Monday, January 31, 2022

Do Not Forsake Me In My Old Age

 Psalm 71

Younger people don’t tend to think of old age too often.  Though they hope to reach a ripe old age, they don’t want to think of being old.  In addition to waning strength and frequently poorer health, old age can often bring loneliness.  As we get older, our parents, and then our siblings and friends start to die off.   Children might not come around or call that often, as they are busy with their own lives.  And poor health can keep one housebound.  Alone, poor health, mounting problems that one can’t handle due to age and infirmity, one can fear that even God has abandoned them.  Our psalmist today was older, and had many problems surrounding him.  His psalm is a prayer that God would not abandon or forget him in his old age.

Though now an older man, probably in his senior years, our unknown psalmist had been a believer and follower of the Lord God since his youth (vs. 5-6).  He believed that the Lord had been with him ever since he was born, so many years earlier, and praised Him for His care all throughout his life.  From his mother’s womb the Lord drew the psalmist into the light of day.  From his youth up, Yahweh was his trust.  Now he is an older man of faith, who reacts to his troubles with implicit trust in God.  Here in his old age, he has one last request - please do not forsake me, Lord! (vs. 9, 18).

As we get older, are approaching or are in our senior years, we recognize that God has been our constant help in the past.  This is what our psalmist recognized and remembered.  Whenever he had a trial in his life, the Lord was there to help him through.  Remembering this, he knew that he could rely on God to help him through his remaining days.

Psalm 71 is abounding with expressions of trust and communion with God.  Because we know that God has helped us in the past, we know we can trust Him.  Especially with those who have known the Lord as Savior since childhood, they can surely recount countless times of His care.  Now, with the problems that we face today, we know that we can have hope that He will be with us today (vs. 5-6).  God is our strong refuge, and is worthy of our praise and honor (vs. 7-8).

As the psalmist discovered we can either hope in God, putting our faith and trust in Him, or we can trust and hope in other men.  We cannot place faith, trust and hope in both.  By the time we reach old age, we can undoubtedly recall many times when other people have failed us, even turned against us when we needed their help.  However, that is never the case with the Lord.  As we look back, we see that God has been our constant help from childhood to old age.  We can turn to Him at any time for anything.  He is always there for us.  We can trust Him, as God has continually been faithful.

Remembering God’s lifetime of blessings will help us see the consistency of His grace throughout the years.  It will show us that we have all good reason to trust Him for the future.  As our strength and physical abilities wane over the years, we need God even more.  As more gray hairs come, we can know that He will be our constant help.

As believers, our lives are a testimony of what God has done for us.  We should seek to leave a Christian legacy.  Just as our psalmist was, we can be known to others as one who continually trusted in the Lord, in good days and in bad, from the beginning to the end of our life.  We can leave one last plea to God - Dear Lord, forsake me not in my old age!  Let my legacy be that I trusted You until my very last breath.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Lord's Call of Jeremiah

 Jeremiah 1:4-10

There are occasions when we’ve been given a task or an assignment, and we just don’t feel qualified, or feel that we have the skills or experience to sufficiently complete that task.  Several people in the Bible did not feel they were qualified or had the experience to do the task that the Lord gave to them.  The great Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was one who felt that way when the Lord commissioned him to bring His message to the people of Judah.  Jeremiah knew that this assignment from the Lord was a great  and vitally important one, and he felt unqualified and not fit to carry it through.  In our Old Testament Scripture passage for this week we will read the Lord’s response to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was a prophet of Yahweh, who began his ministry during the middle of the reign of King Josiah of Judah (around 626 BC), and preached on until following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 587 BC.  He later accompanied a small group of Jewish people who fled into Egypt, where he later died.  When the Lord first called Jeremiah into His service, he was a young man.  Rather than feeling proud and bursting with ego that he had a big preaching assignment from God, as some young people might feel, Jeremiah felt he was unworthy to bring God’s message to the people, particularly to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

God responded to Jeremiah protests.  He told the prophet that He knew him, and the sovereign plans He had for him before he was even conceived (vs. 5).  The Apostle Paul had a similar realization, that God had called him to be His servant and bring His message even before he was born (Galatians 1:15-16).  There were others in the Bible who God had plans to use in special ways, even before they were born.  Samson was one, (Judges 13:3-5), and John the Baptist was another (Luke 1:13-17).

God has a plan for our lives.  We are not accidents, or exist by chance.  The Lord formed us long before we took our first breath.  He knows us by name.  He will work in and through us in a powerful way when we obey Him.  When we feel discouraged or inadequate, remember that God has always thought of us as valuable, and that He has a purpose in mind for us.

Jeremiah responded by saying that he could not go and preach God’s message, as he was too young and inexperienced.  He wasn’t a child, but a young man.  Still, he did not feel able to go into Jerusalem, both the political and religious capital of the nation, and confront the political and religious leaders for their sins and failings before God.  However, God promised to be with him.  If God gives us a job to do, He will provide all that we need to do it (vs. 7-8).  When we surrender to Him, the Lord will provide us with the strength and wisdom to carry out His tasks, along with providing any financial or material backing that we need.

Knowing the religious leaders, and how they had attacked, both verbally and sometimes physically the prophets of the past, Jeremiah feared the same treatment.  Yet Yahweh promised to rescue and deliver him from trouble (vs. 8).  He did not promise Jeremiah that there would be no trouble, as attacks would come, but promised He would be there with him if he fully obeyed.  Jeremiah went through jailing because of the messages he preached.  He was physically assaulted, went hungry, and suffered all sorts of insults and abuse because of preaching God’s Word, yet God never abandoned him.  He told Jeremiah, “I am with you.”  God does not keep us from encountering life’s storms, but He will see us through them.

The message that Jeremiah brought to the people was not just something he pulled out of his own mind, but was instead God’s message, God’s Words (vs. 9).  God appointed Jeremiah to bring His Word to nations and kingdoms, (vs. 10), warning about His judgment on sin.

God’s plan for us is perfect, not subject to the whims of man and uncertainties of the world.  Whatever our circumstances are, God calls us to stand on the Solid Rock of His Word, and take shelter in His promises.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Bringing The Year Of Jubilee

 Luke 4:14-21

To have a prophecy fulfilled in your sight would be a rather exciting thing, I would think.  Very early in the ministry of Jesus, many prophecies were starting to be fulfilled.  As we look into our Gospel Scripture passage for this week, we see where Jesus proclaims that He has fulfilled a certain, specific prophecy from the Book of Isaiah.  Let’s take a look.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus had recently been baptized by John the Baptist, and then had gone into the wilderness where He fasted and prayed for 40 days, and also withstood temptations from Satan.  Now He has returned to the region of Galilee, specifically to His hometown of Nazareth (vs. 14-16).   When the Sabbath day came around, Jesus went to the local synagogue in Nazareth “as His custom was” (vs. 16).  Jesus made it a point to always attend the weekly synagogue service, where He would worship the Father, read, and study the Bible.  That is a good practice to get in the habit of doing, attending your church’s worship service every week, if at all possible.  If it was important to Jesus, the Son of God, then it should be important to us, as well.

