Saturday, October 30, 2021

Teach Your Children Well

 Deuteronomy 6:1-9

“Give me a child until he is five, and I will have him for life.”  That is a quote that allegedly was said by Vladimir Lenin, though others have said similar statements.  Some quotes give the age as seven, but the basic thought is that if a child is raised and indoctrinated from their earliest years in a certain belief system, they will likely hold to those beliefs throughout their life.  Lenin, and others who gave similar quotes, felt that if they could carefully train young children in their beliefs, that child would grow to be a faithful follower.  The Lord God gives similar instructions to believers, which we read in our Scripture passage today.

The Book of Deuteronomy tells the account of God’s people on the verge of entering into the Promised Land.  They were camping on the east side of the River Jordan, and Moses spoke the Laws of God a second time to them before they crossed the river and took possession of the land God had promised their fathers so many years earlier.  Before he died, Moses stressed to them how important it was for them to teach God’s Word to their children and grandchildren (vs. 2, 7).

As Christians, we would all like to see our children come to know the Lord, and be saved.  However, if we just leave that to the pastor, their Sunday School teacher, or their church youth group, and not make any effort on our own, the chances are less likely.  Some parents even believe that they shouldn’t force their beliefs upon their children.  They want to let them make up their own mind when they’re older.  With that type of thinking, by the time they are older, after having gone through school and being indoctrinated with the world’s philosophies, they are not likely to choose Jesus when they become an adult.  That is why God’s Word stresses how vitally important it is for us to teach our children about Jesus when they are young.

If one were to take a survey among Christians around the world, asking them to indicate at what age they were saved, what age they gave their heart to Jesus, we would find that more people get saved at a younger age, and that the numbers decrease as one gets older.  Yes, people do fortunately get saved in their 30’s, 40’s, and older, but the chances of that happening decreases as the years go by and the harder one’s heart becomes.  By the time one has gotten into middle age, the world’s philosophies, along with possibly any number of false religious beliefs, have become well-entrenched in one’s mind.  That is why God commands us to be teaching our children and grandchildren while they are young.

One important thing we are to teach our children is that there is only one God, not a multitude of gods and goddesses (vs. 4).   The Jewish people call this verse the “shema”, a verse that devout Jews would recite twice a day.  This is a clear statement of faith that there is only one God, not a multitude of them, as a number of false religions teach.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the whole earth, the whole universe, the only true God.  This truth was important for the nation of Israel then, because they were about to enter a land filled with people who believed and worshipped many false gods.  It is also important for us today, as we live in a world that is so readily accepting of all sorts of false pagan, New Age, or occult beliefs.  If we don’t want our children to fall victim to these false teachings, it is important that we begin instructing them in God’s Word while they are still in diapers.

In addition to teaching our children that there is only one God, we need to teach them to love and obey the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength (vs. 5).  We are to have unreserved, wholehearted commitment to God, expressed in love, and shown through obedience to His Word in our daily life.  He is to be the sole object of our worship, our allegiance, and our affection.

Conversation and thoughts about God should not be limited to just Sunday mornings, and perhaps another night mid-week.  Moses instructed the people here that God’s Word is to be the subject of our talk, both inside and outside of the home, all throughout the day (vs. 6-9).  We are to love God, think constantly about His Word, and teach that Word to our children.  As we do, we will strive to live each day by the guidelines therein.  A believer and his home are to be distinguished in their character by obedience to God and the Bible.

Rather than letting the devil get ahold of our children through false religious beliefs and ungodly philosophies, let’s bring them to Jesus at an early age.  Let’s tell them the story of Jesus, writing every word on their hearts.

Friday, October 29, 2021

The Day Jesus Came By

 Mark 10:46-52

Have you ever had a hope, a wish, a pressing need, only to have someone else stomp on and crush that desire of yours to the ground?  Your need or dream was made known to them, and they ridiculed and mocked it, or told you to shut up.  Your wishes were not important, and you were of no account.  If that is something that you experienced at some time, what did you do?  Did you just quietly throw your need or dream away, sadly believing what those others told you?  Or did you persist all the more?  In our Gospel Scripture for today we will meet a man who had a real need, a desire and hope, and how he would not let that be crushed by others.

As our Scripture passage opens, Jesus was preparing to leave the city of Jericho.  Crowds had gathered around Him and His disciples.  Some would journey on with Jesus, while others were just cheering, joining in the festive atmosphere.  Just outside the city gate sat a blind beggar named Bartimaeus (vs. 46).  In that era, unless a blind person was from a very wealthy family, just about the only thing they could do was to beg.  Bartimaeus had a good spot for begging, as this was the gate of the city, where many people would come and go.  As he heard the crowds coming, he probably grew eager, as that might mean some more needed coins tossed his way.

As the crowds continued to grow, Bartimaeus heard some wonderful news, news that would change his life forever.  The poor blind man heard that the reason for all of this bustling crowd was that Jesus of Nazareth was coming by as He was leaving the city (vs. 47).  Jesus!  Bartimaeus must have heard about Jesus before.  Over the last year or so, he paid attention to what people said as they came and went through the city gate.  He had heard about Jesus, the miracles He had performed and the message He brought.  He had heard that, among other things, Jesus had brought sight to the blind!  That was what he wanted, but as a poor blind beggar, he had never had a way of traveling to where Jesus was.  Now, here Jesus was, right in his own city, and He was going to be passing right by him as He exited the city gate!  This was a chance that he could not let pass by!

As Jesus came by, Bartimaeus called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (vs. 47).  The term “Son of David” was one that the Jewish people used to refer to the Messiah, and when Bartimaeus called Jesus by that name, it showed he believed Jesus was the Messiah.  The crowds, though, were not happy with the beggar’s cries (vs. 48).  Who was he, trying to get the attention of the Teacher and Healer?  This beggar was an embarrassment.  Jericho was a prosperous town, and a blind beggar should not be seen or heard!  Shut up and get out of here, they scolded him.

Bartimaeus had hopes. He had a need for healing and a wish that the Messiah might bring him sight, just as he had heard He did for others.  This man was not going to shut up and leave!  He was not going to let these people squash his need and hope.  Instead of slinking off to a corner, Bartimaeus cried out even louder.  Jesus heard the man’s cries, and He called him to come over (vs. 49).  Jesus hears the cries of all who call to Him, and He bids us all to come.

Then Jesus asked him what might seem to be an unnecessary question.  He asked Bartimaeus what he wanted (vs. 51).  It was obvious to all that the man was blind, yet Jesus wanted him to tell Him exactly what he wanted.  Jesus invited Bartimaeus to think about and tell Him what he really needed.  Be honest with ourselves, and bold enough with Jesus.  God likes specific prayers when we talk with Him.  We don’t need to beat around the bush with God.  Being specific with God can be a sign of faith, because we are acknowledging that we know we’re not talking to a far-off being, but a real Person who loves us.

Bartimaeus wanted to see again, and that is what he told Jesus.  He didn’t waste anyone’s time with a lot of superfluous words.  Jesus saw that he had faith, and that he hadn’t let the crowds stop him from coming, and He rewarded that.  Are we letting others turn us away from coming to Jesus with our needs, hopes, and dreams?  Are we letting them put us down?  Do we have something that we desperately need, but others say that God can’t or won’t hear us?  Remember Bartimaeus, and cry out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Bartimaeus received his sight again, and followed Jesus the rest of his life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Don't Be A Baby!

