Saturday, July 30, 2022

Under The Sun Or Under The Son

Ecclesiastes 1:12-14, 2:1-23

This week’s Old Testament Scripture comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes, a book of philosophical sayings written by King Solomon, probably later in his life.  Much of the book has a rather dark and discouraging feel to it, and as we look into our passage for today we can see why Solomon was feeling depressed and discouraged.

Solomon was a son of King David, and inherited the throne after his father’s death.  Though a believer in Yahweh, Solomon strayed away from Him for many years, as he allowed the worship of his many foreign wives’ pagan gods, and even participated in their idolatrous worship.  Fortunately it seems that Solomon did return to the Lord much later in life.  While king over all Israel Solomon sought to find happiness, satisfaction, purpose, and meaning in life.  However, everywhere he looked he found emptiness, and nothing that would satisfy him.

As one of the richest men in the world, and a very powerful king during a time of peace in his country, Solomon had time to spend on his own personal pursuits and search for meaning, rather than fighting battles as his father did.  As we read in chapter 2, he sought happiness in many things.  He brought in comedians (vs. 2).  He built many houses, and planted many gardens and orchards with watering pools for them (vs. 4-6).   He filled his many houses with servants and all the trappings of wealth (vs. 7).  Solomon increased his wealth many times over, filling his bank accounts, and acquiring whatever money could buy (vs. 8, 10).   He sought meaning through music (vs. 8), and also through his work (vs. 11).  Solomon even sought happiness and meaning in something many people do, through alcohol (vs. 3), and in physical relationships, as he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:1-3).

Yet in all of these pursuits Solomon found no happiness, satisfaction, or meaning.   As he cried out in despair that it was all vanity, futile, useless, a pursuit of the wind (1:14).  As he repeated many times throughout this book, everything done “under the sun” was useless.  Solomon spent his whole life seeking to find some meaning, some understanding in life, and there is some indication that he might have returned to God by the end of his life (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14).

We don’t need to spend our whole life in pursuit of things that will not satisfy us.  All worldly pursuits, good or bad, will fail to bring lasting satisfaction.  Worldly wisdom and philosophy without God is only folly.  Without God, life can’t help but disappoint.  True wisdom is found in God, and true happiness comes from pleasing Him.

As Solomon knew, the same end will happen to all of us, whether wise or fools, whether rich or poor (vs. 14-16).  All that we so eagerly seek to accumulate in life will only be left to our descendants (vs. 18-19).  As we know, we can’t take it with us when we die, and we all will die.  The only difference is whether we have the Lord Jesus as our Savior.

There are two words in the English language, a pair of homonyms - sun and son. They sound the same in English, but differ in meaning.  Solomon found that everything he sought in life, everything “under the sun” was meaningless.  That is because it was from and of the world.  He needed to look for a life spent under the Son, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The only One who can make life worth living is Jesus Christ.  A life lived for Him, or under the Son, will bring fulfillment, satisfaction and contentment.  Anything done under the sun in this world, other than for God will lead only to despair.

Like the one woman in the crowd following Jesus, just touching the hem of His garment is greater than anything the world has or could ever offer us.  Millions of people around the world do not believe it.  They seek to cure their loneliness, discontent, or fears with material belongings, vain philosophies, education, work, physical pleasures, etc., only to discover, as Solomon did, that those are all meaningless and chasing after the wind.

As a famous preacher once said, “Solomon climbed the world’s ladder of success, only to find it leaning against the wrong wall.”  Jesus gave the answer to all of Solomon's frustrated pondering in Matthew 6:19-21.  Don’t lay up treasures on earth.  Instead, be laying them up in heaven.  The only thing that is not “vanity and vexation of spirit” or chasing after the wind, is what we do for God.

Friday, July 29, 2022

The Lord's Prayer

Luke 11:1-13

Sometimes, in order to do something the best way possible, we need to follow a pattern.  Patterns are used in making clothes, and blueprints in designing and constructing a building.  In our Gospel reading for this week, we are given a pattern for prayer.  We also read that God wants us to pray, and is eager to provide all we need.

As our Scripture from the Gospel of Luke begins, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him to teach them how to effectively and rightly pray (vs. 1).  They had seen Jesus pray many times, and they knew from His teachings that prayer should not be just the recitation of many words (Matthew 6:7).

Jesus responded with giving His disciples what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus gave this message on two separate occasions.  Once was during the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew, and then here.  In the days when there was no TV or recording, it would have been very reasonable for Jesus to repeat some of His messages so people in different areas could hear what He had to say.  The Lord’s Prayer is a pattern that we should use, and not just the only prayer we say.  There is nothing wrong with reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and many Christians do.  However, we can use this prayer as a pattern for our other prayers, as well.

In verse 2 the Lord’s Prayer begins with naming who we are addressing our prayer - ‘Our Father”.  It speaks of relationship.  He is our Father, and as such, provides for our needs.  “In heaven” tells us our help comes from heaven, not here on earth.  Don’t look to anyone on earth for our help.  “Hallowed be Your Name” - God’s Name is holy, sacred, and is to be treated and spoken with respect and reverence.  “Your kingdom come, Your will be done - we should pray for God’s kingdom to come, and His will, not ours, to be done.  “Our daily bread” - Our provision is daily, not all at once.  God wants our communication with Him to be daily.

In verse 4  we read “Forgive us our sins” - we all need God’s forgiveness daily.  “We also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” - the Lord forgiving us is predicated on our forgiving others.  There is not the slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms.  No matter what they did we are to forgive, even if they are our avowed enemy.  Jesus made forgiveness the cornerstone of our relationship with God.  God has forgiven our sins, and we must now forgive those who have wronged us.  To remain unforgiving shows we have not understood that we deeply need to be forgiven.

“Do not lead us into temptation” - temptation is the craving towards the wrong things in life.  Temptation doesn’t come from God.  It comes from Satan (James 1:13).  We need to pray against it, and to choose another way.  Pray that the Lord will help us in our weakness not to be led into temptation.  “Deliver us from the evil one” - there is only one Deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Man cannot deliver his fellow man.

First Jesus praised God, then He made His requests.  Praising God first puts us in the right frame of mind to tell Him about our needs.  Too often our prayers are more like shopping lists than a conversation with God.  He, alone, gives both physical and spiritual sustenance.

Jesus then gives a brief parable of a man who has some late night visitors, and goes to his neighbor, requesting some provisions (vs. 5-8).  We, as believers, must give the message of eternal life, the bread of life, to all of mankind.  On our own we have nothing to give.  We need to receive it from God.  Jesus also taught here about persistence in prayer.  We don’t need to wear God down, but being persistent in our prayers helps us realize where and Who our source is.  It helps us recognize God’s work.  If sufficiency for daily need can, by persistence, be obtained from an unwilling source, how much more from a willing Giver, the Lord.