One custom that many of the synagogues in the days of Jesus followed was to let visitors or guests read and comment on a Scripture passage.  We see that often in the Book of Acts when Paul traveled around the Mediterranean, visiting local synagogues.  This Sabbath day, when Jesus came to worship, He was invited to read from the Bible and then give a teaching or commentary on what was read.  Jesus chose the Prophet Isaiah 61:1-2 as His passage to read.  When He concluded reading, He told the congregation that this passage was fulfilled, right then, in their hearing (vs. 21).  This must have amazed the congregation, and shocked many, too.

How did Jesus fulfill this prophecy?  All throughout His ministry, Jesus brought the gospel message of salvation to everyone.  The word “gospel” means good news.  His message certainly was good news to those who would accept it.  Mankind had been trying to achieve redemption from their sins by their own good works and by animal sacrifices for centuries, but the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin (Hebrews 10:4).  The good news of the Gospel was that Jesus, the Son of God, would redeem mankind.  He brought this message to the poor, both the spiritually poor, who have no means to redeem themselves, which is all of us, and also to the physically poor, those who were down and out, and the castaways of society.

Jesus also brought His peace and comfort to those who were brokenhearted.  We saw that when He comforted His friends Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died (John 11:1-44).  He also brought comfort to Jairus when his daughter died (Mark 5:22-23, 35-43), and also to the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-16), raising each of their loved ones.  Jesus proclaimed liberty to the captives, all those who are captive to their sins, and set at liberty those who are oppressed.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, giving our life to Him, He sets us free from our sins, bringing us deliverance from all that oppresses us.  And as we see all throughout each of the four Gospels, Jesus brought physical healing to so many people, including restoring sight.

The final verse of the passage that Jesus quoted spoke of proclaiming the “acceptable year of the Lord” (vs. 19).  The acceptable year of the Lord is the Year of Jubilee.  The Year of Jubilee was to be celebrated by the Jewish people every 50 years.  During that year, the ground wasn’t harvested, allowing it to rest.  Slaves were to be set free, and all debts were cancelled.  When Jesus said those words, He was setting us free, just like slaves were set free.  He was declaring our freedom (John 8:36).  The Blood of Calvary declares our freedom from sin and death.

The release from the Babylonian Captivity that the Jewish people had been in for 70 years had not brought the fulfillment of this prophecy that the people had expected.  They endured further oppression after then from the Greek Empire, and then following that, the Roman Empire.  They were still a conquered and oppressed people.  Isaiah was referring to the Messiah, and Jesus proclaimed Himself as the One who would bring this good news to pass.

In closing, there are some who say that Jesus never Himself said that He was the promised Messiah.  That is not true.  As we see here in this passage, at the very outset of His ministry, Jesus announced that He is the Savior and Redeemer that Israel and the world had been waiting for.  Have you accepted Him as your own personal Savior yet?  If not, let this be the day you ask Jesus into your heart!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Little Ear Rocks

I Corinthians 12:12-27

One day, a number of years ago, I woke up with severe dizziness.  As I sat up, the room was spinning, making me feel nauseous.  Later, I found out that the cause of this dizziness was because my “ear rocks”, or otoconia, had gotten out of position.  I had never heard of ear rocks before, and perhaps you haven’t either.  I learned all about them, tiny crystals of calcium carbonate in the canals of the ear, and the maneuvers you can do to get them back where they belong.  Tiny little parts of the human body that most people don’t even know they have, but when they aren’t functioning properly, the body sure lets you know.  In our Scripture for today, the Apostle Paul speaks about how the Church is like a body, when all of its parts are functioning properly.  Let’s take a look at what the Lord has to say in His Word.

The Christian church in the city of Corinth was a large one, and could do much work for the Lord in that busy pagan metropolis.  However, this local church often had to deal with problems among its members.  One problem that Paul needed to confront was how many of the believers in Corinth thought that their spiritual gifts and abilities were superior to those of others.  They felt that they were more important, and looked down on other members of the congregation.  This spiritual snobbery was getting to the point where it was causing major problems among the Corinthians.

As the Apostle Paul opens this passage, he compares the Christian believers, who are part of the Body of Christ, to a human body.  Each part of the body has a specific function that is necessary to the body as a whole.  The parts are different for a purpose, yet they are to work together.  In order to function at its optimum level, the body needs each of its parts.  Often we only think about certain body parts, those whose function is most noticeable, such as our hands, heart, stomach, eyes, etc.  That doesn’t mean that the other parts are not necessary.  When something goes wrong with a less noticeable part, though, we find out, just as I did when my otoconia were not in their correct position.

Paul wanted to correct the behavior of some of the Corinthian believers, those who thought that their spiritual gifts were better, more important, and more valuable than others.  They thought they were the hands, the eyes, or the head, something that people notice and use every day.  But, as Paul showed, just as one part of the body, such as the hands, does not say to the feet that they don’t need them, so too one believer is not to say to someone else that they do not need them in the church.

The Church is composed of many types of people from a variety of backgrounds, with a multitude of gifts and abilities.  We may have different interests and gifts, but we have one common faith and goal.  Though we may have different backgrounds, gifts, and personalities, we are each filled with the same Spirit, and belong to the same Body of Christ.  There should never be anyone in the church who looks down on those who may seem to them to be unimportant.  In the same token, we should also never be jealous of others who have what seems to be more impressive gifts.

All parts of the body, whether our human body or the Church play an important part, without which there would be serious repercussions.  God has designed visible, public gifts to have a crucial place, but equally designed and just as equally vital to life are the hidden gifts.  All are essential to the Body of Christ.  Every Christian plays an important role, and each of us is necessary.

Just as you wouldn’t want a part of your body cut off or yanked out, so too you should not look down on a fellow Christian, deeming them unnecessary for your fellowship.  Some church members are out in the open with their gifts, and are like the eyes, the hair, the arms.  Some of us, though, are more hidden, like the otoconia.  As I could attest to that one morning, when the otoconia was not working right, I sure noticed!  Let’s be sure that we care for each member of the Body of Christ equally.


Monday, January 24, 2022

Seated With Princes

Psalm 113

What if you were to be given a special invitation to dine with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, or with Charles, the Prince of Wales?  That would be a great honor, one that a poor, humble person like myself would find amazing.  Why, I wouldn’t even likely get to meet my village’s mayor, let alone dine with royalty!  For most of us, to find ourselves seated next to a royal figure is unlikely because we are plain folks and they are royalty.  In our psalm today, we will read of how God can do something like that for us.

As our psalm for this week begins, the unknown psalmist calls upon us to praise the Lord, which is what all believers should do each and every day (vs. 1).  The psalmist calls us servants, a person in a humble and lowly position, there to wait upon someone greater.  We, the redeemed, are God’s servants, who should serve the Lord with all obedience.

Praise is often the theme of many of the psalms, and Psalm 113 is one of them.  Praise shouldn’t be just a one time event, not just once a week on Sundays in church, or even just once a day, maybe as we get our day started.  No, God’s Word here tells us to praise the Lord from morning to night (vs. 3).  All throughout the day a believer should be praising God.  Praise Him when we wake up, for keeping us safe through the night.  Praise Him for our meals.  When we walk out of our door, praise Him for the sunshine or the rain, for the flowers, trees, or even the snow-covered ground.  All throughout our day we should praise the Lord until our head hits the pillow.  Even though we might not feel like praise, we need to commit ourselves to doing so.  One way is to schedule praise breaks throughout the day (Psalm 119:164).