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

As all new parents know, new born babies can only have milk in their diet.  An important milestone is when they are about six or so months old, when their parents can introduce cooked cereals to their diet.  Gradually after that they can add soft, mashed vegetables and fruit, and as they get older the toddler can start eating hard foods and meat as teeth come in.  Much as the parents enjoy their steak dinner, they would never think to give that to their little baby!  They cannot handle it.  On the other hand, if their child is over a year old and still only drinking milk, and nothing solid, they know that there is something wrong.  As children grow, they should be advancing on to eating more and different foods.

The same is true with a child’s advancing knowledge.  Little toddlers start to learn words.  Then they advance to learning colors and numbers, and their ABC’s.  When they are five or six they start school and will learn more and more as they advance the grades.  We know there is a problem if they aren’t able to learn more as they get older.  As we read in our Scripture for today, we see that this holds true for the Christian, as well.  As a believer gets spiritually older, they should also be advancing in what they are learning and taking in.

The writer of Hebrews knew he had to address a problem that he was seeing with the believers he was writing to, which is something that we see among some believers today, as well.  There were believers among his audience who had been saved for a number of years.  Instead of being knowledgeable about more advanced doctrines, they were only understanding the very basic Christian truths, such as the principles of salvation and repentance.  The author found this astonishing!  Here were Christians who had been saved for quite awhile, yet knew no more than that Jesus died on the Cross for their sins!  That’s like an adult who still only drinks milk or baby cereal, or who still talks baby talk and barely knows his colors.  He knew something was not right.

A good parent will advance their children to solid foods as they grow.  They will help them learn and gain a desire for knowledge.  This should be the same for Christians when they are born again.  They start out with learning rudimentary truths, the “milk”, but then slowly are taught more and more from the Scriptures, the soft food and then on to meat.  Spiritual milk is the very basics of Christian truth (vs. 12-14).  These believers had been exposed to the Gospel for long enough that they should have been teaching it to others, but were, instead, babes, too infantile and unskilled to comprehend, let alone teach the truth of God.

Things are no different today.  We can go into just about any church and find people who have been saved for years, even decades, but only know the very basics in Biblical doctrines and truths.  These folks are still spiritual babies with no spiritual maturity, still taking in only baby formula and baby cereal.  However they should be enjoying steak.  These people should know enough of the Bible to be teaching others, but they have not even applied the basics to their own lives.  All believers should grow in their knowledge of Bible doctrine, and then go on to teach others, passing on the Gospel message.

As we continue on in our Scripture, the author tells us to “leave the discussions of the elementary principles” (vs. 1).  “Leaving” doesn’t mean to abandon these basic doctrines, the “milk”.  These are very important for new Christians to learn.  However they are the place to start, not to stop at.  One does not drink only milk their whole life, or stay in only picture books.  Like a baby, we learn to eat solid food, on up to meat.  We move on to novels and nonfiction books.  The writer urges the Christians to go on, learn more about God through more advanced Bible teachings.

What is on your spiritual menu for today?  Just like with physical food, we want a well-balanced diet.  We want to grow in our knowledge of God, eating the spiritual meat and vegetables in order to grow spiritually strong.  We also do include some milk and softer foods, too, spiritually reminding ourselves of the truths we learned at the start.  And when we are feeling down, we take in some spiritual comfort food, to carry us on.  Let’s make sure we have a spiritually well-rounded diet.

Monday, October 25, 2021

How Long, O Lord?

 Psalm 13

Sometimes the trials in our life seem to go on forever.  We look for relief, but there is no help in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel.  Some might not mind an occasional challenge in their life if the problem can be quickly resolved.  However, it’s when the problems keep coming and there is no end, no help from any side, that we get discouraged.  Even God seems to be silent, and our prayers seem to be in vain.  “How much longer is this going to go on?!” we call out to God.  King David felt like this as he wrote this psalm.  Though burdened with discouragement, he did not remain that way.  Let’s see what God can teach us through David’s experience.

Our psalm begins with David’s cry, just like our own, to the Lord for relief from the trial he was going through.  We don’t know any specifics about the turmoil he was going through, but we know that David had many desperate days throughout his life.  He spent years on the run while King Saul tried to have him killed.  As a general in Saul’s army, and also while king, David faced the attacks from the surrounding enemy nations.   Also, later in his reign, David’s own son tried to stage a coup against him, and he was forced to flee Jerusalem for his own safety.  This psalm could have been written during any of these times.  It seemed that every time David turned around, something else was coming down upon him.  Where was God?  Why was He letting all these problems overwhelm him?  No wonder David cried out “How long?”  (vs. 1).  That phrase “how long” occurs four times in the first two verses.  It indicated the depth of David’s distress.

David was growing weary.  He felt abandoned.  It is easy to get discouraged while waiting for God to bring us out of our problems.  It is during these times that Satan tries to tell us that God has forgotten us, and that things will never change.  He tried that with David.  Satan brings many discouraging thoughts to our mind.  Why should I even bother to read the Bible and pray if God is absent, we start to think.  However, it is precisely at these times that we need God’s Word and we need to come to Him in prayer the most while we wait.

Our psalm records David’s prayer for relief from the despair he was going through.  We, like David, often wonder how long we will have to wait until God answers our prayers.  We must continue to trust God, even when He doesn’t answer us immediately.  David affirmed that he would continue to trust God, no matter how long he had to wait.  While we wait, we need to remind ourselves of God’s past blessings, and deliberately praise Him, like David did.

One of the purposes of this psalm, and so many others that David wrote, is to show us how to honestly cry out in our pain, even when we feel forgotten and helpless.  When David began this psalm, he was on his face, flat on the ground, focused on his misery and complaints (vs. 1-2).  Then David begins to remember God’s faithfulness and love.  He moves to his knees in prayer, taking his burden to the Lord, and admitting his own dependence upon Him (vs. 3-4).  Finally, as the psalm ends, David is on his feet, rejoicing, singing, and praising the Lord (vs. 5-6).  He goes from beginning this psalm in turmoil to ending in tranquility.  David prayed to God, and in the end was able to express hope and trust in Him.

There are several truths we can learn from Psalm 13.  One is that God loves us and will not leave His Blood-bought children.  There is only one real certainty in life, and that is God’s love.  Even throughout all of our troubles, God’s love can be trusted.  Another truth is that the battle isn’t ours.  The battle belongs to the Lord.  Let Him fight it.  The battle may not be short, but victory will be for those who trust Him.  Finally, God is good, even when everything and everybody seems to not be.  Remember God’s character, and base your faith on His character and not upon your circumstances.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

God's Hand Is Not Shortened

 Isaiah 59:1-4, 15-19

What do people often do when they don’t get their own way, when someone doesn’t respond to what they want done?  One reaction is often to put that person down, saying things such as that they didn’t know how to do what we wanted them to do anyway, or weren’t smart enough, or strong enough.  That is all done to deflect the idea that the real reason they didn’t get their way might lie within themselves.  As we read from the Prophet Isaiah today, we see a scenario similar to this, and the Lord’s response.