God tells in His Word what His will is for us, but we must ask first (vs. 9-10).  If we come to God in prayer with the right motives, putting first the Kingdom of God, if we live for Him, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).  Jesus told us we are to keep on praying and trusting that God will graciously and generously supply what we need.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Take Out The Rotten Apples

Colossians 2:6-15

If we like to garden, and enjoy many beautiful flowers or fresh vegetables, when we see some weeds, we need to take action and pull those weeds out quickly before they spread and ruin our garden.  When a doctor discovers disease in his patient, he will order surgery to remove the cancer before it spreads.  The bad apple is quickly removed from the barrel before the rottenness spreads.   Whenever we find something bad we need to act quickly before the damage or danger will spread further.  The same is true within the Church. When heretical beliefs and false, damaging philosophical teachings crop up in the Church, they need to be quickly rooted out and removed.  Our Scripture for today continues in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and he addresses some of those false beliefs.

Though Paul had not founded the church in Colossae, and possibly had never visited there, he was very concerned about the spreading heretical philosophies that some people in the church were believing and spreading on to other people.  This church was probably begun by a believer named Epaphras, and Paul knew that these false and heretical philosophies were not what had been taught by his fellow preacher.  When Epaphras came to Colossae witnessing to them, they received his message.  They accepted the truth that Jesus is fully God and fully human, died for their sins, rose the third day, and coming again (vs. 6-7).  Paul urged them, and us today, that after receiving Jesus, we need to continue to live in Him.  To walk in Christ is to live a life patterned after His.  Jesus should establish our values, guide our thinking, and direct our conduct.

After the founding of this church, Satan did not waste any time, and began infiltrating with heretical teachings and philosophies (vs. 8).  We need to be on the alert against these false philosophies which are so popular in our world.  Satan is trying to destroy Christians and the Church with philosophies based on human wisdom that appeals to our human nature, which are self-focused, and not God-focused.  Satan’s promises are always empty, and end in disaster when we follow what he says and seek after these false promises.  However, the Lord is faithful, and His Word is always true.

As believers, we need to be on guard, our eyes always on the mark.  Even some popular religious sayings are not Biblically true, such as “God helps those who help themselves”, and “There are many paths which lead to God”.  These are said quite often, and many people believe them as truth, yet they are Biblically false.  It is very important to check out all teachings, making sure they are accurate.  Don’t be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies (vs. 8).  There are false teachers who want to entrap us in ways of thinking and living that are opposed to the Gospel.  Their philosophy sounds enticing, but is based on human reasoning, and empowered by dark spiritual forces.  False teachers who are successful in getting people to believe lies, rob them of truth, salvation, and blessings.

Over the centuries, false beliefs have spread that Jesus was only man, or only God or spirit.  The latter was more common in the past.  The former is much more common today.  Some people in the Colossian church were ones that got caught up in these false beliefs (vs. 9).  We may not understand how Jesus could be both fully human and fully divine at the same time, but that is what Scripture clearly teaches (John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-8).  Everything that exists was created by and for Jesus.  It is all under His authority, whether we want to acknowledge it or not (vs. 10).  His Headship extends not only over the Church, but over all forces that are opposed to Him, as well.  One day all must acknowledge Him as God (Philippians 2:10-11).

As Paul closes our Scripture for today, he declares the truth that Satan and his minions were defeated at the cross by Jesus (vs. 15).  Sin was the legal right that Satan had to hold man in captivity.  With sin atoned for, he has no more legal right to hold in bondage anymore anyone who accepts Jesus as their Savior.  When Rome conquered an enemy, their soldiers would return home in a victory parade.  In the parade the defeated leaders, the generals and kings, would be led in chains, shamed and mocked.  This is what Jesus did to the hostile spiritual forces on the cross.  Satan is a defeated enemy!

Monday, July 25, 2022

God's Great Name

Psalm 138

Most sensible people want to maintain a good name.  Nobody likes to have bad talk about themselves being passed along, especially if it is false.  This is why in many countries there are laws against libel and slander.  Parents sometimes tell their children to not do anything that would bring shame to the family name.  Connected to a good name, especially for a person of integrity, is being true to one’s word.  If one’s word is tarnished, then their name will be, as well.  In our psalm for this week, God speaks about the honor of both His Name and His Word.  Let’s look into this Scripture.

As our psalm begins, David opened by whole-heartedly declaring praise to the Lord (vs. 1).  Throughout his life, David was all-in for the Lord, so naturally his praise was with his whole heart.  Never once was he tempted to stray into the worship of any pagan gods, and instead, openly showed those who worship the false idols that his worship and praise went only to Yahweh.  Yahweh is the highest in the whole earth.  He is above all pagan gods, which are non-existent, anyway.  He is above all kings and rulers of the pagan nations, as well.

As David continued, he recounted how the Lord magnified His Word above His Name (vs. 2).  His Word is to be venerated and extolled above everything.  As I mentioned earlier, a person’s word and name are connected.  A person’s name is reflected by their reputation and character.  If one is known to speak falsely, to be a liar, or they are known not to keep their promises or their word, then their name is not likely to be held in any great esteem.  We have God’s Word here in the Bible.  The Bible is not like any other book.  It is God’s Word, His holy revelation to humanity.  There is nothing else like His Word.  God’s Word contains His revelation of Himself to us, and carries His promises to us.  It is so precious and holy, that God has magnified and exalted it even above His Name, which is also so very holy, exalted, and precious.

Continuing on in our psalm, David spoke of a day coming, when all the rulers of this world will be subject to the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 4-6).  The kings and rulers will give their praise, not to themselves, but to the Lord.  Right now the overwhelming majority of political and business leaders have no regard for the Lord God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  They think of themselves as almighty, omnipotent, invincible, and themselves worthy of people’s honor and esteem.  When Jesus returns, He will not come as the humble preacher of Nazareth, but will come as the King of kings and Lord of lords.  On that day when the Lord Jesus returns every knee will bow to Him, including all of the rulers, business leaders, and billionaires who felt that they were supreme (Philippians 2:10-11).  They will confess on that day that Jesus, alone, is Lord.

Though Jesus is the King and Lord above all, He still has care and regard for His children (vs. 6).  Usually the higher the politician is, the less likely he or she is to be bothered with any individual’s problems.  That is not the case with Jesus.  We don’t need to fear that because He is so exalted that He is either too busy or can’t be bothered to give any regard to us.  He cares about everything, whether big or little, in our life.  Though we walk in the middle of trouble, God’s right hand will reach out and save us from our enemies (vs. 7).  He is mighty to save us (Zephaniah 3:17).  No matter what our circumstances are, or how high the odds are stacked against us, God promises to save us.

Our dependence should be on the Lord God alone, grounded in the Rock of Ages.  We can trust in Him.  It is He which has begun the good work within us (vs. 8).  He has carried it on, and will finish it (Philippians 1:6).  The Lord begins, and He completes.  God has a purpose and unique plan for our life, and He promises to fulfill that.  If we have entrusted our life to Him, we can rest in His promise to take care of us.  He will never forsake us, the work of His hands.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Shall Not The Judge Of All The Earth Do Right?

