Monday, May 30, 2022

The Order of Melchizedek

Psalm 110

Our psalm for this week, one composed by David, is the most quoted psalm in all of the New Testament.  It is a psalm that Jesus used to confound the Pharisees when they kept trying to catch Him in His Words.  Peter used it when preaching his first sermon on the day of Pentecost.  And the author of the Book of Hebrews also quoted and made references to this psalm.  Let’s take a look at it.

David is the author of our psalm, which is one of several Messianic psalms, speaking about and prophesying about Jesus.  As David composed the first verse, we see the word “lord” twice, yet they have different applications.  The first word LORD is in all capital letters.  When we read the Bible and see the word LORD in all capitals it is because the writer is referring to Yahweh, the personal Name of God.  The writers thought the Name was too sacred to write down, so they used LORD.  The second word “lord” in this verse only has the first letter “L” capitalized.  That is indicating that it is the Hebrew word “Adonai”, which means “master”, similar to feudal times when people had lords over them which they did service and homage to.

As David wrote, the LORD (Yahweh) was speaking to David’s Lord, someone who was master and lord over David (vs. 1).   Yet he was the king of Israel.  How could there be anyone over him?  The Messiah was often termed “Son of David”, as He was a descendent of David’s.  Yet here the Son of David and Messiah was referred to as the Lord and Master over David.  David was subservient to Him, and this showed that the Messiah was Divine.  No one, not even a king as great as David was, is above the Messiah.  Jesus quoted this verse to demonstrate that He, the Messiah, was both the Son of David and David’s Lord, and thus Divine (Matthew 22:41-46).

As the psalm continues, we read that the Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek (vs. 4).  Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness”, and he was mentioned very briefly in Genesis 14:18-20.  There he was described as both a king of Salem (believed to be ancient Jerusalem), and also priest of the Most High God.  The name Salem also means peace, so Melchizedek could be said to be a king of peace.  As such, he meets Abraham as the patriarch returned from a battle, and the king and priest blessed him.  The Messiah would also be both a king and priest.  No mention is ever made about Melchizedek’s background or genealogy, no recorded beginning or end, thus resembling the eternal Son of God, and an archetype of the Savior.

Melchizedek was superior to Abraham.  He blessed Abraham, not the other way around, as the greater blesses the lesser.  Abraham also paid him tithes.  Jesus, the Messiah, is called in our psalm a priest in the order of Melchizedek, and thus superior to all priests who came before.  Melchizedek was a priest long before Aaron and his descendants from the tribe of Levi, which were given the role of priest in Israel.  Jesus, in His human incarnation, was born from the tribe of Judah, not from the tribe of Levi.  However, He is our perfect, eternal High Priest, according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:5-7; 7:11-28).  In ancient Israel no one held the office of both king and priest simultaneously.  However, that title would be given to Jesus.  He is both king and high priest.  Jesus is the King of Righteousness and King of Peace.  Melchizedek had no successor, and neither does Jesus.  Jesus has an unchangeable priesthood.

After the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached his first sermon to the crowds of people in Jerusalem that day.  At this time the Apostle used this psalm to show that Jesus is the Messiah, that He is seated at God’s right hand, and is Lord over all (Acts 2:32-35).

As we read in the closing verses of our psalm, and also in the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 2:2-4), we see that Jesus will be exalted over the nations of the world.  Jesus will be the only ruler, and He will rule in righteousness, holiness, and judgment.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Bringing Something Good From Something Bad

Acts 16:16-34

When something bad happens in our life, when some terrible event takes place, possibly very unexpectedly, what do we do?  Do we collapse in fear, or in anger, or even in defeat?  Do we believe that God can take a very bad situation and bring something good out of it?  In our Scripture passage for today from the Book of Acts, we will read about an event in the life of Paul and his missionary companion Silas that could have been cause for much anger, depression, and possibly fear.  Instead we see praise to God, and how He turned that event into something good.

As our account begins, Paul and Silas were in the city of Philippi, their first major stop on their first missionary trip into Greece, bringing the Gospel for the first time into Europe.  On the first Sabbath in the city, the pair had spoken to some people by the river, and succeeded in bringing several people to the Lord.  As we read, the two men were walking through the city, and a girl who was possessed with an evil spirit started following them, crying out that they had a message from the Most High God (vs. 16-18).  This girl was a medium in contact with demons, who could supposedly predict the future. Her crying out continued on for several days, and was disturbing to both Paul and Silas.  Though what the girl said was true, as they were proclaiming God’s message of salvation, Paul wanted her to stop speaking out.  He did not want to appear to be linking the Gospel with demon-related activities.  This would damage his message about Christ.  Truth and evil do not mix!

Paul finally put a stop to this, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the Name of Jesus, he commanded the evil spirit to come out of her.  However, this caused the slave girl’s owners to become enraged, and they dragged them to the authorities, making false charges (vs. 18-21).  The authorities didn’t bother to check the truth of the matter, and instead had them flogged and put into prison (vs. 22-24).  They did not investigate the charges, conduct a proper hearing, or give Paul and Silas a chance to defend themselves, which Roman law required.  For them to be beaten was illegal, since they had not been convicted of any charges, and it was especially illegal since Paul was a Roman citizen.

The two were chained in a prison.  Things were looking rather down and discouraging for them.  With corrupt officials, what was their chance of getting released?  They were in a lot of pain from the beating, and without any medical attention their wounds could become infected in the filthy prison, and fever could come.  Many strong, healthy men were known to have died from the brutal floggings in that time.  Do we hear Paul and Silas cursing the authorities for their unjust treatment?  Do we hear them complaining to God, asking why He allowed this to happen when they were doing His work?  Do we hear whining and crying?

Despite their terrible situation, Paul and Silas spent their time in the prison praising God, praying, and singing hymns! (vs. 25).  They didn’t do this quietly and secretly, as all the other prisoners listened to them, including the prison guard, and thus the seeds of the Gospel were planted in their hearts.  Paul and Silas did not complain or focus solely on their circumstances.  Their hearts were set on the Living God.  They knew He would faithfully deliver them.  They knew He was worthy of praise.

Their praise of God in the worst of circumstances brought about a miracle deliverance for the pair (vs. 26).  God sent an earthquake which shook loose their shackles and opened the prison doors.  When we bring praise to God, we open the way for Him to work good into our situation.

Not only were the two released from prison, but something even greater happened, and that was the salvation of the jailer, along with his family (vs. 29-34).  That night, rather than listening to the usual cursing and complaining, this jailer had heard prayer, praising, and hymn singing!  That so impressed him that he came asking how he, too, could be saved!  Because of their testimony, the jailor and his whole family were saved.  The offer of salvation was not only to the jailer, but also his family.  However, each member of his family had to come to saving faith in Jesus on their own, and praise the Lord, they did!  I am sure that Paul and Silas felt that the salvation of several souls was well worth a beating and a night in jail!