As we open our Scripture passage, we read the Lord’s response to complaints that the nation of Israel has made against Him.  When the people of Israel saw that the Lord God had not been favoring them as He used to in times past, when they saw that other foreign powers were threatening them, and their prayers went unanswered, they pondered the reason why.  No one wanted to take a good, hard, and honest look at themselves.  They didn’t want to admit that perhaps the reason was with themselves and their unrepentant sins.  Instead, they started talking and stating that the fault really lay with God.  They said that He must not be as strong and powerful as He once was, that He had grown deaf, and that the fault lay with Him, not with themselves.

Isaiah responded back with the Lord’s Words, that God was just as powerful and omnipotent as He always was, and that His ears had not gone deaf (vs 1-4).  The real reason that He had not responded to them was because of their sins.  God was not going to run to their rescue, nor show them His favor when they refused to obey His laws, and worship only Him.

We can often see the same thing today.  Many people today want to live their lives the way they want to, ignoring God’s Word.  Then when a problem arises and they cry out for His help, but don’t get the response they want, they blame God.  They, like the Israelites in Isaiah’s day, say that He has no power, or doesn’t get involved in mankind, or that He doesn’t even exist.  Sin offends our holy God, and separates us from Him.  Because God is holy, He cannot ignore or tolerate sin, as though it doesn’t matter.  Sin cuts people off from Him.

This holds not only for the unsaved world at large, but also for believers.  God may refuse to respond to our prayers when we stubbornly refuse to abandon some sin or evil course of action.  The Lord can “do” and the Lord can “hear”, and will do such, but only if His people follow His ways.  The problem is not God’s inability to save, or that He cannot hear, but rather that people have sinned, which separates them from God.

Sin fills the vacuum left when God’s truth no longer fills our life.  The few who are faithful to the doctrinal and moral teachings of God’s Word are a “prey” to the unbelievers (vs. 15).  They are despised, derided, and persecuted by those who seemingly profess faith, but who really don’t, and to others in the world.  We find a lack of true spiritual leadership (vs. 16).

What can we do, then?  Our sins overwhelm us, and we can’t get out from underneath them.  Our sins have put up a barrier between ourselves and God, hindering a true relationship.  Who can help us?  Because it is impossible for anyone to rescue themselves from sin, God Himself, in Jesus Christ, personally stepped in to help (vs. 16-17).  Jesus became the Intercessor for all who accept Him as Savior.  Through Him we find salvation.

As our Scripture passage closes, Isaiah tells us that the Lord will protect and defend those who fear Him (vs. 19).  To fear the Lord is to reverence Him, to recognize Him for who He is.  God’s presence covers and protects us on every side.  He goes before us into every battle, and He is our rear guard.  The standard that the Lord lifts against the enemy is the Blood-stained Cross of Calvary.

Friday, October 22, 2021

What Is True Greatness?

 Mark 10:35-45

Can you picture the head of a multi-billion dollar company vacuuming the front office after business hours?  How about a president or prime minister taking out the trash in his capital office, or the biggest movie star or fashion model rolling up her sleeves and washing the dishes?  We don’t usually picture great and powerful people, people of wealth and position, doing menial tasks.  We think that is for the hired help to do, the maids and other servants, not for the powerful, the movers and shakers.  In today’s Gospel reading, we will read of two disciples who wanted to step into positions of power and prestige, and what the response of Jesus was.  Let’s take a look.

Jesus and His disciples were making their way to Jerusalem for the last time, before He would be crucified.  For several days now, Jesus had been giving rather open hints about what would happen to Him there in the capital, even speaking of it quite plainly several times.  However, the disciples didn’t get it.  Either they were ignoring His words, or just hadn’t listened at all to Jesus’s repeated telling of His impending crucifixion.  The disciples still thought that a physical kingdom was about to be set up, and they were jockeying for important positions in this kingdom.

As they neared Jerusalem, two disciples, the brothers James and John, decided to actually ask Jesus for the prestigious positions of sitting on His right hand and left hand in His kingdom (vs. 35-37).  A king’s closest and most trusted and powerful advisors are generally seated at his left and right.  They believed Jesus was the Messiah, and would soon come to His power, and they wanted these prized positions.

Jesus did not harshly chastise the two brothers, but He did question them about what they were asking for (vs. 38-40).  He pointed out to them that they really did not know what they were requesting.  Their thinking was still centered on believing that Jesus would soon reign over an earthly kingdom, and they wanted chief positions in that kingdom.  His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

Jesus then questioned James and John, whether they were willing to go through suffering for His sake.  They answered that they were willing to suffer anything for Jesus, and they would actually do that later in their lives.  James was martyred by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2), and John was persecuted, often imprisoned and beaten, and spent years in a forced labor camp on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9).

As we continue reading in our Scripture passage, we see that the other ten disciples were angry with the brothers for seeking those coveted positions (vs. 41).  This was probably not righteous indignation, because they all wanted those positions.  They were angry because James and John had stepped up and asked the spots for themselves.

Jesus used this moment to teach the disciples, and us as well, an important lesson (vs. 42-44).   The way of the world says that the greater the position, the greater the authority.  But that is not the way of the Lord.  Jesus tells us that true greatness comes in serving others.  Peter also taught that those who are leaders in the church need to be servants (I Peter 5:1-4).  There is no place in the Church for domineering leaders.  The desire to be on top will hinder, not help.  In God’s Kingdom, the greatness of the individual comes from the lowly place he takes as a servant of all.  Rather than seeking to have your needs met, look for ways to minister to the needs of others.

As our Scripture closes, Jesus told us that He, though the Son of God and the second Person of the Trinity, did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for us (vs. 45).  A ransom is a price paid to redeem a slave or prisoner.  The ransom that Jesus made was not paid to Satan.  Satan is a foe to be defeated, not a ruler to be placated.  The ransom was paid to God to satisfy His justice and holy wrath against sin.  In paying it, Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the cross (I Peter 2:24).  It was a ransom paid with His Blood, not silver or gold.

Jesus is our example of a servant leader.  He relinquished the privileges He had in heaven to come to earth and give His life as a sacrifice (Philippians 2:5-8).  Instead of seeking for the best positions and for all the praise and glory accompanying those positions, let us as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus, seek instead to be a servant, and minister to the needs of others.  If any praise comes our way, instead of basking in it, let’s instead deflect it onto the Lord Jesus, where it belongs.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Sword Of The Word

 Hebrews 4:12-16

Whether you are a cook, a doctor, or a crafter, you want to have a sharp knife among your tools.  The cook wants a sharp knife to quickly chop up the hard vegetables, or cut the meat into nice little cubes.  The doctor needs a very sharp and precise knife or scalpel, especially going into surgery.  We certainly don’t want the surgeon sawing away with a dull knife, trying to perform delicate surgery on the brain, heart, eye or anywhere!  A dull knife can ruin the art project you are working on.  In our Scripture for today, we see that God uses a very sharp knife as He works in the lives of His children.  Let’s look into our passage from the Book of Hebrews.

Many of us have had surgery for one reason or another.  The surgeon has a set of very sharp knives or scalpels for cutting into the skin and down into the body.  Perhaps he needs to remove a cancerous mass.  He needs a sharp, precise knife to make sure he takes out only the cancer, and not damage the good tissue.  The brain surgeon needs a sharp knife to remove the brain tumor or blood clot, and not damage any part of the brain.  In a similar way, God uses His Word, the Bible as a sharp knife or two-edged sword in our life (vs. 12).  As we read its words, the Bible cuts into us like a surgeon’s knife, revealing who we are and what we are not.  It reveals what is in us, both the good and evil.  As we grow as a Christian, God’s Word cuts away the rotten, sinful parts of us, just like a surgeon removes a cancerous mass.  It is sharp and precise, not damaging, but bringing healing.

