Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A New Creature With A New Feature

II Corinthians 5:17-21

The man had the same name, and looked exactly the same as he did a few years earlier when some of his casual friends and acquaintances had last seen him.  Now there was something different about him.  It was like he was a new person.  In a very real sense, he was a new person, since accepting the Lord Jesus as his Savior.  This is something that the Apostle Paul explains in our Scripture passage today in his letter to the Corinthian believers.  Let’s take a look at what the Lord is telling us in His Word.

How can someone change from being a real rascal or even worse, into a good and godly man or woman?  This is more than just making a New Year’s resolution to be a better person, as we all know how long those resolutions last.  Paul opens our passage today by telling us that when we come to Christ, accepting Him as our Savior, we become a new creation (vs. 17).  As we read throughout the New Testament, Scripture teaches us that before we were saved we were children of darkness, children of the devil.  When we become saved, though, we are now a new creation.  We are now sons and daughters of God, children of the Light (Ephesians 5:8; I Thessalonians 5:4-5).

The new birth is a fresh beginning.  Our sins are forgiven.  We receive the Holy Spirit, who indwells us, and lives Christ’s life through us.  We have a new spirit and a new nature.  Christians are brand new people on the inside (vs. 17).  The Holy Spirit gives them new life, and they are not the same anymore.  Because of that, our desires and goals should be conformed to those God has for us.

Though we become a new creature, there is no automatic delete button to get rid of all of our old bad habits and behavior.  Depending on how long we had lived in sinful behavior, those habits and actions may have a stronghold on us.  We need to replace those habits with new and godly ones, renewing our minds with God’s truth (Romans 12:1-2).  After a person is saved, and the more they cling to and abide in Jesus (John 15:4-8), the more old value systems, priorities, beliefs, and loves are gone, and they are replaced with things of God’s Spirit.  Evil and sin are still present, but should no longer control them.

A good example of this in the Bible was with many of the believers in the city of Ephesus.  When they were saved, they turned dramatically from idol worship, the occult, and other pagan practices.  This change was so striking and complete that the local idol makers and occult stores noticeably lost business.  Because of such a large drop in their revenue, these pagans started a riot because so many were turning to Jesus and giving up their old practices (Acts 19:17-41).

In addition to becoming a new person in the Lord Jesus, when we are saved we are reconciled to God and made righteous (vs. 18-19)  We are no longer God’s enemies, strangers, or foreigners.  Paul continues, telling us that our trespasses or sins are no longer imputed to us.  That means that they have been forgiven, no longer held to our account.  Instead, God has imputed, or charged our sins on to the account of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God.  Jesus took our sin upon Himself, even though He was sinless.  God then imputes, or charges the righteousness of Jesus on to our account (vs. 21).  We do not have to bear the penalty of our sins.  Instead, we receive His righteousness.  Our sin was poured onto Jesus at His crucifixion.  His righteousness is poured into us when we accept Him as our Savior.  The sinner is declared righteous, based on the merits of Jesus.

Because of this, we have the privilege to bring this message to others (vs. 20).  The message we bring from the Bible is the message of God.  We are Jesus Christ’s ambassadors, sent with His message of reconciliation to the world.  We have the job of telling others what God did through Jesus, making it possible for everyone who has faith in Him to have eternal life.  Let’s spread that message to others today! 

Monday, March 28, 2022

When The Crisis Comes

Psalm 34

Sometimes we find ourselves in a sticky situation.  Occasionally it is our own mistakes or sins that bring us into those circumstances.  At other times they are situations that the devil throws at us to trip us up and trap us.  Sometimes these circumstances can be very serious and even threatening to our safety or life.  Our psalm for this week was written right after such an event in the life of David.  Let’s look into this Scripture and what the Lord can teach us here.

As mentioned, this psalm was written by David.  We know that several years in his early adulthood were spent on the run from the murderous plots of King Saul against him.  At one time he thought he could find safety hiding in a place no one would expect, that being in the court of one of the Philistine kings, King Achish (I Samuel 21:10-15).  However, Achish’s noblemen and courtiers whispered suspicions to him that David couldn’t be trusted because he had frequently fought against the Philistines.  When David found out, he knew he was in imminent danger.  He quickly decided to act like a madman by crawling on the ground, scratching at doors, and drooling.  By doing that they just kicked him out of the city, and his life was spared.  David knew that this deliverance was from the Lord, not just his own ingenuity, and he penned this psalm in praise of Him.

We all find ourselves in various degrees of problems, most perhaps not so serious as that, but there are some of you who may be in a really desperate spot.  How can we find such help?  The answer for David and for us is by turning to the Lord God.  God promises great blessings to His people.  Many of these blessings, though, require our active participation.  God promises here to deliver us from fear (vs. 4), save us out of our troubles (vs. 6), guard and deliver us (vs. 7), show us goodness (vs. 8), supply our needs (vs. 9), listen to us (vs. 15), and redeem us (vs. 22).

However, in order to receive God’s blessings we must seek Him (vs. 4, 10), cry out to Him (vs. 6, 17), trust Him (vs. 8), fear Him (vs. 7, 9), refrain from lying (vs. 13), turn from evil, do good, and seek peace (vs. 14), and serve Him (vs. 22).  David said that these qualities and behaviors are found in those who fear the Lord.  Reverence is more than just sitting quietly in church.  It includes obeying God.

David tied respect for the Lord with the way we use our words (vs. 12-13).  We need to keep our tongues from evil, and our lips from telling lies.  In Psalm 39:1 David even suggests that sometimes we ought to put a muzzle on our mouth to keep our tongue from sin!  Our words have the power to build up or to tear down.

Our Father in heaven is all-wise and all-loving.  When fears start to overwhelm us, we need to stop and remember that He is our God, and He will always hold us up.  When we believe that God is good, we can release our fears.  When we are afraid of the problems, and even the danger that surrounds us, it is good to remember the occasions in the past when God has heard and answered our prayers, and delivered us from our fears (vs 4).

As we read verses 9 and 10, this is not a blanket promise that we will have everything we want.  This is a praise for God’s goodness.  All those who call upon God in their need will be answered, sometimes in unexpected ways.  God knows what we need.  To have a relationship with Jesus is to have all that we really need.  When we have a desire, we need to ask if that is really a need, whether it is really good for us, and if it is the best time for it.

When we are feeling the farthest away from God, He is actually the closest to us.  In times of trouble, no one is closer than Jesus Christ.  He did not abandon David when he was hiding among the Philistines, nor will He abandon us in our times of crisis.  God has promised to save us, even in our darkest time.  We can praise Him that we are His people and He is our Deliverer.