As our psalm continues, the writer describes how God is high and exalted, above all creation here on earth, including us (vs. 4-6).  Yet, though He is the mighty God, dwelling in heaven above all, He is willing to humble Himself because of His love for us.  This was especially shown when God sent His Son for our redemption.

Who are the ones that God loves and cares for?  Who did He send His incarnate Son to die for?  If God went by the values that society has set, it would only be for the wealthy, the powerful, the prestigious elite.  It would only be for the “beautiful people” society values so highly.  Fortunately that is not the case with the Lord God, as not too many of us fall into those categories.  In God’s eyes, a person’s value has no relationship to their wealth or position on the social ladder.  Though the world may be, the Lord is certainly not interested in whether someone’s name is listed in the Social Register.  Many people whom the Lord has used for His purposes have come from humble beginnings or a lowly background, people who the world would never have considered (vs. 7-8).  God overrides the social orders of the world.

Throughout the Bible we see God exalting the humble, and humbling the proud.  Jesus said the first will be last, and the last first (Matthew 20:16).  Imagine, as I stated at the start, being invited to associate with royalty.  There would need to be someone who would come and buy me elegant clothing, fashion my hair just right, and give me a complete makeover so that I am suitable for that company of people.  To be set with princes is a high privilege.  That is a place of select society, yet God places us there.  As the psalmist says, God raises us out of the dust and ash heap, and sets us with royalty.  He has made us a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9).  Princes are immediately admitted to the king, while others must stand far off, hat in hand.  If we have taken the Lord Jesus as our Savior, God raises us out of the dust heap, clothes us with His Son’s righteousness, and we become His child.  As such, we are now princes, and we can draw near to His Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16).  As princes, children of God, we have His wealth untold.

The Lord delights to help the poor, the hurting, and the suffering, if they will only trust Him.  If we trust in the Lord Jesus as our Savior, He will lift us up, up out of the refuse that the world and society has seen fit to toss us, and give us the blessings of His heavenly kingdom.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Returning To The Lord

 Nehemiah 8:2-10

When a person has turned away from wrong or destructive behavior in their life, they need to make some changes in their life and habits, or else they will likely fall right back into their old, harmful, and detrimental ways.  They need to develop good habits and lifestyle changes, and get back on the right path.  In our Scripture today from the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah, we will read of two godly men who sought to help the nation get back on that right path with God, and make the changes necessary in their life, so as not to fall back into the ways of the past.

As we read throughout the whole Old Testament, we see how the people of Israel and Judah repeatedly turned away from faithful worship of Yahweh, and followed after the false gods of the surrounding nations.  Despite faithful prophets preaching the Word of God to the people, they forsook the Lord, and turned to pagan idols.  As a result, after many years of enduring their faithlessness, God punished the people by sending them into captivity in Babylon.  There they remained for 70 years.  After that time, their captors slowly allowed them to return.

As our Scripture opens, both Nehemiah, the governor of Judah under the Persian king’s authority, and Ezra, a priest and scribe, both very godly men, sought to help bring the people back to truly worshiping and following Yahweh so that they would not repeat the sins of their ancestors.  For true revival to take place in the people’s hearts, these men knew that they needed to hear and obey the Word of God.  That was the only way that they would avoid falling back into the sins of their fathers.  Good intentions and promises will not keep us from repeating the sins we seek to forsake.  It is only by getting into God’s Word, the Bible, that we will truly make a change in our life, and bring revival to our hearts.

Ezra and Nehemiah gathered the people together, and publicly read the Word of God to them, and taught them what the Scriptures meant (vs. 1-8).  Throughout the day the Word of God was read aloud, and then Ezra, along with several of his faithful companions, instructed and explained the Bible (vs. 8).   As the religious leaders read from the Scriptures, the people who were gathered together to hear, showed proper respect to God’s Word (vs. 6).  They bowed low, with their face to the ground.  Such a posture reminds us that God is the King, and we are His subjects, His servants.  He is sovereign.  We are not.

They also listened intently to the Bible being read.  How many times has it happened, when we are in church listening to the message that the pastor brings, that our mind wanders off to thinking of any number of things?  Or perhaps when we are reading the Bible, we get to the end of the page, and realize that though our eyes were reading the words, our mind was off a thousand miles away.  When we listen to God’s Word being taught, we need to be actively listening, actually hearing what is said, and not letting our mind wander.  The same is true when we read the Bible.

After hearing and learning God’s Word, the people were convicted of their sins, and the sins of their forefathers, how they had strayed so far away from Yahweh, and they wept (vs. 9).  They recognized how deeply they had sinned against God.  His Word had awoken their conscience.  For a true revival to occur, we must realize our sinfulness and God’s holiness and righteousness.  Then we will be able to turn to Him in repentance and come back to His path.

When the people who had returned from captivity determined to obey and follow God, they could rejoice because God forgives sin, and will bless obedience (vs. 10).  When we repent and turn to Him, the Lord will forgive us.  When we receive that forgiveness, there is no more need to be sorry.  Ezra and Nehemiah encouraged the people to now rejoice.

The Lord’s delight is in forgiving and saving us.  He finds joy in showing love to all who believe in Him.  When we feel weak and helpless, we need to remember that God loves to deliver us.  We can trust God with our needs.  We can choose joy over giving in to despair, and find our delight in Him.  We need to rejoice and refill our tank with joy, the Lord’s joy, not a cheap imitation from the world (vs. 10).  The best way to do that is to spend time in the presence of God by prayer and reading His Word daily, getting to intimately know Him. God’s heart is filled with joy when we obey Him.  When we do, we will find that His joy is our strength.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Do Whatever He Says

 John 2:1-11

Weddings are generally very happy and also important occasions for a family.  Often many months of careful planning go into hosting such an event, and no one wants some mishap to occur.  This was also the case back in the days of the Bible.  Though the ceremony was different, and the garments that the bride and groom wore looked nothing like what we are familiar with today, everyone wanted things to run smoothly for the couple and their families.  Today in our Scripture from the Gospel of John, we will look in on a wedding, see a disaster unfold, but when they turned to Jesus, the day was saved.

As our Scripture passage opens, Jesus, several of His disciples, and His mother were invited to a wedding in the village of Cana (vs. 1-2).  Cana was on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, north of the village of Nazareth, where Jesus had grown up.  Cana was also the hometown of Nathaniel, one of His disciples (John 21:2).  Weddings in the days of the Bible were week-long festivals.  There were many guests, sometimes the whole village, and often out-of-town guests, such as in this case.  Thus, careful planning was needed.  To run out of food or beverage was a terrible thing, and was quite embarrassing.  Even more so, it broke the unwritten law of hospitality.  It was a disaster!

As we read, such a thing happened to the host of this wedding.  They ran out of wine, and there were probably several days left with the wedding festival.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a close friend or possibly a relative of the bride or groom’s family, and as such, was privy to this terrible predicament.  The many wedding guests did not know this, but the immediate families of the couple did, and they were frantic.  What would they do?  Mary, their close friend or relative, knew what she was going to do, though.  She would take the problem to Jesus (vs. 3).