God’s Word is living, life-changing, and dynamic as it works in us.  It has the power to transform our lives and to keep us steadfastly anchored to God when the storms of life strike.  God’s Word is not old or archaic, it is alive.  It is not inactive, it is powerful.  Satan hates the sword of the Word of God.  Jesus used it as His only weapon when the devil tempted Him in the wilderness, repelling him with words of Scripture.

While the Word of God is comforting and nourishing to those who believe, it is a tool of judgment and execution to those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ (vs. 13).  Everyone will be judged by God and His Word.  We are accountable to the living, written Word, and to the living God, who is its Author.  No one is able to hide anything from God, as there are no secrets from Him.

As we continue on in our Scripture, the author of Hebrews tells us about the High Priestly ministry of Jesus.  Just as the Jewish High Priest would pass through the Holy Place, into the Holy of Holies to make sacrifice for the sins of the people, Jesus entered the heavenly Holy of Holies, after accomplishing our redemption (vs. 14).  However, unlike the Jewish High Priests, who could only go before God once a year, Jesus is always at God’s right hand, interceding for us.  He is always available to hear us when we pray.

Jesus knows what it feels like to be tempted in every way, just as we are (vs. 15).  Because of that, He is sympathetic towards us, and knows how to move us on to maturity.  Jesus was sinless.  He was able to be tempted, but He did not sin.  Since Jesus successfully overcame temptation, we should study His strategy for dealing with it.  Jesus used Scripture, and only Scripture to resist Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-11).  He didn’t draw on His wit.  He didn’t rely on His own physical power, and neither should we.  Jesus responded with the truth of God’s Word, as we should.

In closing our passage, we read that God wants us to come with confidence into His presence (vs. 16).  Most ancient rulers were unapproachable by anyone but a few select advisors.  Even today nobody can just walk into the office of the president or the Queen.  However, the Holy Spirit calls for all to come confidently before God’s Throne to receive mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.  Come to God in prayer with reverence, because He is our King.  But also come with boldness because He is our Friend and Counselor.  We need never be afraid to approach the Father in prayer.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Safe With The Lord

 Psalm 91

The world we live in can be a dangerous one at times.  Depending on where one lives, people may have the danger of war threatening their safety.  In many big cities one can get hurt or killed by crossfire from gangs or by armed robbery.  We know the dangers of viruses and other illnesses that plague the world, and there are the equally dangerous threats from weather and other natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes.  Yes, the world can be a frighteningly dangerous place, and because of that many people live with stress and anxiety.  How can we avoid that?  Our psalm today gives us an answer for how to live with peace in such anxious times.

Psalm 91 is a favorite of many people, including myself.  We don’t know who wrote the psalm, but whoever he was, he faced many of the same fears that we do.  During the time of the Old Testament, the nation of Israel faced constant threats of war and invasion from surrounding nations.  There were no “rules of war” with humane treatment for civilians, as armies would slaughter anyone in their path, including women, and children.  With no modern medicine or treatments, illnesses were often fatal.  There was no fire department, no severe weather warnings, and bandits always on the loose.  Life was treacherous.  Our psalmist, however, did not live in a state of constant anxiety, as he knew where to put his faith and trust.

The key to having peace in a troubled world, our psalmist instructs, is dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, and abiding in His shadow (vs. 1).  Dwelling in the secret place of God means having a saving relationship with Him, having made the Lord Jesus Christ one’s personal Savior.  Only then can we truly dwell with God, and find peace and safety in His shadow.  When you are in the presence of the Lord, you have nothing to fear.  It doesn’t matter if you are going through the flood or the fire, because you know God is with you.  As long as you know His arms are around you, everything is alright.

We all go through storms in our life.  Sometimes Jesus does not calm those storms.  We must be careful to remember that deliverance must still be the will of God, and that even if harm should come, one can still be secure.  Many who serve God become targets of demonic assaults.  We will face enemies, some with strong attacks, however to calm our fears, we need to cling to faith in who God is, and what He can do.  We can take shelter in Him.

Our psalmist describes God as protecting His children just as a mother bird will protect her chicks under her wings (vs. 4).  Just as that mother hen or eagle gathers her chicks under her wing for safety, our Savior beckons us to trust Him, and run for protection within His arms.  God is covering us so that we can survive anything and everything, if we just trust in Him and hold steadfast to His Word.  When we find our security in the Lord, terror and attacks do not have to frighten or intimidate us (vs. 5).  God is our safety, and in Him we find rest.  With God protecting us, the enemy will have to get past Him before he can get to us!  He is the “Most High”.  No threat can ever overpower Him!

As we read further, we come to verses 11-12, which Satan quoted to Jesus during the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6-7).  Satan tries to get us to move and live independent of God.  Satan tried to get Jesus to act presumptuously in demanding God’s protection, which He rebuked.  Throughout our life, we must be dependent on God.

As the psalm closes, God is the speaker (vs. 14-16).  He describes the blessings He gives to those who know and love Him.  In prayer, we connect with God’s supply.  God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him (Philippians 4:19).  He is always with us, watching over us, even if we cannot see or feel it.

As we look back on Psalm 91, a favorite of so many, we realize that God is a shelter and refuge when we are afraid.  Faith in Almighty God as our Protector will carry us through all the dangers and fears of life.  We trade all our fears for faith in Him, no matter how intense they are.  To do this we must dwell and rest with Jesus.  By entrusting ourselves to His protection, and pledging our daily devotion to Him, we will be kept safe.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Man Of Sorrows

Isaiah 53:3-12

Today’s Old Testament Scripture from this week’s Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer is the prophet Isaiah’s description of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant.  It is one that many people associate with Holy Week, especially Good Friday.  However, this is a passage that Christians should read and meditate on at any time of the year, bringing to mind all that Jesus went through for us.

As we begin this passage, Isaiah is describing the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.  The popular thought at the time of Jesus was that the Messiah would come as a victorious warrior and deliverer, who would rescue the Jewish people from the oppression of their enemies, namely the Roman Empire.  This was not the type of Messiah God sent, though.  He sent His Son to redeem all of mankind from their sins, not as some political hero.  Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be a suffering servant, not a victorious king or champion.  Jesus came to deliver men from sin, but that was not the type of deliverance the people wanted.  Because of that, and the type of message He brought them, Jesus was hated and rejected by mankind (vs. 3).  He suffered not only external abuse, but also internal grief over the lack of response from those he came to save.

Mankind was sinful, and their sin had separated them from God.  Atonement must be made for forgiveness, but animal sacrifices could not sufficiently pay the penalty for our sins.  A sinless sacrifice must be made, but who could make that sacrifice, as we all have sinned?  God decided He would pay that atonement Himself by sending His Son, Jesus Christ.  The Messiah would bear the consequences of the sins of men (vs. 4-5).  Jesus was the substitute recipient of God’s wrath on sinners.  He suffered the chastisement of God in order to procure our peace with Him.  Jesus was sinless, yet suffered for the sins of us all.  However, the Jews who watched Him suffer and die thought He was being punished by God for His own sins.