Paul and Silas may have been in a physical prison, but they weren’t in prison in their hearts.  Instead, they chose to praise God for who He is, in spite of the circumstances.  God then moved in power on their behalf.  Keep giving thanks!  God is big enough to deliver us from our circumstances, and to do a great work through us.  We never know who might be observing us in our trials, watching how we react and what we say.  Our praise through our struggles might just lead someone to turn to Jesus, just as the jailor did.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Looking For Peace

John 14:23-29

If there is one thing that most people in the world could wish for, peace would certainly be on their list.  We all seek peace in our lives and the world.  We hope and pray for it, but rarely seem to find it.  In our Scripture today we see that there are several points that Jesus makes, one of them being a promise of bringing peace to His followers.  Let’s take a look at that promise, along with another point that Jesus makes in this passage.

I will begin with the first statement Jesus made in our Scripture passage, which we find in verses 23-24.  Here, Jesus stated that if someone claims to love Him, to love God, they will keep His Word, they will be obedient to what He says.  Plainly speaking, we cannot claim to love the Lord God, yet disobey what He has said in His Word, the Bible.  Jesus put the words “obey” and “love” together here.  Many people will readily claim that they love God.  They may go to church and gladly sing “Oh, How I Love Jesus”, but when they leave church they make no attempt to obey the Bible.  Words are meaningless without actions to back them up.  Our obedience to God is proof that we love Him.  If obedience to the Word of God is absent, then genuine love for Him is absent, as well.

We might protest that obeying God is too hard, that we slip up, make mistakes, and fail all too often, and that is true.  None of us can obey God every day without failing now and again.  We can’t do it in our own power.  However, as Jesus continued on, He promised us that He would send the Holy Spirit to be our Helper (vs. 25-26).  He promised that the Holy Spirit would come to believers, and would teach us from God’s Word.  He would bring to our remembrance every thing that His Word had said, as in our own power we can’t remember everything written in the Bible.  When Satan comes to tempt us into sin, then we need to pray to God, and the Holy Spirit will give us verses from the Scripture that we can claim and use as a sword to fight back against the tempter’s wiles.

As we continue on in our passage, Jesus proclaimed a very special promise to His followers, which was that He promised to give us His peace (vs. 27).  People desperately crying out for peace.  Where can we find real peace?  This world has never known a time when there wasn’t a war going on somewhere.  The hippies and “flower children” of the 1960’s never found it.  Nor those who chose drugs.  Obtaining wealth and power won’t give us peace.  Only when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives will we discover true peace.

The peace that the Bible is talking about here is not the absence of armed conflict, but is instead a divine sense of spiritual well-being that stands against our natural fears and anxieties which we face on a daily basis.  With Jesus, we can have peace within ourselves no matter what is happening in the world around us.  With God’s peace we can be in a state of tranquility or quiet even though there are anxious times and circumstances all around us.  It is a peace of heart, mind, and soul.  We know that no matter what happens, we are in the care of Jesus.

Everyone who has accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior has peace with God.  This was made possible through the shed Blood of Jesus.  However, not every believer has the peace of God, as we see in so many believers who suffer with worry and anxiety all through their life.  We can have this peace, though, as Jesus promised it to us here as part of our inheritance.  He doesn’t want us to struggle and work at obtaining this peace through our own efforts, which will only fail.  Instead, we are to rest in Jesus and the peace He alone can bring, focusing on Him and His faithfulness.

When we rest in Jesus, casting all of our cares and worries upon Him, we can have that peace.  It will keep us from fear and worry, because it brings us straight to Him, and teaches us to depend on Him in everything we face.  No matter what our circumstance is, Jesus will sustain us, strengthen us, and enable us to walk through it victoriously.  No matter what we are going through, God promises to give us peace at all times and in every situation.

When we look around at people, we see fear and anxiety in them, but it is not necessary, if they would only turn to Jesus.  When we feel fear or uncertainty, we need to stand on God’s promises that we find in His Word.  The promise of the Peace of God will heal our troubled heart, and take away all fear.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:22-22:5

In one of my favorite childhood movies, The Wizard of Oz, one grand scene is when Dorothy and her companions enter the Emerald City.  As a rather young child when I watched the movie, the Emerald City seemed like a most spectacular place.  The characters in the movie were all happy, thinking that their desires would now be met.  Yet, the excitement and glory of that place is nothing in comparison to what we see here in our Scripture passage today from the Book of Revelation.

As we open our Scripture today, we read what the Apostle John wrote as he was given a vision of the New Jerusalem, God’s eternal city in heaven.  Here he describes just a bit of the glory of this heavenly city.  Some of you may have had the opportunity to visit some of the great cities around the world, yet they each had some faults.  Many of them have crime in some parts of the city.  If you stray away from the typical tourist areas, you may find the slums and dirtier parts that the tourist boards don’t want you to see.  However, in the New Jerusalem you will not find any place like that.  Let’s take a closer look at what we will find as we read from the final chapters of the Bible.

First, John tells us that there is no Temple in the New Jerusalem (vs. 22).  That is because God Himself will be the temple in which everything exists.  The presence of God literally fills the new heaven and new earth.  For believers who are welcomed into the New Jerusalem, it will be like entering the limitless presence of the Lord.

As we read in verse 23, and later in verse 5, we see that there is no need for the sun or moon for any light.  We might wonder how that could be, and where would light come from.  Genesis 1:3 tells us there was light before the sun and stars were created and existed, which we read of in Genesis 1:16.  The Apostle John tells us in I John 1:5 that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  Believers will enjoy the Lord’s pure light in heaven because He will be with us forever.

The gates of the New Jerusalem will never need to be shut (vs. 25).  In the past, city gates would be closed at sunset to protect the residents from criminals and bandits on the outside.  In this heavenly, eternal city there will be no such people.  There will be no night, which frequently in the Scriptures symbolized wickedness and evil.

There is a river which flows through the heavenly city.  Unlike many rivers here on earth, which most of us would never consider drinking from, this river is pure, and clear as crystal (vs. 1).  The source of this river is from the throne of God and the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is called the water of life.  The water of life is a symbol of eternal life, which comes to us only through Jesus (John 4:7-14).

John further tells us that there is no more curse (vs. 3).  The curse on humanity and on earth came as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.  That curse is now completely finished.  God will never have to judge sin again since it will not exist in the new heaven and new earth.  In addition, in the New Jerusalem we will see God’s Face (vs. 4).  Here on earth no human could see God’s Face and live (Exodus 33:20-23).  However, the residents of heaven can look on God’s Face without harm, because they, too, are now holy.