What do we do when we have problems in our life?  Problems even much more serious than running out of beverages at a wedding?  At that time, and for this family, they were facing a terrible need.  Sometimes in our life we run up against terrible crises.  Perhaps a horrible illness, a job loss, or a financial ruin.  Like the Virgin Mary did for this family, we need to take these problems to the Lord.  It doesn’t matter what our need may be, even if it might seem a bit odd like this problem was, we need to go to Jesus with it.  We may have no idea how to fix the problem.  We may not even know what to exactly pray for.  It doesn’t matter.  We can leave it in Jesus’s hands, knowing that He will do whatever is best.

When Mary brought the problem of no wine to her Son, she didn’t know what He was going to do.  That didn’t matter, though.  She had faith that Jesus would take care of the matter in the best possible way, whatever that way would be.  After bringing the problem to Jesus, Mary told the servants to do whatever He would tell them to do (vs. 5).  Mary submitted to Jesus and how He would answer her request.  Like her, we should submit, and allow Him to deal with our needs as He sees fit.

Jesus instructed the servants to fill the large water pots with water, and then bring them to the master of the feast (vs. 6-8).  These water pots were quite large.  Each one would have held between 18-27 gallons, depending on the size.  There were six of these, so that would have been a total of between 108-162 gallons.  When the servants obeyed, and brought it to the master of the feast, it had turned to wine, the best of wine (vs. 9-10).

Like the stone water pots, God wants to fill us with His anointing.  First, though, we must be empty of everything of the world.  We must give to God everything we have, and He will transform us into a vessel full of His anointing.

In closing, just as our Scripture says, we need to do whatever God tells us to do.  God knows how to take us out of our mess, and into wherever He wants us to be.  Sometimes the instructions God gives us may not make sense to anyone, just like at this wedding, but we must do whatever He tells us to do.  Noah probably wondered why God wanted him to build an ark.  Abraham wondered why God wanted him to leave his homeland.  They obeyed, remained faithful, and reaped God’s blessings.  When we take our problems to God in prayer, be ready to obey what He says, and then be prepared for His blessings to pour out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Spiritual Gifts

I Corinthians 12:1-11

For a company or organization to run smoothly, all of the employees or members need to have a specific job, and diligently work at it.  The same goes for any family.  Someone needs to wash the dishes, someone else to take out the garbage.  Someone needs to buy groceries, etc.  And a wise head of the company or family will assign tasks according to each one’s ability, but everyone needs to hold up their end for the place to run smoothly.  The same is true with the Church, and our Scripture passage today shows that the Holy Spirit has given believers gifts to build up His Church.

The Apostle Paul wrote several letters to the Christian Church in Corinth, and in this letter, among other things, he taught them about spiritual gifts, which we will look at today.  Spiritual gifts are divine enablements for ministry that the Holy Spirit gives in some measure to all believers.  They are to be completely under His control, and used to build the Church and to bring God glory.  And just as a company has different positions and jobs for each person, so too does the Holy Spirit for each one in the Church.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts to every believer for the common good of the church.  Thus everyone is not exactly alike or identical to others in the church (vs. 4 - 7).  Some have one gift, while others have another.  In the Corinthian Church spiritual gifts had become symbols of spiritual power, causing rivalries.  Some people thought they were more spiritual than others because of their gift, and Paul sought to correct this.

We need to appreciate the gifts of others.  For example, the person who has the gift of mercy should not judge the one who has a gift of exhortation and believe they are heartless.  In the same way, the one with the gift of exhortation should not judge the one with the gift of mercy, feeling they are overly sympathetic.  If everyone had the gift of mercy, where would be the one to teach of sin and a godly life.  But without those who show mercy, we all would get too discouraged and give up.  Each serves a specific purpose, just as here are show horses, war horses, carriage horses, and draft horses.

In this Scripture passage we read of several of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to those who are part of the Church.  We read here of some of the speaking gifts, such as prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching, and exhortation.  Then there are some of the serving, or non-speaking gifts, such as leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith, and discernment.  Let’s briefly look at just a few of these gifts.

Wisdom is the ability to understand God’s Word and His will, and to skillfully apply that understanding to life (vs. 8).  The Word of Knowledge is the ability to understand and speak God’s truth with insight into the mysteries of His Word that cannot be known apart from God’s revelation.  The gift of faith is not the same as saving faith, which one exercises when they are saved.  Instead, this is an especially strong trust in God in the midst of difficult circumstances (vs. 9).

We typically think of prophecy as foretelling of future events.  The Holy Spirit’s gift of prophecy in verse 10 is, instead, the gift of speaking forth or proclaiming publicly God’s message and Word with power.  The gift of discernment is the God-given ability to recognize lying spirits, and deceptive and erroneous doctrine (vs. 10).  Satan is a deceiver (John 8:44), and his demons counterfeit God’s message and work.  One with the gift of discernment is able to see this deception and error when it creeps into the Church.

These are just some of the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to each believer and to each individual church.  God cares so much for His children that He gives each one of us a place in His plan for the world.  Believers are gifted with the talents and attributes needed to carry out His purpose.  When everyone is faithfully submitted to God’s will, we are all working towards the same goal, and that is to glorify God and lead others to salvation.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Praise To The Returning Judge

 Psalm 96

Though not all of the psalms in the Bible are praise psalms, many of them are, and today’s psalm is one of them.  When we have a God as great, wonderful, and powerful as our God is, one cannot help but bring Him praise.  When a couple is in love, they frequently tell anyone and everyone how wonderful and special their loved one is.  The various psalmists are doing the same here and in the other praise psalms, and as believers, we should join in.

If we believe that God is great, if we love Him above all else, we cannot help but tell others about Him (vs. 2-3).  It is a good witness to others when we publicly show our appreciation and gratitude to God.  Our praise to Him should often also include, or lead to a testimony to others of His plan of redemption, as verse two urges us to proclaim the good news of His salvation.  The Scripture does tell us that there is great joy and praise in heaven every time someone gets saved (Luke 15:7).  What an honor it is for us to be a part of bringing that joy in heaven as we witness to others, and tell them of God’s salvation.

Our psalmist continues on by telling us how the other false gods that the heathen worship are just inanimate idols (vs. 4-5).  One of Satan’s goals has always been to make himself God, and to obtain our worship, instead of worshiping Yahweh.  He has sought to do this through demon spirits, idol worship, and through false gods and false, pagan religions.  These idols, representing the false pagan gods and goddesses, are nothing.  There isn’t a “god hierarchy”, where Yahweh may be at the top, and the other gods that people worship are at various steps below Him, like some kind of divine pyramid.  They are false, fake gods, and behind them are demonic spirits.  The majority of the world is worshiping what is nothing, instead of worshiping the one true God, Yahweh, who created all things (vs. 5).

In verse 8 we are instructed to bring an offering to the Lord when we come into His courts and into His presence.  This would include, but not be limited to, our monetary tithes and offerings.  In addition to giving a portion of our money and income, the Lord desires that we give Him ourselves, our talents and abilities.  We can give of our time to do the work of the Lord.  We can use the various abilities and talents He has blessed us with to help in our local churches and other Christian organizations, to further bring His message and ministry to the world.  The Lord is also blessed and happy when we bring Him an offering of praise with our lips and with our voices (Psalm 100:4).