People are like sheep (vs. 6).  Like sheep are prone to do, we have wandered from the right path.  We have become so hopelessly lost that it is impossible for us, within our own means, to come back to the right path.  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

Isaiah continues in verse 6 to tell us that God laid upon the sinless Savior all of our sins. God treated Jesus as if He had committed every sin ever committed by mankind, even though He was perfectly innocent of any sin Himself.  This was so God’s righteous justice would be satisfied.  God then gave to the account of sinners who believed the righteousness of Jesus, treating them as if it was their righteousness.

While Jesus was an “offering for sin” as stated in verse 10, He was not a sinner, and He did not become a sinner on the cross, as some people erroneously teach and believe.  To have done so would have destroyed the perfection of His sacrifice, which was demanded by God.  The sacrifice had to be perfect.  Jesus was perfect in every respect.

In our Scripture Isaiah prophesies about the grave of Jesus (vs. 9).  The religious leaders who had ordered His death were hoping that Jesus would have a disgraceful death with the wicked.  However, Jesus was buried in a rich man’s grave, that of Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60).

A number of times in this chapter Isaiah asserts that all of the Messiah’s suffering was vicarious, that is, borne for man in order to save him from the consequences of his sins, to enable him to escape punishment.  Jesus came to earth for the purpose of dying for our sins.  That was the reason he was born.  Jesus carried our griefs and sorrows (vs. 4).  We have a Savior who doesn’t merely know about our pain, He lived it.  He knows and He cares.

How much does God the Father love us?  Enough to sacrifice His only Son.  The atoning death of Jesus would bring salvation to all who accept Him (vs. 10-11).  Because of the death of Jesus, millions of people have accepted Him, found salvation, and become His children.  Let’s spend some time meditating upon this Scripture, acknowledging and thanking Jesus for all that He has done for us.  If you have not done so before, now is the best time to accept Jesus’s sacrifice for you to save you from eternal separation from God.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Surrendering All To Jesus

 Mark 10:17-31

When a couple falls in love, they are often willing to do anything for the person they love, and to make any sacrifice for them.  They will spend their money, spend their time, anything for their beloved.  Sometimes other friends or family might begin to feel forgotten with the amount of devotion given to their love.  It is similar for when we have a consuming interest, hobby, or passion about something.  Many people will spend a great deal of time, and sometimes even a lot of money pursuing their hobby or passion, often at the expense of other important things.  How about with God?  What are we willing to sacrifice or give up for Him?  That is a question that a young man faced in our Scripture for today.

As our Scripture in Mark’s Gospel begins, a young man came up to Jesus.  He was a religious man, and wanted to be sure that he would go to heaven.  So he asked Jesus what he needed to do to find eternal life (vs. 17).   This young man was on the wrong track.  No one can earn salvation by good works.  It is a free gift we receive when we accept Jesus as our Savior (Romans 10:9-10, 13).  To show this man that keeping the Law completely without failing was not possible, Jesus began listing all of the Ten Commandments (vs. 18-20).  There is no eternal life found in keeping the commandments. No one can keep every law in the Old Testament perfectly.  Even though this man felt he had basically kept the Law, his soul knew otherwise, and he knew that he had a void that could only be filled by coming to Jesus.

Jesus, knowing all things, knew the heart of this man.  He knew that he had put his wealth and possessions ahead of God, had basically made an idol out of his belongings, thus breaking the first commandment.  Jesus told him to give up his wealth and belongings, and to come and follow Him, as true salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ (vs. 21).  Jesus told the young man that salvation is in the Cross, in His death, alone.  It is only by and through accepting the atoning death of Jesus on the Cross that we can find eternal life.

When the man heard what Jesus said, he turned and went away (vs. 22).  This man’s attitude towards his money and riches made him unable to turn his whole heart and life over to God. Jesus was not making giving or poverty a requirement for salvation, but instead, exposing this man’s heart.  He loved his possessions more than anything.

The disciples were very surprised with the response Jesus gave (vs. 23-26).  The culture of that day considered riches to be God’s blessing and poverty His disapproval.  However, Jesus indicated that riches can keep some people from seeing their need for God and a Savior, and thus from giving their life over to Him.  It is not the riches that constitute the sin, but the attitude towards them.  Instead, we need to use our possessions to serve others.  We must not let anything we have keep us from following Jesus.

Jesus proceeded to tell His disciples, and us as well, that salvation can only be found by following Him, not through any works we do, or through any riches one may have (vs. 27-31).  Whether rich or poor, it is impossible to be saved without God.  Only through Jesus is that possible.  Everything must be placed secondary to Him.  Anyone who gives up something valuable for Jesus’s sake will be repaid 100 times over, though not necessarily in the same form (vs. 29-30).  No matter where God has placed us, we’re called to daily surrender our lives to Him, obey His call to follow Him, and serve Him with our talents and resources.

Faith in Jesus calls us to follow Him in this life, giving our all to His kingdom.  The man in our Scripture today was saddened by Jesus’s response, and went away.  For him, Jesus’s advice to sell everything, give away the proceeds, and follow Him was a deal breaker.  Is there a deal breaker for us?  Is there something we can’t bear to give up to follow Jesus?  We cannot gain the kingdom of God on our own terms, which this man wanted.

I close with the words of the old-time hymn “I Surrender All”.

All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give;

I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all;

All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Greater Than Moses

 Hebrews 3:1-6

Just about everybody knows who Moses was, especially those who regularly read the Bible.  He would certainly be counted as one of the great people in history.  And Moses was definitely a great believer and follower of God, so much so that he was selected by God, along with the prophet Elijah, to meet with Jesus on the mount when He was transfigured.  The Jewish people bestow upon him their greatest honor, with King David and Abraham following close behind.  Nonetheless, he is not the greatest, as there is One that deserves even more honor, as we shall see in our Scripture passage for today.

One theme of the Book of Hebrews is that Jesus is greater.  The author goes into detail throughout the book how Jesus is greater, among other things, than angels, than the Jewish high priests, and Levitical priesthood.  In the early years of the church, some of the Jewish believers were contemplating leaving their new Christian faith because of persecution, and returning to their Jewish faith.  The author of Hebrews strongly urged them not to do so, because Jesus is greater than anything that they had in their former faith. Here in chapter 3, he describes how Jesus is greater than even their national hero, Moses.

As we begin, the author gives the title Apostle to the Lord Jesus (vs. 1).  The word “apostle” means “sent one”.  Jesus was sent to earth by God the Father.  We also read that Jesus is called a High Priest here.  The High Priest would bring a sacrifice for the sins of the people into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, seeking forgiveness from God.  Jesus is our High Priest in that He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  Jesus is also the center of our confession of faith, as stated here.

The Jewish people revered Moses, believing that he faithfully carried out all that God wanted him to, which he certainly did.  Jesus also faithfully carried out His position as Apostle and High Priest.  Hebrews says that Moses was faithful in all of God’s house (vs. 2).  Both Moses and Jesus faithfully fulfilled their individual divine appointments to care for the people of God.  The word “house” here refers to a family of people rather than a building, the same way it is used when we refer to the “House of Windsor” or the “House of Romanov”.

The steward or overseer of a household must be faithful.  Moses was faithful in serving in God’s house as a steward.  Jesus is the builder or founder of that house.  Moses was only a part of God’s household of faith, though certainly an important part.  However, Jesus was the Creator of that household (vs. 3-4).  As the 2nd Person of the Trinity, Jesus is equal to God the Father.  Jesus is greater than Moses.