“I trust you to do the right thing.”  A boss may say this to his assistant when he turns over control of the company, either temporarily or permanently.  A father may say that to his young adult child as they set off to begin life on their own.  Do the right thing.  As we face the day each morning we hope that whoever we encounter through the day will be practicing that, but all too often we don’t see this in the world today.  We find that too often we can’t trust our fellow man to be doing the right thing.  Even in our courts of law, and in our churches, there are times that those we believed and trusted to do the right thing just don’t.  There is One who we can rely on to do the right thing, and in today’s Old Testament reading for this week, from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, we read of His conversation with Abraham, as the Patriarch sought that the right thing be done.

Last week we read of when God visited Abraham, and renewed His promise to him that he would have a son.  Then the Lord left to see if the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were as wicked as He knew them to be, and Abraham accompanied Him part of the way.  The Lord shared with Abraham that He planned on destroying the two cities (vs. 20-21).  The sin of those cities had reached the point of no return before God.  Their sin was so great that the Lord had to destroy them before they contaminated all of that area.  If we don’t throw out the one bad apple in the bag, very soon the whole bag has gone bad.  One reprobate in a group can very quickly have the whole group following his bad thinking and behavior.  If God didn’t remove the sin, the whole area would fall into their sin.

Abraham knew, though, that his nephew Lot and his family had chosen to live in that cesspool, and he sought to rescue him from the coming destruction.  So Abraham pleaded with God for the lives of those who might not be sinful like he knew the city to be.  He knew that Lot had lived there for many years.  Surely in all that time he might have led some people to salvation in the Lord!  (As we know, though, in all that time he never brought one person to the Lord!  He and his family’s own behavior and morality began to stink from contamination!)

Would God destroy the cities if there were some people there who were not wicked like the rest of them were?  Abraham knew that Yahweh would do the right thing.  He even, when pleading for the lives of the righteous, told Him, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (vs. 25).  Abraham knew of God’s mercy towards the righteous, and the distinction between the good and the bad.  He also understood God’s character, being able only to do what is good and totally above reproach.

Abraham interceded for their lives, saying if there were fifty, would not God spare the city?  God assured him that He would not destroy the cities if there were fifty (vs. 25-26).  Abraham’s heart was burdened, and he interceded again for the city.  What if there are only forty-five?  God promises again that He would not destroy them (vs. 28).  What about forty?  Thirty?  Twenty?  Abraham continued to intercede for any righteous who may live there (vs. 29-31).  The Lord God, the Judge of all the earth, must do right!  When Abraham reached the number of ten, the Lord agreed that He would not destroy the city if He found even just ten people who believed and put their trust in Him (vs. 32).  Abraham was not trying to be manipulative, but instead was humble and compassionately concerned for others.  He was interceding, not only for his nephew, but also for anyone else whose heart was turned to the Lord.

We know as we read further in the Book of Genesis, God could not even find ten righteous or saved people in Sodom and Gomorrah, so the cities were destroyed.  He did not let Lot perish, though, but He rescued him and his family (Genesis 19:1-29).  But for the cities and their residents nothing more could be done.  Judgment was inevitable.

God is just and He punishes sin.  He is also kind and fair.  We can be assured that God will always do exactly what is right.  He will never make a mistake or suffer a lapse in judgment.  Abraham asked the rhetorical question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  The answer, as we know it to be, is always yes!

Friday, July 22, 2022

Mary And Martha

Luke 10:38-42

“It’s not fair!”  That’s a complaint that we often hear.  Parents especially hear that cry from one or another of their children.  If a child perceives that one of their siblings is getting special treatment, or getting out of having to do the work that they must do, they will complain that it isn’t fair.  Adults, if they are being honest, will admit that they sometimes think that, though they may not always voice the complaint.  They think it’s not fair when their workload is increased, or someone else gets the promotion they felt they should have.  They complain it isn’t fair when someone else gets tax cuts they don’t get, or benefits they aren’t given.  Rightly or wrongly, we all have times when we say something isn’t fair.  In our Gospel account today from Luke, we read of two sisters, one of whom complained that things weren’t fair in her eyes.

As our Scripture passage begins, Jesus and His twelve disciples have come to the village where Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, live (vs. 38).  These three siblings, each still unmarried, lived together.  There is never a mention of their parents, so it is quite probable that they were deceased.  The three lived in the village of Bethany, which was right outside of Jerusalem, about two miles east of the Temple, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.  Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus were believers and followers of Jesus, and dearly loved Him, so whenever He was in the area He frequently stayed with Him.

When Jesus and the twelve arrived, Martha was quite eager to give them a good meal, and a pleasant time of relaxing for a few hours.  To prepare a nice meal for thirteen guests, along with herself and siblings, would be a significant task, however, Martha wanted to make sure she was the perfect hostess.  Mary, on the other hand, was listening to what Jesus was talking about to the disciples and to her brother Lazarus.  She may have initially been helping her sister, but fairly quickly, Mary sat down to listen to Jesus’ teachings (vs 39).

Martha, though, worked herself into a tumult trying to get the meal cooking, the table set, beverages passed around, etc. (vs. 40).  As she was rushing back and forth, trying to get everything done, she must have noticed her sister sitting there, absorbed in listening to Jesus, and not helping out.  Martha began to get more and more irritated as time went on, and after a while, when she felt it wasn’t fair, she went up to Jesus and complained to Him that Mary wasn’t helping or doing her share of the work (vs. 40).  Don’t You care, Lord, that I am having to do all of the work by myself?  This isn’t fair!  Tell her to help me!

Rather than agreeing with Martha, and telling Mary to get up and start doing her share of the work, Jesus gently scolded Martha (vs. 41-42).  He told her that all of her fussing about trying to get a special meal prepared was not necessary.  She could easily have set out some bread, some deli meats, cheese, and some chips, and they all could have served themselves buffet-style.  Jesus would have been grateful and satisfied.  He told Martha that only one thing was necessary, and that was shown by Mary - an attitude of worship and meditation, listening with an open mind and heart to His words.  Jesus wasn’t blaming Martha for being concerned about household chores.  None of her tasks were inherently bad, and He wasn’t saying it was wrong to do them.  Jesus was pointing out that they were distracting her from the best thing - Himself.

Many of the things we do from day to day are important, but we must be careful to discern what is good from what is best.  Jesus asks that we set our priorities.  Don’t let service become busy work, and no longer devotion.  Never allow something else to take Jesus’ place on the throne.  Our relationship with Him is the most valuable thing we have.