When a crisis comes, and we can be sure that they will come at some point in our life, we should cry out to God.  But we must be sure to do so with righteous hearts.  Then He will hear and answer, either fulfilling our hoped-for request, or providing a different solution.  Because God is omniscient, loving, and sovereign, we can fully trust that He will answer us in our best interests.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Actions And Consequences

Joshua 7 

Sometimes what seems like such a small and seemingly insignificant event in reality is very important, and its consequences can be far-reaching, affecting many lives and situations.  Very often when someone thinks that what they do won’t matter or make any difference, they are sadly mistaken.  In our Scripture today from the Book of Joshua, we will read how the wrongful actions of one man brought devastating consequences, not just for himself and his family, but also for the whole nation.

In the previous chapters of the Book of Joshua, we read of the great defeat of the city of Jericho at the hands of the Israelites.  Prior to the conquest of Jericho, God had given the people a very specific command.  They were not to take any of the treasures from the city for themselves, as God had declared them cursed (Joshua 6:17-19).  What things of value in Jericho were to be given to the Lord.  That would be like a symbolic first-fruits offering, giving to God the treasures of the first city conquered in the Promised Land.  After that, all treasures from subsequent conquered cities could be theirs.

As our passage opens in chapter 7, Joshua sent a few men to spy out the next city to conquer, which was Ai, just to the east of Bethel.  They came back with the report that Ai was smaller, and would not need the whole army to conquer it.  However, the smaller army of the Israelites were whipped, and had to flee in defeat, with 36 soldiers being killed (vs. 2-5).

What went wrong?  God had instructed the people to enter the Promised Land and take possession of it, promising them victory over the pagan nations.  Now, right at the start, they were fleeing in defeat.  Joshua was puzzled and he fell on his face, tearing his clothes, and praying to God for answers (vs. 6-9).  God quickly responded, telling him that the nation had sinned, disobeying His commands.  He told Joshua to find the sin and root it out from among the people (vs. 10-15).  Through prayer, it was revealed to Joshua that the man who sinned, who brought defeat upon the people, was Achan (vs. 16-23).

Achan had disobeyed God’s explicit command, as he took some silver, some gold, and an elegant garment in Jericho.  He was indifferent to the evil and idolatry of the city of Jericho.  He underestimated God, and didn’t take His commands seriously.  There were four steps in the progress of Achan’s sin.  First he saw the items.  Then he coveted them.  He desired to possess them despite God’s command.  Then he took them, in direct disobedience to God.  Finally he concealed them, thinking no one would know and it would be undetected.  Achan was wrong.  This was also the same path David took when he sinned with Bathsheba, and the path of many of our sins.

No sin is insignificant.  Because of Achan’s sin, men died, men who had nothing to do with him.  The army and people were now filled with fear.  Joshua was questioning God.  The effects of his sin was felt by the entire nation.  Our actions affect more people than just ourselves.  Our sin has consequences.  God cannot allow sin to go unchecked.  He is not content with our doing what is right some of the time.  He wants us to do what is right all of the time.

Because of Achan’s sin, God had threatened to withdraw His presence (vs. 12), so Achan and his family had to be destroyed.  Some might read this and recoil, thinking God was being too harsh.  However it was not God who was being harsh.  It was Satan and sin that was harsh.  Satan steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10).  God had plainly and clearly given instructions not to take anything from Jericho.  To disobey this was to do so in the face of God, with defiance and arrogance.  God’s holiness is not to be trifled with!

It is most likely that Achan’s family knew what he had done, yet they did nothing to stop him, to get him to give it up, or to report the grave sin.  At this time the Israelites lived in one room tents.  They all would have seen him bury it, yet they kept silent.  They were accomplices with this sin.  Many people died because of Achan and his family, so now they would die.

In reading the account in this Scripture we need to see that victories that should be ours can quickly turn to defeats if we disobey God’s instructions.  It is time to get the sin out that is hidden in our tents.  God will not bless sin!

Friday, March 25, 2022

No Christian Karma

Luke 13:1-9

Every once in a while when a tragedy occurs we hear someone say that this came upon the victims because they were getting judgment for their sins or behavior.  Perhaps we have even been guilty of thoughts like that.  In our Scripture from Luke’s Gospel this week we read when the Lord Jesus addresses such thinking.  Let’s look at what He has to say, and what we need to learn from His message.

As our Scripture passage opens, some people have told Jesus about two incidents where a number of people had died (vs. 1-5).  One was when Pontius Pilate, (the Roman Governor of Judea under Emperor Tiberius Caesar from around 26 - 37 AD.), who had several Galileans killed for some unspecified infraction of their laws.  The other was when 18 people were killed in Jerusalem when the tower of Siloam fell, crushing them to death.  It was a common belief among Jewish people back then, and among some people even today, that when something bad happened to someone, whether resulting in death, injury, or illness, that it was because they were sinners.  They believed God was judging them because they were terrible sinners.  They believed that if one was in good health, and never had any accidents, then God loved them and was blessing them.

Jesus was quick to correct these people in their thinking that those who were put to death by Pilate, and those who were victims of the tower falling were worse sinners than anyone else.  Disasters are a part of the brokenness of this world.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes happen, and people are frequently victims.  Auto accidents, airplane accidents, fires, and diseases happen, too.  They have since the fall of Adam, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the victims are worse sinners than those who are spared.  The victims of tragedies are not necessarily recipients of Divine judgment.  Whether a person dies in a tragic accident or miraculously survives is not a measure of righteousness.

Sometimes sin is clearly linked to a problem, such as when an alcoholic has an accident while drunk, or a promiscuous teen gets pregnant.  However, we should not judge people when there is no clear link.  A man will reap what he sows (Galatians 6:7-8), but God doesn’t promise that justice will always be here on earth (II Thessalonians 1:6-7), and He doesn’t promise a carefree life to the righteous (John 16:33).  There is no “Christian Karma”.  Don’t mix Christianity with Hinduism!

Jesus warned here, though, that this doesn’t mean the people who survive a disaster are without sin.  Jesus clearly warned that there is a coming day of judgment for everyone, and we need to be prepared for that day.  Instead of judging and blaming others, everyone should look to their own day of judgment.  Because we live in a dangerous world where tragedies occur without warning, we must always be ready to meet the Lord God (Hebrews 9:27).  All of us need the Savior, and need to be saved.