As our psalm continues, we are reminded again to tell the nations, people everywhere, that the Lord reigns (vs. 10).  When Jesus returns and sets up His millennial reign, the world will be firmly established.  There will be no more continuing international chaos.  People of every nation, every nationality and ethnic background will be at peace with each other, and the love of the Lord will abound among everyone.  The world will be settled and efficiently managed. There will be no more economic disasters or problems, nor the fears that come with that.  Jesus will also rule the world with impeccable justice.  No more will anyone need to fear that “justice” will go to the one who has the money or influence, or that the wrongdoer will get away with what they have done.

As our psalm for today closes, the writer reminds us that the Lord Jesus will be returning (vs. 13).  Jesus came to earth the first time as our humble Savior, dying upon the Cross for our sins.  When He returns the second time, it will be as the Conquering King and Judge.  Everyone on earth, and who has ever lived, will stand before Jesus, as our Judge.  The truth will be laid out before Him, and He will judge righteously.  His judgment will be true and fair.  Many people do not want to think about this coming day, or even want to believe that it will happen.  However, as this final verse in our psalm says twice, He is coming!  Are you ready?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Trust And Not Be Afraid

 Isaiah 12:1-6

This is a very fearful time in history.  There are so many things that bring worry and fear.  For the past two years the whole world has faced a relentless pandemic, which shows no real sign of abating.  Wars are going on in various parts of the globe, many of them causing whole populations of people to flee for their very survival.  Criminal activity and violent social unrest have been happening in many places, bringing fear for one’s safety to just even go out.  Then there is economic uncertainty, with the cost of daily necessities alone being too much for many to afford.  With these, along with people’s personal problems of health, careers, and family relationships, we can see why so many people are afraid, and living with anxiety and depression.  Where can we turn?  Who can help in such times as these?   A look into our Scripture for today will give us the only sure and true answer.

The prophet Isaiah lived during some very difficult and frightening times, both politically and economically.  He ministered and preached God’s Word to the people of Judah between approximately 740 - 686 BC.  During this time, the country of Judah was under threat from foreign powers, namely the Assyrian Empire.  In 721 BC they watched their northern neighbor Israel, their “sister country”, fall to the Assyrians, and their people, the ten tribes of Israel, be carried off captive.  During this time in history no one cared about human rights, and showing mercy to one’s captives.  Their neighbor fell.  Would they, as well?  With this and other threats, with political and economic uncertainty, who could help them?  There was no government help or charitable aid programs to keep one from starving.

Isaiah was a witness to all of this.  He knew that the people of the northern Kingdom of Israel had long since turned away from faithful worship of Yahweh, and their ultimate fate was the result.  Isaiah knew, as well, that the people of Judah were not much better.  Despite his, and the other prophet’s preaching, so many were unfaithful to God.  Would the Lord bring His judgment upon them, as He did to Israel?

The message that the Lord God gave to Isaiah today is one of hope.  Though God would not ignore or sanction unfaithfulness to Him, and would judge sin, if the people returned to Him, He promised to turn His anger away (vs. 1).  This is the same today as it was then.  When we turn to the Lord, and call upon Him, and Him alone, He will bring His salvation.  And with God as our salvation and hope, we can trust Him and not be afraid (vs. 2).  Not be afraid!  Those are such good words to hear, especially in days like we face today.

Trusting God is truly committing our lives into His care, and not trying to manage life on our own.  With the trying events we face these days, no one can truly handle things on their own.  We need to lean into His care, and not depend upon our own ability to manage life.  Jesus is trustworthy, and we do not need to be afraid of anything that comes our way.  As verse 2 says, He is our strength, our song, our salvation.

However, before we can enjoy those benefits, we need to trust Him.  First, we need to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and for salvation.  Sometimes salvation is compared with drawing water out of a well, life-giving water, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26).  Unlike a traditional well, which could possibly go dry, the well of salvation, bringing the eternal life-giving water of the Holy Spirit, will never run dry.  This well of salvation is a constant, flowing, never-ending source.  And after we receive the Lord Jesus as Savior, we can continually turn to Him in trust, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit at all times.  It is a never-ending well.  Our salvation should give us joy every day.  Salvation is not only about eternal life.  It is also about an abundant life right now (John 10:10).

When we feel fear or anxiety coming upon us, especially during these trying times, we should pray these verses.  Then we need to praise the Lord, calling upon His Name in thanksgiving, and tell others about what the Lord has done for us (vs. 4).

When trying and difficult times come, we have the choice whether to trust God or become fearful.  No matter what our circumstance, trusting God is the right choice.  Faith gives us the ability to see what God sees.  Be confident that the Lord will be our defense.

Friday, January 14, 2022

His Father's Business

 Luke 2:41-52

If you lost your twelve year old son in the largest city of your country, where would you start looking for him?  If it were my son, I might start looking in areas where there might be some historic architecture, or perhaps a museum.  No matter where your son might be likely to gravitate to, it would be a rather frantic time, with a lot of worrying about your child’s safety.  In our Scripture today from Luke’s Gospel, we read the account of when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in Jerusalem.  Let’s take a look.

As our Scripture opens, we read that Jesus and His family would travel every year from their home in Nazareth to the capital, Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover (vs. 41-42).  This was something that many devout Jewish people would do each year.  When it was time to return home, somehow both parents lost sight of Jesus, and He was left behind.

Whenever Jewish people traveled from the northern area of Galilee, down to Jerusalem, they would often travel in groups for safety, the larger the group the better.  This was especially necessary if they traveled through Samaria, as the two groups of people held hostile feelings for each other.  These traveling caravans of people would frequently split into two sections, men and older boys, and women with the children.  Jesus, at age twelve, would have been at an age where He would have fit in fine with either group.  Thus, Mary probably thought He was with Joseph, and Joseph thought Jesus was with Mary and the younger relatives (vs. 43-44).  The journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth took several days, and when the first evening came, and the caravan stopped to set up camp, it became apparent to both Mary and Joseph that Jesus was missing.  The two parents immediately turned around and headed back to Jerusalem in search of the boy.

Once arriving in the city, where would they look for Him?  At this time in history, Jerusalem was not as big as it is today.  However, with the Passover having just finished, there were still more people than usual in town.  Where would a preteen boy typically go?  Perhaps watching the Roman soldiers march and practice maneuvers.  Maybe, if He had a few coins, at a convenient food cart.  Maybe joining some other youth in an early version of soccer.  However, Jesus was not in any of these places.  Instead, He was in the Temple, discussing Scripture with the priests, and confounding them with His wisdom and knowledge (vs. 46-47).

This must have been somewhat baffling to Mary and Joseph, and they might have humbly apologized to the priests and scribes there for what they might have perceived as their Son bothering them.  Very quickly, though, they became aware, as everyone else in the room did, that Jesus had knowledge and wisdom of the Scriptures that far outweighed even the priests and other religious leaders.

Jesus, at this young age, was beginning to come into a clear consciousness and understanding of His identity and mission (vs. 49).  His public ministry would not start for approximately another 18 or so years.  During that time Jesus would learn the carpenter trade from His foster father Joseph.  However, He knew what was of primary importance, and that being the study and teaching of God’s Word.  After finding Himself inadvertently left behind by both parents, the young lad sought the safety of the Temple, and spent the hours while waiting in discussing the Bible with the priests and other teachers.