God wants us to have a deep and intimate relationship with Him.  Martha and Mary both loved Jesus, and were both serving Him.  Martha thought Mary’s style of serving was inferior to hers.  But Martha was actually neglecting Jesus.  While works of service are important, they should never come before the fellowship He wants with us.  To have fellowship with Jesus we may have to leave some things undone.  Our greatest need is to spend time with Him.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Reconciliation With God

Colossians 1:21-29

The other day I was reading about two people who were once enemies, who couldn’t stand each other, but then a mutual friend brought the two together, and they are now good friends.  This happens occasionally in the political world, where two opposing political heads of state are brought together by a third party.  This happened when President Jimmy Carter brought the two enemies, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and Menachem Begin of Israel together, and brokered a peace agreement between the two.  Sometimes this happens between fighting neighbors or even family members.  In today’s Scripture passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we read of an even greater restoration of peace between two, formerly opposing parties.

As our Scripture opens, Paul reminds us that before we came to Christ, we were alienated from God, and were enemies of Him, unrighteous aliens (vs. 21).  All mankind was since the time of the Fall of Adam.  We had wrong thinking and evil behavior.  Being an enemy of God is a very precarious position, and if left in that condition, will bring eternal death.  However, because God loved us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring reconciliation.  God, through Christ’s atonement, brought man, who was at odds with Him, back to a peaceful, proper relationship with Him.

The status as God’s enemy changes when one accepts Jesus as their Savior.  He reconciles us to God.  We can now be presented to Him as holy, without blemish, and free from accusation (vs. 22).  When we are saved, who we once were is no longer who we are now.  We are given a new status as God’s people, now made presentable by the all-sufficient work of Jesus on the cross.  We are given a divine pardon for our sins.

Paul now urges us to stand firm in our faith and God’s truth.  We are encouraged to not drift from the faith, and to instead, nurture our connection with Jesus (vs 22-23).  As believers, we now need to live the faith and hope of the Gospel.

There was a heretical teaching that was going around, even as early as Paul’s day, that taught that Jesus was a spirit, and not really a true human.  However, as we read in verse 22, Jesus had a body of flesh, which literally died upon the cross.  Jesus wasn't just a spirit, but was a true human being.  His physical body actually died.  He suffered death fully as a human so that we could be assured that He died in our place.  Jesus faced death as God so that we could be assured that His sacrifice was complete, and that He truly removed our sin.

In spite of His death on the cross, Jesus’ enemies had not gotten their fill of inflicting injury on Him.  So they turned their hatred on those who preached the Gospel, and those who believed in Him (vs. 24).  As believers, and now part of the Body of Christ, when we suffer, Jesus suffers as well.  Suffering is unavoidable in bringing the Gospel to the world.  We can endure it joyfully because it brings people to salvation.

Because of the finished work of the cross, we are now one with Christ Jesus, and co-heirs of His glorious inheritance (Romans 8:15-17).  All that the Father has given to Jesus, the Holy Spirit transmits to those who are His children by faith (John 16:15).

Every true believer has the Lord Jesus Christ living inside of them (vs. 27).  We were once dead - dead in our sins, dead from any relationship with God.  But God takes dead things and makes them alive again when we come to Him.  We may seem like we’re in a “dead” situation right now, with any type or sort of problems going on in our life.  However, no matter how desperate our situation may seem, there is nothing buried deep enough to keep out the resurrection power of Jesus.  He is our sustenance and daily provision, and He is in us right now.

Jesus came to annihilate the work of Satan.  The One who holds the authority over all the power of the enemy lives inside of every Christian.  We are His temple (I Corinthians 6:19).  Jesus doesn’t just walk with us, He indwells within us (Galatians 2:20: I John 4:15).  He abides in us.  Since God’s presence is inside of us, so also is His power to deliver us, and set us free from every bondage.  We can rejoice in this truth, for as Paul stated, Christ in us, the hope of glory!

Monday, July 18, 2022

What Is Our Character Like?

Psalm 15

If someone were to go around your neighborhood taking a survey, and asking your neighbors their opinion of you, what would they say?  Would they say that you were a good, honest, and kind person, a person of integrity?  Would your co-workers or classmates have that opinion, or would they think something else?  Would your behavior reflect well on the Lord Jesus, and show to others that you belong to Him, without your even having to say a word?  In our psalm for this week, David shares some characteristics that should be evident in a believer and follower of Jesus.  Let’s look and see if any of these are evident in our own lives.

Our psalm opens with David asking the Lord a question.  He asks Him who is able to abide in His tabernacle, the place where God dwells, in heaven (vs. 1).  The answer is given in the next verse, that it is those who walk uprightly and are righteous (vs. 2).  First, as we know from reading all throughout Scripture, that if we try to live a good, godly and righteous life on our own, in our own strength and power, it is impossible.  We will always fall short and fail (Romans 3:23).  God’s requirement for eternal life is perfection.  No one except the Lord Jesus Christ has ever met that standard, and no one ever will.  However, when we come to Jesus, calling upon Him as our Savior, He forgives our sins and gives us His righteousness.  We receive the Holy Spirit, and with His power and indwelling we can exhibit the godly standards of this psalm.

Psalm 15 concentrates on showing us how a righteous, or saved person should act.  Though no one but the Lord Jesus is perfect, they will exhibit indications of ethical integrity.  God calls His people to be morally upright.  We live in an evil world, where godly standards and morals are eroding.  Our standards for living should not come from the world and society, which are godless, but from God and His Word.

As David proceeds with this psalm he first brings up how we use our tongue and our speech.  An upright and righteous person will always speak the truth (vs. 2).  There are some for whom lying has become second nature.  That should not be the case with a Christian.  Speaking the truth, regardless of what the situation, should always be our first and only response.  What we say reflects our relationship with God.  Speak the truth.  Refuse to slander others (vs. 3), and keep all of our promises to others and especially to God (vs. 4).  A believer should always watch what they say (James 3:1-12).

One who is in a good relationship with God does not do evil to his neighbor (vs. 3).  They are loyal and consistent, and don’t consciously bring difficulty upon others.  They also don’t reproach their friends.  They don’t speak sharp, cutting, or scornful words against others, but are honest and gentle.  A Christian will keep their word, even when it is difficult (vs. 4).  Our word should be our bond.

Our psalm continues by urging believers to avoid close friendships with “vile” people (vs. 4).  A vile person is one who is a reprobate, a wicked, unsaved person who is completely uninterested in God.  The faithful Christian will not cultivate a close association with them because it will affect their own godly walk.  Instead, they honor those who fear the Lord.  We emulate those we spend time with, so we should have godly Christian friends.

David closes with one more characteristic, and this has to do with money (vs. 5).  We are instructed not to loan our money and charge usury, or high interest rates.  If we are going to loan someone money, especially a needy brother or sister in Christ, don’t use that as an opportunity to make money.  Are we so obsessed with money that we change our godly standards and behavior to get it?  Money should not be a controlling force in our life.  When a fellow believer has a true need, we should help without charging interest.  Love, not making money, should be our motive.  Help others generously and unselfishly.