Jesus continued on by telling a parable about a barren fig tree (vs. 6-9).  The owner of the fruitless tree wanted to chop it down, but his gardener said to wait one more year.  The fig tree represents those who have brought forth no fruit at all for the Lord.  The parable shows the Lord’s forbearance, but also His eventual severity on those who continue to remain fruitless.

Outward appearances don’t necessarily indicate authentic faith.  The fig tree looked good from a distance, but had no fruit.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the crowds cheered.  Yet just a few days later those same crowds were calling for His death.  Our faithfulness matters greatly to God, but only when it’s the genuine article, the Fruit of the Spirit, which is produced when we abide in Him.  Jesus warned His listeners that God would not tolerate forever a lack of productivity.  We need to begin to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom.

Let’s take heed of the warnings the Lord Jesus gives us here.  First, we should not be quick to judge others when some tragedy happens, whether it is God’s judgment or not.  It is not for us to judge.  Secondly, Jesus warns us to be looking to our own life and be ready, for judgment will come one day for each of us.  And lastly Jesus tells us we need to be bearing fruit for God in our life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Learning From The Example Of Others

I Corinthians 10:1-13

There is a saying, believed to have been said by Winston Churchill, that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  If we don’t learn from our own mistakes or the mistakes of others, we are likely to repeat them.  This is why military leaders study the battles and military maneuvers from past wars.  Often sports coaches have their players watch and study recordings of previous games to learn from mistakes they made.  And parents try to guide their children so that they won’t make the same mistakes in life that they did.  In our Scripture today from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he shared that one of the things that we are to learn from Biblical accounts is to not to make the same mistake that the people of the past did.

As our Scripture opens, Paul discusses the account of the people of Israel while they journeyed through the wilderness, enroute to the Promised Land.  As we read through the Old Testament books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy we see how the people repeatedly sinned against the Lord God as they worshiped false pagan gods, complained about their food and provisions, and rebelled against Moses and their leaders.  The Israelites misused their newly-achieved freedom, fell into idolatry, immorality, and rebelliousness, thus disqualifying themselves from receiving the Lord’s blessings.  Now Paul was warning the Corinthians that they needed to take a good look at this example, and not fall into the same sins that the Israelites did (vs. 6).

The Israelites died in the wilderness because of their failure for self-discipline, and indulgence of their every desire.  Four major sins characterized them:  idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, and complaining.  There were several specific events that Paul brought up that we need to take notice of and learn from (vs. 7-10).  The first is when the people made the golden calf and worshiped it (Exodus 32:1-28).  The next is when they worshiped Baal of Peor, and then engaged in sexual immorality with Moabite women (Numbers 25:1-9).  The third was when they complained about the food that the Lord miraculously provided them with, and put God to the test (Numbers 21:5-6).  Lastly, Paul gives as an example when they complained against Moses and Aaron, and God judged them with a plague (Numbers 14:2, 36; 16:41-50).  In each case the people were tempted, and they failed by yielding to the temptations, and were thus judged.

There are several things we can learn about temptation here.  First, temptation deceives us.  It offers one thing, but delivers another.  The bait on the hook looks good, that is, until we take it.  Then, when we give in to temptation, it increases sinful desires.  We become tempted by more, and have the potential to give in again and again.  Christians are free to say no to temptation.  We don’t have to give in.  Lastly, our past doesn’t have to define our future.  Just because we failed doesn’t mean we have to again.

Paul warns those who are over-confident, and think that they would never fall into sin like the Israelites did, or like the people they love to point the finger at (vs. 12).  It is easy to look at someone else who has fallen into sin and think that this would never happen to us.  Yet it easily can!

Lastly, we come to verse 13, one that many people like to quote.  People often use this verse to refer to suffering and sorrow.  However, the context of this verse is temptation, not suffering.  God always provides a way for us to choose to follow, in order to get out from falling into temptation.  We don’t always have a way out of suffering that comes our way.  In those times, when suffering is great, we need to throw ourselves on God’s mercy, and He will hold us.

God will not allow us to be tempted to sin above our ability to withstand.  He will show us a way out as we run to Him.  Every day God shields us from the devastating onslaughts of Satan that would otherwise leave us defeated.  When temptation hits, He makes a way for us to escape.  We need to identify what lures us to sin, and then run from things and situations we know are wrong.  Wrong desires and temptations happen to everyone.  Others have resisted temptation, and so can we.  God will help us resist it.

When warnings are given, whether a coming tornado warning, or warnings of sharks in the water, we need to listen.  Those who ignore the warnings are likely to pay the consequences.  Paul tells us the Bible is filled with warnings to avoid the temptations that brought down people in the past.  Remember these lessons, so we can avoid repeating their errors.  There is a coming Day of Judgment.  God warns us, and we need to heed His Word!


Monday, March 21, 2022

Mercy And Forgiveness

Psalm 103:1-14 

We all need to find forgiveness, both from the Lord God and from our fellow man.  There are times when some people feel that their sins are so numerous or so abhorrent that they cannot be forgiven.  And there are some people, whether currently alive or already deceased, that we might feel are too sinful, or whose sins we consider far too terrible to be forgiven.  Today’s psalm describes many of the blessings that the Lord bestows upon us, two of them being His mercy and forgiveness.  Let’s take a closer look.

Psalm 103 is one of my top three or four favorite psalms.  Written by King David, this psalm enumerates God’s many blessings.  David opens with a call to bless and praise God because He brings us forgiveness, healing, and redemption.   He also recounts that the Lord is merciful, slow to anger, and gracious.  When we are feeling overwhelmed with our sins, feeling that God could not possibly forgive us, feeling that we can’t forgive ourselves for what we may have done, we can look into Psalm 103 to see how loving, forgiving, and merciful the Lord is to His children.

Though King David has been called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), there were some times when he fell into serious sin.  We remember when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then after she became pregnant, he ordered her husband Uriah to be killed in battle so he could marry her, in order to cover up his sin.  He certainly needed the Lord’s forgiveness, and he found it.  He knew first-hand how merciful and forgiving the Lord is.  David could truthfully say that the Lord forgives all of our iniquities when we come to Him in confession and repentance (vs. 3).  He doesn’t just forgive the “little sins”, such as when we grumble to our family members, or get aggravated with the neighbor when they act like a dimwit.  He will forgive us all our sins.  And we need to remember, that if someone, no matter how terrible a sinner they are, comes to God, calling upon Him for salvation, He will forgive them all of their sins, as well.  No one is too great a sinner for God to never forgive them when they call upon Him.