Not everyone will be allowed into the New Jerusalem.  Only those whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life (vs. 27).  Seeing how wonderful the heavenly city will be, especially compared with the mess this world has become, most people will say that is where they want to be.  They want to get their name on that list, but might wonder how.  The only way to have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life is to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.  One’s background, personality, or good works will not grant entrance into the New Jerusalem, and will not get your name in that Book.  Just acknowledge that you are a sinner, and nothing you can ever do will cleanse those sins.  Only the Blood of Jesus, shed on the Cross for your sins, can do that.  His sinless life and sacrificial death paid that price. Personally accept what He did for you, and call upon Him to save you.  Then your name will be added in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and you can one day join the redeemed in the New Jerusalem.

Monday, May 23, 2022

God's Face Shining Upon Us

Psalm 67

Think back to your childhood or youth.  Did you ever have a day when you were a bit apprehensive about facing either your parents, or perhaps a teacher?  Before you walked into the room, you were anxious as to whether they would be upset about any particular matter, or whether they were in a good mood.  How happy and relieved you were when you saw your parents or teacher’s smiling face!   You could now relax, as everything was just fine!  In our brief psalm for today the author is looking for a smile from God.  Let’s see what His Word has to say to us.

We can tell a lot about someone’s mood by the look on their face.  As I opened this message with, if we walk in and see a smile upon our parents, a teacher, or a boss’s face, we know things are fine.  However, we’d better be careful if we see a scowl or worse!   In former days, when a citizen would approach the king with their petition, they were careful to check the look on the king’s face.  If he was smiling, it was safe to approach.  It was said that the king’s face would shine upon his people.  If not, they’d better quickly leave.

Our psalmist is praying that God would shine His face upon His people (vs. 1).  When we know that God’s face would be shining upon us, we know that His blessings will follow.  He is looking towards us and looking on us with favor.  However, for those who would not see a shining face, they might expect judgment and His wrath (Psalm 34:16).  They are those who do evil.

How can we ensure that the Lord’s face would shine upon us?  The first thing is to have accepted God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior.  Our sins have separated us from God, but Jesus came and bridged the gap, making atonement for our sins with His Blood on the Cross.  When we accept Jesus as Savior, we receive His righteousness as our own, and thus God sees that on our account, not our own sinful nature.  We can enter His presence through the Blood of His Son, and we can expect that God will shine His face upon us.

For those who refuse His Son, who spurn and reject the Lord Jesus and the sacrifice He made, they cannot ever expect that God’s face will shine upon them.  It is true that we are all sinners.  However, God sent His Son Jesus to pay that sin-price, if only we will accept Him.  For those who don’t, who refuse Jesus, they are saying in effect that the Blood Jesus shed is of no worth, that it didn’t matter, that they can be accepted by God through some other way, whether it is through good works, some other religious figure, or some other religious path.  Their thinking is wrong!  There can only be judgment and wrath for those who would spurn the precious Blood of Jesus.

As our psalm continues, the psalmist urges God’s people to sing forth His praises.  There is always so much to be thankful and praise God for, particularly that we can have His face shining upon us, and that He has brought salvation to us and to people everywhere (vs. 2).   We also can praise Him because we can have His mercy and His blessings.  (vs. 1, 6-7).  We can approach Him with confidence, bringing our prayers to His throne.  He may not always answer our prayers exactly the way we might want, but when we know that His face is shining upon us, we know that He will work everything out for our good (Romans 8:28).

The psalmist testifies that when God answers our prayers, other people, particularly the unsaved, will see (vs. 2).  They will hear of God's ways, and of His salvation.  They will be drawn to Him.  They will hear of God’s work and will praise Him (vs. 3-5).  His face will especially shine upon those who tell others about the Lord Jesus, making His ways and His salvation known to all nations.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Years The Locusts Ate

Joel 2:21-27

A wasted life, one that has been squandered and misused in sin and depravity, is a sad thing.  However, there is rejoicing if that man or woman turns around and cleans their life up, repents and turns to God.  When the years and the sin have been extensive, can there be any hope that God can use this person?  Can there be hope for any joy for this person, or is it too late for them?  Our Scripture today from the prophet Joel can give us an answer.

The prophet Joel was an earlier prophet in the history of Judah, preaching sometime between the 9th - 8th century BC.  Earlier in the prophecies of his short book, Joel had spoken about locusts, caterpillars, and other insects being sent by God to destroy the people’s crops as a punishment for their sins.  Many people today are not too familiar with plagues of locusts.  We tend to think of them as something scary out of the Old Testament, and fortunately the great swarms that occurred back then are very rare today.  The desert locust is a grasshopper-like insect, which bands together with millions of others and causes mass destruction of crops.  They have been known to have swarms of almost 400,000,000 locusts per square mile.  They can travel close to 100 miles per day, destroying every green plant in their path.  Today they are mainly found only in eastern Africa and parts of southwest Asia.  They are only mentioned a few times in the Bible, once being the well-known plague of locusts in Egypt at the time of Moses, another time being here in Joel, and then just a few other times.  Everyone knew, though, that when the locusts would come, all the crops were sure to be destroyed, and famine might likely follow.  It was a terrifying time.  It would be like a scene out of a horror movie, and I would never want to encounter that!

God used plagues of locusts to get the attention of people, and here in the time of the prophet Joel, He was doing just that.  The people of Judah had fallen into grave sin, had turned their back on the Lord, and had cast His Word behind them.  Due to that, He sent locusts, caterpillars, and other crop-eating insects as we read in Joel 1:4-7.  Because the people were not walking faithfully with the Lord, He sent a plague of locusts as judgment.  Joel warned the people to fear the coming of God’s judgment on sin.  Despite his, and many other godly and faithful prophets and preachers’ warnings, the people continued in sin, and so judgment came.

Judgment on sin is not just limited to the days of the Old Testament.  God still judges sin today.  When we continue in a sinful activity or lifestyle, the day will come when we must face judgment, and the price of sin is steep.  If someone repents and returns to the Lord, He will graciously forgive and accept the errant person.  However, there is a ravaged life, just like the ravaged land after the locusts have moved on.  What then?  Can and will God restore that?

As we read in our Scripture today, Joel promises the people that if they return to the Lord, He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten (vs. 25).  When we repent we will be able to rejoice.  As Joel preached, during the years of sin there was famine or loss, plagues and judgments of God, and mourning.  However, God promises repayment of that destruction if we will repent, ask God for mercy, and follow Him.  Now, if we truly repent, there can be feasting, harvests, and praise.  God’s blessings are promised only to those who sincerely and consistently follow Him (vs. 26-27).  There can still be hope for our future, just like there was for the people of Judah.