When others think of us, what do they think of?  Are we thought of as an honest person, one who is truthful in all things, trustworthy, honorable, a person of integrity?  A Psalm 15 type of person?  We are encouraged here to have a heart that fears God.  Be pure in speech.  Honor those who also fear God, and avoid those who despise Him.  Care for the poor, and be true to your word.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord?

Genesis 18:1-15

Perhaps in your circle of acquaintances you might know a 90 year old woman.  Or you probably know some 90 year old female celebrities, such as Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie fame.  Comedian Carol Burnett is 89, which is close.   How surprised would you be if you heard on the news tomorrow that either one of these women was pregnant?!  You would think that the news made a mistake, or that this was some kind of April Fool’s Day joke.   Our Scripture for today gives the account of just such an occurrence.  Let’s look into this Scripture to see how they reacted.

Prior to the opening of our Scripture passage, God had given elderly Abraham the promise of a son (Genesis 15:1-6).  After years of waiting, with no child to show, Abraham’s wife Sarah gave her servant girl to Abraham to have a child with, and Ishmael came from that.  However, that was not what God wanted, and He did not count that illegitimate child as fulfillment of His promise to Abraham of a son and heir.  Years have passed, and now Abraham is 100 and his wife Sarah is 90.  At Sarah’s age they most certainly have given up hope of having any children.  The oldest verified case of a woman giving birth naturally, without any type of medical procedures, was a woman at age 59.  Sarah had passed that age by over 30 years earlier.

As our passage opens, Abraham is visited by three men, who are actually the Lord God and two angels, though Abraham didn’t immediately realize this.  He offers them hospitality, allowing them to rest in the shade of his tents, and has a meal prepared for them (vs. 1-6).  While they ate, the Lord God renewed His promise to Abraham that he would have a son by his wife, Sarah (vs. 9-10).  This time He was specific about the time, stating that by this time the next year she would already have given birth.

Sarah was inside their tent nearby, and she heard what was said.  She knew that 90 year old women don’t have babies, nor do 100 year old men!  This was preposterous!  Even when she was young enough to bear children she hadn’t, so how in the world could she bear a child now, at 90!  And Abraham, well, he was old too!  Yeah, right!  Sarah quietly laughed to herself (vs. 11-12).

Though this wasn’t a loud laugh, and wasn’t actually heard outside the tent, the Lord knew that Sarah had laughed, that she had doubted (vs. 13).  We can’t hide anything from God, including our private thoughts and emotions.  He knows everything about us (Psalm 139:1-4).  When Sarah was questioned about her laugh, she got nervous as she was beginning to realize Who it was who was out there with her husband, so she told a lie, denying her laughter.  God gently reprimanded her, that yes, she had laughed (vs. 15).

God also asked both Abraham and Sarah if there was anything too hard for Him to do (vs. 14).  For God to work a miracle in Sarah’s body, enabling her to have a baby, was not too hard.  The Lord God created our bodies, and if He so chooses, He can have them do some things that it normally wouldn’t do, such as a 90 year old woman conceiving and bearing a child naturally.

The Lord asks us the same question He did to Abraham and Sarah.  Is anything too hard for God?  The answer is a resounding No!  We can insert any problem we might have into that question, and the answer is still no.  Abraham and Sarah did not have the written Scriptures to turn to in order to boost their faith.  They didn’t have multiple hundreds of examples in the Bible to reference where God provided miracles for His children, like we have.  Yet how often do we doubt and laugh, just like Sarah did?

Things that we find impossible to do, God finds very easy (Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37).  This should remind us that God is personally involved in our life, and we can always ask for His power to help us.  We can always trust every one of His promises to us.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Who Is My Neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37

Everyone has heard the term “Good Samaritan”.  We know that being a Good Samaritan means helping someone else out, without being asked, in a critical time of need.  Perhaps there has been a car accident or a fire, and someone selflessly, possibly at risk to their own safety, goes in to help the victim.  They are acting as a Good Samaritan.  Most Christians know that the term comes from the Bible, from a parable that Jesus told.  However, do we know what’s behind the parable, everything that meant and implied when He told this.  Let’s take a closer look at this very familiar parable of the Lord Jesus.

As our Scripture passage begins, Jesus was talking with one of the religious leaders, a man who was an “expert” in the Jewish religious law.  They had been discussing the Old Testament laws of loving God and loving one’s neighbor (vs. 25-28).  The man asked Jesus exactly who his neighbor was (vs. 29).  The religious leaders believed that one’s neighbors were only the righteous.  The wicked, in their mind tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, and Samaritans, were to be scorned and hated.  They felt that sinners certainly wouldn’t qualify as a neighbor, or one to show love and compassion to.  The Pharisees had elevated hostility towards those “others” to the status of a virtue.  Jesus then proceeded to tell this parable, showing him, and all of us, exactly who our neighbor is.

In order to fully understand this parable, one needs to know who the Samaritans were.  Around the year 721 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the conquering Assyrian army.  Similar to about 200 years later when Judah fell to the Babylonians, many of the people were taken captive and deported.  The Assyrians then brought in people from the surrounding kingdoms to dwell in the land, and they intermarried with any remaining Israelites.  Their descendants were the Samaritans we read about in the New Testament (II Kings 17:22-24).  The Jews looked down on and despised the Samaritans, considering them a mixed race with a hybrid religion.  Because of that, the Samaritans were not too fond of the Jews, either.

Jesus began the parable, telling of a Jewish man who was traveling out from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Jericho was northeast of Jerusalem, and the road from Jerusalem to Jericho dropped in elevation by about 3,300 feet in about 17 miles.  It was also a very dangerous journey because the road was very winding, with many places for criminals to hide.  This Jewish man ran into one of these bands of criminals on his journey, and was robbed, severely beaten, and left to die (vs. 30).  Some time after this attack, a priest came by, but he just passed the severely injured man, not even pausing.  Then a Levite came.  He paused to look at the man, but then continued on (vs. 31-32).  Both of these men, as members of the clergy, should have stopped to help, but they didn’t. They may have been worried about becoming contaminated by touching blood, making them temporarily unclean.  They may have been afraid for their own safety.  They may have just been unconcerned.  Those who claim to follow God should never be so callous about helping others.

As Jesus continued, a Samaritan man came by a while later.  Unlike the priest and Levite, the Samaritan stopped and gave aid to the severely injured Jewish man (vs 33-35).  He didn’t let racial or religious differences stop him from coming to the aid of this man.  The Samaritan stopped, even though it may have put himself at risk, and attended to the man’s wounds, and then brought him to an inn to recover, paying for his care.  As Jesus concluded the parable, many of His listeners were shocked.  To portray a Samaritan as fulfilling God’s commandments, but Jews as circumventing it, was an insult to this religious leader and the rest of the audience.