In verse 6 we read that the Lord will bring justice to those who are oppressed.  Sometimes we can be oppressed by a harsh government or a harsh boss.  There are times, though, when our oppressor is the devil, the enemy of our souls. He can bring oppression to us in many ways, frequently through our mind.  One way he uses is by making us feel as if our sins are not forgiven, that we have too many sins, or our sins are too grievous to ever be forgiven.  Then when we begin to go down that path, we may start to feel that we are not truly saved, and that we are not one of God’s children.  That is one of Satan’s favorite tools which he uses against believers, particularly spiritually young believers.  God can deliver those who are oppressed by the devil.  He has done so through our faith in Him, and by what He has done for us at the Cross (Acts 10:38).

God is also slow to anger (vs. 8).  Too many of us are so quick to anger and to take offense by what others say or do.  We dole out our forgiveness very sparingly, and only when we feel like it, when we feel the other has “paid enough” for their transgressions.  Far too few people ever show mercy to others.  Yet that is not the case with the Lord.  David knew he could find mercy and forgiveness from the Lord.  He saw that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy.

God’s mercy abounds, as David found.  He knew that if he got what he deserved, he would probably be dead, as the punishment in the Law of Moses for both adultery and murder was the death penalty.  Yet God did not give him what he deserved (vs. 10).  Where would we be if we got what we deserved for our sins?  One thing is for sure is that we wouldn’t be given a place in heaven!  However, when we call upon the Lord Jesus, accepting His death for our sins and taking Him for our Savior, He has mercy on us, mercy that is higher than the heavens above us (vs. 11).

Once God forgives us of our sins, they are gone forever.  Scripture says that God removes them from us, as far as the east is from the west (vs. 12).  Just as one cannot bring the east and west together, so our sins will not be brought back to us once God forgives.  We may say we forgive someone for their transgressions against us, but frequently we bring them up again, reminding them of this or that which they did to us.  God will never do that to us.  They are as far away as the east is from the west.

Finally, in our passage today, David describes God as a most loving Father, who pities His children (vs. 13-14).  Good parents have compassion on their young children, realizing their weaknesses, immaturity, and ignorance.  God is better than any human parent, and He remembers that we are human, that we were created from the dust, and as a parent, He teaches us with patience, love, and mercy.

Knowing God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, we can say with King David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name”.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Do You See Your Burning Bush?

Exodus 3:1-15 

Our Scripture reading today, for the Third Sunday of Lent, tells the account of when the Lord commissioned Moses into His service, to, next to the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest callings recorded in the Bible.  What was Moses’ response?  Did he eagerly jump into the calling that the Lord gives him, or did he shy away?  And as we look into our Scripture, let us consider whether we are open to the Lord’s calling of ourselves into His service, whatever that may be for us.  He has something for each of us to do for His Kingdom, most not as spectacular as Moses or Paul, but an assignment He calls us to do.  Are we alert and eager to hear Him?

Moses, who had grown up the pampered adopted son of a Pharaoh’s daughter, had to flee the country.  Now, many years later, he was a humble shepherd in Midian, caring for his father-in-law’s sheep.  As our Scripture passage opens, Moses was caring for the sheep near Mt. Horeb (also known as Sinai), and he observed a bush that is on fire (vs. 1-3).  As he observed this, Moses noticed that the bush didn't burn up.  This was a miraculous event.  After having been a shepherd for 40 years, if this was anything natural, he would not have taken any special notice.  But Moses did, as it had attracted his notice and curiosity.

As Moses came closer, the Lord God called to him from the burning bush (vs. 4-6).  He told Moses to remove his sandals, as this was holy ground.  God was present there, thus the place was sacred and holy.  Wherever God is, that place is holy.  And it is holy only as long as God is there.  At God’s command, Moses removed his sandals and covered his face.  Taking off his shoes was an act of reverence, conveying his own unworthiness before God. God is our friend, but He is also our sovereign Lord.  To approach Him frivolously shows a lack of respect and sincerity.

The Lord proceeded to tell Moses that He was fully aware of the oppression that His people were going through in Egypt, and that He had plans to deliver them from their slavery (vs. 7-10).  He told Moses that He wanted him to go back into Egypt as His spokesman before Pharaoh, and lead the people out.  God knows what His children are going through.  He is not an oblivious and uncaring God.  He knew then, and He knows now what each and every one of us are going through.  God hears our cries, and sees our troubles.  In His sovereign way, He moves to deliver us from our oppressors, but He does His work in His time, not ours.

When Moses heard this statement from the Lord God, he immediately answered that he couldn’t do that.  Who was he to go to Pharaoh and demand the release of the slaves?  He told God he couldn’t do it (vs. 11).  Moses felt inadequate and alone.  Yet God reassured him that He would be with him, and would give him all the strength, wisdom, and power to do what He asked (vs. 12).  Moses didn’t need to worry, as God would be with him every step of the way.

Has God called you to do a work for Him, but you don’t feel adequate?  Perhaps the task seems way too big for us to do, and we don't know what to do.  We are qualified to do God’s work, not because of our own ability, but because God is with us.  We never have to do God’s work in our own strength, and He won’t ask us to do anything that He will not enable us to carry out.  God will equip us to do whatever He asks.

When asked what His Name was, God responded by saying “I AM WHO I AM” (vs. 14).  I AM - a Name describing God’s eternal power and unchangeable character.  We can find stability and security in our unchangeable God.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  This Name for God points to His self-existence and eternality.  He is the same God throughout the ages.  He will always be who He has always been.  He will forever be who He is now.  He never changes.  When Jesus spoke in John 8:58, He called Himself by the Name I AM, declaring that He, indeed, is God.

In closing we need to ask ourselves whether we are paying attention to the “burning bushes” God is setting before us?  Are we willing to step up to the task He has for us to do?  Even if it seems daunting to us now, we can be reassured that just as God was with Moses, He will be with us.  It didn’t matter who Moses was, or whether or not he had ability.  It matters who God is.  He is not a little “g” god.  He is the Great I AM!

Friday, March 18, 2022

Sorry, I Never Knew You

Luke 13:22-30 

A young man had bragged to his friends that he knew a famous actor, that they were friends, and that because of that they could go backstage following the show.  However, when they tried to go backstage, the actor said he didn’t know him, and thus they were turned away backstage.  The young man’s brief encounter a few years back when he had seen the actor on the street, called out his name, and the actor had turned to look his way, did not count as knowing the actor, did not constitute friendship with him.  His bragging and his pride got him turned away at the door, with a “Sorry, I don’t know you.”  In our Gospel passage for today we will read of another time, a much more important time, when we will not want to hear those words said to us.