In verse 49 we read the first recorded words that Jesus spoke in Scripture, that of being about His Father’s business.  The last words of Jesus that He spoke before He died on the Cross were “It is finished.” (John 19:30).  The Father’s business for Jesus was to give His life as a sacrifice to atone for our sins.  When He died upon the Cross, Jesus finished His Father’s business.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

No Partiality

 Acts 10:34-38

Several days ago we looked into a passage of Scripture where the Apostle Paul wrote about being “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).  We learned that whoever turns and accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior is accepted by God, no matter who they are.  He will never turn anyone away who comes to Him, no matter who they are.  However, there are some who do not like that idea, who feel that God should be much more selective in who can come into His family and be accepted by Him.  In today’s brief Scripture passage, we will look at the time in the early Church when this thinking began to change.

Moments before Jesus ascended back into heaven, several weeks after His resurrection, He gave some final instructions to His followers.  One major instruction that Jesus gave was that His disciples were to go into all the world and bring His message of salvation to everyone (Acts 1:8).  They were to bring the Gospel to everyone - the rich, the poor, the well-educated and the illiterate, those who were respected in society, and those who were outcasts.  Most importantly, they were to bring the Gospel to every race and nationality.  No one was to be regarded as unacceptable to hear the Gospel and become part of God’s family.

However, for the first few years following the resurrection, the disciples were only witnessing to their fellow Jews.  For centuries they had considered Gentiles (non-Jews) as unclean, and would not associate with, eat with, or even go into the house of one.  Earlier in our chapter in Acts, the Apostle Peter had a vision from the Lord, showing that if God calls something clean and accepted, it is clean, not unclean or unacceptable as we may think (Acts 10:9-16).  Following that vision, Peter had a visit from messengers of a prominent Gentile military officer, and God wanted him to bring this gentleman and his family the Gospel message (Acts 10:17-33).  At first Peter was a bit hesitant to go and visit with a Gentile, but he knew what his vision had indicated, and he was going to obey the Lord.

As Peter brought the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to Cornelius and his family and friends, all Gentiles, he now knew that God does not show partiality among people, regardless of their race or nationality (vs. 34-35).  It is with Peter’s witnessing to the centurion Cornelius that here begins the first official bringing of the Gospel to the Gentiles.  There had been a few Gentiles prior to this who believed, such as the Samaritan woman at the well who Jesus spoke to (John 4:4-29), another Roman centurion whose servant Jesus healed (Matthew 8:5-13), and the Syro-Phenician woman whose daughter Jesus cast a demon from (Mark 7:25-30).  It was here, though, that Peter officially brought the Gospel to Gentiles.

The Good News about Jesus is for everyone.  In the days of the early Church, there was great hesitancy among some to bring the Gospel to certain other groups.  Through the efforts of Paul, Peter, and others, though, that hesitancy was overcome, and the message of Jesus was spread around the world.  In our churches today we should be proactive to make sure that everyone who seeks to come is made to feel welcome.  We should not allow any barriers, whether because of language, culture, nationality, economic level, or education to keep us from telling others about Jesus.  If God accepts everyone who comes to Him through His Son, then we, too, should be accepting and welcoming.

Earlier in our chapter we read that Cornelius was a devout man, who feared God, prayed, and gave to charities (Acts 10:1-2).  He was a good man who did what was right.  However, he still needed to be saved.   All of his goodness was not going to get him to heaven.  He still needed to come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  God knew this, which was why He gave Peter the vision, and instructed him to bring the Gospel to Cornelius.  Those who truly seek after God will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).  We, as followers and believers in Jesus, must be ready to bring to others the message of salvation through Him (Romans 10:14-15; I Peter 3:15).

Are you ready and willing to bring the message of the Gospel to anyone and everyone God brings across your path?  God wants His message to be brought to everyone.  He shows no partiality, and neither should we.  Let’s do our part to fulfill the Great Commission, and bring the Gospel to everyone. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Promise Kept

Psalm 89:1-18

We like to believe that when a promise is made, the person making it will keep their word.  This is especially true if it is a binding promise, an oath, or a covenant that was made, which often are legal in nature.  In the Old Testament, God made several covenantal promises or agreements with His people.  If the people kept their part of the agreement or covenant, God would keep His end.  God never failed to keep His part, but just about every time, though, the people failed to keep their part.  Instead of receiving God’s blessings, they received His punishment.

There were several covenants that God made that were unconditional, that is, God would keep these covenants no matter what the people did.  One example is His promise or covenant to never send a flood again that would wipe out the whole earth (Genesis 9:12-17).  There is another covenant that God made with King David, that He would establish his line and throne forever, which we read about in today’s psalm.  Let’s take a look at this, and see if this promise was kept or not.

As we read in the Bible, King David desired to build a Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant in.  He started drawing up blueprints and making plans for this, when God spoke to him through the prophet Nathan.  God told David that he was not to build the Temple.  However, He promised him that his throne and royal lineage would be established forever (II Samuel 7:8-17).  The Jewish people held this promise to mean that there would be a descendent of David always on the throne.  They also extended this to be a promise of the Messiah, that the Messiah would be from the lineage of David.

As one reads through the Old Testament, we see that eventually Jerusalem and the monarchy were overthrown.  Babylon, then Persia, Greece, and Rome ruled the Holy Land.  There was no longer a throne, nor a king.  How could this promise, this covenant, be kept?  The last king was King Zedekiah, and he was removed from his throne in 586 BC., over 2,600 years ago.  Did God just forget about that covenant promise?  Does He have integrity, keeping the promises He makes?  As we read our psalm for today, we see that God is, indeed, a faithful God who keeps His word.

Scripture declares that God is faithful.  His faithfulness is established in heaven, and He is faithful to all generations (vs. 1-2).  He is faithful and reliable.  For God to violate His covenant promises would be to violate His very nature.  Even the angels in heaven (the “assembly of saints” vs. 5), which surround God’s throne, sing and praise God’s faithfulness.  He is almighty, high above all of His creation.

The covenant that Yahweh made with David extended to his descendants.  The throne promises guaranteed that the rightful heir to the throne would always be a descendant of David.  It might have looked like God broke His covenant, as Jerusalem was destroyed, and no descendants have sat on the throne for two and a half millennium.  This covenant prophecy looked forward prophetically to the future reign of Jesus, David’s descendant.  He was qualified to sit upon the throne of David, which He will when He returns to earth in glory at His Second Coming.  Righteousness, justice, mercy, and truthfulness are the foundations of God’s throne (vs. 14-15).  They are fundamental aspects of His nature, and will be the cornerstones of the reign of Jesus in the Millennium.