The Lord is not absent during dark seasons, even dark seasons brought on by our own sins.  He is always present, and always mindful of us.  If we seek Him with humble hearts, He will bestow His blessings; blessings so wonderful they will cover the darkness of the years that the locust has eaten away.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Love One Another

John 13:31-35

Family traits are sometimes easy to spot.  He looks like an Anderson, she talks like a Jones.  Sometimes they will have similar interests and hobbies, similar ways in responding to different circumstances.  Sometimes it is easy to spot members of different fraternal organizations or other groups.  You might hear someone say that they could tell that a certain young man had been a Boy Scout when he was younger just by the way he acts.  How about telling if one is a Christian or not?  Can others determine that you are a Christian just by being around you, without you having to say anything?  In our Gospel reading for today Jesus said that there is a way others can tell if we are His disciples or not.  Let’s take a look.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus and His disciples are in the Upper Room.  Jesus had a short time earlier washed His disciples feet.  And though not specifically recorded in the Gospel of John, the Last Supper had probably just finished.  In the opening verses of our passage John says that “he had gone out” (vs. 31).  This refers to the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.  He left the group to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious authorities.  What Jesus had to say in the next verses and several chapters was for believers, not for the unsaved.

Now that the Betrayer was gone, Jesus began a discourse for the remaining disciples that John recorded in the remainder of Chapter 13 through the end of Chapter 17.  Jesus first spoke about how He was now going to be glorified (vs. 31-32).  What did Jesus mean here, as within the next few hours He was going to be betrayed, arrested, beaten and flogged, and then crucified?  How was that being glorified?  Jesus was, indeed, referring to His coming death, burial, and resurrection, which would occur in a matter of a few hours.  We might not consider Jesus’ death and burial as glorifying.  Yet it was through this that God’s immense love and mercy were shown, when Jesus’ shed Blood redeemed mankind from their sins, and made us sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father.  Jesus glorified God in His death, and God glorified Him in His resurrection.

Parents are generally proud when their children are good and obedient to them.  They are especially so when it might be something difficult that they had to do.  Jesus glorified God, too, by His perfect obedience to the Father.  And because of that obedience, God was pleased to glorify His Son.

Jesus then proceeded to tell His disciples about a new commandment that He was giving them (vs. 34-35).  This commandment was that His believers and followers are to love one another.  This command to love one another went beyond anything said in the Old Testament. This was to be a sacrificial love, modeled after Jesus’ love for us.  This type of love can only come through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

We are told here that the Lord wants us to love one another, our fellow believers, just as He loves us.  How did Jesus love us?  He loved us so much that while we were still sinners, before we might have changed our life around, He died for us (Romans 5:8).  Do we love our fellow believers, even when they have wronged us, even before they confess or apologize, and try to make it right?  If we are going to love them just as Jesus did, then we need to.  Yet too often, what do we see in church?  Mrs. Smith won’t talk to Mrs. Jones over something petty.  Harry and Bill nearly come to blows in the parking lot over something equally as petty.  Churches split apart over ridiculous reasons.

Our love for other believers should be evident to the world.  In words and deeds, a believer should show love to all those around.  Do they see that in us, or do they see bickering, fighting, and jealousy?  A Christian’s love for others should be obvious.  As followers of Christ, our love should make us stand out in a crowd.  The method Jesus gave us to preach His message to the world is through love.  The world does not know we are His disciples through all the many church programs we are involved in.  It is, as Jesus says here, through our love for one another.

Jesus loved us unto death.  In loving one another, we are loving Him.  In loving our believing brothers and sisters, we are loving the objects of His tender love.  Jesus was a living example of God’s love, just as we are to be living examples of Jesus’ love.  Our Christ-like love will show the lost world that we are His disciples.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Special Wedding

Revelation 19:1, 4-9

Weddings are generally a happy and joyous time for both the wedding party and the guests.  The public enjoys watching some of the big, spectacular weddings of the day.  Perhaps some of you watched the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in April of 2011, and most of us have been to at least one wedding of a friend, family member, or acquaintance.  One thing in common with most weddings is the beauty of the wedding gown.  Every bride wants to look special on her wedding day, and to find something wrong with the dress would be a disaster.  In our Scripture reading today from the Book of Revelation we read about the most notable wedding in all history, and what the bride is wearing.

The Apostle John continues describing the visions he has been granted of end-time events.  As our passage begins, John hears a large crowd break forth in praise to God (vs. 1).  These declarations of God’s glory usher in His return to earth at the end of the Tribulation period, and the final events recorded in the Book of Revelation.  Everyone in heaven is present, singing praises to the Lord, both small and great.  In heaven there is no class or status distinction that separates groups as we have here on earth, including when we meet to worship (vs. 5).  We frequently separate our churches by nationality, ethnic, or racial groups, and even among those groups, people further separate by wealth or status.  However, in heaven there will be no such separations.  John saw here that the small and great were together in worship.  In God’s sight they are both equal.

As we continue reading our Scripture passage, we see that praise is being given to God for the marriage of the Lamb.  The Lamb, of course, is the Lamb of God, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 1:29).  Jesus is called the Lamb of God because, just as lambs were used as sacrificial animals in the Old Testament, Jesus Himself was sacrificed on the cross to take away the sin of the world.

Who could possibly be the Bride for Jesus, the Lamb, the Son of God?  Could there be anyone worthy of such an honor?  The Bride of Christ is the Church, which we see is referenced in several of St. Paul’s Epistles (II Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27).  The Church, of course, is composed of every true believer, those who have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.  In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus compares the coming of His Kingdom to a wedding for which we must be prepared.

How is the Bride of Christ dressed?  As we read in verse 8, she is dressed in fine linen, clean and bright.  The dress is most likely white, as that would show how clean and bright it is.  As Paul said in Ephesians 5:27, the Church, the Bride, is glorious, holy, without blemish, spot or wrinkle.  Just as a bride today takes meticulous care that her gown is spotless, so too is the Church.  It could not present itself to Jesus having spots and stains of sin.  But how could that be?

As we look at the Church down through the years, we are bound to find many faults.  Some of these faults are serious and grievous, such as sanctioning the killing and abuse of many people over the ages.  Sometimes various factions of the Church have strayed away from sound doctrine.  Over the years the Church and its leaders have had a lust for money and riches.  We also see squabbles and fighting among its members, whether over serious or petty issues.  So how could we see the Church as a Bride dressed in spotless linen being presented to Jesus in verse 8?

John records that the garments the Bride is wearing is the righteous acts of the saints.  Prior to this moment, all believers have gone before the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10) where we are judged and purified.  When we were saved we cast off all of our own “righteousness” which is filled with sin, and put on the righteousness of Jesus, which is sinless.  On our own we have no true righteousness.  When we are saved, God imputes the righteousness of Jesus to our account.  Thus we are able to be holy, and without spot or wrinkle.

As John concludes in verse 9, how blessed are all those who will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb!  I hope to see you there!

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Character Of God

 Psalm 145:1-9

If someone asked you to describe your loved one, what words would you use?  Perhaps you would start with the way they look, such as that he has wavy, light brown hair and blue eyes.  Or you might list some character qualities that they have, such as that she is even-tempered, clever, and helpful.   You also might describe some of their talents, such as how he's handy at fixing things around the house, or that she is a good cook.  He’s a good gardener and she writes interesting mysteries.  Descriptions like these help us to know what another person is like.  How about with God?  What words would you use to describe Him to someone who is not a Christian, words that would set Him apart from pagan or other false gods?