As our Scripture from the Gospel of Luke opens, someone comes to Jesus and asks a question, whether a lot of people will be saved or not.  The Savior’s response is not a simple yes there will be, or no, only a few.  His response intended to make the person, and all who were listening, seriously consider whether they, personally, would be among those who were saved and would enter heaven.  Actually Jesus had given an answer earlier, in the Sermon on the Mount, where He said that the way of true salvation is so narrow that few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).  This contradicts the popular belief today that, except for possibly a few really notorious sinners, everyone is saved and goes to heaven.

There is a popular saying that there are many roads that lead to heaven.  Again, this is something that the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, contradicts as wrong.  As our Scripture here, and in other places state, there is only one way, one road, that will bring anyone to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ.  People may protest that it is being exclusive, and they don’t want to accept that.  God is not being exclusive of anyone.  He is very inclusive.  Jesus offers salvation to everyone, and would never turn anyone away who puts their faith in Him (Romans 10:9-13).  However, Jesus is the only door to heaven, and the only way to know the Father (John 10:7; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  It is not that God refuses people, it is rather that people refuse God, or at least God’s way.  People try to enter in another way, other than through the Cross, however there is no other way.

Finding and entering the narrow gate is difficult because of pride, one’s natural love for sin, and the world’s opposition to the Bible’s truth (vs. 24).  We cannot work to get saved.  The only effort that we need to put forth to enter the narrow gate is to earnestly desire to know Jesus, believing that He died on the Cross for our sins.  It is important that we should never put that decision off, for the door will not stay open forever!

On Judgment Day many will protest that they deserve entrance into heaven (vs. 25-27).  However because no relationship ever existed between them and God’s Son, Jesus Christ, no entrance will be given.  They had deluded themselves into thinking they knew the Owner of the house, that they knew the Savior, but there was no true relationship, thus no entrance.

Although many people know something about God, only a few have acknowledged their sins and accepted His forgiveness.  Just listening to Jesus’ words and admiring His miracles is not enough.  We must turn from sin and trust in God to save us.

Some people who are despised now will be greatly honored later when in heaven (vs. 30).  In the same regard, some people who are influential and popular now will be left outside the gate come Judgment Day.  The people great in God’s eyes are often ignored by the world, whereas many that the world honors will be turned away at heaven.  There are some people we thought would be in heaven that won’t be there, and some people we were so sure wouldn’t be in heaven, but yet they are there.

In closing, we read of the cries of people, calling out for the Lord to open the door for them (vs. 25).  This prayer could have been answered at any time before death.  However, after death it is too late.  It cannot be answered then.  They were religious, but lost.  There will be many who make a claim of being Christian, but never truly accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.  The answer will be “Sorry, I never knew you.  Depart from Me forever more.”  What about you?  Are you going to be among the saved?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Who Are Our Examples?

Philippians 3:17-4:1 

Many Christians have a fellow believer that they really look up to as someone whose strong faith and godly life they admire, and would seek to model.  I knew someone whose faith and walk with the Lord was something I wanted to strive to be like.  They have since gone home to be with the Lord, but if I could be half the Christian they were, that would be something.  In our Scripture for today the Apostle Paul instructs the Philippian church to be careful of who they follow the example of.  Let’s look into our passage to see what we can learn.

As our Scripture begins, the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that they should be careful of who they are following the example of, and gives himself for an example to follow (vs. 17).  Paul didn’t believe that he was perfect.  None of us are.  However, Paul knew that each day he strived and focused to follow Jesus in his own life, and to obey His Word.  Paul was a model for pursuing the goal of Christ-likeness.  Having a godly example to copy is very helpful for us to grow as a believer, and lead a better life.

As Paul continues, he warns the Philippians, though, that not everyone is good to set up as an example to follow (vs. 18-19).  As Paul warns, there are some people who are enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ.  Some of them were right there in the church congregation in Philippi.  The same is true today, as there are enemies of the Cross of Jesus in many of our churches, too.

Who are these people that Paul is warning that we should be on the lookout to avoid?  They are people who claim to be Christians, but don’t live up to His model, and don’t even make any attempt to.  They seek to satisfy their own desires, as Paul describes in verse 19.  They are dangerous false teachers, who pose as followers of Jesus, but do not truly follow His Word.  Instead they follow their own desires.

How can we recognize these enemies of the cross?  Jesus’ death on the Cross brought salvation to man.  Those who scorn the Cross, making little of Jesus’ Holy Blood.  These say, or act as if there is no need for the death of Jesus on the Cross, that His death was not necessary, and that everyone will be going to heaven.  In their minds the Cross and His precious Blood are unnecessary, and they are thus an enemy of the Cross.  There are also those who continue to trust in their own works or in human wisdom to save them, those who deny the transforming power of the Gospel.  All of the best efforts of those who are trusting in themselves, their efforts and accomplishments, are no better than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6; Philippians 3:7-8).  The Cross of Jesus exposes us for who we really are - hopeless, helpless sinners in need of a Savior.

There are those who claim to be followers of Jesus, but whose worldly, hedonistic lifestyle corrupts them.  These are also the enemies of the Cross.  They are controlled by their earthly nature, worshiping sensual desires.  Their mind is on earthly things, rather than heavenly.  Paul states that instead of bragging and glorying in what they believe and how they live, their lifestyle should be their shame.  He warns that unless they truly put their faith in the Lord Jesus their end will be destruction.

Paul continues on, stating that our focus should be on heaven, where our true citizenship is, and where Jesus will return from (vs. 20-21).  Our heart and life should not be drawn to things here on earth, but instead in heaven, where our citizenship and home truly is, where God dwells, where Jesus is present, and where our names are registered (Luke 10:20).  When Jesus returns, He has promised to give us a new body, which will be like the one Jesus has following His resurrection (vs. 21).

As Paul concludes our Scripture passage he calls the believers of Philippi his joy and crown (vs. 4:1). Paul didn’t derive his joy and pleasure in circumstances or possessions, but rather in the people he had won to the Lord, and in those he instructed and encouraged in the Lord.  The people that we lead to the Lord will also bring a crown of rejoicing for us.