As we see, God has indeed kept the covenant promise He made to David, as David’s descendent, Jesus, is the rightful heir to the throne, and He will reign there for all eternity.  Through Jesus, the line of David will never end.  Both on earth and in heaven, there is nothing and no one to compare with the Lord Jesus Christ.  We can always trust any promise that God makes to us.  Though other people may fail us, God never will.  He is a God of integrity, and His Word is sure and true.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

A Humble Servant

 Isaiah 42:1-9

If I was to alert you that a certain person would be coming to your village, or perhaps to your church or place of employment, and that I wanted you to keep a lookout for them, you might ask for a description.  Typically you would expect a physical description of the person - how tall, slender or stocky, hair and eye color, etc.  In our Scripture passage today, the prophet Isaiah gives us a description of the coming Messiah.  However his description doesn’t give any physical characteristics to look for.  He gives, instead, several characteristics that the people of Israel were to look for in the coming Savior.  Let’s look at this Scripture, and see how Jesus fulfills these characteristics of the Messiah.

In the opening verse, Isaiah identifies the Messiah as a Servant (vs. 1).  He does not describe Him as a mighty warrior or king, but calls Him a servant.  When Jesus came the first time to earth, He came as a humble man from a working-class family.  Though Jesus is God, and Creator of the Universe, He did not come to earth projecting that image.  When some people, following the multiplying of the loaves and fish, wanted to make Him a king, He left the area to prevent that (John 6:15).  At the Last Supper, Jesus took the role of servant and washed the disciples feet, a very humble task (John 13:3-5).

Isaiah said that the one to look for would not be someone who wanted the spotlight focused on themselves, not someone loud and proud (vs 2).  All through His ministry, Jesus kept a humble, servant attitude, with a quiet and submissive demeanor (vs. 2).  He did not go through the country demanding or claiming His rights as God, the second Person of the Trinity.

The promised Messiah would be Someone who deals gently with the weak, the depressed in spirit, the lowly, and dejected (vs. 3).  The Servant will bring comfort and encouragement to the weak and oppressed.  The character of God’s chosen servant would be gentleness, encouragement, justice and truth, all of which Jesus completely showed.  When we are broken and bruised, God won’t step on us, or toss us aside as useless.  God’s Servant, Jesus, will gently lift us up.  Where the flame of devotion and faith burns at all, no matter how feebly and dimly, Jesus will take care not to quench it.  He will tend it and cause it to burn more brightly.

The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah.  However, they were not looking for someone who would come as a servant, for someone who was humble and gentle.  They were awaiting someone who would come as a warrior and king, someone who would deliver the nation from all of their enemies.  They did not want a Messiah who would be a light to the Gentiles (vs. 6).  They were not interested in any Gentiles finding salvation in God.  They wanted deliverance from any Gentile power.  However, the prophet Isaiah spoke many times in his messages from the mouth of God, that His Word would be brought to the Gentiles, and that they would come to faith in Him.  Simeon saw the beginnings of the fulfillment of this (Luke 2:32).  The Magi were also the first of the Gentiles to come to Jesus.  Several of Jesus’s miracles were performed for Gentiles.  After a few decades of the early Church, the majority of believers in the Church were Gentiles.

When Jesus came, He brought both physical and spiritual healing to the people.  Many physically blind people had their sight restored by a touch from the Savior.  Even more importantly, though, is the spiritual vision that He restores to those who are spiritually blind (vs. 7).  Jesus also brings freedom to those who are imprisoned in their sins, and who are imprisoned with other addictions and bondage.  Sometimes we need to be rescued from things that hold us captive, such as debt, addictions, harmful relationships, etc.  Jesus has come to set every prisoner free.  Prison bars of sin cannot hold fast against the power of God.

Isaiah gave the people a description to look for in the coming Messiah, here and in other verses, along with some of the other prophets.  Although the people of Israel expected the Messiah to come as a great warrior-king, as David had been, God had a different plan.  Who are you searching for?  Have you found the Messiah that Isaiah and the rest of Scripture describes for us?  The Scriptures all point to Jesus.  Jesus will lead to salvation all who believe in Him.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Blessings For Today

 Ephesians 1:3-6

What if you were to find out that you had inherited a very large amount of money, a truly big inheritance?  For some reason, though, you believed that you were not allowed to touch that fortune until some date way in the future, many years away, and that was unfortunate as you are in real financial difficulty right now.  Then, many years later, when you finally open the inheritance account, you find out that you were mistaken, and you had access right from the start!  All those years living in poverty when you could have enjoyed that inheritance!  We might be tempted to scold someone who allowed that to happen to themselves, for not checking the terms of the inheritance, or not believing it.  What a waste, we think.  Yet this is the case with so many Christians.  They have an inheritance, given to them by God when they were saved, and yet they never take hold of it, living like spiritual paupers.  Let’s take a look at our Scripture today.

As we open our Scripture passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we read that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (vs. 3).  Every spiritual blessing that is available, God has given to us when we accepted His Son Jesus Christ as our Savior.  The Bible didn’t say that God will give that to us at some future time, or if we earn them by becoming some spiritual giant, or that we only get these blessings after we die and go to heaven.  The verse says that God has blessed us with these blessings.  They aren’t something that we get at some future date, or only in heaven.  They are already given to us, and they come to us from Jesus in Heaven.

These blessings are in Christ and are for His children, those who have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.  What Jesus has is ours, as well, including His righteousness, resources, and privileges.  In Christ we have all the benefits of knowing God.  We have salvation from our sin and its power.  Through Jesus we have been adopted as God’s children.  Do you need forgiveness from sins you’ve committed?  God gives that to His children (I John 1:9).  Do you need peace in your life?  That is a blessing He has also given us (John 16:33).  God blesses us with His protection (Psalm 91:4).  He also provides for all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).  Do you need hope in a fearful world?  We have that through Jesus (I Peter 1:3).  The Bible is full of promises of blessings for God’s children.  Believers can and should lay hold of and claim every blessing that God has provided for them.  We can enjoy these blessings now, and they are eternal, not temporary.  We don’t get one dose of peace, and that is all.  God never says that since He provided for your needs yesterday, you will have to wait your turn to get another provision.  He never runs out of His love and blessings for us.

As Paul continues in his Epistle, we read that because of Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross, all who place their faith and trust in Him are holy and blameless in His sight (vs. 4).  We belong to God through Jesus, and He looks at us as if we had never sinned.  We are not saved because we deserve it, but because God is gracious and freely gives salvation.  The mystery of salvation originated in the timeless mind of God, long before we existed.  Before the foundation of the world, God set His plan for salvation in motion.  He saw us, and provided His Son, Jesus Christ, so we could be born into His family.  Salvation is God’s work, not our own doing.  In His infinite love, God has adopted us as His own children (vs. 5).  We are brought into His family, and made His heirs along with Jesus.

Though we certainly don’t deserve it, God graciously accepts us now that we belong to His dearly beloved Son (vs. 6).  We can feel special and wanted, because we are “accepted in the Beloved”.  We have worth with God.  We are accepted, not left to the sidelines.

In closing, maybe you are a Christian who continues to live in spiritual poverty, believing that all of the spiritual blessings from God are for later, once you get to heaven.  Spiritually poor believers fail to tap into the reservoirs of God’s grace.  Remember that Jesus promised us an abundant life now (John 10:10).  That doesn’t mean that He will make you a multi-millionaire, as some health-wealth preachers claim.  But He will provide you with every spiritual blessing promised in the Bible now.  As fellow heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17) we have access to God’s riches.  Eternity begins the moment we are saved, and we don’t need to wait until heaven to enjoy the Lord’s riches for us.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Magi

 Matthew 2:1-12

A look at the Church Calendar, and we see that January 6th is the feast day of Epiphany, the day which celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child.  In honor of this day, our Scripture today is from Matthew’s Gospel, where he gives an account of this special event.  Let’s take a look at this Scripture passage.