Jesus spoke about showing God’s love and compassion without strings attached, even for an enemy.  It can be difficult to show compassion to someone we might despise.  It can also be difficult to receive help from such a person.  Jesus shows that racial considerations are utterly transcended by God’s command to love Him, and thus to love others as He does, without prejudice or partiality.

This parable teaches us here that lack of love is often easy to justify, even though it is never right.  In answer to the religious leader’s question, our neighbor is anyone, of any race or social background, who is in need.  Love means acting to meet their needs, just as this Samaritan did, regardless of who it is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Another Way To Pray

Colossians 1:9-14

Many of us keep a prayer list of various friends, relatives, and other Christians whom we pray for on a regular basis.  Some of them might have specific needs at any given time, such as health needs, employment, etc.  However, with some of them we might not know any specific need, or they might not have a pressing problem at the moment.  So how do we pray for them?  Many times, when we can’t think of anything specific to pray for with someone, we just ask the Lord to bless them.  Praying for the Lord’s blessing upon someone is fine.  However, in our Scripture passage today from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we see some of the things that he prayed for on behalf of the members of the church there.  Let’s take a look.

The church in Colossae was not a church that was established by the Apostle Paul.  It is very likely that Paul never even visited the city, as no mention of him having done so is made in Acts, and in this letter, he only mentions having heard of their faith, not having seen or visited their community.  It is thought that the church in Colossae was begun by Epaphras, a believer who came from Ephesus.  However, though Paul never met the Colossians, and though he probably wouldn’t have known of any particular needs of specific members, he prayed some very specific and powerful prayers for them, prayers that we can use when we pray for others, in addition to just asking God to bless someone.

First we read that Paul prayed for these believers to have knowledge of God’s will in their life, along with having His wisdom and understanding (vs. 9).  Knowledge of God’s will is found in His Word, the Bible.  Wisdom is the ability to accumulate and organize principles from Scripture.  Understanding is the application of those principles into our daily living.

It is God’s desire that we would walk in His will, and to obey Him (vs. 10).  Paul prayed that they walk worthy of Jesus’ Name.  Our conversation, conduct, and character should be consistent with our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to live in a manner that represents Him with honor, in a way that is consistent with our identification with the Lord who saved us.  Other people, particularly the unsaved around us, should see the likeness of Jesus in us, and be drawn to Him.

As Paul continued his prayer for the Colossians, he prayed for their spiritual strength, for patience, and for long suffering (vs. 11).  He knew, especially from his own experience, and that of other churches, that these believers would suffer persecution, both from the Jews and from Gentiles.  They would need strength, patience, and long suffering to endure.

Paul prayed that these believers would give thanks to the Lord for their salvation.  And lest anyone might start to think that their good works qualified them for heaven, Paul reminded them, and us, that it was the Lord God who qualified them.  God qualifies us only through the finished work of the Savior.  Apart from God’s grace through Jesus Christ, all people would be qualified only to receive His wrath.

As he continues, Paul reminds them that the Lord Jesus brought them from the power and kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God (vs. 13-14).  The Lord Jesus defeated Satan through His death on the cross and resurrection.  When we accept Jesus, He rescues and delivers us from Satan’s kingdom of darkness, and brings us to His kingdom of light.  As Christians, we have been rescued from a rebel kingdom to serve the rightful king.  Our conduct should reflect our new allegiance, and we have no reason to fear the dominion of darkness anymore.

In closing, when we wonder how we can pray for others, in addition to any specific needs they have shared, we can learn from Paul’s example with the Colossians.  We can pray for their understanding of God’s will.  Also for them to gain spiritual wisdom, and to please and honor Good.  We can pray for them to grow in knowledge of God, and to be filled with His strength, patience, and endurance.  And finally, for them to be filled with Christ’s joy and to always give thanks to Him.  These are prayers that we can bring to the Lord on behalf of any believer at any time, and prayers that the Scripture says He will honor.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Where Our Guidance Comes From

Psalm 25:1-10

What do you do when you have an important, life-changing decision to make, when you need to know which of several options you should choose?  The right decision might make all the difference in the world for your life.  Do we trust in our own judgment?  We might know some friends who we feel might give good counsel, but would their advice really be the best?  Do we go to a teacher, a boss, a psychiatrist?  Whose advice would be the best?  Who can we trust?  Our psalm today gives us an answer.

As we know from reading Scripture, David’s life was not always easy going.  Much of his young adulthood was spent running from King Saul and living in the wilderness.  Becoming king brought its own set of problems.  David didn’t spend his time as king just relaxing and being waited upon.  He took his position seriously, and wanted to lead the people right.  David knew that he would need guidance with his decisions every day.  Could he trust his counselors to give good advice?  Perhaps they might have ulterior motives for what they advised.  Were they really even his friends?  A king can’t be too careful!  When David was on the run from Saul he also had to be careful of whom he trusted for advice on what to do.  There was more than one occasion when people tried to betray him.

As we read through the first several verses of our psalm, we see that David knew exactly who to turn to, exactly who he could trust, and that was in the Lord God (vs. 2).   How often we trust in others, and they let us down, or their advice turns out to be wrong.  David put his trust in Yahweh, and prayed that He would help him.  He did not want to be ashamed in defeat when his enemies got the victory over him.  David prayed that this would not be the case while he was trusting God, as that would not be a good testimony.  When we turn to God and trust Him, we will not come to shame.  We may have to wait (vs. 3), as David often did, as there are times the Lord tarries long, but ultimately He will answer.

David continues on in his psalm, and prays to the Lord, asking Him for His guidance in his life (vs. 4-5).  How do we receive God’s guidance?  First, we must want to be guided.  Many times people ask others for their advice or their guidance, including asking from God, but really they want to just go their own way.  God will show us His way if we are willing to accept guidance from Him.  Instead of demanding God do things our way, we must humble ourselves so that He can teach us His ways.  We also need to know where to receive His guidance.  God’s primary source of guidance is in His Word, the Bible.  When we are willing to seek Him, learn from His Word, and obey His commands, then we will receive His specific guidance.

Twice in our passage David tells us we need to wait upon God (vs. 3, 5).  Wait.  Don’t expect that God will always answer instantaneously.  David came to God, and he waited, in prayerful submission, all through the day.  He knew that he needed guidance all day, every day, as he faced the challenges of life.  Wanting to be a teachable follower of God, he looked to his Redeemer for direction.  His heart’s desire was to wait on God with dependent faith throughout the entire day.  They who wait on the Lord will not be ashamed.

When we look to God for guidance, leading, and instruction for our life, we need to be sure that we are not actively in sin (vs. 6-8).  When God convicts us of sin, we must deal with the problem right away.  When we do, we will find His mercy and lovingkindness.  As we look back upon God’s mercies upon His children we see that He has always been a merciful Father. Past mercies form a ground for the expectation of future blessings.  God’s character cannot change.  His action at one time will always be consistent with His actions at another.