In our psalm for this week, the writer gives a description of some of God’s characteristics, to tell others what Yahweh was like, particularly compared to other pagan gods.  One thing about false, pagan gods and goddesses, is that they do not love or personally care about their worshipers.  They are vindictive and quick to anger.  They are fickle, petty, lustful, and often have many other human-like failings and faults. We see that God is good, righteous, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and merciful (vs. 7-9).  Each of these characteristics show His love for us.

This answers the question of whether God personally cares about us or not.  Sometimes, especially when we are going through any particularly difficult times, we might feel that God doesn’t care about us.  In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to question the goodness of God.  He does that to us today.  Satan tells us that if God really loved us, then why did this or that happen to us.  That is a ploy that he uses to tempt us to turn away from God, to get us to stop loving and worshiping Him.  As we look at God’s characteristics, though, we see that this is not the case.

The psalmist’s description of God that we see here, answers the accusation that Satan tries to put in our minds, and answers the question that we sometimes have when we face hard and grueling problems.  To not love or care for us would go against God’s character.  Our personalities may change a bit over time.  We may have been a hard-nosed stickler for rules when younger, but then having gone through some circumstances in our own life, we become more merciful to others.  Or we may be sweet-natured, but then things happen and unfortunately we turn bitter and shut others out of our life.  That is never the case with God.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  His characteristics will never change or alter.  God has always been, and will always be good, loving, and merciful.

One thing that we can observe when we read through the psalms is that when the authors of the psalms faced some difficulty, they would focus on a particular characteristic of God, and make that characteristic personal for their particular needs right at that time.  When David was fleeing from Saul’s murderous intentions against him, David knew that God cared for him.  David prayed that back to God, claiming His care for himself.  He often even pictured that love and care as a refuge and a fortress in which he could hide himself from the danger that surrounded him (Psalm 31:3).  When Asaph had physical needs, he knew that God owned the cattle upon a thousand hills, and that He would provide for him (Psalm 50:10).  When sorrowful, David knew that God cared so much that He kept all of his tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).

When difficulties arise in our life we need to follow their example and put our focus on God and His sufficiency rather than on the problem.  Meditating on God will give strength and hope.  Match a character quality of the Lord to our dilemma.  If we’re facing danger, meditate on how God is our refuge and fortress, as David did.  If we are mourning a tragedy, meditate on God’s presence and comfort.

All of God’s characteristics are good and loving.  Those who have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, can depend on them for ourselves and our needs.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Run Out Of Town

Acts 13:44-52

The first Scripture reading for this week from the Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer takes us to the Book of Acts.  We pick up with following the Apostle Paul, Barnabas, and their companions as they continue their first missionary journey, bringing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to the people in what is now Turkey.

In just about every village that Paul visited throughout each of his missionary trips, he had a practice that he almost always followed, wherein Paul first searched out a local synagogue while they were in whatever village they stopped in.  On the next Sabbath they would attend the Sabbath services.  As was the usual custom, as a visitor Paul would be invited to speak.  Paul would then proceed to show through the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.

Last week we read about how Paul and his group came to Antioch in what today is west-central Turkey, and preached at their local synagogue.  In today’s passage, the group gathered again a week later at the synagogue, and even larger crowds have come together to hear them preach.  Many people, both Jews and Gentiles, were interested in what they had to say (vs. 44).  This must have been very encouraging for them, as we all like to see success in what we endeavor to do.  They would have been especially heartened, as this was a sign that the Gospel message of salvation was being received by the populace in the city.  Preachers, evangelists, and missionaries all like to see a well-packed church, and that would have been the same for these men.  They had a message to bring, and the more that came to hear, the better.

However, not everyone was glad to see that people were interested in hearing about Jesus being the Messiah.  Many of the Jews the week before had immediately rejected Paul’s teaching that Jesus, who had been crucified and rose again, was the Messiah.  Now they were very disturbed that more people were interested in hearing this message (vs. 45).  Right away they tried to shut Paul and Barnabas up.  They didn’t want more people accepting this message.  Paul’s opponents here didn’t just try to quietly lead Paul away from the speaker’s platform.  Instead, they loudly argued, shouting them down with blasphemies, and opposed them.

So what did Paul and Barnabas do?  Did they say, “Sorry to disturb you.  We’ll quietly leave.” ?  No!  Paul told them that since they were rejecting God’s message, they would now bring it to the Gentiles (vs. 46-48).  This was a fulfillment of a prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, as Paul indicated when he quoted Isaiah 49:6.  In God’s original plan, back in the Old Testament, the Jewish people were to be a light, bringing the truth of Yahweh to the Gentiles.  However, they very rarely did that, thinking that they, alone, were special to God.  They were not supposed to turn the Gentiles away from God’s salvation and blessings.

The Gentiles in the community were overjoyed that Paul and his missionary companions would not reject them.  Unfortunately they had so often been turned away from God by others before, even when they wanted to hear about Him.  That is not what God wanted.  God loves all people, no matter what their nationality or race is.  God has provided eternal life for all who will believe (John 3:15-20; Romans 10:9-10).  Now as the door to the synagogue was closed to them in Antioch, they focused on bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles in the area, and the Word of God spread (vs. 49).  This is what happened repeatedly when Paul preached the Gospel.  He would start out in the synagogue in any village he was in, and usually within a few weeks, though sometimes immediately, they would be cast out.  Then he went to the Gentiles, where he would have much more success in bringing souls to Jesus.

For some reason the Jewish people who had rejected the message of Jesus that Paul brought were not happy to see Gentiles accepting Jesus.  They got many prominent people in the community to stir up trouble and bring persecution against Paul, kicking them out of town (vs. 50-51).  They refused to accept the truth, but didn’t want anyone else to accept it, either.  When confronted by a disturbing truth, people often turn away and refuse to listen.  Paul and Barnabas responded exactly as Jesus had instructed them to do (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5, 10:11), by shaking the dust from their feet, a very dramatic gesture which held strong meaning to the Jews.

When bringing the Gospel to others, we, too, may face opposition, sometimes strong or even violent opposition.  Paul and his companions did not get discouraged.  They turned to others, and when forced out of town, they did not respond with similar hostility.  They responded just as Jesus had said to do, and proceeded on bringing His message to others.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Our Eternal Security

John 10:22-30

On a list of basic human needs, such as air, food, and water, one often finds listed somewhere the need for security, feeling that one is safe from harm, loved and cared for.  Usually such a need is supplied by one’s parents, grandparents, or other care-givers, and later by one’s spouse, and one’s friends.  If children feel that their parents might just walk out and leave them at any moment, and never feel loved and secure, they are likely to grow up with some emotional issues.  Adults who don’t feel secure in their relationships with their spouse or friends can also be emotionally wounded.