Paul also urges the true believers and followers of Jesus to stand firm in Him.  The way to stand firm is to keep our eyes on Christ, remembering that this world is not our home, and to focus on the fact that Jesus will bring everything under His control.   We need to depend fully on Jesus to keep us moving forward in order to finish the race well.  He will take us through all of the challenges we face, and lead us home.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Light For Dark Days

Psalm 27 

In the last several years, the world has become a darker and much scarier place to live.  Wars, diseases, street violence in most major cities, desperate financial hardship for many as prices of necessities skyrocket.  When we were little, we might not have thought that grown-ups could be afraid, but now we know how false that thinking is.  Our psalm for this week, Psalm 27, is one of my favorite psalms.  The author, David, was someone who had good reason to be afraid, as he spent several years as a young adult running for his life while King Saul unjustly tried to kill him.  He also fought in the military, both as soldier, and later as king, against the enemies of the Israelites.  Later David’s own son, Absalom, raised an army against him, and tried to depose him as king.  David had good reason to be afraid, but he also knew where to turn when afraid, which is what this psalm is all about.  Let’s learn David’s secret for when fear strikes us, as it likely will at some point in our life.

As our psalm opens up, David reveals where he turns to in those dark days.  It may be figuratively dark right now with so many fearsome things happening in the world and in our own personal lives.  We are afraid.  However David, who knew many dark days, said that he had light and nothing to be afraid of.  The Lord God was his light and his strength, and with Him he had no need for fear (vs. 1).

When enemies, whether literal or figurative ones, come surrounding us, just as if they would eat us up, God can handle them.  With Him as our protector, they will stumble and fall (vs. 2).  We can be confident and fearless, even though an army, again literal or figurative, comes against us (vs. 3).  In times of darkness Jesus will be our light, and illuminate the way (John 8:12; 12:46).  He has promised that He will never leave or forsake those who have called upon Him as Savior.  In the midst of darkness and despair, we can know that God is our light.  Knowing that He is the stronghold of our life can make us feel protected, embraced, and loved.

We can conquer fear by using the light of the Lord, who brings salvation.  There is no darkness at all in God (I John 1:5).  His light will dispel the darkness of fear.  When we’re walking in the power of God’s Spirit we don’t need to fear anything.  Those who desire to live in God’s presence each day will be able to enjoy that relationship forever (vs. 4).  God’s perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).  We are secure because God’s perfect love protects us, no matter what our circumstances may be.

However, some may wonder why their circumstances have not changed, even though they have turned to the Lord and brought their urgent needs and fears to the Lord in prayer.  What is wrong?  Doesn’t God care about me?  At the end of our psalm David instructs us that we need to wait on the Lord (vs. 14).  Sometimes we feel that God has let us down because He doesn’t provide an immediate answer to our prayers.  Waiting on God requires faith in Him.  Walking by faith means trusting in God, even without knowing when or how He will resolve the situation.  We must submit to the Lord, knowing there is nothing we can do except rest in Him.

Waiting for the Lord requires patience, and takes courage.  Waiting can transform us into a people of growing faith.  When we become frustrated with God’s apparent delay in answering our prayer, it is good to remember that He is interested in developing faith and perseverance in our character.  Waiting for God is not easy, but He is worth waiting for.  God calls us to hope in and wait for Him because He will use the waiting to refresh, renew, and teach us.

God always comes through for those who wait on Him.  If we hold fast to His hand, knowing that He loves us, we have no reason to fear.  Although circumstances change, God’s promises do not.  Stand on the rock of His promises, and take shelter under His wings until the storm passes.  Our God is the biggest, strongest, and most loving Father in the universe!  We can rest on His round the clock care of every area of our life.  We don’t need to fear any circumstance.  Instead of saying, “God, I have a big problem!” we can say, “Problem, I have a big God!”  Because God is near, I need not fear!

Saturday, March 12, 2022

The Faith Of Abraham

Genesis 15:1-6

Abraham is one of the most revered men in history, and Christianity certainly holds this Old Testament figure in great regard.  Why is Abraham so revered?  He didn’t lead a nation out of captivity, such as Moses did.  He didn’t command armies, like Joshua or David.  Nor was he one of the great prophets.  As we look into our Scripture for today, we will see why God’s Word holds Abraham up as a figure honored by God, and to be modeled in our own lives.

When we are first introduced to Abraham in the Bible, (called Abram at this time), he was living in the city of Ur, the great city of the ancient Sumerians, along with his wife, father, and siblings, when they left there to move north and west, to the city of Haran (Genesis 11:26-32).  When he was 75 years old, God called him to take his wife and nephew Lot, and leave Haran, promising to make a great nation from him (Genesis 12:1-5).  What makes God’s promise special is that at his age, Abram and his wife Sarah have no children.  She was about ten years younger than Abram, and having been married now for many years, was obviously barren.  Now, several chapters later in the Bible, where our Scripture today begins, several years have passed, and Abram still has no children.  Right then, the heir to his fortune would be his chief and most trusted servant, Eliezer of Damascus (vs. 2-3).

God, though, has greater plans for Abram than that.  God renews His promise to him, telling him that his servant Eliezer will not be his heir, but that He will give him a child, and that eventually his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (vs. 4-5).  That would seem to be an impossibility.  Abram at this time was in his mid-eighties, and Sarah in her mid-seventies.  Not too many men at that age have children, and women at that age can’t bear children.  Yet, what was Abram’s response to this renewal of God’s promise to him?  He did not scoff.  He did not doubt in his heart.  Our key verse here says that Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness (vs. 6).

Abram believed God, and because of that belief, he was saved.  Because of that belief, God counted it to him for righteousness, not because of any great works that he did.  It was faith that saved Abram, not works.  Abram’s belief in God is an illustration of faith over and against works.  Abram was justified by faith.  He believed God’s Word and promise.  This is one of the Bible’s great examples of justification by faith.  Abram was saved by grace through faith, not by any works he did, or by who he was.  There is no other way of salvation given anywhere in the Bible.

Although Abram had been demonstrating his faith through his actions, such as leaving his extended family home and livelihood in Haran, and following where God would lead him, not knowing ahead of time where he was going (Hebrews 11:8), it was not his actions that saved him.  It was his belief in the Lord, not his actions, that made Abram right with God.  Outward actions will not, by themselves, make us right with God.  Abram’s saving relationship with God is based on faith.  Right actions will follow naturally as by-products.

What makes Abram’s faith even more special is that he did not have the Bible, nor any Scriptures that he could turn to in order to help boost his faith.  None of the Bible had been written down yet, nor would it be for several hundred more years.  He could not turn to anyone in his extended family, such as a parent or sibling to encourage his faith, either, as they were not believers.  The city where he was born, Ur, was renowned for the worship of the moon god Nanna, of the ancient Sumerians.  Other than his wife, Sarah, and nephew Lot, he was alone in his belief of the one true God, Yahweh.