As Matthew begins, he tells how the wise men, or Magi, have come to the capital city Jerusalem, looking for the One who has been born, the King of the Jews.  The Magi were originally the priestly caste of Persia and Babylon.  They were an extremely well-educated caste, and were experts in the study of the stars.  With the Jewish people having been exiled to Babylon, and later Persia centuries earlier, the Magi were very familiar with the Old Testament writings.  They knew of the prophecy that Balaam made in Numbers 24:17, of a star that would arise in Jacob, among the Jewish people.  They knew that when this special star came, it would signal the birth of Someone great and special, not only for the Jews, but for the world, as well.

The star could have been a planetary conjunction, or a star-planet conjunction.  It also could have been a miraculous star.  Either one would honor the Creator-God.  The Magi followed the star to an unknown land in search of a newborn king.  They journeyed by faith to a destination that they were not sure of.  The Magi must have had enough faith in Yahweh to believe that the Jewish Scriptures were special, were the Word of God, and that the prophecies contained therein were authentic and believable.  They believed and trusted Him, and set off to worship the One the star heralded, and God saw to it that they found the Christ Child.

The star led the Magi to Israel, and they came to the capital city of Jerusalem, where they inquired of the birth of the One who will be King of the Jews (vs. 2).  King Herod the Great feared a rival ruler.  He was a cruel king, who even had one of his wives and three of his own sons executed.  When he heard some news of a newborn king, that was another threat that he was going to be sure was eliminated (vs. 3-8).  Herod pretended to the Magi to be sincere in wanting to honor this newborn king in order to have them tell the location of the Child when they found Him.  Anyone can pretend to love God, but the proof is in that person’s character.  Herod’s character was evil.  Later he had all of the young boys in Bethlehem slaughtered (Matthew 2:16-18).

The Magi left Jerusalem, and the star led them on to Bethlehem, where they found Jesus, Mary, and Joseph living (vs. 9-11).  The Holy Family had moved out of the stable, and were now in a house.  It is possible that at the time of their arrival, Jesus could have been about two years old, as that was the top age that Herod had the boys of Bethlehem killed.  Jesus was also called a child here, not an infant or baby.

The Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child (vs. 11).  The first gift mentioned was gold.  They knew that they were searching for a king.  Gold was a gift befitting someone of rank and authority, such as a king.  It was a gift of great value, a sacrificial gift, even for one of the priestly caste.  The next gift was frankincense.  Incense is offered by the priests to God in Temple worship.  This is a gift suitable for Deity.  The final gift was myrrh, which is a perfumed resin, and was often used to embalm the dead.  Had they read and believed the Old Testament Scriptures, and known that this Messiah-King would be the Sacrifice for sin?  We don’t know.  But myrrh was appropriate for Jesus, whose death brought salvation.

When the Magi left, God instructed them to return home a different way (vs. 12), and they obeyed.  Finding Jesus may mean that your life must take a different direction, one that is responsive and obedient to God’s Word.  Are we willing to be led in a different way?  The Magi’s obedience proved invaluable to the life and safety of the Holy Family.

These men traveled hundreds of miles to worship the Christ Child.  When they found Him, they responded with joy, worship, and gifts.  That is so different from people today.  We expect for God to come after us, prove who He is, and then give us gifts.  Those who are wise still seek and worship Jesus, not for what they can get, but for Who He is.

Monday, January 3, 2022

I Would Rather Dwell In God's House

 Psalm 84

When you are not busy with your job, or caring for your family, where do you like to spend your time?  Many people like to be outside, perhaps enjoying nature or some sports activity.  Some get involved with a hobby or enjoying a good book.  Others may just sit down and watch some TV.  The Sons of Korah, who wrote today’s psalm selection, wanted to be by the tabernacle of God above any other place.   Let’s take a look at what this psalm today has to say.

Who were the Sons of Korah?  In the Book of Numbers we read of a rebellion that Korah led against Moses and his leadership.  God destroyed Korah and those who followed him in his revolt by opening up the earth and swallowing them alive (Numbers 16:1-35).  However, not all of Korah’s family followed him in his rebellion (Numbers 26:11), and those descendants continued to love and serve the Lord for generations.  About eleven psalms in the Bible were written by the Sons of Korah.

As our psalm opens we read how the psalmist desires to be with God, in His presence, more than anything or anywhere else (vs. 1-2).  This wasn’t just a casual saying that he didn’t mind attending Temple worship once a week or so, like we might not mind going to church.  This was a great desire.  He couldn’t wait to go!  He’d be there every time the doors were open, if there wasn’t something else he absolutely had to do.  He even envied the birds who were able to build their nests by the corners of the building! (vs. 3).   He felt they were lucky to be able to stay by the altar of the Lord all the time.

How do we feel about taking time each week to come worship the Lord?  Do we look forward to it, or has it become something done out of habit, with a bored, ho-hum feeling?  Do we look for any excuse to get out?  That certainly was not the case with our psalmist.  His heart and flesh cried out to be in God’s presence.  He knew that those who come to God in worship, praise, and prayer are blessed or truly happy (vs. 4).  Getting away from the bustling world to meet with God is a true blessing.

As our psalm continues, the writer speaks of passing through the “Valley of Baca” (vs. 6).  The word “baca” in Hebrew means “weeping”.  He was describing going through a valley of tears, of weeping.  Just about every one of us has spent some time in that valley throughout our life.  We all go through times of struggles and tears.  If we are walking with the Lord in our life, He will bring us through that valley.  We won’t remain there forever.  With the Lord with us, we will pass through it, and He will make that arid valley into a spring, into a place of joy.  Growing strong in God’s presence (vs. 7) is often preceded by a journey through barren places in our lives.  When we desire to spend time with God, we will see our adversity as an opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness.

Our psalmist continues with the thought of desiring to be with God more than anything else.  In verse 10 he claims that he would rather be a doorkeeper at God’s house than any more glorious place with the wicked.  A humble place of service with the Lord is better than an exalted position of power or fame in the world without Him.  A few moments in the presence of God is greater than anything Satan or the world would have to offer, a thousand times over.  One day being near God in fellowship is better than a thousand days fellowshipping with the world.

What is your shield in life?  What do you turn to for security when the enemy comes around for attack?  The Sons of Korah looked to the Lord God as their shield (vs. 9, 11).  When we have Him as our shield we are protected by the Almighty One.  God has given as part of our armor the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).  With that we are able to quench the fiery darts of Satan.  God shields us when the enemy plots his greatest onslaught against us.

Our psalm closes with a promise that God will not withhold good things from those who walk uprightly (vs. 11).  This is a conditional promise.  It is not for just everybody, but is for those who walk uprightly.  If God isn’t meeting our needs as we think He should, either He may have a different plan for us, or there is something in our life that may be a hindrance.  One reason for unanswered prayer is sin in our life.  We should not assume we know what the “good things” are.  We need to allow God to give us the “good things” that He desires to give.  God will never withhold what is permanently good.  When we obey Him, He will not withhold anything back that will help us serve Him.