Moses was faithful as a servant.  Jesus is faithful as the Son.  Even as one of the highest ranking servants in God’s house, Moses could never hold the position of Son, which is Jesus’s alone (vs. 5-6).  Moses was a witness to what would be spoken by God in the future.  Jesus was and is that message, the full revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3).  Moses was faithful as a testimony to that which was to come in Jesus.

Because Jesus lives in us as believers, we can be courageous and hopeful to the end (vs. 6).  We need to be constantly looking to Jesus to show us His path (Hebrews 12:2).  Our Scripture says to “consider” Jesus, meaning to think carefully about, contemplate, reflect on, and examine.  First, we need to be sure that we are a part of God’s household.  Are you a part of the family of God?  Have you accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior?  If so, are you carefully examining His Word and life?  With our thoughts fixed solely on Jesus, we need to be seeking to follow Him every step of our life.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Passing Of Time

 Psalm 90

It seems that as we grow older, time seems to fly by more quickly.  I can still remember my days in grade school quite vividly, though they are well over half a century ago.  My first jobs seem like just a few weeks ago.  Yet they, too, were really many decades ago.  Most of my teachers have long since passed away, along with many of my first co-workers.  Life goes by so quickly.  As a child, we feel that time goes by slowly.  A special day that might be a few weeks or months away, seems to take forever to come, and the ten or twelve years till becoming an adult seems like a lifetime away.  A lifetime!  As our psalm today reminds us, that is something that comes and goes so quickly, and thus, something that we should not waste or fritter away.  Let’s look into this psalm, one of several favorite psalms of mine.

Psalm 90 was written by Moses, undoubtedly in his later years.  Like many of us, he probably thought about how quickly life passes by.  One day we’re young, filled with youthful vigor, and the next we’re old and groaning as we try to stand up.  As Moses begins the psalm, he acknowledges how God has been there, with him and with every believer, right from the start (vs. 1).  As believers, God is our refuge, Someone we can run to when we need a safe sanctuary.  Someone to shelter us in the storms of life.  As we look back over our life, we see it marked by both good events and times of trial and hardship.  God has been our dwelling place through them all.

As we contemplate God, Scripture tells us that He is without beginning or end (vs. 2).  He is not bound by time, as He created time.  When we are younger we think that we have all the time in the world to do this or that.  Yet that time is quickly gone, and very soon we see that the finish line is not that far off. Yet with God, a thousand years or one day is the same (vs. 4).  He is not limited or restricted by time.  Because He is eternal, we can depend on Him.

Ever since Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, mankind has been under a decree of death (vs. 3).  We are here for such a brief time, however God is always there.  Moses compares our short life to like a sleep at night (vs. 5-6).  We go to bed at night, and before you know it, it is morning again.  He also compares it to a short-lived plant.  We have a flower that grows in our front yard.  When it blossoms it is very beautiful, but the blossoms only last a few short days and then fall off.  Poof!  It’s gone in a blink of an eye.  That’s like our lifetime.  Thus, Moses warns us that we need to evaluate the use of our time in light of the brevity of life (vs. 12).  Life is short, so we need to use the little time we have more wisely, not living for the moment, but with eternity in mind.

Such thoughts can cause some people to fall into depression.  They may feel “what’s the use”.  They may look at their life and see nothing but failure.  Moses could have felt that way.  He, like everyone else, had some failures and mistakes in his life.  He knew that God knows all of our sins, that they are open before Him (vs. 8).  Yet Moses also knew that God is a God of mercy and forgiveness (vs. 13-14).  In this psalm, Moses asks God to have mercy on frail mankind, living in a sin-cursed world.

The only way to make our short and brief life meaningful, and to avoid falling into any depression over the seeming futility of it all, is to turn to the Lord God, depending upon His mercy and grace to give our life value, significance and meaning (vs. 17).  Do you want your brief life to amount to something?  Do you want there to be some meaning to what you do during your time here?  Everything we do will amount to nothing unless it is established by God.  Those who pass through life depending on their own strength will find it a way of labor and sorrow.  However, those who have given their lives to the Lord Jesus, and lean upon Him, will find that He will give us strength and guidance throughout life, even in difficult times, and we will find throughout the years a way of joy and rejoicing.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

What Are You Seeking?

 Amos 5:4-15

If there is something important that needs to be found, you will seek it out, searching high and low, until you find it.  You don’t waste any time, and no effort is too great, whether it be misplaced keys, lost jewelry, or even some hidden treasure you heard about.  You also won’t waste your time or effort looking around for something else.  You focus on the one important thing.  In our Scripture passage from the Old Testament prophet Amos, we are told what important thing in our life we need to be seeking after.  Let’s see what God has to say to us here.

Amos was an Old Testament prophet who came from the southern Kingdom of Judah, yet preached God’s Word primarily to the northern Kingdom of Israel approximately around 760 - 755 BC.  He had been a sheep rancher and had fig orchards before God called him to preach His message to the people.  The Jewish people, particularly the northern Kingdom of Israel, had fallen away from true worship of Yahweh and keeping His commandments.  Many had turned to worshipping the idols and false gods of the surrounding nations.

In our passage today, from the messages he brought to the people, Amos admonished the people to seek after the Lord God Yahweh, and not their false idols, to seek Him and live.  Four times in this passage, God, through His prophet Amos, calls us to seek Him (vs. 4, 6, 8, and 14).  Though God will bring judgment, it can be avoided if we seek the Lord Jesus in true repentance.

We need to ask ourselves what we are seeking after in our life.  For many they could list money, power, fame, love, happiness, popularity.  Have we turned them into a type of god?  Maybe we have made our job a god, or a family member, or our house.  Of course, there are still many people who actually worship idols and false gods, following pagan religions or the occult.  For those who seek after anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ, they will not find the truth or fulfillment they seek.  Instead, they will ultimately find death.  God says to seek after Him and live.

Amos mentioned in his preaching to the people for them not to seek after Bethel (vs. 5).  Bethel was a village in the southern part of the northern Kingdom of Israel.  When the country split into two kingdoms during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the new king of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam set up two idols, two golden calves, one in the far north, and one in Bethel.  From then on, that village was associated with pagan, idolatrous worship.  God warned them, and us today, not to get caught up in any sort of idolatry.  Don’t worship the stars, or seek the future through them (vs. 8).  Instead, seek Him who made the stars.  The idols we set up, whatever they may be, will not bring us what our souls are really seeking after.

In addition to turning to false, idolatrous, pagan worship, the people also had turned away from showing justice and righteousness in their lives.  They, along with both their political and religious leaders, were corrupt.  They were not following God’s laws, either religious laws or civil ones.  All of God’s prophets spoke out against this, in addition to idol worship.  The law courts should have been places to find justice, and for the poor and oppressed to get relief.  Instead, they were places of greed and injustice (vs. 7).  True justice had been destroyed, causing corruption (vs. 10-13).  The people were seeking their own ways, not the Lord’s.  They were seeking their own power, wealth, and fame, not for God’s justice and righteousness.

God didn’t like it then, and He doesn’t like it today, either.  He is calling us to seek after Him.  Turn to Him, for those who refuse face the fire of His judgment.  God will not have fellowship with falsehood in doctrine, or evil-doing in conduct.  It doesn’t matter how rich or powerful someone may be, God can smite the strongest (vs. 9).  There is no place anyone can hide from Him.