Yahweh was Abram’s Divine Protector, his Shield, and Great Reward (vs. 1).  Even when he did not see how God could fulfill His promise to him regarding an heir, he trusted the Lord anyway.  He looked beyond what he could see to what God could see.  Abram did not need to be afraid.  God promised to defend him as his Shield, and be his reward or blessing.

Friday, March 11, 2022

When We Face Temptation

 Luke 4:1-13

Have you ever thought that God just doesn’t understand what you are going through?  How could He, you think? He's all-powerful, up there in heaven, and doesn’t understand the trials and problems we go through each day, nor how easy it is to slip up with the temptations we are bombarded with.  As we read today’s Scripture from the Gospel of Luke, we will read that Jesus faced similar trials that we do, and was also relentlessly tempted by the devil.  As we look into and study the temptation of Jesus, we can learn some ways to help us when we are going through our own times of testing.

Most of us would want to be victorious when we face temptation, and not fall victim to the lures and tricks of Satan.  As the Bible records, Jesus was tempted just as we are (Hebrews 4:15).  The difference is that He did not give in to the temptations, and did not sin.  Our Scripture passage gives us some ways that we can imitate the Savior in order to also have victory when we are tempted.

As our Scripture opens, we read that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit when He went into the wilderness for a time of prayer with God, which also ended up being a time of severe temptations (vs. 1).  It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can have any victory over the temptations of Satan.  He is a very wily and evil foe, and we, on our own and in our own power, are no match against him.  We need to remain filled with the Spirit, and in close, obedient fellowship with God through prayer to win over temptation.

When Satan came to Jesus, tempting Him in various ways, Jesus responded, not with His own arguments, but with quoting Scripture verses.  He used the Bible, which is our only weapon of offense in the spiritual armor that God has given us (Ephesians 6:13-18).  The Bible, God’s Word, is the sword that He has given us, and Jesus used it effectively to fight off the temptations of Satan.  We need to keep that weapon always sharpened.

Jesus was alone, fasting, and ready to start His ministry when His temptations came.  Satan likes to tempt us when we are vulnerable, when we’re hungry, sick, tired, or preparing for an important ministry.  When Satan struck, he tried to get Jesus to make selfish choices, instead of submitting to God’s plans.  We should question decisions that place more emphasis on our personal desires, rather than God’s will.

As mentioned, Jesus used the Bible to combat Satan.  The Savior accepted and recognized the divine authority of the Bible, as God’s very Words.  With each attack from the devil, Jesus answered him with Scripture.  It’s not enough to just quote the Bible, though.  We must believe, obey, and live it, as Jesus did.

As Jesus used the Scriptures against Satan, the devil thought he would try the same, and he quoted a verse back at Jesus (vs. 9-11).  However, Satan misused Scripture, and didn’t even quote the verses correctly.  We need to be aware that Scripture verses can be twisted, and the devil will use people to twist them to try and mean anything he wants them to use it for.  The more we study and know the Bible, the easier it will be to see when Satan and his minions try to misuse it.

Satan doesn’t attack us in the same way all the time.  Just as with Jesus, he looks for opportune times, such as when we feel weak, as Jesus did while fasting many days and he tempted him with turning stones into bread (vs. 3).  He appeals to our pride (vs. 5-7).  And he makes us question whether we can trust God and His care for us (vs. 9-11).

When Satan entices us to indulge in the pleasures of the world in a way that disobeys God’s commands, we must remember that he is not doing so because he cares that we are missing out on some “fun” or a “good time”.  Satan hates mankind.  He wants to capture and control us.  Never forget that when you follow Satan you walk right into a trap.  Don’t get lackadaisical about temptation.  It always strikes us at our weakest point and weakest moments.  Just as Jesus did, stay filled with the Holy Spirit, stay in daily prayer, and pick up our sword, the Word of God when Satan brings his temptations.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Confess And Believe

Romans 10:8-13

Imagine if you had been offered a very valuable gift, and you had to figure out how to receive that gift, but you were never told what to do.  You tried to figure out how to receive it, but you never figured it out, and thus, you lost out.  That wouldn’t seem very fair, would it?  We have been offered the most wonderful and valuable gift there ever was, that of salvation, of spending eternity in heaven with God.  There are some people that say we can never know for sure whether we will go to heaven, and that there is no way of knowing exactly how we can receive salvation, but that is not true.  As we read today’s Scripture from the Book of Romans, we will see that God told us very plainly what we must do in order to receive His gift of salvation.  Let’s see what the Scripture says here.

As we begin our passage, we read very plainly that God has clearly revealed the way of salvation (vs. 8).  It is by faith.  The message of faith is the way to God.  It is not by making a pilgrimage, not by fasting a certain number of days.  It is not by crawling on our hands and knees to a certain holy site, or even reading through the Bible a certain number of times.  It is by coming to God through faith.

One of the most important verses in the whole Bible for anyone to know is right here in verse 9.  “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Salvation can only come through faith in Jesus Christ.  We confess it with our mouth to put our faith into action, and to affirm that we are accountable to Jesus.

This is not just a simple acknowledgment that Jesus is God.  Even Satan and the demons acknowledge that to be true (James 2:19).  This confession is a deep, personal belief and conviction, without reservation, that Jesus is one’s own Savior from sin.    We believe in our heart that Jesus has triumphed over death.  We confess that Jesus is the Lord of Glory, and the Savior of mankind, and that He died on the Cross that we might be saved.

We also believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus Christ’s resurrection was the supreme validation of His ministry.  Belief in the resurrection is necessary for salvation because it proved that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It also showed that God the Father accepted the sacrifice of Jesus in place of sinners.

What we read in these verses of our Scripture passage is not just saying some magic words, some special, magical formula.  The mouth testifies of the grace of God in Christ, which we have received in our hearts by faith (vs. 10).  We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts, and that His sacrifice of Himself atoned for all sin.

We can trust that God will keep His side of this agreement (vs. 11).  Those who call on Him will be saved.  God will never fail to provide righteousness to those who believe.  The quote from verse 11 is a reference to Isaiah 28:16 and Isaiah 49:23.  This shows that salvation by grace through faith has always been God’s plan.  No one, including Gentiles, was ever to be excluded (vs. 12).

Verse 13 is a quote from the Prophet Joel in Joel 2:32.  Salvation is available for people of all nations and races.  It is open to every person, regardless of who they are, or what they have done.  The promise is to whoever puts their faith in Christ will be saved and have eternal life.  It is guaranteed to whoever.  God will never reject anyone who calls upon His Son.  However, you have to call upon Jesus as your Savior.  Those who don’t will not be saved.