There are some Christians who feel spiritually insecure, as well.  They go through their whole Christian lives wondering if God accepts them or not.  They feel maybe He did when they first accepted Jesus, but one mistake later and they feel they are lost again.  Saved and accepted one day, but not the next.  In our Scripture passage today from the Gospel of John, we have God’s assurance of eternal security.  Let’s take a look.

As our Scripture opens, John tells us it is the Feast of Dedication, which is today more commonly known as Hanukkah (vs. 22).  That Jewish holiday celebrates the Israelite victory over the Greek/Syrian leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  In 167 BC he conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the rebuilt Jewish Temple by sacrificing a pig upon the altar.  The Maccabean revolt freed the Temple and the land from his harsh control, which this festival, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates.

Jesus was in Jerusalem for this festival, and while here, the religious leaders gathered around Him, demanding that He let them know whether He was the Messiah or not (vs. 24).  They weren’t seeking clarity and understanding of things Jesus had openly said before.  Instead, they wanted an open and specific opportunity to, in their minds, justly attack Him.  Jesus’ words and actions had indicated who He was, but they did not want to accept Him, because they were not His sheep (vs. 25-26).  They were not His sheep because they did not believe Him or desire to be His sheep.  The decision was theirs, just as it is everyone’s today.

Those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior become one of His sheep.  They have heard the Word of God and responded to it.  As believers we should know the Voice of our Shepherd (vs. 27).  We hear and read it in the Bible.  We hear it in our hearts when we pray and study His Word.  We know it because we are His.

In many different passages throughout the Bible, God portrays Himself as the Divine and Good Shepherd, and His people as His sheep.  This passage is one of the more familiar ones.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who keeps His sheep safe.  As He states most clearly here, no one is able to steal them from God (vs. 27-29).  There is absolute eternal security of saved believers.  Once saved, always saved!  We are eternally secure.  Some people grew up feeling insecure with their parent’s love and care.  Maybe your parents abandoned you, and you were passed around in foster homes.  That isn’t the case with God.  No believer needs ever fear that God will change His mind regarding their salvation.

All believers are utterly safe from any creature that might wish to eternally destroy us, including Satan and all of his minions.  He may try, but God assures us that he can’t.  Sometimes Satan succeeds, though, in making us think that whenever we mess up, we have lost our salvation.  God assures us that no one, including ourselves when we fall into a sin, can snatch us out of His Hand.  Just as a shepherd protects his sheep, Jesus protects His people from eternal harm.  We may go through some difficult times here on earth, but we can rest assured that nothing, and nobody, can take us out of God’s Hands.

Jesus closed out this passage by stating, as the religious leaders had earlier requested, that He and the Father are one (vs. 30).  Jesus and the Father are one in essence and nature.  Jesus is not merely a good teacher, He is God.  Based on Jesus’ assertion, we must make a decision.  Either we believe that He really is God, or we must reject everything He says.  There is no middle ground.  As believers, we know that there is only one God, and that He is three Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We know that everything that Jesus said is absolutely true because He is the Truth (John 14:6).

Are you one of Jesus’ sheep?  Are you a part of His flock?  If you are, you are eternally secure.  You need never fear that His love for you will stop, or that His care for you will ever end.  That may have happened with your parents, your spouse, or your friends, but it will never happen with God!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A Grand Celebration

Revelation 7:9-17

Have you ever been invited to a grand party or celebration, one that is for a very important person?  You want to make sure you are properly attired for such an occasion, as jeans and a tee-shirt just won’t cut it for that!  The excitement rises as all of the company awaits the arrival of the guest of honor.  This is the scene that we read in our Scripture today from the Book of Revelation.  Let’s join in with this scene of praise and glory.

The Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John, recording the visions that the Lord God gave him of end-time events.  Here in Chapter 7 we are given a look at the victory celebration of Jesus.  In the past, returning heroes were greatly lauded with grand ceremonies, including victory parades and other celebrations.  It was always an honor to be invited to such celebrations, particularly if the hero was a prominent person, such as a member of royalty or nobility.  Here the celebration is in honor of the Lord Jesus as He has gained the victory over Satan and the power of sin and death.

As John was given a look at this grand scene, he saw a great multitude gathered.  These are the redeemed, men and women, from every nation, culture, and background.  This shows that salvation is offered to everyone.  All one must do is personally accept the salvation Jesus offers for oneself.

In ancient times, the crowds that lined a victory parade or celebration would often wave palm branches as a sign of honor.  Today people throw confetti, wave glow sticks or sparklers, etc.  At a party celebration one wears their best clothes, especially if the guest of honor is someone prominent.  John sees the crowds here waving palm branches and they are dressed in pure white linen, calling out praise and glory to the Lord Jesus (vs. 9-10).   The pure white linen is symbolic of purity and holiness, that one’s sins have been washed away.  Just as we would be embarrassed and ashamed if we showed up at a party with spots and stains on our clothes, so the redeemed saints cannot have sin-stains on their garments.  We can never be pure and holy in God’s sight on our own.  Our sins can only be washed away with the Blood shed for us by the sinless Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 14).

People try many methods to remove the guilt of sin.  They try good deeds, intellectual pursuits, and religious rituals.  However, salvation comes from God, through the shed Blood of the Lamb of God, His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 10).  Salvation from sin’s penalty can come only through Jesus, not anything that we try to do.  Jesus’ Blood is the only blood which can cleanse us from the terrible stains of sin (I John 1:7).

As John beholds the crowds praising the Lord, dressed in white and waving palm branches, he is told that this particular group are believers who came out of the Great Tribulation (vs. 14).  There will be many who get saved during the great tribulation period.  This multitude did not accept the Gospel before the church was taken up to heaven (I Corinthians 15:51-54; I Thessalonians 4:15-17).  However, during the tribulation period they understood the truth, and received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  They, like us, are saved by trusting Christ and His Blood which He shed for us.  They remained faithful to Him during this time, many even unto death, and God gives them eternal life with Him.

Some people have become convinced that heaven will be boring, like some long, dull worship or church service.  They don’t want to spend eternity waving a palm branch and singing dull songs.  In reality this will be the most spectacular celebration anyone has ever seen!  We will be worshiping and praising our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He did at the Cross, His atoning for all of our sins by giving of Himself in sacrifice.  If someone literally saved your life from a hideously torturous death, wouldn’t you be grateful for them?  If you accepted Jesus as Savior, He redeemed you from hell, and that deserves a celebration!

In closing, John describes some more how wonderful heaven will be (vs. 16-17).  There is no more pain, sorrow, or fear.  There is no more hunger or thirst.  As summer and hot weather are approaching, we know how thirsty we can get.  Here we will have living fountains of water which we can drink from.  God is the source of this living water, which He freely offers through Jesus to all who ask.  And most of all, God promises to wipe away any remnant of tears in our eyes that we have from difficulties here on earth.

