the penalty of spiritual and eternal death, which is all of us, can look upon Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and receive eternal life.

In verses 15 and 16 we read the word “whoever”.  This destroys the belief in predestination, that some are predestined to be saved and others predestined to be lost.  “Whoever” means no one is excluded from being lost, and no one is excluded from being able to come and be saved.  We all fall into the category of being a “whoever”.  Anyone can come to Jesus and be saved.  No one is excluded.  We just need to do it.

God the Father gave His unique and beloved Son to die on behalf of sinful men (vs. 16).  To “believe” as mentioned in this verse, is more than just intellectual agreement that Jesus lived, or even believing that He is the Son of God.  It means to put our trust and confidence in Jesus, that He, and He alone, can save us.  God didn’t save us because He owed us anything, or because of any inherent good within us.  It was because of His all-surpassing love for us.

It is wonderful news that God gave His Son for us, to bring salvation.  However the important factor is that we all must personally accept His gift of salvation.  Up until that moment, no matter how good he was, Nicodemus was lost.  One must personally believe and accept Jesus.  Jesus came to save, but those who reject Him will be condemned (vs. 18).

Fortunately for Nicodemus, he did accept Jesus as the Messiah and his personal Savior.  He was searching, and he came to Jesus.  No matter how intelligent and well-educated we may be, we must come to Jesus with an open heart and mind.  Only Jesus can teach us about God.  Nicodemus eventually came to believe in Jesus (John 7:50-52), and he even risked his own life and reputation by helping to give the Savior’s body a decent burial (John 19:38-42).  Nicodemus relinquished his worry about his reputation, and he became a “whoever”.  What about you?  Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but have everlasting life.