Salvation is as close as our mouth and heart.  It is not a complicated process.  If we believe in our hearts, and say with our mouths that Jesus is the risen Lord, we will be saved.

Monday, March 7, 2022

God, Our Shelter And Refuge

Psalm 91

Life seems to be becoming increasingly more difficult, and even perilous for many.  War in various parts of the world, a pandemic recently raging across the globe.  In many big cities, street gangs have taken over neighborhoods, with innocent people getting shot in their battles with one another.  Prices of food and other necessities have risen, while our salaries remain low.  Problems on every side.  What can we do?  Where can we turn?  Our psalm for this week, Psalm 91, is one that many Christians have turned to when danger and fear surround them.  It is one that we can turn to for comfort and assurance of the Lord’s protection during these difficult days.

As our unknown psalmist begins, he addresses God as “Most High” (vs. 1).  This is a good title to remember when in the midst of peril.  God is most high above all.  There is nothing greater and nothing stronger than He is.  Circumstances may overwhelm us, but they cannot overwhelm Him.  No threat can ever overpower God.  All through this psalm we read of the Lord’s protection and care from a multitude of threats.  In order to be eligible for His protection, though, we must dwell in God’s secret place (vs. 1).  We must be in a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus, and abiding with Him (John 15:4-10).

As we read through this psalm, we see various types of danger that we can face, and how the Lord will deliver us.  In verse 3 some of our problems are compared to being caught in a snare.  Like a bird which is entrapped by the hunter, God will protect us from plots intended to endanger us.  We read in verses 3, 6, and 10 of the perilous pestilence, which is a disease, a plague, or as the whole planet has faced, an epidemic.  Yes, multiple thousands around the world died, but since you are reading this, the Lord preserved you.  This psalm has often been called “the soldier’s psalm”, as it speaks of the Lord’s protection when in battle.  We read of arrows (or today, bullets and missiles) flying by, along with the destruction of war (vs. 5-6).

We do not need to fear when we are trusting Jesus for protection.  He will protect us from all deadly attacks.  God does not promise us a world free from danger, as we see throughout this psalm that troubles do come to the author, but God does promise His help whenever we face danger.  Deliverance still has to be the will of God.  Even if harm should come, we can still be secure (Luke 21:16-18; Romans 8:28, 35).  When we are in the presence of the Lord, dwelling in His secret place, we have nothing to fear.  The power of the presence of God will take away all despair and doubt as we fellowship with Him.

As we trust in the Lord Jesus, our faith will prevail while others fall.  Millions are being destroyed by the powers of darkness, but the believer who puts his trust in God is promised that “it shall not come near you” (vs. 7-8).  The results of living without God are very obvious.  Believers, though, have no need to fear.  God’s faithfulness wraps around us (vs. 2).  We are surrounded by God’s bulwark, His fortress.

As our psalm reminds us, God is a shelter and a refuge when we are afraid of the dangerous circumstances we sometimes find ourselves surrounded by in this fearful world we live in today.  We, like the psalmist can have faith that God, as our Protector, will carry us through all the dangers and fears of life.  We need to trade our fears for faith in Jesus, no matter how intense our fears are.

If we are anxious, worried, or struggling with our terrors of the night, remember in Whom we dwell - God and His Word.  God has not forgotten to be gracious to us, nor to hold back His tender mercies.  Give your struggles over to Him, and find refuge and comfort under His wings.  Stand firmly on His Word, His promises, and His strength.  We can trust in the Cross, the Blood, the Name, and the Promises of the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Remember The Blessings

 Deuteronomy 26:1-11

It seems to be almost human nature to forget about the blessings we have received throughout life when we are going through a difficult time.  For some people, they even forget to be grateful and thankful when things are going well for them.  To be a grateful and thankful person is something that we should always be cultivating in our hearts and personality, whether in good times or bad.  This was also something that Moses wanted to remind the people of Israel as they entered into the Promised Land.  He knew that he wasn’t going to be with the people much longer, and he wanted them to be a people who were always grateful and thankful to the Lord, as we read in our Scripture for this first Sunday in Lent.

As our Scripture passage opens, Moses instructed the people that after they have come into the Promised Land, settled it, built their houses, planted and harvested their first crops, they were to bring a portion of the first fruits of the harvest to the Lord as an offering.  By giving an offering to the Lord, it helps us develop a grateful and thankful heart, one that acknowledges that all we have comes from Him.  Giving an offering also helps to cultivate an unselfish nature, keeping us from hoarding all that we have for ourselves.

There are some who say that, though they intend to give an offering to the Lord, they want to wait a bit, until they are sure that they have enough stored up for themselves first.  They want to wait until they have a sure harvest stored up in their barn, a sure enough cushion in their bank account.  However, God instructed His children to bring of the first fruits, not wait until the second or third harvest.  This teaches us to trust Him for future provisions.  When we get our first paycheck, He wants us to give an offering from that, and not wait until a later time when we feel we are financially more stable.

Moses continued his instruction by telling the people that when they brought their offering of the first fruits, they were to remember back on how the Lord God brought their ancestors through all of their trials and difficulties, and kept His promise to give them the land they are now on.  They were to recall how He brought Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through many difficulties, kept them safe, and provided for their needs.  They were to remember how the Lord kept His promise to Abraham by giving him a son, and brought forth from one elderly man a great nation.  God wanted the people to remember how they were slaves to the Egyptians for many generations, and then how He delivered them from bondage.  They were to remember how He brought them through years in the wilderness, providing for them, and then brought them to the land they were now in.

Why was this important?  Why rehearse “ancient history”?  Remembering God’s provisions and care of His children is important, whether it is how He provided for us yesterday, a year ago, ten years ago, or how He provided for our great-grandparents a hundred years ago.  It helps to build our faith and trust in Him.  If we see how God provided for us and others in the past, we can trust that He will do so today and in the future.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).   His provisions of the past are an indication to us that He will do so again today and tomorrow.

It is good for us to know that what God has done for others, He will also do for us.  He has no favorites (Romans 2:11).  God provided for the people in the Bible, and as we look around, we see how He provides for others, as well.  We can trust that He will also take care of all of our needs.  Just as the Israelites needed to remember what God had done for them after they came into the land, so do we.  A good faith exercise is to remember before the Lord all that He has done for us since we first came to faith in Him.  Remember all of His protection, health blessings, and provisions that He has bestowed upon us.

Rejoicing in God is one way to draw closer to Him.  We should always be ready to glorify Him for what He does for us!