Monday, May 9, 2022

The One True God

Psalm 100

Our short psalm for this week, Psalm 100, is one that is a favorite of many people.  It has been the basis for a number of hymns over the years.  It is also frequently recited or sung at Thanksgiving church services in the U.S. and elsewhere.  There are several points that the psalm makes.  Let’s take a look at some of them.

One point that the unknown psalmist wanted to make was that Yahweh, alone, is God (vs. 3).  At this time in the land of Israel and the surrounding countries many pagan gods were worshiped.  Baal and Astarte were some of the myriad of gods and goddesses that the pagan neighbors tempted the Israelites to worship.  The psalmist steadfastly proclaimed that Yahweh is the only God.  We need to know that today, too.  Neither Buddha nor Mohammed, nor any other man-made deity are gods.  Nor is science god, as many have come to believe and act as if that were the case.  Also, we, as humans, are not gods.  Many people act as if they are, as if their will and desires are paramount, and that through the energy of their words or thoughts they can determine everything in their lives.

Proclaiming Who, alone, is God, our psalmist immediately leads into the fact that Yahweh is the Creator of everything - the universe, our planet, and all that is on earth, including ourselves (vs. 3).  We are the product of His hand, not the product of mindless evolution.  We are His people.  God is our Creator.  We did not create ourselves.  He created us, and He gives us all we have.  God is the Shepherd, we are His flock.  He is our Father, we are His children.  He is the Creator, we were formed by His hand.

Continuing on, our psalmist invites us to enter joyfully into God’s presence (vs. 4).  God’s Word reminds us that as believers, redeemed through the Blood of Jesus Christ, we can come boldly to God’s throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  Praising God with thanksgiving will bring us through His gates and into His courts.  Every believer, when coming into the Lord’s presence in prayer, should begin with thanksgiving and praise.  It may not always be easy to wake up and start praising the Lord, but that is what we need to do every day.  If we are going to see God’s glory, thanksgiving is the door that will lead us into His throne room.

What is our attitude towards worship?  Do we willingly and joyfully come into God’s presence, or are we just going through the motions?  We should always be worshiping with thanksgiving and praise.  The Apostle Paul warned us that one of the signs of the last days will be ingratitude, both towards others and especially towards God (II Timothy 3:1-5).  It is vitally important, both for our spirit and our relationship with God, to give thanks.  We need to confess His goodness, praise Him, acknowledge, extol, and thank the Lord.

As our psalmist closes his psalm, he reminds us that the Lord God is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations (vs. 5).  God is good.  He is absolutely perfect, and holy.  He, alone, is the standard of all righteousness.  All He does is just and right.  God does not change.  He will always be good and merciful.  When we are in desperate need of His love and mercy, we do not need to fear that God’s supply has run out.  God’s mercy is everlasting.  Everything else falls by the wayside, while God’s truth marches on, and does so forever.

The more that we are convinced of these truths, the more we will see God’s love for us every day.  Satan tries to depict God as distant, angry, and wrathful.  We can point to Scriptures like this to know that the truth is God is good, loving, and merciful, now and always.  His faithfulness extends to us and beyond.  The gates into the presence of God are always open to us.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Preaching The Gospel

Acts 13:15-16, 26-39 

Last week we studied the Scripture passage from the Book of Acts where Paul, a former enemy of the Lord Jesus, was converted and came to faith in Him as his Savior.  A couple chapters later, Paul left for his first missionary journey to Cyprus, along with his companions Barnabas and John Mark.  After a short, but rather dramatic time of ministry there, they left the island and headed to southern Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), to bring the Gospel message to the people there.  That is where we find them in our Scripture passage today.

Paul and Barnabas didn’t waste any time, and on the first Sabbath they headed to the local synagogue, and when given the opportunity to speak he brought them the Gospel of Jesus (vs. 15-16).  Paul didn’t water down his message to make it more “listener friendly”, appealing to what he felt they might want to hear, something that might make them “feel good”.  Nor was Paul afraid of what their reaction to his message might be.  He had just come from a rather dramatic few weeks in Cyprus, where he and his companions had dealt with opposition from a demonic sorcerer (Acts 13:6-12).  Some might have expected Paul to become a little less controversial, and perhaps tone down his messages so as not to disturb anyone.  However, that was something Paul never did, no matter what type or level of opposition he faced.  He had the salvation message of Jesus to bring to people, and that is what he did.

Most, if not all, of these people in the area of Pamphylia, would have heard very little, if anything, about Jesus.  Also, at this time there was no New Testament, as none of it had been written, so Paul preached from the Old Testament.  Paul was an extremely well-educated man, having studied under one of the greatest Biblical scholars of his day.  Knowing the Scriptures as well as he did, he knew all of the prophecies that pertained to the coming Messiah, and saw how they were all fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

After giving a brief introduction in his sermon (vs. 16-25). Paul focused right in on Jesus, His crucifixion and resurrection.  He tied all that happened to Jesus with predictions from the Old Testament, and how they were fulfilled in Him (vs. 27-29).  The Old Testament predicted that Jesus would be crucified (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 13:6).  Many people were crucified by the Romans at this time, but prophecies of Jesus being crucified were made many hundreds of years prior.  These prophecies were made at a time when crucifixion as a form of execution was not used in Israel.  The burial of Jesus in a tomb (an above ground burial) was also prophesied (Isaiah 53:9).  However, victims of crucifixion in Roman times were generally tossed in mass graves.  They weren’t always given to the family of the deceased.  A wealthy believer in Jesus had given Him the grave he had planned for himself.

Paul continues on with showing how the prophecies of the resurrection were fulfilled in Jesus (vs. 30-37).  David prophesied in Psalm 16:10 that the Holy One would not see corruption when He died.  As we all know, when someone dies, their body eventually starts to corrupt and decay, especially if they have not been embalmed.  Some people claimed that David was referring to himself.  However Paul refuted that by pointing out that David died and that he was buried and his body decayed over the years, just like everyone.  However, Jesus died, was buried, but rose again without His body seeing one bit of corruption.

As Paul concluded his message, he pointed out that the Law of Moses cannot justify, or take away the sins of anyone (vs. 38-39).  In contrast, though, the atoning death of Jesus completely satisfies the demands of God’s Law, making forgiveness of all sins available to all who believe.  That was the message that Paul desired to bring to everyone on each of his numerous missionary trips, and at each place that he stopped on these journeys (I Corinthians 2:2).  He didn’t waste time preaching about social issues, the state of the world at the time, or any other topics.  People were dying without the Savior, and being eternally lost, just as they are today.  They needed to hear about salvation through Jesus, just as they do today.  He knew, as God’s messenger, where his priorities lay and what was important - telling others about Jesus.  Let’s follow in Paul’s footsteps and be sharing the Gospel with those who cross our path, as well.