If we believe that God might be leading us in a certain direction, we need to take the time to earnestly seek His mind on the matter, and open our hearts to listen to Him.  Trust the Lord’s leadership, knowing His paths are established on His loving-kindness and truth.  Trust and wait, knowing that the Lord will lead us in His truth each and every day.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

A Life Or Death Choice

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

As many people grow older, they often look back on their life, frequently considering the decisions, the choices they made.  They ponder whether they made the correct decision in this or that matter.  They think about how things may have turned out differently, perhaps even better, if they had chosen this way, and not that way.  We have choices to make every day.  Though many of them are minor, some are of great importance, and may completely change the course of our life.  Those decisions need to be carefully considered before they are made, and not decided upon a whim.  Our Scripture for today comes near the end of the book.  The people of Israel are preparing to enter the Promised Land, and Moses gives them some final words before he will die.  They will have choices to make, and Moses is urging them to seriously consider what their decisions will be.

I know that when I have an important decision to make, I like to get the opinions and counsel of others, and particularly God’s guidance and say on the matter.  The place where we can best find God’s guidance on matters is from His Word, the Bible.  God’s Word is not hidden from us (vs. 11-14).  We do not have to travel to the top of some high mountain to seek His Word from some hermit in a cave.  We don’t need to go to some fortune-teller or psychic.  It is found in the Bible, which God has given to us to read, if we choose to.  If any are ignorant of what God has said, it is because they desire to be.  God’s way has been made plain to us.  Anyone who wants to know the Word of God can know the Word of God.  The truth is here in the Bible, all the truth necessary for choosing to love and obey God.

As we continue in our passage, God sets before us a choice to make.  The choice is to love and obey God, which will bring life and goodness.  Or we can reject God, which will bring death and evil (vs. 15).  If we choose to love God and obey His Word, we will enjoy His blessings.  If we refuse to love and obey Him, our choice will bring judgment.  The issue facing us is to enjoy salvation and blessing by loving God so wholeheartedly that we will willingly live to obey Him (vs. 16).  God makes a solemn appeal to us to choose life, not death.

Choosing God is to choose life and to receive all of His blessings.  The alternative, to choose to turn one’s back on the Lord and His Word, is to choose death (vs. 17-18).  If one turns away from Yahweh, and chooses to go their own way, doing what they want in opposition to His Word, or chooses to worship and follow the myriad of false gods and false philosophies in this world, they have chosen to bring down judgment upon themselves.

We are challenged here to choose life, to obey God, and therefore to continue to experience His blessings (vs. 19-20).  God doesn’t force His will on anyone.  He lets us decide whether to follow Him, or reject Him.  This decision is a life-or-death matter.  God would like us all to choose life.  We must affirm and reinforce this commitment daily.  We are exhorted before God (heaven) and man (earth) to choose by believing in and loving God.  The one who believes in Jesus has the promise of eternal life, while the one who refuses to believe faces eternal death.  Every person faces this same choice (John 3:1-36).

You and I are called upon to make a decision.  This decision must be made before we pass from this life.  After that it is too late.  God’s commands to us are not hidden.  They are written down for all to read.  They are not far off.  They are available.  Heaven and earth are invoked as God’s witnesses as to what His Word tells us.  The choice is ours.  The way has been made crystal clear.  Therefore we cannot claim that we did not know.  The way to blessings is as near to us as the Bible.  Choose life, not death!


Friday, July 8, 2022

Time Is Short

Luke 10:1-12, 16-20

Sometimes the assignment we’re given at work or at school is something that they want us to work steadily at, but there is no rush.  Other times they want it done right away.  Put everything else aside and get to it!  A friend may invite us to come over, today, tomorrow, or the weekend, whenever it is convenient.  At another time they may call us with an urgent need, to please come over, right away!  Ambulances, police, and fire trucks have sirens.  Pull aside, we’re in a hurry!  Today’s Scripture from the Gospel of Luke also has a sense of urgency.  The time was short, it was running out.  Let’s look into our Gospel passage.

As we begin reading, Jesus was sending out seventy of His followers to go into some of the villages that He would soon be visiting, to help prepare them for the message that He would bring (vs. 1).  Jesus had many more followers than just the twelve apostles He had selected for close and personal companions.  These 70 disciples were commissioned to go on a brief mission trip around Israel to bring Jesus’ message.  Their instructions were to travel lightly, and not carry a lot of extra belongings (vs. 4).  When they arrived in a village, in whoever’s house they were invited to stay at, they were to remain there, not wasting time hopping from place to place, looking for a better meal or more comfortable accommodations (vs. 7-8).

One instruction might seem a little odd, and that was to not greet anyone along the road (vs. 4).  The customs of the day and that part of the world, social greetings could often be elaborate and time-consuming.  Jesus didn’t want them, at this time, taking valuable time with social niceties.  He didn’t want them to be deterred from the mission at hand.  Everything in Jesus’ instructions spoke of the shortness of time and the great urgency of the task.  He only had a limited time here on earth, and a great mission to accomplish.  Time was running short, and they had souls to save.  That is the same today.  Time is running short for us, as well.  Jesus’ return is getting closer and closer with each passing day.  People are dying each day, going into eternity.  We need to get His message out, too, just as these disciples did, and we can’t be spending time on things that ultimately will not matter.

As Jesus sent these disciples out, He warned them that they would face hostility and spiritual danger (vs 3).   As we read through the Gospels, we see that though some people loved Jesus and accepted His message, there were plenty who didn’t accept Him, and were actually quite hostile to Him.  If they treated Jesus that way, they would certainly not treat His disciples any better (John 15:20).  We see the same thing today.  When we share the Gospel with others, there are a few who eagerly accept our message.  Many are indifferent, but polite, and then there are many who will be openly hostile to us, even to the point of persecution.  All have the opportunity to hear, but as Jesus warned, woe to those who reject Him (vs. 10-12).  Those who reject Jesus and His message will suffer on Judgment Day.

When the disciples returned to Jesus a short while later, they joyfully shared with Him the results of their mission (vs. 17).  Jesus told them that there was something even more important than all that happened on their journeys.  Rather than being enthralled over having power over demons, and working miracles, Jesus wants us to realize the greatest wonder of all is the reality of salvation (vs. 20).  As we see God’s wonders at work in and through us, we should not lose sight of the greatest wonder of all, and that is salvation, our own and that of others.

Jesus told His followers, and He tells us today, that we need to pray for more people to go out and spread the Gospel message (vs. 2).  Jesus said that the harvest was great then.  It is great today as well.  There are millions of people who are dying and heading into an eternity separated from God in hell.  And when we look around, there are precious few people who are bringing the message of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ to others.  The salvation of souls is a priority with Jesus.  He wants us to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).  Many are engaged in the fishing business, but very few are actually fishing!  Will you go work in the harvest, telling others about Jesus?

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Don't Lose Heart!