Prophets like Amos and others who spoke out against both religious and civil corruption, were not popular.  They are not popular today, either (vs 10).  People today hate the preachers who speak out against the evil ways of the world, just as they did against Amos in his day.  Yet we need more preachers who admonish and urge people to seek after the Lord Jesus, and His ways.  Seeking and following after anything else will bring destruction upon ourselves, but hope is found in seeking and following God.

Friday, October 8, 2021

A Lesson From A Fig Tree

 Mark 11:12-14, 20-26

Most of us, at one time or another, have gotten upset at some inanimate object.  The thing wasn’t working the way you wanted, so you got angry at it, perhaps gave it a kick, or even threw it across the room if you were angry enough.  Later you might have felt ashamed at the temper tantrum you threw.  Some people think that today’s Scripture describes a temper tantrum that Jesus threw when He didn’t find figs growing on a tree when He was hungry.  As we study this Scripture passage, we will see that this was not the case.

As our Scripture begins, Jesus and His disciples are leaving the village of Bethany, heading into Jerusalem for the day.  Jesus was hungry, and saw a fig tree up ahead filled with leaves.  When He got to the tree, though, there were no figs to be found on the tree, so He proclaimed a curse on the tree (vs. 12-14).  This was not a case of a hungry Jesus, angry that He didn’t get to eat any figs.  We must understand the nature of the fig trees growing in the Middle East at this time.

The type of fig trees that grew in Israel then usually had two crops of figs when mature, a spring-time crop, and then one in the late summer.  Leaves would grow on the tree prior to the first crop.  So, when someone saw leaves on the fig tree, they assumed there would be a crop of figs growing.  The first, early spring crop of figs was the breba figs.  They are not as good and tasty as the second crop, later in the summer, but they are still edible.  Usually the farmers would harvest and sell the later crop, and didn’t mind anyone scavenging for the breba figs.  Jesus saw leaves, which would indicate some fruit, but there wasn’t a single fig to be found.  The tree was barren.

Fig trees were a symbol of the nation of Israel.  This particular fig tree was barren, just like the nation was spiritually barren, not bearing any fruit.  From outward appearance, Israel looked holy and spiritual.  Devout Pharisees were found everywhere.  People came to the Temple.  However, the nation as a whole did not have true faith in Yahweh.  Jesus cursed the fig tree as a sign that the nation of Israel was cursed, and would bear no more fruit until the Time of the Gentiles, which is this current age, is fulfilled when Jesus returns.  True, genuine faith should show fruit.  Empty religion will not.  This fig tree was a warning against spiritual fruitlessness.

Later, Jesus and His disciples walk past that fig tree again, and they notice that it has withered up, down to its roots, Peter pointing that out with surprise (vs. 20-21).  Jesus then used this opportunity to teach them about having faith in prayer (vs. 22-24).  We all have difficulties and problems in our life, for which we pray about.  Sometimes they seem as big and insurmountable as a mountain, immovable, incapable of getting around it.  Jesus tells us that if we truly have faith when we pray, if we believe in His ability to do anything, our mountain of a problem can be picked up and thrown into the sea.

God can remove our mountain of difficulties.  He is a miracle-working God.  He can answer our prayers.  This is, however, not a blanket formula to get whatever we want.  First, we must be saved, having trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.  Next, we must request only what is consistent with Jesus’s character.  Then, we must check our motives.  Is our goal to glorify God, and to let others see Him in us?  Or are they selfish, greedy, and impure?  One seeking to do the will of God will want only what God desires.  The receiving of answers to prayer requires a relationship with God.

Jesus further taught us that when we pray, we must have forgiveness in our hearts for everyone who has done anything to us (vs. 25-26).  God’s promise of answering our prayers and removing our mountains cannot be honored if we harbor unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness breaks down our relationship with God.  We may think we have good reason not to forgive, yet there is no reason given in the Bible to not forgive.  God knows our situation, and He still calls us to forgive.  Believers need to forgive because we have already been forgiven.

Don’t let doubt grow in your heart.  Doubt tears down what faith tries to build up.  When we pray, lift up faith, not the problem.  Lift up your faith in God, not the circumstances.  Don’t tell God how big your mountain is.  Tell your mountain how big your God is!

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Greater Than Angels

 Hebrews 2:1-18

Angels have been popular for many centuries.   They have been the subject of many great works of art found in museums.  People sometimes call their loved one “angel”.  And they’ve even been characters on several well-known TV shows.  We read about them throughout the Bible.  Angels are held in very high esteem by Christians and non-believers alike.  As we look into our Scripture passage today from the Book of Hebrews, we will read how Jesus, the Son of God, is greater than any angel ever was.

Frequently we read in the Bible how God brought messages to mankind through angels.  Throughout the Old Testament people were warned to heed the warnings and messages that the angels brought from God, with disobedience being judged (vs. 1-4).   The writer of Hebrews warns us now that we should not neglect the message that Jesus brings.  God has no greater messenger than His Son.  He has no more important message than the Gospel of Jesus.  Just as Jesus is greater than angels, so Jesus’s message is more important than theirs.  If the Old Testament messages, delivered by angels, brought judgment if disobeyed, how much more for that message given by Jesus.  No one will escape God’s punishment if they are indifferent to the salvation offered by His Son.

Our author warns us to watch out that we don’t drift away from the truths we have been taught in God’s Word (vs. 1).  Have you ever been out on a lake in a small boat, perhaps doing some fishing?  You find a good spot and want to stay right there where the fish are biting.  In order to do so, you need to drop an anchor or the boat will slowly drift away.  Drifting happens slowly, not like a speedboat.  Drifting in our relationship with God is hardly noticeable at first.  It happens gradually. We need to be careful to avoid drifting.  Connecting with God regularly through reading our Bibles and prayer is like an anchor to help us avoid drifting away.

As we read on in our passage, we see how Jesus is the Captain of our Salvation (vs. 10).  All good ship captains will go down with their ship when there is a disaster, or at the very least, they will make sure all of the passengers and crew are safe before they board a rescue vessel.  Jesus is the Captain of our Salvation, who sacrificed Himself for us.  He led the way through death and hell, to bring all who trust in Him safely on to heaven.

The concept of a suffering Savior is a stumbling block to the Jews.  Through what Jesus suffered, He became the Captain of our Salvation.  There are several reasons why it was necessary for Jesus to suffer.  First was so He could identify with humanity (vs. 10-13).  Then it was necessary so that He could destroy the power of death (vs. 14-15).  Lastly, it was so Jesus could be our Great High Priest (vs. 17-18).  Through suffering, Jesus completed what was necessary for our salvation.

In addition to being our Captain, Jesus is also our Big Brother (vs. 11).  When we become saved, we then have the same Father as Jesus, and we become His brothers and sisters.  Just like any good big brother should be, Jesus teaches us, leads the way, and protects us.  When Jesus came to earth, He chose to share the experiences of those He came to save.  Throughout His whole life, nothing was missing from His experiences except sin.  Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted.  He understands.  Because He conquered sin, Jesus can help us when we’re tempted.

Lastly, we read that Jesus is our Great High Priest (vs. 17).  In the Old Testament, the high priest was the mediator between God and man.  He would offer sacrifices and pray for forgiveness of the people’s sins.  Jesus Christ is now our High Priest.  He paid the penalty for our sins by His death, once and for all.  The consequences of sin is death, eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).  In order to pay the penalty that sin requires, Jesus died on the cross, God’s perfect sacrifice and atonement.