Friday, May 6, 2022

A Very Special Breakfast

John 21:1-14 

Our Gospel reading from this week’s Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer highlights an event that happened shortly after the resurrection of Jesus.  In it we read how Jesus showed in a very personal way how He continued to love and care for His disciples.  Let’s take a quick look at this Biblical account.

As our passage begins, it is shortly after the Resurrection, and the Apostle Peter and several other of the disciples are together, back in Galilee.  Peter told them that he was going to go fishing (vs. 1-3).  Some people have conjectured that this meant that Peter was going back to his career as a professional fisherman, the job he held before Jesus had called him.  They felt he was discouraged and not knowing what else to do, was going to be a fisherman again.  Honestly, I don’t think so.  If Jesus had not risen, that probably would have been the case, but Peter and the others had seen the risen Savior at least twice now.  Jesus had forgiven Peter, and there was no reason for him to be discouraged now.  I believe that they were now back in Galilee in obedience to the command they had been given to meet Jesus there.  Jesus had told the women at the grave to tell His disciples to meet Him in Galilee (Matthew 28:10, 16).  Peter might have just suggested that as a means to occupy themselves as they awaited Jesus.  They knew that they had been called by the Lord for a special purpose, and now that He had risen, I doubt they would have forsaken that to go back to their former jobs.

The group of seven men fished throughout the night, and as had happened before, they caught nothing.  Unbeknownst to them, Jesus was on the shore, and as morning was dawning, He called out to them, asking if they had caught anything (vs. 3-5).  Hearing that they had caught nothing, Jesus answered that they should cast their nets onto the right side of the boat.  This was very similar to what had happened three years prior, when they first became Jesus’ disciples (Luke 5:1-11).  Just as before, these disciples now pulled in a great catch of fish! (vs. 6).

John recognized it was Jesus, and as soon as Peter heard that, and saw that it was so, he dove into the lake and swam ashore!   Just a few weeks earlier, Peter had fallen to his lowest personal point when he had denied three times that he knew Jesus.  However, the Lord had forgiven him.  Jesus had warned Peter that he would fall, but He also told him that He was praying for him that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:31-32).  Jesus knew that before Peter could be a strong but humble leader, his pride and self-confidence had to be brought low, and his heart broken.  God can also use our failures to make us more effective servants.  Jesus promises us that nothing, and no one, can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39).  When Peter knew that it was Jesus, he wanted to be right there with Him.

When the disciples got to shore they saw that Jesus had made breakfast for them (vs. 9-13).  Preparing a meal for others is one way to show love and care, and here Jesus was, having prepared breakfast for these disciples.  He cared that they had been out all night, and were undoubtedly now tired and hungry, so Jesus showed His love by making sure they would be well-fed when they got to shore.  This was also a way for Jesus to spend some more time with these disciples before He would ascend back up to heaven.  Jesus wanted to take care of them, provide for them, and sit with them a while longer.

Jesus is a God who desires our company, who wants to provide for us, and who loves us.  Jesus is interested in every detail of our lives, even in the commonplace ones like breakfast.  He showed that morning that He would always provide for His followers' needs.  In closing we can remember Paul’s words that God would always supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).  We also can remember Jesus’ own words that just as God provides for the needs of the birds to eat each day, and clothes the flowers in their glorious color and beauty, He will also provide for each and every need of ours (Matthew 6:25-33).

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Ananias and Paul

Acts 9:1-19

Having a task that could very easily be life-threatening is not something anyone would like on their to-do list for the day!  Most of us would probably try to get out of doing that assignment.  What if that task came from God?  Some of us might still try to get out of it.  Others might argue or debate with Him about it.  And some of us might go ahead, with fear and trepidation.  In our Scripture today we will meet a man who was given just such an assignment from the Lord.  Let’s take a look at what that was, and how he handled it.

Ananias was a devout believer in the Lord Jesus, and he lived in the city of Damascus, a city about 135 miles north of Jerusalem.  Other than that, we don’t know much about him, as he is only mentioned in this one chapter in the Book of Acts.  Perhaps Ananias would travel to Jerusalem for the holy days, such as Passover, as it would only have been a few days' journey, and while there heard Jesus speak, and came to believe in Him.

One day Ananias received a message from the Lord, telling him to go to a certain house in the city where a man named Saul of Tarsus was at, and there lay his hands on him and pray, so that his sight would be restored.  Ananias had heard of this man!  Saul’s name had been spoken of among the believers in Damascus with fear, as Saul, a Pharisee, would arrest Christians, and see that they were put to death.  He had done so in Jerusalem, and was coming to Damascus to do the same.  Ananias was naturally fearful and spoke honestly with the Lord about this (vs. 10-14).  The Lord reassured Ananias that this was, indeed, what He wanted him to do, as Saul (later known as Paul) had been chosen by God to spread the Gospel of Jesus to the world (vs. 15-16).  Though probably still somewhat fearful, Ananias trusted the Lord, and immediately obeyed Him, going to where Paul was and prayed for and with him.  Afterwards he assisted while Paul was baptized (vs. 17-18).

A few days earlier Paul had been on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, and see to it that they might be put to death.  Then he met Jesus, who literally knocked him off of his horse (vs. 1-5).  When Paul asked who He was, Jesus told Him, and asked why he was persecuting Him.  There is an inseparable union between Jesus and His followers.  When Paul persecuted the Church, he was persecuting Jesus.

Jesus told him to stop kicking against the goad (vs. 5).  That might seem like an odd thing to say.  Let’s look at what that means.  A goad is a pole, usually made of wood, and is sharp at one end.  Farmers use it to prod cattle.  God had been prodding Paul for a long time.  Being a contemporary of Jesus, and living in Jerusalem at the same time, Paul could easily have heard Jesus preach and teach on occasion.  He could have been among the many Pharisees who confronted Him.

God kept prodding and nudging Paul, but Paul kept resisting.  Fortunately, the Holy Spirit doesn’t give up that easily.  Just like a divine chess game, He worked Paul into a corner where he couldn’t escape, and then God said to him “Checkmate!”  He got Paul exactly where He wanted him so that he would listen.  Praise the Lord that Paul finally yielded to the pricking of God’s goad!

Each of us were once headed in the wrong direction, on our own Damascus Road.  We were in rebellion towards God.  God, though, will do whatever it takes to get our attention.  We need to yield to Him, as Paul finally did.  Paul had been blind, but now he saw the truth.  He was once a persecutor of the Church, but became a preacher and teacher for Jesus.

As for Ananias, thankfully he had a ready and willing heart to obey God!  He was a bit skeptical that Paul was now a believer, but he obeyed anyway.  Sometimes the person we might feel is least likely to become a Christian does just that.  Ananias was an ordinary Christian, just like you and me.  God used him, and his obedience helped to bring one of the greatest of Christians into the fold.  We never hear in the Bible of Ananias again.  He was a humble believer and follower of Jesus who did what God asked, and then went back to his everyday Christian life.