Galatians 6:7-9

Do you ever get discouraged, and just feel like giving up?  You try to live right, to live an exemplary life, trying to the best of your ability to live according to God’s Word.  You want to make a difference in the world, or at least in your neighborhood.  However sin keeps abounding, and the problems in your own life keep mounting.  So why not just give up?  Make it easier on yourself by bending the rules here and there.  It doesn’t seem to matter anyway.  Some people in the Galatian church seemed to also feel like that.  In our verses today, Paul was encouraging these faltering believers to not grow weary, and to not give up.  These words are for us today, as well, when we feel like giving up.

As our Scripture begins, Paul warns us that we need to be careful not to be deceived, for though many try, God will not be mocked.  We cannot pull one over on Him.  We will reap the consequences of what we sow, what we do in life (vs. 7-8).  Nature, itself, shows us this.  When we plant bean seeds, we will not get pumpkins.  If we plant corn, we won’t get a pine tree.  The same holds true with how we act.  If we plant a wild and hedonistic life, we won’t reap the benefits of having lived a godly life.  If we plant to please our own worldly desires, we’ll reap a crop of sorrow and evil.  If we plant to please God, we’ll reap joy and everlasting life.  Since the principle of sowing and reaping cannot be reversed, we need to carefully consider what we are planting.

All sins are seen by God.  Don’t think we can deceive Him.  With each act of sin, there is a cover-up, a lie released to hide the truth.  We need to get the lies out.  Sin does not disappear, it compounds.  Our sin will always be found out (Numbers 32:23).  Sin always corrupts, and when left unchecked, it always makes a person progressively worse in character.  Our righteous actions will ultimately benefit us, whereas our sinful deeds will eventually bring harmful repercussions.  Giving in to sin sows seeds of corruption, and in due time we will reap accordingly.  Following the Lord will profit us.

This is where some of us might begin to be discouraged.  We reap goodness, godliness, righteous biblical living, yet we don’t see a harvest.  We might even be seeing wicked and ungodly people reaping a good life, and we get discouraged.  Paul reassures us to not grow weary or give up (vs. 9).  When we do what is right, with the right motive, but we receive no credit, no acknowledgment, we have God’s promise that one day we will reap.  When our good works go unnoticed by others, God still sees.  Don’t give up!  In His time, God will provide a harvest.  Our job is to be faithful to what God wants us to do, and leave the harvest to Him.  God, alone, determines the outcome.

Some might say that this sounds a lot like Karma.  However, this is not “Christian Karma”.  Karma is the belief that a man’s behavior in one life determines his circumstances when reincarnated in his next life, or sometimes later in this life.  The Bible is very clear that there is no such thing as reincarnation.  We live only once, and are judged once.  There is no reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27-28).  We do reap what we sow, but usually not until heaven.

People do not always deserve the difficulties they have.  Joseph in the Old Testament is a prime example.  Paul, himself, is also an example.  There are times when bad things happen to good people.  Also often good things happen to bad people.  Our passage says a man reaps what he sows, but unlike Karma, God doesn’t promise justice here on earth (II Thessalonians 1:6-9).  And He doesn’t promise a carefree life for those who are righteous (John 16:33).  The biggest difference between Karma and Christianity is grace!  When we trust Christ we definitely don’t get what we deserve!  (Romans 6:23).  We must never mix Christianity with Hinduism (II Corinthians 6:14-16).

Are you feeding your spirit or the part of you that wants to act independently of God?  Are you sowing seeds that are building you up, or that are tearing you down?  Remember, we reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow.  We will bear the consequences of our choices for a long time - either good or bad.  Let’s be sowing good seed!

Monday, July 4, 2022

Under His Wings

Psalm 57

I saw a heartwarming picture of a mother bird, a dove, protecting her two baby birds under her wings.  Perhaps you’ve seen photographs like that.  We all know how a mother hen will gather her chicks under her feathers when there is danger.  That is one way that birds protect their young.  It is also one way that God, in His Word, describes how He protects His children, under His wings, just as a mother bird does her young.  Our psalm for today is one time where we read this.  Let’s look into this psalm.

Psalm 57 was written by David when he had to hide in a cave from King Saul.  For several years David had to live on the run from King Saul who plotted to kill him, and much of that time was spent out in the wilderness.  Several times he found refuge hiding in caves, and this psalm was written on one such occasion.  Having to hide in a cave to save one’s life showed how dire and dangerous David’s circumstances were right then.  Right at the beginning of the psalm, we read David’s pleading with God to show him mercy, to let him live and not be captured and killed by his enemy, Saul (vs. 1).  David could not trust in any man to save him.  If he was to be saved, the Lord alone would have to do it.

David trusted in God, just as the baby birds trust and feel safe under their mother’s wings.  He knew that his real refuge was not deep inside a cave, but was in the Lord, His protective care, and the shadow of His wings.  God cares for His children, even more than any bird or animal does their young.  We know how protective a mother lion or bear is for her cubs!  God cares for us even more so!  David was safe, not because he was deep in a cave, but because God was watching over him.  David had a sanctuary of peace in the Lord while hiding in that cave.  When life becomes overwhelming and stressful, only our relationship with God can truly calm our souls.

There are some people who feel that their problems are not really important to God, that He has much greater problems in this world to attend to than their petty concerns.  David believed that God was supreme, that He was the Most High God (vs. 2), yet he believed he could call upon Him.  Even though God is Most High over all of creation, He is still intimately involved in the believer’s lives.  Whatever is needed in our lives at any given time, God will provide for it.

Sometimes our enemies can seem like ferocious animals (vs. 4), as they did to David right then.  The wicked are like menacing animals, ready to destroy their prey, with their razor-sharp teeth.  They are like a consuming fire.  David also described these enemies as having tongues like sharp swords.  Some of his problems stemmed from those who fed lies about him to King Saul.  Sometimes we are the victims of other’s gossip, harsh criticism, and lies.  Verbal cruelty can hurt us as much as physical abuse.  Rather than answering back, we need to take it to the Lord.  When confronted with verbal attacks, the best defense is to be quiet and praise God, knowing that our confidence is in His love and faithfulness.

David was hunkering down in a cave for the safety of his own life, a time when we can understand him being afraid.  Yet what do we see him doing?  As we continue reading, we see that David made a decision to not give in to fear, but instead to give praise to God (vs. 7).  David was so eager to praise the Lord, he couldn’t wait until the morning.  He was up so early he could have woken up the dawn (vs. 8).  When the stress and our emotions overwhelm us, we need to make a deliberate act to praise God, and give Him our burdens.  Then He can bring peace to our hearts.

In closing, the words of an old-time hymn come to mind, which I share.

        Under His wings I am safely abiding,

Tho the night deepens and tempests are wild;

Still I can trust Him, I know He will keep me,

He has redeemed me and I am His child.

Under His wings, under His wings,

Who from His love can sever?

Under His wings my soul shall abide,

Safely abide forever.