As we see in our Scripture today, Jesus is superior to the angels.  No angel became the Captain of our Salvation.  No angel became our Brother, suffering all that we suffer in order to be our sacrifice.  And no angel is our Great High Priest.  Jesus became all of that for us, so that if we call upon Him, we can be with Him in heaven for eternity.  That’s better than an angel!

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Blessed Family

Psalm 128 

Check with many newly married couples, and with couples expecting their first child, and most will tell you that they want a happy, successful, and well-adjusted family.  Most old-time TV shows from the 1950’s and 60’s showed families like that, as this was what people wanted and were hoping for in their own homes.  This was an ideal, though many families fell far short of it.  The only way to have a truly successful and blessed family is to follow God’s Word.  One key to having that family is found in our Scripture passage today, Psalm 128.

Our psalm starts right off by telling us that those who will be blessed by God, shown His favor and grace, are those who fear and obey Him (vs. 1).  Having a fear of God is not being afraid of Him, not fearing that God will zap us with His lightning bolts, or come along and clobber us.  Fearing God is showing Him reverential awe, and a proper holy respect.  There is a great lack of that in society today.  Too many people have a very flippant attitude towards God, His Word, the Bible, and anything that is sacred.  They show no respect to the Lord of the Universe, many referring to Him with the disrespectful term “the man upstairs”. Even among Christians, there are many who have an extremely casual view with God, calling Him their “buddy”, their “pal”.  Yes, God is our Father and our Friend, and that relationship is always there for those who are saved.  However, we should always show Him the proper reverence and respect due Him.  Even the closest friends of the Queen, including her family, show her proper respect.  How much more should we show that to God?!

If we are to have a blessed family, we need to be walking in His ways, and obeying His Word.  This goes for the whole family, for the father, mother, and children.  Too often we see that the burden of spiritual leadership in the family is left to the mother.  The father, even if he is saved, often leaves Bible reading and praying with the children to his wife, along with taking them to Sunday School and church.  Though our psalm is addressed to the whole family, in verses 2-4, God is specifically speaking to the fathers.  The father is to lead the family, like a priest would, in spiritual matters.  That doesn’t mean that the wife/mother is in any way a lesser person or part in spiritual matters.  However, when the father is lax in spiritual matters with his household, the more likely the children will follow his lead, and become so, as well.  God desires the whole household to follow Him, and promises His blessing on the family who does.

When a Christian young man and woman decide to marry, there should be three in their household.  The husband, the wife, and God.  When they bring Jesus into their marriage, when they seek His guidance and follow His Word when rearing their children, He promises to bless.  When God is the head of the family and home, He will reward your devotion to Him with inner peace.

We hear a lot about family values, those beliefs and behaviors that are taught and passed down from parent to child, within their family and household.  As we look around today, we might wonder about what kind of values are being handed down from generation to generation.  As Christians, what are we teaching our children?  What sort of values and beliefs are we passing on to them?  What do they see in us, that they will inevitably start to practice themselves?  A Christian who is following the Lord should teach those values which the Bible highlights - love, service, honesty, integrity, and prayer.  These are vital to a godly home life.

Yes, God promises His blessings upon the family that fears and reverences Him, and that follows His Word.  This is a godly legacy that if we follow Him, we can pass on from generation to generation.  One can never be truly happy until one leads a life that honors the Lord.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Three Women Of Faith

 Exodus 1:15 - 2:10

A law has been passed.  Those in power say it must be, and that’s the way it is.  You don’t agree with the law, you know that it is absolutely wrong and immoral, but there’s nothing you can do.  To disobey, or even dare to speak out could easily cost you your life.  So what do you do?  This is the situation in our Scripture for today.  Most people here just went along with the law.  However we will read of three women, a pair of midwives, and then a mother, who with their strong faith in God, dared to trust Him to go against what they knew was wrong.  Let’s take a look.

The Kingdom of Egypt was the biggest, most powerful kingdom the world had ever known at the time, and Pharaoh the most powerful person on the planet.  His word was law, and no one dared cross him.  Pharaoh was disturbed that the enslaved Hebrew people were growing in number, and feared that they might rise in revolt, so he came up with a plan.  He summoned the Hebrew midwives and commanded that they put to death all newborn Hebrew boys (vs. 15-16).  Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives, knew that this was morally abhorrent.  What could they do, though?  To blatantly disobey Pharaoh could easily cost them their lives.  These two loved the Lord, fearing and reverencing His commands, and they knew that they had to obey Him and not man (vs. 17-21).  Just like centuries later when God protected the Apostles for obeying Him rather than the authorities (Acts 5:29), God also protected these midwives when they stood against the mightiest man on earth.  When Pharaoh’s plan to be rid of the Hebrew boys was thwarted by the midwives, he got everyone involved and demanded all Hebrew males babies be killed by anyone (vs. 22).

Our passage continues with another brave woman, Jochebed, the mother of Moses.  This Hebrew woman gave birth to a baby boy, and she was determined to keep him alive, no matter what Pharaoh had ordered.  For three months she managed to hide his birth from the neighbors and authorities, but that couldn’t last forever.  His cries were sure to be heard, and eventually he would start crawling and walking.  Jochebed came up with a plan.  She made a woven basket and lined it with a waterproof substance.  She then placed her baby in the basket and took him down to the Nile River and set him afloat in the water ( vs. 1-3)  I am sure that Jochebed prayed fervently to God during those first three months, seeking His guidance as to what to do with her baby boy, as she was not going to let anyone kill him.  I believe this is what the Lord showed her to do, and she trusted Him, as she believed He had a plan.

What comes to mind when you think of the Nile River?  One of the first things that comes to my mind is crocodiles.  Most crocodiles would just love a nice little baby for a snack!  However Jochebed trusted explicitly in God, that not only would He spare her son from Pharaoh’s death sentence, but He would also keep him safe from any harm in the river.  She believed God had a plan for her son.

God did have a plan for the baby.  The Holy Spirit had the timing just right.  Shortly after Jochebed put the basket with Moses in the river, Pharaoh’s daughter came to that exact spot to bathe, and she heard the baby cry.  The Lord God even had Moses crying, and not sleeping, to be sure that the royal princess would notice him (vs. 5-6).

God had heard Jochebed’s prayers.  Not only was Moses found by Pharaoh’s daughter, and would be raised as a member of the royal family, in privilege and not as a slave, but Jochebed was able to care for him during his first 3-4 years (vs 7-9).  She was able to carefully instruct Moses about Yahweh.  Moses never forgot those lessons, either, and when he became a young man he did not deny his identity (Hebrews 11:24-27).

All three women had great faith in God, and also determined that they were going to do what they believed was right.  They trusted in God and obeyed Him even against a powerful and evil adversary.  The midwives Shiphrah and Puah did not know ahead of time that God would protect them.  For all they knew they could have been executed at that moment, but they trusted and obeyed Him anyway.  Jochebed trusted God with her newborn son, and would not let him be killed.  When placing him in the river she completely relinquished her son’s care and safety to God.  The Lord honored each woman for their faith and trust in Him.  We can follow each of these women’s example by standing up for what we know God says in His Word, the Bible, and trusting Him with our lives and those of our family.